ARCHIVED REVIEWS (Sa-Sg)
Salton Sea, the
Save the Last Dance
Saving Grace
Saving Silverman
Say It Isn't So
Scary Movie
Scary Movie 2
Scooby-Doo
Score, the
Scorpion King, the
Scream 3
Screwed
See Spot Run
Secretary
Serendipity
Series 7: The Contenders
Serving Sara
Sexy Beast

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Archived Video Reviews (Sa - Sg)
 

THE SALTON SEA - B
Starring:
Val Kilmer, Peter Sarsgaard, Vincent D'Onofrio, Deborah Kara Unger, Doug Hutchinson, Anthony LaPaglia, B.D. Wong
Directed by: D.J. Caruso
Drama, 100 min (18A) (Warner Bros., 2002)


A psycho without a nose, a genital-clawing badger and a plot to steal Bob Hope's feces are only part of the madness that is afloat in The Salton Sea, an involving picture that, for the most part, overcomes its identity crises (Is it black comedy? Unsettling drama? Revenge thriller?) with first-time director D.J. Caruso's potent atmosphere. Val Kilmer, impressive as a man who requires shifting identities for the film's twists to work, plays Danny Parker, a Los Angeles jazz trumpeter who, following the murder of his wife (Chandra West), has gotten hooked on crystal methamphetamine and wound up in a complex situation involving narcotics cops (Doug Hutchinson and Anthony LaPaglia), a mysterious neighbor (Deborah Kara Unger), a cowboy buyer (B.D. Wong) and the aforementioned noseless dealer (played by a deliriously devilish Vincent D'Onofrio). The Salton Sea ultimately ends up coming across as thin Trainspotting with a little Payback thrown in, but Caruso's swirling style makes up for the lack of substance, always keeping the viewer guessing as to its secrets and exactly how all of these players are involved. In the end, this dark and showy film isn't about where it is going, but the brutality that it takes to get there. (top) (back)

SAVE THE LAST DANCE - C
Starring:
Julia Stiles, Sean Patrick Thomas, Kerry Washington, Fredro Starr, Bianca Lawson, Terry Kinney, Vince Green
Directed by:
Thomas Carter
Drama, 113 min (PG) (Paramount, 2001)

Over a decade since the Flashdance/Footloose/Dirty Dancing dance movie craze of the '80s (and a year after the dismal performance of Center Stage), the genre attempts to make another comeback with this high school romance between a small town white girl (Julia Stiles) and a black boy from the inner city (Sean Patrick Thomas). The two seem worlds apart, but they are drawn together when they begin to share their love of dance (hers of ballet, his of hip-hop), even if their interracial romance doesn't please the people around them. All in all, Save the Last Dance is earnest and well-meaning enough, pushing such issues as tolerance and being true to yourself, but it is also strewn with heavy-handed dialogue, a predictable Boyz N the Hood-style subplot and dance movie clichés as worn-down as an old hardwood floor. Certainly not helping matters is Stiles, an affecting actress in dramatic scenes, but a hopeless dancer whose obvious lack of skill on the dance floor sucks the energy and excitement out of the musical numbers. (top) (back)

SAVING GRACE - B-
Starring:
Brenda Blethyn, Craig Ferguson, Martine Clunes, Tcheky Karyo, Valerie Edmond, Tristan Sturrock, Lesley Phillips
Directed by:
Nigel Cole
Comedy, 93 min
(PG) (Fine Line, 2000)

If the movies have taught us anything about wee European communities, it's that they are all populated by charming eccentrics, each one as nutty as the last, who will do anything for a little money or recognition. Following in the tradition of Waking Ned Devine and The Englishman Who Went Up a Hill… comes this sprightly and agreeable comedy - think Cheech and Chong do The Full Monty - about a proper English widow (Brenda Blythen) who decides to pay off a massive debt by hydroponically growing hemp with the help of her gardener (The Drew Carey Show's Craig Ferguson, who also cowrote the script). There's little here that hasn't been seen before (sophisticated lasses cutting loose, drunken tomfoolery, spirited community togetherness, etc) and the out-of-nowhere ending is a cheat, but the film draws considerable weight out of Blethyn's lively performance and the screenplay wisely places more of a focus on gentle humour than on loud bawdiness. (top) (back)

SAVING SILVERMAN - C-
Starring:
Jason Biggs, Steve Zahn, Amanda Peet, Jack Black, Amanda Detmer, R. Lee Ermey, Neil Diamond, Kyle Glass
Directed by: Dennis Dugan
Comedy, 92 min (14A) (Columbia Tristar, 2001)


In recent years, Steve Zahn and Jack Black have earned moderate reputations for being reliably offbeat comic relief, with Zahn hitting his apex with Happy, Texas and Black with High Fidelity. Unfortunately, not even their joint talents can save Saving Silverman, a hapless and unnecessarily cruel comedy that leaves only Zahn with his dignity intact (Black, meanwhile, comes across as gratingly obnoxious). Jason Biggs, whose flat turns in Boys and Girls, Loser and now this suggest his American Pie success was all a fluke, plays the title character, a naïve dolt engaged to a manipulative and suffocating predator (Amanda Peet, basically recycling her work in Whipped). It's up to Silverman's life-long friends (Zahn and Black) to prevent their friend's marriage and nothing - be it lies, kidnapping, bribery or torture - will stand in their way. As directed by Big Daddy's Dennis Dugan, the film presents its own form of cinematic punishment: crude gags, brain-dead characters and an overwhelmingly mean-spirit. (top) (back)

SAY IT ISN'T SO - D
Starring:
Heather Graham, Chris Klein, Orlando Jones, Sally Field, Richard Jenkins, Eddie Cibrian, Jack Plotnick, Sarah Silverman
Directed by: J.B. Rogers
Comedy, 95 min (14A) (20th Century Fox, 2001)


I wish I could say it wasn't so, but in the recent glut of incompetent gross-out comedies (Tomcats, Joe Dirt, Saving Silverman…), this offering from the Farrelly brothers (There's Something About Mary, Me, Myself & Irene) takes the cake as the worst of the bunch. Sure, Say It Isn't So is not as mean-spirited as Silverman or as disgusting as Tomcats, but comedies don't get much more toneless, lazy, one-dimensional, dumb or embarrassing than this. Directed by newcomer J.B. Rogers (the Farrellys produced), the film casts American Pie's Chris Klein as a dim animal-shelter worker who falls in love with a clumsy but beautiful hairdresser (Heather Graham) only to come under the (false) impression that she is his sister. Unsurprisingly, a non-stop barrage of incest jokes ensue, each one more hoary than the last, and Rogers never establishes a consistent tone or pace, with the picture constantly lurching from one uninspired gag to the next. On the bright side, Graham is still easy to watch, but the same can't be said of the thinly talented Klein, whose cinematic presence here is almost non-existent, or two-time Oscar-winner Sally Field, all screeches and hollering as Graham's greedy trailer-trash mother. Poor, poor Gidget. (top) (back)

SCARY MOVIE - C
Starring:
Anna Faris, Shawn Wayans, Marlon Wayans, Shannon Elizabeth, Jon Abrahams, Cheri Oteri, Dave Sheridan, Carmen Electra 
Directed by:
Keenen Ivory Wayans
Comedy, 88 min
(14A) (Dimension, 2000)


In spoofs such as Blazing Saddles, Airplane!, The Naked Gun and Hot Shots!, the gags come quick and fast - never requiring much of a set-up or lingering long enough for you to realize just how dumb they are. The jokes in Scary Movie, a jab at horror flicks such as Scream, I Know What You Did Last Summer and Halloween, are the exact opposite - strained, slow and all-too-obvious. Only when the film steps away from its endless run of tedious sex jokes with stabs at other vehicles like The Usual Suspects and The Matrix does it really connect with the funny bone, a shame considering that this is all courtesy of the Wayans family made famous by the sketch series In Living Color. For what it's worth, the storyline revolves around the usual homicidal killer stalking small town high schoolers, but the only cast member who really makes an impact is Carmen Electra - yes, that Carmen Electra - who gleefully parodies herself and her image as an underwear-clad victim. (top) (back)


SCARY MOVIE 2 -
D+
Starring:
Marlon Wayans, Shawn Wayans, Anna Faris, Regina Hall, Kathleen Robertson, Chris Elliot, Christopher Masterson, Tim Curry
Directed by:
Keenan Ivory Wayans
Comedy, 82 min (14A) (Dimension, 2001)

The first Scary Movie was rude, amateurish, dim-witted and lazy, but at least it skewered something that was worth getting a poke - namely all of the winking horror flicks that had been rushed down the pipeline in the wake of Scream. Not even that much can be said for Scary Movie 2, an obviously rushed sequel that looks to 1999's The Haunting for inspiration (as if anyone still cares about that horror dud) and pads it up with reruns of the same lame sex jokes that ruined the first film. In case anyone cares, the storyline follows a group of students from the first film (Anna Faris, Marlon and Shawn Wayans) and some new additions (Malcolm in the Middle's Christopher Masterson, 90210's Kathleen Robertson and Tori Spelling) as they are tricked into spending the night at a haunted house looked after by a creepy caretaker (Chris Elliot, only slightly more disgusting than he was in Osmosis Jones). There are a couple of spottily amusing riffs on Poltergeist, What Lies Beneath and The Exorcist (with James Woods as a randy priest), but the Wayanses all too often make the mistake of spoofing films that are already parodies of themselves (Charlie's Angels, Dude, Where's My Car?) and the endless raunch is uninspired, dull and extremely tiresome. (top) (back)


SCOOBY-DOO - C
Starring:
Sarah Michelle Gellar, Freddie Prinze Jr., Matthew Lillard, Linda Cardellini, Rowan Atkinson, Miguel A. Nunez Jr.
Directed by:
Raja Gosnell
Comedy, 86 min (PG) (Warner Bros., 2002)

It's time to face it: Gag-heavy cartoons like Dudley Do-Right, The Flintstones and The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle simply don't translate into live action films. Because of this, there's hardly a surprising "ruh-roh!" in realizing that this adaptation of the long-running Scooby-Doo series (on the air since 1969) only follows the lead of the other films as though it were the titular Great Dane tracking some Scooby snacks. In the film, the Mystery Inc. gang - vain Fred, scuffy Shaggy, glamourous Daphne, brainy Velma and talking pooch Scooby (here realized with computer graphics) - has split up, brought together to solve one last mystery involving a scary amusement park. It's an utterly negligible storyline straight out of the cartoon and, indeed, only fans of the original work will likely appreciate the minor pleasures here, whether it is Matthew Lillard's spot-on interpretation of Shaggy, Sarah Michelle Gellar's Buffy-spin on damsel-in-distress Daphne, Linda Cardellini's wry work as Velma, or the film's winking jab at series blemish Scrappy-Doo. Too bad director Raja Gosnell (Big Momma's House) keeps the garish sets and groaner of a script at such a high, irritating pitch that the film never amounts to more than a Scooby-Don't. (top) (back)


THE SCORE -
B
Starring: Robert De Niro, Edward Norton, Angela Bassett, Marlon Brando, Gary Farmer, Jamie Harrold, Andrew Walker
Directed by: Frank Oz
Suspense, 124 min (14A) (Paramount, 2001)


The reason clichés become clichés is because, when used appropriately, they are effective at what they set out to accomplish. Lesser filmmakers often misunderstand this, thinking the cliché alone is enough to make it work, but in The Score, Frank Oz correctly and gleefully employs every criminal cliché in the book, locking them all together like a puzzle and hoisting them up with fine performances. Led by arguably the three greatest actors of their generations - Marlon Brando, Robert De Niro and Edward Norton - The Score may follow formula, but it has been put together with such precision and skill that only after the fact does one realize the film's complete lack of substance. De Niro plays Nick, an expert jewel thief who, upon the urging of his underworld fence (Brando), teams up with a brash hotshot (Norton) for one last score: a multi-million dollar 17th-century scepter from the Montreal Customs House. All three actors are strong - Brando wisely downplays his usual eccentricity, De Niro responds to his co-stars with a low-flame authority, and the wily Norton makes the most of his flashy role - and Oz wisely aims the action at adult audiences, letting the characters and climax develop over time, but never letting the pacing sag. (top) (back)

THE SCORPION KING -
C+
Starring: The Rock, Michael Clarke Duncan, Kelly Hu, Steven Brand, Peter Facinelli, Ralf Moeller, Bernard Hill, Bernard Smith
Directed by: Chuck Russell
Action, 92 min (PG) (Universal, 2002)


The good news is that WWF star The Rock certainly knows how to beat people up, something he does often and well in The Scorpion King (his first starring vehicle). The bad news is that, although it is spun out of minor character in The Mummy Returns, The Scorpion King is often little more than a plodding, just-as-boneheaded brother of 1982's Conan the Barbarian (Considering the ineptitude of The Mummy Returns, however, maybe it was wise of the filmmakers to look elsewhere for inspiration). The Rock (a.k.a. Dwayne Johnson) plays Mathayus, a mercenary in Ancient Egypt who is hired to knock warlord Memnon (Steven Brand) from his throne by killing the sorceress who keeps providing Memnon with signs of the future (Kelly Hu). There is a welcome dose of self-parody on hand in The Scorpion King, with many scenes and characters as cartoonish as anything in the wrestling ring (thankfully, The Rock has a much lighter comedic touch than Schwarzenegger, Van Damme and Seagal combined). Too bad the screenplay and director Chuck Russell (1996's Eraser) take the light approach too far, dotting the story with silly dialogue, crude framing, and insufferable clichés like the wacky scientist, cute kid and irritatingly oddball sidekick. (top) (back)
SCREAM 3 - C
Starring:
Neve Campbell, Courtney Cox Arquette, David Arquette, Parker Posey, Patrick Dempsey, Jenny McCarthy, Lance Henrikson  
Directed by:
Wes Craven
Horror, 117 min
(14A) (Dimension, 2000)

The thrill has worn off with this second sequel to the wink-wink 1996 horror smash Scream. As before, Neve Campbell plays the terminally tormented Sidney Prescott, a small-town girl whose ordeal with a scary-movie loving psycho has left many of her friends dead and has inspired a popular horror film series entitled Stab. Scream 3 takes place during the filming of Stab 3 and, as luck would have it, anyone associated with the film seems to be meeting a gruesome end, once again bringing together Sidney, reporter Gail Weathers (Courtney Cox Arquette) and bumbling ex-cop Dewey (David Arquette). With the exception of an ever-so-bland Campbell, the cast of Scream 3 is superior to those in either Scream or Scream 2 – there are deft, dead-on performances from Parker Posey, Jenny McCarthy and the Arquettes, as well as some satisfying cameos – but the departure of screenwriter Kevin Williamson has left little of the irony or inspiration that marked the first film. After this, lets hope the Scream films rest in peace. (top) (back)

SCREWED - D+
Starring: Norm MacDonald, Dave Chappelle, Danny DeVito, Elaine Stritch, Daniel Benzali, Sherman Helmsley, Sarah Silverman
Directed by:
Larry Karaszewski, Scott Alexander
Comedy, 82 min (14A) (Universal, 2000)


The title of this hopeless comedy refers to how its characters feel after being outsmarted for something they feel they deserve, but it is viewers of the picture that will really feel screwed, particularly those who mistakenly hoped that the directorial debut of screenwriters Larry Karaszewski and Scott Alexander would actually be any good. Karaszewski and Alexander may have found critical success with the biopics Man on the Moon, The People Vs. Larry Flynt and the splendid Ed Wood, but here they are clearly working in the same vein as Deuce Bigalow. Norm MacDonald, whose outright refusal to act is wearing thin, plays Willard, a put-upon manservant whose stingy employer (Elaine Stritch) cares more about the well being of her dog than him. Frustrated, Willard decides a kidnapping is in order, enlisting a partner (Dave Chappelle) and a creepy mortician (Danny DeVito) for the scheme. Inevitably, everything in the plot goes sour, not unlike many of the wretched elements in this doghouse of a film. (top) (back)
SEE SPOT RUN - D+
Starring:
David Arquette, Michael Clarke Duncan, Leslie Bibb, Paul Sorvino, Anthony Anderson, Angus T. Jones, Joe Viterelli
Directed by:
John Whitesell
Comedy, 97 min (PG) (Warner Bros., 2001)


Just when you thought David Arquette couldn't get any more irritating than he was in Ready to Rumble or those high-pitched CALL-ATT ads, along comes this dog of a family film, an awful pooch-and-partner comedy that makes pictures like 1989's Turner & Hooch and K-9 look like works of art. Mugging like a trained chimp, Arquette plays a dog-hating mailman who agrees to look after his neighbor's son (the phony Angus T. Jones) when she has to leave town on business and winds up unwillingly adopting Spot, a bullmastiff and celebrated FBI "agent" on the run from a mobster (Paul Sorvino) and his cronies. What follows is a lot of potty humour, overly juvenile slapstick, the requisite demolish-the-pet-store scene, adult-and-boy bonding as plastic as a doggy dish and a please-strike-this-from-the-resume appearance by The Green Mile's Michael Clarke Duncan (as Spot's weepy partner), all of it revved up to an annoying squeal by the unleashed direction of John Whitesell (1993's Calendar Girl). Surprisingly, the only one here that doesn't go over the top is the star canine, who gives a performance so subtle, restrained and emotionless that he has all the personality and charisma of dog food. At the video store, if you see Spot, run. (top) (back)

SECRETARY - B
Starring:
Maggie Gyllenhaal, James Spader, Leslie Ann Warren, Jeremy Davies, Patrick Bauchau, Stephen McHattie
Directed by: Steven Shainberg
Drama, 111 min (18A) (Lions Gate, 2002)


Secretary earns instant kudos for its unique premise alone, a tale of two people with unconventional sexual fetishes who discover S&M love through pain. As 1997's Crash unfortunately illustrated, however, controversial ideas don't necessary lead to solid films. Because of this, it is especially nice to report that, with Secretary, writer-director Steven Shainberg not only pulls off his brave ideas without succumbing to unintentional laughs, but he finds some real emotion behind the whips and torture. Maggie Gyllenhaal, costar of Donnie Darko and real-life sister of Darko's Jake, plays Lee Holloway, a young woman recently released from a psychiatric ward due to self-mutilation tendencies who takes a job as secretary for an uptight lawyer (James Spader) with a passion for inflicting pain. Before long, the two are drawn to each other in ways that they don't quite understand or now how to deal with and, with the exception of an unconvincing and pat conclusion, Shainberg doesn't fumble the risky material, resulting in a bizarrely bold love story. True, Spader has taken the sexual deviant route a few times too many (Crash, sex, lies and videotape…), but his loneliness plays very well off of Gyllenhaal's star-making performance. (top) (back)

SERENDIPITY - C
Starring:
John Cusack, Kate Beckinsale, Jeremy Piven, Molly Shannon, John Corbett, Eugene Levy, Bridget Moynahan, John Ellison Conlee
Directed by:
Peter Chelsom
Comedy, 91 min (PG) (Miramax, 2001)


Most romantic comedies consist of little more than just waiting for the inevitable (it is how you dress it up that counts), but the weightless Serendipity proves that patience simply cannot overcome a case of the cloying cutes. John Cusack, a skilled comedian who deserves better than soft comedies like this and America's Sweethearts, plays a TV sports producer who meets the woman of his dreams (a self-satisfied Kate Beckinsale) one fairy-tale perfect night in New York. Since both parties come saddled with significant others, they decide to leave the possibility of a future relationship up to fate. Flash-forward 10 years later, when both are engaged to be married and they decide to take fate into their own hands, attempting to track each other down with the little information they have. As directed by Peter Chelsom (Town & Country), Serendipity consists of little more than about 20 minutes worth of story, with the rest of the running time consumed by mundane musical montages and an annoyingly large number of coincidences. Thank goodness for the supporting cast of Jeremy Piven (Family Man), Molly Shannon (Superstar) and Eugene Levy (American Pie), who do what they can to ease the strain of this An Affair to Remember wannabe. (top) (back)

SERIES 7: THE CONTENDERS
- B-
Starring:
Brooke Smith, Glenn Fitzgerald, Merritt Wever, Marylouise Burke, Richard Venture, Michael Kaycheck, Donna Hanover
Directed by:
Daniel Minahan
Drama, 86 min (18A) (USA Films, 2001)


It may have been conceived and shot before the recent reality TV explosion, but Daniel Minahan's satire hits the craze right on target, with the film uncannily mimicking all of the tabloid narration, dramatic re-creations, direct-to-camera interviews and teasing promos we've come to expect from the likes of Temptation Island, COPS, The Real World, The Amazing Race, and so forth. Series 7 is designed as a marathon of episodes of The Contenders, a popular television series in which six contestants try to win the game by killing the others off. The reigning champion, Dawn (Brooke Smith), is eight-months pregnant and her competition includes an unemployed father, a mild-mannered nurse, a virginal teenager, a crotchety old man and Dawn's former high school sweetheart (Glenn Fitzgerald), now married and dying of testicular cancer. Literally taking reality TV to the level of kill-or-be-killed certainly makes Survivor-style backstabbing seem harmless and there's a zinging sharpness to Minahan's parody that brings it close to the bone. Ultimately, however, there isn't enough here to warrant an entire feature film, with the writer-director entering the territory of tedium far too early in Series 7's relatively short 86-minute run. (top) (back)

SERVING SARA - D
Starring:
Matthew Perry, Elizabeth Hurley, Bruce Campbell, Vincent Pastore, Cedric the Entertainer, Amy Adams, Terry Crews, Jerry Stiller
Directed by: Reginald Hudlin
Comedy, 99 min (PG) (Paramount, 2002)


Compared to the gals, the Friends fellows have been having a much rougher time trying to translate their TV success to feature films and Matthew Perry's Serving Sara, unfortunately, does nothing to buck this trend - it stinks up the joint just as much as Matt LeBlanc's Ed (1996), David Schwimmer's Picking Up the Pieces (1999) and Perry's own Almost Heroes (1998). Directed by Ladies Man's Reginald Hudlin with all the subtlety of a cow pie to the face, Serving Sara stars Perry as a process server who, after trying to serve divorce papers to a pop-tart trophy wife (Elizabeth Hurley), hooks up with his target in exchange for the promise of $1 million by attempting to turn the tables and serve Hurley's no-good, Texan cattle-rancher husband (Bruce Campbell) first. Predictably, Perry and Hurley's characters are supposed to find love while zooming around the country, dodging a competing server (Vincent Pastore) and helping to "service" a bull (don't ask), but Perry's performance is all sour unlikeability and Hurley, who seems to possess all the acting range of a plastic Barbie doll, is embarrassingly flat. Together, they have all the chemistry of a pair of erasers, going through all the motions without actually adding anything to the picture. (top) (back)

SEXY BEAST - B+
Starring:
Ray Winstone, Ben Kingsley, Ian McShane, Julian White, James Fox, Alvaro Monje, Amanda Redman, Cavan Kendall
Directed by: Jonathan Glazer

Suspense, 89 min (18A) (20th Century Fox, 2001)


Often cast in righteous roles in pictures like Ghandi and Schindler's List, Ben Kingsley thrillingly tosses aside any preconceptions with a ferociously menacing turn in Sexy Beast. Deservedly nominated for a Best Supporting Actor Oscar, Kingsley plays Don Logan, a psychopathic mob-man and human pit bull who has descended upon the idyllic life of Gal Dove (Ray Winstone), a former British gangster now enjoying his retirement in Spain. Logan wants Gal for the dreaded "one final job" and, as much as Gal pleads to not be involved, Logan refuses to take no for an answer. Directed by music video vet Jonathan Glazer, Sexy Beast draws much of its power, dark humour and thrills from Kingsley's performance, with the actor quickly racketing up the tension with an undercutting sense of dread and his absolutely frightening dedication to the role. Because of this, the film isn't quite as involving when Kingsley isn't on the screen (a little too often), but that shouldn't discount the solid performances from Winstone, Amanda Redman (as Gal's ex-porn star wife) and Ian McShane (as another mobster bigwig). Sexy Beast isn't always pretty, but it is certainly a brutal, dark, sinuous, powerful, frighteningly cruel and highly enjoyable little picture. (top) (back)
All reviews by Mike Boon.  

Looking for more? Visit Recent Video Releases, Recommended Releases or the following Archived Video sections: Aa-Am, An-Az, Ba-Be, Bf-Bn, Bo-Bz, Ca-Ch, Ci-Cz, Da-Dn, Do-Dz, E, F, G, H, I, J, K, L, Ma-Mn, Mo-Mz, N, O, P-Q, Ra-Rh, Ri-Rz, Sa-Sg, Sh-Sl, Sm-Ss, St-Sz, Ta-Ti, Tj-Tz, U-V, W, X-Z