special to suburban films by chris shue

01.16.00 | 01.26.00

washington, dc (02.01.00) -
Welcome to VP Review, the column that takes a look at new releases and VP happenings. In case you haven’t been paying attention, Josh made another improvement to the game by updating the Box Office section. I love seeing these updates everyday and the new format is a nice enhancement. While we are on the subject of enhancements, I have to confess that I have been giving more thought to what makes a good VP movie and am beginning to tire of just plot and poster. Now granted, there are brilliantly written scripts that can stand on their own. Still, a VP movie is an experience and I like the enhanced movies that have moved beyond "white text on black background." I would go as far as to say that, unless your name is Dcope, to have any real success (over 200 million in grosses), a well-designed film web site is a must. The best sites are easy to navigate, nice to look at, and give the viewer more than just a cast and plot. They have add-ons like sound files, augmented cast information, and filmmaker comments. Something to think about when you bring that script that you pitched all over Hollywood to VP. Anyway, enough yapping…we’ve got six new movies to review.

This week we get another interesting mix of producers, with heavies like Dcope, Edward Havens and Lucian and well-knowns such as Nicken and Dingo. Majestic Films looks for a successful follow-up to MI:007 and Kickbutt Productions debuts with their first feature.

The first film I took in was Xanadu, a comedy produced by Dcope. The opening scene had me laughing out loud, which set a nice tone for the rest of the movie. The plot, kind of "Bowfinger" meets "Boogie Nights", moved along at a decent pace, but glossed over some areas of the story that could have been really funny. Still, the producer did a good job of describing the filler scenes that were sandwiched between the dialogue. The best parts of the move were the "extras" that were provided alongside the script, including bloopers, deleted scenes, and a running commentary by the producer and director. The deleted scene involving Michael Eisner is hysterical, as are several of the bloopers. The extras, combined with the script, made for a pretty funny movie, light years better than Dcope’s previous comedy, Resident Evil.

Still chuckling from that Eisner scene, I decided to take in The Fat Bastard Movie produced by Lightforce Pictures. I must confess that I thought Fat Bastard was one of the funniest parts of AP2 and I walked out of the theater thinking that they should make a movie based on Mike Myer’s dietetically challenged character. Thus, I was excited when I heard that a Fat Bastard movie was being made for VP. Let me start by saying the poster and web site are absolutely first-rate, so good that I would nominate both for VP Choice awards right now if that were possible. Nicken, the producer, has incredible talent in this area. Unfortunately, the script does not live up to the visuals. Fat Bastard just wasn’t really that funny, primarily because the script didn’t break any new ground with the title character. Most of the jokes were recycled from AP2 and those that weren’t didn’t deliver. The funniest part of the script was the link to Bobby of the Brady Bunch, but that area wasn’t explored nearly enough, which was too bad.

Next, I put on my tap shoes and took in the comedy/musical, Zombies Must Paint, produced by Ackerman Entertainment/Creativity Unlimited. This film is uniquely original – a nice departure from your run-of-the-mill zombie flick. The musical numbers are great, particularly the opening number and the one at the gallery. Both of those songs had me in stitches. The funniest scene in the movie, though, happens near the beginning and involves a zombie, a magazine called "Chunky Asses", and…well…let’s just say a sewing kit was involved. The central premise of this movie has been done in films like Pecker, but still this is such a nice departure from the usual VP fare that I must confess I am looking forward to a threequel. If I have any complaints it would be that the writers relied a little to heavily on the "hey look, it’s a zombie doing stuff a living person would do" gag, but it’s a minor complaint. The film has a nice poster too, another winner from the best poster maker on VP, Momog.

Next on my list was Dingo Production’s, Village, a film written by Shane Alexander and originally pitched by Momog. This film stars the seemingly omnipresent VP star, Mason Gamble, as Jeremy, a young boy who has complete control over the physical world. Alexander does a nice job of showing the effects this power has on a lonely little kid who just wants to be a "good person." The scenes between Jeremy and his mother are touching and sad. However, the most compelling scene in this film takes place between Gamble’s character and an adult next door neighbor named Ian. I won’t spoil the scene, but it anchors the movie and left me wishing for more strong writing like that. The movie comes up short, however, as it moves toward conclusion. Like so many VP movies, it seems to rush to the finish line, without fully exploring a resolution. One nice feature of this movie was the .wav file that played throughout the movie, both relaxing and haunting. All in all Village is an impressive first writing effort by Alexander.

In the mood for a little action, I turned to Knight Rider, from Kickbutt Productions. I gave this film a lot of grief in the development stage, as the producer’s pitch traded on the nostalgia of the old television series rather than telling us what would be interesting about the movie. When I started reading the film, though, I could tell that the producer knew exactly where they were taking the film. The site and poster are extremely impressive and do a good job of enhancing the script. I liked the casting, but I think the choice of Robert Rodriguez as director is terrible. I would have liked to see what Robert Zemeckis or Andrew Wood would have done with this film. As for the plot, it is formulaic and does nothing to expand on the old television series. I found things dragging along, although I did like the writer’s emphasis on the humanization of K.I.T.T.. I guess my biggest problem with the plot was its tendency toward generic themes such as selling government secrets (what secrets?). The scene involving the thieving Mexicans was also a bit much (why doesn’t K.I.T.T. like Mexicans?). Again though, the effort as a whole is admirable, and I can only wonder why, after such an effort, that the producer would only buy into 1000 screens.

Last on my dance card was the opus from Majestic Films, Pure Expression, like Antipathy last week, a movie to which I was not looking forward. Most of the stuff from this studio has been average to bad (e-Ban was the worst VP movie so far this year). After reading this script, I have to wonder where some of that other stuff comes from, because this producer has talent. The scenes are well paced in this film, and the dialogue is crisp and realistic. The serial killer, Lillith, is the scariest VP monster I have seen yet. On the downside, I am not a big Brendan Fraser fan, so I wasn’t crazy about him in this film. I also don’t like seeing VP players directing their own movies, unless the film is an Indie. Again, personal preference, but I don’t think it is in the spirit of the game. As far as the script goes, it is about 25-35 pages too long and gets a bit preachy. It could be tightened up in spots without losing any of the storyline. Overall, though, an impressive effort.

That’s it for this week. Other movies that are still in theaters that I like include Angels of Our Nature, Antipathy, and Identity. See you next week, when we review, among others, the much anticipated March of the Cephalapods. First round of Sugar Babies is on me!

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