special to suburban films by chris shue

washington, dc (1.16.00) - Welcome to VP Review, a weekly column that takes a look at what's new in VP theatres. This has been a good week for VP, as Josh is moving fast on updating the box office and Jabber has shepherded the VP Choice Awards into their final stages. The Awards have brought up interesting arguments on TPL and #vp, with many players lamenting that the overabundance of categories leads to some weak nominations.  I am coming around to this point, particularly when I saw that a movie without a plot got nominated (note: the nom was quickly turned down). Still, the Awards seem like a fun variation on the game and at first blush it looks like most of the worthy films have gotten at least a couple of nominations. I am looking forward to the ceremony.

As I mentioned, Josh is cruising along with BO updates and to this first time player they are illustrating a frustrating point.   Movies with either an incomplete plot/script or no plot at all are still succeeding financially in the theatres. I am not going to pick on any one producer, because I know we all have obligations outside of this game that make it impossible to release every film on time.  Still, since this is a game and the object is to release good movies in the theatre, I would like to see some type of penalty for opening incomplete movies. Maybe a theatre run limit of one week for films with incomplete/no plot.  The punishment that can be enacted immediately, however, is simply not to vote for incomplete films. That will almost guarantee an incomplete film leaves the theatre after its first week, giving the completed films more of a chance to be successful.

Thankfully, we don't have that problem with this week's batch of films. Six films with six plots or scripts opened, with a nice mix of action, drama, comedy and thrillers. There were some heavyweights (11.14.67 Films and dcope) as well as some first time efforts. Total reading time this week was about three hours and for the most part it was worth it.  I have a few general complaints - one is the number of typos appearing in many of the plots/scripts, the other is the background and font color choice for some film web sites. The typo thing is easy to fix...just proof your script. The other is more difficult, because I realize the producer is trying to convey a "look" for their film. In these cases I advocate providing a downloadable script/plot that readers can bring up in their word processors and print. But enough of that...let's get to the films.

The first up is Slight of Mind, a StarChaser Films production. This was a good read, with natural dialogue and compelling plot, unfortunately it was all too brief. There is no character development and the plot unfolds and concludes in a matter of minutes. This movie would be great if it were expanded, so that we could get a closer look at why Mira Sorvino's character is going insane. I would also like to learn more about the people who are coming to Sorvino in her visions and why they have chosen her. I realize it is difficult to always write a long script or plot for VP movies, but this story in particular left me wishing for more.   All in all, though, I think this a great first effort and I am impressed by the writing style. 

Next on my viewing schedule was the much-hyped Mayflower 2650, produced by Hyperboy of Pegasus Productions. This baby was a popcorn-deluxe action adventure sci-fi treat with an outstanding cast.  The story never lagged and I found many of the action scenes well-paced.  The final battle between the humans and demi-gods made me yearn to see this adapted to celluloid.  My only complaint was with the dialogue, as I found it forced and unnatural in places, and overly wordy in others. Otherwise, this movie was extremely entertaining and I am going to see it more than once.

The next movie I watched was Clockwork, a production by Royale with Cheese Studios.  This movie has a lot going for it. The cast is great (Cusack, Rhames, Vaughn, Hunter, DeNiro, Keitel, et al.), the concept is fresh and the writing is clear and concise.  The drawback of this movie is that there is zero character development, so you are left with a bunch of cardboard cutouts being paced through a truly interesting plot.  This would make a great Outer Limits or Twilight Zone episode, however, and that is a big compliment. As a full-length movie it doesn't work, though - it is simply too short - but that is ok in VP, so I will be back to see this one soon.

I was feeling a little brain-fried, so I was thankful that the Adam Sandler comedy, e-Ban, by Majestic Films, was next on my list. This movie starts off with a fairly funny scene about a boy getting caught "flogging the dolphin" by his mother.  Unfortunately, that joke gets beaten to death and the story fragments from there.  I had a difficult time finding much humor in this and found it even mean-spirited at times.  The ending was particularly brutal, with its snarling disdain for "fat bitches".  Adam Sandler doesn't offer any comic relief as a injury-chasing attorney and only appears in one scene. That leads me to a question about the cast, because while just two actors are listed,  there are a number of major speaking roles in the film - it would have helped if I could have placed a name with a face. Still, I was happy to read a completed script and am realizing that I am just simply not going to like everything I read.

Next up was this week's behemoth, the 103-page All My Friends Are Going to Be Strangers, an adaptation of the Larry McMurtry novel by Edward Havens of 11.14.67 Films.  Havens has done an admirable job of adapting McMurty's novel into a screenplay, crafting a narrative tale that is highlighted by outstanding dialogue and interesting characters.  There also some hilarious exchanges, particularly one involving Danny, the protagonist, and a middle-aged karate-choppin' gas station attendant. My only complaint is that the narrative style of the screenplay occasionally made the story seem a bit choppy, but that is the type of problem that can be resolved once a script is shot for the screen. Anyway, I have already voted for this movie twice and I highly recommend printing it out, pouring the alcoholic beverage of your choice, and spending 90 minutes on the couch reading this outstanding screenplay.

Finally, I came to DCope's highly anticipated Resident Evil.  I had thoroughly enjoyed Path of Thorns and was looking forward to what looked like a really funny movie. The concept - the making of Dr. Evil - seemed like a great idea for a comedy, but for some reason, this one falls flat. Some of the jokes are rehashed Austin Powers' lines and others seem a bit forced. All in all it struck me as a half-hearted effort, particularly coming on the heels of the brilliant Thorns and commercial mega-hit Milhouse. I still think this a good idea - perhaps a Resident Evil 2?

Anyway, thanks for taking the time to read this column.  In coming weeks I will also take another look at some VP classics - look for reviews of The Hollywood Cafe, How To Make An Independent Movie, Corporation and Alamo Heights.

See you at the VP theatres!

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