special to suburban films by chris shue

01.16.00

washington, dc (1.24.00) -
Welcome to the second week of VP Review, a column dedicated to the review of VP films and and VP happenings. These are good times for the game - having the box office and leaderboard updated regularly add immensely to the enjoyment of VP, as do the high number of finished films
that have been released in the past few weeks. When I first started playing at the beginning of December it seemed like things had hit a lull - but I chalked it up to the holidays and kept pitching. Now, thanks primarily to Josh and the Admins, things seem to be clicking right along - I can't imagine how smoothly things will run once automation kicks in. Topping off a great couple of weeks are tonight's VP Choice awards, emceed by Lane "BK" Young. I like how the VP Choice awards dovetail with the RL Golden Globes (for my money, the best industry awards show). I will certainly be tuned in to both tonight. It has been said a number of times, but it bears repeating:
BIG props to Jabber for putting so much time and effort into this endeavor. I think the VPC awards are a nice way to get the VP community together for a night of back slapping and butt smacking - a night where we can revel in our collective creative achievements of the previous six months.

Anyway, enough of my blathering...we've got movies to review! This week saw another solid slate of releases, led by a heavily hyped offering from Weirdo Wonders and a much anticipated Blair Witch spoof from 11.14.67 Films. Unfortunately, 33 Production's "Angels of Nature" a movie I was looking forward to seeing, remains unposted as of Sunday afternoon. Otherwise, there was a nice mix of genres, beginning with the thriller Identity, from Matinee Films. I found this movie to be entertaining, as the action sequences were paced extremely well and the dialogue skipped along at a good clip. With that said, I think it is obvious that this plot line has been done before, most recently in Total Recall. I found myself hoping that the producer would go in the unexpected direction of having the wife actually tell the truth, but have the husband realize that only AFTER he kills her. Oh well, my palms were still sweating.

Next up was That 70's Movie, produced by HyperActive Productions. This movie was a big, sweet, airy piece of cotton candy, just like the weekly comedy series that it is derived from. Unfortunately, the producer does not use the big screen to expand on what we see on the television show every week, except to sprinkle in some profanity, a little sex and some drug use. The good news is that fans of the show will probably enjoy this version, which plays like just another half-hour episode. Still, I found the laughs few and far between, making it tough to watch.

Hungering for some laughs, I sat down with the Brooklyn Snitch Project, from 11.14.67 Films. I have to admit that I was looking forward to this spoof on Blair Witch, particularly because I had enjoyed some of 11.14.67's other offerings so much. The idea - that three Brooklyn hitmen get lost in the woods looking for a snitch that they have to kill - seemed like a nice riff on Blair. Truth be told, I found the scenes in the woods and corresponding dialogue underwhelming. I was looking for some rich, spicy interaction, but it seemed like the plot was just rushing to get to the end. Which leads us to the saving grace of the movie: the ending. It was a breath of fresh air and completely original and creative, all but saving the movie. Luckily, the script is a quick read, because you'll want to read and re-read the ending several times.

Operation Storm, from Brass Productions was next on the list. Taking place during the Persian Gulf War, Operation follows a group of soldiers tasked with defusing a potential nuclear catastrophe. The movie starts with promise and I found the opening battle scene authentic and engaging. As the movie progressed, though, I had the sneaking suspicion that things were getting a bit rushed. My fears were confirmed by the ending which took all of a page and practically ruined the entire movie. There is promise here and I feel if the producer had an opportunity to give more time to the script he would have produced a winner.

Next up was A Day in the Park from Weirdo Wonders. The idea - that Disney World gets seized by terrorists bent on blowing up the park - makes for an interesting premise. Unfortunately, the movie is not well executed and there are a couple of major questions left after the movie is over. I was confused as to how all of the bomb "foam" was brought into the park by two men and how Paul Reiser so easily commandeered a chopper two-thirds of the way into the movie. Even if I suspended my disbelief, I had difficulty buying the whole thing. I also found the dialogue awkward and unnatural, particularly between the "bad guys" and the "good guys". It seemed as if the
producer was trying to walk the line between comedy and action without committing to either. I was impressed by the producers encyclopedic knowledge of the Disney World though and recent visitors to the park may enjoy the movie just for the numerous Disney references.

The last movie I watched, Antipathy, from Movies on the Side/Creativity Unlimited, was one to which I was admittedly not looking forward. I knew from the trailers that this was a movie about a horribly abusive father/husband, not a topic that I would ever be "entertained" by in RL. I changed my mind about 20 pages into the script. This movie is less about the abusive father than it is about his wife and two children and the effects his abuse has on their daily lives. The dialogue is compelling, particularly when the producer puts us at the breakfast table with the mother, daughter and son and we feel their suffering so completely. While the systematic abuse drives the movie to a predictable conclusion, there is a plot twist involving the mother that is both
surprising and frustrating. Surprising in its timing, but frustrating because there is absolutely zero reference to it during the conclusion of the movie. Otherwise, I recommend this movie, which is both well-paced and impressively written.

Anyway, all in all, a disappointing week. I'll probably see a few of these, but I would recommend taking another look at films like Strangers and Brink, both still in VP theaters. Thanks again and I'll see you next week!


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