#067

Out Of Time
MGM DVD

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Carl Franklin’s considerable reputation as a director of thrillers has always been hobbled by a tendency for his films to stall at that point where most thrillers put on a last burst of speed. The fact is that Franklin, the director of One False Move and Devil In A Blue Dress, is much more interested in character than plot, and his latest film is no exception.

Thankfully, he’s also found a way to keep his plot moving and let Denzel Washington’s performance as a small-town police chief desperately trying to wriggle free of a murder frame-up power his film.

In the first twenty minutes of Out Of Time, Franklin keeps the audience off-balance as he introduces Washington’s small-town Florida cop, his affair with a married woman, her cancer, her jerk husband, his soon-to-be-ex-wife, and the drug money in his evidence locker. It’s all a set up for the single frantic day when Washington is caught between the DEA, who want their drug money back, and his detective wife, in town to investigate the apparent murder of his mistress and her husband.

There are plot holes as big as a gator, but Franklin is smart enough to let Washington’s performance stand astride them, a man coming unstuck with the effort of covering his tracks. He’s a wildly compromised hero, the sort of man who might deserve to lose the race to clear his name, and that’s a feature, not a bug, in a well-made thriller.

Comes with commentary track by Franklin, screen tests, outtakes, and a “making of” featurette.

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Godzilla, Mothra And King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack
Columbia Tristar Home Entertainment DVD

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Godzilla Vs. Megaguirus
Columbia Tristar Home Entertainment DVD

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The revival of the Godzilla franchise by Japan’s Toho Studios in the wake of 1998’s Hollywood Godzilla box office bomb adds two more titles to the nearly forty giant nuclear lizard films made since Toho’s original 1954 Gojira.

2001’s Godzilla, Mothra And King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack is as overstuffed as its title, pitting a newly revived Godzilla against his three biggest adversaries (“cute” monster Baragon was somehow exempt from title treatment). Even the 1998 film is incorporated into the storyline, which turns Godzilla into an incarnation of Japanese war guilt, and his trio of opponents into “Guardian Monsters” defending the homeland.

It was once considered clever for critics to pronounce on Godzilla films as cultural aftershock from the nuclear defeat of Japan, to which anyone who’d actually seen the films could reply with a knowing “Duh!”. Giant Monsters All-Out Attack elaborates on this concept with the sort of energy its title deserves.

Godzilla Vs. Megaguirus, made a year before, is far less inspired – giant insects emerge from a black hole to feed on Godzilla’s radioactive energy. It has the slipshod editing and clunky exposition that are hallmarks of the Godzilla franchise. Both films, thankfully, have the one thing necessary for any Godzilla film – and the one thing that Hollywood overlooked: the monster is a man in a rubber suit. No matter how much digital effects improve, some things should remain sacred.

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I Was A Male War Bride
20th Century Fox DVD

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Kiss Them For Me
20th Century Fox DVD

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People Will Talk
20th Century Fox DVD

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Born To Be Bad
20th Century Fox DVD

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These four films, made over almost a quarter century, have one thing in common: Cary Grant in a starring role. Apart from that, they’re a wildly diverse lot, ranging from screwball comedy to solemn blacklist drama.

Howard Hawks’ I Was A Male War Bride is the best of the bunch, mostly because it lets Grant shine at his strength: comedy. It also plays on the star’s sexually ambiguous persona, putting him in inevitable drag only after an hour’s wry verbal and physical horseplay with co-star Ann Sheridan.

Stanley Donen’s 1957 Kiss Them For Me is sort of a bitter re-make of his first feature, On The Town. Three navy airmen on shore leave are set to tear up the town, only this time there are no songs, and the men, Grant in particular, are reluctant heroes beset by belligerent war profiteers. Jayne Mansfield’s Marilyn-lite performance, usually a minus, is positively charming next to supermodel Suzy Parker’s wooden line readings.

People Will Talk, from 1951, and Born To Be Bad, from 1934, are showcases of Hollywood moralizing. Grant is a successful professor and doctor beset by nasty rumours and jealous colleagues in the former film, a blacklist fable that never escapes its theatre origins. Loretta Young is a scarlet woman constantly falling out of her lingerie in the latter, the sort of salacious film that Hollywood made before the censorious Production Code banished films about reluctantly repentant whores and bad mothers. Grant’s role is short and uncharacteristically stiff, but the film is both short and rather fascinating.

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Uptown Girls
MGM DVD

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Britney Murphy plays a spoiled little rich girl in what’s little more than About A Boy with a gender re-assignment.

Murphy’s Molly is living on her inheritance from her dead rock star dad when her accountant embezzles the lot and leaves her penniless. Forced to look for a job, she ends up as nanny to an uptight brat (Dakota Fanning); needless to say, the adult learns to grow up, and the little girl learns to be a child. It’s might have worked were it possible to summon sympathy for any of the film’s gallery of sitcom-simple clichés at any point in the first hour.

Comes with the usual menu of deleted scenes, production documentaries (the one on the costumes is more inspired than the whole film) and music video.

©2004 rick mcginnis all rights reserved.