Ghostbusters (1984)

<strong class="MovieTitle">Ghostbusters</strong> (1984)

(On VHS, June 2001) Well, it had been a while since I’d seen this one, at it does hold up quite well fifteen years later. There are a few weak moments, and some special effects are showing their age, but the central premise and the sharply-defined protagonists more than make up for it. (I couldn’t stand Rick Moranis, though. Now that’s a name we’re not missing in this bold new millennium.) Oh, and Sigourney Weaver; oooh, aaah! Bill Murray is in top form, while Dan Aykroyd suddenly look very very young… In any case, the dialogue is fine, the pacing moves decently (at the regrettable exception of the Keymaster subplot) and the result is a fine film that can still compete with the best of them. Though the theme song… well… sounds really old and tired.

The Fisher King (1991)

<strong class="MovieTitle">The Fisher King</strong> (1991)

(On VHS, June 2001) Hey, it’s Terry Gilliam, so it’s got to be good on a visual level, right? Maybe, if you squint real hard and get a mild brain seizure from the added pressure. The story of a fallen shock DJ and a wacko homeless person, The Fisher King might work on some quasi-mythic level, but most of the film is painful in that inimitable “here are miserable people and we’re going to rub your noses in their pathetic lives” fashion. There is an excruciatingly painful date sequence that will make you grit your teeth. There are two appearances by gratuitously violent men who serve no other purpose than to artlessly advance the plot through violent beatings. A whopper of a coincidence drives the story. Well, maybe I’m being too harsh; Mercedes Ruehl is wonderful, Jeff Bridges as cool as usual, there’s a good scene inside Grand Central Station and a happy ending. But it might not be worth it unless you really, really want to see the film.

The Fast And The Furious (2001)

<strong class="MovieTitle">The Fast And The Furious</strong> (2001)

(In theaters, June 2001) Yes! After a diet of pretentious pseudo-profound cinema and ultra-hyped moronic flicks aimed at retarded teens, it’s such a relief to find a honest B-movie that fully acknowledge what it is. If you like cars, you’ll go bonkers over The Fast And The Furious, one of the most enjoyable popcorn film seen so far in 2001. The plot structure is stolen almost beat-for-beat from Point Break, which should allow you to relax and concentrate on the driving scenes. There aren’t quite enough of those, but what’s there on the screen is so much better than recent car-flick predecessors like Gone In Sixty Seconds and Driven that director Rob Cohen can now justifiably park in the space formerly reserved for Dominic Sena and Renny Harlin. The film’s not without problems, but at least they’re so basic that they’re almost added features. The protagonist is supposed to be played by Paul Walker, but don’t worry; bland blond-boy gets each and every one of his scenes stolen by ascending superstar Vin Diesel, whose screen presence is of a rare distinction. Feminists will howl over the retrograde place of women in the film, but even wannabee-sensitive-guys like me will be indulgent and revel in the uber-babe factor exhibited by Jordana Brewster and Michelle Rodriguez—not to mention the other obligatory car-babes kissing each other. Despite the disappointing lack of racing in the first half, there is a pair of great action sequences by the end, the best involving a botched robbery attempt on a rig with an armed driver. That scene hurts, okay? I still would have loved a better ending, but otherwise, don’t hesitate and rush to The Fast And The Furious if you’re looking for a good, fun B-movie.

(Second viewing, On DVD, March 2002) There isn’t much to that film, if you look closely; three or four action scenes, conventional plotting, a few hot young actors and that’s it. But once again in B-movie-land, it all depends on the execution. Here, the young actors are really hot (from Walker to Diesel to Brewster to Rodriguez), the direction is unobtrusive enough and the film is infused with a love of speed that manages to make all quibbles insignificant. The ending is still problematic, with all its unresolved plot-lines, but the film holds up very well to another viewing. The DVD includes an amusing director’s commentary, deleted scenes (some good, some less. Unfortunately, the director once refers to an alternate ending that’s not included), a rather good making-of, three rather bad music videos and a bunch of other stuff.

Evolution (2001)

<strong class="MovieTitle">Evolution</strong> (2001)

(In theaters, June 2001) We live in an amazing age, where cutting-edge effects can be produced cheaply and inserted in a film that is so slight. Oh, don’t worry; you’ll laugh, giggle and smile during most of Evolution, but trust me, it will leave an empty feeling in your head soon afterward. The problem is how easy the film feels. No effort seems to have been put in the script, the acting nor the direction. (The special effects people worked until they fell asleep over their workstations, though.) All the jokes are obvious and laboriously set-up. A large splattering of vulgar humor covers the film like an oily sheen, making it less than commendable for family audiences while there was no real reason to go gross-out on us. At least the actors look as if they’re having fun; David Duchovny gets to crack a few smiles, Seann William Scott still looks like a sympathetic doofus (Dude, where’s your car? Oh, right; blown away by a meteor) and Julianne Moore’s character is an excellent antidote for everyone who hated her in Magnolia or Boogie Nights. One of the film’s few bright spot is a cameo by Sarah Silverman—though her site makes reference to another deleted scene. There’s a good action scene inside a mall. On the other hand, you’ll shake you head at the sorry science exhibited here. Oh well. There’s enough eye-candy here to make it worth a cheap rental at the very least.

Do The Right Thing (1989)

<strong class="MovieTitle">Do The Right Thing</strong> (1989)

(On VHS, June 2001) You’ve got to admire Spike Lee for the way he gradually cranks up the tension in a mixed-race neighborhood over the duration of this film. On the other hand, there isn’t all that much to like in the way the tension is unleashed, giving a particularly confused impression by the time the credits roll. After a particularly pointless title sequence, a rather large cast of characters (including a small role by a young Martin Lawrence) is progressively introduced and put in relation with one another. Of course, faults run across race lines, and the sweltering weather doesn’t help one bit. It all has to blow over sooner or later, and this is when the film doesn’t make as much sense. One characters makes what seems to be a completely rash decision for no good reason, which precipitates the unavoidable conclusion. The epilogue doesn’t help, almost bending itself out of shape to avoid laying blame to anyone. But, her, what do I know about Brooklyn neighborhoods? I’m just a white guy from the suburbs.

Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason, Helen Fielding

Penguin, 1999, 338 pages, C$19.00 tpb, ISBN 0-14-029847-9

I really liked Helen Fielding’s Bridget Jones’s Diary and it seems as if I wasn’t the only one; the book remained one of Britain’s best-seller for quite some time. With this success, and a successful film adaptation, it was inevitable to see a sequel popping up in bookstores.

The good and the bad news about The Edge of Reason are that, overall, it’s more of the same thing. If you loved Bridget Jones in her first diary -and who didn’t?-, you’ll love her about as much in the second one. Our heroine is still adorably confused, the writing style still as brisk, and the overall effect quite sympathetic. If you loved the prequel, there’s no doubt that you’ll like The Edge of Reason.

Bridget begins her second diary scant weeks after the events of the first one; we find her still happily shacking up with Mark Darcy, the rock-solid barrister romantic hero of the first volume. All is well in paradise… or is it? A few obvious misunderstandings, comic interludes and disloyal incidents from acquaintances later, Bridget finds herself sort-of-single once again and determined to chuck all of her self-help books in the trash again.

Hey, don’t worry; Mr. Darcy isn’t all that far away, and neither is the happy ending. In the meantime, Bridget is free to make even more outrageous slip-ups, obsess some more about her body and suffer through the manias of her mother. You can’t do the same romantic shtick twice, and the second volume of the Bridget Jones series is slanted towards broader comedy.

As usual, some specific bits are laugh-aloud funny; a Colin Firth interview published verbatim (because Bridget goofed up once more) reads like the most asinine fan interview ever conducted. Furthermore, several of the funniest bits are self-contained in wonderful epigrams. You might even recognize moments of truth in Fielding’s prose. Your reviewer found himself laughing silly at the suggestions that Bridget was dumped for insufficient geographic knowledge, an incident with troubling similarities having happened in his immediate vicinity a few weeks before.

Alas, as comic bits go, Fielding also includes less-amusing moments. It’s not easy to milk humor from a suicide attempt (fortunately, not Bridget’s) nor a few days in prison, and indeed, the laughs feel far more forced during these moments. If you can’t stand situational comedy whose setup is required by stupid misunderstandings, chances are that you’ll have a few problems with this book, which depends heavily on Bridget and Mark Darcy not communicating effectively at several crucial moments.

The other big problem of The Edge of Reason is its occasional lack of relevance to the average reader. Everyone reading Bridget Jones’s Diary could identify with the protagonist or relate her to an acquaintance, mostly because her problems were so universal. Not so in the sequel; how many of us get to fly to Italy to interview Colin Firth, or take vacations in Thailand and then by framed for drug smuggling? Granted, it’s funny to see how Bridget reacts to these problems (she ends up lip-synching Madonna in prison) but on the other hand, it’s not something we’re likely to relate with our day-to-day lives. But, alas, maybe that’s the price to pay to extend a one-novel character… But as long as Bridget doesn’t find herself battling aliens by the third volume of the series, this isn’t cause for serious concern.

These caveats expressed, fans of the first volume can’t really go wrong by checking out The Edge of Reason. Sure, it’s more of the same, but when it’s as good as Bridget Jones’s Diary, why complain?