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A Reason to Believe

A Reason to Believe?
The sensitive issue of rape has, over the years, become very formulaic in films. The conflicts of which typically entail a woman bringing her assailant to justice via proving that she was raped despite ample disbelief and even ridicule. Writer/director Douglas Tirola's "A Reason to Believe" is certainly no exception under those circumstances, but stereotypical (and even ostentatious) characterizations of men and women and other situations make this film very unbelievable.

Like many film's that take place in college settings, the characters in Reason who are members of fraternities and sororities are both promiscuous and fond of alcohol and drugs. These pleasures are essentials throughout the Viking party hosted by the Beta fraternity house, at which attendees are scantily clad in togas and drink, get high, and get laid. It is at this party that Charlotte (Allison Smith) is raped by frat boy and friend Jim (Jay Underwood). Since Charlotte's attire wasn't conservative and she was seen dancing with Jim and because she didn't physically struggle with Jim when he raped her, it is not surprising that no one believes her when she claims that his advances were unwanted especially since, by this point, Jim has already bragged to his entire fraternity about his encounter with Charlotte. Among Jim's fraternity brothers is Charlotte's boyfriend Wesley (Danny Quinn), who was not only absent from the party but who also told Charlotte that he didn't want her to attend it for fear that she would look like "fraternity groupie", and the token stoner Potto (Keith Coogan) who actually witnessed the rape but remains mostly quiet about it. After all, who is going to buy his story since he was on drugs at the time? Despite Wesley's jealousy, it is ridiculous that he would be much quicker to believe Jim over Charlotte, but then again, the first time Wesley expresses his love for Charlotte is during a period of sex.

Further stereotypes are noted in Linda (Georgia Emelin) and her campus women's group, which, in many ways, desensitize the issue of rape. As a hardcore feminist, Linda pulls out all the stops for the benefit of her group and most of the women on campus such as demanding that the dean publish a rape victim's police report, voicing her hatred for all fraternities, and even referring to Jim's girlfriend Judith (Kim Walker) as a prostitute during the Viking party. The presence of Linda and her fellow feminists is ironic for after Charlotte is raped, she doesn't contact anyone who either anonymous or bound to confidentiality such as a therapist or law enforcer. Instead, she contacts the campus crisis center and speaks to one of Linda's cohorts who ultimately relays the entire story to Linda who arrogantly uses the incident bring her own women-related issues to the forefront.

The film's greatest flaw is the action that Charlotte decides to take. In an effort to avoid publicity (as if being seen with Linda could that) and time spent in a court of law, Charlotte takes her case to the school's administration board who, despite having no real evidence or feedback from a lawyer (and perhaps to shut Linda up), conclude that Jim actually raped Charlotte. As punishment, Jim is not arrested, but just expelled. I will not deny that this was similar to the ending I would like to have see, but it confines the film too much to a college atmosphere and the absence of people who are neither students nor faculty members doesn't make for a believable story about rape.

I give this film four stars for the actors in it clearly made the most of the material they had to work with and as far as production goes, the crew succeeded in making the most of their low budget. As a first-time writer/director, Tirola's intentions are both sentimental and noble. Unfortunately, the only the believable aspect of this film about rape is the rape itself.

To Gillian on Her 37th Birthday

Sentimental and flawed...
When I discovered that David E. Kelley wrote the script for Gillian, it's flaws seem to have made a bit more sense for while I've rarely been privy to such notable TV shows like The Practice, Boston Legal, and Chicago Hope, it became clear that writing dramas that don't pertain to law or medicine isn't his forte and the result is a film in which no elements really work.

Of the seven primary characters in Gillian, only three really matter: David (Peter Gallagher), a man who, after two years, still isn't over the death of his wife Gillian (Michelle Pfieffer); Rachel (Clare Danes), his daughter, whose relationship with her father isn't too estranged; and Esther (Kathy Baker), David's sister-in-law, who's determined to remove Rachel from David's care for fear it is unhealthy for the girl. The remaining characters bring little substance to the film. Paul (Bruce Altman), Esther's husband, is aware of his wife's intentions and quietly tolerates his them despite objections while simultaneously voicing his sexual frustrations in the presence of young beautiful women such as Cindy (Laurie Fortier), Rachel's friend, who's equally frustrated and so bored that she uses her sex appeal to taunt men for fun. Kevin (Wendy Crewson), is an acquaintance of Esther and Paul's who was brought by them (unbeknownst to her and David) to the family's gathering for no other reason than to take David's mind off Gillian. Upon this realization, Kevin learns that her presence is unneeded despite being amiably tolerated (at best) by everyone else, especially Esther, who spends much of the first half of the film using Kevin as her pawn to convince David to get over Gillian. Fortunately, Kevin's knowledge that she's unneeded dissuades her from doing anything more than just being present throughout the film. Finally, there's Gillian who appears as an apparition just to remind us of how un-over her David really is and that "Rachel comes first,".

The basic conflict of the story lies in Esther's belief that David's perpetual grief has made him an unsuitable parent for Rachel, which she bases solely on a slip in Rachel's grades. Rachel doesn't think so, which is why she defends her father. But the conflict for viewers revolves around Esther, who cannot sympathize at all with David's grief which pertains entirely to the death of her sister! What is wrong with this woman that she's adamant about about speeding up his grief process by threatening to take his daughter away from him despite proclaiming to care for him and not sparing a moment of heartache for the loss of her sister? We never find out and after a night during which Rachel goes to bed drunk and has a nightmare featuring Gillian, the conflict is resolved when Rachel decides to go live with Esther and Paul and "let her mother be dead,". Further (and most predictable) resolution occurs during the final 10 minutes when David decides to get over Gillian, move in the Paul and Esther, and start putting Rachel first. It's far too little too late.

Since Gillian does contain a good cast with a notable performance from Danes, I gave it four out of ten stars but the talents of these people are ultimately lost in this poorly written melodrama that might elicit some tears and sighs from the audience, but is mostly a film about a rivalry between in-laws that is devoid of the compassion usually felt after the death of a loved one.

P.S. By the way, David E. Kelley, stick to televised legal and medical dramas. Your talents and know-how as a writer and producer are most obvious and bankable in those fields.

Prom Night IV: Deliver Us from Evil

Scariest of this series...
Out of all the horror movie series I've seen, the Prom Night series takes the cake for maintaining almost no continuity in its films. The first of which was a simple tale of revenge; the following two contained none of the original characters and revolved around the ghost of Mary Lou Maloney: a wicked prom queen who'll stop at nothing to get her crown and the man she desires. While I enjoyed the first of these two films, it's hardly surprising that movie-goers have written them off as laughable and pathetic. Although Prom Night 4 bears no relevance to its predecessors, it gets its scariness from having a very dark villain who pulls no punches whatsoever even if the entire film is loaded with the most predictable horror movie clichés and contains no originality. When we first meet Father Jonas, he's praying fervently about his hatred for sluts and whores. Unsurprisingly, this hatred is what motivates him to kill two high school students making out in a car on the night of their prom. Fast forward 33 years later, Father Jonas isn't in jail but confined to small room beneath his church where his keepers rely on heavy sedatives to keep his evil at bay. Luckily for Father Jonas, a new priest has been assigned to look after him and he escapes by nightfall to return to countryside seminary he remembers from his younger days except now it's a summer home in which four thrill-seeking teenagers are indulging in sex and alcohol. Why not? It's their prom night! It's here that the horror-movie clichés are ubiquitous: for instance, upon their arrival the teens learn that the very secluded house has been burgled, but they choose not to call the police since they're not supposed to be there. The rest of the film features the murders of the two most promiscuous teens, calls to the police that are ineffective, and a lengthy game of cat and mouse in which Father Jonas chases Megan-the most innocent of the teens. Throughout it all, the priest maintains the same dark facial expression and goes about his rampage undeterred. If the effect isn't chilling than it's certainly gruesome, especially since the most undeterred villains in previous horror films couldn't have been human and either wore white masks and shredded coveralls or stalked their victims in their dreams. The fans of the Prom Night series who wrote off the Mary Lou storyline as crap will enjoy this film for being a simple slasher featuring rage-filled murderer, but so will all horror movie fans looking for a creepy and cliché-ridden thrill.

Night of the Demons III

Kevin Tenney shouldn't write sequels to his own movies!
After the great disappointment that was Witchboard 2, which director Kevin Tenney wrote and directed, I don't know why my hopes were even slightly high when I rented Night of the Demons III. It might have been Tenney's credit as the writer for the movie. I always thought that when a creator of a horror movie decides to write a sequel, he or she would deliver some continuity as well as tie up a few loose ends. That wasn't the case with NOTD3, which, except for the use of Angela and Hull House, bears no relevance whatsoever to the previous two movies, which were chock full of graphic and silly death scenes, promiscuous teenagers, and laughable religious references. Tenney's affiliations with the first movie, which contained some decent comedy and a fine dance routine from Amelia Kinkade, could have made NOTD3 better, but a lack of originality just made it a piece of crap. Not only is the concept of ignorant teenagers who get in WAY over their heads old, but the script hindered the ruthlessness of the demon Angela so much to the point that audience has a greater death wish for the moronic teens she seduces as opposed to her-the real villain. In addition, I couldn't help but wonder why Hull House looked cleaner and more livable in this film than in the previous two. The use of footage from the first movie did nothing to reassure the audience that the house used to be a funeral home/crematorium and, in turn, makes this installment look even worse. For the sake of this series, as well as actress Kinkade who looks stupid as the seductress of juvenile idiots, I hope there is fourth installment just to put this series to rest the right way which might include the destruction of Hull House and the condemnation of the demon Angela to hell. Until then, we are left with this silly rag, which is hardly worth the $1.99 rental fee all because Kevin Tenney could find nothing interesting or challenging to write about.

Love Crimes

Laughingly Bad!
The concept of the legal gray area in Love Crimes contributes to about 10% of the movie's appeal; the other 90% can be attributed to it's flagrant bad-ness. To say that Sean Young's performance as a so-called district attorney is wooden is a gross understatement. With her bland suits and superfluous hair gel, Young does a decent job at convincing the audience of her devout hatred for men. Why else would she ask her only friend to pose as a prostitute just so she can arrest cops who try to pick up on them? This hatred is also the only reason why she relentlessly pursues a perverted photographer who gives women a consensual thrill and the driving force behind this crappy movie. Watching Young go from frigid to full-frontal nudity does little to raise interest, but the temper tantrum she throws standing next to a fire by a lake does. Watching her rant and rave about her self-loathing and sexual frustration makes Love Crimes worth the rental fee, but it's all downhill to and from there. Despite her urge to bring Patrick Bergin's character to justice, her policing skills completely escape her in the throes of her own tired lust and passion. Patrick Bergin does a decent enough job as a slimy sociopath; if it worked in Sleeping With the Enemy it sure as hell can work in this. But I can't help but wonder if the noticeable lack of energy Young brings to the film conflicts with his sliminess. I'm guessing it does and the result is a "thriller" with thrills that are thoroughly bad and yet comedic.


Dull, Tawdry, and Stupid...
I found Ira Levin's novel Sliver to be very enjoyable in which the protagonist(s) are much more likable and intelligent. In the movie, which was made horrifyingly bad by Eszterhas's pitiful script, Sharon Stone comes off as weak and guilt-ridden and goes through her scenes with questionable motivation. After the first five minutes of the movie, it quickly gets very boring as it's a thriller with thrills that are few and far between. Undoubtedly, all of Sliver's thrills can be seen in the trailer set to the suspenseful score Jerry Goldsmith wrote for Basic Instinct. With the exception of Colleen Camp's performance, all the rest in the movie are a disappointment which was a surprise since it came out just a year after Stone was nominated for a Golden Globe. Ultimately, there's nothing good that can really be said about Sliver. It's too drawn-out with dull scenes that don't really convey a story well. By the time you come to the movie's last scene, you're reminded that it's also a mystery, but you just don't seem to care. In fact, if you make to the end and learn the killer's identity, you'll probably say to yourself: "I knew it." Read the book and buy Sliver's AWESOME soundtrack, but don't waste your money on this crap.

Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II

Portrait of youth corruption
The Prom Night series probably takes the cake as one of horror's more negligible series due to its lack of continuity, trite plots, and severe emphasis on Christianity. However, I think Mary Lou is probably the best installment in this series. Vicki Carpenter is the quintessential goody two shoes who's raised by strict and deeply religious parents who've done a fine job at making her feel guilty for having "sinful" thoughts about her boyfriend and using the Lord's name in vain. But with her interest in the prom queen who died thirty years earlier, it's obvious that she's torn between a her own world and one that can be considered more sinful. The spirit of Mary Lou does a helluva job at corrupting this little Miss Perfect by exposing her to violence, revenge, lust, and even homosexuality that she's pondered for years. While the film bears no major relevance to its predecessor much like the subsequent two films, it provides a reflection of what teenagers have been going through for years while they were trying break free from the parents who drove them crazy, discover more about themselves, or just try, by any means necessary, to be the most popular person in their school. After all, weren't those the elements that John Hughes filled his 80s teen movies with?

Notting Hill

Remake of Four Weddings and Funeral?
During the summer of 1999, this movie was so over-rated that it was almost scary. When I sat down to watch it, all I got was drama and romance that was sappier than a pine tree. I hated it and it wasn't until years after I saw Four Weddings and a Funeral that I finally figured out why. Both screenplays were penned by the same man. Could Notting Hill have had anything more in common with Four Weddings? Lonely Englishman meets a lovely American woman and just when he thinks that things couldn't be better between them they only get worse a few times before she finally isn't too busy to spend more time with him. With these and recent movies that bare the names Sandra Bullock and Jennifer Lopez, I'm convinced that romantic comedies are nothing shy of crap.

Freddy's Dead: The Final Nightmare

Best for last?
I have to give Rachel Talalay credit for this was a decent vehicle for her to make her directorial debut since she'd been affiliated with this series for years before making this movie, but the story couldn't have been weaker. Except for using the character of Freddy, Nightmare 6 bears no major consistency with it's predecessors. We never find out what happened to Alice and her baby. Freddy is starting with a new group of teenagers who aren't relevant to the previous five movies in any way which make them as victims and characters (and, in some cases, as actors) even more forgettable than this movie. Perhaps the only thing that makes this movie watchable is that eeriness that makes Freddy fearsome. The only good thing that can be said about the sequels to this movie is that the eerie element is present in all of them, but is negligible due to overly high body counts, weak stories, and comedy. They shouldn't have used the tagline: "They save the best for last," since I didn't think Freddy's death scene in this movie was a far cry from his previous five.

Scream 3

Piece of crap!
I don't know what sucked about this movie the most. Everything about this movie was a huge disappointment. After falling in love with her in such illustrious comedies like House of Yes, Waiting for Guffman, and Best in Show, Parker Posey's acting was at an all time low in this movie. While I was being thoroughly disgusted with this rag, I kept thinking: "She went from The Daytrippers to this." Also, Courteney Cox's costume designer and hair stylist should have been fired. Granted that her character Gale Weathers was still nothing more than a "tabloid twit," she did not look the part of someone determined to win the Pulitzer Prize. Despite the fact that Neve Campbell has never been a first rate actress, she does well enough playing someone still troubled by her past. But what was probably the most disappointing aspect of the entire movie was the identity of the killer. Not to give it away, but I remember wishing it wasn't so when the movie came to it's long-overdue ending. The things that make Scream 3 bad can probably be attributed mainly to the fact that Kevin Williamson didn't write the screenplay like he did the first two. However, the most redeeming part of this movie was Jenny McCarthy who provided a line that reinstated the Scream trilogy was meant to be a parody of horror movies. She put it nicely when she said: "I'm thirty years old and you keep sending me in to play teenagers." Too bad that alone doesn't make this movie worth a rental fee.

Porky's Revenge

It lacks...
Seeing as how Bob Clark didn't participate in this movie, it doesn't surprise me that the final movie in the Porky's trilogy lacked the energy that made the first two so funny. The events leading up to the revenge just seemed so unnecessary. Ultimately, this so-called revenge seemed more like another attempt to make Porky's life miserable. This was an inglorious way to end the series which (when it first started) was the first important teen movie of the 80s before we were subjected to the legacy of John Hughes and the Brat Pack.

A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 2: Freddy's Revenge

I'm not quite sure what to make of this one...
The funny thing about this movie is that it wasn't until I saw the Nightmare on Elm Street Encyclopedia which included interviews from cast and crew members of everyone involved with this series that I finally discovered how much homoeroticism was in this movie. In that aspect, the use of Freddie Kruegger almost seems ambiguous since he's one of three men who's haunting Jesse (the other two being his gym teacher and Grady). It also doesn't help that Jesse's relationship with Lisa is one that just doesn't seem to work. This movie can ultimately be seen as an experiment since (with the exception of Freddie) the men in this series are the weaker sex. Lisa is the only female lead in this series who lives yet doesn't possess any major strength like Heather Langenkamp and the forgettable heroines who came after her. Probably the most disappointing part of this movie is that we never find out what happens to Jesse and it's never explained why 1428 Elm Street was boarded up for the third installment which wasn't much to scream about either. Oddly enough, there's a great deal about this series that is left unexplained. We never find out what happens to Alice and her baby. We never find out what happens to Freddie's daughter. And we never find out how Freddie was resurrected in order to be killed in Freddie's Dead: The Final Nightmare. It's sad because the same can't really be said for the Friday the 13th series which were all really lame since Jason kept coming back for sake of killing promiscuous young adults. But seeing as how if a series is played enough, there's nothing new that can be done which kind of makes it OK.


I love this movie
I'd have to say that Porky's was the first important teen movie of the 80s. What I like most about this movie is that it didn't contain any of the trademark really deep moments of discovery and truth that laid beneath the comedy of John Hughes's movies. It was just a movie that was really funny and can probably be considered a flip-off to the really nice prim and properness that most people still associate with the 50s. After all, am I the only one who knows that Elvis's hip movements were considered so blatantly sexual during that decade that when he performed on the Ed Sullivan Show (which captured the attention of at least 60 million viewers) they filmed him from the waist up? I know the movie is anything but deep and profound, but seeing as how other teen movies like She's All That and Crossroads are nothing shy of cheesy garbage, I was thrilled to discover a teen movie which focuses on teens who are anxious to get laid. I mean, during adolescence, weren't we all so curious about sex that it almost hurt if we couldn't get so much as a small helping of it?

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