Down From the Shelf ~ Cape Fear (1991)


The Facts:

Synopsis: A convicted rapist, released from prison after serving a 14 year sentence, stalks the family of the lawyer who originally defended him.

Stars: Robert De Niro, Nick Nolte, Jessica Lange, Gregory Peck, Robert Mitchum, Illeana Douglas, Juliette Lewis

Director: Martin Scorsese

Rated: R

Running Length: 128 minutes

TMMM Score: (8/10)

Review:  The memory is still as clear as day.  My dad had taken me to the opening night 7:25pm showing of Cape Fear at the Edina and we were now back at our house.  My mom was gone for the weekend and it was a bachelor weekend at the Botten household.  Well after seeing Cape Fear I was absolutely scared to death and slept with the light on an my head under the covers.  Even now, I can’t watch Scorcese’s remake with pinpointing the exact moment my blood turned cold and I weighed the pros/cons of peeing my pants.  All I’ll say about the moment to keep it a secret for people who haven’t seen it is this – the maid.  Decorum won out and I kept my bladder intact.

Back then it was all about the scare for me.  I didn’t pay attention to performances or camera techniques.  Watching the film today, I understand so much more about what Scorcese was going for when tackling this piece.  He was trying to make a contemporary and arty adult slasher film and he’s largely succeeded with the aid of DeNiro, Nolte, and Lange.  Lewis is still growing on me here, but I’m a big fan of her work in recent years.  If you look at the trivia for this movie it appears that every young female in Hollywood was up for this role (though I highly doubt Tiffani Amber-Thiessen was strongly considered) and Lewis was an interesting casting choice.  Both she and DeNiro were nominated for their work here and I was surprised it didn’t nab noms for cinematography, editing, and score – all which are award worthy.

I’ve seen the original Cape Fear (it was a brilliant touch to bring back original stars Peck and Mitchum for cameo roles) and feel I may be in the minority when I say I prefer the remake.  The original was considered ahead of its time with its take on violence but I feel the film is more effective when the danger is more real.  Even though it does drag a bit in the middle section the final thirty minutes are gripping moments of cinema.  If you’ve never seen this, give it a try.  It’s a nice bridge between the extreme violence of Scorcese’s early years and the more refined filmmaker he evolved into as the decades passed.

Movie Review ~ The Vow


The Facts:

Synopsis: A car accident puts Paige in a coma, and when she wakes up with severe memory loss, her husband Leo works to win her heart again.

Stars: Rachel McAdams, Channing Tatum, Sam Neill, Jessica Lange, Scott Speedman

Director: Michael Sucsy

Rated: PG-13

Running Length: 104 minutes

Random Crew Highlight:  Costume Cutter – Nancy Coulson-Dasilva

TMMM Score: (2/10)

Review:  Are you familiar with the scene in many a movie that I refer to as the ‘Rock Star Parking’ scene?  You know what I’m talking about.  The lead actor/actress is shopping/dining in a busy part of town and they just happen to find a parking spot directly in front of the location they are headed.  They find this parking for no other reason than the movie dictates it.  It doesn’t further the plot, it doesn’t flesh out the characters.  It just happens.

That’s largely how one could describe The Vow after making it through nearly two hours of this “inspired by true events” movie showing people that don’t exist in reality.  That it’s inspired by true events bears no weight on any of the proceedings…a quick title card and picture at the end show us a couple that probably never imagined they would be played by actors such as Tatum and McAdams.

If we are to buy into movies like this we must be invested in our two leads and unfortunately McAdams and especially Tatum are nowhere near up to the task.  McAdams seems to be distracted (probably wishing she’d just made The Notebook 2 and closed the book on her romantic dramedy career) and Tatum is called on to act way more than his range allows him to.  It’s pretty bad when our lead actress has more sparks with her ex-fiancée (Speedman) than her husband that she can’t seem to remember after a well-filmed car wreck leaves her with amnesia.  If Speedman and Tatum had swapped roles we may have had a movie to talk about…but he’s left with a half baked character that is inserted into scenes when Tatum and McAdams need extra tension.

For a woman that just comes out of a serious car crash and head injury, McAdams is remarkably perky from the moment she opens her eyes.  I want to go to whatever hospital she was in if I’m ever in a head on collision (knock on wood) because aside from the whole amnesia business, she’s up and at ‘em in no time flat.  Tatum does a lot of pouting and posing as he grasps at struggling to realize that the earthy, free-spirited woman he fell in love with and married doesn’t know him or remember their life together.  McAdams misses some choice opportunity to give the character some journey to go on…instead she comes off as cold, callous, and unworthy of Tatum’s repeated attempts to help her memory.

Director Sucsy is helming his first theatrical motion picture after the nice success of the television movie of Grey Gardens.  He ports over Lange from that film and it seems he didn’t give her time to take off the majority of her Big Edie make-up.  I love Lange (she deserves every accolade for her tremendous work in FX’s American Horror Story) but here she looks pretty frightening.  She’s playing against type here in a role that’s fairly beneath her.  Neil brings zilch to the table and appears to be wishing he had a dinosaur or two to climb on.  The rest of the cast is littered with forgettable people playing Tatum and McAdams friends and family…one only wishes we could forget most of their earnest “look at me, Ma, I’m in a movie” performances.  The only standout is Tatiana Maslany who turns in the single performance with any sort of authenticity as a business partner of Tatum’s.

Releasing just in time for Valentine’s Day I’m sure this film will attract devotees of romantic flicks and their boyfriends.  With so many better choices out there, it would be a shame to plunk your money down for a weak effort like this.  Choose another film and let that unspool as this one (hopefully) fades from movie cinema memories.