by Matt Brunson
Andrew Cooper/New Linecredit: SCHLUMPY OLD MEN
capt:Garry Shandling and Warren Beatty
put their long marriages on the line in Town & Country.
NEW RELEASESDRIVEN More like Drivel. With rare exception, the mini-genre of race car flicks has always been a disreputable one, as proven by the likes of Elvis Presley's Speedway and Tom Cruise's Days of Thunder. But if there's anyone who could make a racing movie that at least qualifies as a guilty pleasure, it would be director Renny Harlin, since even his trashy films (including Deep Blue Sea and The Long Kiss Goodnight) are presented with a certain degree of style and chutzpah. But Harlin hits the wall with Driven, which is so banal and preposterous that not even his constantly roving camera can disguise the bankruptcy of the project. In fact, this is that rare time when Harlin's technique turns out to be an impediment, since the picture is so disorganized and chaotic that the myriad racing scenes result in nothing more than audience ennui (it doesn't help that much of the race footage is so obviously computer-generated). Sylvester Stallone, who wrote the original story (Neal Tabachnick and Jan Skrentny tackled screenwriting duties), handles the tried & true veteran role: He's cast as Joe Tanto, a former racing star who's coaxed out of retirement by crotchety car owner Carl Henry (Burt Reynolds) to provide guidance to Jimmy Bly (Kip Pardue), a rookie sensation who's in a dead-heat battle for the season championship with ice-cold defending champ Beau Brandenburg (Til Schweiger). Apparently growing modest with age, Stallone more or less hands the picture over to the other lead actors and their characters -- not a bad decision, since Pardue and especially Schweiger are fine in their roles. But the story itself is packed with too many needless characters, fetid dialogue and ludicrous developments. And what's with Burt Reynolds? His face, boasting a sickly color usually seen on someone right before they hurl, looks unnaturally stretched, indicating either too much makeup, too many face lifts, or a burning desire to audition for the next Mummy sequel. 1/2
ONE NIGHT AT MCCOOL'S Michael Douglas' first two credits as a producer were One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (for which he won the Best Picture Oscar) and The China Syndrome; now, approximately a quarter-century later, he's formed a new production company (Furthur Films), and its premiere film couldn't be further away from the prestige of those earlier titles. Sometimes funny, sometimes smarmy, and always lewd and crude, One Night at McCool's uses the old Rashomon blueprint of allowing its various characters to relate their own interpretation of the same events. At the center of every tale is Jewel (Liv Tyler), a luscious sexpot who, depending on who's telling the story, is either a calculating femme fatale who harbors a soft side, a ruthless dominatrix who's partial to whips and dog collars, or the embodiment of all that is pure and innocent in our soiled society. And holding those distinct viewpoints are, respectively, a bartender (Matt Dillon) who gets mixed up in murder because of his involvement with her, a ladder-climbing lawyer (Paul Reiser) who develops a taste for S&M, and a widowed detective (John Goodman) who's reminded of his dearly departed wife every time he looks at Jewel. Debuting director Harald Zwart and screenwriter Stan Seidel (who passed away last summer) have concocted a movie that on one level is nothing more than a leering frat boy feature (Jewel even washes a car in a skimpy outfit at one point) but that on another plane can be viewed as a satire on the manner in which men will alter their perceptions of any given woman in order to make her fit their own limited needs. Ultimately, the juvenile antics win out over the barbed material, but there are several laughs along the way, as well as a hilarious performance by Michael Douglas as a sleazy, bingo-playing hit man. 1/2
TOWN & COUNTRY A troubled production that was years in the making and ended up costing in the $80-$85 million bracket, Town & Country will likely suffer the same fate as a previous Warren Beatty film, Ishtar: Those who compare the cost of the film to what's actually on the screen will declare it a monumental turkey, while those of us who don't care about bloated budgets will view it as an amiable misfire with a few good moments but far too many dead spots. Certainly, the end result supports the claim that the picture went through several rewrites and reshoots (filming commenced in 1998, and the cast was called back much later to shoot a different ending after the first one tanked at preview screenings); yet while the completed package is distressingly choppy and frequently desperate -- characters separated by thousands of miles show up on each other's doorsteps with alarming regularity, while the climax contains the sort of far-fetched zaniness that works only in the sharpest of screwball comedies -- it also benefits from some finely tuned set pieces and a handful of good performances. In a role that provides some interesting subtext to his own life, Beatty (serving only as an actor-for-hire on this one) plays Porter Stoddard, a New York architect who's been happily married to an equally successful woman (Diane Keaton) for 25 years. But about the same time it's discovered that his best friend (Garry Shandling) is cheating on his wife (Goldie Hawn), Porter unexpectedly has a pair of affairs himself, both with his friend's wife and with a lovely cellist (Nastassja Kinski). The movie's theme is that old stand-by about how an individual doesn't realize how good he's got it until he messes up, but it's hard to make any emotional connections in the midst of such a rambling, ragged screenplay. And while most of the film is played in a genial, straightforward manner, the sequences involving a pampered rich girl (Andie MacDowell) and her macho father (Charlton Heston) are as bizarre as anything you'll find in David Lynch's Eraserhead.