Marcia Gay Harden, who is three years short of 50 as I
write this, has come to be a respected and awarded actress
(two Oscar nominations, one win) by playing a certain
familiar type of character. If you are a guy you know this
character very well. She's the sincere, intelligent, lonely
woman that you meet at a party and can't get rid of because
she's had a second glass of Chablis and can't distinguish
between genuine interest and simple civility. She occupies
you with the usual boilerplate comments about global
warming, corporate irresponsibility, and her fear of growing
old, and she just keeps nattering on and on, although you
mutter only an occasional laconic response. She's attractive
enough, probably used to be a looker, but you are a guy
after all, so while you feign interest in her, you are
actually thinking about breaking free and hitting on the
short-bus chick who looks like Anna Kournikova.
Sound familiar? The world is full of
those women. I know at least four women who would be played
by Marcia Gay Harden, in the unlikely event they would do
anything or know anybody interesting enough to attract a
Well, believe it or not, there was
actually a time when you would have been thinking of
breaking free from some other sincere woman to hit on Marcia
Gay Harden. She caught the eye of the film world in 1990
with her sultry performance in a Coen Brother film, Miller's
Crossing, and proceeded to get cast in some sexy leading
parts for a couple of years. She was even cast as Ava
Gardner in a TV movie about Sinatra!
This period virtually drove her
once-promising film career into total obscurity. The problem
wasn't that she lacked the looks or talent to handle the
roles, but that she never got to strut her stuff in a decent
movie. If you look at the ranked IMDb list of her top ten
films, you'll see that none of them were made in the five or
six years after Miller's Crossing.
Mystic River (2003)
Miller's Crossing (1990)
The Daytrippers (1996)
Meet Joe Black (1998)
The Spitfire Grill (1996)
Casa de los babys (2003)
Gaudi Afternoon (2001)
Space Cowboys (2000)
She spent a substantial portion of
that period establishing credibility as a stage actress. She
was nominated for a Tony for her performance in "Angels in
America," playing the character that Mary-Louise Parker
portrayed in the cable series. When Harden did make movies,
however, they seemed to be mediocre ones. She would
not really get her movie career going again until she
re-emerged as a character actress.
Fever is one of the mediocre films
she made in that sexy period.
It's a thriller and the premise is
gimmicky. Armand Assante plays a paroled convict who wants
to go straight. He returns to his ex-girlfriend (Harden)
only to find that she is living with a sweet mild-mannered
lawyer (Sam Neill). "Not very thrilling or gimmicky," you
say? Does it sound like it belongs on the Oxygen Network? Be
patient. I'm getting to the gimmicky conflict. A bunch of
baddies from the con's past want him to use his talents to
commit some crimes for them, so they kidnap the girlfriend
as leverage. The con thus has to commit the crimes in order
to save her life, a task made far more complicated by the
fact that the wimpy lawyer insists on tagging along.
Fever isn't a bad watch for a
non-theatrical actioner/thriller. There are some guilty
pleasures. Late in the film, for example, there is a scene
in which a psycho kidnapper cuts off Marcia Harden's bra,
and that is damned hot. The film also has some interesting
character development. The Armand Assante part is quite
interesting. He's a tough and ruthless criminal, but also a
complicated multi-dimensional man who really loves his ex.
As the film progresses, we see more and more of the
criminal's strengths revealed, while we see the lawyer
descend deeper and deeper into the world of violent
criminals, all the while surprising himself with how easy it
is to revert to savage behavior, and how pleasurable it can
Given some strengths and a pretty
good cast, I don't think you'll find Fever unbearable if you
happen to run into it on cable or something. On the other
hand, I would not recommend that you make an effort to seek
it out, for three reasons:
The pace of the thriller is slowed
down excessively by various gratuitous sub-plots going on
within the prison which the con has just left. The film's
character development is deep enough that it takes a long
time to deliver its punch even without these unnecessary
digressions, so the prison scenes slow the film down to a
pace which, in my opinion, is just too slow for an action
film. Since the character development is actually one of
the film's strengths, there was no room to cut any of
that, so the only way to speed the film up would have been
to minimize the prison scenes.
In the large portion of the story
which takes place after the girlfriend is kidnapped and
before she is is rescued, the film becomes essentially a
"mismatched buddy" partnership without the humor. I don't
how universal my attitude is, but for me the only real
pleasure of a mismatched buddy film IS the humor. Red
Heat? Trite story, but fun to watch because Jim Belushi
constantly makes fun of Arnold. 48 Hours? Not much of a
story at all, but Murphy and Nolte carry it with banter
and bickering. And so forth. The formula just doesn't work
for me without the funny put-downs.
Since Fever is ostensibly a formulaic
thriller and not a hand-wringing drama, there's never any
doubt that the mismatched buddies will save the woman's
life. Therefore, the only suspense is derived from her
ultimate choice between the two men ... and the viewer
will actually forget about that choice for more than an
hour during the "mismatched buddy" portion of the film.
The DVD is not worth acquiring. In
addition to the fact that the film is so-so, the transfer is
rather grainy and the disc has no features of any kind.
VIDS: (zipped .wmvs)
Harden in all cases.
|Marcia Gay Harden
|various background strippers
Crush is one of those Pinteresque films in which a sinister stranger
insinuates him/herself into the lives of some relatively isolated
It's an odd film almost from the first moments. A literary
critic from New Zealand and her American friend (Marcia Gay Harden)
drive through a picturesque part of the North Island, on their way to
interview a Kiwi author who is a Booker Prize winner. The two women
discuss the fact that the interview may go poorly because this author
is notoriously hard on critics, and she has written some harsh words
about him. The American spots an odd roadside attraction which causes
her to takes her eyes from the road long enough to cause a terrible
accident. The New Zealander's body is mangled and appears to have died
in the crash, but the American is only dazed, so she does what I think
any of us would have done in this case. Instead of calling for
emergency assistance, she makes her way to the author's house and
pretends to be the critic - without even changing her American accent!
This author is apparently not the brightest guy in the world, because
he buys the impersonation hook, line and sinker.
The American is soon seducing the author, which doesn't go down
well with his daughter, who kinda thought the American was hitting on
her first! Meanwhile, it turns out that the real critic
was not killed in the crash, but her body and mind were both badly
damaged. When the daughter figures out precisely what is going on, she
goes to the hospital, befriends the injured critic, and begins
programming her for a recovery that includes revenge against the controlling American.
And so forth.
The daughter was really only planning to turn
her father against the American, but it turns out that the
injured critic is capable of far more insidious types of revenge than
anyone could have imagined after seeing her damaged body. I think. Or
maybe it was all a dream.
The film has a great look to it. It was shot
near the town of Rotorua, a tourist mecca because of its unusual
natural wonders like dramatic waterfalls, geysers, hot mud pools,
thermal springs, ancient villages buried by volcanoes, Maori cultural
artifacts, and tropical
rainforests. It's an especially useful setting for an eerie movie because it
appears that sunshine has never touched the place at any time. I once
explained my Upstate New York birthplace to an ex-girlfriend of mine
by saying that our local dialect doesn't even have a word for "sun."
Rotorua is that kind of place - misty, foggy, and perennially
overcast. It is made even more sinister by a surfeit of touristy
hotels, motels, and shops which vie for the tourist dollars.
The words aren't as strong as the pictures.
The script is laden with heavy-handed literary tropes. For example,
the American's impersonation of the New Zealander is foreshadowed
clumsily by a scene in which they eat chicken together before the
accident and the critic asks her future impersonator, "Do you want my
skin?" (She does. Literally and figuratively.) At least that device
worked on the real level as well as the symbolic. Too many elements of
the film exist on a figurative plane without attempting to make sense
in the story's primary reality. One minute the two women are in the
crash. The American gets up and walks. Then almost instantly the
American is at the author's house, again taking the critic's "skin."
WTF? Apparently the scenarist thought no more explanations were
necessary. As for the ending ... well, I think I know what happened.
Or not. Hard to say. Quirky editing.
In addition to the confusing script, the film
is burdened by the fact that Marcia Gay Harden isn't especially
convincing as the manipulative and malevolent seductress. This is
another effort from her ill-fated "sexy seductress phase" in the early
90s. In this film
less like a femme fatale than a middle-class suburban housewife who watches Oprah every
day and wants to shed a few pounds. You can tell that the script must
have been written by a woman, because no man would conceive of this
character as mysteriously seductive. She's obnoxious, a sloppy drunk,
a messy eater, and she talks too much. She doesn't even shut up during
Bottom line: Crush has some merit, especially
in the visuals, but it's just trapped somewhere between the world of
psychological horror films and the world of hand-wringing arthouse
melodramas, and it never really settles into either groove.
VIDS: (zipped .wmvs)
THIRD PARTY VIDEOS:
#54 for the big guy
"Toronto film festival starts on grim note"
You see some mighty wild stuff when you Google for ... confidential "do not distribute"
"Movies about death, dying, illness, terrorism, war, rape, politics and violence make up more than 250 of the 352 films to be shown."
Uwe Boll, the psychotic filmmaker, boxes with his first film critic.
- In the immortal word of Joanna Worley ... BOOOOOOOOOR-ing
Call me crazy, but I think he'd be better off spending his time learning how to make films
- On the other hand, I can't wait for his match against Harry Knowles
And you thought Hurricane Katrina was a major story?
"Paris Hilton has broken her vow of celibacy - after less than a month."
I guess I schooled her. I've kept my vow for more than a decade. Oh, come to think of it, I never made a vow. But once every eleven years is still a lot of sex by webmaster standards. At the webmaster conventions they call me "Casanova"
Test Your Urban Legends IQ
Defense Tech: The Robotic Frisbees of Death (This is a serious article from defensetech.org. At least I think so. To my knowledge, they don't have any pages for wacky weaponry hijinks.)
FOUR prisoners in an El Salvador jail hid mobile phones, a phone charger and spare chips up their butts
Two trailers for Catch a Fire
Powerfully telling the story of a South African hero's journey to freedom, "Catch a Fire" is the new film from director Phillip Noyce ("The Quiet American," "Rabbit-Proof Fence"). The political thriller takes place during the country's turbulent and divided times in the early 1980s, and in the new South Africa of today.
The trailer for We Are Marshall
"We Are Marshall' tells an inspiring true story set in Huntington, West Virginia, a small town steeped in the rich tradition of college football. For decades, players, coaches, fans and families have come together to cheer on Marshall University's 'Thundering Herd.' For this team and this community, Marshall football is more than just a sport, it's a way of life. But on a fateful night in 1970, while traveling back to Huntington after a game in North Carolina, 75 members of Marshall's football team and coaching staff were killed in a plane crash. As those left behind struggled to cope with the devastating loss of their loved ones, the grieving families found hope and strength in the leadership of Jack Lengyel, a young coach who was determined to rebuild Marshall's football program and in the process helped to heal a community."
It stars McConaughey and Matthew Fox
The trailer from Casino Royale, the new Bond film
Shatner, Nimoy and 40 years of 'Star Trek'.
Funny interview with some pretty cool links, like the script from the SNL sketch about the show's cancellation.
Bush Transfers Detainees From CIA to DMV ... will wait on line and fill out forms until they talk, President says
Clinton asks for September 11 'docudrama' to be pulled
- "The foundation of former US president Bill Clinton asked ABC television not to air a dramatic miniseries about the run-up to the September 11, 2001 attacks, saying it improperly suggests he was too busy with the Monica Lewinsky scandal to fight terrorism."
100 things to expect this NFL season
No state funeral for Croc hunter
This sets a bad precedent. Las Vegas has already had to change its plans for Wayne Newton's funeral.
Latrell Sprewell won't face charges stemming from a woman's accusations that he choked her as they had sex on his boat
"Austrian ski-instructors have finally responded to demands from their students and released a naked calendar." (Story with pictures!)
PARIS HILTON BUSTED FOR DUI
The official police stats: Paris is 5'9", 110 pounds. And she looks tubby compared to Nicole Richie.
Martial arts bloopers
$450,000 for a high school team?
How long would the writer of this article last in the state of Texas? The author gives his opinion of the annual budget for the Hoover High School (Birmingham, Alabama) football program. This is the school now featured on the MTV documentary "Two-A-Days."
Note that the school actually spends no money on football at all. The team's entire budget comes from ticket sales, concessions, and contributions.
Guy Can Draw Detailed City Map Just By Looking At It Once Video
A woman curses at a San Diego TV reporter and then her husband is caught on tape beating the newsman
- The amazing thing? It appears to be illegal to beat ip a reporter in California! Wadda world!
Alleged Lindsay Lohan Upskirt - NO Firecrotch, because totally shaved
Where did Suri Cruise get her 'Asian' features from?
Frankly, this Asian talk is bullshit. The baby looks just like Katie, and is absolutely beautiful. Katie herself has a rather unusual shape to her eyes, which may have prompted the silly remarks about the baby, who has similar eyes.
I guess nobody believes that the Cruiser could actually produce any sperm.
Branagh To Direct Sleuth Remake
It will star Michael Caine and Jude Law. Michael Caine also starred in the original - playing the role Law will play this time.
Law seems to be making his career path squarely in Caine's footsteps. He also played a former Caine role in the Alfie remake.
NFL cheerleader gallery
Vote for this year's World Stupidity Awards
Marlins rookie tosses a no-no!
You have to give the Marlins management a big thumbs up for recruiting. They have built a terrific young team with a miniscule payroll.
Eight National Leaguer rookies qualify for the batting championship based on proportionate plate appearances.
Four of them play for the Marlins! All four have OPS numbers over .800.
They also have
the top two rookie pitchers - and that's NOT including the guy who tossed the no-hitter, who may be the best one of the three but hasn't pitched enough innings to make the list! The three of them have combined for a 31-15 record, and two of them have ERAs below 3.00.
Ya gotta love this team's future -- at least until their players become free agents. (Why do I dread the mental picture of Cabrera in pinstripes?)
USA TODAY: 10 contenders for the best-picture Oscar
The South Park kids watch the Crocodile Hunter on TV
See if you can identify who is impersonating Geraldo in this sketch.
Samuel L. Jackson to star in "Stingrays on a Sub"
Katie Couric Selects "Impeach Bush" As New Broadcast Sign Off
Katherine Harris Admits Her Breasts Are "Big Campaign Assets"
Famous Maroon Band "Video Game Show"
"The Mississippi State marching band performing songs from video games like Halo, Mortal Kombat, Super Mario Bros, and The Legend of Zelda while making the shapes of various console controllers on the field."
Yellow asterisk: funny (maybe). White asterisk: expanded format.
Blue asterisk: not mine. No asterisk: it probably sucks.
A Girls Affair (2002)
This is a couples softcore that wastes about 600 words of dialogue, and
otherwise sticks to nude modeling and sport-boning. April Hannah is a stage
manager for a small studio, and has landed a big three-day supermodel photo
shoot with Monica Mayhem, because Monica is tired of being hounded by
Paparazzi. She decides to hire a set-builder because there will be a different
set in each of the three days. When a hunk arrives, she fantasizes having sex
with him, then hires him. The actual shoot has Monica Mayhem showing breasts,
then having sex with the photographer even though he claims not to like
her. Then the photographer's assistant has sex with the make-up girl, Mickey
G. The second day, the assistant has sex with Monica Mayhem. Finally, April
Hannah and her hunk alert the Paparazzi about the shoot, the photographer gets
even with Monica Mayhem by pushing her outside, and April Hannah finally has
sex with her hunk.
Monica Mayhem was born is Australia where she had a successful career in
Financial Markets, then moved to London to get into show business, and ended
up dancing in a club, but hated the weather. She moved to LA, and landed an
agent who persuaded her to get into porn right away. Her official web site is
Hannah has been in several of these low budget soft core efforts. I know
nothing about Mickey G.
If aftermarket body parts doing what they were created to do to bad music
is your idea of sophisticated entertainment, than this is a perfect example of
the genre, and hence a C.
IMDb has the title listed with the correct DVD cover, but the wrong cast
and no other information.
Hard core actress Monica Mayhem
shows all three Bs, including a rear gyno shot.
April Hannah shows breasts,
buns, and the place where a bush would normally be.
Micky G only shows breasts
and buns, no crotch, but has the most believable facial expressions.
Ashley Hanna - Camp
Blood, The Musical.
Pell James - The King.