Capsule Reviews by Bret W.

A series of capsule reviews from Bret Walker

28 Days (2000)

***1/2 out of ****

Betty Thomas, the director who brought us a glimpse of Howard Stern’s Private Parts, now takes us into the world of a drug and alcohol rehab for 28 Days.  More than the physical addiction to drugs, she shows us the emotional anguish felt by each an every one of the people affected by this affliction, including the family members of the patients and the doctors themselves.  It’s an all-around excellent piece of work, comparable in its genre to Clean and Sober and When a Man Loves a Woman.
Gwen is a woman on a destructive path.  The bottom of her downward spiral begins with a night of hard drinking and ends with the ruin of her sister’s wedding, topped off with the crashing of the wedding limo into a house.  The judge sentences her to 28 days in rehab, telling her that if she cannot comply, she will be sent to prison.  When she gets to the rehab she resists treatment, saying she does not have a problem and does not need to stop drinking and using drugs, although she could at any time she wished.  Through a series of trials and misadventures, she comes to the realization that she does indeed need to change the path her life is on.
This, she finds out, is much more difficult than it sounds.  Her boyfriend on the outside is still in denial that she has a problem and keeps trying to sneak drugs and alcohol in to her.  Her sister is still furious and unforgiving of the incidents that occurred at her wedding.  In addition, she has her own inner demons to contend with, the self-loathing, the guilt, the pain she tried so desperately to cover with her drug and alcohol abuse.  But through it all, she awakens to become the person she needs to be for herself.
This is a film about awakenings, and the denial of addiction slipping away to reveal a human being underneath.  Betty Thomas steers this journey of discovery for us and manages to maintain the darkness of reality while successfully injecting humor into many of the situations as well.  She keeps it real, and she keeps it light.  It’s a wonderful movie with a strong message and a light-hearted look at a killing disease.  The acting is exceptional, with Sandra Bullock leading a stellar cast.  Thomas has successfully captured the drama and sorrow that addiction brings, while showing us the hope and promise of freedom that twelve-step programs offer their members.  Definitely one of the feel-good movies this year, 28 Days is a great film for a little reality check and a good pick-me-up.

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Die Hard (1988)

A mixture of Christmas family film and explosive non-stop action film, Die Hard defines the action film and practically wrote the scripts for every action film to follow in the next five years.  With equal parts explosions, humor, evil bad guys and unforgettable catch phrases, Die Hard engrains itself deeply in the anals of American film history.

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Mark of the Devil (1970)

It’s truly a laugh.  I have to tell you, sometimes the really bad films are the most appealing.  My wife rented this one and what grabbed her attention was the video cover, which screamed out “Positively the most horrifying film ever made!”  Call that intriguing, but I’d call it positively one of the worst films ever made.  The so-called violence was laughable by today’s standards, even by 1970’s standards, I’d say.  After all, by 1970 such film classics as The Violent Years (1956) and The Incident(1967) had been released with much more violence, and the following year, Stanley Kubrick’s masterpiece A Clockwork Orange (1971) would blow audiences away with it’s depiction of UltraViolence.

But just when you think this film couldn’t get any worse, it does.  From the opening credits, the fisheye lense effect was annoying and unnecessary, not to mention the opening scene where two nuns were brutally raped.  And at first I thought it was a German film with over-dubbed voices.  It turns out that the voices were indeed overdubbed, but if you looked carefully you could see the actors were speaking the english lines.  The music was truly horrible, lending even less mystique to this already bad film.

On a side note, one other thing I noticed was that the film was not rewound when we rented it, and that the previous viewer had stopped watching it after 41 minutes.  What they missed was another hour’s worth of drab and lifeless storyline, dragging on and on and on.  It seems to me that the filmmaker just wanted to do a movie with a bunch of torture scenes in it and built a story around that.  Not very inventive or even authentic; the machines used in this period film were more innovative than anything DaVinci ever dreamed up.  The complexity of the burning devices, for instance, was a little over the top.  And what really grated my cheese was the water-torture guy.  Not so much that he was being water tortured, but after the castle was stormed and the “witches” set free, we are never told what happened to the water torture guy!  Inquiring minds want to know!

In summary, this film is possitively one of the most horrible films ever made.  Connoiseurs of bad films (such as myself) will find it immensely enjoyable.  Lovers of the art of film had better leave this one on the shelf.  If you’re looking for a violent film from this era, this is not it.  But it’s a truly classic “bad film” and a welcome edition to the Really Really Bad Film Club.

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