4 Film Reviews: Bridge To Silence, The Chocolate War, Kiss The Bride, Wedding Daze


Last week, I watched six films on This TV.

Which TV?  No, This TV!  It’s one of my favorite channels.  It’s not just that they show a lot of movies.  It’s also that they frequently show movies that are new to me.  For instance, last week, This TV introduced me to both Prison Planet and Cherry 2000.

Here are four other films, two good and two not so good, that This TV introduced to me last week.

First up, we have 1989’s Bridge to Silence.

Directed by Karen Arthur, Bridge To Silence was a made-for-TV movie.  Lee Remick plays Marge Duffield, who has a strained relationship with her deaf daughter, Peggy (Marlee Matlin).  After Peggy’s husband is killed in a traffic accident, Peggy has a nervous breakdown.  Marge and her husband, Al (Josef Sommer) take care of Peggy’s daughter, Lisa, while Peggy is recovering.  However, even as Peggy gets better, Marge still doesn’t feel that she can raise her daughter so Marge files a lawsuit to be named Lisa’s legal guardian.  While all of this is going on, Peggy is starring in a college production of The Glass Menagerie and pursuing a tentative romance with the play’s director (Michael O’Keefe).

Bridge to Silence is one of those overwritten but heartfelt melodramas that just doesn’t work.  With the exception of Marlee Matlin, the cast struggles with the overwrought script.  (Michael O’Keefe, in particular, appears to be miserable.)  The film’s biggest mistake is that it relies too much on that production of The Glass Menagerie, which is Tennessee Williams’s worst play and tends to be annoying even when it’s merely used as a plot device.  There’s only so many times that you can hear the play’s director refer to Peggy as being “Blue Roses” before you just want rip your hair out.

Far more enjoyable was 1988’s The Chocolate War.

Directed by Keith Gordon, The Chocolate War is a satirical look at conformity, popularity, rebellion, and chocolate at a Catholic boys school.  After the manipulative Brother Leon accidentally purchases too much chocolate for the school’s annual sale, he appeals to one of his students, Archie Costello (Wallace Langham), to help him make the money back.  Archie, who is just as manipulative as Leon, is the leader of a secret society known as the Vigils.  However, Archie and Leon’s attempt to manipulate the students runs into a roadblack when a new student, Jerry Renault (Illan Mitchell-Smith) refuses to sell any chocolates at all.  From there, things get progressively more complicated as Archie tries to break Jerry, Jerry continues to stand up for his freedom, and Leon … well, who knows what Leon is thinking?

The Chocolate War was an enjoyable and stylish film, one that featured a great soundtrack and a subtext about rebellion and conformity that still feels relevant.  John Glover and Wallace Langham both gave great performances as two master manipulators.

I also enjoyed the 2002 film, Kiss The Bride.

Kiss The Bride tells the story of a big Italian family, four sisters, and a wedding.  Everyone brings their own personal drama to the big day but ultimately, what matters is that family sticks together.  Directed by Vanessa Parise, Kiss The Bride featured believable and naturalistic performances from Amanda Detmer, Talia Shire, Burt Young, Brooke Langton, Monet Mazur, and Parise herself.

I have to admit that one reason why I liked this film is because it was about a big Italian family and it featured four sisters.  I’m the youngest of four sisters and, watching the film, I was reminded of my own big Irish-Italian family.  The movie just got everything right.

And then finally, there was 2006’s Wedding Daze.

Wedding Daze is a romantic “comedy.”  Anderson (Jason Biggs) asks his girlfriend to marry him, just to have her drop dead from shock.  Anderson’s best friend is afraid that Anderson will never get over his dead girlfriend and begs Anderson to not give up on love.  Anderson attempts to humor his friend by asking a complete stranger, a waitress named Katie (Isla Fisher), to marry him.  To everyone’s shock, Katie says yes.

From the get go, there are some obvious problems with this film’s problem.  Even if you accept that idea that Katie would say yes to Anderson, you also have to be willing to accept the idea that Anderson wouldn’t just say, “No, I was just joking.”  That said, the idea does have some comic potential.  You could imagine an actor like Cary Grant doing wonders with this premise in the 30s.  Unfortunately, Jason Biggs is no Cary Grant and the film’s director, comedian Michael Ian Black, is no Leo McCarey.  In the end, the entire film is such a misjudged failure that you can’t help but feel that Anderson’s ex was lucky to die before getting too involved in any of it.

Scenes I Love: Punisher: War Zone


PunisherWarZone

In honor of Jon Bernthal being cast as the latest in a line of Frank Castles aka the Punisher for Marvel’s Daredevil series on Netflix, I thought I’d share with all my favorite scene from the only Punisher film worth the name. The film this scene is from was Punisher: War Zone by Lexi Alexander.

While the casting of Jon Bernthal looks to be a near perfect stunt-casting by Marvel for Daredevil‘s upcoming second season on Netflix, I thought Ray Stevenson’s portrayal as the psychotic antihero in Punisher: War Zone was the best one comic book fans have gotten. Dolph Lundgren was the first Punisher and the less said about him the better. Then Thomas Jane took a stab on portraying the character to some success though still not doling out enough punishing in my book.

With Ray Stevenson we got a Frank Castle who was well into his vigilante killing-spree of the criminal underworld. This was a man possessed to kill in as brutal and efficient manner every violent criminal he comes across. The film itself was so over-the-top that too many thought it was too campy in a violent sense when Lexi Alexander actually tapped into what made the Punisher tick and put it up on the screen. It also helped that Ray Stevenson owned the role he was given.

Jon Bernthal has some big shoes to fill, but with the success of Daredevil the series I do believe he has a chance to make the character his own.

Quickie Review: Punisher: War Zone (dir. by Lexi Alexander)


If there was ever a Marvel Comics character who was perfectly suited to star in a grindhouse film it would be Frank Castle aka The Punisher. He’s a character who takes the term anti-hero past its limits and who makes other film vigilantes seem like sissy, choir boys. In December 2008 Lionsgate released a sort of reboot of The Punisher by Jonathan Hensleigh and starring Thomas Jane in the titular role. This time around the role of Frank Castle goes to Ray Stevenson (The Other Guys, Thor, Kill the Irishman) with German-filmmaker Lexi Alexander taking on the director’s reins.

Punisher: War Zone takes much of the characters in the film from story-arcs found in the Marvel Knight’s Punisher MAX series which took the character and his stories into a darker realm of violence. This latest film definitely owes much of it’s darker and more violent tone from that comic book line while at the same time creating a look which brings to mind the garish and over-the-top grindhouse action films of the early 80’s. The film quickly establishes who the Punisher is and what motivates him to take on and kill (heavy emphasis on kill) the criminal underworld of the city. In an opening sequence that probably out-violences every other film released in 2008, the Punisher wipes out a gathering of mobsters in every bloody way as possible. Blood and gore flows and splatters a-plenty in the first 10-15 minutes of this film.

There’s a semblance of a story which involves Castle mistakenly killing an undercover FBI agent which causes him a momentary crisis of conscience, but it really doesn’t last too long as there are more criminals to kill, main and blow up. If there’s one thing the Punisher knows how to do best it’s those three things. Ray Stevenson in the title role doesn’t get to emote much, but does a great job in showing the characters ice-cold ruthlessness paired with a sort of dead-man walking persona which rings true to how the Punisher has been written up of late. His Frank Castle is dead inside and only when he’s the Punisher does he even show any sort of life (even if it’s the barest hint). His foil this time around brings one of the Punisher’s earliest arch-enemies in the disfigured mobster (caused by the Punisher) Jigsaw (played with over-the-top campy relish by Dominic West). Where Castle is deadly serious to the point of morbidity his opposite was all garish with a liberal dose of crazy.

Punisher: War Zone really dispenses with any complexities to it’s plot and just finds reasons and excuses for the Punisher to go on another killing spree against criminals that for some it might not be enough. As a lover of grindhouse and exploitation films what this film offers was enough and really goes a long way in entertaining in such an 80’s fashion. It’s a film that revels in its violent absurdities and campy storytelling. Even the acting by all in the film passes the line of campy and into a sort of Looney Tunes level which makes the extreme violence and gore of the killings more cartoonish than realistic. This was a film that celebrated it’s grindhouse roots from the actors, the filmmakers all the way down to it’s cinematographer and art directors. It’s disposable entertainment and it knows it so doesn’t bother to try and hide that fact and just tries to entertain in every manner possible and then some.