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Dreamcatcher (***)
Directed by Lawrence Kashdan
Written by William Goldman and Lawrence Kashdan, from a novel by Stephen King
Dreamcatcher
Principal Cast
Morgan Freeman -- Col. Abraham Curtis
Damian Lewis -- Professor Gary 'Jonesy' Jones
Thomas Jane -- Dr. Henry 'H' Devlin
Jason Lee -- Jim "Beaver" Clarendon
Timothy Olyphant -- Pete Moore
Tom Sizemore -- Capt. Owen Underhill
Donnie Wahlberg -- Douglas 'Duddits' Cavell
Mike Holekamp -- Young Henry Devlin
Reece Thompson -- Young Beaver
Giacomo Baessato -- Young Jonesy
Joel Palmer -- Young Pete
Andrew Robb -- Young Duddits
Ratings
Ratings are based on Rick's four star system.
One star - the commercials are more entertaining than the viewing.
Two stars - watch if you have nothing better to do.
Three stars - good solid entertainment.
Four stars - you never dreamed viewing could be this good.
Past Feature Reviews
A review by Rick Norwood

Since you'll be buying a ticket to watch the Animatrix short (it's better than the film), you'll be glad to know that staying for the movie is not a total waste of time. The opening scenes are quite good, the horror is about as horrible as it gets. Then, two-thirds of the way through, the movie changes genres, and the ending is not horror at all, but routine action adventure.

As you would expect from William Goldman, the script is full of references to other movies. Perhaps one of you can help me remember which film Mr. Gray quotes, shortly after he comes into existence -- it's on the tip of my tongue.

There are a number of memorable scenes. The horror is genuinely horrible because it happens to well-developed characters we like. Some of the best scenes take place inside one of the character's minds.

I enjoyed the fact that, for the first part of the film, the audience is shown things they do not understand. If you enjoy surprises, and if you plan to see the movie, do not read the rest of this review.

spoiler warning

Then there comes a scene which is so flatly unbelievable that the movie never recovers. By this point, we know that the Earth has been under attack for 25 years by ruthless, pitiless, hungry aliens who pretend friendliness and who can mentally project false impressions of helplessness. One of the four major characters has escaped from the woods where the aliens are taking possession of bodies, both animal and human. He is being held in a detention camp by a secret paramilitary branch of our armed forces. He is a telepath, for reasons I won't go into, and so he knows that all prisoners in this war are routinely killed, for fear that they may be possessed by aliens. And now, the viewer realizes the hero's dilemma. His telepathic powers are just what Earth needs to fight the aliens. But if he reveals that he is a telepath, that will be taken as proof that he is an alien himself. A nice problem. But what happens next is -- he reveals that he is a telepath. And he is believed! This kind of plot contrivance, to give a happy ending to a situation that must end badly, drains all the interest out of the film. For the final half hour, people shoot at each other, helicopters blow up, people who should run as fast as they can to forestall the alien from contaminating our water supply, instead walk slowly. In short, an imaginatively filmed and cleverly written horror story turns into an utterly conventional SF story. If the hero had escaped from the aliens only to be killed in the end by our own armed forces, this would have been a better movie.

Because, let's be honest, much as we like to think we are the meanest, toughest sons of bitches in the western spiral arm of the galaxy, aliens as numerous, determined, and as technologically advanced as these, are going to eat us for lunch.

But, given that we are going to have a happy ending whether we want one or not, the last two seconds of the movie, though predictable, are satisfying.

Copyright © 2003 Rick Norwood

Rick Norwood is a mathematician and writer whose small press publishing house, Manuscript Press, has published books by Hal Clement, R.A. Lafferty, and Hal Foster. He is also the editor of Comics Revue Monthly, which publishes such classic comic strips as Flash Gordon, Sky Masters, Modesty Blaise, Tarzan, Odd Bodkins, Casey Ruggles, The Phantom, Gasoline Alley, Krazy Kat, Alley Oop, Little Orphan Annie, Barnaby, Buz Sawyer, and Steve Canyon.


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