In the late 1990s, it seemed like Kevin Williamson could do no wrong. Williamson wrote the irony-heavy slasher Scream (1996), which breathed new life into the horror genre. I Know What You Did Last Summer (1997), which Williamson adapted from a Lois Duncan novel, became another hit, a month before Scream 2 did too. The next year, the Williamson-created drama "Dawson's Creek" began a long run on the WB and The Faculty performed adequately in theaters. Then, things quickly went south for Williamson with Teaching Mrs. Tingle, the 1999 black comedy thriller on which he made his directorial debut. Originally to be called Killing Mrs. Tingle, it was retitled in the wake of the Columbine High School massacre of the same year, although the studio denied any connection. Opening in late August, where movies generally go to die, the film struck out with critics and bombed at the box office, grossing under $9 million on a $13 M budget.In a filmography anomaly, Academy Award winner Helen Mirren takes top billing and the titular role. Eve Tingle is a mean, discouraging history teacher at Grandsboro High School long disliked by all of her colleagues and students. Most focal among the latter is Leigh Ann Watson (Katie Holmes), a smart senior in need of a college scholarship. She'll apparently get one if she can become the Class of '99's valedictorian, but she is currently second in the running by a few percentage points. The relentless Tingle will seemingly decide whether Leigh Ann continues her education or wind up living the tiring life of a waitress like her divorced mother (an uncredited Lesley Ann Warren).Leigh Ann inadvertently stumbles into a predicament when Mrs. Tingle catches her and two classmates, unambitious slacker Luke Churner (Barry Watson, "7th Heaven") and aspiring actress Jo Lynn Jordan (Marisa Coughlan), with an advance copy of a final exam. Before Mrs. Tingle can take punitive action, the three students pay her a house visit, pleading their case to no avail. That evolves into a kidnapping scenario, when a crossbow's arrow accidentally grazes the cold professor and leaves her unconscious. The students tie her to her bed's headboard, call her in sick, and try to get themselves out of this mess by staging a scandal with which they can blackmail her.Teaching Mrs. Tingle has the look and feel of a WB drama crossed with a television movie. With the exception of Mirren, who gives a typically high quality performance with a passable American accent, the acting is pretty poor. The injustice of the profession is plain to see in the fact that the relatively compelling Coughlan hasn't been in a movie you've seen or heard of since 2001 (and that was Freddy Got Fingered), while the flat, one-note Holmes got to be in Batman Begins.Williamson's forte, writing, is not without issue either, as Mrs. Tingle puts up a fight, trying and too easily succeeding at using the students' weaknesses to turn them against one another. Though this isn't a horror film, it clearly comes from the same place as Scream and its ilk, only without the cleverness and rampant referentiality (the best we get here is a pretty random and weird homage to The Exorcist). The scenes set at the high school now feel like a heavy-handed period piece, as they prominently showcase dated fashions and music.What strikes me most about this movie, which I had long wanted to see but hadn't until now, is that Williamson alone is credited as writer, even though its concept bears a strong resemblance to Killing Mr. Griffin, a novel Duncan wrote five years after the source of I Know What You Did.... Obviously, there are differences, beginning with the fact that Mr. Griffin is a man, but not nearly enough to dismiss plagiarism accusations against someone who had drawn one of his bigger hits from the same well. Perhaps the flopping discouraged legal action. Or perhaps Duncan was still grateful that Williamson had out of the blue elevated the profile of her 25-year-old young adult suspense novel.It's not as if Mr. Griffin was some obscure book; it had been tapped for NBC movie treatment in 1997 (airing six months before I Know opened) with a cast that included TV veterans Scott Bairstow, Amy Jo Johnson, Mario Lopez, Jay Thomas, and a not yet famous Michelle Williams. It's a real stretch to assume that Williamson was not inspired by Duncan's work in any way, but Wikipedia's entries on both this movie and Duncan's book make clear that I'm far from the only one to have noticed the similarities.Based on Tingle's poor reputation, it isn't surprising that it wound up along with The Faculty in the lesser half of the Miramax library whose rights were acquired by Echo Bridge Home Entertainment, rather than the more profitable fare (like the first three Scream movies) that went to Lionsgate. Tingle was among a bunch of Miramax and Dimension films that made their Blu-ray debuts from Echo Bridge in late January as low-priced Best Buy exclusives. It hits general retail on May 7th.
They're all part of a typical day for the students of Lincoln High. Into this academic abyss arrives Andy Norris (Slaughterhouse Five's Perry King), an idealistic and naive music teacher who has moved into the community with his pregnant wife Diane. Appalled by the crime-infested school, Norris soon crosses sabers with its teenage kingpin, the shrewd and sadistic Peter Stegman (The White Shadow's Timothy Van Patten). With Norris setting his sights on reforming Stegman, and the young miscreant declaring war on his teacher, the duo sets a fateful showdown into motion on the night of an important school orchestra performance.Directed and co-written by Mark L. Lester (Commando, Firestarter), Class of 1984 is one of the seminal cult movies of the early 1980s. While its vision of a decaying, violence-plagued inner city school seemed over-the-top in 1982, it sadly prophesized the future of American education. Lester's film - which caused a stir at Cannes and reputedly offended one of its own screenwriters - is also notable for its cast, which includes Van Patten, Roddy McDowall and a very young Michael J. Fox. Alice Cooper performs the theme song, "I Am The Future". No longer are the students of Lincoln High the future, for the future as arrived!
The most famous film by Italian provocateur Marco Ferreri (Dillinger is Dead), La Grande bouffe was reviled on release for its perversity, decadence and attack on the bourgeoisie yet won the prestigious FIPRESCI prize after its controversial screening at the Cannes Film Festival. Four friends, played by international superstars Marcello Mastroianni, Michel Piccoli (Belle de jour), Ugo Tognazzi (Barbarella) and Philippe Noiret retreat to a country mansion where they determine to eat themselves to death whilst engaging in group sex with prostitutes and a local school teacher, who seems to be up for anything... At once jovial and sinister, the film's jet-black humour has a further twist as the reputed actors (whose characters use their own names) buck their respectable trend for a descent into fart-filled chaos that delivers a feast for the eyes and mind.
Respectable schoolteacher Humbert Hubert (Jeremy Irons) marries his landlady Charlotte Haze (Melanie Griffith) so that he can get closer to her young daughter Lolita (Dominique Swain), with whom he is madly in love. His unfulfilled desire for the girl brings him to the edge of insanity and threatens to destroy the object of his obsession.
Johnny Depp plays Frank, a school teacher from Wisconsin ona train from France to Italy. He meets the mysterious Elise, the former loverof a high-profile thief who is being sought by British Secret IntelligenceService and Interpol. As Frank, Depp gives us a slightly morose fish out ofwater routine, more Edward Scissorhands than the Cary Grant that might havemade his role shine. Jolie gives us an adequate modern take on the mysterywoman role that in another era might have been played by the likes of GraceKelly or Eva Marie Saint.
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