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Wild Side (1995) Review


Grim
Worse films have been made, but at least this one has a lot of Anne Heche naked. The story is one of ostensible high intrigue in the corporate world, coupled with high-priced hookers and federal investigations into all of this. Doesn't make a lick of sense -- Cammell wants to be David Lynch but he just doesn't have the script here to do it. Memo to star Christopher Walken: What is that on your head?

The Owl and the Pussycat Review


OK
In the grand tradition of movies like The Odd Couple, Butterflies are Free, and Barefoot in the Park comes The Owl and the Pussycat, with a mixmatched pair of roommates trying to make a go of it in a tiny New York City apartment. Like virtually all of these 1970s comedies, after frustration comes understanding -- and George Segal's failed writer combined with Barbra Streisand's fetish hooker makes for a lot of frustration indeed. After an hour of solid comedy, though, Pussycat meanders into the melodrama of a less-than-believable romance. Alas, life in the Big Apple is always complicated.

Nashville Review


Weak
Call me a heathen. I don't like Nashville.

Possibly the most celebrated film of the 1970s -- at least among film snob circles -- Robert Altman's sprawling case study of five days in the Tennessee city is self-absorbed, overwrought, and dismissive. Nor is it particularly well-made, with poor sound (even after being remastered for its DVD release) and washed-out photography, not to mention a running time (2:40) that's at least an hour too long.

Continue reading: Nashville Review

The Candidate Review


Extraordinary
"Politics is bullshit."

Such sentiment, spoken early in the film, sums up The Candidate's position on politics, not to mention my own. Robert Redford plays the title role, a fresh-faced kid and son of a former governer goaded by a group of campaign strategists (namely Peter Boyle) into running against an "unbeatable" Republican nominee for the U.S. Senate. With nothing to lose, he starts off by running the campaign by his conscience and the seat of his pants, but eventually it all gets away from him as the machine takes over. Much like Network, this satire on an American institution continues to gain relevance instead of lose it. The scene of Redford finally losing his mind stands as one of cinema's most classic moments. Plenty of one-liner gems only add to the majesty of the film.

The Stunt Man Review


Essential
From the very first shot -- of an eagle sitting on a light pole -- to the very last scene, The Stunt Man is the most exuberant piece of kinetic filmmaking ever produced. I daresay it's also one of the best American films of the 1980s, and, ironically, one of the most overlooked and unknown. Moreover, at a danger of sounding banal, I have to confess that it is one of my favorite films of all time. The Stunt Man is a film about making a film, a motion picture that generates a riveting, scintillating spell and, like no other film, exemplifies everything that cinema is: illusion, make-belief, obsession, control, and romance.

The film follows Cameron (Steve Railsback), a former Vietnam soldier, who is sought by the police and FBI. He is a street-smart savage and a criminal with unblinking tension in widened, wild eyes. Even motionless, he seems to be running from something. Soon he's on the run from the cops, and finds himself witnessing the shooting of a film. When the scene is over and the director, Eli Cross (Peter O'Toole), descends from the helicopter, the camera is looking at him from down below -- he is at once God and Devil, and he brings with him an air of greatness and unfathomable mystery. Peter O'Toole is brilliant in a role of megalomaniacal film director: He is imperial, bitter-tongued and controlling. He carries his madness in the blue arrogance of his eyes, in the deep wrinkles of his face and sinister sleeves of his black turtleneck. When he is looking down on Cameron from the helicopter's window, he seems to be gazing right into Cameron's soul. They strike a deal and Cameron becomes someone else -- a stunt man, an actor, and a fugitive -- in the movie. If he works it all out, it could mean having one more chance to lose, and Richard Rush exploits the twists and turns of Cameron's adventures with exuberance and unpredictable inventiveness.

Continue reading: The Stunt Man Review

Wild Side Review


Grim
Worse films have been made, but at least this one has a lot of Anne Heche naked. The story is one of ostensible high intrigue in the corporate world, coupled with high-priced hookers and federal investigations into all of this. Doesn't make a lick of sense -- Cammell wants to be David Lynch but he just doesn't have the script here to do it. Memo to star Christopher Walken: What is that on your head?

The Front Page Review


Good
Billy Wilder's version of the classic play carries a lot of fond memories for former newspapermen like myself, but I don't expect The Front Page to resonate quite so well with the rest of the populace. Lemmon plays it straight as a reporter bent on getting out of the business in order to get married while Matthau's hilariously over-the-top editor does everything in his power to keep him on the payroll during a fantastic jailbreak in 1920s Chicago. It drags in the middle, but a good first act and a stellar finale make the movie completely worthwhile.

The Cotton Club Review


OK
Gangsters, tap dancers, and jazz musicians collide, in Francis Coppola's rather maligned tale of the famed Harlem jazz club during the Prohibition era.

Starring Richard Gere as a cornet player-cum-movie star (Gere even plays his own solos in the film) and Diane Lane as a kind of singer/hooker/kept woman, the film gets off to a wild start, throwing us into Coppola's archetypal world of violence and betrayal. Gere and Lane have an uneasy romance, the problem being they are low on the totem and the gangsters who control them wouldn't care for any such hanky-panky.

Continue reading: The Cotton Club Review

Hi, Mom! Review


OK
Before Brian De Palma started making schlock (but arty!) horror like Sisters, Carrie, and The Fury, he was busy making arty (but schlocky!) experimental films like Hi, Mom!

Supposedly a sequel to De Palma's Greetings (never seen it), here we have Robert De Niro as Jon, a Vietnam vet who moves into a hovel of a tenement in New York City, where a trio of interconnected stories begin to play out, all involving Jon's love of his little film camera. First, he becomes infatuated with the building across the street, in particular one of the women (Jennifer Salt) there. Jon hatches a plan to woo her, which he carefully orchestrates like an actor reading from a script. Meanwhile, Jon is also tryiing to make a sort of amateur porn movie by peeping through the windows across the way, figuring this is his next calling in life. This plays into the love affair when he trains the camera on his new girlfriend's window, then pays her a romantic visit.

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The Majestic Review


Excellent
As a film lover, I've always been enamored with the magic of the modern American moviegoing experience. Unlike the beer-between-breaks mentality of television programming or the solitary confinement of DVDs, the cinema is a communal experience. The theater itself is a gateway into new worlds; the ticket, a simple price paid for magic. But while The Majestic promises to grace the screen with the joys of cinematic glory, it chooses instead to chase a Communist "red herring."

Set in 1951, The Majestic stars Jim Carrey as Peter Appleton, a blacklisted actor struck by a mishap, endlessly seen in its trailers, that erases his memory. As so many amnesiacs before him, Carrey wanders around aimlessly until someone tells him who he is. Unfortunately, that someone mistakes him for his son, dead seven years, a brutal casualty of WWII. Even more coincidentally, Peter looks exactly like the long-dead hero Luke Trimble, and soon the entire town, having lost nearly all it's young men to the war believes as well, rallying around Luke and his re-opening of their local movie theater "The Majestic" as a source of rejuvenation.

Continue reading: The Majestic Review

The Majestic Review


OK

A heartfelt and surprisingly successful revival of the cinema-idyllic world of Frank Capra movies, "The Majestic" stars Jim Carrey as a blacklisted Hollywood screenwriter with amnesia who stumbles into a small coastal hamlet where he's mistaken for a long-lost native World War II hero.

Affable alchemy is the specialty of director Frank Darabont -- the man behind the affecting sentimental sincerity of "The Shawshank Redemption" and "The Green Mile" -- and he's just about the only big-budget, soft-sell director in the business who could pull off this kind of potentially cloying picture without sending it into sugar shock. Capra's legacy is in good hands for these 150 minutes.

Darabont opens "The Majestic" with a terrific establishing shot of Carrey's melancholy mug as he listens to off-camera studio executives castrate his latest script. Despite his fresh-off-the-bus enthusiasm for Tinsel Town, Peter Appleton (Carrey) is already weary of being a B-movie hack after just one picture, the cheesy "Sand Pirates of the Sahara" (which Darabont shows us in delightfully authentic snippets featuring Bruce Campbell as the swashbuckling, pith-helmet hero and Cliff Curtis as an evil, wild-eyed sheik).

Continue reading: The Majestic Review

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