Fred Roos

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St. Vincent Review


Excellent

Bill Murray shines in this story of a cynical grump whose life is changed by his friendship with a bright young kid. Writer-director Theodore Melfi makes an assured debut with this hilariously astute, emotional punchy drama, which may sometimes feel a bit over-planned but gives the audience plenty to think about. And along with Murray, the film has especially strong roles for Melissa McCarthy, Naomi Watts and promising newcomer Jaeden Lieberher.

It's set in a New York suburb, where the neighbourhood grouch Vincent (Murray) is already having a bad day when he discovers meets the perky family next door: Maggie (McCarthy) and her curious son Oliver (Lieberher). She has just fled from her unfaithful husband (Scott Adsit) and is working extra hours to make ends meet, so she reluctantly agrees to let Oliver stay at Vincent's house after school. Intriguingly, Oliver is one of the few people Vincent can bear to be around, aside from the pregnant Russian stripper Daka (Watts) and his lively cat Felix. And Oliver is like a sponge, happily soaking up Vincent's knowledge about things like swearing, fighting and betting on the horses. Oliver has no real idea that all of this makes Vincent a seriously unsuitable role model.

Yes, the central point is that good people are sometimes hard to spot. Vincent may smoke, swear, gamble and hang out with hookers, but he also has a deep soul that Oliver witnesses in the way he takes care of Daka, or how he regularly visits his wife in a nursing home even though she has long forgotten who he is. Melfi makes the most of this perspective, seeing everything through the eyes of perceptive young actor Lieberher. And Murray shines in a role that adds clever shadings to the actor's usual on-screen bluster. The interaction between Oliver and Vincent snaps with personality, and sharp roles for McCarthy and Watts offer meaningful wrinkles, as do other side characters such as Chris O'Dowd's schoolteacher.

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Hearts Of Darkness Review


Excellent
For a portrait of cinematic obsession and unbridled megalomania rarely seen outside of a Werner Herzog home movie, one would be hard pressed to find a more satisfying piece of work than Hearts of Darkness, co-directors Fax Bahr and George Hickenlooper's 1991 documentary on the making of Apocalypse Now. It was a film that didn't make sense; in fact it had never really made sense. Orson Welles had tried to make a film out of Joseph Conrad's Hearts of Darkness back in the 1930s -- that didn't work so he went ahead and made Citizen Kane instead. Nobody in the mid-1970s seemed interested in a film about the nation's just-ended nightmare, the Vietnam War, much less one with a murky and heady script based on a dense novel people had to suffer through in high school. The film as planned was going to cost far too much money before it even started to go insanely over budget.

But none of that was going to stop wunderkind Francis Ford Coppola from mortgaging every last ounce of the Hollywood credit he had garnered from making The Godfather Parts I and II (not to mention most every penny he had to his name) and hauling his family along with an army-sized cast and crew off to the Philippines (in the middle of an ugly civil war, mind you) for a few years to make a film whose ending he hadn't quite yet figured out. The results were perhaps predictable, even before the monsoons destroyed most of the sets, he fired his lead actor, and star Martin Sheen suffered a heart attack. When Apocalypse Now premiered at Cannes in 1979, a still-shaken Coppola announced that what had was that he had gone into the jungle -- like the Americans into Vietnam, in yet another of his grandiose analogies -- with too much money, too much equipment, "and little by little we went insane."

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The Outsiders Review


Good
When Francis Ford Coppola made The Outsiders in 1983, he was in the midst of yet another career paradigm shift. Having broke the bank on the gargantuan semi-failures Apocalypse Now and One from the Heart, he turned to adapting a pair of S.E. Hinton novels - which he hyperbolically termed "Camus for kids" - first this one and then Rumble Fish. The Outsiders was relatively cheap, and also brought Coppola back to a kind of human drama that his post-Godfather work had been lacking, the result enrapturing a good number of teens and pre-teens in the 1980s. Coppola can never leave well enough alone, though, and so now we have his new version, The Complete Novel, overall a case in point for directors not being allowed to do this sort of thing.

The original film takes Hinton's spare 1967 novel of young gangs in Tulsa and turns it into grand melodrama, with gorgeous CinemaScope sunsets, sweeping orchestral score, and teen scuffles that take on all the clashing importance of medieval battles. On the crap side of town live the working-class greasers, with their black t-shirts and slicked-back hair, always getting hassled by the socs, preppie bastards with family money and nicer cars. The film centers on the greasers, particularly the sensitive 13-year-old orphan Ponyboy Curtis (C. Thomas Howell) who lives with his older brothers Sodapop (Rob Lowe) and Darrell (Patrick Swayze). The surrogate family hanging around the Curtis' ramshackle house also includes Emilio Estevez and Tom Cruise, while their friend, born-to-lose Dally Winston (Matt Dillon) has just been released from jail. Almost as childlike as Ponyboy is his best friend, Johnny (Ralph Macchio), an angelically bruised kid from a troubled home who provides the film's most emotional moments.

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The Young Black Stallion Review


Good
The Young Black Stallion follows the adventures of -- you guessed it -- a young black stallion. After a band of robbers separates an Arabian girl named Neera (Biana Tamini) from her father, she finds herself alone in the desert. Before long, a mysterious black colt comes to her rescue. The two quickly form a special bond, and the horse returns Neera to her grandfather. Once Neera is back home, the stallion disappears.

A year passes, but the black stallion does not return. Neera's grandfather tells her that the horse was probably nothing more than a product of her imagination. But Neera knows better. She thinks the stallion is the "lost horse of the desert," a legend supposedly "born of the sands" and "sired by the night sky" (or whatever the hell that means). Will the mysterious black stallion ever return?

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Town & Country Review


Weak
Past-their-prime actors don't die -- they pick up studio paychecks for hack projects like Town & Country. This drama/comedy/message-movie overflows with wannabe heartfelt sentiment like a three-day old colostomy bag.

Long mired in rewrites, delays, and dismal test screenings, it's easy to see why the studio gods postponed delivery of this stinking mess until the dumping grounds of spring, just before the big summer releases. We get two strong actors -- Warren Beatty and Diane Keaton -- mixed together with a few lesser actors -- Goldie Hawn, Garry Shandling, and Andie McDowell -- and they all get to wade through an aimless script (polished up by Buck Henry!) about infidelity, homosexuality, and dysfunctional family affairs. It would have been better served heading straight to video.

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Tucker: The Man And His Dream Review


Excellent
Francis Ford Coppola's labor of love... about Preston Tucker's labor of love. Jeff Bridges stars as the charismatic man who tried to take on Detroit (and lost badly) by making his own line of safe, fast, stylish, and efficient automobiles in the 1940s. Detroit retaliated, landing Tucker in a fraud lawsuit, and this is his story. Tucker: The Man and His Dream is shot with Coppola's signature stylishness, aided by fine performances from Bridges, Joan Allen, and Martin Landau. A few impatient ones may get bored with the attention to detail that Coppola has infused in his film, but Bridges' riviting performance should keep the rest of you glued to your set and longing for one of his rocketship cars.

Barfly Review


Excellent
Charles Bukowski's "crazy, beer-drinkin' wrestler" comes to life in the inimitable hands of Mickey Rourke, seen here with a nearly unidentifiable Faye Dunaway as his equally rundown muse. They drink, fight, steal corn, and drink some more. And that, director Barbet Schroeder, is life. Or some imitation of it, anyway. Rourke's performance has become the stuff of legend as he appears genuinely trashed throughout shooting, yet manages to blow none of his lines. Impressive.
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Fred Roos Movies

St. Vincent Movie Review

St. Vincent Movie Review

Bill Murray shines in this story of a cynical grump whose life is changed by...

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The Young Black Stallion Movie Review

The Young Black Stallion Movie Review

The Young Black Stallion follows the adventures of -- you guessed it -- a young...

Town & Country Movie Review

Town & Country Movie Review

Past-their-prime actors don't die -- they pick up studio paychecks for hack projects like Town...

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