James Olson

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Ragtime Review


Good
The late 1970s and early 1980s were heavy times for cinema. This was the era of the majestic miniseries: Roots, Rich Man Poor Man, The Thorn Birds, Shogun. Why, if your film couldn't stretch over at least four hours, it probably wasn't worth telling.

The miniseries mentality reached into the theatrical world as well. And so Milos Forman ended up with Ragtime, a sprawling book about American life in the early 1900s, filled with stories of racism, sudden upward mobility, abandonment, psychosis, and of course that good old ragtime music. The result is a film that sprawls well over two hours yet can't ever decide where the best story lies. Is it a tale of a murderous husband who avenges the harsh treatment of his former-chorus girl wife? The story of an abandoned black baby who winds up in the arms of a wealthy white family? No, Ragtime eventually focuses on a black piano player (Howard E. Rollins Jr.) who rises through the ranks of the ragtime scene, only to find bitter racism and resentment waiting for him on the other side. He ultimately winds up holed up in a library with one of the characters from another story in the film. Some of this is based on real events, most is not.

Continue reading: Ragtime Review

Amityville II: The Possession Review


Bad
At least Amityville II: The Possession has some basis in fact. This is -- on the surface -- the story of how the DeFeo family (here the Montellis) got murdered one night at 112 Ocean Avenue on Long Island, New York. (The subsequent events are the subject of the original Amityville Horror.)

In real life, the eldest son of the DeFeo family murdered six of his family members in their sleep while they slumbered in their beds. In Amityville II, the family structure is about the same -- and they all get the business -- but little else remains intact. Here we have a tale about a rough and tumble kid named Sonny (Jack Magner), who hates his father, romances his sister (Diane Franklin, best known as Better Off Dead's Monique), and gets possessed by demons who live in a secret room in the basement.

Continue reading: Amityville II: The Possession Review

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