Kenneth Mcmillan

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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

Dune (1984) Review


Very Good
Did you know David Lynch at one time considered directing Return of the Jedi? Legions of George Lucas fans are probably delighted that he never got the shot, because for better or for worse (probably for worse) it might have turned out like the bizarre sci-fi experiment Dune. I've sometimes been accused of defending Lynch even when he's not working at his best. That's clearly the case here, resulting in a compromised megabudget effort where Lynch attempts to indulge his graphic art sensibility and please a mass audience at the same time. It just doesn't fly.

But Lynch fans might find stuff to enjoy in Dune anyhow. After all, there's a floating bug monster that parlays with Jose Ferrer's space emperor in the early going, flanked by legions of somnambulant slaves in black raincoats that probably inspired the villains in Dark City. This is followed by Kenneth MacMillan's puss-faced Baron Harkonnen floating around on wires, plucking out the heart of an angel-faced boy-toy (who was planting Blue Velvet-style pastel flowers only moments earlier), and sharing some homo-erotic blubbering with his nephew Feyd (played by Sting, who can't act but lends the film his charismatic rock star presence). Even when the plot is difficult to follow -- some nonsense involving a trade war over different planets that all made sense in Frank Herbert's original novel -- there's enough giddy comic book theatrics to keep Dune interesting as it meanders along for nearly three hours.

Continue reading: Dune (1984) Review

Kenneth Mcmillan

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