Nicholas Pryor

Nicholas Pryor

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Damien: Omen II Review


Good
Somewhat unfairly maligned as a hokey, schlocky series, The Omen has always been far more sinister series than its sequel-happy reputation would indicate. The movies are about the devil's son wreaking havoc on earth, for God's sake -- and not only is that about the most classically "evil" character you can get, he also tend to be unstoppable. Good never triumphs in these movies. But really, it can't... how would they keep making sequels?

No longer a toddler, Damien: Omen II finds our young antichrist shipped to Chicago to live with his aunt (Lee Grant) and uncle (William Holden -- yeah, that William Holden). He's a hugely successful titan of industry, which is perfect for Damien: Eventually he'll become the boss of Thorn Industries, a great vantage point for ruling the world as the dark lord.

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Smile Review


Good
The film references tend to term it "overlooked," but there are many of us who never forgot the wonderful comedy Smile from its theatrical release in 1975. '75 was a great year for movies, and it could be that Smile, like the fresh-faced competitors that populate it, just faced some really rough competition that year; maybe, in the company of Nashville, The Story of Adèle H., One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Dog Day Afternoon, Grey Gardens, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, and so on, this relatively modest beauty fades into the wallpaper. Maybe its comparatively adult wit would get lost among the frantic adolescence of screen comedy in any year. Whatever the reason, it's a pleasure to welcome back a really funny and distinctively American satire, now available on DVD.

Smile charts the progress of a round of finals for the fictitious Young American Miss pageant being held in Santa Rosa, California. The civic force behind this event is a community-minded car salesman named Big Bob Freelander (Bruce Dern), a yokel with good intentions, an abiding optimism, and an inexhaustible reserve of clichéd bromides about the importance of a positive attitude. Brenda DiCarlo (Barbara Feldon) acts as pageant coordinator and den mother to the young contestants; her husband Andy's suicidal tendencies are exacerbated, rather than quelled, by all the forced goodwill she radiates and by the pageant's general, bright, can-do American vibe. Big Bob, especially, finds this mystifying - what on Earth is there to be blue about in a land of such copious opportunity and beautiful young women such as ours? - and the best advice he can muster for his desperate friend is to "go out there and have some fun."

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The Falcon and the Snowman Review


Excellent
Underseen (and true) spy drama set in the early 1970s, The Falcon and the Snowman tells the perplexing tale of Christopher Boyce (Hutton), a low-level document controller who filtered reams of material to the Soviet Union. His mistake? Using his coked-up drug pusher buddy (Penn) as his bagman. As Penn's character falls apart, so does the plan. And in a way, so does the film. While most of Falcon is great, some of it drags and doesn't make sense. Still, you do get to hear a bit about Boyce's motivation: His conscience, which told him to expose the CIA for some of its more nefarious and off-topic activities. A good companion piece to better-known thrillers of the era like All the President's Men.

Less Than Zero Review


Unbearable
I am probably one of about five people in the world who got this, but, in Bret Easton Ellis' American Psycho there is a conversation that takes place in a video store relating to why the clerk should know who Jami Gertz is. Patrick Bateman mentions something about her being in a Diet Coke ad. Being an avid fan of Ellis, I know that American Psycho was written in about 1988. So, based on the fact that the adaptation of his 1985 novel Less Than Zero came out in 1987, I suppose he liked the film. I, on the other hand, did not.

I've seen better and I've seen worse, but, you know what, I think there are better ways to remember the 80s than watching Robert Downey Jr when he only acted like he was high, instead of actually being it. I know that the point of the book was to display the laisse-faire nihilism that is/was so characteristic of LA, and thus showing someone who played at being high and ended up being a regular customer of Betty Ford should be a touch of bittersweet irony, but its not.

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Brain Dead Review


Grim
Is Bill Pullman's brain doctor dead, alive, crazy, sane, what? This bit of Corman (his daughter, anyway) nuttiness has a couple of big pre-star stars in "the two Bills," and while it tries to be as clever and provocative as a movie like Jacob's Ladder, it ends up as inexplicable and inscrutable as Lost Highway... which oddly enough starred Pullman as well. I won't try to explain the plot (okay: brain doctor's brain goes bust), but I don't necessarily suggest you watch it, either.

Risky Business Review


Extraordinary
I recently caught Risky Business on cable for the umpteenth time, and realized that the roots of American Beauty can all be found in this groundbreaking film. Think of Tom Cruises's Joel as a Lester Burnham before he lost his wide-eyed youth. You can see a glimmer of it in Joel's existential monologue ("It seems to me that if there were any logic to our language, trust would be a four letter word."), and he's certainly got the devil-may-care attitude locked up. Case in point is the plot itself -- when Joel wrecks his parents' Porsche, he turns their house into a one-night-only brothel to raise the money to pay for the damages. Even the soundtrack has the same feeling to it. Of course, Cruise owns this movie -- with some excellent one-liners and a certain renowned dance move through the living room -- but what of the rest of the cast? Joe Pantoliano and Rebecca De Mornay have struggled to find some measure of success, but writer/director Paul Brickman is the film's most curious alumnus. In nearly 20 years, he's written a smattering of scripts and has directed only one additional picture, 1990's Men Don't Leave. Paul, didn't you learn anything from your man Joel?
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