Peter Boyle

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The Friends of Eddie Coyle Review


Excellent
Throughout Peter Yates' masterful The Friends of Eddie Coyle, crooks, thieves and the occasional police officer use terms of complacent endearment -- friend, nice guy, good man -- but the words never seem to carry any meaning. All of them tend to agree that Eddie Coyle (Robert Mitchum), a career criminal at 51, is a nice guy, but that doesn't mean they aren't willing to put him in the dirt if it makes their lives easier. Coyle can't really blame them for it; he knows the way of the world.

As its title points out, Friends has a very marginal interest in Eddie himself. In his first scene, Coyle goes about telling a gun dealer (Steven Keats) about how some associates of other associates slammed his fingers after a deal went sour. A low-level hood since God-knows-when, Eddie speaks about the situation congenially before telling the dealer that he needs 30 guns. Coyle has been supplying guns to a pack of bank robbers, the head of which is played by Alex Rocco. The money he's making is to support his wife and kids before he reports for a two-year stint in a New Hampshire prison; he doesn't feel his family should be scraping by on welfare.

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Walker Review


Excellent
Following his one-two punch of cultic cinema, Repo Man and Sid & Nancy, director Alex Cox went on to make two more films that consecrated his reputation as, well, a malcontent. It was 1987 and Cox's latest film, Straight to Hell, was universally panned, not completely unfairly. But just five months later, Cox returned with Walker, an equally-batty spectacle built on the last years of the late-19th-century soldier-of-fortune William Walker and his conquest of Nicaragua. Given only a paltry release in December '87, Cox's film maudit was banished to the realm of VHS for two decades before Criterion took an interest and decked it out with all the trimmings.

Far too crazy to be fatalist, Walker strangely begins on a moment of near-defeat for the titular batshit commando (the phenomenal Ed Harris) and his madcap battalion. Saved by a sandstorm and his lawyer, Walker finds himself back in the arms of his love Ellen Martin (Marlee Matlin). The fact that Ephraim Squier (Richard Masur) holds the keys to Walker's future in politics doesn't stop Ellen from asking Squier to fornicate with swine. Soon enough, Walker is trading away his future with Ellen for a mission to Nicaragua at the behest of Squier and Cornelius Vanderbilt (Peter Boyle).

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Young Frankenstein Review


Essential
Mel Brooks was just about at the top of his game back in 1974, when he directed both Blazing Saddles and Young Frankenstein. Young Frankenstein tells the tale of an heir (Gene Wilder) of the original Frank, who inherits his creepy castle (shot in the original castle from the first Frankenstein movie) and starts work anew on his ancestor's experiments. Of course, this is courtesy of Mel Brooks, and it's perfectly parodied -- probably the best horror spoof ever made and a far cry ahead of Brooks' later Dracula: Dead and Loving It gag. Wilder and Peter Boyle (as the monster) are hysterical, but it's Teri Garr who steals the show as Frankenstein's buxom and considerably vapid assistant. The special edition DVD is especially recommended -- with a handful of outtakes and deleted scenes (though none are nearly as funny as what made the final cut).

Yellowbeard Review


Weak
Long missing on DVD, Yellowbeard is that strangest of combinations: A Cheech and Chong movie melded with a Monty Python movie.

And not in a very good way.

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Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed Review


Terrible
Clearly, the Scooby-Doo franchise is geared toward kids; after all, it is a cartoon. Yet, as I sat through a Saturday morning screening of Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed, the youngsters at my screening were astonishingly quiet. The abundance of laughter I anticipated was absent; this surprised me considering the same team behind the amusing first film was responsible for this one. A farting CGI Scooby-Doo does generate laughs in a few strategic spots, but mostly, the filmmaker's failure to hit the target audience cripples this film's ability to be lighthearted and fun.

The initial setup is a simple. Scooby and the Mystery Inc. gang find themselves fighting a series of monsters they have previously conquered that are miraculously brought back to life. The monsters were part of a new exhibit at Coolville's Coolsonian Museum until an anonymous masked villain releases them to wreak havoc on the city. Mystery Inc. to the rescue? Nope: Their investigation is hampered by a public relations nightmare created by an overzealous reporter Heather Jasper-Howe (Alicia Silverstone) who criticizes the gang on local television. Instead of focusing on the task at hand, Fred (Freddie Prinze Jr.) and Daphne (Sarah Michelle Gellar) spend most their time trying to protect their image.

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Monster's Ball Review


Unbearable
Strangeways, here we come: Marc Forster represents jungle fever in some mighty odd ways throughout Monster's Ball. Racist Georgia slammer prison guard Billy Bob Thornton frequents his favorite late-night diner after days spent monitoring death row. He orders coffee -- black! And a side order of chocolate ice cream. By the time he sizes up ghetto waitress Halle Berry, you can tell by his hungry eyes (and hungry heart) that he'd love to sink his teeth into a big ol' slice of chocolate cheesecake.

His choco-licious cravings would make for comic gold if Forster were aiming for dark comedy. It really ain't much different from the classic line in Airplane! when that precocious little girl quips, "I like my coffee black, like my men!" But Forster chooses to play it straight and solemn, a hopelessly limiting choice. Without benefit of slapstick satire, Forster's glib presentation of interracial skin's allure feels ignorant and borderline offensive. The only thing missing is Halle Berry biting down on a vanilla wafer -- though she does beat her fat son for scarfing down chocolate bars ("I'll slap the black off of you!").

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The Cat Returns Review


OK
This rather simplistic entry into the feel-good anime genre comes from Kiroyuki Morita (last seen animating the raunchy Perfect Blue but also responsible for working on the kind-hearted Kiki's Delivery Service). The Cat Returns is Morita's first outing as director, and it's a fair, if ultimately unrealized experience.

The story involves young Haru (voiced for the States by Anne Hathaway), who rescues a helpless cat from an oncoming truck, only to find herself in the debt of a feline kingdom she formerly didn't know existed. Haru is awakened one night by a bizarre procession on her street: It's the king of the cats (Tim Curry), bearing gifts. Before she knows it, she's whisked into the world of the cats, where she is transformed into a half-cat/half-person, and is told she will be marrying the cat she saved, who turns out to be the cat prince.

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Young Frankenstein Review


Essential
Mel Brooks was just about at the top of his game back in 1974, when he directed both Blazing Saddles and Young Frankenstein. Young Frankenstein tells the tale of an heir (Gene Wilder) of the original Frank, who inherits his creepy castle (shot in the original castle from the first Frankenstein movie) and starts work anew on his ancestor's experiments. Of course, this is courtesy of Mel Brooks, and it's perfectly parodied -- probably the best horror spoof ever made and a far cry ahead of Brooks' later Dracula: Dead and Loving It gag. Wilder and Peter Boyle (as the monster) are hysterical, but it's Teri Garr who steals the show as Frankenstein's buxom and considerably vapid assistant. The special edition DVD is especially recommended -- with a handful of outtakes and deleted scenes (though none are nearly as funny as what made the final cut).

Outland Review


Good
You're stuck as a lawman on a moon of Jupiter, where they do nothing but mine titanium. When the shit goes down, who ya gonna call? This harrowing sci-fi flick has mellowed with age over the years, but Sean Connery's performance is still good, and the first couple of acts are still quite engaging. Too bad the finale ends up being one big shootout. Hell, we could get that back on earth.

The Santa Clause Review


Good
Attempting to bring the Christmas movie into the 1990s, Disney enlisted drug offender and raunchy stand-up Tim Allen to play Santa Claus based on the strength of his TV show Home Improvement. Funny then that The Santa Clause would indeed become a minor classic of the genre considering its iffy pedigree.

Credit that to a clever script that has Santa falling from a roof on Christmas Eve (and presumably dying in the process -- be ready to explain that to the kids) and Allen's Scott taking up his job after donning the Santa suit. Scott then has a year to prepare to take over the job full time. This mainly works out to Scott's putting on a ton of weight and growing a Santa-style beard, all the while denying he is becoming Mr. Claus.

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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.

That Darn Cat Review


Grim
Barely amusing, this remake of the Disney kiddie flick features an (inadvertent) crime-fighting cat, Christina Ricci, and the near-instant cinematic meltdown of Doug E. Doug. The story and the performances are universally appropriate for The Disney Channel fare -- which is to say, they are far from good. I suppose this would be fine to plop a kid in front of for an hour and a half, but is that saying much? Try something with animated animals instead.

Joe Review


OK
Radical working-class bigot Joe (Peter Boyle) certainly has some ideas ("32 percent of all liberals are queers!"), and in his namesake cult film, he discovers that the wealthy father (Dennis Patrick) of a junkie (Susan Sarandon in her awkward motion picture debut) has murdered her drug dealing boyfriend. He extorts Patrick into a friendship, and together they strike up an unlikely friendship. Unfortunately, after the initial shock wears off, so does Joe wear out his friendship in the film. Little happens for the last hour, leaving us to wonder if writer Norman Wexler couldn't have fashioned a better story for this creep to wander through.

Doctor Dolittle (1998) Review


Good
If I could talk to the animals, I'd be a millionnaire... I wouldn't be locked up in the loony bin.

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Taxi Driver Review


Essential
A masterpiece of Cold War-era cinema, with De Niro in the role that would define his career and spawn a catchphrase that still endures, but never with the same power. Probably did for cab drivers what Psycho did for showers.
Peter Boyle

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