Richard Edson

Richard Edson

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Stranger Than Paradise Review


Excellent
Jim Jarmusch's debut feature Stranger Than Paradise seems both a throwback to the American independents of the '60s and '70s, and a harbinger of what was to come in the years following its release. The film stands as a link between the past and the future, a synthesis of the Cassavetes-Scorsese brand of streetwise naturalism, and the aloofness and wry humor that characterizes much of modern independent cinema (Wes Anderson and Richard Linklater's output, in particular).

At once artless and artful, dramatically unfocused yet layered throughout with unmistakable observations about mid-'80s American melancholia, Stranger Than Paradise displays all the strengths and weaknesses of Jarmusch's brand of cinema. While experiencing his stories, the viewer may suspect that, beneath the patina of captivating movie moments, the director has nothing particularly to say about, well, anything, but is simply creating images because he feels like it, and stringing them together with vintage jazz, rock, and world music selections. Just short of expressing any sense of purpose or point of view, at least conventionally speaking, a Jarmusch movie will peter out. The characters do not advance much, though each will have embarked on journeys, and shared moments of wry hilarity. But, spiritually, they remain near or exactly where they began.

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Platoon Review


Extraordinary
Like no other movie could tell, Platoon shows us categorically that war -- and especially the Vietnam War -- is hell.

The story is vintage Oliver Stone -- based on his own experiences in the bush with only a few moments of fictionalization. In Platoon, Charlie Sheen plays a young and naive Private Chris Taylor, a newbie in Nam who is thrown waist-deep into the jungle only hours after arrival. Within a week he's regretting having volunteered, already a shell of the man he was in the States.

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Love, Cheat & Steal Review


Unbearable
Vintage Eric Roberts, as he turns in yet another run-of-the-mill psycho hell-bent on revenge when his old girlfriend sets him up and lands him in jail. His ex (Mädchen Amick) has since put on a sweet face and married a rich guy (John Lithgow, for Pete's sake!)... but when Roberts is finally freed, he pays her a visit to settle the score. Predominantly crap.

Platoon Review


Extraordinary
Like no other movie could tell, Platoon shows us categorically that war -- and especially the Vietnam War -- is hell.

The story is vintage Oliver Stone -- based on his own experiences in the bush with only a few moments of fictionalization. In Platoon, Charlie Sheen plays a young and naive Private Chris Taylor, a newbie in Nam who is thrown waist-deep into the jungle only hours after arrival. Within a week he's regretting having volunteered, already a shell of the man he was in the States.

Continue reading: Platoon Review

Picking Up The Pieces Review


Terrible
Normally, I'd say any movie that features Woody Allen as a homocidal maniac is okay in my book, if only Picking Up the Pieces didn't bore you to tears en route to the funny stuff, which consists solely of Allen's spare one-liners. The plot, involving a New Mexico community that rallies around Allen's dead wife's severed hand thanks to its miracle-granting powers, shows a ton of promise, but never delivers. Note to Alfonso Arau: more boobs.

Snide And Prejudice Review


Grim
Quite an assembly of talent is ultimately wasted in this near-pointless look at a mental patient (that guy from the TV remake of Jason and the Argonauts) who thinks he's Hitler. A bunch of his fellow patients seem to think they're members of his staff, too. Essentially this is a re-imagining of Marat/Sade, adding in a head shrink (that guy from one of the Star Trek shows) who may be crazy too. Hitler's psychosis (the real Hitler, I mean) has been examined with substantially more depth and to a more powerful effect numerous times before.

Lulu On The Bridge Review


Weak
Paul Auster (writer of Wayne Wang's Smoke and Blue in the Face) is no stranger to oddball productions. Lulu on the Bridge is another step down the path to David Lynch, with Harvey Keitel as a sax player who gets shot and -- after a miracle recovery that leaves him with one lung -- embarks on an adventure involving Mira Sorvino and a magic rock that glows in the dark. Oh-kayyyyy. It all becomes all-too-apparent what's been going on by the end of this, so after plenty of mood lighting and jazz music, you're released back into the world to completely forget everything you saw. Whatever.

Sunshine State Review


Good
One prominent theme has run through the recent work of maverick filmmaker John Sayles: the search for identity. A need to belong. A desire to know one's place in the world. Within Sayles's trademark ensemble pieces, characters try to define themselves, with many at a crossroads in their lives... whether they know it or not. Most of the beauty and irony with which Sayles tells their tales is present in Sunshine State, but Sayles's narrative is a bit short in comparison to his previous opuses.

The brilliance of Sayles's stories is that he places these people within a much bigger parallel -- a geographical or cultural landscape that's changing as much as its inhabitants are. In City of Hope, it was an unnamed New Jersey city with political problems. In Lone Star -- in my opinion, Sayles's true masterpiece -- it was an evolving Texas border town. In Sunshine State, it's the fictional town of Delrona Beach, a sleepy Florida locale whose land and people are in the process of being overrun by shrewd real estate developers.

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Time Code Review


OK
Sorry, Mr. Lynch, your place at the head of the avant-garde experimental filmmaker table has been given away. Messrs. Jarmusch, Toback, Korine, and Cronenberg, you'll all be eating outside. Mike Figgis will be taking over for all of you, and don't come back.

Figgis, who earned a Best Director Oscar nomination for Leaving Las Vegas in 1996, appears to have gone a little funny in the head last year with his inexplicable and nearly dialogue-free The Loss of Sexual Innocence. Now he's fully gone off the deep end with what may be the most ambitious experiment ever: Time Code.

Continue reading: Time Code Review

Time Code Review


OK

Perhaps the most extraordinary experimental film ever unleashed outside the confines of the art house circuit, "Time Code" is a confident and daring attempt by director Mike Figgis ("Leaving Las Vegas," "The Loss of Sexual Innocence") to plant his flag on the barely-explored shores of 21st Century filmmaking.

Shooting on hand-held digital video in four continuous takes all running at once, Figgis splits the screen in quadrants like a security camera monitor and fiddles with the audio to draw your eye where he wants it. Then like an orchestral conductor, he unspools a precisely synchronized 93 minutes of raw, unedited, real-time footage, tracking multiple, largely-improvised narratives about a sampling of misanthropic, self-absorbed Hollywood denizens.

Packed with talented, name stars starving for something original to chew on, "Time Code's" has several stories -- some tense and emotional, others cynical and facetious -- unfolding simultaneously and often crossing paths.

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Sunshine State Review


OK

Another utterly captivating John Sayles ensemble piece with an incredible sense of a particular place and its personality, "Sunshine State" manifests the winds of change and uncertainty blowing mightily over a humble island township off the Florida panhandle that has been targeted for ravenous resort development.

Like "Lone Star," "Limbo" and other films from the iconic independent writer-director, this one transports you into the soul of its community through smaller pieces of the whole. Sayles paints a larger picture through the lives of individual denizens who are each struggling with a choice between the rich heritage of their fading pocket berg and the big money being offered by developers.

Some are rediscovering a spiritual connection to the town, like Angela Bassett, who plays a refugee from the island's black community, which made the place thrive in the 1940s before its culture began fading away with desegregation. She couldn't get away fast enough as a teenager -- although that might have been because she was pregnant and her parents were sending her away whether she liked it or not. She became an actress but never made it past infomercials. Now she has returned to visit her estranged mother (Mary Alice) for the first time with her handsome, affluent new husband (James McDaniel) on her arm.

Continue reading: Sunshine State Review

Richard Edson

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