Robert Benton

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Robert Benton - Robert Benton, New York City, USA - at the premiere of Fox Searchlight Pictures 'Another Earth' at Landmark's Sunshine Theatre. Wednesday 20th July 2011

Robert Benton

Kramer Vs. Kramer Review


Excellent
Back in the late '70s, a wave of divorce swept across America, perhaps the first big mainstream reflection of the women's lib movement that had blossomed a few years earlier. All my friends' parents seemed to break up, and so did Dustin Hoffman and Meryl Streep in Kramer vs. Kramer, a zeitgeisty melodrama that fits right in with all the Upper East Side Woody Allen flicks of that era, only with lawyers instead of laughs. Showered with awards, including nine Oscar nominations and five wins, including Best Picture, it remains one of the most compelling films of the decade, even if time has tarnished a bit of its sheen.

Hard-driving and oblivious ad exec Ted Kramer (Hoffman, more jittery than usual) is blindsided when his alarmingly fragile wife Joanna suddenly abandons him and their six-year old son Billy (Justin Henry), claiming that she needs to go to California to, you know, "find herself." Clearly a woman on the verge of a nervous breakdown, she hands over the keys, the credit cards, and the dry-cleaning tickets and disappears, leaving Ted to answer Billy's question: "Where's Mommy?"

Continue reading: Kramer Vs. Kramer Review

Superman Review


Very Good
Yeah, it was 1978 when Superman first hit theaters in the version most of us remember -- with Christopher Reeve as the Man of Steel and Marlon Brando as his disco-inspired pop. Superman is a lovable epic full of quaint nostalgia and incredible mysteries of logic (because if the earth spun the other way round, time would apparently reverse... riiiight). The story tells the bulk of the Superman legend -- his escape from Krypton, coming to terms with his powers as a youth in Smallville, moving to big old Metropolis and becoming Clark Kent (and falling for crusty Lois Lane), and dealing with a Lex Luthor (Gene Hackman, excellently over the top) plan to buy up real estate in Nevada and then destroy most of California, thus making his new coastline worth millions. Watch for Terence Stamp's Zod in the first scene -- he'll be back to rule as one of cinema's great villains in Superman II.

Continue reading: Superman Review

The Ice Harvest Review


Good
Harold Ramis hasn't been kind to his own reputation in the last few years. One of the few uncontested great comedy filmmakers, he's diluted his resume with serviceable but still watery products like Bedazzled and the unfortunate duology of Analyze This and Analyze That. So while his newest, the Christmas noir comedy The Ice Harvest isn't Ramis's best work, it's also the sharpest thing he's done since Groundhog Day and hopefully the sign of more interesting things to come.

With a heart as black as exhaust-stained slush, The Ice Harvest is based on a novel by that jolliest of writers, Scott Phillips (A Simple Plan). Taking place over one long, frozen and grimy Christmas Eve in Wichita, it all starts with Charlie Arglist (John Cusack), a lawyer for the local crime syndicate, handing off a bag to his cohort, Vic Cavanaugh (Billy Bob Thornton), the bag containing over $2 million they stole from the Kansas City boss, Bill Guerrard (Randy Quaid). Vic hides the money and he and Arglist split up for the night, aiming to get the hell out of town in the morning. Being a noir patsy, Arglist proceeds to drink, draw far too much attention to himself, flirt with the local fatale (Connie Nielsen, dead wrong for the job at hand), and get more and more suspicious about Vic's motives. Paranoia ensues when one of Guerrard's gunsels starts poking around the seedy joints that Arglist has been hanging out in.

Continue reading: The Ice Harvest Review

What's Up, Doc? Review


Very Good
What ever happened to joyously screwball comedies? Sure, once in a while a chaotic free-for-all like Rat Race will come along, but for the most part, fast-paced Marx Brothers-style farces are gone with the wind. One of the last pure examples may be What's Up, Doc?, Peter Bogdanovich's 1972 tribute to the great comedies of the '30s and '40s. This wacky sendup of every comedy cliché is what my mother would call a hoot from beginning to end, with Barbra Streisand and Ryan O'Neal leading a big and crazy supporting cast through all sorts of wacky gyrations.

When four people carrying identical luggage all check into a San Francisco hotel at the same time, you know right away that the movie will be driven by a big suitcase screwup. Uptight scientist Howard Bannister (O'Neal) is carrying a bunch of ancient rocks that he thinks emit interesting musical tones. Judy Maxwell (Streisand), a petty thief and mooch who is hanging around the hotel mainly to steal room service sandwiches, is carrying underwear. Another guest carries a load of diamonds, and the fourth has a stack of secret government papers. When everyone grabs the wrong bag, the comedy commences.

Continue reading: What's Up, Doc? Review

Superman Review


Very Good
Yeah, it was 1978 when Superman first hit theaters in the version most of us remember -- with Christopher Reeve as the Man of Steel and Marlon Brando as his disco-inspired pop. Superman is a lovable epic full of quaint nostalgia and incredible mysteries of logic (because if the earth spun the other way round, time would apparently reverse). The story tells the bulk of the Superman legend -- his escape from Krypton, coming to terms with his powers as a youth in Smallville, moving to big old Metropolis and becoming Clark Kent (and falling for crusty Lois Lane), and dealing with a Lex Luthor (Gene Hackman, excellently over the top) plan to buy up real estate in Nevada and then destroy most of California, thus making his new coastline worth millions. Watch for Terence Stamp's Zod in the first scene -- he'll be back to rule as one of cinema's great villains in Superman II.

Bonnie And Clyde Review


Extraordinary
Faye Dunaway has never looked better than when she wore a hat titled to one side and aimed a gun right at the camera for the poster shot of Bonnie and Clyde. This watershed film from Arthur Penn tells the dreamlike, obviously fictionalized tale of infamous bank robbers Clyde Barrow (Warren Beatty) and Bonnie Parker (Dunaway), who plied their trade in the south during the Great Depression. Their famous bullet-ridden end is one of cinema's most famous shootouts. Less has been said (though it should) for Bonnie's expertly written dialogue and impressive performances all around. You'll never root for the bad guys more than you will here.

Nobody's Fool Review


Very Good
Paul Newman is back as the title character of Nobody's Fool. Nobody's Fool is a study of small-town life in upstate New York, focused on Newman as the go-between among a dozen or so townsfolk. Superb performances abound, particularly by Jessica Tandy (in her final role) and Bruce Willis, and even Melanie Griffith as Newman's would-be love interest performs with genuine emotion. Newman steals the show, of course, as the flawed Everyman who chooses to just let life happen and not make a big show of it.

Continue reading: Nobody's Fool Review

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