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Roxanne Review


Excellent
At the beginning of Roxanne, C.D. Bales (Steve Martin), sporting a black baseball cap, white Oxford shirt, and a nose as big as Pinocchio's, walks down the street in a confident strut -- for whatever reason, carrying a tennis racket. He is approached by two slack-jawed losers who spew "big nose" insults. Rather than slump down and walk on by, C.D. springs into action, engaging in an extended, acrobatic sword fight involving his tennis racket and the other men's ski poles. C.D. wins handily. He is very nearly the most skilled, able-bodied, complete man -- if it weren't for that huge nose.

That sword-fighting scene is indicative of the entire movie's attitude. Roxanne is an intelligent, playful flight of fancy, meant to be judged by the merits of its own universe, not the real world. Martin is a brilliant mind and a beautiful writer, and the light touch of his screenplay allows for this story to be set in the "real world," but graces it with such good cheer and unexpected whimsy that this film is like a fairy tale with jokes.

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Thieves Like Us Review


Excellent
Those watching Robert Altman's 1974 Depression-era robbers-on-the-run film Thieves Like Us and looking for a Bonnie and Clyde-style antiheroic odyssey -- charismatic young lovers, blaze of glory, the whole deal -- will come away severely disappointed. Altman, fortunately, has other things on his mind than building up legends and stoking the coals of nostalgia. His robbers aren't savage animals, but they're far from dashing; opportunistic, venal, and unable to plan their lives more than five minutes into the future is a more apt description.

A languorous single take opens the film, sweeping across verdant Mississippi countryside being traversed by a railcar carrying a chain gang and armed guards, before spying a couple of other prisoners rowing their way across a pond, chatting about things inconsequential. A third accomplice shows up with a car and some civilian clothes. The car breaks down, they take off on foot. Eventually the trio -- a couple of hard cases, T-Dub (Bert Remsen) and Chickamaw (John Schuck), and one fresh-faced young Ozark farmboy, Bowie (Keith Carradine) previously serving life for a murder committed at 16 -- wind up at a relative's place, where they hide out and plan their first robbery. Because the three, who continually refer to themselves as "thieves," never seem to consider even for a moment to do anything but just keeping on robbing and running. And so they do.

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Annie Hall Review


Essential
The Woodman's finest hour, in this bittersweet love story between a die-hard New Yorker and a midwestern ditz, about what it really takes to make a relationship (or two or three) work. Woody Allen is at his best as an actor, and Diane Keaton has never had a better role. What makes Annie Hall so much fun, though, is the cameos -- from Paul Simon to Jeff Goldblum's one liner (On the phone: "I forgot my mantra!"), it's a complete send-up of the 70s. Best is Christopher Walken as Annie's psychotic brother.

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Home Fries Review


OK
I couldn't tell you if this was supposed to be another Hope Floats or an episode of The X-Files, but it's not particularly good at emulating either. What looks like a romantic comedy is actually a murder mystery/military thriller, set in rural USA -- two great tastes that don't go together.

Manna From Heaven Review


Terrible
The five precocious Burton sisters of Buffalo, NY have given us a precocious film about a group of people so hateful we are forced to try our best to simply ignore them. How's that for skipping the first day of Filmmaking 101?

Manna From Heaven is the story of a Buffalo family who one day discover $20,000 "raining from heaven," wisely decide to split it up, and then go on their merry ways. A decade or so later, every last one of them has grown up to be a loser, having squandered his or her (mostly her) share of the loot. The lone exception is Theresa (Ursula Burton... well of course the good one is going to be played by a Burton sister!) who has become an ash-on-the-forehead nun. In fact, Theresa becomes convinced that the 20 grand of so long ago was not a gift but a loan, and that they must now "pay it back."

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Time Bandits Review


Extraordinary
History belongs to the victors, and Terry Gilliam takes his rightful ownership of Western history in this timeless romp through the ages. Writer and director of some of Monty Python's most enduring and foolish productions, Gilliam reaches the top of his form with Time Bandits.

Young Kevin (Craig Warnock) is a history buff trapped in the household of his shallow, materialistic parents. While they sit mindlessly in front of the television, absorbed in an insanely morbid game show, Kevin explores his history books enthusiastically, fantasizing about a more meaningful world than the one in which he lives. But when his parents finally send him to bed, his world gets a lot more interesting.

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McCabe & Mrs. Miller Review


Good
Robert Altman's only Western takes a long time to get heated up, but in its final hour it truly burns. As John McCabe, Warren Beatty is terrific as a hustler who's built a reputation for himself as a gunslinging tough guy, though secretly he's really a coward who's never killed anyone. After opening a smash-hit brothel in a wintry village, a big cartel swoops in to buy him out. He refuses, and a price is quickly put upon his head.

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Nashville Review


Weak
Call me a heathen. I don't like Nashville.

Possibly the most celebrated film of the 1970s -- at least among film snob circles -- Robert Altman's sprawling case study of five days in the Tennessee city is self-absorbed, overwrought, and dismissive. Nor is it particularly well-made, with poor sound (even after being remastered for its DVD release) and washed-out photography, not to mention a running time (2:40) that's at least an hour too long.

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3 Women Review


Excellent
When remembering 3 Women, many viewers mistakenly recall it as being titled 2 Women. That's understandable (though it's a different movie), because the third woman in question (Janice Rule) is barely present in the film and has no intelligible lines.

Welcome to Robert Altman's personal nightmare (literally, he came up with the story in a dream), a tale of identity and personality, and the cascading way that cliques work, even in the smallest of groups.

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The Shining Review


Good
One of the first scary movies I remember seeing as a kid, The Shining certainly has its flaws, but those twin girls and the blood coming out of the elevator... and boy oh boy that nasty woman in the bathtub... parts of The Shining just stay with you. Forever. Not Kubrick's greatest work (let's be honest: entire sections of this film make no sense at all), but hey, it's creepy as hell.

Heeeeere's Johnny!

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The Portrait of a Lady Review


Good
Jesus, I didn't realize when I went to the movies this morning I was going to have to think!

But seriously, that's what you're going to be doing if you see The Portrait of a Lady -- Jane Campion's follow-up to The Piano, based on Henry James's "classic" novel that you've probably never read. Now, I'm wishing that I had, though, because Portrait is a fantastic movie to watch, exquisitely crafted and painstakingly detailed, gorgeously photographed and full of style -- but it is just plain impossible to follow.

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Dark Water Review


Zero
I've just walked out in the middle of "Dark Water"after a noxious hour of prosaically PG-13, hackneyed horror-flick cliches.

Torpid, trite and not the least bit scary -- just unrelen=tinglyunpleasant -- the first 45 minutes of the movie only came to life in twoscenes involving the messy divorce of miserable single mom Jennifer Connelly(proving Oscars don't bring talented actresses good roles). She subsequentlymoves into a drab, creepy cinderblock slum with her sad-eyed daughter (ArielGade), even though it's made very clear that there's nothing keeping herfrom finding a nicer place in the suburbs.

Soon the kid has an "imaginary friend" she won'ttalk about, their ceiling is dripping gooey black liquid from an abandoned(and eerily flooded) apartment upstairs, and the building's greasy manager(John C. Reilly) and bug-eyed, hollow-cheeked building superintendent (PetePostlethwaite) both seem to be hiding something sinister.

Director Walter Salles (the Brazilian behind "TheMotorcycle Diaries," making his inauspicious Hollywood debut) dragsout these routine, oppressively glum establishing scenes to a mind-numbingdegree. (If this apartment building is spooky enough to justify its ownominous soundtrack theme from the moment mom and daughter arrive, how comeConnelly isn't astute enough to realize something's amiss, even if shecan't hear the music?)

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Shelley Duvall

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