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Medium Cool Review


Extraordinary
Where is the line between fantasy and reality? Check out Medium Cool and you'll have trouble finding it. Pioneering cinematographer Haskell Wexler got the bright idea that the 1968 Democratic National Convention would be a hotbed of riots (with Vietnam in its worst years, MLK recently assassinated, and a growing movement fed up with the government) and he was right. Wexler decided to make a (fictional) movie set during all of this -- but rather than wait until it was over and done with, he took a group of actors to ground zero, tossed them in among the cops and the protesters, and had them "act."

The result is one of the most vibrant and eye-opening films ever made, a bit of fantasy that seems devastatingly real -- because, in large part, it is.

Continue reading: Medium Cool Review

After Hours Review


Extraordinary
It's one of cinema's greatest freak-outs. The mild-mannered and terminably hapless Paul (Griffin Dunne, in the defining role of his career) encounters Marcy (Rosanna Arquette, ditto) in a coffee shop, reading Tropic of Cancer, naturally. When he gets her number and takes a cab ride to a desolate and rain-drenched SoHo to meet her at her loft, things take a turn for the bizarre -- with Paul finding himself entangled with an intertwined web of people, including an obsessive cocktail waitress (Teri Garr), a suicidal girl, a possibly murderous sculptress (Linda Fiorentino), an unhinged ice cream truck driver (Catherine O'Hara), and a whole host of other characters that represent some of the wackiest nutjobs in cinema. No one else seems to notice it's so bizarre except for Paul: As Dick Miller's diner cook character puts it, when it's after hours, "Different rules apply."

By the end, Paul is on the run from an angry mob who thinks he's a burglar, fleeing in fear for his life. Will he escape? Well, rest assured that After Hours is actually a comedy. It's also one of my favorite Martin Scorsese movies (and a massive departure from his grittier fare), fresh every time you see it and full of little touches that you catch more of with each subsequent viewing. Check out the rows of Aqua Net in Garr's apartment. Or the "tie" she's wearing.

Continue reading: After Hours Review

High Plains Drifter Review


Excellent
Clint Eastwood's second film as a director -- and his first western -- is a minor classic. High Plains Drifter takes a familiar story (drifter arrives in small town to protect it from outlaws -- and demands a pile of booty in return) and makes it perfectly watchable thanks to Eastwood's smarmy performance and a host of supporting players that acquit themselves well. Forcing the town to rename itself "Hell" and paint everything in it red is just the icing on the cake.

Animal House Review


Extraordinary
Youthful indescretion knows no better friend in cinema than the movie that defines it, Animal House. Every frame of the film typifies how every American recalls his college years, whether or not they were filled with debauchery. Especially beloved is John Belushi as Delta Tau Chi's Bluto, the worst cut-up in the most obnoxious fraternity at Faber College (motto: Knowledge is Good), but the entire cast is so perfect -- from Tom Hulce to Bruce McGill to Donald Sutherland -- that one has trouble finding a sour spot in the entire picture. Of note is the new Collector's Edition DVD, which features a 45-minute present-day interview with the cast and crew about the making of the film, plus behind-the-scenes footage of the production. A gem.

Continue reading: Animal House Review

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