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The Runaways Review


Very Good
A fascinating exploration of the effects of fame on young people, this true story is sharply directed and acted. It's also great to see a film about girl power that's this realistic and resonant. And packed with such great songs.

At only 15, Cherie Currie (Fanning) is overwhelmed when Joan Jett (Stewart) asks her to front her band The Runaways. With the encouragement of music promoter Kim Fowley (Shannon), Cherie becomes an iconic presence on stage and off, propelling the group into previously uncharted territory as female rockers. And while Joan and the other bandmates (Maeve, Taylor-Compton and Shawkat) take the lifestyle in their stride, Cherie is continually drawn back to her big sister (Keough) and absent parents (O'Neal and Cullen).

Continue reading: The Runaways Review

Great Expectations (1998) Review


Weak
You know, I didn't like the book Great Expectations when I was in high school, so I don't know why anyone thought it would be liked any better now. Hawke's meddling with the story is well-documented (including changing the main character's name from Pip to Finn). Then there's the updating to the 20th century, making Pip, er, Finn an artist (and a bad one at that), Bancroft's horrific drag-queenish dance instructor. De Niro's lost expression. Ugh. I'll take the book over this.

The Black Dahlia Review


Weak
Sure, the man's had a bad run of things. When Brian de Palma directed Snake Eyes, a corker of a plot that went nowhere, it seemed like a fluke. When he did Femme Fatale, that ludicrous sapphic French diamond heist flick, it could be written off as just an idiosyncratic minor joke by a former Hollywood heavyweight in self-imposed Euro-exile -- something to keep him occupied until he went back to the big leagues. Well, that moment of return finally arrived in the form of the long-gestating adaptation of James Ellroy's 1987 novel The Black Dahlia, a mystery about the infamous 1947 Elizabeth Short murder which seemed purpose-built for de Palma's needs. Ellroy's fever dream of a novel has everything that the famously self-referential director could utilize: doppelgangers (male and female), seedy urban underbelly, and psychosexual perversities galore. Given the limp, campy joke of a film that resulted, however, it seems time to stop making excuses for the man -- Brian de Palma has become one very bad director.

The generally limp script by Josh Friedman starts off smartly, setting us up for the bruising friendship between the stars, a couple of L.A. cops who also happen to be boxers and get paired up for a publicity-machine fight that touts them as "Mr. Fire and Mr. Ice." Ice is "Bucky" Bleichart (Josh Hartnett), a cool and low-key guy charitably described as a loser who gets his shot at a good chunk of change as well as reassignment to the LAPD's hotshot Warrants department for agreeing to the fight. Fire is Lee Blanchard (Aaron Eckhart), one of those bigger-than-life cops who cuts corners with aplomb and seems happy enough to bring Bucky on as his partner after knocking his teeth out (literally) in the ring. Further binding the two men together, besides work and friendship, is Kay Lake (Scarlett Johansson), the sultry blonde dame on Lee's arm who takes a shine to Bleichart that doesn't seem to be entirely platonic.

Continue reading: The Black Dahlia Review

Spartan Review


Extraordinary
What is the man behind such parlor-room films as The Winslow Boy and House of Games doing directing an explosive military thriller, complete with airdrops and sniper rifles? And starring Val Kilmer? Trust me: Give Spartan ten minutes, and you'll stop asking such stupid questions.

David Mamet's latest project is far from conventional fare, and ultimately that works in his favor. From the opening scene, where two soldiers pursue each other through a jungle, Mamet keeps us guessing. What kind of movie are we watching? Within about 10 minutes, the bones of the story are made clear: the president's daughter (Kristen Bell) has been kidnapped from her dorm room, and the Secret Service pulls out all the stops to get her back. That includes recruiting special operations soldier Robert Scott (Val Kilmer), an uncannily capable military man who's as intuitive with people and motives as he is skilled with weapons.

Continue reading: Spartan Review

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Art Linson Movies

The Runaways Movie Review

The Runaways Movie Review

A fascinating exploration of the effects of fame on young people, this true story is...

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The Black Dahlia Movie Review

The Black Dahlia Movie Review

Sure, the man's had a bad run of things. When Brian de Palma directed Snake...

Spartan Movie Review

Spartan Movie Review

What is the man behind such parlor-room films as The Winslow Boy and House of...

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