Film Reviews

Recommended

RECO V15/#15

(, min.)
(12/8/95)

(M.B.)



New Review

FATHER OF THE BRIDE PART II

D: Charles Shyer; with Steve Martin, Diane Keaton, Martin Short, Kimberly Williams, George Newbern, Kieran Culkin. (PG, 106 min.)
George BanksÕ life is swell. HeÕs survived the defection and subsequent, lavish marriage of his daughter to an irritatingly successful and singularly unobjectionable man, lives in a white, picket-fence dream house, truly loves his beautiful wife, and drives a really, really cool car. In other words, GeorgeÕs only Ford is in his flivver. Until, that is, two bombs drop on his utopia. First, his daughter, Annie, whom his mindÕs eye still views as a pigtailed tomboy, announces that she is pregnant. So George, in a desperate effort to combat the feeling of instant antiquity that impending grandparenthood incurs, gets a ÒbitchinÕÓ new hairdo and seduces his wife in the kitchen on a rainy afternoon, thereby creating (literally) the second explosion to rock his cozy world. Awash in filtered, golden light, Father of the Bride Part II has an air of nostalgia about it Ð the type that makes the Cold War era seem innocent and carefree and that allows women who have gone through labor and delivery to do it again. At least Nina Banks seems to be ready to do the whole thing over again. George is not so sure. Where Nina sees a mother and daughter skipping dreamily down the street together, George sees a truculent two-year old tossing his double dip cone on the sidewalk. Still, the notion is more embarrassing and inconvenient than it is traumatic. And watching the Banks family cope with it can be fun. The entire cast from Father of the Bride returns for the sequel and they bring with it the familiarity and fondness and downright silliness of a real family. Steve Martin combines his peculiar physical comedy with a pathos that is so genuine and touching that you cannot help but regret that the actor is not a father in real life Ð it seems such a waste of great dad material. Martin Short is equally endearing as Franck, the haute but not haughty caterer/decorator, and in some ways, his character is a reflection of the movie as a whole. Too tasteful, too opulent, too rosy a picture to be believed; we still canÕt help but be charmed by it. Just as the wonderful soundtrack suggests, this affectionate film is like a simple walk down the sunny side of the street Ð in a very affluent neighborhood. (12/8/95)

2.5 stars (H.C.)

Great Hills, Lake Creek, Lincoln, Movies 12, Northcross, Riverside, Westgate


RECKLESS

D: Norman RenŽ; with Mia Farrow, Scott Glenn, Mary-Louise Parker, Tony Goldwyn, Eileen Brennan, Giancarlo Esposito, Stephen Dorff. (PG-13, 92 min.)
Okay; itÕs Christmastime and youÕre thinking that you just might explode if you watch ItÕs a Wonderful Life one more time. Although we embrace as a part of our heritage that movieÕs lessons about the goodness of humanity, the riches inherent in living a simple, uncelebrated life, and the community virtues practiced by small-town Middle Americans, stillÉ there are just some holiday seasons when HollywoodÕs nostalgic vision of the Americana that never was seems nearly as sticky and welcome as another fruitcake. Well, this year youÕre in luck because thereÕs a new antidote just released for market and it goes by the name Reckless. The movie is a grown-up fairy tale that scrapes away some of the tarnished undercoating of the familiar Norman Rockwell image yet leaves the basic structure intact. The story begins on Christmas Eve as Rachel (Farrow) tells her husband Tom (Goldwyn) that the holiday excitement has her in such a state that she is about to die of a Òeuphoria attack.Ó Tom begins to sob and remorsefully confesses that in order to stop her incessant chirping, he has taken out a contract on her life and that the hit man is downstairs ready to strike. In a last gesture of kindness, Tom pushes his wife dressed in a flannel nightgown out the second-story window of their suburban home and into the snowy beyond. Thus begins RachelÕs strange adventure through the wilds of America as she searches for the restoration of security and happiness. The odyssey lasts the rest of her life and the people she encounters are many and varied, yet all slightly surreal. ItÕs here that the movieÕs great premise begins to break down. Odd characters and circumstances steadily flood RachelÕs life, but though the movie wants us to see her path as having direct relevance to her past, itÕs really little more than a series of quirky situations. The movieÕs big question seems to be the discovery of whether the past is something we run away from or toward, as though the answer will resolve all lifeÕs troubles and woes. By the movieÕs end, Rachel does reach some kind of resolution and contentment, yet the conclusions she draws from her curious journey are as mysterious as the individual lessons along the way. This fuzzy fairy-tale feel was also evident in Prelude to a Kiss, the last collaboration by filmmakers Norman RenŽ and Craig Lucas. As with Prelude to a Kiss, Lucas wrote the screenplay as an adaptation of his stage play and RenŽ directed both (as well as LucasÕ Longtime Companion script). While these two have been unsuccessful in their development of functional narratives from engaging concepts, other Reckless contributors pick up some of the slack. A terrific cast is held together by a picture-perfect Mia Farrow in a role that seems made for her. Her flannel-gowned, waif-life, slightly whiny but wide-eyed, little princess mien is precisely perfect for this adult fable. Cinematographer Frederick Elmes (Blue Velvet, RiverÕs Edge) creates a warm-toned, Christmas-card look that enhances the movieÕs fairy-tale appeal. Reckless wants to take us on a merry sleigh ride that examines the muddy tracks created during the passage but ends up adrift in a silent snow bank. (12/8/95)

2.5 stars (M.B.)

Village


WHITE MANÕS BURDEN

D: Desmond Nakano; with John Travolta, Harry Belafonte, Kelly Lynch, Margaret Avery, Carrie Snodgress, Willie Carpenter, Robert Gossett. (R, 90 min.)
From the Lawrence Bender production company A Band Apart (Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction, Fresh)comes this seemingly ingenious film that tackles race relations head on, and comes up stunningly flat. Director NakanoÕs tale of an America where African-Americans are the majority and the privileged and the white race is the downtrodden and poor so oversimplifies the problems of race relations in America today that itÕs intended purpose as a wake-up call, a way to spotlight deteriorating race relations in a new and fresh light, is completely overshadowed by the filmÕs startling mediocrity and pedantic moralizing. ItÕs almost as if Ted Turner had resurrected some well-intentioned Twilight Zone and colorized it for the Nineties, diluting the subtleties in favor of the obvious. Travolta plays Louis Pinnock, an average Joe who loses his factory job one day when a random twist of fate leaves his black boss displeased with a triviality. Without the job and the raise he was counting on, Pinnock and his wife Marsha (Lynch) soon lose their home to their black landlord and are effectively down-and-out in Beverly Slums. Pinnock (after a Rodney King-style beating by some thuggish cops) decides to kidnap his employer Ð the wealthy, casually racist Thaddeus Thomas (Belafonte) Ð in order toÉ what? He doesnÕt know, really, and neither do we. As the film progresses, with Pinnock displaying the pockmarked urban ghetto he calls home to the bewildered, nervous Thomas, the Twilight Zone aspects multiply, until itÕs all you can do to keep from spotting Serling hovering around every corner. Certainly, all involved had only the best of intentions, but thatÕs no excuse for what can only be called a cinematic trivialization of AmericaÕs explosive racial tension. So simple, so broad are White ManÕs BurdenÕs paint strokes Ð from the gritty camerawork of PinnockÕs mean streets to the burnished opulence of ThomasÕ home and family Ð that no real lesson outside of the obviously mundane can be elicited, and thatÕs a real shame. ItÕs not so much a flip-flop as it is pure flim-flam. (12/8/95)

2.0 stars (M.S.)

Arbor, Highland, Lakehills, Movies 12, Riverside



Still Playing

ACE VENTURA: WHEN NATURE CALLS

D: Steve Oedekerk; with Jim Carrey, Ian McNeice, Simon Callow, Maynard Eziashi, Bob Gunton. (PG-13, 91 min.)
When speaking critically about any of Jim CarreyÕs films, thereÕs only one burning question that really needs to be asked: ÒIs it funny?Ó Keeping this in mind, letÕs cut right to the chase. If you liked the first installment of the sure-to-be-long-running Ace Ventura series, chances are very good youÕll enjoy the second. The most over-the-top of CarreyÕs vehicles, Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls will definitely not win any new converts, but let's face it, the manÕs got plenty of fans already. The plot is pure nonsense Ð something to do with our heroic pet detective traveling to Africa to recover a sacred albino bat Ð but it nicely manages to set up a non-stop barrage of silly antics which, when you think about it, is all a ÒplotÓ is good for anyway in a Jim Carrey movie. Director Oedekerk, for the most part, has a nice sense of pacing, and also brings a scope that wasnÕt in the first film. Occasionally, signs of the filmÕs on-set production problems seem all too obvious and, by the picture's third act, the movie has simply exhausted itself. Still, to look too far beyond ÒIs it funny?Ó is probably a mistake, especially when one considers that the majority of Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls delivers those huge mass-audience fits of laughter that often leave the next couple of gags unheard or unnoticed. For Carrey, every moment of screen time presents a comic opportunity and every scene is a potential set-piece, so itÕs hardly surprising that he wastes no time before letting the jokes fly fast and furious. From the hilarious opening parody of Cliffhanger to AceÕs mid-film wrestling match with a hungry alligator (in a memorable moment, Ace slaps the attacking animal around with its own stubby arms, while reciting that classic childhood taunt, ÒQuit hitting yourself! Quit hitting yourself!Ó), Carrey is in top form here, giving a wildly confident, physically draining performance with all the stops pulled out. Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls has its fair share of problems Ð like the aforementioned third act and the fact that Carrey so monopolizes the screen that his co-stars are often left with nothing to do Ð but the movie is funny, sometimes side-splittingly so. And that's all that really matters, isnÕt it? (11/17/95)

3.0 stars (J.O.)

Great Hills, Lake Creek, Lincoln, Movies 12, Northcross, Riverside, Roundrock, Westgate


THE AMERICAN PRESIDENT

D: Rob Reiner; with Michael Douglas, Annette Bening, Martin Sheen, Michael J. Fox, Anna Deavere Smith, Samantha Mathis. (PG-13, 114 min.)
Although itÕs very easy to approach this film with complete cynicism, it is difficult to avoid the appealing love story between Douglas as United States President Andrew Shepherd and Bening as environmental lobbyist Sydney Ellen Wade. With its crackling sexual tension, the relationship between widower President Shepherd and Wade (and in turn the chemistry between Douglas and Bening) admirably does justice to the legacy of Hollywood screen couples from the 1930s and 1940s a la Hepburn and Tracy. BeningÕs performance evokes even a bit of comedienne-par-excellence Mary Tyler Moore as she quivers and frets over her initial gaffes with the president. Lest this characterization sound retro-feminist, Bening develops Wade as an equally compelling professional in Washington able to play hardball with the big jerks on Capitol Hill. On the other hand, I worried that DouglasÕ recent testosterone-laden acting would interfere with my suspension of disbelief. However, Shepherd as the president comes complete with his own minor gaffes, such as having no clue about the names of the various staff who work for and under him. These and other more ÒhumanizingÓ elements manage to keep Douglas from slipping into Superman mode or playing the white male victim. As for the filmÕs story, The American President has the mystique factor working in its favor. Assuming that the sets are letter-perfect in terms of their reproduction of the White House and its environs, pretending to watch the President of the United States have a dinner date has its enjoyable voyeuristic moments. While the film does have its share of problems, such as Anna Deavere Smith's bizarrely awkward performance as press secretary Robin McCall and a somewhat laborious final act, The American PresidentÕs rather pointed Capra-esque qualities do their ideological best to create an engaging love story, a kind of Singles for the over-40 set. (11/17/95)

3.0 stars (A.M.)

Arbor, Highland, Lakehills, Movies 12


CARRINGTON

D: Christopher Hampton; with Emma Thompson, Jonathan Pryce, Steven Waddington, Rufus Sewell, Samuel West, Penelope Wilton. (R, 123 min.)
How interesting it is that this compelling film is named for Dora Carrington (Thompson), the English painter who shared an emotionally intense and all-encompassing relationship with famed writer Lytton Strachey (Pryce). Interesting because, although Carrington appears in nearly all of the scenes, we do not really know her apart from Strachey until the last half hour of the film, and, even then, her character seems profoundly influenced by her relationship with him. Additionally, the filmÕs script is based on Michael HolroydÕs biography of Strachey, with some excerpts taken from CarringtonÕs journal. Set between World War I and the early 1930s, Carrington marks the debut of screenwriter Hampton (Dangerous Liaisons) behind the camera. HamptonÕs film tells the affecting and ultimately tragic story of Carrington and StracheyÕs relationship from their initial meeting during the First World War to StracheyÕs death in the early 1930s. StracheyÕs mistaking the artist for a Òravishing young manÓ foreshadows the limits of their relationship. An avowed homosexual, Strachey is unwilling to accommodate CarringtonÕs physical desires, but their relationship develops passionately on other levels. When the two set up house together, they attempt to live an unconventional, honest life away from the restrictive conventions of English society and nearby London. How successful they are in cultivating this life comprises the rest of the film. What makes Carrington so appealing despite its occasional narrative lulls are the performances by Pryce and Thompson. Both warrant praise, but PryceÕs ability to make us grow to like Strachey, an excruciatingly fussy and somewhat self-centered man, is both subtle and powerful. As the wide-eyed painter whose life is lived for another, ThompsonÕs restrained performance evokes empathy. The acting is enhanced by Denis LenoirÕs camera that captures the charming quality and rich detail of the English homes and countryside in which Carrington and Strachey spend their time together. The film also retains ties to its literary roots through its segmentation into six "chapters" marked by exquisitely decorated title sequences. Additionally, the end titles share screen space with CarringtonÕs paintings, a collection of art that displays her vivid sense of color and perceptive ability to capture the personality of her subjects. HamptonÕs Carrington ends powerfully with the consequences of such a Òself-abasingÓ love echoing throughout the theatre. The price Carrington pays for her love may seem high, but as she tells one character regarding relationships, ÒYou always have to put up with something.Ó (11/22/95)

3.5 stars (A.M.)

Village


CASINO

D: Martin Scorsese; with Robert De Niro, Sharon Stone, Joe Pesci, James Woods, Don Rickles, Alan King, Kevin Pollak, L.Q. Jones. (R, 178 min.)
That Martin Scorsese is one of the modern masters of cinema is a fact that is reiterated through each of his movies. He always struggles to find new strategies for seeing beneath the surface of things and for new approaches to the telling of stories. Casino, however, cannot be viewed as one of ScorseseÕs masterpieces. Yet, while certainly less than successful, IÕm reluctant to call it a failure. Because, then, IÕd have to revoke my love relationship with the filmÕs spectacular opening sequence (letÕs just say it begins with a magnificent bang). The term ÒfailureÓ would also negate the novelty of certain shots and scenes, like the overhead shot of Las Vegas that presents the city as a mecca of light in an otherwise barren sea of darkness. Leave it to Scorsese to expose the Vegas gestalt in a new and orignal manner. Eye-opening material like this is peppered throughout the movie. Then, of course, it is always a pleasure to watch De Niro at work, especially when at work in a juicy role like that of Sam ÒAceÓ Goldstein, the MobÕs consummate bookie chosen by the bosses to front their ÒlegitÓ Vegas casino. Believing in De Niro as a Jew is a bit of a stretch, however heÕs good enough that you donÕt dwell on how you can take the goy out of Little Italy butÉ. Better than watching De Niro work alone is the pleasure of watching De Niro working a scene with Joe Pesci, who is cast as Nicky Santoro, the New York muscle brought in to smooth over the casinoÕs inevitable rough spots. And to answer the question on everyoneÕs lips - Can Sharon Stone cut it? - well, yes and no. She fares better than any of her previous work might have led you to expect, but no one will ever mistake her for an acting giant. The problems with her characterization can largely be laid at the feet of Scorsese, a filmmaker whose body of work has never evidenced much sensitivity toward his female characters. For every Alice DoesnÕt Live Here Anymore and Boxcar Bertha there are dozens of Johnny Boys and Travis Bickles roaming the Mean Streets, dividing women up into the virtuous and the fallen. StoneÕs top-of-the-heap casino hustler could be a fascinating character, but in Casino she is simply there to be the object of ScorseseÕs affections and subsequent scorn. The story is about what it is like for Ace living with her and living without her; not the other way around. Scorsese depicts the boysÕ clubs, whether the movie is The Last Temptation of Christ, The Last Waltz, The Color of Money, Cape Fear or GoodFellas. And speaking of GoodFellas, that movie may just be the source of many of CasinoÕs shortfalls. Casino reminds you in too many ways of the brilliance of GoodFellas, and in a way that dooms Casino to remain in its shadow. It more than just the resonant re-pairings of De Niro and Pesci and novelist/co-scriptwriter Nicholas Pileggi and Scorsese. Structurally, it tries to ape the climactic build-up of GoodFellas, but never quite blasts off as the climax of GoodFellas so viscerally does. Casino never really seems to have a point, and in a movie just a couple minutes shy of three hours, that really becomes a palpable problem. As a whole, the movie does not crap out at the table, but neither does it come up with a fistful of dollars. (11/22/95)

3.0 stars (M.B.)

Great Hills, Lake Creek, Lincoln, Movies 12, Riverside, Roundrock, Westgate


COPYCAT

D: Jon Amiel; with Sigourney Weaver, Holly Hunter, Dermot Mulroney, William McNamara, Will Patton, Harry Connick, Jr. (R, 110 min.)
Serial killers are in vogue in the movies Ð witness the popular and critical success of Seven, an exquisite piece of in-your-gut filmmaking if there ever was one. Copycat is also about a serial killer, but itÕs too gimmicky to knock you on your ass; you may marvel at some of the narrative turns, but you wonÕt lose yourself in this movie. The plot wrinkles here are two-fold: a highly intelligent killer who mimics the murders of AmericaÕs infamous from the Boston Strangler to Jeffrey Dahmer, and an agoraphobic forensic psychologist whoÕs unwillingly drawn into helping solve the slayings. ItÕs an occasionally entertaining ride, although one fraught with numerous logic holes. For instance, why must the stupidity of the police be inversely proportionate to the smarts of the killer? The filmÕs screenplay offers a couple of genuine surprises Ð the murdererÕs planned piece de resistance is unexpected Ð but thereÕs an overall pedestrian feeling about it, particularly in its killer-gets-his ending. In the ostentatious role of the celebrated criminologist who shuts herself off from the world, Weaver perfects the details of her character, down to the constant off-and-on grapplings with a pair of eyeglasses. Hunter is all no-nonsense as a detective investigating the seemingly unrelated murders, but if she isnÕt careful, those tics and mannerisms may soon become an acting clichŽ. Her symbiotic rhythm with fellow detective Mulroney, however, is pretty good; their characters are appealingly in sync with each other. Despite the freshness of their chemistry, most of Copycat feels way too familiar. As its title indicates, itÕs lacking in imagination, a movie with too few original thoughts in its head. (10/27/95)

2.5 stars (S.D.)

Great Hills, Highland, Movies 12


THE CROSSING GUARD

D: Sean Penn; with Jack Nicholson, David Morse, Anjelica Huston, Robin Wright, Piper Laurie, Richard Bradford, David Baerwald, Robbie Robertson, John Savage. (R, 117 min.)
Onscreen and off, Sean Penn always makes it clear that he is not one to be trifled with. He brings that same raw intensity to his work as a film director. His seething energy is perfectly suited to the subject matter of The Crossing Guard, which he wrote and directed as his second filmmaking project. The movie stars Jack Nicholson as Freddy Gale, a man whose entire life becomes undone following the hit-and-run death of his young daughter. David Morse co-stars as the unfortunate driver, John Booth (not a terribly subtle name for a murderer). Gale has never been able to get past his grief and anger Ð emotions that become so overwhelming that they sunder his marriage, poison his relationship with his two young sons, and fill his life with the sole purpose of revenge Ð but until he can accomplish that mission he passes the time with work, booze, and strippers. The Crossing Guard begins with BoothÕs release from prison where he has just completed his sentence for the vehicular homicide years ago. We know that this is the day Gale has been waiting for because the day is dramatically highlighted on his otherwise blank wall calendar. ItÕs moments like this interspersed throughout the film during which you become all too aware of the na•ve clumsiness of PennÕs visual style, and though it distances you momentarily, the raw emotions of the piece quickly pull you back in. Certainly, one need not be a parent to appreciate the all-consuming dimensions of GaleÕs sorrow and rise from the living grave in which he buried himself alongside his daughter. John BoothÕs sensitivity to the situation is what weÕre not prepared for: He acknowledges that his actions have caused death and irreparable unhappiness to others yet he, himself, is not an unhappy man. The confrontations between the two men are jagged and explosive. Much of the time, The Crossing GuardÕs tone is reminiscent of an off-the-cuff Cassavetes film, seeming as though the speeches are impromptu exercises and exorcisms. There is also an inevitable voyeurism that enters the picture due to the presence of Angelica Huston as GaleÕs ex-wife Mary. She is the parent who figured out a way to move forward with her life despite her grief, a fact that irks Gale and is the source of continuing rows between the former partners. Nicholson seems to spring into his most recognizable manic acting mode during these disputes, and we can only speculate about what personal depths these former lovers, Nicholson and Huston, have drawn upon to reach such searing verisimilitude. Such reflections also come into play during (PennÕs ex-wife) Robin WrightÕs appearances as BoothÕs love interest. With The Crossing Guard, Penn shows that he has the stuff it takes to expose ugly, gaping wounds and stare at the oozing innards. His next task as a filmmaker is learning how to surgically debride the wounds. (12/1/95)

2.5 stars (M.B.)

Village


GET SHORTY

D: Barry Sonnenfeld; with John Travolta, Gene Hackman, Rene Russo, Danny DeVito, Dennis Farina, Delroy Lindo, James Gandolfini, David Paymer. (R, 105 min.)
ItÕs said that Hollywood can be a tough and ruthless town, a real killer. Therefore, who better to grab all that bull by the horns than an out-and-out, legitimate gangster? ThatÕs the premise of this very funny new comedy Get Shorty. When a small-time loan shark from Miami, Chili Palmer (Travolta), is sent to Los Angeles to find a dry cleaner who skipped on his debt, this movie-loving gangster seizes the opportunity to change careers. ChiliÕs trail has led him to Harry Zimm (Hackman, in one of the best performances of his already outstanding career) of Zimm Filmz, a one-man production empire that churns out cheesy movies starring HarryÕs B-movie queen girlfriend Karen Flores (Russo). In his perpetual quest for funding, Harry has built up a hefty Vegas debt and, in turn, borrows from some L.A. gangsters (Lindo and Gandolfini) in order to keep his affairs afloat. But this is Hollywood, babe, where all the waiters are actors, the video store clerks are directors, and the gangsters are Òinvestors.Ó Thus, with a story pitch about the runaway dry cleaner and some assistance with funding acquisition, Chili is now a producer. Get Shorty was adapted from an Elmore Leonard novel by screenwriter Scott Frank (Little Man Tate). The film is wickedly hilarious but more in a droll and knowing kind of sense than a har-de-har-har manner. Director Sonnenfeld (the Addams Family films) originally worked as a cinematographer and his eye for composition truly shows. The performances are all great. Travolta demonstrates that his Pulp Fiction return to stardom was no one-trick fluke; Hackman works against type and walks away with many of the filmÕs best comic bits; Russo does a delightful turn as a scream queen who sees a brighter future in producing; Lindo creates a wonderful wiseguy whoÕd kill to get into the film business; and DeVito creates a one-of-a-kind portrait of the actor whoÕs at the top of everyoneÕs A-list. The only slip-up here is with the characterization of the mob guy played by Dennis Farina: ItÕs an awkward and unbelievable mixture of violent menace and ridiculous buffoonery. Get Shorty creates its own distinct rhythm that, takes a few sequences to adjust to and, perhaps, is a bit too slow overall. One thing is certain: Danny DeVitoÕs production company Jersey Films is turning into a major industry force. After a slow start with Hoffa, the company scored big with Reality Bites and John TravoltaÕs comeback Pulp Fiction. Get Shorty is sure to continue that success. (10/20/95)

3.5 stars (M.B.)

Arbor, Highland, Movies 12, Westgate


GOLDENEYE

D: Martin Campbell; with Pierce Brosnan, Sean Bean, Izabella Scorupco, Famke Janssen, Joe Don Baker, Robbie Coltrane, Desmond Llewelyn. (PG-13, 129 min.)
After a six-year hiatus Ð and the end of the Cold War Ð 007 is back in action. Timothy Dalton has been replaced by Remington SteeleÕs Brosnan, and to terrific effect: BrosnanÕs wittier, sexier, and an altogether more traditional Bond than Dalton, who always seemed to be trying too hard to fill the sizable Sean Connery/Roger Moore shoes. In almost every aspect, GoldenEye makes a conscious effort to hearken back to the days of the ÒclassicÓ Bond of You Only Live Twice and Diamonds Are Forever. The stunts, the visuals, and miniatures, and even the female villains are all in the mold of the best Bonds of years past. This time out, 007 takes on a mysterious renegade Russian pair, headed by the traitorous General Ouromov (Gottfried John) and one of the most outrageous villainesses in memory, Famke JohnsonÕs Xenia Onatopp (ÒOn the top?Ó Bond queries). Johnson almost steals the show with her delicious portrayal of a deadly, black-clad siren who brings new meaning to the term Òsex and violence.Ó Ouromov and Onatopp are out to steal GoldenEye, a reportedly nonexistent satellite warfare system designed by the Soviets and then abandoned at the end of the Cold War. The mastermind behind their plan is Janus, a mysterious (is there any other kind?) madman with direct links to BondÕs past. Everything else is exactly what youÕd expect from the most successful franchise in film history. Certainly, there are plot holes as large as the craters in Moonraker, but they do absolutely nothing to slow down director CampbellÕs turbo-powered staging: from an epic tank chase through narrow Russian alleyways to some stunning and remarkable aerial camerawork (much of the credit must go to longtime Bond miniature designer Derek Meddings), this is escapist entertainment at its finest. Check your political correctness at the door and have a blast Ð this is the best Bond since The Spy Who Loved Me. (And yes, the QÕs gadgetry is top notch.) (11/17/95)

3.0 stars (M.S.)

Great Hills, Lake Creek, Lincoln, Movies 12, Northcross, Riverside, Roundrock, Westgate


HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS

D: Jodie Foster; with Holly Hunter, Robert Downey, Jr., Anne Bancroft, Charles Durning, Dylan McDermott, Geraldine Chaplin, Steve Guttenberg, Cynthia Stevenson, Claire Danes. (PG-13, 104 min.)
I wished I liked this movie more than I did. Ironically, thatÕs something of the feeling I think director Foster is trying to capture in Home for the Holidays Ð not in regard to her movie, of course, but in regard to that universal feeling we all share about the ritual of going home: the dread, the constant reminders of why you left, the corny predictability, and, despite it all, the overwhelming comfort gained from the knowledge that there exists a ÒhomeÓ to which you can return. Maybe itÕs just that I have higher ambitions for family life than the port-in-a-storm scenario seemingly posed by Home for the Holidays. Overall, the movie stresses the more painful and awkward moments; moments that might be classified as ÒheartwarmingÓ are rare. This results in a very cynical tone and I suspect that was not the desired effect. Perhaps the aim was for a tone that was more knowing and wryly comical, but as it stands, Home for the Holidays is a very mixed bag. The performances are all pleasurable to watch, although I must admit that HunterÕs mannerisms are starting to seem a bit worn to me. However, Downey, Jr., as HunterÕs gay brother, can do no wrong in my book. Durning and Bancroft make a believable, long-married couple and BancroftÕs homage to her role as Mrs. Robinson in The Graduate as she strips down to her bra and slip is just breathtaking. Yet too many things about the movie are implausible. Claudia (Hunter), who begins the movie with a bad head cold, loses it suddenly and miraculously with nary a trace. ItÕs also hard to believe that someone like Claudia who journeys home out of a sense of obligation and Ògood daughterÓ responsibilities would, in turn, allow her own daughter (Danes) to stay home and not also make the trek. I could go on with examples for a while. But the big thing that I canÕt figure is the movieÕs ending which shows Claudia giving in and taking a chance on love. Is that what this whole family hegira was aboutÉ to find a handsome stranger and start all over again? There so many likable moments in Home for the Holidays that nail situations so aptly that itÕs a shame that there are so many more moments that leave you scratching your head and wondering what to think. (11/3/95)

2.5 stars (M.B.)

Arbor, Movies 12


IT TAKES TWO

D: Andy Tennant; with Kirstie Alley, Steve Guttenberg, Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, Philip Bosco, Jane Sibbett. (PG, 97 min.)
Thirty-four years ago, I sat in a theatre watching Hayley Mills (and Hayley Mills) switch identities and plot to exorcise a wicked witch of a step-mother-to-be in order to reunite their father and mother. I was eight years old. Today I sat in a theatre with my own eight-year old daughter watching the dreaded (or beloved, depending on your age and attitude) Olsen twins scheming to expel a venomous social climber in favor of a lovable social worker. The story update, while suffering its own share of absurdities, does away with the original notion of twins separated at near-birth to be raised, unaware of one another, by their acrimoniously divorced parents. I donÕt remember thinking that setup particularly odd or hearing of any fevered public outcry about such heinous behavior back then, but no doubt a hue and cry would be heard today. This version solves that p.c. problem by making the twins identical strangers, one a poor streetwise orphan, the other the pampered, sometimes overlooked daughter of a sweet but preoccupied cellular baron. Say what you will about those Olsen twins Ð whose eight-year run on the phenomenally successful TV sitcom Full House has turned them into a small industry of videos, books, and movies Ð they are pros. The two pull off accents and attitudes with aplomb and manage to avoid too much smart-alecky posturing or too many goofy gazes. Some of the credit must go to Tennant, whose crisp direction maximizes the fun and minimizes the sentimentality. AlleyÕs Diane Barrows makes a frumpishly endearing romantic lead while GuttenbergÕs Roger Callaway perfectly captures the bewildered demeanor of a dad under the influence of too many females, and the two enjoy a credible on-screen chemistry. Jane SibbettÕs extravagant stint as RogerÕs exorbitantly groomed, neurotic fiancŽe, Clarice Kensington, makes her the perfect target for humiliation, but the movie doesnÕt capitalize on that as much as it might have. In the era of Home Alones and Bushwhacked, I should probably bite my tongue for even suggesting that a few more well-placed pranks would be welcome. And, besides that, itÕs nit-picking. I admit, I was prepared to rain all over those evil little Olsen twinsÕ parade; first, just for being those icky little Olsen twins and, second, for tinkering with a 1961 classic. But while It Takes Two is no classic, neither is it an all-out attackable bomb. ItÕs a fairly sweet, mildly funny, squeaky clean little movie that children will enjoy. But (ha!) it only took one Hayley Mills where now it takes two. (11/24/95)

2.0 stars (H.C.)

Highland, Lake Creek, Movies 12, Roundrock, Westgate


KIDS

D: Larry Clark; with Leo Fitzpatrick, Justin Pierce, Chloe Sevigny. (NR, 90 min.)
For once, the hype is right on the money. Kids is an emotional sucker punch, a raw, dirty, disturbing piece of cinŽma vŽritŽ filmmaking that simultaneously hooks and repulses you from its opening scenes of the teenaged Lothario Telly adrift in his favorite pastime: deflowering young girls. After the shockingly on-target coitus during which the practiced youth assuages his young loverÕs fears with hollow promises of respect and ongoing warmth (his by-rote words carry all the weight of a thrice-used condom, but the virgin in question is oblivious in the heat of the moment), Telly Ð the self-proclaimed Òvirgin surgeonÓ Ð cruises off to hook up with pal Casper, who plies him for details of the tryst, living vicariously through his friend. On the other side of the city (New York), Jenny, a past conquest of the Òde-virginizerÓ goes for an HIV screening as moral support for a friend. The friend comes up negative, but Jenny, with Telly being her one and only lover (and that was last summer, with no phone calls or tender words since), is stricken to find out sheÕs a carrier. Frantic, confused, and afraid, she numbly wanders the parks and boroughs of a sweaty, grimy New York trying to find Telly to alert him to the situation. Director Clark (previously best known for his gritty photos of urban street kids and hollow-eyed junkies) uses JennyÕs dazed meanderings as a way to explore the seamy underbelly of AmericaÕs urban youth. We see Telly and his friends hanging out, getting drunk, smoking dope, fighting, fucking (thereÕs no sex here, no lovemaking, just simple unromantic rutting), and generally acting without any moral compass whatsoever. TheyÕre kids playing at being grown-ups playing at being time bombs. ClarkÕs brilliant eye keeps the film running as an edgy, in-your-face observation of what many kids consider a normal dayÕs events. The loud public outcry that accompanied the release of Kids Ð that it was little more than an exploitative attempt at teenage titillation Ð is as silly as TellyÕs come-ons. Anyone whoÕs been out clubbing in an urban area after 2am will find few surprises in what Clark depicts. Shocking, yes, but hardly surprising; the film, perhaps not unintentionally, feels very much like a documentary. Disturbing, harrowing, visceral, and even sporadically humorous, Kids is one of those rare films that begs the description Òa must-see.Ó For once, itÕs the truth. (9/1/95)

4.5 stars (M.S.)

Dobie


LEAVING LAS VEGAS

D: Mike Figgis; with Nicolas Cage, Elisabeth Shue, Julian Sands. (R, 111 min.)
Leaving Las Vegas hits you like a breath of fresh air coupled with a 100-proof chaser. The movie is an amazing, bracing, funny, audacious, tender, and sobering piece of filmmaking. Few movies have ever dared to be this remorseless in their portraits of addiction Ð in this case, alcoholism. Nicolas Cage plays Ben Sanderson, a hopeless drunk with no desire to quit and no overriding need to live. So, when his drunkenly rank behavior causes him to be let go from his Hollywood executive job, he takes his severance pay and gathers all his possessions and tosses some of it into large, plastic trash bags that he leaves at the curb and burns all the rest of his stuff, pulls his convertible out of the driveway and heads to Las Vegas, where he plans to drink himself to death. Hey, itÕs a plan. Ben has no regrets, creating a story thatÕs quite different from all the alcoholism movies, like The Lost Weekend and The Days of Wine and Roses, that have come before. Ben can no longer remember if his wife left him because he drinks or if he drinks because his wife left. The first time we see Ben in the movie, he is gaily wheeling his shopping cart through the liquor store aisles, stocking his basket to the brim. Cage plays the part with complete abandon, creating a searingly immortal character. Part buffoon, part poet, part lout, and part angel, Ben is no easy character to pin down. Just when you think youÕre about to witness his sensitive side, he does something crass like plummeting through a glass table. In Las Vegas, he becomes taken with a $500-a-night hooker named Sera (Shue), who, in turn, takes a shine to him. Shue is wonderful in the role, surpassing any of the more wholesome work sheÕs done before. Yet, her role is also one of the problems of the film. Though sheÕs a good soul who is willing to accept Ben on his own terms for whatever brief time they may have together, she is essentially little more than the whore with a heart of gold. Even the movieÕs breakaway scenes of Sera talking to her therapist add little depth to the character and remind us far too much of Klute. Her story line also builds to a horrifying and disturbing climax, that really seems like an unnecessary sidetrack. Director Mike Figgis makes a valiant return to the tenor of some of his earlier and darker work like Stormy Monday and Internal Affairs, rather than the recent missteps heÕs taken with films like Mr. Jones and The Browning Version. Figgis also composed the soundtrack which is sung by Sting. I suppose it must also be mentioned that the novel on which the film was based was penned by John OÕBrien, who committed suicide two weeks after learning that the book was bought for the movies. Leaving Las Vegas is redolent with cameos: Look for everyone from Richard Lewis to Carey Lowell to Bob Rafelson to Lou Rawls. Leaving Las Vegas is the kind of movie that feels like a terrific place to visit, but you know in your heart that youÕd never want to dwell there. (11/22/95)

3.5 stars (M.B.)

Village


MONEY TRAIN

D: Joseph Ruben; with Wesley Snipes, Woody Harrelson, Jennifer Lopez, Robert Blake, Chris Cooper. (R, 110 min.)
Wesley and Woody as a pair of bickering brothers who work for the New York City Transit Police? IÕll bet Ivan Reitman is kicking himself right about now. Joseph Ruben (who made the brilliant The Stepfather in 1987 and seems to have been heading downhill ever since) offers up this bizarrely confused holiday action-fest with the aforementioned duo as John and Charlie, whose workaday world below the teeming streets of Christmastime Manhattan is upset when younger brother CharlieÕs spiraling gambling debts threaten to destroy one, then both, of the brothers. As longtime NYPD officers, theyÕve watched the fabled Òmoney trainÓ Ð that is, the heavily armored train that daily carries the millions of dollars in subway revenues to the bank Ð roar past under the watchful eye of megalomaniacal subway head Donald Patterson (an oddly reptilian Robert Blake, chewing scenery like Vincent Price on a bad day). While actually foster brothers, the two spar, fight, bicker, and generally carry on like any other brothers. When a curvaceous newcomer in the form of LopezÕs Grace Santiago becomes their newest partner in crime-fighting, both siblingsÕ libidos are kicked into high gear, and the sibling rivalry begins in earnest. When CharlieÕs debts and overall attitude land him in hot water with the mob, he embarks on a none-too-elaborate plan to rob the money train on New YearÕs Eve. ItÕs up to John and Grace to stop, and/or save him, but what actually needs to be saved here is RubenÕs runaway film, which never quite decides whether it wants to be a buddy picture, a serious portrait of quarrelsome sibs, or a flat-out, balls-to-the-brake-pedal Holiday Action Extravaganza. Regrettably, it ends up being none of these, when it could have fared quite well if only somebody had made up his or her mind. ThereÕs genuine chemistry between Snipes and Harrelson (as evidenced by their previous pairing in White Men CanÕt Jump), and it works here, too, to a degree. Just when Ruben gets to the melodrama, he seems duty-bound to fly off on some other tangent, i.e. Òmindless action,Ó which stops the film dead in its tracks, unlike the titular train, which Ð you guessed it Ð just keeps going, and going, andÉ. RubenÕs no slouch. He knows how to work both genres, but the constant intermingling of the two is enough to shake anyone, and in the end, Money Train comes off like a pale hybrid of The Taking of Pelham One Two Three and some nameless buddy cop picture. Even the action is tarnished by the confused glare of a frighteningly schizophrenic script. With BlakeÕs maddening black Astroturf coif thrown in for good measure (what were they thinking?), youÕre never sure whether to laugh or cringe and, so, end up doing both. (12/1/95)

2.0 stars (M.S.)

Great Hills, Lake Creek, Lincoln, Movies 12, Northcross, Riverside, Roundrock, Westgate


NICK OF TIME

D: John Badham; with Johnny Depp, Christopher Walken, Charles S. Dutton, Peter Strauss, Roma Maffia, Gloria Reuben, Marsha Mason. (R, 89 min.)
Nick of Time derives its minute-by-minute pacing from Fred ZinnemannÕs High Noon and HitchcockÕs Rope, with each scene unfolding in Òreal timeÓ before the audienceÕs eyes. ItÕs a technique that hasnÕt been used in some time, and while Badham (Stakeout, WarGames) pushes the gimmick to its fullest (thereÕs hardly a shot here that isnÕt accompanied by the relentless ticking of a clock or has a digital clock framed somewhere in the background), it still fails to engage the viewer in anything but an extended waiting game. Depp is Gene Watson, a California accountant whose daughter is kidnapped by a pair of terrorist thugs (Maffia and Walken, who seems to be playing Walken playing Walken ad nauseam). They then demand that Gene take a revolver and assassinate a local political figure within the next 90 minutes or face the brutal execution of his child. As it turns out, GeneÕs target is none other than the incumbent governor (Mason, in a very credible performance). When Gene attempts to reveal the plot unfolding around him to the governorÕs aides and security, he finds the long arm of conspiracy reaches far and wide indeed. Depp as daddy is a stretch, but to his credit, he manages to pull it off. Confusing backstory about the father/daughter pair returning from MommyÕs funeral only clutters what is essentially a one-note film, but initial lack of interest in DeppÕs character Ð where he comes from, why heÕs here Ð also unfortunately thins out what should have been a meatier lead-in. Badham continually ratchets up the suspense quotient, cutting from scene to scene with progressive speed and flair, but thatÕs barely enough to keep you on the edge of your seat. Most of the nail-biting comes from wondering if Walken is actually acting or whether somewhere between The Deer Hunter and True Romance the actor blew his De Niro fuse and is actually this way in real life. Hey, now thatÕs suspense! (11/22/95)

2.5 stars (M.S.)

Arbor, Lake Creek, Lincoln, Movies 12, Roundrock, Westgate


NOW AND THEN

D: Lesli Linka Glatter; with Christina Ricci, Gaby Hoffman, Thora Birch, Ashleigh Aston Moore, Rosie OÕDonnell, Demi Moore, Melanie Griffith, Rita Wilson. (PG-13, 96 min.)
We need more films about girls Ð big girls and little girls. But as much as Lesli Linka GlatterÕs debut feature promises to be a Stand By Me for girls, Now and Then fails in its attempt to portray both the present and the past with equal success. ItÕs sweet and itÕs often funny, but ultimately its slice-of-life approach tries too hard to incorporate current events like the Vietnam War. Set predominantly in the summer of 1970, Now and Then describes a summer in which four 12-year-olds from Shelby, Indiana, save their money to buy a room of their own in the form of a treehouse from Sears. Roberta (Ricci), Samantha (Hoffman), Teeny (Birch), and Chrissy (Aston Moore) are four friends who spend the summer conducting seances, trading pranks with the local family of terrorizing boys, and saving their Òtreehouse dollars.Ó The four young actresses effectively convey that on-the-verge feeling between puberty and teen-hood, and smaller roles played by Janeane Garofalo, Bonnie Hunt, and Cloris Leachman provide entertaining distractions. However, less effective are the present-day segments in which the girls are played by an interesting combination of bankable adult actresses: OÕDonnell as Roberta, Demi Moore as Samantha, Griffith as Teeny, and Wilson as Chrissy. Trailers for the film shrewdly play both sides against the middle by marketing the film toward adults and young girls, but viewers expecting to see the adult actresses as much as their younger counterparts will be disappointed. Bracketing the film in two segments that bring Teeny and Samantha back to Shelby for the birth of ChrissyÕs first child (delivered by Roberta, now an obstetrician), the scenes and the actresses fall flat in an attempt to cram a reunion, a birth, and a reconciliation with the past into less than 20 minutes of screen time. Now and Then somewhat successfully pushes all the right emotional buttons by depicting themes common to most young girls, but I expected more, not less, from the now in Now and Then. (10/27/95)

2.5 stars (A.M.)

Highland


POWDER

D: Victor DeSalva; with Mary Steenburgen, Sean Patrick Flanery, Lance Henricksen, Jeff Goldblum, Susan Tyrell. (PG-13, 111 min.)
Halfway through this visually arresting, controversy-embroiled film, I found myself thinking that perhaps this might have been similar to what might have resulted if Rod Serling had written and directed Forrest Gump instead of Robert Zemeckis. Certainly, PowderÕs director Victor DeSalva is acquainted with The Twilight Zone: ThereÕs plenty of SerlingÕs brand of misty-eyed fantasy and loss of innocence here. But DeSalva isnÕt really a storyteller. Serling was (though not beyond that seminal showÕs first two seasons). PowderÕs premise starts strong Ð a teenaged genius suffering from the dual pangs of albinism and an odd propensity to attract large jolts of electrical current is thrust into the world when his caretakers die and he becomes a ward of the state. Taken to the state home for wayward and parentless youth (exactly what state this is weÕre never told, nor does it matter), Powder (Flanery) is immediately and predictably ostracized by his bullying peers. Only the social worker Mary Steenburgen is in his corner and, perhaps, HenricksenÕs gruff local sheriff. When given a chance to attend the regular high school on a trial basis, he literally electrifies both his peers and local science prof Goldblum. As a tale of an outsider and teenage angst taken to its dangerous, passionate extreme, the film has echoes of everything from Brian DePalmaÕs Carrie to Nicolas RoegÕs The Man Who Fell to Earth, and, at times, itÕs every bit as exhilarating as either of those films. DeSalva stumbles, though, when he overplays his emotional hand. Subplots having to do with family reconciliations and cut-and-paste schoolyard bullies constantly threaten to drag the film down to the level of a trippy after-school special. It never quite falls flat on its face Ð FlaneryÕs nervous, riveting portrayal of Powder just wonÕt let it Ð but occasionally it dips mighty close (as in the predictable doomed-romance clichŽ). Despite the obvious problems, though, Powder retains a lyrical shine. ItÕs a modern fable, and at the heart of it, a rather depressing one at that. But that doesnÕt make it any less magical. (11/3/95)

3.0 stars (M.S.)

Roundrock


SEVEN

D: David Fincher; with Brad Pitt, Morgan Freeman, Gwyneth Paltrow, Richard Roundtree, R. Lee Ermey, John C. McGinley. (R, 107 min.)
Director Fincher, whose last outing was the butchered-by-the-studio Alien 3, seems more comfortable working on the terrestrial level in this vicious, solid, moody slice of Nineties noir. Pitt and Freeman play Mills and Sommerset, a mismatched pair of Gotham detectives (and is there any other kind?) who stumble across a serial killer whose motivation seems to be lifted directly from the classics: Each victim is slaughtered according to one of the seven deadly sins, and passages from DanteÕs Divine Comedy keep turning up as mocking clues. The catch is that FreemanÕs world-weary, methodical Sommerset only has seven more days until retirement, and the case-happy Mills, a recent transplant to the city with his lovely wife (Paltrow), is forcing him to stick around. Fincher, whose work in the music video field is readily apparent here, is a powerful director when heÕs given half a chance, and Seven is a perfect showcase for what he can do without benefit of MTV (although the unnerving main and end titles, set to music by Nine Inch Nails and David Bowie, respectively, could have come, part and parcel, from that unholy network). Positively dripping with a soggy, oppressive atmosphere, the film is blanketed with a miasma of madness: The city itself is the enemy here, and the mysterious quarry only a symptom of a much more insatiable disease. Freeman is fine as the recalcitrant, literary Sommerset, and Pitt is, well, heÕs not as bad as you might think, although his eagerness to please sometimes gets the better of him. I canÕt help but think that if unknowns were cast in the principal roles weÕd be seeing something almost as disturbing as John McNaughtonÕs seminal Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer but, I suppose, thatÕs Hollywood. Fincher keeps the film moving at a grimly frenetic pace, using intertitles to keep track of time (itÕs always raining here) and knocking you out with a one-two conclusion that you may see coming but that rocks you anyhow. A very nasty piece of work, indeed. (9/29/95)

3.5 stars (M.S.)

Highland


TOY STORY

D: John Lasseter; with the voices of Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Wallace Shawn, Don Rickles, Jim Varney, John Ratzenberger, Annie Potts, Laurie Metcalf, Penn Jillette. (G, 81 min.)
Pixar and Disney join forces and take the next great leap forward in animated films with this moving, hilarious, and ultimately groundbreaking tale about the secret life of toys. John LasseterÕs Pixar computer animation company first gained fame in the mid-Eighties with a series of then-astounding computer-generated short films including RedÕs Dream, Knick-Knack, and the seminal Tin Toy, which featured the first-ever attempt to create a computer-animated human. You can see how much times have changed in Toy Story: The film has plenty of humans running around, in addition to the myriad toys of the title. Woody (Hanks) is young AndyÕs favorite plaything, a stuffed cowboy with a pull-string voicebox that lets him spout such western witticisms as ÒSomebodyÕs poisoned the water in the well!Ó When AndyÕs not around, Woody comes to life, overseeing the other toys (Mr. Potato Head, Slinky Dog, little green plastic army guys, and all the rest you probably remember from your own childhood) as their unofficial leader. When AndyÕs birthday rolls around, Woody and company anxiously await the possible arrival of new, better playthings. Although protesting otherwise, itÕs all too obvious that WoodyÕs worried that heÕll end up obsolete and forgotten in the shadow of some G.I. Joe or Tonka toy. WoodyÕs fears seem justified, to a point: The hit of AndyÕs birthday is his new Buzz Lightyear doll (Allen), a gizmo-laden, slam-bang action figure that not only talks, but has lasers, wings, and a mean karate chop. Before long, a jealous Woody is plotting ways to get rid of the interloper. Things go awry when both Buzz and Woody are accidentally lost in the world outside of AndyÕs house. When they find themselves in the clutches of Sid, the vicious, toy-destroying brat next door, itÕs up to Woody to come to terms with his jealousies and find a way home for the two of them. Like Tim BurtonÕs The Nightmare Before Chrismas, Toy StoryÕs brilliant animation is its chief draw; unlike BurtonÕs film, however, Toy Story has a lot more going for it that just eye-popping visuals. The film actually has more in common with traditionally animated films such as The Brave Little Toaster and DisneyÕs more contemporary work. Toy Story is just that: a great story supported and enhanced (but never overshadowed) by its stunning animation. All the characters Ð from AndyÕs Bucket oÕ Soldiers running tiny recon missions throughout the household, to Ham the piggy bank and all the rest Ð are fresh, fully realized, and easily identifiable characters. The evil (sort of) Sid is a veritable American male archetype as well; is there anyone who didnÕt blow up, melt with a magnifying glass, or otherwise deface a few GI Joes and Matchbox cars in his time? LasseterÕs Toy Story is a comic and animated gem, the kind of holiday film you actually look forward to seeing again and again (and if you have kids, youÕre almost certain to go more than once). (11/22/95)

4.0 stars (M.S.)

Arbor, Highland, Lake Creek, Lakehills, Movies 12, Northcross, Riverside, Roundrock


WILD BILL

D: Walter Hill; with Jeff Bridges, Ellen Barkin, John Hurt, Diane Lane, David Arquette, Bruce Dern. (R, 91 min.)
Walter Hill presents his personalized take on the legend of Wild Bill Hickok in this new Western. HillÕs speculations are hardly the problem here, however. Basic story structure is the more the problem with Wild Bill and for a director as seasoned as Hill (The Warriors, Southern Comfort, 48 Hours, The Long Riders), such a jumble is inexcusable. The movie opens with HickokÕs funeral and when Calamity Jane (Barkin) turns to Charley Prince (Hurt) and says that no one knew Bill better than he, we can see that weÕre in for trouble. Thus begins the convoluted string of flashbacks within flashbacks during which people who were not present recall specific events in HickokÕs life and we quickly lose track of whoÕs remembering what. What Hill would argue, I suspect, is that the snowball effect of the mythmaking machine is exactly what the film was trying to expose. Heroes cannot chose to become heroes, though individuals can be chosen by others to become heroes. Much was the plight of William Butler Hickok, argues Hill. He did not himself chose to become a legend; people deemed him one through their popular repetition of his deeds. Still, this narrative approach makes for a wildly and needlessly disorienting ride. Hill takes liberties with the Hickok history and IÕm not well enough versed in my Western lore to get into discussions about whether or not Hickok was a syphilitic opium fiend or other such weighty matters. The most original shading in Wild Bill is given to HickokÕs assassin Jack McCall. Hill has adapted ideas presented in the play Fathers and Sons by Thomas Babe and the novel Deadwood by Pete Dexter. While Hill doesnÕt go as far as these works and present McCall as the illegitimate son of Hickok, HillÕs self-penned screenplay does present McCall as the frustrated son of one of HickokÕs former lady loves. As Hickok, Bridges is terrific, conveying the dusty weariness of the Western hero, a man dead at the age of 39 but eternally youthful through the power of myth. ItÕs also interesting to see Barkin cast as the plain Jane frontier legend Calamity Jane. Wild Bill is also a movie that stresses the unpaved muddiness of the frontier. ItÕs a place where everyone has mud on their pants cuffs and skirt hems. Despite its authentic feel for things Western, Wild Bill misses the big picture. (12/1/95)

2.0 stars (M.B.)

Arbor, Highland, Lake Creek, Movies 12, Northcross, Riverside, Roundrock, Westgate



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