mcfly-31

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Reviews

Lethal Weapon 4
(1998)

Lethal Weapon Bore
The longest of the sequels (and in the series, for that matter) is a labored mess of a log-jam of characters and uninvolving plot. To go from drug-runners to gun-runners in the first three films but now dump Chinese immigrants on us is more than a step-down. My theory is that it was more an excuse to go easy on the audience activity-wise so they could allow for the attention to all the new stars.

To start, Rock is shoehorned into the proceedings to rant his way through an endless mire of blathering scenes that seem inspired by a stand-up act. It's as if Donner or the producers said, "Hey, just riff on cell phones and racism. You're funny!" Then you have Li, who utters maybe ten words and smiles creepily in between looking like a martial-arts video game sprite. Pesci is back to bark his way through F-bombs and excessive intrusion; Russo has maybe three scenes, already discarded for The New Kids.

As far as our heroes, Gibson and Glover, they can't even manage to get into "carried on their charms" mode. It's highly apparent both seem to be too tired to participate. The line about "Too old for this sh**" is not just being spoken by Riggs and Murtaugh, it seems to be coming more from Gibson and Glover. Gibson, once so adept at ad-libbing, can only manage a few of his signature Riggs-isms to dig on others; Glover sticks to his usual perplexed screeches of "Riggs!! Riggs!!"

Of course, these films have always been primarily built around its action montages, but they don't even get that right (for the most part) this go-round. Forty-five minutes between action scenes? No, no, no. After a cartoonishly inexplicable one centered around a flame-spraying wackjob, far too much rambling set-up goes on before Gibson finally breaks into a chase of a potential bad dude. They finally manage an impressive stunt featuring a mobile home roaring down a freeway, but when the lives of the characters have become so drab, it's hard to care.

I must mention the one moment where they accurately reached back to the feel of the earlier films. Without going into huge spoiler territory, I'll just say it involves the guys familiar "We go on three" mantra toward the end of the movie. It almost brought tears because it both provided a valid emotional moment, and one of familiarity from the prior entries dealing with a partnership. But it's far too little to give this installment a pass.

The end credits sequence is a sweet "fourth-wall" breaking to give not just the cast, but the producers (and even the casting director!) some screen time, in obvious anticipation that Riggs and Murtaugh have really turned in their badges for good.

The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension
(1984)

please...FOCUS!!
Hate to start a review backward, but I must mention my absolute love of Big Trouble in Little China. Coming from W.D. Richter and hearing of his association with Buck Bonzai, I finally made time to check this one out and see what all the cult fuss was.

So if I like BTILC, I can totally understand a rabid fans loyalty to an overlooked classic. Hence, I won't trash on the Buck Bonzai people who adore this, because it had completely the opposite impression on me. A directionless mash-up of chaotic scenes (mostly chase) that involve a multi-faceted nuerosurgeon, a race of reptilian space crusaders, a troubled woman, and a mad scientist. There's lots of action, and pretty pictures to look at, but most of its ambitions lie in intentionally being incoherent. Like, "Hey, this is kind of oddball, maybe the audience will take it for what it is."

Now, many have. Buck Bonzai is an eccentric mess of indiscriminate themes and antics involving part space opera and half governmental schtick. But its focus changes too often for the goal to be taken seriously. Though I will agree with the diehards that the end credits sequence is one of the most catchy in film history.

Casino
(1995)

odds in favor of Marty fans....
"Goodfellas" takes Vegas sees Scorsese's usual players meandering their way through the expected labyrinth that is Lost Wages, Nevada. The mob portion is kept very brief near the front end, with DeNiro then heading West to man a mob-run casino. There's your basic dealings with skimming, teamsters, the feds, cheats, and whatnot. Pesci is then thrown into the mix as an enforcer to keep everybody who threatens DeNiro, in line. For good measure Stone arrives as an all-flash bimbette who placates well-to-do men with her wiles.

My main problem with the film lied mostly in the Scorsese going shockingly against type. First, we have one of the most passive DeNiro performances of his Marty career, as a (Jewish??) guy I kept screaming at to take some freaking action. He allows those who pose a threat to his world to just walk all over him at an alarmingly high rate. Namely, Stone, whom he inexplicably has some undying love for, despite her personality not going beyond a hot blonde of opportunity. That he could be so incessantly forgiving, made me nuts. I kept praying for the explosive Bobby D. we all know and love to show up, but he never arrived.

Then you have Pesci, basically aping his own "Goodfellas" character, as a leprechaun-esque tough guy whose main fear-striking device is drop F-bombs at top volume. Or kicking the sheeyit out of guys as long as he (Pesci) has others there to watch his back. At least his character takes an unexpected turn that we're told is a huge no-no in the mob culture.

People have always been vastly divided on Stone; some hated her, some were surprised and vaunted high praise. I was pretty much on the fence with her, as her two-note (sexy or drunk) offering had your standard indifference to it.

James Woods is wasted (and realizing who his co-stars were, seemed to go into Pesci mode for the one scene he was allotted), Rickles and Smothers are thrown in for some Vegas flair, with your usual assembly line of reliable Scorsese Italianos rounding out the supporting roles.

Then there's Scorsese himself as they guy at the helm. I've never really been a fan of forced or tortuous violence in a film (the Freddys and Jasons were always quick about it), but where was it here??? Where's the Marty Scorsese of old who covered his filmstock in off-putting gore? The fact that he (finally) shoehorns in some toward the last reel was a real let-down.

The film hardly drags, and the narration was an acceptable technique, but in the end I couldn't have cared less whatever happened to any of these people. Unlike "Goodfellas," where, though the main characters were "villians," I felt so awash in their journey by film's end, that you feel you've really been taken to another place by the actors. Casino, not in the slightest.

At the very least Joe Bob Briggs had more than one scene. Because the drive-in will never dah!

True Grit
(2010)

Truly...mediocre
Not as gloriously wonderful as some are saying. Not as gloriously awful as others have concluded. Just sort of comes on the screen, meanders like a cowpoke for two hours, and heads off back to the barn.

I won't involve the original (never saw it) or the Coen Brothers side of things (not a real fan). This'll be more stand alone than anything else. The umpteenth telling of an "I'm lookin' for the guy who shot my Pa" kinda deal, with a young girl the as the protagonist this time. She seeks out one-eyed, two-fist drinkin' Jeff Bridges to act as her trail boss on the road to her daddy's killer. Matt Damon intrudes as another interested party, and these three head out onto the frontier.

The trio seek shelter, bicker, split up, save each other at the last second from the baddies (repeatedly). Ya know, your basic Western stuff. Fans keep pointing to that that was how this genre was normally constructed in the ol' days, but does that mean we're gonna go for it just one more go 'round? Much too tired a concept to really have any impact in these modern times.

The cinematography is fair, the score is fair, performances as well. Bridges I got used to after about 45 minutes, though his put-on scratchy drawl was so forced, that I felt like I was watching Jeff Bridges, not a separate entity in Marshall Cogburn. Damon came off the most tolerable, not trying to do too much, which could've been his approach considering his limited role in this whole deal.

But much has to be said about Hallie Steinfeld, who is receiving a great deal of break-out credit here. Yes, she's polished, yes, she's extremely skilled. But too much so. Her auto-pilot readings of massively complicated passages caused her to come off completely unrealistic as a 14-year-old girl (yes, I know she's really 14). And because of her lack of hesitation or a moment's thought to her words, she tended to slur a lot of her speech. Too mechanical.

A supporting nod must go out to Barry Pepper as Ned Pepper (you're a Pepper, he's a Pepper...), totally unrecognizable but delightfully engaging as a late-arriving villain. I thought I was watching John Glover (a hundred points if you remember that name) the entire time. The thrashed face, narrow eyes, and Oscar worthy orthodontia.

Josh Brolin? He pops in for a poorly telegraphed cameo as the dolt marauder in question. Some have argued that he's the typical depiction of an unrestrained, simpleton thug. But when you've built up this girl's dangerous quarry for nearly two hours, we want a real presence as the pay-off. Not what Brolin ends up being assigned as.

By credits roll, a real sense of insignifigance swept over me. The film presents its dilemma, follows through on it, and fades away. Never was I bored (even with Coen's penchant for overwrought nonsense) or not intrigued by the next act, but it had no lasting effect when it was all over. Only in the last fifteen minutes did things get the least bit tense or exciting.

No, I wasn't expecting more (again, Coens are not my thing) or less (it's another remake), just something with a bit more kick, substance. They approached it, but didn't quite cross that prairie into greatness.

Ride with caution, buckaroos.

One Night Only
(1986)

thank the lawd they stoppped there....
Skinemax-type cable staple of the late 80s, this Canadian shot flesh fest is appallingly unwatchable 25 years later. Found it on the back end of another tape recently, and decided to revisit. Loaded with flat-chested remedial actresses, cartoonish "chase-and-bop" style gags...and incest??? The two leads are boy and girl cousins who have an odd reunification after years apart. Some sort of unresolved crush goes on between them, springboarded by a near kiss at her apartment. But that ain't the half of it.

This kissing cousin is a working girl waitress at a mom-n-pop slop house who overhears of a local hockey team's upcoming stag party. Most would shrug it off and clock out. Not this chick. She luckily resides with some fellow unscrupulous bimbos who hit the phones to round up all their female friends so they may commandeer said stag party and collect the $5-grand price tag!! Ah, those moralistic 80s.

Utter vacancy ensues, as scores of people run through hallways, faint, giggle, jiggle (their pathetic A-cup breasts), and cavort about in Movie Land as only these events could provide. Don't forget the jealous boy cousin trying to thwart the girl's carnal actions in a poor attempt at romance(???) amid all the chaos. Oh, and one rather large tidbit: despite an 80 minute runtime, at least thirty of those minutes are made up of musical montages. No lie. Thirty minutes. To some poor-man's Pointer Sisters gal group.

Actually had a promising beginning, ala Hot Dog in terms of a small-town sports comedy set-up, and Zann has a cute appeal as sort of trashier Meg Ryan, but this whole thing is far beneath any of its late-night nudie rivals of the time.

Urban Cowboy
(1980)

urban boredom...
I'm sure this film is gospel to several East Texans, but for us city folk, it's just a wholly meandering slog of a movie. I sort of liked how a studio took a chance to show how "the other half lives," complete with country-western bars, trailer life, cheatin', beatin', and cussin'. But as a feature-length film, it was just one, giant void. For these people's lives to revolve around such trivial, blank issues was too much to take. The mechanical bull loses its charm after the third go 'round, and to find out that they were going to use it for the finale's plot device?? Boy, this really is small town life.

Though chronically dull, it at least tackles the elements of domestic violence --- from both the villain's *and* the hero's perspectives. The cast was fine, nothing' wrong with them. Their material was just vacant. And the time line is an utter mess for all this crap to have transpired (dated a week, married a week, cheating within a week! Please). The only thing remotely valuable to come from this film was the beautiful Boz Skaggs ballad, "Love Look What You've Done To Me." There's a mess a' other country hits, as well, that at least help keep uninterested viewers awake. As far as the flick, I found *one* original moment, and that didn't happen until the last reel, involving Glenn and a gun.

Again, if you grew up around this lifestyle, you might feel it speak to you more. But 'round these parts, this pretty much need to be takin' out back and shot.

Midnight Express
(1978)

not for the tourism board...
The film that launched a thousand "turkish prison" jokes into the 1980s, this sees young American smuggler Davis tossed into a cruel foreign jail. Attempting to bring a bunch of dope stateside, he's busted at the airport, which begins a hellish five year ordeal.

Being a big "pacing" hound, I usually enjoy films that quickly get into their plots. But somehow, here, it hurt the film for the most part. We know nothing about Davis, and when he's subjected to vicious conditions in the prison, there isn't a lot of sympathy. If he, perhaps, was a smuggler driven by some sort of debt that his life depended on, then I may have felt more. But at the heart of things, he is a criminal, and has only himself to blame for any time he must serve.

Davis carries the film well enough, but it was the people that surrounded him, that added more character. Quaid's rambling crusader, and the perpetually stoned-out Hurt, make for more interesting personality studies. All the business involving Davis' father and lawyer and courts, etc, just had an absent tone to them. Throw in your obligatory band of ruthless prison guards, and everything is sort of unoriginally standard.

Another glaring frustration is the lack of subtitles. At the front, it was mostly effective, as we feel what Davis' feels when hearing a bunch of incomprehensible jargon barked out in ominous tones. But once Davis learns the language (and can communicate with it rather effectively, as seen later), we needed to be privy to what was being discussed. Otherwise, it's just more blather.

As far as the close goes, it was entirely too rushed and inadequate. After all that build (to a confrontation you knew would come), things sort of jump to a conclusion that isn't really finished. And the homecoming wrap-up involving black and white photos was a very peculiar choice. And I'm sure a vast majority will disagree with me, but Davis almost suffers too little. Sure, there's beatings and mental decomposition, but most of Davis stay is clouded by attempts at escape and legal boloney (punctuated by the embarrassingly rambled courtroom tirade).

In all, the film can still shock with its more seedy sexual subject matter and third-world environment, but the sum total isn't equal to as good a film as it could have been.

Don't Go to Sleep
(1982)

don't expect too much...
Aaron Spelling, wanting to cash in on the slasher craze of the 80s, developed this passable little thriller concerning a family moving into a new home following the death of their eldest daughter. The surviving younger sister begins experiencing visitations from the dead one, and various tragedies occur around the house. Is it a creepy entity at work, or someone else?

Most of the people that know this film (myself included) are going on their memories of it as children. Unfortunately, this muddles a modern day reception of it, as for the first time in 20 years, I viewed it last night. After a frustratingly redundant opening (girl screams in the night, annoyed dad comes running in), it finally drags into the plot. You really realize how underdeveloped the story is and how much more effective it could've been if put into better hands.

OK, SPOILER TIME...

More pressing issues arise, such as: is it really the dead sister, or a hallucination causing the younger sister to act out? If not, why is the dead sister --- who is seen in flashback teasing the living one --- so hell-bent on being "together" with her? What is her motivation for killing off the whole family? What's with the foreboding house address including "666" when it's never fully utilized? Is the final shot really the dead kid, or another delusion of the schizo daughter's imagination? The unanswered questions make for a great deal of aggrevation.

The cast works well, but what would you expect from Weaver and Harper? Though Weaver's mixture of the boozin'/grieving/giggling father is a bit uneven, and Harper pretty much takes a backseat to the kids. Especially Ignico, who basically has to carry the whole thing. Her scenes with the pyschologist have a pleasant humor, as she smart-mouths her way through them.

In the end, this is nothing more than a batch of bizarre, bloodless scenes trying to carry a ghostly throwback-type spook show. Pieces of it work at times, but on the whole, it's lacking. And the shock ending (complete with freeze frame on "Executive Producer Aaron Spelling") was a little too easy, though the back lighting made for a good final jolt.

Kramer vs. Kramer
(1979)

Audience vs. Audience
Perhaps I saw this too late. 30 years too late. I kinda, sorta experienced this in a way, being a child of a 70s divorce. But as a kid, I hardly understood it. Hearing my mom lambast my dad for 30 years since has shed enough light on it, but as a film, I dunno.

The success of this film ($98 million dollar box-office in 1979!!) and the all the major awards is gobbled up, were definitely a sign of its time. A hot-button issue in the late 70s, of Disco Dads ditching their families for a little extended adolescence on the tiled squares. The only nuance here is that the roles are reversed, and it's dad who's left holding the kid. The wife portrayed here is not a partier, but does go the "I need to find myself" route and disappears for a year.

This was my first problem with the film: Streep is barely in it. She bolts for nearly the first hour of the film, not allowing for the title to live up to itself until it's much too late. What follows is a series of vignettes of Hoffman adjusting to the single-dad routine, and the expected chaos it brings. Work-wise, dating-wise, it's all effected. It's during these sequences that Hoffman probably didn't care that Streep was absent, because he's given a tour-de-force playground to carry the film with. Not sure if it was Oscar-worthy, but definitely your typical Hoffman likability.

Streep, on the other hand, doesn't work here. When finally glimpsed, she's staring like a stalker through a restaurant window, and of course, shows up later demanding the kid back. Her lawyer's slimeball tactics make her come off worse because we don't really know what *she* was doing in her year away. Which is another direction the film desperately needed to go into. If you want to contrast the breakdown of family and marriage, we need to see a cause, how both parents cope apart, and finally a resolution, to garner a full understanding of both sides. All we know is that Streep went West and got a therapist. Woooooah.

As far as Henry is concerned, he wasn't staggering, but he delivered. Again, just like his mother, there are moments where we can't stand him, and he loses our sympathy. Fortunately, by the end of the film, he's come to his father's side and we pull for them as a unit, not just for Hoffman. In typical Hollywood fashion, they go for his waterworks to bleed ours, and it'll be effective for some. It didn't get to me, but that might be a testament to director Benton, for not overdoing it. Just the right note was hit with the kid's weepy reactions.

Major demerits for the film's editing, which was often choppy and ill-timed. The fall off the jungle gym and the peeing bits were sloppily constructed. And lest I forget the lack of a musical score. They use the same Italian restaurant cue like three times! And it's massively inappropriate for a film of this nature. You feel like you should ready yourself for some flamenco dancers to enter the frame. Plus the infamous JoBeth Williams moment seemed like a forced laugh that just looked eye-buggingly awkward. Tack on an abrupt ending...the film has its flaws.

I think the biggest would be the story's effectiveness. Even placing myself in a 1979 time-frame didn't help, as this didn't have enough punch for a feature film. Hoffman works, cooks, chats, walks the kid to school, gets a lawyer, on and on. It's all too brisk. Performances save it, yes, from being totally dismissed, but undoubtedly is a film that wouldn't have the same impact today.

St. Elmo's Fire
(1985)

tepid flame, at best....
Sudsy, coming-of-adulthood flick that follows seven friends post-college graduation. Real Life trials are supposed to be the driving force behind the story, but these seven don't exactly dive right in. Their "problems" consist of work, relationship, crush, and despising of modern society, among other things.

Now any of those things can be turned into a pot-boiler, as could be found on any prime-time television show of the 80s. But this film format doesn't really come off, and leaves you underwhelmed. Here's the cast's problems: Moore compromises herself at work, Estevez lusts for an older woman, Winningham is being forced into a marriage, Sheedy and Nelson rough it playing house, Lowe drifts and plays sax, and McCarthy is the cynical, observation-spouting one. And nothing they are involved in has any punch to it.

Sure, there's some sleep-arounds, cocaine problems, and near-death on a fire escape, but no sense of real urgency among any of the characters. The most inept of the story lines belongs to Estevez, who after not seeing a former classmate for years, essentially begins stalking her. And MacDowell's flattered(!!) reactions to this are senselessly implausible (I kept waiting for him to wake up during the "dip kiss" moment).

Lowe wails on his sax, bemoans his ex and kid, and seems obsessed with Winningham's virginity status. Nelson thinks he can only sexually commit with marriage, Moore bangs her boss when her payday advance runs out, on and on. My patience was wearing thin for some cataclysmic moment that would bring down the house, but it never arrived. The characters left the film the same way they came in with me: bores.

The most glaring thing I have to get back to is the lack of urgency mentioned. Moore locked inside the apartment, Lowe accosting Moore in the jeep, Nelson's indignant reactions toward the end. There was never that WOW moment that shatters friendships and elevates films like this. For whatever reason, Schumacher often goes for a completely out-of-place laugh, then a simple tie-up later on. The sight of Sheedy walking arm-and-arm with her prospective beaus, and the awkward love scene toward the last five minutes makes one queasy. Not to mention one of the most forced, moronic last lines in filmdom.

The success of this film back in the day was obviously driven by the attraction of the cast. And they are lookers. Well, Winningham somehow ended up in there, but six outta seven ain't bad. But probably the most enduring element of this "classic," is the striking, powerful score by David Foster. Which gave birth to one of the most lasting love themes ever written.

So, that's something.

A Nightmare on Elm Street
(2010)

a 'daymare' for movie-goers...
You knew it wouldn't work. And instead of reaching redundancy with all the other chimer-ins, I'll cut my two cents to just a cent and a half.

The new Nancy was completely unappealing and had zero charm. She wasn't cute, she wasn't spunky, and she wasn't a fighter, all three of which were nicely exhibited by Heather Langenkamp in the original. Mara's Nancy doesn't speak up until the last two minutes of the film! Until that point, she reminds one of those nerd girls who hide in the corner at parties, darting their eyes around while clutching a cup of beer, almost daring themselves to take a sip. The shot of her holed-up in her room, bug-eyeing her mother in a low-whisper, speaks volumes.

The blonde looked WAY too old to be a high school student, but at least had a hint of conviction to her situation. Of course, she's the "trick" character for the audience.

The guys were all Twilight/Jonas Brother facsimiles who seemed stoned half the time; acting was fair, but did not engage.

Kills were decent, but most were re-creations with a computer, so there really wasn't anything to add on to them. That bendy, unnatural appearance of dreamscapes and the glove bursting through people is so overused by this point, that it has no punch. The music, at least, borrowed a few chords from the original score (SORELY needed for a flick this lackluster).

Finally, Freddy. Instead of doing the usual praising of Englund and ripping of Haley, I'll stick to the basics. Haley is too short, and too slight, to be a threatening villain. During the full body shots, or of him at a distance, it looked like a teenager who hadn't filled out yet was goofing in a rental costume. And, in a sense, his make-up is almost too real. The fact that he looks like a burn victim sort of sends a feeling of unease because of the authentic ones we've seen on the news. Englund's original "pizza" or rubbery appearance made him menacing, but not awkward to look at. You could go on for six years about the voice of choice. Haley's approached a drunken Englishman, stumbling out of the pub, dragging his tone in a haze. Really did reek of a fan-film Freddy getting overmatched by the material.

I didn't care about the characters, there was no sense of urgency, and basically, it just very "remakey," like your typical modern-day slasher. Nothing significant or compelling in the slightest. Didn't CLANGING chords and overcranked dolly shots go out with the 'Scream' movies? It's beyond acceptable anymore, and don't get me started on the final shot, which negates the entire ending and is completely telegraphed.

Goodnight, Fred.

Infidelity
(1987)

the viewer feels cheated...
Disjointed little melodrama concerning a happily married couple raising a small daughter with another kid on the way. He's some kind of globe trotting photographer (six weeks to get pics of the Himilayas??) who, while on a foreign expedition, gets news of an accident involving his wife. She's okay, but has lost the baby, sending her into a distant tailspin. Feeling sexually neglected, he ends up tearing one off with a work friend, which is discovered by the wife. The rest of the film is a batch of mending and heartache, outsiders who tempt, wrapped up in a truly ridiculous final moment even too stupid for a television movie.

I'm approaching a spoiler area, but one of the major problems is that the title act isn't even committed until 45 minutes in. And when it is, it's brief and loveless. Alley's character shows no understanding of Horsley's motives and ends up bolting the country with their kid! You do get to see Alley beat the living hell out of the homewrecking friend, pretty much the sole highlight of this whole thing.

What follows are the nubile temptress at Horsley's office, Alley's knee-jerk dalliance with an expendable stud, and the GRATING, literal operatic moments of song. There are no fewer than five scenes that involve someone singing or listening to extended opera diddies (including 2(!!!) endless renditions of "Saaaaaanta Luuuuuuuciiiiiaaaaa"), right down to the final moment. The film's lead up is slow, the characters standard, and the resolution brainless.

Positives? The little girl who played the daughter was actually the best performer, Kirstie sort of mannish without make-up (though you get to see her sing The Four Tops "Reach Out and I'll Be There" in a slip), and Horsley a grinning non-entity.

For TV movie schmaltz, find this if you can.

Cobra
(1986)

slithering hilarity...
Hard to believe this is the film Sly wanted to turn "Beverly Hills Cop" into. You'll notice a "based on the book" credit in the opening titles, but I feel that was just a courtesy. Paula Gosling's novel was (apparently) based on a woman who falls in love with her cop-protector. The amount of the book used probably amounts to that previous line.

From there, Sly puts his own unmistakably vain 80s stamp on this gut-busting mess, which he at least makes watchable in that "what a POS" kinda way. Penned by the man himself, in full self-serving flower, he plays yet another near-comatose renegade. Always adorned in mirrored sunglasses, scratchy beard, and obligatory mouth-matchstick, he mumbles his way through dialogue I can't imagine him not howling at as he typed it.

Obviously inspired by the "Night Stalker" killings of the previous year (1985), he gives his villain the similar moniker of the "Night *Slasher*." His change to the actual events is that it's not just one psycho, but a group of them, who spend countless hours in a factory, clanging hatchet blades together and spouting interminable rhetoric about "The New World." Our first evidence of this is the utterly infamous opening sequence involving a supermarket nutbag.

Upon randomly blasting a number of Charmin and Cocoa Pebbles buyers, Stallone's "Cobra" is called in to put a stop to the madness. No mention is made of him being a hostage negotiator; he just roars up in an aged car and storms the building, to the dismay of his cop-detractors. Several memorable one-liners later, we're off to the main plot involving Nielsen's character being targeted by said wacko regime.

Throw in some Rambo, Friday the 13th slasher elements, and Halloween II hospital madness, and you have "Cobra." You know you're in bad shape when the first MTV montage is only about twenty minutes in. Then at the hour mark the film's tank hits empty, limping to its 600 shot-dead motorcyclists and steel factory finale.

With all that said, if you like embarrassing star-trips, you may last through the whole thing. Sly's knee-slapper characterization (bumping gang-bangers cars, using a remote control despite being inches from his TV) has enough stunningly stupid moments to pull you along. There's also eye-squinters like the bad lady cop who speaks at times like a drag queen, and the innumerable amount of back-up nutcases who show up on motorbikes, who had not been seen to that point.

Not to be overlooked, Sly even gives himself John Wayne's original given first name: Marion. The ultimate thrill would be to sit down with him to watch this thing, no doubt counting the times he puts his hand up over his face in shame.

Lost in America
(1985)

lost in...aimlessness
Mild chucklefest about a bored ad exec approaching 40 who talks his wife into abandoning their jobs for life on the road. Your typical Albert Brooks offering, which of course, is not for all tastes. Some can take to his light style of humor like addicts to coke, while others will scream how mediocre this film is to be held up as an example at screen-writing classes.

Most of Brooks' humor in his films come from his characters being utterly flummoxed by life or his grinny observations about everyday people. You get that usual array here, but unlike some of his other efforts, this Brooks screenplay seemed oddly malnourished. He gets caught up in this whole "Easy Rider" nonsense and places the film's more humorous and intriguing moments at the front. The business with Hagerty and the casino happens so quickly, that it a) uses the best device too fast, and b) seems too out of character for her. Brooks needed more time spent on the road meeting goofy locals and emptying his RV's chemical toilet that would eventually prompt Hagerty to do what she does early. And therein lies the film's bigger problem: they only really have one predicament. Once they hit their financial nadir, they look for jobs, work them for one day, and the film ends with a cop-out minutes later.

Sorry to forward-project, but I was a GREAT admirer of Brooks' "Defending Your Life". It had his usual breezy, near lulling atmosphere on display, but with the life-after-death exploration as a great backdrop, that filmed worked better. "Lost in America" just sort of coasts along with random vignettes before breaking down at the side of the road.

The Fisher King
(1991)

just missed the mark...
I'm not usually a lover of forced quirk in film, but this one at least had a little extra personality to it to nearly hit the mark.

It kicks off intriguing enough as Bridges barks his way through the end of one of those aggressive radio shows. Upon preparing for his move into the TV sitcom realm, his world is shattered at the news that one of his radio show callers had gone on a killing spree at a restaurant. Three years pass whereupon he's been reduced to living above a video store where he also works and lives with his long-suffering girlfriend/boss (Ruehl).

In a drunken stumble through town, he happens upon Williams and his merry band of homeless knuckleheads. Bridges does the bug-eye thing during his initial stay in Williams' hideout, where ol' Robin does his usual rapid-fire insane act he had become so associated with. After discovering he has a connection to Williams' past, Bridges feels guilted into looking after the demented loon as best he can.

The first 20 minutes of this ain't so bad, before it segues into the usual Gilliam flair for the bizarre. Wild camera angles and musical numbers permeate the storytelling, but writer LaGravenese saves that by adding a depth not commonly scene with this genre. There are factual statements about men, women, life, death, salvation, friendship, etc. Though too many moments are somewhat predictable (you just know how Bridges will accomplish William's 're-awakening') and the "drag" points of the pace are pretty heavy.

Another issue are the characterizations themselves. When you mix two characters who are residing in the real world (Bridges and Ruehl), and two who are not (Williams and mousy Amanda Plummer), well, it's tough to see why Bridges and Ruehl would bother with them anyway. They lead a fairly normal existence, and in actuality would run for the hills from Williams' raving weirdo and Plummer's accident-prone spinster. The Plummer character especially, who is "fallen in love with" by Williams', despite the fact they've never spoken. And her two minutes of non-charm in the video store would make anyone feel they were wasting their time for Williams' cause.

Ruehl won an Oscar for her efforts, for a part that was adequately played, but nothing spectacular. Michael Jeter, however, deserves special recognition solely for his show stopping song and dance number (how he hits those notes while still having testacles, I'll never know).

I usually don't issue SPOILER WARNINGS in my reviews, but here I must address the flick's shortcomings:

(Here is your official ***SPOILER ALERT***!!!)

A.) The fact that Parry is never made aware -- or doesn't acknowledge -- his connection to Jack loses a few points. Williams' character is so ethereal as it is, I was figuring Jack would confess to him only to have Williams' say he already knew who he was (Bridges states his full name on several occasions).

B.) The two "fire-setting" yuppie kids was a ridiculous stretch even for a zaniness of this film's type. Their originating scene came off forced anyhow (Bridges just lays there watching gasoline get poured on him). Plus the two kids were lousy actors.

C.) The fact that Jack doesn't exact revenge on said kids for their attack on Parry left me waiting and waiting for it. Yet, it never arrived.

These may be petty complaints but it's what separated this movie from being great to only fair in my eyes.

Vision Quest
(1985)

maybe if ya wrastled some...
Forgettable coming-of-age tripe, one of the few teen films of the time to go for an R-rating. Perhaps if I had hit the mat back in high school I would've been moved.

Lanky, goofy Modine jogs at all hours, gets more non-contact nosebleeds than an upper-deck ticket buyer, and starves himself to victory in this wrestling allegory. A rough and tumble chick shows up in his neighborhood, socks a used car dealer in the face, and is in turn taken into Modine's home by his father. Despite her "the world can go eff itself" exterior, she (of course) is a dedicated artist who listens to classical music. She wears no make-up, no form-fitting clothes, and shows nary an interest in Modine. Naturally, he "falls" in love with her.

The rest of the film is dedicated to various training sequences, backed up by a good soundtrack, intermixed with expected machismo you'd find in a high school sports movie. Embarrassingly though, the flick has become horribly dated in terms of its, ahem...male-ness. Yes, the full contact aspects of the sport are customary, but also off-hand remarks involving guy-on-guy admiration, and Modine's adversary telling him "I'll give you something to suck!" Not to mention Modine fully stripping for a weigh-in...only to be hugged and patted by his teammates seconds later! (Let him put his damn tidy-whities back on!!)

One of the flaws is having Modine's worst enemy actually part of his team, and the rival school's bad-ass hardly even featured. There's not even a standard 80s show of solidarity by the two later in the film. They also throw in a few howlers dealing with Modine's virginity being the measure of a man, and a completely needless and laughable analysis on the female "clitter-iss". Zuniga's jubilation at Modine's school article(!!) is worth a hearty knee-slap. It all leads to your standard battle royale heart-stopper where you-know-who emerges victorious, complete with a freeze-frame voice-over on the meaning of life. Not exactly the end of "The Karate Kid".

I dunno, the entire film just had no impact anywhere. Insignifigantly told and laid out, with Modine's hero too non-descript and naive. A wholly unrecognizable Fiorentino drags things down as well with her totally charmless troubled-girl-with-heart act. Ronny Cox is always reliable as the understanding dad, with James Gammon only glimsped long enough to slap his kid ("Sixteen Candles" Matt Dillon look-a-like Schoeffling) in the face a few times in a druken stupor and tell him he's not a man.

Well, at least there's the above mentioned soundtrack, although Madonna's "Crazy for You" is beaten to death (song is featured no fewer than four times). And Modine and Zuniga would appear together again in a far better campus film called "Gross Anatomy" four years later. Seek that out instead.

Cape Fear
(1991)

Scorsese on Elm Street....
I think we all begin a lot of reviews with, "This could've made a GREAT movie." A demented ex-con freshly sprung, a tidy suburban family his target. Revenge, retribution, manipulation. Marty's usual laying on of the Karo syrup. But unfortunately somewhere in Universal's high-rise a memorandum came down: everyone ham it up.

Nolte only speaks with eyebrows raised, Lange bitches her way through cigarettes, Lewis "Ohmagod's!" her way though her scenes, and Bobby D...well, he's on a whole other magic carpet. Affecting some sort of Cajun/Huckleberry Hound accent hybrid, he chomps fat cigars and cackles at random atrocities such as "Problem Child". And I want you to imagine the accent mentioned above. Now imagine it spouting brain-clanging religious rhetoric at top volume like he swallowed six bibles, and you have De Niro's schtick here. Most distracting of all, though, is his most OVERDONE use of the "De Niro face" he's so lampooned for. Eyes squinting, forehead crinkled, lips curled. Crimany, Bob, you looked like Plastic Man.

The story apparently began off-screen 14 years earlier, when Nolte was unable to spare De Niro time in the bighouse for various assaults. Upon release, he feels Nolte's misrep of him back then warrants the terrorizing of he and his kin. And we're supposed to give De Niro's character a slight pass because Nolte withheld information that might've shortened his sentence. De Niro being one of these criminals who, despite being guilty of unspeakable acts, feels his lack of freedom justifies continuing such acts on the outside. Mmm-kay.

He goes after Notle's near-mistress (in a scene some may want to turn away from), his wife, his daughter, the family dog, ya know. Which is one of the shortcomings of Wesley Strick's screenplay: utter predictability. As each of De Niro's harassments becomes more gruesome, you can pretty much call the rest of the action before it happens. Strick isn't to be totally discredited, as he manages a few compelling dialogue-driven moments (De Niro and Lewis' seedy exchange in an empty theater is the film's best scene), but mostly it's all over-cranked. Scorsese's cartoonish photographic approach comes off as forced, not to mention the HORRIBLY outdated re-worked Bernard Hermann score (I kept waiting for the Wolf Man to show up with a genetically enlarged tarantula).

Thus we arrive at the comedic portion of the flick. Unintentionally comedic, that is. You know those scenes where something graphically horrific is happening, but you can't help but snicker out of sight of others? You'll do it here. Nolte and Lange squawking about infidelity, De Niro's thumb-flirting, he cross-dressing, and a kitchen slip on a certain substance that has to be seen to believed. And Bob's infernal, incessant, CONSTANT, mind-damaging, no-end-in sight blowhard ramblings of all the "philosophy" he disovered in prison. I wanted him killed to shut him up more than to save this annoying family.

I always hate to borrow thoughts from other reviewers, but here it's necessary. This really *is* Scorsese's version of Freddy Krueger. The manner in which De Niro relishes, speaks, stalks, withstands pain, right down to his one-liners, is vintage Freddy. Upon being scalded by a pot of thrown water: "You trying' to offer sumpin' hot?" Please. And that's just one example.

Unless you were a fan of the original 1962 flick and want a thrill out of seeing Balsam, Peck, and Mitchum nearly 30 years later (or want a serious head-shaking film experience), avoid a trip to the Cape.

Lock Up
(1989)

Lock up has the key...
Brutal Dudes Behind Bars Stallone actioner fairs pretty well considering the familiar ground it treads on. The plot is pretty much stolen from all those 70s hot-chicks-battle-sadistic-warden flicks, but given a male reversal in a pretty watchable way.

The first thing required of the viewer is just to go with the implausible set-up, wherein Stallone is SOMEHOW given clearance to transfer to another prison despite nearing his release date. This is all so his wronged former warden Sutherland can put him through a hellish endurance test before he becomes a free man (how it wouldn't be obvious to the system that evil Donald is out for retribution is the first thing to relinquish in your mind). You get your stock recruit of jail types, such as the motormouthed buddy, the foolish kid, the teddy bear black guy, etc. Though a real surprise is that racism is never spouted for a moment by any character, especially Landham's snarling yard thug. He restricts his comments to the homosexual variety.

It's all an odd mix of light-hearted pathos (Stallone has never been more likable) which will segway into unrestrained violence (electricutions, stabbings, beatings), and even time for an 80s musical number centered around a cherry '65 Mustang. It must be said, however, that that scene runs far too long into a beyond-cheesy and awkward male-bonding level. In Stallone's corner are a pair of fed-up guards (John Amos, as always, is a force) who do what they can to restrict Sutherland's sadistic orders. And though a well-treaded storyline, writers Smith, Stuart, and Rosenbaum pay-off their set-ups in perfect fashion, never leaving any unexplored.

Some interesting casting choices, as Sutherland's understated tormentor is played to an effective level, a young Tom Sizemore grates at first but ultimately settles in, and some unsung notice to Jordan Lund as a truly scumbaggy prison guard. He captures your usual balding, pudgy henchman with a little extra relish to make you despise him even more. Though Sutherland is a howl during the final confrontation while being subjected to a certain prison device staple.

"Lock Up" was the other good-guy-against-the-odds-while-incarcerated film of 1989 along with Tom Selleck's "An Innocent Man", but in terms of what you'd expect of a Stallone popcorn muncher, it should deliver for you.

Roxanne
(1987)

nobody nose better...
Martin's charming, self-written rom-com update of the classic Cyrano De Bergerac story (his character is even given the C.D.B. initials) is still winning lo these years later.

Things begin with the small-town arrival of the scholarly Hannah and beefcake fireman Rossovich, which pits Martin between the two. He feels an instant attraction to Hannah's brainy but cute astronomer, but has forever felt inferior to such women because of his lengthy schnozz. She naturally makes eyes at Rossovich who is actually written in a most original way: he freezes up when it comes to approaching the ladies.

Now what would the perfect complication for Martin be? Yep, the simpleton stud comes to him for help in breaking the ice with Hannah. Martin is so smitten that he (I would assume) feels his only way to express *his* feelings toward her and get away with it, would be to help Rossovich out. This sets off a number of mistaken intellectual identities and some very effective comedy of errors.

Martin was credited with playing an actual grounded character for once, which was a welcome change. Which is not to say he doesn't inject his usual schtick in from time to time, but here he doesn't overdo it. His zany throwaways like paying to return a newspaper to its stand after squealing about a headline, or mocking the town mayor for an empty contest idea, are just right. And of course, the scene that really made the film, was the "20 something betters" in regards to insults about his nose when challenged by a bar blowhard.

My only real gripe with the flick is the time-frame in which things unfold. The whole story takes place only over about a week's time, involving sex, falling in love, desertion, secrets, etc. It takes away the smallest amount of credibility to the character's integrity as they so effortlessly let themselves go. Plus there's a violently awkward opening that sees Martin beat the hell of of pair of scumbag drunks, as well as his needless bit where he falls from a tree and blathers away about extraterrestrials. But it's hardly enough to ruin any of the fine work here.

There are a lot of little things done right, such as the sure-handed direction of Schepisi and a rather pleasant music score. Much credit must also go to Rossovich, who stuns with his dead-accurate "dumb-guy" persona, which in the hands of the wrong actor, would've wrung false. Not a moment of his lunkhead Romeo act feels forced, and it really grabs your attention. And lastly, a much overlooked fact of this film is that Martin wrote it. That he could balance such a multitude of personalities so effectively is beyond impressive. This is never more in evidence than in the purposely laughable exchange between Rossovich and an equally scatterbrained female bartender. His line about a "meat sandwich in the mountains" still nets a big-time laugh.

If you want breezy without being boring, and the cozy feeling of sleepytown singles life, Roxanne still brings the goods.

Body Heat
(1981)

left me cold...
A couple of 1940s, film noir holdovers who respond to each other's statements like they've been programmed, fall in love through each other's genitals. They start screwing their heads off and decide that the next logical step would be to re-write her absentee husband's lucrative will and bump 'em off. "From Here To Eternity" this is not.

Hurt, a thoroughly unbelievable and sleepy lady's man, hawks his unrestrained come ons to Turner's sultry stranger, and hits the jackpot. Despite their near-zero chemistry in the film, writer/director Kasdan nearly makes up for it with setting and atmosphere. A sticky Floridian backdrop adds to their trysts, but that can only carry you so far, as the Idiot Plot kicks in at the second half. Hurt's actions are so carelessly stupid that any of the tricks and surprises of the story are dismissed as plot fodder. Not to mention the redundant and schmaltzy score by the usually reliable John Barry. His opening theme is spot-on, after that it's melodrama-city.

Kasdan is obviously a great fan of the noir films he grew up on, and the heightened sex in the film may have been brow-raising in 1981, but even if I had seen it then, it still would've been pure hokum. Turner outdoes Hurt by a mile in her debut performance, but again, the outdated (and I don't mean 80s, I mean 40s) dialogue sans any pauses or character reflection, make this is a big disappointment to finally see.

Riot
(1997)

mostly watchable...
Slightly above-average dramatizing of the darkest day in L.A. history, and the various ethnicities it affected. Being a TV movie, there are the expected demerits for one-dimensional music and uneven performances. But a great deal is made up for with the use of a very effective editing device and moments of surprise.

An anthology of sorts, the first "story" depicts the looting and destruction of a Korean family's liquor store. The main focus is a teenage son, who wants desperately to rally against the mayhem, but realizes he's perilous to it. The unfortunate strike against this opener is both many moments of over *and* underacting.

Tale two sweeps up a young Latino male into the fray, and how he originally is against the chaos, but can't help becoming swept up in the benefit of it all. There's a terrific confrontation scene between he and an older brother on the streets amid all the initial excitement.

You had to figure there would be a law enforcement perspective, and that's seen next. Perry finds himself surrounded by both his police brethren, and the angry street mob he's trying to suppress. This is perhaps the weakest of the vignettes, as it takes quite a few liberties with real life. The first instance deals with a cop spouting off at a TV set in the department locker room. Of course, it's in defamation of Rodney King, but the fact that a white officer would be allowed to hurl racist rants at the screen --- with nary a black policeman present --- is ludicrous. There are no black officers at this precinct? Please. This is followed by white cops actually whooping it up at a black coffee shop as the King verdicts are read on a television. Beyond false and stupid.

Things are wrapped up with a black father-to-be trying to protect and evacuate his elderly family members from the flashpoint of unrest. Peebles carries things pretty well, and Cicely Tyson is very compelling as his beleaguered mother who is frozen by the violence. They very wisely intercut her own flashbacks of the 1965 Watts riots as a touchstone for what she's seeing before her in the present day.

As you can tell above, there's a great deal to be absorbed from all this, but also some negative mismash. Plus another element that takes away from the film is that these are not re-enactments, but moreso explorations. They capture what every ethnicity felt that day, but also reek of writer opinion. I mean, the fact that a black shop owner would be hit by a rock from a black rioter seemed a little over the top.

In the end, it was all handled better than I expected, and shed equal light on one of the bigger blights in the country's history.

Friday the 13th
(2009)

almost a decent fan-film....
The original Camp Blood is near and dear to me, even for a horror series. Never was much of a Mike Myers fan, Freddy had a couple good flicks. But the Jason series just had this mystique about it, this atmosphere. From the setting, to the uniqueness of the murders, the lore of Jason's tragedy, and most of all, the music. The fact that they got these elements to work together so well for so long (the first six original Fridays) was an accomplishment in itself for a slasher series. To find out that most of the above mentioned nuances would not be incorporated into this "reboot", had me going in with lowered expectations.

There is no camp. There are no counselors. Hell, there are nary a handful of "ki-ki-ki, ma-ma-mas". Unfortunately, any remake/reboot is going to modernize the hell out of any original film, and that's what we get here. About five interchangeable blonde (well, one brunette) bimbos with fake breasts (okay, there was one set of real knockers) who appear to be all of 16 years old. Two hunky "heroes" right off a magazine cover, the token black guy who actually acknowledges he's the token black guy, an Asian wiseacre/nerd, and yes...even a Seth Rogen pothead. Throw in about ten metric tonnes of marijuana, and you have "Friday the 13th - Jason Takes The OC".

Okay, the core of the film. The lore of Jason's mother is rushed in an opening sequence, followed by the usual introduction of the potentially lovable victims. But here is the film's first mis-step: after these people are skewered, we are intro'd to a SECOND cast! I just got used to a crop of chowderheads whose little barbs and personalities were starting to grow on me, and now along comes another?? Complete with screenwriter one-liners and heightened hormones. I guess everyone in the area has taken their turn at the local comedy club's open mic.

Fatal flaw 2: yes, I can attempt to embrace modernizing, but the fact that the writers think this means that WEED, WEED, WONDERFUL WEED should be as big a factor as Jason, became stale VERY fast. Talk about the wrong kind of overkill for a Friday movie.

Mistake 3: no one is the least bit sympathetic, the "heroine" is a girl who disappears for an hour of the film, and the ending is not only seen a mile away, but is slightly incomplete. Not to mention the amoral hillbilly (redundant?) who has confoundingly found his way into the vicinity of this ritzy mountain community.

I assume I should try and drop some positives in at this point. The kills are relatively inventive and fun. Some are stunners, some are groaners, and at least only two are of the torture variety. A big turn-off of the last few Friday films had been having Jason cause his victims lingering, agonizing deaths. Here, he mostly pops up behind you and puts your lights out quick. He even knows his demographic, as one girl is impaled through the head, then raised from the water long enough to reveal her tit-job for a beat.

The "comedy" in the film is almost too good, that it doesn't seem it belongs in this movie. The sex jokes and macho zingers were usually a scattered bonus in the other entries. Here they're poured on a little thick.

The cast is decent, as lead Padalecki had the look and intensity of a young Patrick Swayze, with Panabaker a good Danielle Harris clone. Van Winkle overplays the given jerk, but nets the flick's hugest laugh when a body is dropped in front of him. My theater broke into big-time applause and titters from that moment.

A large credit must be paid to Derek Mears as Jason. He brings a perfect physicality and body-language to the part, that reminded me a lot of Richard Brooker's Jason of Part III. Even down to the make-up, which has an old-school, fleshy-necked, bald Jason. As opposed to the stringy-haired "fat" Jason of Part IX, and the Donald Duck-masked, hulking man/machine of Jason X.

All told this comes off like a competently made fan film, so many of which have permeated the internet the last 10 years. Nispel's jarring, "Blair Witch"-like camera movements were an extreme distraction, and again, the lack of Harry Mandredini's masterful score is a major drawback (here, let's throw a few more hundred CLANGS on the soundtrack for effect).

Jason's hayday may have come and gone, but though not alive and well, he's at least alive and passable.

I Am Legend
(2007)

You Are Not
I've long loved post-apoc movies. The filmmakers shutting down roads, towns, showing us normally populated meccas as baron and remote. Allowing us to peek in on "what if we were the last person of earth?". My first memory (hey, I grew up on the 80s) of this was a teen entry into the genre with 1984's "Night of the Comet". That ran out of ideas after 45 minutes and threw in zombies to complete the running time. And he we are 23 years later, with the same result.

Yes, I know this is a based on a book from a LONG time ago, but it doesn't diminish the same sad fact. That why do all of these catastrophe movies have to ALWAYS exclusively involve a variation of blood-thirsty bizarros roaming the streets, looking to kill? Can't anyone just focus on a lone survivor, and what one would do with so much time? "Cast Away" came the closest to getting it right, and "I Am Legend" can be lumped with the "Night of the Comet"s and "28 Days Later"s.

But that's only the half of it. When Smith isn't dodging wack-job CGI geeks, his "down-time" is handled in the most embarrassing fashions. Setting up mannequins in a video store, interacting with them, listening to Bob Marley(??), delivering pablum to a German Shepard such as, "If I'm not back by nightfall, leave". Think he can't top himself later? Grab hold of somethin'.

In the film's most inexcusable, deliriously moronic moment, Smith actually recites lines...to Shrek!! No, not one line, not two. He delivers nearly an entire scene's worth of dialogue as he freaks out a woman and child he's discovered. I had felt like the filmmakers had switched genres mid-way through and had decided on slapstick.

The CGI...is well, the CGI. Monsters look fake, move fake, overly artificial refuse. But we knew it would be, so enough on that subject.

The ending then suggests that Smith be regarded as some kind of saintly warrior with a deliberately nauseating voice-over that had me throwing pens at the television. Not to mention zero resolution to main plight of the characters (I guess that's in the second book?)

Smith is good as usual, but he can't pull this underdeveloped, shoddy screen adaptation out of its own mistaken direction. Netflix "Night of the Comet" instead. And hate me later.

Crimes and Misdemeanors
(1989)

Woody...aquitted!!
At this point in his career, Woody Allen defined "aquired taste". He won Oscars, he made studios' "smaller" pictures look good, and he was a critic's wet dream. But outside of that is only a very small faction that are "Woody-ites" who can delight in his style. I have never been one of them.

Allen's approach of breezy conversation, small chuckles, and statements on life have never really done much to keep me awake. But lo and behold, stop them presses...somehow here he managed to appeal to the casual Woody viewer, and create at least one half of a tolerable movie. Who knew Woody could do "Law & Order" (with two of its stars in tow)??

After much hem-hawing at the keyboard, I've decided to start with the good. That aspect focuses on a 50-something eye doctor who has found himself in an extra-marital situation he can't extract himself from. He can't reason with his paramour, but he also can't confess to his society wife. What options remain? Yep, he's ready to dial "M", with the aid of his brother (Orbach, in his usually reliable, understated form). Landau's inner tug-of-war and some pretty good criminal tension permeate the story very nicely.

What this is intermingled with doesn't work as well. Woody writes himself yet another waify loser who hasn't had sex in a year with his doornail wife. Who comes to his heartstring's rescue yet again? Yep, Mia Farrow, always depicted as his (and all other men in the cast) be-all, end-all of available women in the mecca of New York. Here, he battles an enjoyable Alan Alda for her affections.

Though I admired the obtuse storyline of mixing humor with homicide, that becomes the film's problem. We're so pulled in by Landau's situation, that when Allen cuts away from it, we could care less about the stale romance being played out on the other end. And again, Woody's idea of "jokes" to the average film goer only net titters and smiles.

He does incorporate a few solid touches camera-wise, such as Landau actually interacting with a flashback from his past, and using push-ins only when necessary. And despite his slight side of the story, Woody manages to finish it with a little bit of a surprise as to who Farrow chooses.

Even with enjoying his darker side of the film, it was odd to see him borrow from the mainstream, as the Landau/Huston side of the film is basically a take on "Fatal Attraction". Just minus the x-rated sex and bloody finale.

So, take whatever you can from this Woody effort, possibly on a Sunday afternoon when nothing else is on. Or who knows, maybe you'll join "the legion".

Pretty Woman
(1990)

Pretty Average....
I remember this hitting home video about six months after its whirlwind run in theaters. $100 million bucks, the return of Gere, the juggernaut of Roberts. And not even halfway into the film I had a surprising reaction....people fell in love with this? Such a slight, unaffecting little story involving a "hooker with a heart of gold!" (as she was dubbed in the trailers) and a near-comatose businessman who seemed like he was on quaaludes. It's a pretty safe bet that the financial returns of this film were driven by young girls yearning for that White Knight and couples choosing a movie as a first date. Guys were probably bored crapless, and women swooned at Gere's money-spraying nice guy.

But even with that a major component, the film's vignettes are not that spectacular. Polo match, opera night, fancy restaurant dinner. Not exactly jets to Paris and moved into a mansion (a majority of the film takes place in a hotel room!). I guess the gals had reason to coo over Roberts' wardrobe fiesta, with the various dress-up sessions and flashy gowns she parades around in. And for the guys? Well, there is that polo match.

Not to say the film is totally worthless. Roberts obviously conveys a charm that appealed to both sexes, she wouldn't have become a superstar without it. Gere is a decent enough guy, so subdued that he doesn't pose any sort of threat. And the age difference (19 years!!) shockingly has no hampering effect on their chemistry together. Others supporting them such as Elizondo and Larry Miller's infamous suck-up salesman provide a few grins.

But the "comedy" side of the script is so light and harmless ("I nearly peed my pants"; mishandling of shellfish) you're nearly lulled into oblivion by the excessive breezniness of the story. Add on some cutesy "Bwahahaa!" bursts of laughter from Roberts childlike character, and a forced bad-guy climax involving Alexander's lecherous lawyer, and the cookie-cutter should be nice and broken in.

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