From the first notes of The Beach Boys' "God Only Knows" ringing under an otherworldly opening credit sequence, Big Love hints at a combination of somber connection and sincere personal adoration. At the center is Bill Henrickson (Bill Pullman), an ambitious home superstore owner who lives a clean, Utah Mormon life... along with his three wives and gaggle of kids.
Continue reading: Big Love: Season One Review
Filled with non-sequitur imagery and symbolism, Fire ostensibly tells how Laura Palmer came to be wrapped in that sheet of plastic which so fatefully washed ashore in the first episode of the TV series. But Fire doesn't really tell any story at all. There are scenes of exposition, but these are sandwiched between the endless dream sequences, the lunatic characters (like the woman in red and the one-armed man) who appear and vanish just as suddenly, and bonus raunch added just for the purpose of titillating the audience.
Continue reading: Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me Review
Continue reading: She's So Lovely Review
As for the bad news, well, there really isn't any. Alien, first released in 1979 and in theaters right now, has stood the test of time remarkably well. The beautiful and ballsy Weaver is a heroine for all seasons, the movie is suspenseful in all the right spots and it plays beautifully on the big screen with big sound.
Continue reading: Alien Review
That's exciting enough, but Carpenter also calculates in a ticking time bomb narrative device. Air Force One is hijacked by some socialist radicals who crash-land the plane into the heart of "this inhuman dungeon of [an] imperialist prison." The President (Donald Pleasence) manages to escape in a safety pod, only to be captured by none other than the leader of a ferocious band of gypsies who control the island, the self-proclaimed Duke of New York (Isaac Hayes).
Continue reading: Escape From New York Review
Not that long movies have never been successful, and not that The Green Mile is bad. You might even think a long movie is required here. Pulled from Stephen King's acclaimed series of six books by the same name, King returns to the kind of work he was doing in The Shawshank Redemption (based on a short story of his), the kind that seems to perform the best, away from splatter and gore, and into the minds of the strangest of characters.
Continue reading: The Green Mile Review
In one of his first leading roles, Emelio Estevez plays Otto, a young punker who's found himself stuck in a dead-end spiral: A cheating girlfriend, zombified parents who live under the hypnotic spell of a televangelist, and crummy job at a supermarket where his best friend is the geeky Kevin (Zander Schloss), who's a sort of proto-Napoleon Dynamite. Lured in by Bud (Harry Dean Stanton), a dissipated, disjointed, and cranked-up repo man, Otto begins a new life freeing cars from delinquent owners. Nobody in the repo shop is particularly likeable, but they have the benefit of non-mainstream quirkiness, particularly Miller (Tracy Walter), a half-homeless hanger-on who expounds on a variety of deep matters: John Wayne's sexual proclivities, the ubiquity of tree-shaped air fresheners, and the synchronicities of everyday life.
Continue reading: Repo Man Review
From the opening shot, where we see the top of Nicholson's half-bald, hair-transplanted head, The Pledge is an exercise in stomaching an ugly truth. Body parts, pony-tailed girls splotched with blood and bruises -- this isn't a film about happy endings and human triumph. Suspected sex perverts lurk down every road in The Pledge, causing Nicholson's character, a retired homicide detective, so much angst that he becomes his own worst enemy.
Continue reading: The Pledge Review
Pretty in Pink stands out as the perennial ladies' favorite from the Brat Pack era, with Ringwald turning in an unforgettable role (and role model) as a poor girl named Andie who takes care of dad (Harry Dead Stanton playing a stereotypical drunk), makes great grades (and her own clothes), all while finding herself pursued by no fewer than three guys. The real competition comes down to a war between the rich kid (Andrew McCarthy) and Andie's fellow poor-boy (Jon Cryer, whose wannabe hipster "Duckie" has become a legend of the era).
Continue reading: Pretty In Pink Review
Twenty-some odd years after scaring the bejesus out of me as a thrill-seeking teenager, Ridley Scott's 1979 sci-fi horror hallmark "Alien," re-released today in a new Director's Cut, doesn't hold up as well as I'd anticipated.
Sure, the infant alien bursting from the chest of John Hurt after gestating his gut is still a seat-gripper (although the stiff little puppet that emerges and scurries off screen has always been the worst special effect in the movie). Sure the seven poor saps onboard the ill-fated cargo spaceship are real personalities with depth and dimension (cynical blue-collar grunts stuck with each other in dead-end deep-space jobs) played by gifted actors like Ian Holm, Tom Skerritt, Harry Dean Stanton, Yaphet Kotto, Veronica Cartwright and sequel-bait Sigourney Weaver. These people are anything but the wisecracking beauty-before-brains WB-channel cast-off types that have always been fodder for B-horror killers Jason, Freddy and Leatherface.
Sure, "Alien" still boats what is arguably the best monster design in movie history (by H.R. Giger and Carlo Rambaldi). The exoskeletal alien itself -- with its razored fingers, its sleek, elongated dome head and its steely-fanged mouth that drips translucent goo and hides a tongue tipped with another set of teeth -- is ingeniously terrifying. The acid-blooded, mutant-crab-like face-hugger -- with the long, strangling spine that impregnates Hurt with the alien embryo -- is so masterfully rendered that even during its slimy autopsy close-ups the thing begets goosebumps. Modern CGI effects cannot hold up to this kind of substantive scrutiny. "Alien's" aliens are as real as movie monsters get.
Continue reading: Alien: The Director's Cut Review
Writer David Dorfman, director Peter Segal and star Adam Sandler missed a golden opportunity in "Anger Management," a comedy bereft of laughs about a milquetoast office drone and designer of fat feline fashions (?) who is sentenced to rage therapy after an incident on an airline.
The incident: His repeated polite requests for a headset to watch the in-flight movie are absurdly mistaken for aggression by a flight crew with post-9/11 jitters. The missed opportunity: The concept's punchline should have been that he really is a rage-a-holic and the calm version of events we see is his skewed perspective of normalcy.
Instead, the picture sticks with the notions that typically dim-bulb Sandler (insert empty-eyed double-take head-cocks here) really is a misunderstood nice guy, and the actor fails to find a single genuine laugh in the story's goofball gimmick -- which is that his nutzo court-appointed therapist (Jack Nicholson, volume turned up to 11) moves in with him and makes his life a living hell.
Continue reading: Anger Management Review
Winningly wry and roguish Owen Wilson seems very much at home in the cheeky, tropical-noir world of Elmore Leonard in "The Big Bounce," a watered-down adaptation that has enjoyable vim and vigor, even if it isn't quite a faithful adaptation of Leonard's wily style.
Wilson has a gift for taking what other actors might see as rapid-fire dialogue and slowing it down to a hang-loose pace, making it seem more naturally smirky, and thereby making it his own. So as a lackadaisical surfer/vagabond/con man whose philosophy toward a career in crime is that he'll "take money if it's lying around," he's an ideal anti-hero to shrug his way through this fun but forgettable flick about an undercooked caper of mob money and double-crosses.
Fired from a construction job on the North Shore of Oahu and freshly sprung from the hoosegow after landing a baseball bat upside the foreman's noggin, Jack Ryan (Wilson) is offered a job by the blithely amused local judge who heard his case (Morgan Freeman, harmonizing perfectly with Wilson's laid-back style) -- and who likes to ruffle the feathers of Ray Ritchie (Gary Sinise), the crooked real estate developer who was pressing charges.
Continue reading: The Big Bounce Review
An erratically emotional saga of a young Russian refugee's sidetracked search for her father, Sally Potter's "The Man Who Cried" presents such a haunting and moving first act that the balance of the story seems steadily to decline.
After its flash-forward title sequence that unnecessarily reveals a pivotal moment of the last act, story proper opens in a Jewish farming village in 1927 Russia, where a beautiful little girl is playing hide-and-seek in the tall grass with her adoring father, unaware that he is about to leave for America, hoping to find work then send for his family.
The girl's life soon changes from blithe to melancholy, as she doesn't understand why her father is going away. Then her life becomes downright terrifying as the village is attacked and burned, and to save her life the girl's mother forces her to run away.
Continue reading: The Man Who Cried Review
Director Sean Penn and star Jack Nicholson must have been drawn to the complexity of the haunted ex-detective character at the center of "The Pledge," because he's just about the only thing at all uncommon in this largely conventional serial killer suspense flick.
Although, even calling him uncommon is a stretch. Reno homicide dick Jerry Black is pretty much an assembly-line character -- a freshly retired cop obsessed with finding the "real killer" in an officially closed murder case that was his last assignment. Having made a promise to the parents of the dead little girl, he's still following hunches on his own time because nobody in the precinct believes him.
Doesn't Jerry sound like a regulation Morgan Freeman character? But with Nicholson in the role, he's a bit more of a wildcard. Big Jack brings an element of instability to Jerry that leaves the audience concerned for his sanity when his ostensive retirement finds him buying a gas station at a High Sierra crossroads as his nest egg because it's at the center of a geographic pattern he's discovered for his suspect.
Continue reading: The Pledge Review
Once you get past the fact that you're watching a G-rated David Lynch movie, "The Straight Story" is a wonderfully simple, impossible to dislike slice of warm, eccentric Americana.
A based-on-fact account of a 73-year-old retired Iowa farmer who drove a 1966 John Deere riding mower 320 miles to visit his ailing estranged brother, it's a ready-made classic allegory about regret, determination and family ties told with heart and completely unassuming honesty by one of the world's most complex filmmakers.
Lynch is known for his complicated, blunt and graphic fare ("Blue Velvet," "Twin Peaks," "Lost Highway") featuring rich visuals and deeply disturbed characters. But here he puts many of his familiar techniques to use illustrating a unique and leisurely story with his engrossing and detailed style.
Continue reading: The Straight Story Review
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