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6/10
The reverse 'Gigli?'
17 October 2003
Being an "art-house" kind of guy, I was really looking forward to this picture, having seen the previews half-a-dozen times and taking in all the stellar reviews. So I was somewhat disappointed to find that when I actually saw the film, I spent a good bit of the time a little, well...bored. I'd give it a thumbs-up over a thumbs-down, certainly, but it wouldn't be an enthusiastic one.

The big problem for me was the relationship between the two main characters. It just didn't click the way it should have. The character of Charlotte in particular seemed to me to be a little weakly drawn, and though Scarlett Johansson is definitely appealing, as an actress she doesn't look to me to be capable of turning in an outstanding performance yet. (Addendum: I was quickly disabused of this notion soon after when I saw 'Girl with a Pearl Earring!') Bill Murray's Bob Harris fares a lot better, but admit it, for all the praise he receives he isn't one of our greatest actors either. I found the "evening out" scene to be interminable--I knew it would be difficult if not impossible for the film to redeem itself totally after being so discomfited by it.

I found Sofia Coppola's script to be far more the bigger problem here than her directing. Besides the characters and the relationship not really jelling for me, I was too often distracted by her minimalist (for lack of a better word) style that frequently cropped up. Too many scenes had scant dialog, music or even background noise for a film that was not profound enough to justify it.

Having trashed 'LIT' pretty well, let me point out some of the good things in it, and there are a number. As intimated before, Coppola's direction is very nice in many places. The Japanese locale is not just a convenient exotic backdrop, it's an integral, indispensable part of the film. Her presentation of the country is wonderful. She captures the not only the marvelous sights so well, but also the country's culture, both the pure and the Western hybrid varieties. Oftentimes, to great effect, we see some odd happening going on and it's not explained to us. We stay just as bewildered as the characters, and this works very well indeed. And Murray's humor is made excellent use of also, whether he's tossing of the "ring-a-ding-ding" one-liners or, in the movie's funniest scene, trying to get rid of a gift of a Japanese role-playing hooker. Another great moment comes when Bob Harris is flipping channels trying to find something comprehensible on Japanese TV when he comes across his own image with dubbed-in voice--it's actually a clip of Murray from an old 'Saturday Night' show. Nice.

It seems to me that this film might be a sort of reverse 'Gigli' for 2003: everyone seems as willing to believe the rave reviews about it as they were to accept unquestioningly all the bad things said about the Affleck/Lopez film. 'Lost in Translation' is an OK movie, certainly more good than bad, but don't feel like you have to act like it's a work of genius just because so many others say it is. You're not alone in your lesser opinion of it.
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10/10
Brilliant! Abril and Cruz are dynamite!
17 October 2003
Many observers have noted that at first glance on paper one might think this is a Pedro Almodovar film, what with Victoria Abril cast in it, among other things. Well, I haven't seen too much of Almodovar's work, and I knew nothing about director Augustin Diaz Yanes when I entered the theatre to see this film. But I wonder, did Almodovar show such promise so early in his career? From the first few minutes I was captivated by the movie and I stayed enthralled throughout. By the time Penelope Cruz was dancing around to "Kung Fu Fighting" I knew this was a rare film indeed (and no, it's no rip-off of 'Pulp Fiction,' either!)

For all it's audaciousness, the premise has been used many times before. Like 'Paradise Lost,' the battlefield is Heaven, Hell and Earth. But the specifics are a little more prosaic: angels from Heaven and Hell fight for their survival over the soul of a rather ordinary mortal, a not-to-bright or personable boxer. Heaven and Hell are presented as distinctly mortal-like places--Heaven is nice, but hardly the celestial paradise we envision, and Hell is unpleasant, but nothing nearly as bad as Dante imagined. The two places are run like competing businesses, it would seem, and the CEO God (and presumably Satan in his own realm) is AWOL--apparently he's too tired or disinterested to bother with the details of running the place, leaving that task up to lesser creatures. Right now Hell seems to have the upper hand. Heaven is somehow almost bankrupt and may well go under if they can't snag this one earthbound soul, the aforementioned boxer, who fate has cast in some great future role that we never fully understand. But there's trouble brewing in Hell, too, and even though they've got the advantage over Heaven at the moment, there are internecine power struggles to worry about there. So each each side dispatches an agent to try to win over Manny, this boxer who unwittingly holds the fate of this world and those beyond in his hands.

That's where Abril and Cruz come in, and they are just a joy to watch for the almost two hours this flick runs. Abril is Lola the heavenly angel who ingratiates herself in Manny's life as his wife, and Cruz is Carmen, who poses as his long-lost cousin (Manny isn't the brightest crayon in the box so he can be convinced that all of a sudden he has a five-year marriage he doesn't remember.) Lola and Carmen thrust and parry throughout the film, but on a surprisingly cordial level--Carmen isn't as bad as one would expect a denizen of Hell to be and neither woman seems possessed of any otherworldly powers; they go about their business in a very earthly way. You combine a great script, two outstanding performances and excellent direction and not surprisingly you get a first-rate film, as good as any I've seen this year. This is not quite Orson Welles and 'Citizen Kane' here, but it put me in mind of it, it's that good.
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5/10
Didn't do it for me.
8 October 2002
Illness, death, and a family's reaction to it have been the subject of a multitude of films, but the potential there for high drama is so great that the vein could hardly be exhausted. When I first started watching "I'm Losing You" (and no, I didn't read the book) and saw Frank Langella's character receive his terminal bad news, I assumed the focus would be on him and how his family handled the crisis. I was surprised, then, when it turned out that the Grim Reaper was all over the place, stalking characters major and minor.

Which would have been fine if this film had been the great meditation on death and dying that it so obviously wants to be. Maybe there just wasn't enough time to thoroughly develop all the characters and plot elements, but I surely wouldn't have wanted a longer film. Consequently nothing in it really reached or impressed me. Particularly poorly handled, I thought, was Rosanna Arquette's character, whose mental breakdown and interest in/obsession with with a Jewish funeral ritual were not very well-explained, at least not to my satisfaction. The ritual, by the way, was interesting from a cultural and educational point of view, but as a part of the film it was my least favorite. I disliked Julie Ariola's pious character every time she was on the screen, for some reason. And I found myself again wondering why Arquette has such a hard time finding roles that are worthy of her.

Apparently many people found this film edifying, but I would proceed with caution. One thing proponents and detractors alike could probably agree on: if you're looking for a tear-jerker, go elsewhere. There probably wasn't a wet eye in the house when this film was playing.
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She's the One (1996)
5/10
Not Burns' best.
8 October 2002
I'm probably unusual among viewers of this film in that I saw one of Edward Burns' other self-penned directorial efforts first, 1998's "No Looking Back." But despite the presence of a more star-studded cast with welcome additions like Jennifer Aniston, Cameron Diaz and John Mahoney, this is clearly the inferior of the two films in my opinion. "She's the One" falls into the same slice-of-life category, though it has more comedic moments, but the characters and situations just don't seem as real and believable, and consequently I didn't end up caring for them when all was said and done. (It's entirely possible, however, that someone might jump into a marriage with Maxine Bahns after only meeting her a few hours before!) Many will find this film palatable, or even enjoyable, but for many others it will be a disappointment.
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The Concert in Central Park (1982 TV Special)
8/10
An enjoyable evening.
11 April 2002
This pleasant documentation of the 1981 reunion of Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel is a must-see for die-hard fans, of course, but it's likely to please the more casual listener also. The duo's much-ballyhooed get-together shows that even though the partners may have been unequal in songwriting talent, there was still something special about them when they reunited to harmonize on their classics. Simon's post-Garfunkel compositions work well too, and a highlight is his "Slip-Slidin' Away," in which his soaring voice on the chorus wraps beautifully around Artie's. "Late in the Evening" is a standout also, showcasing the band of top-notch New York musicians assembled for the occasion, including Steve Gadd and Richard Tee.
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4/10
Unsatisfying, facile production.
11 April 2002
Maybe the target audience of this Disney Channel TV-movie will be pleased with it, but if any parents are watching along with the youngsters, they will clearly see that "cranked out" is written all over this production. Obviously it was no one's dream to make this movie, but rather, this was concocted in a board room somewhere, then produced with cold efficiency. There is some talent among the cast, but actors like Dabney Coleman and Jay Thomas don't get much of a chance to showcase their talent. The impossibly cute Elisabeth Harnois is engaging as the First Daughter, but Will Friedle is stuck once again playing another dumb character, though he's not nearly as moronic and annoying as in his "Boy Meets World" role. The background for this movie is Washington, D.C. and the White House, but there is no real "presidential" feel to the film and the Secret Service is made out to be little better than the Keystone Kops when it come to doing their duty. The Disney Channel presents a lot of original TV-movies and most of them are better than this.
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8/10
Very engaging.
13 December 2001
This is the first of the "Four Daughters" series that I've ever seen, or was even aware of. Judging by this film, it's a wonder that they don't have a better reputation than they do. This movie is very engaging and entertaining throughout. The story may be a little too by-the-numbers, but the likability of the three Lane sisters plus one helps to overcome that mild complaint easily. The dialog is as snappy as that of a contemporary sitcom and the direction is fresh and forward-looking for a film over sixty years old. Claude Rains shines in his role. This also marks the first time I've understood why John Garfield commands the devoted following he has. "Daughters Courageous" should be enjoyed by anyone who likes the older Hollywood films and will likely appeal to a significant percentage of younger viewers if they give it a chance.
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Just Friends (1996)
7/10
Decent, if not outstanding.
24 November 2001
This is a pretty fair relationship comedy/drama, even if the subject is the dreaded one of thirtysomething men and women who are still dating. You might find yourself saying early on, "No, it [the relationship] wouldn't go like that," but the characters are likable enough so that one can care about them, and overall the film is worthwhile.

It's a bit unusual for a film of this type which was directed (and written?) by a woman to have a male lead character. It's nice to see that character drawn without many of the male stereotypes that sometimes inhabit these movies. Still, the film has a strong female sensibility. It is mildly enjoyable if not outstanding.
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2/10
Been done a lot better elsewhere.
17 January 2001
Often when a teenage actress reaches her twenties she's anxious to leave off the schoolgirl roles and try something different, so one might have thought it would take something special to get Melissa Joan Hart ("Sabrina...," "Clarissa...") back in the classroom again. I can't believe that this movie was it, though. It appears to be an attempt at the "sophisticated" style of teen dramedy made popular by movies like "Clueless" and "Cruel Intentions" and TV shows like "Dawson's Creek," but this film is clearly not in the same league with those, mostly because of a listless script. "Drive Me Crazy" is more likely to put you to sleep than to arouse any emotions suggested by its title. The intentions may have been good here, but the execution strikes me as simply uninspired. There's nothing much at all to recommend it.
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Rivals (2000 TV Movie)
4/10
Seen this movie one too many times.
18 December 2000
The problem with this TV-movie, to paraphrase Dr. Johnson, is not that it is done so badly, but that it is done at all. Years ago a movie about the type of crime depicted here might have been unique and intriguing. Sadly for both society at large and the TV viewing public, it's all too commonplace now. There have been at least a dozen movies on this same subject. This film may be worse than some and better than others, but it does nothing to distinguish itself from the pack. After seeing so many similar flicks, some stock characters emerge. Of these, the terrorized victim and her mother aren't drawn too badly, but the closet psycho-homecoming queen is not as compelling as that character should be, in this viewer's opinion. And her oafish boyfriend is so shallow that he's a major irritation every time he's onscreen.

There are no laughable performances here, and the direction is at least competent, if not distinguished. Even Jennifer Salt's script is not a bad one, but she fails to convince us why we should want to watch these unpleasant characters. If you think you've seen one too many stalker movies, this certainly isn't the one that's going to change your mind.
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7/10
Big improvement for writer-director.
18 December 2000
This is a vast improvement over the other film I had seen by writer-director Holly Goldberg Sloan. That one was 'The Big Green,' and it was a totally unoriginal cliche-ridden formula picture. A change of scene and subject did wonders for this movie. The focus here is on a teenaged girl growing up in a very eccentric family who has to cope with her parents' breakup right in the middle of her adolescence. Of course, even a movie about an aggressively weird family can be cliched also, but those traps are steered clear of for the most part. Sloan obviously has major empathy with her main character, played by Majandra Delfino, and it translates well to the viewers. Natalie's family is about as odd as the one in 'The Hotel New Hampshire.' When the mother (Linda Hamilton) frantically tells her children, "Everybody act normal," her son (Aeryk Egan) asks incredulously, "Us?" Luckily things are played for laughs in this movie, but it makes it points. This isn't a perfect film but it succeeds where some similar ones have come off as too contrived.
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6/10
Makes the grade, but not with especially high marks.
1 September 2000
We've seen dozens of movies redo the "Fatal Attraction" theme and this one doesn't add anything original or memorable to what has gone before. On the other hand, Schae Harrison, Jeff Trachta and some of the supporting cast put a great deal of effort forth into making this a watchable film, and that pays off. Fans of the erotic thriller type of movie most likely will find it entertaining to various degrees.
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7/10
Slow at times, but a great character.
1 September 2000
This is not your ordinary whodunnit. Others don't have the extraordinary character of Smilla Jaspersen, a transplanted Greenlander living in Copenhagen. She seems to know everything about snow and ice--as a little girl she couldn't get lost in her native Greenland. "As you have a sense of God, I have a sense of snow," she tells a nun early on. Smilla's stoic demeanor, cool even for a Scandinavian, hides a passionate heart. When an Inuit boy she has befriended is found dead, she is fiercely determined to get to the bottom of the mystery and nothing in the world will be able to stop her. As the quest goes on Smilla goes from appearing to the viewer as simply a quirky oddball to almost a superwoman, a female James Bond.

Trouble is, the ultracool personality of Smilla, the low-keyed nature of the other main character played by Gabriel Byrne, and a host of complicated plot details combine to slow this film down at many points, but towards the end the action picks up considerably, giving us some old-fashioned thrills. This movie is not really for those who only go for the standard flash-bang type of action thriller, but those who enjoy the unusual, the offbeat, and character-driven movies may well find it worth their while.

Julia Ormond plays Smilla. This is the first film of hers I've ever seen, and the picture I have of her in my mind is inseparable from the character. It makes me wonder as it did when I saw Dustin Hoffman in "The Graduate" or Andy Griffith in "No Time for Sergeants"--is this a great actress totally immersed in a character to the point where she becomes one with it, or is it an actress basically playing herself and really only capable of playing that one role? Experience has shown me that I'd better give her the benefit of a doubt! Whatever the case this is a memorable role for her, and one she can be very proud of.
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The Huntress: Pilot (2000)
Season 1, Episode 0
8/10
Couldn't help but like it.
27 July 2000
Normally a movie about bounty hunters stalking and capturing criminal lowlife with lots of fighting and gunfire wouldn't be my thing, but I found 'The Huntress' to be a lot of...fun! Annette O'Toole and Aleska Palladino star as Dottie and Brandi Thorson, widow and daughter, respectively, of the late legendary bounty hunter Ralph "Papa" Thorson. When the two of them take over the franchise, daughter is all gung-ho and ready to find and take revenge on her father's killer. Mom, on the other hand, has been confined to the more domestic side of life all these years and she's not so sure she's cut out for the business, as she stammers and nervously fumbles with her gun while telling bail-jumpers they're being taken in to custody. The focus here, then, is more on comedy than action, but there is plenty of both.

The biggest asset this TV-movie has is Annette O'Toole, an excellent, underrated and often overlooked actress. Has she ever given a performance that wasn't first-rate? I haven't seen one. She, Palladino and Allana Ubach (one of their captures to whom a judge has given the Thorsons temporary custody) also make a pretty sexy trio, another reason to enjoy 'The Huntress.' The USA network is making a regular series out of this movie. Whether or not it is as successful as the film remains to be seen, but if there's any justice, let's hope it provides O'Toole with more visibility and lets more people know what a fine actress she is. Who knows, if the series is high-quality and it becomes popular, Dottie Thorson could become a career-defining role for her.
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Out of Sync (2000 TV Movie)
5/10
Strictly Milli VANILLA!
26 July 2000
This TV flick doesn't live up to music channel VH1's claim of "movies that rock." The idea was good, but both the script and the execution are pedestrian. The whole thing comes off about as compelling as an old Milli Vanilli track, and as forgettable. The singing of Kari Wuhrer's character is so bad it's an insult to the audience, as if we couldn't tell otherwise. Wuhrer does manage to get us to laugh a time or two, though. Once again we're treated to the spectacle of movie characters going gaga over songs and singing that really aren't that great. On top of that, the ending is unbelievably Hollywood-corny. This film wastes the talent of those in it and wastes the time of those watching.
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5/10
Shows a little promise, but is ultimately unsuccessful.
25 May 2000
This movie reminds me of nothing as much as 1998's 'The Avengers,' of all things. Both attempt to revive familiar, popular and revered characters while giving their movies a contemporary sensibility that would attract new viewers. Neither film succeeded.

'Private Life...' works much better than 'The Avengers,' to be sure, but I'm afraid that is damning it with faint praise. In 1970, at least, audiences weren't as used to a steady diet of so-called "blockbusters" as they are today, so rather than calling on spectacular stunts and special effects to create sensation, this movie delves into areas of Holmes' and Watson's characters and private lives that have been heretofore only hinted at (i.e. Holmes' drug use, his sexuality, Watson's womanizing, etc.) The results are generally positive in the early going, but the weight of a cumbersome plot involving international espionage, the Loch Ness monster, mysterious monks, a group of dwarfs--even Queen Victoria shows up-- brings the movie crashing down in the second half. Watching the entire two hours is a most tedious task.

It's always a risky proposition trying to revive characters from someone else's literary classic, but there never seems to be any shortage of those willing to try. Billy Wilder and I.A.L. Diamond give the Holmes fan something new to think about, but they miss out on the essence of what made him so special in the first place. This Sherlock Holmes (Robert Stephens, who along with Colin Blakely as Watson, does a good job under the circumstances) shows very little of the astounding deductive powers which have delighted readers for a hundred years. More than once in this film Holmes suggests to Watson that this adventure isn't worth his chronicling. The filmmakers should have taken the hint.
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Madame Bovary (1949)
10/10
Wonderful adaptation.
25 May 2000
Many readers have found Gustave Flaubert's classic novel 'Madame Bovary' somewhat cold and dispassionate, but few will have that complaint after watching this film. Jennifer Jones' flesh-and-blood embodiment of Emma Bovary has passion and emotion to burn, yet it still manages to remain in the spirit of Flaubert's work. Vincente Minneli's direction is brilliant and at times stunning. Witness the waltz sequence. Besides being so aesthetically wonderful, just think what a technical marvel this scene must have been in 1949! I can recommend this version of 'Madame Bovary' without reservation.

Jones' center-stage presence dominates, of course, but the performance of Van Heflin as another memorable character, the pitiable, cuckolded Charles Bovary, should not be overlooked. Plus this movie shows us that Ellen Corby wasn't always old! Check her out as the Bovary's servant, Felicite.
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Anna Karenina (1948)
6/10
Hardly a classic.
23 May 2000
An Alexander Korda production of a Tolstoy classic starring Vivien Leigh and Ralph Richardson--why is this movie so obscure? One reason might be that it certainly was, and is, compared to the two 'Anna's that Greta Garbo starred in, and it may have suffered by comparison. More likely though, is that many viewers find it hard to imagine they are watching an adaptation of a literary classic. Fewer still will find it a cinematic classic.

Compressing eight or nine hundred pages of Tolstoy into about an hour and fifty minutes (the U.S. cut) appears to have been too great a challenge for the screenwriters, editors and director. During the early part of the film we are introduced to a confusing array of characters, families, titles, and relationships that are all but impossible to absorb if one hasn't read the book. But later on when the plot is more clear to the viewer, the interest level doesn't rise a great deal. This story of forbidden love and infidelity is curiously passionless and uninvolving. Leigh, Richardson and Keiron Moore all perform well enough, but not memorably. I found the most captivating actor on screen to be Sally Ann Howes in her brief appearances as Anna's friend Kitty. The score by Constant Lambert is a good one, also. This film is only for serious fans of the principal actors or movies of that era.
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The Linda McCartney Story (2000 TV Movie)
8/10
Much better than average TV-movie.
22 May 2000
To me, most TV-movies seem like they are made by the same production company, with all the elements shoved into a big blender and the results poured into various standard molds. They may look a little different, but the taste is usually bland and generic. Over the past couple of years, several TV flicks with a rock & roll theme have been especially disappointing. Happily, 'The Linda McCartney Story' is not one of them.

This movie about a well-known contemporary love story manages to be effective and moving without being overly sentimental and cloying. Elizabeth Mitchell does a decent job in the title role. She's not a double for the real Linda, but that's OK, and she's always believable. Gary Bakewell, on the other hand, does look a lot like Paul McCartney (he played him in the excellent movie 'Backbeat') and he does a thoroughly convincing job. Most of the real-life characters portrayed here resemble their counterparts, but the thrust of the movie is on the story rather than slavishly recreating the look of any particular time period.

The movie wisely concentrates on the couple's relationship and doesn't spend a lot of time trying to duplicate the music of the Beatles and Wings. Its greatest success may be its pacing, as it is able to crowd thirty years of story into a little over and hour and a half, giving attention to most of the important events in Paul and Linda's lives without making the film fell too rushed. All in all this is a good movie for fans of the McCartneys and one that more casual observers might be interested in.

One other note: Allen Klein, the Beatles' ex-business manager, must still cast a mighty fearsome shadow. He's never depicted on camera in this film and is referred to as "Bruce Grossman."
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Les Girls (1957)
6/10
Surprisingly ineffective.
24 April 2000
'Les Girls' sure does seem to have a lot going for it. It has style coming out the ears. It has Gene Kelly being Gene Kelly. Its female stars, especially Kay Kendall and Taina Elg, are captivating, and I don't mean to denigrate Mitzi Gaynor by omission. It has songs by Cole Porter. This should be a "can't-miss" film for those who like movies such as 'Gigi,' 'Funny Face' and 'An American in Paris.'

But 'LG' barely gets the nod of approval from me. That's because its 'Rashoman'-like story plays out rather long and dull. There is surprisingly little singing and dancing in the film compared to the seemingly endless retelling of the story three times. This just-under two hour movie felt like 'Cleopatra' by the end! And I thought the director could have pruned a bit of Kay Kendall's drunken singing in one scene. It was funny for a minute, yes, but it got awful annoying carried on at such length.
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7/10
A modest success.
15 April 2000
When I saw this film recently on HBO, it was broadcast under the title 'Looking for Lola' rather than 'Macarena.' That was probably a good idea. Why identify your movie with an ephemeral dance fad that was over about the time it began? Besides, movies about recent "popular" dances have been nothing to write home about. (Remember 'The Forbidden Dance?')

This film needed the help. Its familiar story of the unlikely boy/girl couple thrown together and hating/loving each other is rather predictable, and the paths it takes are pretty pedestrian at times. On the other hand, this is a movie that asks for and depends on the good will of its audience, and the writing and characters are likable enough so that one might be willing to indulge it a bit. Unless you are terminally sophisticated, you'll probably have a few laughs at it. Not a hardy recommendation, but at least I give it a "thumbs up."
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Ishtar (1987)
6/10
Not so hot, but hardly the abomination its reputation suggests.
8 January 2000
I wonder how many of the IMDb users who gave 'Ishtar' a vote of "1" actually saw the film. After viewing it, my guess is most of them didn't. As a comedy, it's no great shakes but it is hardly the titanic disaster that legend has it being. Dustin Hoffman and Warren Beatty play a couple of aspiring singer-songwriters with delusions of becoming another Simon and Garfunkle. What they don't even have a clue about, though, is that their talent is as thin as their ambition is lofty. The funniest scenes in the movie have these two hacks writing and performing their own works, actually some very clever stinkers written by Paul Williams, with screenwriter director Elaine May giving a hand with the lyrics.

A sleazy agent (Jack Weston) books the duo in an out-of-the-way location--Morocco. Almost as soon as they get there they become unwittingly involved in a convoluted plot involving the CIA, freedom fighters and weapons smuggling. This is where the movie starts to head south. The story gets hard to understand (or care about), the characters get fuzzy (Isabelle Adjani's is a good example) and the jokes get less funny. There's still a laugh here and there but they are fewer and further between. Some have complained about Arab stereotypes. They may or may not have a point, but if it's any consolation to them, the American characters aren't much to be proud of either.

I would only give this film the barest of recommendations, mostly because of some good comic moments created by Beatty and especially Dustin Hoffman, who has consistently proven himself an adept actor in comedy as well as drama. Elaine May's script is the main culprit here, I think, as the more involved the plot got, the more the film hit the skids. But 'Ishtar' is nowhere near the synonym for a cinematic turkey that conventional wisdom has made it into. If people don't like it on its own merits, that's OK, but to accept the word-of-mouth of those who have never seen the film is a shame.
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5/10
"Beach Party" hits the slopes with same results.
8 January 2000
This movie could be classified as a subgenre of the "beach party" flicks of the mid-1960's, the "ski party" movie. Looking to put out some seasonal fodder for the teen audience, I suppose, several of the Hollywood studios transposed the location of their pix from the beach to the ski slopes and the cast traded in bikinis and swimming trunks for ski pants and sweaters. The result was basically the same, though--a type of film only a dedicated fan could love. Frankie, Annette and that crew aren't around in this one, except in spirit, maybe. Instead, James Stacy and William Wellman, Jr. lead a spunky bunch of guys and gals in renovating and operating a run-down ski lodge. It's the usual story--the boys get in a punch-out or two and try to play the field with the girls, and the girls do their best to get their hooks into the boy of their dreams.

If you're watching for musical performers (almost never a winning proposition in these type of flicks), 'Winter a Go Go' is especially thin in that department. Appearing here are the Nooney Rickett Four with guest vocalist Joni Lyman and also a pompadoured vocal group, the Reflections. My research has yet to uncover anything remotely like a hit record in any of these artists' past except for a single top 10 hit for the Reflections. This movie is for fans only, or nostalgia buffs, or young people who like to laugh at their parents' old music and fashions. The girls are pretty cute, though.
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Home Fries (1998)
6/10
What does it want to be--black comedy or romantic comedy?
5 January 2000
This looks like a case of a classic schizophrenic Hollywood movie--too dark-humored for fans of romantic comedy, not nearly outrageous enough for those looking for that quality. (You may get a little nervous, though, when a shotgun-wielding character walks into a fast-food restaurant full of kids.) Consequently it will end up alienating a lot of viewers looking for the one type of film or the other. Most of the characters aren't very enjoyable to watch, with the noted exception of Drew Barrymore in the lead. I was disappointed that Catherine O'Hara's part wasn't any better--she could have really livened the movie up if her character had been a little more forceful.

Despite all the problems, there was still something left to like here, and I would give it a positive recommendation, but just barely. On second thought, recommending this movie to someone would be a risky proposition, but I thought that overall it was marginally successful.
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Hercules (1958)
3/10
Didn't hold up well for me.
5 January 2000
When I was a boy I thrilled to the exploits of Steve Reeves and his cohorts with the massive pectoral muscles performing feats of strength and derring-do in ancient times, but as an adult I found it a lot slower going. There are all sorts of legendary characters here--Herc himself, Ulysses, Jason, the Amazons--and a classic story about the pursuit of the Golden Fleece, but I found it hard to follow and worse than that, just plain dull. It's amazing, though, how much more interesting I found Sylva Koscina this time around than I did when I was a kid.
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