Before Sunrise. Richard Linklater's latest picture follows a one-night romance between an American slacker and a Parisian beauty as they stroll about the streets of Vienna. The film is talky as can be, but all the talk is directed toward emphasizing the gradual connection of two souls, and the result is touching, almost haunting. Despite minor annoyances, Ethan Hawke does a good job in his boyish role, while Julie Delpy is perfect as a French fantasy girl too smart to enjoy being a French fantasy girl.
The Brady Bunch Movie. Here's a story. Of a Hollywood gimmick: Giving old TV shows expensive big-screen whirls. The idea is to strike gold. Just like Wayne's World. Until the audience hurls. ...Still, The Brady Bunch Movie does pretty well for itself, especially during the giddily absurd opening scenes, with their perfect casting and meticulous recreation of the show's flaky style. The picture's lack of its own ideas--other than the single joke of Brady obliviousness to the '90s--causes the latter half to lose air like one of Bobby's flat bicycle tires, but fans of The Bunch should be tickled nonetheless.
CLERKS. This black-and-white, low-low-budget movie documents a day in the life of an unassertive convenience-mart employee and his obnoxiously irreverent buddy from the video joint next door. Though thoroughly crude, the cartoonish entourage of Slacker-inspired storegoing misfits are frequently funny, and the picture has the charm of something made exactly as the filmmakers wanted it, with all idiosyncrasies intact.
Hoop Dreams. This thorough documentary spends five years following the lives of Arthur Agee and William Gates, two ghetto-raised basketball hopefuls who struggle to get through the grueling processes of high-school competition and college recruitment. Their dream, to make it to the NBA, is constantly at odds with knee injuries, low grades, financial problems and family disharmony. The filmmakers' dogged commitment to observing these complications makes the picture a fascinating document of the ways real lives can be consumed by sports, with results both positive and negative.
THE HUNTED. Christopher Lambert, who has made a career out of playing a nerd with a sword, stars as a microchip dealer in Japan who unwittingly becomes involved in a personal feud between two modern-day samurais. The movie's potential appeal as a campy thriller is sliced away by Lambert's bland personality, and the director's, too. Joan Chen briefly stirs interest as a mysterious woman in a red dress; unfortunately she gets her head cut off.
In The Mouth Of Madness. John Carpenter's latest creepfest is a wonderfully playful mind-bender chock full of paranoid fears about mass hysteria and the death of reality. Working from a screenplay by Michael De Luca, the movie gives horror a good name, holding back on blood-'n'-guts in favor of weird, imaginative imagery where white haired beings on bicycles flash through the night, shadows creep up in the cells of insane asylums and figures in paintings turn their heads. Every scene gooses you with a surprise, every dream contains a twist, and Sam Neill, as the skeptical protagonist, makes the journey fun.
LEGENDS OF THE FALL. It looks, sounds, and feels like an epic drama of the highest order, but as the credits roll you sit there and wonder: What does it add up to? And that's when you realize that this long-winded tale of brothers who survive Montana ranch life, World War I and prohibition-era corruption together doesn't have much in the way of a point. Most of the plot happens as a consequence of all three men (Henry Thomas, Brad Pitt, Aidan Quinn) falling in love with the same woman (Julia Ormond), who is apparently the only woman in all of Montana. Is the point, then, that men in remote locales should try to get out more? If so, Pitt takes this advice a little too seriously during the film's middle section, in which the stringy-haired wildman travels to Papua New Guinea to hunt and run around without a shirt on. Wait a minute--that's the point. Case solved.
Pulp Fiction. Quentin Tarantino's second outing as director/screenwriter shifts from the tight plotting and characterization of Reservoir Dogs to a sprawling, meandering format that (barely) weaves three urban crime stories together. Tarantino, a talented writer, goes on several banal dialogue binges and then adds his customary unsettling explosions of violence. On a few occasions, the mixture is gritty fun; on more than a few others, it becomes tedious. With interesting performances by John Travolta, Bruce Willis, Rosanna Arquette, Eric Stoltz, Samuel L. Jackson and Maria de Medeiros.
The Walking Dead. The "untold story" of the black experience in Vietnam is the subject of this trite, lifeless movie. As the four main characters trudge through jungle swamps and endure skirmishes with the Viet Cong, we trudge through flashbacks and endure a series of revelations reflecting the following sentiment: If it ain't Charlie in the fields, it's The Man giving commands, and if it ain't The Man giving commands, it's The Man back home; and if it ain't The Man back home, it's the woman back home.
JUST CAUSE. Sean Connery plays an anti-capital punishment Harvard law professor who begrudgingly agrees to "put his money where his mouth is" by investigating the case of a man on death row (Blair Underwood) who was coerced into a murder confession. Laurence Fishburne is the menacing small-town lawman who held the suspect at gunpoint during interrogation, and Ed Harris plays a snarlingly evil convicted serial killer who seems likely to have really committed the murder. Of course, nothing is as it seems. This premise looks like a good enough starting point for a thriller, but with the exception of Fishburne, none of the A-list team of actors brings anything more to his role than what is required by the contrivances of the script, which turns out to be a shameless hybridization of The Silence of the Lambs and Cape Fear anyway. The title sounds like the most likely reason Connery chose to appear in the movie.
Boys On The Side. The boys are on the side indeed, with the main dish of course being women--their feelings towards life, men and especially each other. Whoopi Goldberg and Mary Louise Parker are budding odd-couple-style buddies making a road trip from New York to Tucson, and Drew Barrymore is the bubbly friend who joins them. It's all merriment and Cranberries songs until the three women arrive in the Old Pueblo, where they become housemates and emotions start running deep. This unabashedly button-pushing movie from director Herbert Ross (Steel Magnolias) actually manages to achieve the right tone for its manipulations, and you don't mind giving in to them--not even when terminal diseases and vagina jokes are thrown into the mix.
THE QUICK AND THE DEAD. Sam Raimi, best known for the Evil Dead series, directs this surrealistically action-packed Western (based entirely on a gunfight contest) as if he'd taken the title to heart and slowing down would kill him. Every sequence spills over with visual punchlines, obnoxiously funny zoom-in shots and ferocious one-liners. It's almost too much movie for itself, and protagonist Sharon Stone can't anchor the picture the way it needs; her Clint Eastwood-style sullenness lacks substance. But the gallery of supporting actors, which includes Lance Henriksen, Leonard DiCaprio, Gene Hackman (doing a twisted take on his evil sheriff role from Unforgiven), fill the movie with so much wanton charisma that Stone's performance as the "straight man" actually starts working after a while. It's a weird picture where A-movie and B-movie qualities are blended at such a high velocity that you start to lose track of which is which.
THE MADNESS OF KING GEORGE. Nigel Hawthorne has received great praise for his performance as King George III, who was believed insane when a nervous-system disorder briefly wreaked havoc on his temper. Hawthorne deserves the accolades: he travels from regal to rabid and back with believability as well as comic flair. But the movie itself is far from a fascinating piece of drama, and holds little interest unless you're British or find yourself enraptured by historical trivia about British royalty.
Mrs. Parker And The Vicious Circle. Jennifer Jason Leigh gives yet another remarkable but downer performance as writer Dorothy Parker, a reliable fixture at the Algonquin Round Table, where New York's greatest literary minds of the '20s regularly met to exchange banter and amuse themselves. Director and co-screenwriter Alan Rudolph has a wonderful sense of time and place and attitude, but he slacks on story structure, and it becomes obvious that he is vastly more interested in the ways Mrs. Parker's "vicious circle" affected her comically cynical personality than in addressing the emotional forces that led to them in the first place. It's a colorful, quote-peppered and inevitably shallow celebration of a famous person's depression.
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