Antonia's Line. This flick received this year's Academy Award for best foreign picture, and it has all the banal mediocrity and pre-fab pathos we've come to expect from the Academy. Antonia is an old, dying farm woman, and the plot is a Cliff Notes version of the highlights of her life, given to us swiftly but succinctly, presumably so we may experience sorrow when she dies. The film produces so many rapidly growing babies that it's hard to feel connected to any of the characters, and the plodding narration keeps us further at a distance. This is the kind of ground best covered in novels, and the filmmaker struggles without much success to make her very long story visually dynamic. The occasional jolt of magic realism just makes the whole project more derivative and embarrassing.
Brain Candy. This first movie from the Canadian comedy troupe Kids in the Hall is notable for its rampant weirdness and Monty Python-esque, sketch-based humor. Each member of the all-boy troupe plays a variety of parts, both male and female, and half the fun of this movie is watching the actors transform themselves from character to character. The story involves a conventionally nerdy scientist who invents a happiness drug called Gleeminex, then traces the sheer hell of the perky world where this drug is sold over the counter. Elaborate sets, lighting and camera work add to the surreal, original flavor of this film. It's funny in a disturbing, nightmarish kind of way.
Celtic Pride. We should know by now that any movie including any past or present member of the Saturday Night Live cast will be a grave mistake, and Celtic Pride is no exception. This relentlessly unfunny comedy is the story of two pathetic buddies (Dan Ackroyd and Daniel Stern) who are so obsessed with "their" team, the Boston Celtics, that they bumble into a plan to kidnap the star player of the opposing team. Damon Wayans' good looks and smooth, comedic charm don't even matter here; the whole film is such a sad document of immature men doing stupid things for hazy reasons that nothing can save it.
FAITHFUL. Chazz Palminteri and Cher star in this comedy about a hit man having a job-related mid-life crisis. Cher plays a housewife with a Rolls Royce and a fancy house--she has everything except the love of her husband (Ryan O'Neal), who has apparently sent a hit man to whack her on their twentieth anniversary so he can run off with his secretary. His plan get complicated though when the wife and the hit man strike up a friendship. The screenplay, based on a play by Palminteri, doesn't have quite enough twists to carry the story off, and events never turn as complex as it seems they should. But Palminteri and Cher have a nice chemistry between them and the movie has a decent number of satisfying moments. I just wish the actors didn't keep saying the word "faithful" over and over, with an unsettling emphasis.
Fargo. A wonderfully deadpan thriller/comedy about a couple of mediocre psycho killers being chased by a mediocre cop. Frances McDormand is terrific as Marge Gunderson, a patient, pregnant chief of police plodding along after Jerry Lundergaard (William H. Macy), a financially insolvent car dealer who has his wife kidnapped so that he can scam the ransom money for himself. Of course, the plan goes awry, and half the fun of this movie is watching the perky, have-a-nice-day citizens of the northern Midwest getting caught in the cogs of gruesome crime. Only the Coen brothers could pull off such a effortless blend of humor and gore.
James And The Giant Peach. Roald Dahl's children's classic comes to life in this movie through the Disney magic of stop-motion animation. The overgrown bugs are cute, young James is darling and the animation is absolutely charming; still, if you're over 12, plan to be a little bored, especially during the singing part. Those to the left of the political spectrum may enjoy the secret embedded Marxist mythology being espoused here--James and the bugs seize the fruits of their labor (the peach!) from the evil, property owning aunts and take it across the ocean to share with the masses. Apparently Disney has been brainwashing our young for years, perhaps creating the Cold War through the seemingly "cute" shenanigans of little dancing bugs and mice. Probably with the cooperation of the phone company.
Mulholland Falls. The trailer for this one looks pretty good, but the movie is another story. For some unknown reason, an all-star cast including Nick Nolte, Melanie Griffith and Chazz Palminteri has been matched up with an insufferable and completely banal script. Nolte plays a cop hunting L.A. bad guys in this China Town-style story; he and all the other characters repeat themselves constantly, so don't worry about the plot getting too intricate. As if the predictable plot weren't enough, the character development in this movie barely dips above comic book level. Stay home and eat a chocolate bunny.
Primal Fear. Richard Gere is a lawyer in this courtroom drama about an arrogant attorney who questions his own methods after he begins representing a sweet, stuttering altar boy accused of murdering a bishop who has sexually molested him. Gere is just dandy in the role, alternately repugnant and charismatic, and best of all, the years have not robbed him of his hunkiness. The plot twists with predictable regularity but manages not to grievously insult the intelligence of the audience. All the material here has been covered by TV cops-and-lawyers shows, probably a little better, but at least no one in the theater is going to stop everything to try to sell you Pepsid AC.
The Quest. Jean Claude Van Damme-o-rama! The Muscles from Brussels not only stars in this movie, he wrote and directed it too! If you, too, are under the impression movies are made by smart, talented but occasionally misguided people, go see The Quest and have your little illusions shattered. This tale of a kidnapped clown trained as a world-class fighter, who then travels to the non-violent country of Tibet to compete in some mysterious, weird fighting match against the stereotypical macho guys of the world, is so stupid that the word "bad" only begins to claw at the margins of what this movie is and shall forever be. Anyone considering viewing The Quest should keep in mind it is unsuitable for entertainment purposes and should only be used as a form of punishment.
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