The American President. This sexist vision of America serves up images of men with political power and women with sexual power as the President of the United States (Michael Douglas) braves the perils of dating. You can see the filmmakers struggling to paint an optimistic, politically liberal picture of America, but they get all tripped up on gender and paint instead a conservative world where men make decisions and women wait in the wings, clutching flowers. (Postscript: The critic's mother would like to register dissatisfaction with this review. She thinks The American President was romantic, charming and as enjoyable as When Harry Met Sally. She argues that the role of the film critic is to steer moviegoers to good entertainment, not to raise their consciousness, and suggests that the two are incompatible. Thanks for the input, Mom!)
Casino. A film that lodges midway between The Age of Innocence and Taxi Driver on the Scorsese scale. DeNiro, Joe Pesci and a bunch of jowly Italian guys have returned from Good Fellas to screw, bash and plug one another again as the director continues his romance with the Mafia mystique. DeNiro plays a Casino chief who has everything: money, prestige and a fox (Sharon Stone), which in Scorsese's world means he has everything to lose. Set over more than a decade and thick with narration, Casino is an uncannily alienating movie. It's hard to sympathize with any of the characters and it's so long that sometimes you just want it to be over. Still, no one has as much style as Scorsese; the camera lurches and rolls through this film like the entire town of Vegas is a sinking ship. Totally violent, but where else can you watch silver-haired old men beating each other to a pulp?
Crossing Guard. Sean Penn's second venture as a filmmaker is an uneven, family drama fraught with gratuitous tension. Jack Nicholson and Angelica Houston play a divorced couple whose daughter has been killed by a drunk driver. Nicholson is a rageaholic overwhelmed by his dark side, and when the drunk who killed his child gets out of jail, he decides his mission in life is to murder him. There are some good performances here (especially David Morse as the reformed drunk driver), but a contrived script and constant emotional intensity sap all the believability out of it. And, like a lot of filmmakers who try to deal with large themes, Penn flirts with pretentiousness.
Goldeneye. Sorry to disappoint, but this is the most lackluster Bond movie in years. We can forgive 007 his sexism, his archaic cloak-and-dagger ways, and those ridiculous one-liners; but we simply can not forgive him for being boring. The opening scene does boast the highest freefall in history, which was probably a real adrenaline rush for the stunt-double. But from there, Goldeneye continues on a downward spiral, in spite of the spirited vileness of Famke Janssen as Xenia Onatopp, the Russian archbabe with the lethal-weapon thighs. Pierce Brosnan is not to blame: It's the script that's tired, not the acting. With all the obscene sums of money they're willing to spend, the next one should be an IMAX production. Now that would be something worth $7.50.
Money Train. They're buddies! They're cops! Woody Harrelson and Wesley Snipes star in this by-the-numbers action movie about transit cops patrolling the subways. The two play foster brothers with an unhealthy dependency on each other: they work together, they live next door to each other, they go for the same type of girl. Smell a conflict? Their everyday routine of playing drunk to entice thieves is a lot more fresh and entertaining than the inevitable fighting/stealing/chasing sequences. If you do live for action, be warned that most of the moves in this movie are haphazard and come late in the game.
Nick Of Time. Yes, it's 90 minutes of screen action shoe-horned into one 90-minute movie. The only other film I know of set in real time is the first half of Ingmar Bergman's 1962 Winter Light. Winter Light is the existential tale of a priest confronting his lack of faith. Nick Of Time is the thrill-packed story of a man forced to attempt a political assassination to ransom his kidnapped daughter. Winter Light observes subtle nuances between frustrated characters. Nick Of Time has Johnny Depp in it. Both movies have a lot of clocks. Which is the better film? You decide.
Toy Story. In real life, you probably wouldn't enjoy listening to Tom Hanks and Tim Allen argue over who's more exciting to play with. But in Toy Story, the familiar voices take us on a giddy ride into the Brave New World of computer animation. This may be the best Disney film in years, with a feel-good story that takes its cue from The Velveteen Rabbit rather than some glib socio-ecological scenario. The result is a full-length animated feature that's refreshingly original. This, no doubt, is in large part due to Joel Cohen's involvement with the story. Best of all, none of the characters sing.
Wild Bill. Despite a great start, Walter Hill's western based on the life of Wild Bill Hickok ends up falling flat. The opening series of vignettes from Hickok's life is exciting, non-linear and has exactly the kind of legendary aura that makes westerns so much fun. But after the vaguely Oedipal plot kicks in, you can abandon all hope of glimpsing fun again as twenty minutes of story get stretched into sixty minutes of movie. While the plot chugs on you can check out the terrific sets; not since Altman's McCabe & Mrs. Miller has the old west looked so muddy and inconvenient. Jeff Bridges is great as Bill--too bad he doesn't have much to do. He does, however, look mighty hunky in long hair and suede britches, if you're into that kind of thing
| © 1995-97 Tucson Weekly . Info Booth