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?
FATHER OF THE BRIDE PART II. A squeaky-clean peek at the stress of fatherhood, with Steve Martin doing double-duty as the expectant father and the expectant grandfather. Something about Steve Martin is just so damn likable; even watching him run through idiotic gags barely worthy of a sitcom is mildly pleasant. Still, his performance here is awfully safe. In fact, everything about this movie reeks of safety and suburbia, from the family's nice middle-class house to the nice middle-class plot. Father of the Bride Part II is a remake of the 1951 film Father's Little Dividend, and retains traces of a stereotyped, 1950s' kind of birth anxiety. Remember when fathers fainted in the waiting room? Haven't we grown up just a little bit since then?
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. And there aren't nearly enough gadgets. 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 patrolling the subways and 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. There aren't as many scenes on trains as you might think, and no one's doing any interesting scheming here. By the way, nothing you see in this movie should be attempted in real life.
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.
Now and Then. This coming-of-age comedy follows the nostalgic flashback formula, with a chain-smoking Demi Moore narrating as she hurtles down the highway toward a dreaded reunion in the master-planned suburban setting of her childhood. Thankfully, most of the film winds through the delightful and melodramatic summer of '69, with fresh performances by young guns Gaby Hoffman, Thora Birch (My Girl), Ashleigh Aston Moore and Christina Ricci (Casper). While at times Now and Then promisingly touches upon the social upheaval that lurks behind all those perfect suburban lawns and single-family homes, these themes are never developed. This sentimental journey comes with the requisite happy ending, tying up all loose ends with a big, pink bow.
Powder. No groundbreaking cinematic effort here; but Powder delivers as entertaining sci-fi, with the optimistic twist that the highly evolved and intelligent "alien" life form is actually from our own planet. We less-evolved beings find it impossible not to ponder the connection between Victor Salva and his creation, considering the writer/director recently did time for child molestation. Promotional copy reads: "Alienated from society, he tries to fit in but only finds intolerance. Despite the cruelty inflicted upon him, Powder's extraordinary compassion helps him to persist, and people begin to understand that their harsh judgment is more a reflection of their own ignorance and fear." Spooky. Sean Patrick Flanery, Mary Steenburgen and Jeff Goldblum deliver engaging performances in a script that doesn't ask for much.
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.
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