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movie reviews

Let Him Have It

Tom Courtenay, Christopher Eccleston, Eileen Atkins

Directed by: Peter Medak

Chris Craig (Paul Reynolds), 16, and Derek Bentley (Chris Eccleston), 19, are caught robbing a London warehouse. Bentley is held by the police, but Craig won't give up his gun. "Let him have it," says Bentley. Craig opens fire, wounding one officer and killing another. Was Bentley telling Craig to use his weapon or to hand it over? A jury believed the former. Both boys were convicted of murder in 1952. Craig was legally too young to hang; Bentley was not. Director Peter Medak (The Krays... | More »

November 15, 1991

Prospero's Books

John Gielgud, Michael Clark, Michel Blanc

Directed by: Peter Greenaway

Lock up the tots and blindfold Granny – Peter Greenaway is at it again. The filmmaker, whose last effort, The Cook, The Thief, His Wife and Her Lover, ended with the leading lady's serving her lover as an entree, has turned to Shakespeare's last play, The Tempest, for inspiration. John Gielgud stars as Prospero, the duke who is exiled to a Mediterranean island with his young daughter, Miranda (Isabelle Pasco), and twenty-four beloved books. Few students of the Bard ever envis... | More »

Kafka

Jeremy Irons, Theresa Russell, Joel Grey

Directed by: Steven Soderbergh

In 'Naked Lunch,' a writer working as an exterminator in New York imagines a scaly, taloned beast sitting at his typewriter, which can transform itself into a squishy insect that speaks, makes demands and sprouts sex organs. In Kafka, a writer working as an insurance clerk in Prague imagines deformed creatures roaming the shadowy streets as part of a body-snatching plot hatched by a mad scientist in an ominous castle. After a mind-numbing holiday season in which The Prince of Tides ... | More »

Meeting Venus

Glenn Close, Niels Arestrup, Kiri Te Kanawa

Directed by: István Szabó

Glenn Close sings! Well, not really. In her role as soprano Karin Anderson, performing Wagner's Tannhäuser in Paris for a TV special, Close is dubbed by Dame Kiri Te Kanawa. It's a dangerous liaison; when it comes to lip-syncing, Close is no Milli Vanilli. Rest assured the acting is all hers, though. She hams it up in true diva style, as Anderson bends a huge opera company to her iron will and seduces her married Hungarian conductor, Zoltan Szanto, well played by Niels Arestrup... | More »

City of Hope

Joe Morton, Todd Graff, Angela Bassett, Vincent Spano, Tony Lo Bianco

Directed by: John Sayles

From Return Of The Secaucus Seven to Eight Men Out, John Sayles has spent a decade writing, directing and acting in fiercely independent low-budget films that buck a seductively corrupt system. City of Hope, a riveting look at urban decay, is Sayles's most ambitious film to date. The film weaves among nearly forty characters over a few eventful days in the fictional New Jersey town of Hudson City. Nick, a hot-tempered cokehead vividly played by Vincent Spano, kicks things off by quittin... | More »

November 13, 1991

Cape Fear

Robert De Niro, Nick Nolte, Jessica Lange

Directed by: Martin Scorsese

Martin Scorsese is America's most consistently vital director, so Cape Fear, his first crack at a thriller, raises expectations. But this boldly imagined film is also Scorsese's first remake, which raises the question "Why Cape Fear?" Director J. Lee Thompson's 1962 film worked just fine, as did Robert Mitchum as Max Cady, the ex-con who takes revenge on a lawyer (Gregory Peck) by scaring his wife (Polly Bergen) and daughter (Lori Martin). Shot in black and white on a modest bu... | More »

November 4, 1991

Dogfight

River Phoenix, Lili Taylor, Richard Panebianco, Anthony Clark, Mitchell Whitfield

Directed by: Nancy Savoca

Beefed up and buzz-cut to play a 1963 marine partying hard in San Francisco before getting shipped overseas, River Phoenix busts out of his usual sensitive mode (Running on Empty, Stand by Me) to deliver a performance of blunt intensity. In the early scenes of Dogfight, it looks as if he'd found a movie to match. Written by Bob Comfort, a former marine, and directed by Nancy Savoca, who debuted with the gritty True Love in 1989, Dogfight has a provocative premise. The 4 B's — ... | More »

November 1, 1991

Billy Bathgate

Dustin Hoffman, Nicole Kidman, Loren Dean

Directed by: Robert Benton

Disney's film version of E.L. Doctorow's celebrated 1989 gangster novel has been plagued by reported clashes between star Dustin Hoffman and director Robert Benton, as well as delays and reshooting that escalated the budget to $50 million. You expect Billy's Gate and instead get a lavishly mounted and provocative entertainment that is also as disconcertingly flat as those lofty PBS adaptations that faithfully capture the surface of a novel while missing its essence. Doctorow m... | More »

October 25, 1991

Life is Sweet

Alison Steadman, Jim Broadbent, Claire Skinner

Directed by: Mike Leigh

Food as a means of expression is at the heart of this painfully funny film from British writer-director Mike Leigh (Bleak Moments, High Hopes). Dad (Jim Broadbent), Mum (Alison Steadman) and their grown twins, Natalie (Claire Skinner) and Nicola (Jane Horrocks), enjoy eating in front of the telly. But now anorexic Nicola has taken to bingeing in private. Dad, a chef, has bought a mobile snack bar and dreams of the road, while Mum helps pal Aubrey (Timothy Spall) open a gourmet restaurant in w... | More »

The Butcher's Wife

Demi Moore, Jeff Daniels, George Dzundza

Directed by: Terry Hughes

Romantic fantasy is a bitch to pull off; it needs to float like gossamer. The Butcher's Wife is barely airborne before it plummets like a punctured dirigible. Demi Moore – with blond tresses and a y'all drawl – stars as Marina, a clairvoyant who lives with her Grammy D'Arbo (Elizabeth Lawrence) on a picturesque island off the coast of North Carolina. Marina is given to spouting homespun philosophy, such as "My Grammy D'Arbo always said, 'Love, like clairvo... | More »

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