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movie reviews

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 »

October 18, 1991

Other People's Money

Danny DeVito, Gregory Peck, Penelope Ann Miller

Directed by: Norman Jewison

Few actors can better Danny DeVito at playing sleazebags who cover their malevolence with butterball charm. So a film of Jerry Sterner's 1989 stage hit Other People's Money, with DeVito as corporate raider Larry "the Liquidator" Garfinkle, should be spot-on. Garfinkle gobbles up companies faster than the doughnuts he keeps in his office and limo. He is pure predator; a gross troll in a classy suit. Yet the pleasure he takes in the art of the deal is wickedly infectious. Cross Gordon... | More »

Edward II

Tilda Swinton

Directed by: Derek Jarman

Like Howards End, Edward II reaches back to the past — this time to a 1592 Christopher Marlowe play — to illuminate the present. Unlike E.M. Forster, British director Derek Jarman does not hide his homosexuality. Forster delayed publication of his gay-themed novel Maurice until after his death in 1970. Jarman, who is HIV positive, uses his films (Sebastiane, Caravaggio) to express his gay activism. The anachronistic liberties he takes with Marlowe expose contemporary gay-bashing a... | More »

October 11, 1991

Little Man Tate

Jodie Foster, Dianne Wiest, Adam Hann-Byrd

Directed by: Jodie Foster

As an actress, Jodie Foster lives dangerously. She digs into the corners of her most challenging roles – the child hooker in Taxi Driver, the rape victim in The Accused, the FBI novice in The Silence of the Lambs – and comes up with something dark, daring, hard to pin down. In Little Man Tate, she plays Dede Tate, a single working mother who can't figure out how to do the right thing for her seven-year-old son, Fred (Adam Hann-Byrd). Fred is a prodigy – he solves math p... | More »

Frankie and Johnny

Al Pacino, Michelle Pfeiffer, Hector Elizondo

Directed by: Garry Marshall

This thoroughly captivating film version of Terrence McNally's 1987 stage hit Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune has only just opened, but insiders have been ragging on it for months. Some people have trouble imagining the play – a two-character comedy-drama about a dispirited waitress and a lonely cook – expanded into a $29 million movie with a cast of ninety-six, guided by the slick hand of Pretty Woman director Garry Marshall. Some people have more trouble imagining M... | More »

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