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movie reviews

The Commitments

Robert Arkins

Directed by: Alan Parker

How to film Roddy Doyle's comic and affecting novel about a Dublin band trying to bring soul music to Ireland? Audition 3000 musicians and pick the top twelve to play the Commitments. It's the old Monkees trick: If you can't find a band, manufacture one. British director Alan Parker (Fame, Mississippi Burning) lucks out. The dozen unknowns he's chosen — ten with no previous acting credits — make a joyful noise and rousing company. Parker, however, hasn't m... | More »

August 23, 1991

Naked Tango

Vincent D'Onofrio, Mathilda May, Fernando Rey

Directed by: Leonard Schrader

Writer-Director Leonard Schrader opens his film with a clip from the 1921 silent classic Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, showing Rudolph Valentino doing a sizzling tango. Dumb move. Schrader's take on the "dance of sex without love" can't compete. Though the film strikingly recreates the Argentinian underworld in 1924, the lurid script has the depth of a travel brochure. Stephanie (Mathilda May) is bored with her life as the wife of an old-coot judge (Fernando Rey). On a cruise shi... | More »

Dead Again

Kenneth Branagh, Emma Thompson, Andy Garcia

Directed by: Kenneth Branagh

Expectation is the culprit in this romantic whodunit. With Kenneth Branagh – the boy wonder of Belfast – following up his Oscar-nominated triumphs as star and director of Henry V, you hope for something vital. Branagh didn't just declaim Shakespeare; he made the words live. Dead Again is a two-hour search for a pulse. Admittedly, it's as unfair to accuse Branagh of slumming because he chose to do lite instead of the classics as it is to compare Scott Frank's script ... | More »

Defenseless

Barbara Hershey, Sam Shepard, Mary Beth Hurt

Directed by: Martin Campbell

Despite some blockheaded dialogue and plot contrivances, Defenseless is a surprisingly entertaining thriller. Occasionally, the actors even make it something to savor. Barbara Hershey plays ballsy lawyer T.K. Katwuller – a sister in spirit to V.I. Warshawski – who sleeps with a client, Steven Seldes (J.T. Walsh), and ends up implicated in his murder. George Beutel (Sam Shepard) is the cop on the case. T.K. arouses Beutel's libido and suspicion, but the poor guy doesn't k... | More »

Dead Again

Emma Thompson

Directed by: Kenneth Branagh

Expectation is the culprit in this romantic whodunit. With Kenneth Branagh — the boy wonder of Belfast — following up his Oscarnominated triumphs as star and director of Henry V, you hope for something vital. Branagh didn't just declaim Shakespeare; he made the words live. Dead Again is a two-hour search for a pulse. Admittedly, it's as unfair to accuse Branagh of slumming because he chose to do lite instead of the classics as it is to compare Scott Frank's script w... | More »

August 21, 1991

Barton Fink

John Turturro, John Goodman, Judy Davis

Directed by: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen

Wrapped in plain brown paper and no bigger than a typically swelled Hollywood head, the box looks ordinary. It's not, of course. This is a movie from the Coen brothers, and as you may have gleaned from their earlier work (Blood Simple, Raising Arizona and Miller's Crossing), the Coens do not traffic in the mundane. The box figures prominently in the climax of Barton Fink, the partly hilarious, partly horrific, totally mesmerizing new film from these Hardy Boys from hell. Charlie Me... | More »

August 14, 1991

The Commitments

Robert Arkins, Michael Aherne, Angeline Ball

Directed by: Alan Parker

How to film Roddy Doyle's comic and affecting novel about a Dublin band trying to bring soul music to Ireland? Audition 3000 musicians and pick the top twelve to play the Commitments. It's the old Monkees trick: If you can't find a band, manufacture one. British director Alan Parker (Fame, Mississippi Burning) lucks out. The dozen unknowns he's chosen – ten with no previous acting credits – make a joyful noise and rousing company. Parker, however, hasn't m... | More »

August 2, 1991

Doc Hollywood

Michael J. Fox, Julie Warner, Barnard Hughes

Directed by: Michael Caton-Jones

In a pleasurably low-key comedy that pits small-town values against big-city excess, director Michael Caton-Jones (Scandal, Memphis Belle) struggles to evoke the vintage corn of Frank Capra. Michael J. Fox stars as Ben Stone, a doc driving cross-country to begin work as a $600,000-a-year plastic surgeon. But when he crashes into a judge's fence in Grady, South Carolina, Stone is sentenced to perform a few days of free clinic service in this "Hee Haw from hell." Can our hero find happine... | More »

July 26, 1991

V.I. Warshawski

Kathleen Turner, Jay O. Sanders, Charles Durning

Directed by: Jeff Kanew

Disney's hollywood pictures has given a shoddy once-over to Sara Paretsky's classy novels about a female dick from Chicago named V.I. Warshawski. The film looks as if it were shot through ripped pantyhose. It took three writers to craft a script of unvarying clichés. And the direction, by Jeff Kanew, is all you'd expect from the hack who brought forth Revenge of the Nerds and Troop Beverly Hills. What juice remains is due to Kathleen Turner's sass as Victoria Iphig... | More »

Trust

Adrienne Shelly, Martin Donovan, Merritt Nelson

Directed by: Hal Hartley

In his auspicious debut feature,The Unbelievable Truth, writer-director Hal Hartley fashioned a quirky romance between an ambitious model and a suspected mass murderer who were products of neurotic middle-class families on Long Island. Hartley, who was born and raised in that New York suburban region, returns to the same fertile ground in Trust and confirms his promise as a gifted comic mannerist. The lovers in Trust flaunt their emotional wounds. Maria, played by Truth's ultrasexy Adrie... | More »

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