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movie reviews

Class Action

Gene Hackman, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, Colin Friels

Directed by: Michael Apted

Playing Father and Daughter lawyers on different sides of a hot-potato case, Gene Hackman and Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio give passionate, riveting performances that almost make you forget you're watching a glorified soap opera. Hackman is Jedediah Tucker Ward, a civil-liberties attorney who takes a case against an auto company that may have knowingly produced unsafe cars. Mastrantonio is Maggie Ward, a legal eagle on the partnership express at an ultratony San Francisco law firm; she�... | More »

March 13, 1991

Paris is Burning

Carmen and Brooke, André Christian and Dorian Corey

Directed by: Jennie Livingston

If all you know about "Voguing" comes from Madonna, this spirited and heartbreaking documentary from first-time filmmaker Jennie Livingston will be an eyeopener. Livingston has been at work on the film since 1985, when she first encountered voguers in a Greenwich Village park. They were black and Latino gay men, mostly poor and primarily transsexuals and drag queens. Inspired by African dance, Egyptian hieroglyphics, fashion magazines and TV shows like Dynasty, voguers strike poses like runwa... | More »

March 8, 1991

New Jack City

Wesley Snipes, Ice-T, Allen Payne

Directed by: Mario Van Peebles

First-time feature director Mario Van Peebles puts a Nineties twist on the blaxploiatation pictures of the Seventies, such as Superfly, Shaft and Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song (directed by his father, Melvin), in this slam-bang crime drama. The script, by Thomas Lee Wright and Barry Michael Cooper the writer who coined the phrase New Jack to convey the latest in urban hip concerns Nino Brown (the superb Wesley Snipes), a drug lord who has turned New Jack City (the film was mostly sho... | More »

La Femme Nikita

Anne Parillaud, Marc Duret, Patrick Fontana

Directed by: Luc Besson

Very Little in this French thriller makes sense, but it's all savagely engrossing because of the performance of Anne Parillaud in the title role. She's a spellbinder. Writer-director Luc Besson introduces Nikita, a sociopathic punk junkie, in a brutal opening scene in which she joins her strung-out friends in a drugstore robbery. During a graphically violent shoot-out with the police, her pals are slaughtered and Nikita kills a cop. Sentenced to to death, Nikita is reprieved by agre... | More »

The Hard Way

Michael J. Fox, James Woods, Stephen Lang

Directed by: John Badham

Boosted by live-wire performances from James Woods as John Moss, a hard-ass New York cop, and Michael J. Fox as Nick Lang, a diminutive Hollywood star with a Gargantuan ego, this action comedy is often smart, sassy fun. No thanks to director John Badham and his producer partner, Rob Cohen – both responsible for the inane Bird on a Wire – who bury the laughs under a barrage of stunts. The Daniel Pyne-Lem Dobbs script begins promisingly. Lang tells his agent, Angie (Penny Marshall ... | More »

March 6, 1991

Closet Land

Madeleine Stowe, Alan Rickman

Directed by: Radha Bharadwaj

You could choke on the hard-sell integrity of this two-character drama. Tackling the political oppression of artistic freedom – in her feature-directing debut, writer Radha Bharadwaj goes out on a limb and opposes it – the story concerns the Woman (Madeleine Stowe), who writes children's books, and the Man (Alan Rickman), who is torturing the Woman to make her confess that her work is subversive to the state. The film is set in an unnamed country – a sure-fire warning s... | More »

March 1, 1991

The Doors

Val Kilmer, Meg Ryan, Kyle MacLachlan

Directed by: Oliver Stone

Jim Morrison, the lead singer and lyricist of the Doors, was equal parts poet, provocateur and snake-oil salesman. You might say the same of Oliver Stone, the writer-director (Platoon, Born on the Fourth of July) who has turned Morrison's short life – he died of heart failure in 1971 at the age of twenty-seven – into a film of wretched and splendid excess. You expect in-your-face from Stone and Morrison. Both are products of the turbulent Sixties. The decade jazzed them, mold... | More »

February 28, 1991

Meet the Applegates

Ed Begley Jr., Stockard Channing, Dabney Coleman

Directed by: Michael Lehmann

Even top directors have off days. Take David Lynch (Dune), Francis Coppola (One From the Heart) and Martin Scorsese (New York, New York). Their movie mishaps are dreadful but not dull because you can feel a vigorous imagination at work. Director-writer Michael Lehmann is not in their league. He's only made one film, the black comedy Heathers (1989), but that caustic lampoon of teen suicide marked him as a comer. Lehmann really messes up with the overscaled and underwritten Applegates. By... | More »

February 22, 1991

Scenes from a Mall

Bette Midler, Woody Allen, Bill Irwin

Directed by: Paul Mazursky

The teaming up of Woody Allen, Bette Midler and director Paul Mazursky would lead you to expect an embarrassment of riches. But this marital comedy is only an embarrassment, a sad case of great talents colliding rather than meshing. The contrived screenplay, by Mazursky and Roger L. Simon – who collaborated impressively on Enemies, A Love Story – is the major problem. Except for a few opening scenes to establish Allen and Midler as Nick and Deborah Fifer, a sports lawyer and his p... | More »

Superstar: The Life and Times of Andy Warhol

Joan Agajanian Quinn, Jean Michel Basquiat, Irving Blum

Directed by: Chuck Workman

It's hard to criticize Chuck Workman's documentary about Andy Warhol for sticking to the surface since nothing fascinated Warhol more than surfaces. There's fun and occasional excitement in seeing Workman's speed-edited collages of the pop culture that Warhol helped create over four decades. But the film is an exasperating once-over. Using archival footage of Warhol and new interviews with family, friends and associates, Superstar makes all the dutiful stops in the life of... | More »

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