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movie reviews

Vital Signs

Adrian Pasdar, Diane Lane, Jack Gwaltney

Directed by: Marisa Silver

It's all here: Arthritic writing, atrocious direction, career-crushing performances. Critics are always bitching about having to endure bad movies without finding one bad enough to really enjoy. Well, this is it. I clocked a laugh a minute, not one of them intentional. The scene is med school, third year, the tough year, the time when budding docs leave the classroom and start touching sick flesh – under supervision, of course. It's The Paper Chase with stethoscopes. Standing... | More »

Mama, There's a Man in Your Bed

Daniel Auteuil, Firmine Richard, Pierre Vernier

Directed by: Coline Serreau

Crude and misleading, the title barely hints at the joys of this effervescent, beautifully acted French romance. I must admit, however, that a one-sentence plot summary of the film is equally crude and misleading: Wealthy executive dumps his wife and family for an overweight black cleaning lady with five kids and five ex-husbands. Trust the French to make the combination seem as natural as a croissant and beurre. The film's writer-director, Coline Serreau, is best known for Three Men an... | More »

April 6, 1990

The Cook, The Thief, His Wife and Her Lover

Richard Bohringer, Michael Gambon, Helen Mirren

Directed by: Peter Greenaway

This No-Mercy Assault On The mind and senses from British writer-director Peter Greenaway (The Draughtsman's Contract) boasts a full menu: swearing, screwing, stealing, cooking, eating, drinking, burping, choking, vomiting, defecating, punching, kicking and killing. Oh, yes, there's a guy who enjoys reading, but he comes to a bad end. Stunningly photographed by Sacha Vierny, this unnerving film takes place mostly in a cavernous French restaurant called Le Hollandais. The main room ... | More »

Cry-Baby

Johnny Depp, Ricki Lake, Amy Locane

Directed by: John Waters

You could say that underground filmmaker John Waters, Baltimore's sickest puppy, has sold out. Cry-Baby, his eleventh film, is an $8 million teen musical and, yikes, it's got a PG-13 rating. You could say that Waters already compromised his midnight-movie reputation when his last two films, Polyester (1981) and Hairspray (1988), hit mainstream pay dirt. You could also say that hiring a pretty-boy star for Cry-Baby – Johnny Depp of television's 21 Jump Street – is th... | More »

I Love You To Death

River Phoenix

Directed by: Lawrence Kasdan

Something pulls you up short right at the start of this bizarre comedy: The impish glint in Tracey Ullman's eye is missing. Ullman plays Rosalie Boca, a frumpy housewife and mother of two who helps her husband, Joey (Kevin Kline), run a pizzeria in Tacoma. Rosalie is nice but dim; she doesn't notice Joey's obvious infidelities. Everyone else does, including Nadja (Joan Plowright), Rosalie's Yugoslavian mother, and Devo (River Phoenix), the spiritual young pizza chef who do... | More »

March 31, 1990

The Laserman

Marc Hayashi, Maryann Urbano, Tony Leung Ka Fai

Directed by: Peter Wang

Misuse of science is an odd subject for a screwball thriller, unless you factor in writer-director-actor Peter Wang. A laser specialist with a doctorate from the University of Pennsylvania, the Chinese-born Wang changed vocations when he learned his work was serving government weapons programs. His lifelong interest in the arts led him to film. In 1982, director Wayne Wang (no relation) cast him as a cook in Chan Is Missing; his jolly performance won raves. Four years later, Peter Wang made h... | More »

March 30, 1990

Santa Sangre

Axel Jodorowsky, Blanca Guerra, Guy Stockwell

Directed by: Alejandro Jodorowsky

The parade of perversity marches on with this eye-popping oddity from Chilean director Alejandro Jodorowsky, who set gorges rising on the cult circuit back in 1971 with El Topo. Fenix, the central character in Santa Sangre (Holy Blood), has problems. At eight, Fenix – played by Jodorowsky's son Adan – is caught between bickering parents: a circus-ringmaster father, Orgo (Guy Stockwell), and a religious-fanatic mother, Concha (Blanca Guerra). Orgo's fling with the tattooe... | More »

March 29, 1990

How to Get Ahead in Advertising

Richard E. Grant, Rachel Ward

Directed by: Bruce Robinson

Steve Martin communed with his nose in Roxanne, Michael Caine lectured his severed fingers in The Hand, and in the upcoming Me and Him Griffin Dunne chats up his penis. But not until this vigorous, cheerfully outrageous British satire has a character ever argued with a nasty boil on his neck. Worse, the boil sasses back. The pustule in question has risen on Dennis Bagley, a London advertising whiz who harvests a fortune for his clients by playing on the public's fear of dandruff, piles,... | More »

March 23, 1990

Pretty Woman

Julia Roberts, Richard Gere, Jason Alexander

Directed by: Garry Marshall

Years from now, Hollywood historians may try to pinpoint the precise moment when Julia Roberts became a star. Forget her sexy entrance in Mystic Pizza or her Oscar-nominated martyr act in Steel Magnolias. It's here, about fifteen minutes into this silly-shallow comedy, when she's soaking in a tub in a posh hotel, radio earphones on, harmonizing off-key with Prince and oblivious of how she looks to Richard Gere, who's watching her and losing his heart like the rest of us. The Ro... | More »

March 16, 1990

Lord of the Flies

Balthazar Getty, Chris Furrh, Danuel Pipoly

Directed by: Harry Hook

William Golding's 'Lord of the Flies' is a celebrated book with an off-putting reputation. The novel isn't read, it's taught -- drummed into the heads of students since it was published in 1954. Writing about a group of British schoolboys who turn savage when cut off from civilization on an island, Golding fashioned a bitter allegory to expose the beast in man. Academia was agog. In 1963, director Peter Brook made a film version of the book that stressed every symbol ... | More »

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