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movie reviews

Alice

Alec Baldwin

Directed by: Woody Allen

Mia Farrow Is Alice Tate, the way Diane Keaton was Annie Hall — a real-life inspiration for Woody Allen to make a romantic comedy that contrasts his urban Jewish intellectual take on sex, love, religion and death with the views of a woman from a strikingly different background. Instead of Annie the WASP, this time it's Alice the Catholic. Alice is an over-privileged wife and mother. Her wonderland is Manhattan, where her stockbroker husband (nicely tweaked by William Hurt) gives he... | More »

January 5, 1990

Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer

Michael Rooker, Tracy Arnold, Tom Towles

Directed by: John McNaughton

It sounds like a bad TV movie, or one of those grind-house rip-and-renders. Or at the very least like something you don't waste time reading or thinking about. Bear with me. Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer is a stinging chiller with a provocative past and a potentially bright future. It came from Chicago. First-time feature director John McNaughton started shooting this graphic tale of a mass murderer back in 1985. He had a cast of talented unknowns – drawn mostly from Chicago&... | More »

December 22, 1989

Always

Richard Dreyfuss

Directed by: Steven Spielberg

Steven Spielberg admits to a soft spot for A Guy Named Joe, a 1943 weepie starring Spencer Tracy as an ace pilot who dies in action and returns as a spirit with a mission: to comfort the girl he left behind (Irene Dunne) and inspire a young hotshot (Van Johnson) to take his place in the air and in Dunne's heart. The film was a huge favorite with World War II audiences, and no wonder. Bereavement was a fact of life, and the film propagandized, sentimentally but effectively, about eternal ... | More »

Music Box

Jessica Lange

Directed by: James F. Robinson

This film seems to exist for one dubious purpose: to snag an Oscar nomination for Jessica Lange. She plays a divorced Chicago lawyer whose devoted father (Armin Mueller-Stahl), a Hungarian immigrant, has been accused of unspeakable crimes during World War II. Now he must stand trial, and Lange will defend him. Don't expect a serious probe of the pathology of men who could murder Jews and then happily go home to their families. That might make an insightful movie. This one is concerned wi... | More »

December 20, 1989

Born on the Fourth of July

Tom Cruise, Bryan Larkin, Raymond J. Barry, Caroline Kava, Josh Evans

Directed by: Oliver Stone

Teenager Ron Kovic joined the marines, went to Vietnam to be a hero and came back in a wheelchair. In his 1976 autobiography, Kovic told how his illusions about God, country and manhood were shattered along with his spinal cord. As Kovic, Tom Cruise gives an astounding, deeply felt performance. For over two hours, under the pile-driving direction of Oliver Stone (Platoon), Cruise takes us on a grueling journey. The film spans three decades, moving Kovic through adolescence, Vietnam, therapy a... | More »

December 15, 1989

Family Business

Matthew Broderick, Sean Connery, Dustin Hoffman

Directed by: Sidney Lumet

That towering Scot Sean Connery is cast as Jessie McMullen, father to shrimpy Dustin Hoffman and grandpop to nerdy Matthew Broderick. That's just the first leap of faith this seriocomic film demands of an audience. It seems Hoffman's late mother was Italian; she named him Vito. One thing the gifted Hoffman is not is a convincing Vito. Director Sidney Lumet and screenwriter Vincent Patrick, adapting the latter's novel, spend so much time explaining how these three actors could b... | More »

December 13, 1989

Enemies: A Love Story

Lena Olin

Directed by: Paul Mazursky

Nobel Prize winner Isaac Bashevis Singer wasn't happy with the musical Barbra Streisand made from his story "Yentl." Singer, an immigrant Polish Jew, nonetheless permitted director Paul Mazursky to film this 1972 novel. The risk paid off. Mazursky and co-writer Roger Simon may miss a few vital points in exploring this multilayered work, but the spirit of the book is served. This is a stunning film, richly detailed and brilliantly acted. Set in New York in 1949, the film stars the underr... | More »

Blaze

Paul Newman

Directed by: Ron Shelton

Writer-director Ron Shelton, who scored a major hit about minor-league baseball and sex in Bull Durham, now turns to Southern politics and sex. His film is based on a 1959 scandal involving Blaze Starr, a redheaded, twenty-eight-year-old stripper, and Earl K. Long, the sixty-five-year-old good ol' boy governor of Louisiana. Earl, brother of Huey Long, had already served three terms when he met Blaze. His itch for her helped cost him a fourth. It all sounds juicier than Shelton makes it.... | More »

December 8, 1989

Triumph of the Spirit

Willem Dafoe

Directed by: Robert M. Young

This earnest but woefully misguided film (the first major feature to be shot on location at Auschwitz) tells the real-life story of Salamo Arouch, the Greek Jewish middleweight boxing champ of the Balkans who survived his two-year internment in the camp by winning more than 200 bouts arranged by his Nazi captors. (Losers were sent to the gas chambers.) Willem Dafoe stars as Arouch and gives a disciplined performance. It's a shame his restraint wasn't catching. Director Robert Young... | More »

The War of the Roses

Michael Douglas, Kathleen Turner

Directed by: Danny De Vito

"What fresh hell is this?" asks Kathleen Turner, her eyes bulging with trepidation. No, she's not a film critic still reeling from the claptrap released since Thanksgiving (Harlem Nights, National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation and the soulless sequel to Back to the Future). Turner is playing Barbara Rose, a neglected wife who wants out of her seventeen-year marriage to her lawyer husband, Oliver (Michael Douglas). There's a catch: Both Roses want to keep the elegant Washington,... | More »

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