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movie reviews

Mack the Knife

Raul Julia, Richard Harris, Julia Migenes

Directed by: Menahem Golan

Never mind the new title. This film is still Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill's Threepenny Opera, a 1928 musical about poverty and corruption that provokes frequent reinterpretation. A recent Broadway version featured Sting as Macheath, the infamous Victorian gang leader known as Mack the Knife. The show limped to a close after a mere sixty-five performances. Despite the contemporary window dressing – a rock-star hero and a chorus of homeless people – the show's ambition fa... | More »

January 26, 1990

Driving Miss Daisy

Jessica Tandy, Morgan Freeman

Directed by: Bruce Beresford

Alfred Uhry won a Pulitzer Prize in 1988 for his play about cranky Miss Daisy, a Southern Jewish widow loosely based on his own grandmother, and Hoke, her black chauffeur. Set between 1948 and 1973, the work is meant to illustrate the great social changes of the period through the evolving friendship of these two opposites. The play is earnest but tidy. If either of the roles is acted too broadly or uncertainly, you can hear the contrivances creak. Good news: In this funny and touching film ... | More »

January 19, 1990

Everybody Wins

Debra Winger, Nick Nolte, Will Patton

Directed by: Karel Reisz

Prize-winning playwright Arthur Miller wrote this original script – his first since The Misfits, in 1961 – so attention must be paid. Just don't expect it to be rewarded. Miller has buried a familiar story about small-town corruption under an avalanche of overblown dialogue. Nick Nolte, an actor whose reputation can survive anything if it survives this, stars as Tom O'Toole, a Boston lawyer turned Connecticut private detective. Angela Crispini, played by Debra Winger, is... | More »

Miss Firecracker

Tim Robbins, Holly Hunter

Directed by: Thomas Schlamme

I mean this as a compliment: Beth Henley's characters belong to the stage; they breathe best where they can stretch out in their own crackbrained Southern Gothic theatricality. Movies tend to constrict Henley's oddballs. Remember the arid, all-star (Diane Keaton, Sissy Spacek, Jessica Lange) 1986 screen version of Henley's Pulitzer-winning Crimes of the Heart? The Mississippi-bred Henley wrote Miss Firecracker right after Crimes. The former is much the lesser play and much the... | More »

January 12, 1990

The Plot Against Harry

Martin Priest, Ben Lang, Maxine Woods

Directed by: Michael Roemer

It may take you a while to get your bearings while watching this hypnotically funny curio about Harry Plotnik (Martin Priest), a Jewish mobster from the Bronx trying to reclaim his numbers operation after nine months in jail. For starters, the choice actors are unknowns or amateurs. No matter. The period details are immediately engaging: Clothes, makeup and slang have such a Sixties resonance you feel you've slammed into a time warp. And Robert Young's gritty black-and-white photogr... | More »

Internal Affairs

Richard Gere, Andy Garcia, Laurie Metcalf

Directed by: Mike Figgis

Just what we didn't need: another kick-ass cop flick in which we know the guys are macho because they rough up their wives and the gals are hot because they totter on spike heels like hookers. And this from British writer-director-composer Mike Figgis, whose 1988 Stormy Monday was a steamily atmospheric film noir. Now working out of his element in Los Angeles, director Figgis left the writing to newcomer Henry Bean, a Yale and Stanford grad with an overdeveloped ear for sleazy dialogue.... | More »

January 10, 1990

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 »

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