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movie reviews

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 »

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 »

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