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movie reviews

The Plot Against Harry

Martin Priest

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 »

August 25, 1989

The Little Thief

Charlotte Gainsbourg, Didier Bezace, Simon de La Brosse

Directed by: Claude Miller

Janine is seventeen. Left in the care of relatives by a neglectful mother, she turns to stealing. To escape the crushing monotony of her small-town life, she sneaks out of school, trades her drab uniform for a dress and heels and clicks off to the local movie house -- a place for dreaming. These early scenes, suffused with the pain and hope of adolescence, bear the hallmark of the great French director François Truffaut, who died in 1984. The resemblance is no coincidence. The film is... | More »

Wired

Michael Chiklis, Ray Sharkey, J.T. Walsh

Directed by: Larry Peerce

From the day it was announced that a movie would be made of Bob Woodward's book Wired: The Short Life and Fast Times of John Belushi, people got riled up. Woodward, the Washington Post's whiz, wrote not only of the late comic actor's drug problems but of rampant drug abuse in Hollywood. Dan Aykroyd, Belushi's chum, Saturday Night Live partner and frequent movie costar, was outraged at seeing his friend's life further exploited. ''I have witches working now t... | More »

August 18, 1989

Casualties of War

Michael J. Fox, Sean Penn, Don Harvey

Directed by: Brian De Palma

In the thick of the vietnam conflict back in 1968, only one movie honcho had the brass to put his views, however crackers, right up there on the screen. I'm talking about the dove-baiting Duke himself, John Wayne. As the star and director of The Green Berets, the right-wing Wayne attempted to give this undeclared war what the government could not: the good-guy-bad-guy clarity of a western. Liberal Hollywood justifiably derided the Duke but gutlessly offered no film alternative. Vietnam w... | More »

Sex, Lies, and Videotape

James Spader, Andie MacDowell

Directed by: Steven Soderbergh

Written in eight days and shot over five weeks on a meager $1.2 million budget by a twenty-six-year-old first-time feature director with a no-star cast and zilch special effects, this independent film is now the surprise success story of the year. A hit at the U.S. Film Festival in January, the movie took the top prize at Cannes in May, as well as a Best Actor Award for James Spader, one of the four leading players. Suspicious as I am of communal swoons, I must confess the fuss is warranted. ... | More »

August 16, 1989

Uncle Buck

John Candy, Macaulay Culkin, Jean Louisa Kelly

Directed by: John Hughes

During the same time that John Belushi was rising to prominence on Saturday Night Live, John Candy, another oversize comic with a talent to match, was building his reputation on SCTV. His first movie roles, supporting parts in such goodies as Stripes, Splash and Volunteers, promised a solid career. Then something happened. Studios began to shove the deservedly popular Candy into the star spot. Good idea. Lousy execution. So far, Candy's had a run of turkeys, with special dishonorable me... | More »

August 9, 1989

The Abyss

Ed Harris, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio

Directed by: James Cameron

Anyone looking for a discouraging word about this stupendously exciting and emotionally engulfing film should read no further. The Abyss confirms James Cameron as a world-class filmmaker. Granted, he started out in 1981 by directing Piranha II: The Spawning; four years later, he even helped perpetrate the screenplay of Rambo: First Blood Part II. Granted, these are capital offenses. But hold your ire. Consider The Terminator (1984), the violent masterpiece Cameron directed from a screenplay ... | More »

August 2, 1989

Parenthood

Steve Martin, Mary Steenburgen, Martha Plimpton, Keanu Reeves, Rick Moranis

Directed by: Ron Howard

The prospect of a comedy directed by Ron (Opie) Howard and loaded to bursting with gurgling infants, bratty kids, horny teens and parents who can't cope does not exactly prompt the thrill of anticipation. Howard has done notable work with Splash, Cocoon and the much-underrated Night Shift. Still, the TV sheen on this one suggested something unbearably tweed. Surprise. Parenthood, heartfelt and howlingly comic, also comes spiced with risk and mischief. Just when you fear the movie might ... | More »

July 28, 1989

Distant Voices, Still Lives

Pete Postlethwaite, Freda Dowie, Lorraine Ashbourne

Directed by: Terence Davies

In 'radio days,' woody allen drew on his own childhood to show what it was like growing up in Queens, New York, in the Forties, when families united in front of a box with no screen to listen to music, comedy and news. In this remarkably moving memory piece, the British writer and director Terence Davies uses the radio to comment on his upbringing in Liverpool during the Forties and Fifties. While Allen cast a rosy, nostalgic spell in his film, Davies paints a Dickensian portrait of... | More »

July 21, 1989

When Harry Met Sally

Billy Crystal, Meg Ryan

Directed by: Rob Reiner

Attention, sequel sufferers: If you're already bleary and reeling from too many hard-sell blockbusters, Rob Reiner offers welcome relief. Reiner's fifth feature, following This Is Spinal Tap, The Sure Thing, Stand by Me and The Princess Bride (not a loser in the bunch), is a ravishing, romantic lark brimming over with style, intelligence and flashing wit. The movie begins with a man and a woman in a car, and the car doesn't crash. That's the first thing that wins you over.... | More »

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