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movie reviews

A Dry White Season

Donald Sutherland, Janet Suzman, Zakes Mokae

Directed by: Euzhan Palcy

Marlon Brando, Al Pacino's Mafia daddy in The Godfather, is also enjoying a comeback. Offscreen since The Formuls in 1980, Brando returns in this provocative drama of apartheid, playing a British barrister who specializes in human rights. The role is small. The actor isn't. No jumbo jokes, please. Brando's girth is formidable, but so is his talent. Despite great portrayals (A Streetcar Named Desire, On the Waterfront, Last Tango in Paris), Brando, now sixty-five, has dismissed ... | More »

Queen of Hearts

Anita Zagaria, Joseph Long

Directed by: Jon Amiel

This movie moonbeam sneaks up on you. The opening scene plays like an Italian opera. In a beautiful town near Florence, Rosa (Anita Zagaria) — a young bride-to-be — flees Barbariccia (Vittorio Amandola), her intended, to run off with Danilo (Joseph Long), the man she loves. The rejected Barbariccia, knife in hand, chases them to the top of a tower. Preferring to face death rather than life without each other, Rosa and Danilo take a 120-foot leap. It's a gamble, the first of m... | More »

September 15, 1989

Sea of Love

Al Pacino, Ellen Barkin, John Goodman

Directed by: Harold Becker

With 'sea of love', his first good movie in fourteen years, Al Pacino ends a hellish losing streak: Bobby Deerfield (1977),. . . And Justice for All (1979), Cruising (1980), Author! Author! (1982), Scar-face (1983), Revolution (1985). I can't think of a great actor, and Pacino is a great actor, who has thrown us so many curveballs. These films, like Pacino's performances in them, aren't forgivable or forgettable. They're memorably, indefensibly atrocious. As a Cu... | More »

The Big Picture

Jennifer Jason Leigh, Martin Short

Directed by: Christopher Guest

You keep rooting for this Hollywood sendup to make it, even as the bad ideas start gaining on the good. What a concept: Create a comedy about a student filmmaker (Kevin Bacon) who wins a chance to develop a movie at a major studio and along the way compromises his talent, betrays his best friend, takes up with a conniving starlet, loses his sweetie and ends up in squalor until he catches on that success comes only when you stay true to yourself. Director Christopher Guest (an actor making hi... | More »

September 13, 1989

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 »

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