Archive of 1998 Reviews

Rating System:

*A loser, a bomb. Miss it at all costs.

**An acceptable film, but not much more.

***A decent film with some virtues.

****An excellent film. Recommended highly.

*****A one of a kind. A great film.

1998 Films

Alphabetical Index of 1998 Films Reviewed


Air Force One


The Apostle

As Good As It Gets

The Big Lebowski

Boogie Nights

Brassed Off

The Butcher Boy

Career Girls

Children of the Revolution

Chinese Box

City of Angels

Cousin Bette


Deconstructing Harry

The Devils Advocate

Eves Bayou

Female Perversions

The Full Monty

The Game


The Gingerbread Man


Good Will Hunting

In The Company of Men

The Horse Whisperer

The House of Yes

The Ice Storm


Jackie Brown

Kiss The Girls


LA Confidential

The Land Girls

Ma Vie En Rose

The Mask of Zorro

Men With Guns

Midnight In The Garden of Good and Evil

La Promesse

The Last Days of Disco

Les Miserables

Mrs. Brown

Nenette and Boni

Oscar and Lucinda

The Other Side of Sunday

A Perfect Murder

The Pillow Book

Shall We Dance

The Spanish Prisoner


The Sweet Hereafter

Temptress Moon



Ulees Gold

Wag The Dog

Wings of the Dove

Why Do Fools Fall In Love



"Les Miserables"-Yes, it is the story of Jean Valjean once again. But no singing this time. Liam Neeson, a very talented actor with a strong presence, is certainly up to the part of the good and decent Valjean. Geoffrey Rush is a wonderfully sinister and overly severe Inspector Javert. Uma Thurman unfortunately has little to do as the dying Fantine other than look pretty and worn out. Claire Danes, however, is delightful as Cosette, Fantine's daughter, who falls into Valjean's care and whose love for a revolutionary almost destroys Valjean. This is certainly not a great film, but it tells the story simply, effectively, and well. Video. ***1/2 (12/31/98)

"Why Do Fools Fall In Love"-A minor rock-based Rashomon, this is the story of three women who met, fell in love with, and "married" the singer Frankie Lymon. Lymon, who made the great rock hit which is the title of film at age 15 in 1955 had a meteoric rise and fall, and ultimately died of a drug overdose at 28. Larenz Tate is quite good as Lymon, although certainly a lot more attractive than the real singer. Lymon managed to attract three interesting women, one of whom was one of the original members of "The Platters." This is the story of the mid-1980's lawsuits of each seeking Lymon's royalties, and it's also the story of their differing memories of the ill-fated early star of rock. The women are well played by Hallie Berry, Lela Rochon, and Viveca Fox. The early scenes of the Alan Freed rock shows are quite authentic. Video. *** (12/29/98)

"The Gingerbread Man"-A Robert Altman film based on a John Grisham story. Kenneth Branagh stars with Embeth Davidtz, Darryl Hannah, Robert Downey, Jr., and Robert Altman. The film is an unmitigated disaster. Miss it at all costs. Video. 1/2 (12/26/98)

"Cousin Bette"-A costume drama in 1840's Paris based on the Balzac novel. A group of good actors, including Jessica Lange, Bob Hoskins, and Hugh Laurie. A plot involving the hoped-for revenge of a jealous and ill-treated cousin. All the makings of a perfect film? Alas, while this movie is mildly entertaining, the whole thing is amazingly flat. The direction lacks the snap and excitement necessary for this genre. And Elisabeth Shue is miscast as a gorgeous courtesan/entertainer who plays a significant role in Cousin Bette's plans to destroy her cousin's family. Video. **1/2 (12/25/98)

"City of Angels"-Just as I suspected, this film is pretty pap. Nonsense and bunk for the mindless. Meg Ryan is fun to look at. Nicolas Cage does his usual stupefying performance as a hopeless lovesick "angel," for want of a better word. I kept wondering if angels only "live" in LA libraries and go to LA beaches for their salute to the sun, or if they are also out there in the wilds and beauty of city ghettos checking out the sunsets and sunrises. Video. ** (12/24/98)

"La Promesse"-This is a Belgian film about a teenage boy who is being carefully taught by his father to live the life of a sleazy thief. When the father commits an atrocity, the boy has a revelation and a desire to atone for the misdeed in which he participated. This is an uplifting film, but not in the way American films would do it. The scenery and the environment are unremittingly ugly, and at the end there is no miracle. This is sad but moral film. Video. ***1/2 (12/19/98)

"The Other Side of Sunday"-This Norwegian film is an absolute gem (it was a best foreign language film Oscar nominee). Maria, a beautiful teen with normal desires, is the daughter of the ultra-strict and ultra-orthodox local priest, and this is the tale of her rebellion against a father and an orthodox religion that does not allow people to enjoy life without asking Jesus constantly for forgiveness. Maria's discovery of her own humanity and her own more liberal views of religion and life are elating. Highly recommended. Video. **** (12/11/98)

"Nenette and Boni"-It seems that most European films these days are about children and are often coming of age stories. This one fits the bill. A young man (Boni) is alienated from his father and sister (Nenette) and lives in the home left to him by his late mother. He is fantasizing over the baker's sexy wife. Pregnant teen sister arrives, having run from school, and brother and sister engage in various forms of angst. Pregnant sister doesn't know what she wants to do with her life, but she ultimately has the child and the young man is transformed. Video. **1/2 (12/11/98)

"The Mask of Zorro"-Occasionally, we all must just sit back and enjoy the kind of film I think of as a "good bad film." Nothing serious. Just a little adventure, evil, intrigue, and romance. This fun film fits the bill. Fortunately, it has Anthony Hopkins as an aging Zorro, Antonio Banderas as a young thug turning into a young Zorro, and the beautiful Catherine Zeta Jones (is she really Welsh?). Stuart Wilson also does a nice job as the evil governor. It is ironic that to portray Spanish characters, three British actors were used: Hopkins, Jones, and Wilson. At least Banderas is the real thing. Video. *** (12/5/98)

"The Land Girls"-This is a film about three young women in the Women's Land Army of Britain during WW II, who come to work at a farm occupied by a husband and wife and grown son. The son, played by Steven Mackintosh, ultimately becomes involved with all three women (Catherine McCormack, Anna Friel and Rachel Weisz) in one way or another. The film is pretty and the women are pretty. But the corny romance of the film ultimately and unfortunately wins out. Video. **1/2 (11/24/98)

"The Butcher Boy"-I read this book and wondered how it could be translated into a movie. But Neil Jordan, the Director of "The Crying Game," has done wonders. The story of an Irish boy with a disturbed and suicidal mother and drunk father has been made into a colorful and human story about the serious deterioration of innocence and the mind. Eamonn Owens is a marvelous find as Francie Brady, and the excellent cast includes Stephen Rea as Francie's father, Fiona Shaw as Francie's nemesis, Mrs. Nugent, Sinead O'Connor as the Virgin Mary, and Milo O'Shea as a somewhat nutty old priest. The cinematography is beautiful and the more unpleasant scenes are done very tastefully. I rented this film with trepidations, but can recommend it highly. Video. **** (11/23/98)

"The Horse Whisperer"-This movie is a fantasy of sorts. A horrible accident occurs to two young girls and their horses and the mother of one girl decides to risk all and take her injured daughter and injured horse to Montana to allow a "horse whisperer" to do wonders and, of course, he does. For that "Horse Whisperer" is none other than Robert Redford, the golden man who also directed the film. Redford is always the good, the decent and the inspirational. Corny? Absolutely, but it is a delightful pleasure when one considers the range, quality and themes of most other contemporary movies. This film is somewhat typical of Redford's direction. The cinematography and scenery are absolutely gorgeous. The cast is first rate (Kristen Scott Thomas, last seen in "The English Patient" is the mother; Scarlett Johansson is excellent as the teenage daughter; Sam Neill does his usual good job as Thomas' husband; and Dianne Wiest, most often seen in New York based films and plays, is wonderful as Redford's ranch bound sister-in-law). The theme of healing is obvious and yet subtle in its application. The film is long, almost three hours, but Redford does it so beautifully and smoothly, that it seems to fly by. Video. **** (11/14/98)

"A Perfect Murder"-Gwyneth Paltrow is cute. That's about it for her. Michael Douglas is, well, Michael Douglas. He's played this part many times before. This is a retread; a mediocre copy of a first-rate play/movie called "Dial M For Murder." Video. ** (11/7/98)

"Godzilla"-Yes, this film got horrible reviews and bombed at the box office. But it has some terrific special effects (although many of the scenes of New York look more like the "Batman" scenery than anything one has ever seen in NYC) which may look better on a decent size TV screen than it did on the large theater screens; some appealing actors, including Matthew Broderick and Jean Reno; and a fairly humorous (at times) script. The film does not take itself totally seriously, and that helps. And it has a monster who has both appealing animal characteristics and some of the greatest footsteps that I've ever seen in a monster movie. For what it's worth, I enjoyed myself watching this film. Video. *** (11/7/98)

"The Last Days of Disco"-Anyone who has seen "Metropolitan" and "Barcelona," knows that Whit Stillman is a director of films unique to himself: witty films with wonderful dialogue about young and affluent people. This film is no different, and it is certainly completely worthy of the other two. Kate Beckinsale, who was wonderful in "Cold Comfort Farm" and Chloe Sevigny play two young women up and coming in the business world who are looking for love, real friendship, and a decent place to live and are surrounded by former college classmates going through similar experiences amidst the power and magic of the world of business and the world of disco in the "very early 1980's." The men include Chris Eigeman, Robert Sean Leonard, and Mackenzie Astin. The script is sharp and witty, the characters are equally pained and painful, and the experience of life in one's 20's surrounded by jealousy, lust, desire, envy, and hope comes through crystal clear. I liked this film and was especially impressed with the acting of Kate Beckinsale, a British actress (without an accent) playing a lonely but bitchy young woman, and Chloe Sevigny who plays a low-key young woman with seeming nerves of steel. And there's plenty of disco music, if you enjoy that sort of thing. Video. **** (10/30/98)

"The Spanish Prisoner"-An ultimate con game and an innocent victim. The cast sounds like it came right out of the 1950's TV show "Dragnet," but then that's the typical creation of David Mamet who wrote and directed this thriller. Campbell Scott is a smart scientist, but he's not terribly smart in other aspects of his life, including trusting people, and he allows himself to be taken in by a gang of con artists. In fact, Scott can't trust anyone, even the FBI and the police. Sound familiar? Well, in a way, yes, although with Mamet in charge it isn't quite like the usual thriller. There are some real holes in the plot and some unlikely events in the film, but watching the cast (which includes Rebecca Pidgeon (sure she's not Holly Hunter without a southern accent?), Ben Gazzara, Ricky Jay, and Steve Martin), go through their Mamet script and direction is fun itself. Video. *** (10/12/98)

"Men With Guns"-These days we rarely see films made by a director with a conscience. John Sayles is one of those exceptions to the rule. This is a film, mostly in Spanish, about evil in the mountains of a Latin American country (unspecified). Dr. Fuentes (Federico Luppi), a distinguished looking white haired doctor from the capitol city decides to take his vacation by visiting his former students who are practicing medicine among the Indians of the mountains. What he finds is that his former students have met up with "men with guns" in a battle between the army and the guerillas in which the local Indians are the ultimate tragic victims. Sayles comments on the banality of evil. Mandy Patinkin has a cameo as an American tourist treading on dangerous grounds. On video. **** (10/11/98)

"Twilight"-Here we have a modern day film noir set in the usual location, Los Angeles and its environs, with a fairly predictable plot. The fun comes from watching old pros like Paul Newman as an almost broken-down detective, Gene Hackman and Susan Sarandon as a wealthy couple with some secrets to protect, Stockard Channing as a police lieutenant, and James Garner as a retired cop friend of Newman's character. Some humor and pathos make the film decent entertainment if nothing else is going on. On video. **1/2 (10/10/98)

"Chinese Box"-This is a somewhat tortured film about a dying British journalist (Jeremy Irons) in Hong Kong who has somewhat of an unrequited love for a gorgeous Chinese woman (Gong Li) with a suspicious background. The film takes place during the first half of 1997 as Hong Kong prepared for the departure of the British and its return to China. Gong Li, who apparently is not well versed in English, has little to say and therein lies a major weakness. She too often stands around mute with a dull expression as if she knows no language. It comes almost as a shock at the end to hear her speak beautifully and expressively in her native Chinese. Two virtues of this film are the scenes of Hong Kong and the performance of Maggie Cheung as an object of Irons' journalistic endeavors. On video. *** (10/3/98)

"Jackie Brown"-It's a Quentin Tarantino movie. Lots of bloody violence, right? Well, surprisingly, the answer is no. Oh, of course, there are a few shooting deaths, but Tarantino this time keeps it fairly subtle. And the story is relatively low key considering the subject matter of a very clever theft of a large sum of money right under the noses of the cops. Robert Forster was nominated for an Oscar for best supporting actor, and he did a good job, but why Samuel L. Jackson wasn't recognized for his wonderful performance as a gun runner is beyond me. Robert DeNiro expands his horizons with a low-key performance as Jackson's dim-witted sidekick. Pam Grier is clever and sexy as the flight attendant who has everyone on the run. And Bridget Fonda is fine as a "surfer girl." Michael Keaton, on the other hand, is Michael Keaton. On video. *** 1/2 (9/11/98)

"Titanic"-This is one of those must-see movies that I finally saw. And, yes, it is ultra-romantic, corny, is loaded with efforts to push the buttons of the viewer, and in some places is excruciatingly slow (I practically screamed at the scene of Kate Winslet floating on a piece of wood in a frozen sea, almost allowing a rescue boat to pass her by). In fact, it is so slow at times that one must believe that James Cameron, the director, wanted to drag it out to 3 1/4 hours (one can only imagine what was deleted to make the final cut!). But ultimately, it is an example of what makes movies magic. Cameron's efforts are truly spectacular. Even when occasional scenes don't look completely realistic, there is enough here upon which to feast one's eyes. The re-creation of the inside of the Titanic is as authentic as one can imagine. The water scenes inside the sinking ship are as frightening as anything seen in fright/scare movies or science fiction. And the final scenes of the ship going down are like nothing seen before in movies, including the earlier films about this 1912 tragedy. Finally, the quality of the acting is not really an issue here. The film is not intended as an acting vehicle for its stars. Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet are extremely attractive as the romantic pair. Gloria Stuart is wonderful as the elderly Rose Calvert. And Billy Zane and David Warner are sufficiently rotten as Rose's obnoxious fiance and his thug. Frances Fisher is memorable as Rose's snob-of-a-mother. And Kathy Bates is fine as Molly Brown. On video. **** (9/6/98)

"The Apostle"-This is Robert Duvall's film all the way. And it is quite an accomplishment. Duvall has truly captured the character of a fanatic evangelist who is at the same time a flawed and somewhat hypocritical individual. Having been exposed to evangelism as a child, Sonny, Duvall's character, is obviously obsessed with his religious fervor as a way of dealing with his otherwise very human traits. This is a powerful performance by Duvall in this movie of his own creation. Farrah Fawcett is good as Sonny's unhappy wife. Miranda Richardson, an English actress, does an excellent turn as a southern woman who catches Sonny's eye. On video. **** (9/5/98)

"Kundun"-Who would have expected this type of film from Director Martin Scorsese? Known primarily for films about toughs in New York City, Scorsese has made a gorgeous film about Tibet and the Dalai Lama. With the essential and unusually beautiful music of Philip Glass in the background, Scorsese tells the story of the search for the 14th Dalai Lama in the 1930's when he was only an infant, his selection, and ultimately his tragedy at being forced from his native Tibet by the Communist Chinese in the early 1950s. The photography and scenery are beautiful and the acting is extremely well done by what appears to be native Tibetan cast. The reactions of a religious (but also governmental) leader to extreme political pressures are the primary theme. On video. **** (8/29/98)

"Dead|Heart"-An Australian murder mystery starring Bryan Brown, this cultural drama involves hostilities between Aborigines and whites in a remote area of the Australian outback. Culture, sex, and murder. Certainly a good combination and unusually interesting in light of the setting. On video. *** (8/22/98)

"The Big Lebowski"-Joel and Ethan Coen, who have made some funny and bizarre films, most notably "Fargo," have gone astray with this weird and aimless film about an unemployed member of a wacky bowling team who gets involved with confused underworld types. Jeff Bridges' performance as "The Dude" borders on complete aimlessness and John Goodman is wonderfully wrong headed as a super opinionated dunderhead. My primary question at the end of the film: "Why?" On video. **1/2 (8/22/98)

"Ma Vie En Rose" (My Life in Pink)-European (especially French) film directors seem somewhat obsessed these days about making films about children. Some, such as "Ponette," ultimately are duds, but this film is absolutely delightful and painful at the same time. Georges Du Fresne plays young Ludovic, a seven year old boy who wants to be a girl. Michele Laroque and Jean-Philippe Ecoffey are excellent as Ludovic's parents who suffer the social and economic consequences of having such a son. A commentary on love, understanding, and the suburban mentality, the film is beautifully made and acted. Young Georges' performance is a wonder. On video. **** (7/26/98)

"Sphere"-This fairly decent science fiction film from the book by Michael Crichton stars Dustin Hoffman, Sharon Stone, and Samuel L. Jackson, as members of a crew chosen to investigate a space ship that is on the bottom of the Pacific and which has been there for hundreds of years. The psychological elements of the story are reminders of the early sci-fi film "Forbidden Planet." Many of the usual cliches are present and the spaceship looks like it was a leftover set from one of the "Alien" films, but there are some good moments. On video. *** (7/25/98)

"Amistad"-Three elements: Stephen Spielberg, the subject of man's monumental inhumanity, and a big picture. These are all of the elements that caused "Schindler's List" to be raved about and rated one of the best films. And yet this film got none of the recognition that "Schindler's List" got. Although it has its flaws (how many films don't?) this film is beautifully produced and filmed, extremely well acted, and makes many important points about a subject, slavery, that continue to haunt us to this day. Djimon Hounsou is wonderful as Cinque the African rebel leader aboard the slave ship La Amistad; Anthony Hopkins performs his usual wonders as John Quincy Adams; and Matthew McConaughey and Morgan Freeman provide excellent support as, respectively, Cinque's attorney and a former slave fighting for justice. On video. ****1/2 (7/18/98)

"Good Will Hunting"-This is one of those films one sees after so many rave reviews and discovers, to one's delight, that it is actually as good as people have been saying. Matt Damon is first-rate as the young savant tough who comes under the wings of Stellan Skarsgard as an MIT math professor and Robin Williams as the psychologist of like background. Both Skarsgard and Williams are excellent and it is a particular pleasure to see Robin Williams, one of the funniest people on earth, playing a completely serious role to the hilt. Ben Affleck, who co-wrote the story, is also good as Damon's buddy, and Minnie Driver does her usual outstanding job as a funny pre-Med student who falls for Damon and then has to leave. On video. **** (7/12/98)

"Afterglow"-Two confused couples, a lot of sex on the mind, and some insight into troubled marriages. It's nice to have Julie Christie back. Where has she been all these years? On video. *** (7/4/98)

"Wings of the Dove"-I've long felt that movie trailers are overly long and often show far too much of the film. I had seen the coming attractions of this film so many times that I almost didn't want to watch the actual movie. And then there was the surprise: the film is very different from what the trailer implies. It's a slow-moving and well-filmed story of love and greed based on the novel by Henry James. The scenes in Venice are exquisite, but it's hard to go wrong filming Venice. Helena Bonham Carter does her usual good job as a woman attempting to be part of the rich establishment and failing. Linus Roache is very appealing as the object of her affections who is caught up in her confusion. And Alison Elliott is delightful as an ultra-rich American who is the object of both their affection and their greed. On video. ***1/2 (7/3/98)

"Wag The Dog"-Are we as manipulated as this movie implies? Not likely (the press would have to be almost totally brain dead to allow the events of this film to be broadcast on national news without question). But the film certainly makes its point about the artificiality of much of what we, the public, is thinking about thanks to the media, politicians, and spinmeisters. And not only is it about the manipulation of the public by media types, but even more frighteningly, it's also about the manipulation of the manipulators. Robert DeNiro and Dustin Hoffman form a perfect comedic "on the road" pair, with Anne Heche quite fetching as the comedic sidekick. Woody Harrelson plays a humorous psychopath. On video. ***1/2 (7/3/98)

"Oscar and Lucinda"-Here is a wonderful film, little known and little seen. Directed by Gillian Armstrong, Ralph Fiennes and Cate Blanchett play the title characters, an Englishman and an Australian with common bonds, i.e., gambling fever. Oscar, who hates water, meets Lucinda aboard a ship sailing for Australia and they ultimately form a fateful relationship. Lucinda, the owner of a glassworks in New South Wales, is the object of Oscar's love. Fearing that she loves another, Oscar undertakes an adventure that will change all of their lives and is centered around one of the more unusual structures seen in film: a glass church which Oscar attempts to transport across Australia. The scene of the church floating down an Australian river toward its destination is one that cannot be forgotten. Fiennes is outstanding as a nervous Oscar, uncertain about just who he is and what he's about. And Cate Blanchett is absolutely radiant and wonderful as Lucinda. From the novel by Peter Carey. On video. **** (6/12/98)

"Midnight In The Garden of Good and Evil"-Despite a somewhat slow and rocky start, this film about some of the more unusual and bizarre characters in Savannah, GA, gains momentum and turns into a rather interesting tale of "murder and mayhem" among the relatively "nouveau riche." John Cusack does his usual good but not overwhelming job as John Kelso, a writer from New York, who discovers that there is more "life" in Savannah than he expects. Kevin Spacey looks a little artificial as Jim Williams, Kelso's host, and ultimately a murder defendant, but he finally convinces the viewer that he is in fact the unusual owner of Mercer House. Most notable is a rather amazing performance by The Lady Chablis playing "herself." And finally to be noted is Alison Eastwood as an Elizabeth Shue look-a-like. Directed by Clint Eastwood. On video. ***1/2 (6/12/98)

"The Sweet Hereafter"-This is an extremely well filmed and well acted movie about the aftermath of a school bus accident. Filmed around an obvious "pied piper" theme, the film deals with the loss of children and the loss of innocence. I had already read the book and there is no question that, having done so, it took some of the sting out of the film. The book is excellent, but I recommend seeing the film first. My only problem with the film is that it is presented in somewhat confusing time sequences. My sense was that had I not read the book I might have been confused about what was happening, at least initially. Ian Holm plays a lawyer with a mission and a drug addict daughter. Sarah Polley is outstanding as a double victim who ultimately decides the fate of the lawsuit Holm is trying to build. The cast was made up of relative unknowns all of whom do a wonderful job. It was filmed beautifully in British Columbia, although the original site of the story in the book is upstate New York. On video. **** (5/29/98)

"Kiss The Girls"-Morgan Freeman and Ashley Judd work well together as a police forensic psychologist and a doctor/victim/investigator, respectively, who battle against evil. The story is predictable and formulaic but okay for a couple of hours of mindless diversion. On the plus side, for a story of a madman who kidnaps women, the movie has surprisingly little violence or sex. On video. **1/2 (5/29/98)

"Shall We Dance"-This is a charming Japanese film about a businessman who is becoming a little bored with his life and decides to try ballroom dancing after noticing a beautiful dance teacher in the window of a dance studio. The film is naturally acted with wit and humor. It reflects cultural and marriage mores of the Japanese, as well as good insight into basic human desires. No famous stars, no car crashes, just a first-rate experience. On video. **** (5/23/98)

"As Good As It Gets"-What do we have here? Three misfits who find each other in a sea of corn and pap. The film pushes every button known to movie-going. Greg Kinnear is surprisingly convincing as the gay artist, Simon, who first hates Melvin Udall, the ultra eccentric writer played by Jack Nicholson, and then comes to rely on him. Jack Nicholson's eyebrows curl on many occasions, and Helen Hunt does a nice job as a waitress who becomes the subject of Nicholson's admiration and charity. Nicholson and Hunt won Oscars for this film. I can understand that, but they wouldn't have gotten my vote. Cuba Gooding Jr., is as usual, fun to watch as Kinnear's art dealer. Kinnear's dog in the film should have won an award. On video. *** (5/22/98)

"Female Perversions"-This is definitely not for everyone. A movie about women and directed by a woman, it is the story of two sisters, one a lawyer desiring to become a judge but one with distinct emotional problems in her ability to relate to others both sexually and otherwise, and the other a Ph.D. candidate who lives in a rural area and suffers from kleptomania, causing legal problems. The emotional problems of each appear to be the result of a disturbed childhood, with hints of abuse. This film is fairly graphic. The style is slow, but fascinating. It stars Tilda Swinton as the lawyer sister, and Amy Madigan as the rural sister. On video. *** (5/16/98)

"The Ice Storm"-This film takes place in New Canaan, CT, in 1973. New Canaan is a place quite familiar to me since the early 1980's as it is the town adjacent to where I live. I often go there and regularly swim at the New Canaan YMCA. But the New Canaan portrayed in this film is of a different era, the era of Vietnam, Watergate, wife swapping, and teen angst (no, that apparently hasn't changed much). This excellent film is unrelentingly both fascinating and depressing, portraying an aimless group of ultra suburbanites, their marital woes, the contrast between their material possessions and the emptiness of their lives, and the overall effect on the lives of their children. Kevin Kline, Joan Allen, and Sigourney Weaver are superb as the leading characters. Christina Ricci masterfully plays the sexually obsessed daughter of Kline/Allen, and the rest of the cast is also outstanding. The set decorator deserved an award as the film was actually made in the spring after the snows and ice had long melted, but the film will definitely give you an icy chill. On video. **** (5/9/98)

"L.A. Confidential"-I met James Ellroy, the author of the book upon which this film is based. He was signing autographs at a bookstore and I had the opportunity to chat with him. He talked of "blood running in the sewers" of Los Angeles. Later, I learned that he is a man who sees life through the eyes of a boy whose mother was murdered in the Los Angeles of the 1950's. The story of "L.A. Confidential" is cliched and there is much too much violence, and yet this film is spectacularly well done film noir. What really makes this movie are the wonderful 1950's LA sets and the music which sets the tone and mood of the era. Guy Pearce is a genuine surprise (why have I never heard of him before?) as Ed Exley, the cop with integrity. Kim Basinger is gorgeous and perfect as the Veronica Lake look-a-like prostitute with the hair and heart of gold. Russell Crowe creates a presence that I've rarely felt in films. Kevin Spacey gives his usual first-rate performance as Jack Vincennes, the cop with an eye on show business. And James Cromwell has come a long way since "Babe," with the performance of his career as the tough cop, Dudley Smith. On video. **** (5/8/98)

"Gattaca"-Vincent is a young man in the near future who is naturally born and thus genetically flawed, a state which makes him an In-Valid. But he dreams of traveling into space and thus must somehow become one of the Valids, people born as a result of genetic engineering to be virtually perfect, for it is only they who are taken on by Gattaca, an organization which conducts space travel. This science fiction film is low key, mostly non-violent, and intelligently portrays Vincent's efforts to accomplish his goals through the help of an injured "Valid," played wonderfully by Jude Law. Ethan Hawke is excellent as Vincent. Uma Thurman looks beautiful but has little to do. And Alan Arkin stands out as a police officer who is going to get his man when murder occurs at Gattaca. On video. ***1/2 (5/8/98)

"Mrs. Brown"-This film was produced by WGBH and Masterpiece Theater but somewhere along the line it wound up as a first-run film and deservedly so. Judi Dench as Queen Victoria and Billy Connolly as John Brown, the Queen's "servant" who brings her out of the lethargy she had fallen into with the death of Prince Albert, are both superb. The film is scenic both in its cinematic beauty and in the depth to which it portrays the Victoria/Disraeli/Gladstone era. A wonderful film. Dench should have won the Oscar for this outstanding performance. On video. **** (5/2/98)

"The House of Yes"-Parker Posey, one of the most gifted young actresses around and one who seems purposefully to be avoiding the big time of Hollywood films, is devastating as Jackie O, a disturbed young lady who is obsessed with memories and images of the Kennedy assassination. This black comedy about a strange family and the unfortunate young lady who comes into its midst is wonderful and bizarre. Posey's performance is not to be missed. On video. **** (5/2/98)

"Boogie Nights"-Some years ago, someone I knew referred to the film "Blue Velvet" as being a "psychosexual look at the underside of life." Well, if that film wasn't quite that, this film certainly is. The sleazy world of a quasi-Hollywood, producing porno films and sniffing cocaine is dramatically documented in a tragi-comedy that brings out some unusual and excellent performances. Burt Reynolds is perfect as the porno-director whose world seems to revolve around him while he remains almost joyfully uninvolved. Mark Wahlberg is a surprise as the well-endowed porno star Dirk Diggler, and Julianne Moore, an adventurous performer, is wonderful as Amber Waves, a woman so caught up in the porno-drug scene that she can't deal with her own personal responsibilities. One of the more humorous and tragic aspects of the film is the portrayal of porno star Rollergirl, excellently performed by Heather Graham. On video. ***1/2 (4/25/98)

"Ulee's Gold"-A slow-moving, warm and intelligent film about a Vietnam vet/beekeeper in Florida who lives with his two granddaughters and becomes caught up in the problems of his prisoner son and druggie daughter-in-law. Peter Fonda is outstanding in this unique role that makes one think of his father. Patricia Richardson, usually seen on TV in "Home Improvement," gets to do some real acting here and is wonderful in a non-glamorous role. On video. **** (4/18/98)

"In The Company of Men"-This film is different, like little one sees in the normal course of movie-going. It is the story of two young businessmen and the game created by one to woo and win over a handicapped young woman and then cruelly drop her, ostensibly to get revenge on womankind. Things don't turn out exactly as one might think. And the film makes one wonder whether people like this really exist. All of the actors are unknown and good. On video. *** (4/11/98)

"The Full Monty"-This film, astonishingly, won an Academy Award for "Best Original or Comedy Score." Well, I just finished watching the film and the only thing I can say is: "what score?" The movie industry must have a tin ear. Now that I've seen the film, I'm also rather surprised it was nominated for "Best Film." Frankly, I found it rather dull and flat. The story of unemployed or soon to be unemployed workers was done far more intelligently and with a great deal of charm in "Brassed Off." "The Full Monty" had no charm and a sour script with silly scenes of shoplifting and other unfunny situations. I was not impressed. On video. **1/2 (4/3/98)

"Eve's Bayou"-This film is about a beautiful Louisiana family (the father is a doctor, the mother is gorgeous, and there are three beautiful children, including Eve, a 10 year old) with problems. It is well acted, especially by the young star, Jurnee Smolett, as Eve, and beautifully filmed in bayou country. The film raises questions of philandering and abuse and there's a little touch of voodoo. A nice film, although seemingly not very realistic. It also stars Samuel L. Jackson, Lynn Whitfield, and Debbi Morgan, and has an interesting appearance by Diahann Carroll as a voodoo specialist. On video. *** (3/14/98)

"Air Force One"-Exactly as expected, this thriller is lots of fun. Don't expect substance, just plenty of thrills and spills. Harrison Ford seems a little too calm in the circumstances, but he does a bang-up job as a heroic president who can give great speeches, shoot machine guns, and fly jets. On video. *** (2/28/98)

"The Devil's Advocate"-A Mephistophalean version of "The Firm," almost. I've got to admit that it held my attention but it had the kind of ending that is so typical of Hollywood films. I admit I was surprised. It never occurred to me that they could pull this one off again, but they did. Keanu Reeves isn't terrible with a southern accent, and Charlize Theron is a very pleasant surprise as his wife who suffers terribly after leaving Gainesville, FL to move to New York. Al Pacino is, of course, Al Pacino. He stares with little expression, he rants, he raves, and he stares some more. If one were to witness such acting on a stage, one is most likely to want to leave at the intermission. Pacino has somehow managed to gain a reputation as one of the great actors in American film. If one truly believes that loud expressionless and two-dimensional emoting is great acting, then I can't argue with that opinion.On video. *** (2/28/98)

"The Pillow Book"-Anyone who has ever seen a film made by Peter Greenaway knows that they are among the more bizarre experiences of one's film-going life. This is no exception. Greenaway's past films include "The Cook, The Thief, His Wife, and Her Lover," and "The Draughtsman's Contract." This film stars Vivian Wu as a woman obsessed with calligraphy with a difference. She likes it written on her own body and she likes writing on others. Ewen McGregor co-stars as an Englishman in Hong Kong who becomes a book, both figuratively and otherwise. Not for those who react adversely to very bizarre scenes and visual concepts. This was rated NC-17. On video.*** (2/15/98)

"Brassed Off"-Billed as a comedy, this film is far too serious for that genre. It is about a colliery brass band in Yorkshire, England, which is made up of miners (plus a beautiful young lady who turns out to work for management-Tara Fitzgerald) who are hoping to keep the "pit" open against the forces of the hated Thatcher Tory government. This picture is as pro-labor as they get and very humane. The film also stars Pete Postlethwaite as the dedicated band leader who rises in anger at the end, and Ewan McGregor as a band member torn between love for Ms. Fitzgerald and his feelings about the mine. On video. ****(2/7/98)

"The Game"-In many ways a typical American thriller starring Michael Douglas, but this one is a little different. Douglas is offered an unknown game by his brother (Sean Penn) and winds up in a maelstrom that makes him question the difference between reality and fiction. The viewer is never quite sure. Suspension of disbelief is absolutely necessary, especially for the climactic conclusion. Also starring an intriguing and strikingly beautiful Deborah Kara Unger (who was also seen in "Crash"). On video. *** (2/6/98)

"Temptress Moon"-The latest Chinese film starring Gong Li (is she the only leading lady in China?) as a young lady who becomes head of a very rich country household when her older brother suffers an Opium related accident and who has the misfortune to be obsessively in love with the brother of her older brother's wife. This young man is, without her knowledge, an amoral gigolo in Shanghai. And there are shocking consequences. A decent film but not up to the standards of other recent Chinese dramas such as "Raise The Red Lantern, " also starring Gong Li. On video. **1/2 (1/17/98)

"Children of the Revolution"-Is it a comedy or a drama? This is an Australian film with Judy Davis as a Communist in the Sydney of the early 1950's who is invited to Russia, contributes to the end of Joe Stalin, and who suffers the consequences after her return to Sydney and the birth of her son, Joe. Sam Neill, Geoffrey Rush, and F. Murray Abraham also star. The acting is typically good. The film is interesting but one keeps asking who thought up such a strange film. On video. **1/2 (1/17/98)

"Career Girls"-Mike Leigh's charming look at the reunion of two young women who lived together in college and now, six years later, are working women trying to regain their friendship over a weekend. Leigh is an intelligent director who made the bizarre and rough "Naked," and the wonderful "Secrets and Lies," and this film is equally witty and insightful. Katrin Cartlidge (who was spectacular in "Breaking The Waves") and Lynda Steadman are outstanding as the two young women. On video.*** (1/16/98)

"Deconstructing Harry"-Woody Allen at his bitterest, a fairly raunchy look at sex, romance, religion, Judaism, and psychiatry. It is also Allen's severe comment on the way the world looks at him (does he belong in Hell?). This picture should really be called "Deconstructing Woody." Seen at a theater. *** (1/1/98)


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