2 items from 1997
26 September 1997 | The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News | See recent The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News news »
Other than the presence of Martin Scorsese and longtime associate Barbara De Fina on the production credits, there's nothing very impressive about "Kicked in the Head", the latest in a seemingly endless series of indistinguishable slacker comedies in which the theme of aimlessness carries over to the writing and direction.
Populated by the usual assortment of quirk-laden misfits (this time James Woods, Linda Fiorentino, Michael Rapaport, Lili Taylor and Burt Young), the patience-testing production won't be kicking up much in the way of moviegoing business.
Kevin Corrigan, who also co-wrote the self-indulgent script, stars as the wide-eyed Redmond, an out-of-work, out-of-touch twentysomething New Yorker on a spiritual quest for truth.
His little voyage of self-discovery gets somewhat sidetracked thanks to his Uncle Sam (Woods), a fast-talking petty criminal who talks Redmond into doing a little drug-running errand for him that ends up going seriously awry.
Finding himself in "deep doo-doo" (one of the film's pet expressions), Redmond crashes at the apartment of his buddy Stretch (Rapaport), an upstart beer distributor who has sparked a nasty turf war.
Between dodging various bad guys and writing bad poetry, Redmond attempts to find salvation in the person of Megan (Fiorentino), a jaded flight attendant who'd prefer to be left alone.
With the exception of the always-interesting Fiorentino and a bemused Young as a benevolent thug, the rest of the assembled cast has a weakness for individual shtick that is continually at odds with the picture's intended ensemble spirit.
Director and co-writer Matthew Harrison -- whose "Rhythm Thief" earned him the 1995 Jury Prize for best director at Sundance -- has a jumpy, very New York style that has its moments, particularly during an extended sequence between Corrigan and Fiorentino. But his fondness for long, meaningful pauses only serves to underscore the tediousness of the story line.
There's some fine camerawork from John Thomas ("Metropolitan") and Howard Krupa as well as a suitably anxious score by Stephen Endelman ("Flirting With Disaster"), coupled with the kind of eccentric mix of oldies and alternative cuts that has been a trademark of Scorsese's own films.
KICKED IN THE HEAD
Director Matthew Harrison
Screenplay Kevin Corrigan, Matthew Harrison
Producer Barbara De Fina
Executive producer Martin Scorsese
Directors of photography John Thomas,
Production designer Kevin Thompson
Editor Michael Berenbaum
Costume designer Nina Canter
Music Stephen Endelman
Redmond Kevin Corrigan
Megan Linda Fiorentino
Stretch Michael Rapaport
Uncle Sam James Woods
Jack Burt Young
Happy Lili Taylor
Running time -- 86 minutes
MPAA rating: R
One doesn't need to be a cosmologist to anticipate the Big Bang when Sony's "Men in Black" opens July 2. Holdovers and other hopefuls will go splat against this broad-shouldered, well-tailored sci-fi comedy as it muscles through the prime summer season and shoots down unworldly grosses.
Word-of-mouth will be monstrous based on the universally accessible performances by leads Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith and the excellent special effects. Executive produced by Steven Spielberg and directed by Barry Sonnenfeld ("The Addams Family" films, "Get Shorty"), the Amblin Entertainment production is a "Bugbusters" with mainstream appeal and should have paranormally endowed legs to finish as one of the year's top domestic and international moneymakers.
A terrifically entertaining combination of alien conspiracy fears played for laughs and "French Connection-meets-Ghostbusters" thrills, with a stellar screenplay by Ed Solomon (the "Bill and Ted" films, the upcoming "X-Men"), "Men in Black" is so much fun one is actually mildly disappointed when it ends after an economically short 98 minutes.
Based on Lowell Cunningham's graphic novel and Malibu comic-book series -- with a new movie-based version on tap from Marvel --"Men in Black" wastes no time in introducing its prime letters, K (Jones) and J (Smith). The former is a veteran in a super-secret, unofficial governmental agency that monitors and polices a thriving population of some 1,500 aliens that have immigrated to Earth.
Sly jokes abound as deadpan K introduces New York cop J (for joker) and the audience to the many gadgets and concepts that go with them. Not only do the aliens assume human or animal form, but their frequent encounters with everyday earthlings that end in showers of goo or wanton destruction entail the MIB's use of a handheld memory eraser.
Those Ray-Ban sunglasses also come with an array of sophisticated weaponry, although it's the attitude that makes the difference. Getting one's identity honed down to the point where fingerprints are erased, however, has its down sides and the well-balanced scenario works in a homey, wistful sentiment or two.
As K and J determine that a fugitive race of aliens, along with the rest of Earth's occupants, is under attack by a malevolent "bug," the fate of the planet hinges on recovering a shiny bauble which contains something small but very important. The villain takes over the body of a farmer (Vincent D'Onofrio) and in zombie-like fashion stalks its victims in the Big Apple, leading to a rousing showdown at the 1964 World's Fair site in Queens.
Relatively restrained, Linda Fiorentino as a medical examiner whose memories of numerous visits from the MIB have been routinely zapped joins the madcap race to squash D'Onofrio's character, while Rip Torn plays the head of the agency with gruffness to spare. Other standout performers are Tony Shalhoub ("Big Night") as a hapless (and briefly headless) pawnshop owner and Siobhan Fallon as the farmer's tabloid-fodder wife.
The dialogue is spunky and fresh to go with the scum-of-the-universe-hunting story line and the visual jokes are masterfully executed. Along with the numerous gags involving heads and headlines, a pug and other critters get into the act.
Anyone doubting Jones' comic talents will find many hilarious examples to the contrary, but funnyman Smith is far from coasting on the success of last year's "Independence Day". Together they are a galactic hoot and look fabulous while clearly having a good time messing with audience expectations.
Rick Baker's alien makeup effects are amazing and visual effects supervisor Eric Brevig and Industrial Light & Magic expertly wrangle the many squishy creatures and spaceships.
Jim Miller's editing, Mary E. Vogt's costumes and Bo Welch's production design are all superb. Danny Elfman's energetic score is also a knockout, with a little help from Elvis and Smith's catchy rap title song.
MEN IN BLACK
Sony Pictures Releasing
Columbia Pictures presents
an Amblin Entertainment production
in association with MacDonald/Parkes Prods.
A Barry Sonnenfeld film
Director Barry Sonnenfeld
Producers Walter F. Parkes, Laurie MacDonald
Writer Ed Solomon
Executive producer Steven Spielberg
Co-producer Graham Place
Director of photography Don Peterman
Production designer Bo Welch
Editor Jim Miller
Alien make-up effects Rick Baker
Visual effects supervisor Eric Brevig
Costume designer Mary E. Vogt
Music Danny Elfman
Casting David Rubin, Debra Zane
J Will Smith
Laurel Linda Fiorentino
Edgar Vincent D'Onofrio
Zed Rip Torn
Jeebs Tony Shalhoub
Beatrice Siobhan Fallon
Running time : 98 minutes
MPAA rating: PG-13
2 items from 1997
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