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|48 reviews in total|
How unhappy the characters in "Miller's Crossing" are... and it's
riveting. Gabriel Byrne is magnificently dour as the lead, while Albert
Finney is unpredictable as the idiot-savant crime boss Leo (could this
be the same A. Finney that delighted in "Tom Jones"? Now *that's*
"Miller's Crossing" rivals the "Godfather" movies in its portrayal of organized crime as a ruthless, godless enterprise; it doesn't quite have the scope or grandeur of Coppola's classics, but no sequence in the Corleone family saga can match the assassination attempt on Leo (which, by the way, is best served with the surround sound cranked).
They've made funnier, more "enjoyable" films, but few of the Coens other efforts before or since have equaled "Miller's Crossing" in its balance of style and content.
Sheer silliness, given structure by a tight script. The supporting cast
shines- Austin Pendleton, Kenneth Mars, John Hillerman, Madeline Kahn were
never any better.
To top it off, Babs comes off as sexy (though she doesn't have any competition). Peter Bogdanovich gave a rambling "lecture" at one of my film classes once, and when I asked him about the movie he claimed that Barbra and her manager thought he'd ruined her career, and despite its success Barbra has never thought it the least bit funny.
While still, mysteriously, overlooked by film and film musical lovers
alike, "Pirates" is a definite smash and even on repeated viewing
continues to delight.
This was a ready-made movie of sorts, a for-the-cameras version of a Broadway production that originated at the NY Shakespeare Festival. The cast is virtually intact but for Ruth, who was played by Estelle Parsons onstage. Considering its roots, the film is remarkably un-stagey.
(It didn't play long in theatres, and took a decade just to come to DVD.)
The libretto for the film, as well as the stage production (from which, unlike the movie, there is a soundtrack available for purchase), features lyrics and songs lifted from other G&S works, which intensify Gilbert's penchant for self-ridicule. As they are licensed for use only by the G&S estate, these supplements make this movie somewhat of a rarity among "Pirates" incarnations.
The players are stellar- yes, Kevin Kline is outstanding, Tony Azito is the other real standout. Outrageous costumes, ludicrous art direction and some hilariously overblown choreography enhance the endearing (and enduring!) silliness of the piece.
Despite some grand scenery, interesting faces and capable actors, this
movie falls absolutely flat. Intermittently amusing, it lumbers along
to a mean-spirited and all-too-convenient conclusion that negates the
fleeting, effervescent charm merited by the setting and the charming
Who is Ned, anyway? What makes him such a saint? Posthumous revelations about the man - who is never seen alive in the movie - ring hollow, and the final fifteen minutes, complete with the ending helicopter shot and swelling music, are downright offensive, and futile in their attempt to cover up the glaring inadequacies of the script. The film needed a new ending, about ten extra minutes and, most desperately, to be re-edited.
(with apologies to Jonathan Rosenbaum...)
Watching the Hollywood musicals of Astaire and Kelly, one can't help but marvel at the skill and precision of the dancing and the mise en scene, and be buoyed by the very idea that the world could be so perfect, if only in a movie. "Rochefort" isn't perfect in the same way, but in pushing the musical to a different plane it achieves a kind of perfection, one dependent not on the talents of its cast or, as the popular Broadway musicals were, on the book & lyrics.
(Which is not to say that there isn't great music! Themes are repeated, to be sure, but Legrand's melodies delight, and there's more musical variance here than in "Umbrellas of Cherbourg".)
Musicals, like most popular entertainment, usually serve to reinforce our ideals. The 30 years since its release may have been kind, but "The Young Girls of Rochefort" is a rare thing, an entertainment that challenges, flies in the face of convention.
Of special note are the colors, delightfully absurd; the English subtitles, much of which read in perfect sync (including rhymes) with the music (a coinciding English-language verson was shot but never released); the macabre- this has to be the happiest musical with a song about an ax-murder.
The world in which this movie exists hasn't been seen on the screen before or since. Of course, all musicals are fantasy of a kind, but Demy takes it somewhere else. It is one of film's truly unique experiences.
Year-end awards are being given out, and where's 'Primary Colors'? It had
the misfortune of arriving on the scene just as the whole Lewinsky thing was
cropping up, and I suppose fictionalization can't compete with the real
thing. But, as the indictments, depositions and trials drag on, 'Primary
Colors' provides welcome relief, revealing itself to be that rare thing, a
contemporary drama that takes politics seriously.
(It's more of a tragicomedy, actually, a portrait of what people will do for power and victory, and how deeply flawed and full of promise the election process, and politics in general, can be.)
The cast is uniformly fine; Kathy Bates and Billy Bob Thornton do the most with the juiciest roles in the script. Emma Thompson is convincing, if somewhat underutilized, and Travolta does a credible Clinton- though I think the movie would have been even stronger had the Stanton character been a little more skewed from its oh-so-obvious model, and had more glimpses of Stanton the man, not only the politician, been shown. Then again, that's part of the point- where do the politics end and the person begin?
But the movie is anchored by Adrian Lester's character. It's not much of a character to play - the script primarily requires him to *re*act. To his credit, even while he is superseded by the more charismatic characters around him, we remain interested. He reflects us, the viewers (and, by extension, voters), pushed and pulled by the desire both to do good and be right, and the lure and seductive nature of power, fame, and property. In this way, we aren't let off the hook.
'Primary Colors' is a deeply ambiguous movie which isn't content to tell us how things should be. Neither, however, does it condone the actions of its characters. This complexity is probably a reason why many moviegoers stayed away, but it is also why "Primary Colors" should, I believe, be held in even higher regard in the years to come.
A LOT of fun- very, very silly. Nobody makes a good 'B' like Dante. In the midst of G2 he finds time to satirize Donald Trump, Ted Turner, cable television, horror movies, cooking shows, tourism, and the predecessor, to name a few targets... pay close attention to the sound effects, Gremlins 2 has more in common with a Chuck Jones cartoon than a live-action movie. With its irreverence, left-field references and cheerful disregard for itself, 'Gremlins 2' is a big-screen cousin of 'The Simpsons'. Not an 'event' movie like most sequels aspire to be, but well worth your time and better than 90% of the other "comedies" out there.
This movie is, so far, not available in the U.S., except on imported
laserdisc (which isn't subtitled, unfortunately). A few years ago I had the
great pleasure to see, as part of a week-long run of Jackie's films at a
local revival house, a subtitled print.
Some movies feel like they're funneled straight into your bloodstream, and this was one of them- everything about it was/is electric. Not your typical Jackie; there are some great stunts and, of course, some terrific fighting, but the movie is distinguished by a formidable cast and outrageous gimmickry.
(A year later I rented the laserdisc, watched it sans dialogue- still quite enjoyable.)
Of note: a fight on the cruise-ship theatre, one which mimics the Lee/Kareem scene in "Game of Death" that's playing on the theatre's screen... Jackie becoming the 'Street Fighter' characters in rapid succession (don't ask, it must be seen to be believed)... the Gambit-like card dealer... a couple of twins who could best be described as the Asian answer to Kid N'Play.
Refreshing also are the villains, stereotypically white one-and- all. Nice change of pace after so many movies with Asian baddies.
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