Reviews

18 ReviewsOrdered By: Date
Aren't they cute?
5 November 1998
I haven't read the novel, but what I can say about Practical Magic is that it's a perfect example of a very well edited trailer that was highly successful in its goal of making the film look cuter, smarter, sexier and more entertaining than it actually was.

Nicole Kidman and Sandra Bullock were fine, though it might have been interesting to see them cast against type in reverse roles - Sandy as the Bad Girl, Nicole as the Good Girl. They are both best in this film when they are flirtatious, sarcastic, drunk and hungover, but I think one emotion which neither one of them is terrific at expressing is fear (Bullock's a little better in this department). Unfortunately, because the film is trying to balance light comedy with dark forces there is call for a lot of gasping and swooning that is highly unbecoming to two such talented eyelash-batters. And most of the gasping and swooning is done with a complete lack of humor.

Also - a contrived ending in which all the women in the town who have previously taunted the Owens sisters for 20 years with cat-calls of witchery and projectile garden vegetables are suddenly interested in coming over to their house to help them perform an exorcism. Why the sudden change? It's insulting to sum it up with "there's a little witch in every woman." Hundreds of years of fear cannot be overcome by a single telephone call. It's absolute silliness to watch these women prance around, embracing witchcraft when they have expended so much energy denouncing it.

Overall this is a fluffy, erratic and unorganized movie whose success is wholly dependent on the attractiveness of its two adorable stars (both, in this case, well-heeled in the latest neo-bohemian fashions).
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Henry Fool (1997)
a little overambitious
4 November 1998
I love Hal Hartley's work, partially because in his efforts to place style just a bit higher than substance he's yielded some really interesting results. Language, pointedly written and used as quick barbs with portentous spaces between them, can say a lot when paired with simple, lovely imagery. That's his forte. He paints a visual picture of ordinary suburbia with the resonance of a Hopper painting. He makes gas stations, cheap diners and run-down houses into poetry. And the people who live in them walk amongst these ordinary places like anesthetized automatons waiting to be de-thawed by feeling. It's fun to watch them wake/warm up.

Henry Fool is so completely different from his other work to date. It is an epic, certainly - it's LONG. The stylistic language remains but it is longer, softer, more philosophic and thus often more alienating. I think the film suffers a little from its scope - is it about Henry or is it about Simon? Is it making a value judgment about a life lived AS poetry or as a life lived THROUGH poetry? Is pure inspiration as noble as pure success?

I liked it, but I walked away from it exhausted and with no lingering images to grab onto. In comparison to his other films, so much is said, felt and expressed - and so many ideas are thrown about and examined - maybe I'm just in a state of shock from the sudden change.

Plot aside, Thomas Jay Ryan is an intense, sensual and exciting actor. Somebody put him in more films, please.
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a let-down of monstrous proportions
4 November 1998
What a disappointment!

I may be particularly amnesiac or dense, but I've seen the original Halloween several times and I never in my 24 years noticed any reference to Michael Myers being Laurie Strode's brother. To this day I'm still extremely confused as to where this came from and I wonder if maybe it were invented as a plot device only AFTER the original film was released.

Anyway, as far as this sequel is concerned...it's fun seeing Jamie Lee Curtis up on the screen again, I'll grant the film that much. But it's severely flawed.

First, it's far too short. Second, it has a highly predictable ending (my definition of a predictable ending: if I tell the lead actor what to do and they somehow hear and obey me, then I was successfully able to predict it and it was thus predictable). Third, the comic relief is hokey. Fourth, there aren't enough cast members for Myers to kill off. Fifth, it's overly simplistic - so much so that I was entertaining more exciting notions of one of the supporting players in Laurie Strode's daily life actually being Myers without her knowing it (sadly, I was wrong). Sixth, there continues to be little if any examination of WHY Myers is crazy and evil and WHY he kills random people. Seventh, NO DONALD PLEASANCE! I think he's dead, correct? Which is very unfortunate for the franchise, as he was actually ten to twenty times scarier than the murderer himself. And eighth, the media blitz about Michelle Williams of Dawson's Creek becoming the next Scream Queen, when in fact she had probably less than 5 minutes of screen time in the film.
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Clockwatchers (1997)
kinda boring
4 November 1998
This one is a film about four temps at a nondescript office who bond and ultimate disband due to a rash of office thefts and mutual suspicion.

It's kind of boring, and it drags quite a bit after a while. The camera angles can be interesting here and there, but it's an office setting, so the production design, after a while, becomes overly familiar and induces (much like the real office place) fantasies of sleep.

High points: Parker Posey has a truly hilarious moment in a scene at a happy hour buffet. Lisa Kudrow does some good work as the office slut and would-be actress.

Low points: While Toni Collette has an expressively sullen face, after a while you just see way too much of it. And the contrived plot surrounding a number of office thefts of minor objects doesn't quite come off as cleverly as it's meant to.
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mean-spirited?
4 November 1998
Some people think this movie is mean-spirited, but I disagree...

I too think it's a hilarious film and more than a little pathetic. Christopher Guest has a way of painting a richly comedic but very extremist picture of losers with delusions of grandeur. Luckily these people are to be taken as good-hearted comic anomalies - you like them AND you laugh at them (i.e. Parker Posey's grammatically-challenged Dairy Queen employee), which lets you off the hook a little.

This is a very funny film. Ignore the naysayers who claim he's poking fun at Midwestern suburbanites and listen to the critics (most or all of whom loved it).
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highly satisfying
4 November 1998
A Long Island woman finds a love letter in her house and suspects her husband of cheating. Her over-protective (and very pro-active) family convinces her to confront her husband at his workplace in Manhattan. They all (wife, mom, dad, sister and sister's boyfriend) pile into the station wagon to hunt down the scoundrel. In their efforts to find him they meet a bunch of interesting characters and learn a little bit more about their own feelings for one another.

This movie is so sweet in its examination of family loyalty and so honest in its examination of long-failed relationships in denial that I feel it is easily one of the most satisfying video rentals I've ever experienced. There's enough comedy throughout to provide laughs (especially any and all jokes at the expense of Liev Schreiber's pretentious novelist) and the realistic sisterly affection shared by Parker Posey and Hope Davis is genuinely touching.

Also provides a subtle examination of the Long Islander's relationship to Manhattan - the latter acting as an unfamiliar, answerless maze through which the family has to pass in order to find the truth.
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Party Girl (1995)
nice clothes
4 November 1998
This is a cute movie, but what's even cuter about it are the clothes Posey gets to wear.

Great clothes, cute love interest, funky camera angles and an uplifting ending make for a fun under-dog story.
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preppie angst fest
4 November 1998
There's a lot of angsting and whining in this movie that I didn't relate to when I was an optimistic college student, but now that I too am joining the ranks of the confused and unemployed post-graduate, I look upon its memory more fondly.

Eric Stoltz is very amusing as the eternal student/bartender. A friend of mine is particularly fond of the Otis character, the clown of the film and a master of deflated monosyllabic responses (check the same actor out in Mr. Jealousy - he has wonderful mastery of the trapped upperclass dork). Josh Hamilton does a great job expressing idealized romantic yearning, especially in the last scene of the film, which I won't give away but which is familiarly and achingly bittersweet.

If you're a stickler for realism you might say to yourself, "Yeah right, like these people just graduated from college, they're all in their 30s." If you're the type that can look past the fact that Olivia D'Abo played an 18 year old 10 years ago on The Wonder Years then you'll be OK.

(And if you like Josh Hamilton and Parker Posey, check out House of Yes)
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Flirt (1995)
7/10
Review/Summary
4 November 1998
One short film script repeated three times in three different cities in the United States, Europe and Japan. The dialogue is identical in each; the plot plays out the violent and alienating repercussions of chronic flirtation and self-destructive covetousness. The subtle differences in each scenario are due (theoretically) to the changes in setting, sexual orientation and cultural backdrop.

If you're a Hal Hartley fan you'll probably enjoy this film to some extent; if you're not then you may be easily put off by the repetition of what could be seen as stiff artsy banter. The dialogue is clever, sharp, witty - characteristically quirky Hal Hartley writing. But the first scenario, set in New York and involving Martin Donovan, Parker Posey and that other favorite Hal Hartley actor from Simple Men (Bill something), is easily the best of the three and the high point of the film.

There's some really nice editing in this film, for those who have an interest in technical considerations.
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Drunks (1995)
Summary/Review
4 November 1998
An inside peek at the goings-on of an unusually attractive Alcoholics Anonymous meeting. Richard Lewis's character exists to provide a moral center for the film as it examines his desperate efforts to stay sober. The various members of the AA group provide different glimpses at what contributes to alcoholism and demonstrate that there is no one profile for what constitutes a "drunk."

There are very nice performances in this film, particularly those of a pre-Ally McBeal Calista Flockhart and Parker Posey. The film's scene stealer and the most memorable drunk of all, however, is monologuist Spalding Grey, doing a hilarious turn as a church choir member who shows up at the wrong church. In the midst of explaining his blunder to the group he rhapsodizes brilliantly on the importance of Guinness in his life and discovers quietly that gee, maybe he too has a drinking problem.

Overall the individual performances divert attention from the main storyline and provide more of a center for the film than Lewis, whose story is ultimately uninteresting. But check it out for Spalding Grey, who is probably the most natural actor in the film and a true pleasure to watch.
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Review
4 November 1998
An energetic nostalgia piece that says more about the timelessness of teenage open-field pot parties and keggers than the 1970s in particular. It's great fun and there's something in it for everyone who grew up in the suburbs, regardless of the decade. Matthew McConnaughy's big debut.
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the delicate thread of a hat.
4 November 1998
Even gangsters can suffer from a touch of humanity now and again.

In between crazed camera moves and wild performances are moments of surprisingly quiet beauty and odd transcience (signified by the softly blowing hat floating its way through the woods). Gabriel Byrne makes for a terrific strong-but-silent man in conflict. John Turturro's shoe-licking coward is equally affecting.

I've never seen another film as well-served by visual hyperbole. The control the Coen brothers exhibit in the direction of this film is amazing. Not everyone can move easily between the hyper-active and the quiet. The balance that's struck in this film between showy visual trickery and poetic resonance is really rare.
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Blood Simple. (1984)
great editing
4 November 1998
This film has some of the most creative editing techniques out there - but they are used to create such subtle effects that they can easily go unnoticed.

Keep your eye out for the scene where Frances McDormand appears to shift from a standing to a lying position without moving. Genius!

Great sound editing as well.

A very taut thriller with gleefully warped touches throughout.
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Mr. Jealousy (1997)
review
3 November 1998
A film (intended to be charming) about one thirtysomething yuppie's obsessive jealousy and its detrimental effects on all his relationships, especially his most recent one. A modern-day fairy tale as viewed through the prism of pyschotherapy and overexamined melodramatic tendencies of 1990s New York singles.

The film begins with an interesting premise (joining someone's group therapy in order to dig up dirt on the promiscuity of your current girlfriend) but it's long, slow-moving and a little lazy. A few of the plot diversions (one involving Bridget Fonda as a girl with a stutter) feel like directorial in-jokes.

Eric Stoltz and Annabella Sciorra are great individually but the chemistry is lacking. Chris Eigeman is believable as a pretentious "voice of his generation" writer and fans of his should rent this film to admire some of his more subtly hilarious moments (one involving a hit Cat Stevens song).

Overall not as charming or as naturally sweet and thought-provoking as Baumbach's Kicking and Screaming.
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Sleep with Me (1994)
review
3 November 1998
This is one of those charming little character study pieces heavily influenced by The Big Chill - not so much in plot or mood, but in casting. The viewer is not so much engaged by the plot or the camera angles but rather by the knowledge that all the actors involved are serious about independent film, have worked together before, and are enjoying the part, the process and the pay-off of being able to work on a small film with similarly-minded indie actors.

If you're looking for a solidly brilliant film on relationships, this is probably not what you need (try Manhattan or Annie Hall). But if you're in mood for the following qualifications in a rainy day rental, check it out: 1. A typically scene-stealing turn from Parker Posey. 2. The presence of attractive male leads Eric Stoltz and Craig Scheffer. 3. A storyline involving a sensitive male in love with his best friend's girlfriend. 4. An extremely amusing cameo and monologue from Quentin Tarantino.

It's fun, it's light and there are moments of truly clever writing. You may take a few valuable one-liners away from the experience.
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Amateur (1994)
review
3 November 1998
Quirky, odd, brilliant. This is the best use of deadpan delivery I've ever seen. Martin Donovan is excellent. If you're going to rent a Hal Hartley movie you should start with this one; it's the most accessible and the funniest, and also the least stagey.
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review
3 November 1998
I challenge anyone to find an American woman born between the years 1971 and 1976 who does not love this film. Furthermore who does not love Eric Stoltz in this film.
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8/10
brief favorable/descriptive review
3 November 1998
Gothic bayou horror story about murder, revenge and the voyeuristic/overprotective relationship of two sisters. Excellent quality for a TV movie. Contains one somewhat steamy love scene which is unusually revealing for television.
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