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10 Reviews
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Funny, resonant and worth checking out
4 June 1999
This is simply the best "Big Chill" movie since, well, "The Big Chill." The cast is terrific; the writing is even better. I've seen Josh Hamilton in several other films, but somehow he never has caught my eye except in this role (interestingly monnikered Grover, by the by). What makes this film work above the usual rabble of 20-something angst films is that you genuinely understand, can relate to, and feel for the characters. And the bits of business that have nothing to do with the "main" storyline, Grover's, are every bit as amusing and resonant. Highlights: Eric Stoltz and Carlos Jacott's "book club." Chris Eigeman ducking the "cookie guy." Carlos Jacott trying to remember the last "Friday the 13th" film. Any scene involving Parker Posey. I think I've watched this film about 10 times in completion. The ending, I've watched about 30 times. It's that good. I don't think I've ever seen a more tender, memorable, perfect scene than the parting one between Hamilton and Olivia D'Abo, where she takes out her retainer, smiles shyly at him and then there's a fabulous music cue that leads us into...the unknown. Of course, we know the ending, because Jane and Grover's fate has basically been the subject of the whole film, but the way Baumbach ties all of this together is truly inspired. Grover's speech at the airline ticket counter may be the best monologue in the history of cinema. Am I gushing irrationally here? Perhaps a little. But this film needs to be seen and recognized as the little gem (that's often better than anything else in the same genre done by a major studio/director) that it is.
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8/10
Lose the Curl (but not this fine guilty pleasure of a flick!)
4 June 1999
Okay, so this one never did (and never will) win any awards. But pound for pound, John Hughes was never better and never will be again, most likely. Yes, I know, I know. "Ferris B." is a more coherent, cohesive film. And "Breakfast Club" has all the lines. And "Pretty in Pink" has all the pathos, plus Ducky. But this one's got Jim Dodge (F. Whaley). Easily one of my favorite film creations ever. You can't not love this guy. Even in the usually dumb montages that plagues MTV-ish films of this nature, he's charming (wearing a veil and cow-boxers and rollerskating, for instance). And then there's Jennifer "Eternally Easy on the Eyes" Connelly who, yes, has her usual charms (both of them), but who manages to bring a degree of wit, grace and sincerity to the "girl next door anyone would die to get with" role that's rarely been matched since. This film's full of terrific lines and memorable moments. Jim's "Jimget" fantasy. John Candy's entire cameo. "Could I get this uniform washed, it...smells a little like Darnell." "You mean you've never heard of sashimi?" "The subsonic tummy bump..." The list is endless. The bad part: yes, the last 15 or so minutes are plagued by a lack of money and a lack of laughs (money as in it looks like they ran out and decided to end the film...now). But the two leads are terrific together and the idea of them hashing out their high school trials and tribs in this particular setting is quite effective, really. Sweet, simple, goofy and funny, this one deserves another look, despite the "run out of steam in the last stretch of the race" factor.
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Gross Anatomy (1989)
7/10
Underrated character flick nobody ever talks about
4 June 1999
Not a great film, I suppose, but "Gross Anatomy" has enough that's entertaining, engaging and memorable about it to recommend the film to fans of character drama. "ER" and "Chicago Hope" may well have set the standard for medical dramas, but this look at some first-year med students and their quest to achieve the impossible (become a practicing surgeon or specialist) has long since been forgotten in the trash-bin of seemingly negatable Disney flicks. Released at the turn of the 80's, when Disney was rampantly putting out what seemed like a movie a week, it features a sterling performance by the eternally underrated Matthew Modine as Joe Slovak, an endlessly appealing character despite his tendency to annoy everyone else in the film. Slovak is a wonderful creation on the part of the writers, first seen in a highly memorable pre-credits sequence in which each of the post-grad medical schools asks him questions that eventually reveal the 'real Joe'. Or at least the Joe Slovak he wishes to project. Christine Lahti, who would of course go on to fame and acclaim in "Chicago Hope", practiced her medical chops here as a sickly professor bent on pressuring her students to achieve perfection, even if they themselves aren't often willing to reach for it. The rest of the cast (Daphne Zuniga and the always-great Todd Fields) have done work elsewhere that's gotten more attention, but it's doubtful they've ever been as effective as they are here. By no means is this a classic, but a sharply-observed film that despite a layer of Disney-esque schmaltz manages to touch, entertain and invigorate.
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Is This Movie The Anti-Christ?
27 May 1999
It just may be. Certainly, it's one of the worst films I've ever witnessed. When people talk about bad films, they've obviously never seen this stinker that attempts (read: attempts) to capture the 'magic' of the original b&w TV show detailing the madcap misadventures of Muldoon (the stiff one) and Tooty (the "oooh-oooh" one). Despite a game cast, including perennial underrated actors John C. McGinley and Jeremy Piven, not a single thing that occurs within these 90-odd (and I do mean 'odd') minutes is funny...at least not intentionally. There are more memorably bad moments in this steaming pile of crud than in any actual comedy. Trust me. See John C. McGinley trying to act dignified in a Russian Kossack outfit (that actually resembles a drum majorette's)! See Rosie O'Donnell acting unfunny with a bad accent, as only Rosie O'Donnell can! Hear Nipsey Russell (yes Nipsey Russell) reduce whatever charm the original show had by uttering the titular line, plus injecting the f-word into it! Witness Buster P. singing and dancing with an entire neighborhood of people while eating a donut! And....witness him interacting with a RAPPING CARTOON BIRD. Yes. That's right. I said a rapping cartoon bird. Excrement. Grab yourself a few friends, a few beers and laugh your collective tushes off.
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10/10
How 'Three O'Clock High' ever escaped through the 80's crack is beyond me
27 May 1999
This is one of the best movies I've ever seen. Should I be ashamed to say this? Probably. And let me just say by 'best', that's about 50 or so odd films, at least, all of varying genres. So, let's just say in terms of comedies, it's one of teh best. As far as 80's films? Totally underrated. I've watched this film about 30 times, several of them in my teens on Showtime or whatever, and the theme song, "Something to Remember Me By" is no top 40 hit by any stretch of the imagination, yet I used to hum it all the time (until finally tracking down the soundtrack CD). What is the lasting appeal of this film? Beats me. Technically, it's brilliant: lots of fluid camera work, music video-y filming that's somehow less MTVish than the current crop of teen films, and an amazingly zippy pace that careens one from plot point to plot point while somehow never seeming rushed or jumbled. As for the film itself, it's typical teen stuff (a teenage 'hell day,' essentially), but done with so much panache that any child of the 80's can't help not loving it. 'Don't ---- this one up, Mitchell!' Jerry's unorthodox book report. The Tangerine Dream score. Cooking pop-tarts in the microwave with fresh-from-the-washer clothing. 'At 3:00, you and I are gonna fight out in that parking lot and there's nothing you can do about it'... Long live this film!
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Hot Pursuit (1987)
7/10
Half of a really great film...
27 May 1999
...is better than a whole terrible one? I dunno. But I do know that this would-be entry into the John Cusack teen film canon (beginning with "The Sure Thing" and "Better Off Dead", proceeding through "One Crazy Summer," ending with "Say Anything") is worth a look. The first half is my favorite, probably partially having to do with the fact that for whatever reason, it's the half I saw more often when catching this on HBO back in high school. It concerns an average guy (does J. Cusack play anything else?) who desperately needs to track down the girlfriend he told he couldn't accompany to Jamaica and proceeds to try and do so for the duration of the film, after narrowly missing her at the airport. What follows is a decreasingly funny/increasingly less inspired series of misadventures, but Cusack pulls most of it off, simply 'cause he's Cusack, the master of the slow-burn/hang-dog/sarcastic one-liner. Far more memorable and compelling are the early scenes which put Cusack's Dan Bartlett through the paces. Less interesting is the 'drug running/pirate' subplot that develops halfway through in order to let Cusack's character be the hero. But it does have some funny moments, plus a young Ben Stiller before he ever discovered the joys of Mary and baby batter. Worth a look for Cusack- and 80's movie-philes, but all others probably need not apply.
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Lucas (1986)
Lucas Changed My Life!
27 May 1999
Okay, so, not really... But of the countless hours I spent watching HBO growing up, this was one of my favorite movies. About 3 years ago I found a copy on video and watch it once a month or so now, just to get transported back. I mean, sure, this is as sappy as they come. But I've seen every throwback movie since ("Wedding Singer", "Can't Hardly Wait," etc.) and none come close to capturing "Lucas"'s magic. What magic is that, praytell? Simple, uncluttered, sweet (at times bittersweet) human storytelling. That's it. Oh, and Corey Haim sans the drug problem/bankruptcy. Honestly? For me, forget "Rocky". This is the undefeated champ of "underdog" stories, as far as I'm concerned. I mean, little more happens than a breakdown of familiar jock/geek/princess-cheerleader stereotype dividing lines, but I've always felt there was a lot being said there, a lot of heart. The ending is fantastic. No feats of amazement, again, just of simple human compassion, interaction. I can't help getting wistful (better than choked up, right?) when Maggie visits Lucas in the hospital and they ponder whether or not they will be friends later in life. I think about that scene all the time, and wish it were as true in fiction as it is in real life. This film is a testament to the power of friendship.
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Leviathan (1989)
As good as it gets...(for Alien rip-offs, anyhow)
26 May 1999
It's no secret this is "Aliens" underwater, but that doesn't mean it ain't a whole lotta fun. I mean, at least it's competent crap and we don't even get competent crap anymore these days. Seriously. Peter Weller remains cool in even the most ridiculous of situations, as always, bringing his trademark conviction to the lead role. The FX are supercool, Ron Cobb's production design's terrific, the score is one of my faves and the underwater setting gives the whole thing a fun, dank, haunted house in the briny blue feel. Plus, it has Amanda Pays. What more could you ask for? A story, plot, characters, etc., you ask? Hey: it's entertainment, kids. Not a rocket science convention...
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10/10
The Scariest Movie in over a Decade
25 May 1999
Some movies stick with you, difficult to shake for days, weeks, months afterwards. "BW" is one of those films. Directed by Eduardo Sanchez and Dan Myrick (a swell couple'a guys, from the mere moments I had to chat with them prior to screening the film) in a pseudo-documentary style that's unlike anything you've ever seen, this is the easily the scariest film I've ever seen in a movie theater. "Aliens" and "Jaws" remain my two fave fright films (as well as Craven's original "Nightmare"), but having not screened any of those in their original theater releases, I felt something after seeing "BW" akin to what audiences must've felt upon exiting the theater back in the 70's following Friedkin's "Exorcist." The acting is top notch, save one argument scene by a river, and kudos in particular for Heather Donahue. This film is most effective if you grew up in the midwest/east coast and remember those "tell me a scary story" campfire tales. The film evokes an uncannily primal sense of fear through sparse visual trickery (none, really, which amounts to more style than any horror movie of the past decade, oddly enough). Despite some spots that might be considered draggy or slow to some, this was a pleasant surprise, given the overhyped nature of other indie genre fare ("PI," "Cube") and anyone with a degree of patience will be immediately sucked in the moment the 3 characters enter the dense Maryland woods to unlock the secrets of the fabled Blair Witch. Myrick and Sanchez are so good at scaring their audience with the most basic and rudimentary of aural/visual devices it's shocking nobody's thought of this sooner. When the final credits rolled after the numbing final scene, the hair on the back of my neck literally stood up and I felt a twinge at the base of my spine that still hasn't worked itself out. If that's not a ringing endorsement, I don't know what is. This film will get under your skin and stay there. Go. And bring someone you love, 'cause I guarantee you'll need to be grabbin' onto someone.
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Kuffs (1992)
7/10
All Time Guilty Pleasures...
25 May 1999
Okay, so this movie is so totally dopey, it's sad. But it remains one of my all time guilty pleasures. I mean, c'mon: it's slick, it's fast, it's fun, it's the movie equivalent of a McDonald's Extra Value Meal. Milla, tape-over-mouth subtitles, Christian Slater talking to the camera in "Heathers"-meets-Ferris Bueller mode. Tony Goldwyn doped up. Whacky stunts with run-over turkeys. "The Future's So Bright, I Gotta Wear Shades". What more could you ask for? Well, a lot, probably. But for good junk-food movies, you can't ask for a more fast-paced, furiously funny, deliriously dim-witted (and yet somehow slyly, raucuously self-aware) flick than "Kuffs".
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