EXECUTIVE ACTION - MARY REILLY - FARGO
UP CLOSE AND PERSONAL - IF LUCY FELL
Exeuctive Action is a huge action adventure film with a huge cast and a huge threat - Islamic terrorists hijack a 747 en route to Washington DC saying they want freedom for their leader who's in custody in the U.S., 50 million and safe passage in exchange for the 400 passengers lives. Dr. David Grant, an intelligence expert played by Kurt Russell, believes that this is a bluff, however, and that the real intent is to turn the 747 into a suicide bomb repleat with nerve gas that could wipe out a considerable piece of the Eastern Seaboard. Colonel Travis, played by Steven Seagal, recruits Grant to join his squad's mission to board the 747 via a plane designed for transfer of bomber squads in mid-flight. The ARPA engineer most knowledge about the plane, Oliver Platt's Cahill, is also dragged along in order to advise on differences introduced by trying to board a commercial airliner.
What can you say about a film that actually manages to almost make Seagal look noble AND kills him off in the first 1/2 hour - for me, mostly good things! This is the latest pull-out-all-the-stops action flick, and even though it's as if every airplane disaster, nuclear and terrorst movie had been thrown into a blender, the result is over 2 hours of non-stop, nail-biting fun. This ones got everything - bombs, nerve gas, nasty suicide-mission terrorists, and dead pilots, not too mention the fact that the U.S. Government may be forced to shoot down a planeload of civilians itself in order to save those on land. And our under-equipped heroes have 3 hours and 50 minutes in which to accomplish all this, but the government doesn't even realize that the 'good guys' have made it on board.
Silly - well, a bit, yes - it doesn't take much to figure where this is headed when we see Kurt Russell's first solo flight in a 2-seater aborted by an urgent phone call. The large cast is uniformly fine, although I particularly liked John Leguizamo as Rat, one of Seagal's special forces men - he's courageous and utterly competent - what a stretch from 'To Wong Foo'. Joe Morton manages to create an interesting character as the bomb expert, even though he suffers a broken back during the transfer to the 747 and spends most of the film taped to a board. He also shares good chemistry with Oliver Platt's Cahill, an ARPA engineer unwittingly brought on-board who's now called on to actually defuse the bomb.
Certainly not great art, but good fun.
This is what I call a kitchen sink kind of action flick. For nearly two and a half hours, the makers of "Executive Decision" hit you with everything they have in their arsenal of special effects, action, shootouts and high tension that they have.
This movie could have, and should have, been 30 to 40 minutes shorter. They keep your attention, pretty much, to the end, but it's just too long for this type of movie.
Acting is pretty much relegated to a collection of characters, not people, but it fits the film.
It's a no-brainer because of obvious plot questions. But, it stirs up enough continued excitement to forgive it its problems.
Leave logic outside the theatre and have a rip-roaring time!
Stephen Frears, who directed the acclaimed film "Dangerous Liaisons" a few years back, takes a shot at re-telling the story of "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde", this time from a woman's perspective, in "Mary Reilly" starring Julia Roberts in the title role, and John Malkovich as the personality challenged Dr. Jekyll.
Mary, newly hired as a maid in Jekyll's house, comes to the attention of the good doctor when he finds she has scars on her neck and hands stemming from her father's drunken abuse when she was a child. His interest in Mary allows something near friendship to develop between the two.
Mary becomes Jekyll's confidant and, sometimes, companion to his new assistant, Edward Hyde, who looks, uncannily, like the doctor.
This is the perfect film for Julia Roberts - her Mary Reilly is required to show only two emotions, fear and anxiety. This just happens to be her range of emotions as an actor, so she wasn't bad.
The film, however, while it looks really good and is technically very nicely done, the story and the acting are lethargic, at best. Roberts, as an actress, I still don't get. John Malcovitch doesn't lend much to the film either. I didn't like his Mr. Hyde, and I didn't care about Dr. Jekyll.
The screenplay makes me think, simply, "Who cares about Mary Reilly?" Stephen Frears, yes, but the rest of us? Nope.
I give "Mary Reilly" a C, mainly for its look, not its content.
While Mary Reilly was mostly dismissed by critics in general, there were a number of things I liked about this film, most having to do with its Victorian look and feel. It's a foggy and blue-lit world where horrors are hinted at, sexual urges are repressed and class lines are clearly drawn. There's a great Freudian moment when Mary is ordered to fetch a live eel for the cook, only to watch it be skinned alive. The duality of the Jeckyl/Hyde story is added to when Hyde's behavior begins to resemble that of Mary's abusive father - is Hyde trying to woo her with copycat sadism? True horror and sorrow are jarringly brought home when Mary goes to arrange for her penniless mother's funeral, only to be presented with the corpse stuffed in a basement cupboard by an uncaring landlord. This is all nicely done. However, the film is brought down largely by the acting - Malkovitch never connects in either of his personalities. Roberts acts mostly by lowering her eyes or widening them (thankfully she has little dialog, so her wavering Irish accent isn't brought too much to bear). Glenn Close is a ludicrous caricature that beats out her silly turn in 'House of the Spirits'. While many felt a fatal flaw of this production was the fact that only an idiot wouldn't have realized Hyde was Jeckyl, I could buy it due to the innocence of the time - however, never have I seen a monstrous transformation result in a LOSS of facial hair.
Fargo is reputably based on a true story which mostly takes place in Brainerd, MI, home of Paul Bunyan, but starts off in Fargo, where Jerry Lundergard, played by William H. Macy, goes to meet two criminals-for-hire played by Steve Buscemi and Peter Stormare. Lundergard's tired of being under the thumb of his rich father-in-law and boss and has a scheme - have his own wife kidnapped and have her dad pay the ransom.
Things immediately go awry - the kidnapping's almost botched, Jerry's car dealership contact tells him he only knows Buscemi and won't stand up for the second guy, and the kidnappers are pulled over by a state cop en route to their hideaway. That's when Brainerd sheriff Marge Gunderson, played by Frances McDormand, joins the plot.
Joel and Ethan Coen's sixth film finally tops their debut, Blood Simple. Don't go looking for the 'true' story this was purportedly based on - I think this is one of the Coens' weird jokes. This film is a blackly comic small town crime story with several shocking scenes of abrupt violence. A great ensemble cast - Frances McDormand is wonderfully wholesome and midwestern in her search for truth and justice. William H. Macy is convincely frustrated and increasingly out-of-control, Buscemi is amusing as the non-stop talking 'brains' of the criminal operation and Stormare is the quietly threatening wild card. Every small role is note perfect - Lundergard's high-pitched wife, Marge's devoted husband Norm, the clueless Lou of the Brainerd police dept., and every witness questioned. Even a diner cashier leaves her mark with two lines. The cinematography is gorgeous - great, sprawling, sky-heavy snowy landscapes. Great score. Great ending.
This is a near brilliant/near masterpiece (if not an outright masterpiece) work by the Coen brothers, two of America's most innovative filmmakers active in the business today.
"Fargo" represents an extension of the talent exhibited by the Coen brothers in their debut film, "Blood Simple". "Fargo" shows their time spent making films has also been a learning/growing process. Plus, they have the good sense to surround themselves with the best technical and acting talent.
Casting, from Frances McDormand down to the kitchen help and hookers in the film, is excellent.
Roger Deakins' photography is superb and fits the films mood perfectly.
Details, down to the use of sound, are exacting.
Be aware that there are scenes of abrupt and disturbing violence.
I give "Fargo" an A.
UP CLOSE AND PERSONAL
Director Jon Avnet pairs megastar talents Michelle Pfeiffer and Robert Redford in "Up Close and Personal".
Loosely based on the Jessica Savitch biography written by Alanna Nash, Pfeiffer plays TV news newcomer Sally Anne Atwater, an ambitious young woman who cons her way into a job at a mid-size Miami TV station, working for Redford's Warren Justice, a former White House big shot reporter.
Warren recognizes Sally's inherent talent and ambition when he hires her, caring enough to become her mentor and teacher, even changing her name to Tally to help her image.
Tally and Warren's professional relationship soon becomes romantically inclined as, later in the film, the two fall for each other.
Redford, early in the film, says, of Tally's on-screen persona, "She eats the lens." Actually, and much more accurately, it's the lens that eats up Michelle Pfeiffer.
Pfeiffer is one of the most attractive women in film, today, and talented, too. These are the factors that save "Up Close...".
The screenplay is lame and, except for the big prison riot scene, rather boring. It doesn't generate any spark of excitement, but just plods through to it's rather inevitable conclusion. And, for all it's so-called insider position, it does not really convey the TV news business well.
Redford does not do a stretch here, either. He gives, basically, the same performance as seen in "Out of Africa" or "Indecent Proposal". I don't think he really wanted to be here.
Support is pedestrian.
Pfeiffer's performance is the thing to see, here, and not too much else.
Up Close and Personal is a fairly well done Hollywood-slick love story patched together from lots of previous films - A Star is Born is most often cited, but it put me more in mind of The China Syndrome where Jane Fonda begins doing fluff pieces until she also is in the right place at the right time. Michelle Pfieffer's performance is better than the material warrants (and much more well used than in last year's Dangerous Minds). Robert Redford is simply Robert Redford and not much else. Kate Nelligan's terrific as a top-notch reporter who was also Redford's last ex-wife. Stockard Channing's also quite good, although I got the impression some of her screen time/character development may have been left on the editting room floor.
Nice production values overall, but this film had a natural ending point 20 minutes before it actually ended. Just about any resemblance this had to the Jessica Savitch story seems to have been lost.
IF LUCY FELL
If Lucy Fell is written, directed by and stars Eric Shaeffer as Joe, an artist who loves to teach kids and hopes to start a school with his roommate Lucy, a psychologist played by Sarah Jessica Parker. He lusts after and constantly paints his neighbor across the way, Jane, played by Elle McPherson, but never has the courage to approach her. Lucy gets stuck in dead-end relationships. Lucy reminds Joe about a pact they made in college to commit suicide together if they weren't happily partnered by their 30th birthdays and her's is at the end of the month. So off they go looking for what's right in front of their faces, often to comic result. Joe finally engineers a meeting with Jane by having an art exhibition and Lucy meets a famous artist, Bwick, played by Ben Stiller.
Call this the 'funny hat' movie - there's no rhyme or reason to it, but just about all the main characters wear some pretty ridiculous headgear at some point during this film. If Lucy Fell is the standard boy and girl search for love in opposite directions when they really love each other all along film. But, even though you know exactly where this is heading, there's some fun to be had along the way. Eric Shaeffer (My Life's in Turnaround) is quite appealing as Joe - he's got some wonderful scenes with his art-for-kids class, as well as with his 'muse' - a crusty emphysemic who seems to just want Joe to go away. Sarah Jessica Parker's quite bland in this. Elle McPherson is merely OK as the vapid goddess of Joe's dreams. Ben Stiller steals all his scenes as a real nutjob artist.
Tech credits are OK - there's some real choppy editting. Nice pop soundtrack by Marry Me Jane.
My feeling on this film is that Lucy has fallen and she can't get up.
This is a mishmash of a film. The personalities of the principle characters are on the likeable side, but the screenplay is not at all compelling or believable.
The dialogue is, at best, geared to a teenage, not 30-something, mentality.
Eric Shaeffer is OK in his job as an actor, not as the writer/director.
Sarah Jessica Parker is two dimensional. Not a stretch.
Ben Stiller does a humorous turn as the flakey artist, Bwick Elias, and tends to steal the show when on screen.
Elle MacPherson is pretty as heck, but otherwise wasted.
I just don't find this to be an appealling or believable film.
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