On the Screen
Linda Florentino and Chazz Palminteri play dueling spouses in the thriller Jade.
Richard Donner (Lethal Weapon) made this astonishingly mediocre exploration of intrigue and espionage. Even Latin superstar Antonio Banderas, who spices up the otherwise dull story, cannot rescue a explosion-laden production. Even more disappointing in Sylvester Stallone, who has yet to step out of a line of flops. As Robert Rath, Stallone is a player in a deadly game and a combatant on a battlefield most people never knew existed. It's a game played in the shadows -- existence depends on isolation, on leaving no trace, on having no contact. While Assassins does have its share of bangs and booms, it offers little plot and depth as lover. Unlike Donner's other movies, which combine action with a good story, Assassins seems more like a kiddie ride. --Daniel Ramirez. Sony Cheri.
HHH Dead Presidents
After the independent success of the hard-hitting debut film Menace II Society, Allen and Albert Hughes tackle larger social issues in Dead Presidents. The story of Anthony Curtis (Larenz Tate), a black high-school graduate who avoids the uncertainties of college only to confront the horrors of the outside world, unfolds against the tumult of the late 1960s and early '70s. He leaves his neighborhood mentor and father figure (Keith David) and his girlfriend to enlist in the Marine Corps with a couple of friends and plunges headlong into the Vietnam conflict. The graphic scenes of death and battle overseas, however, pales in comparison to the world that Anthony and his buddies face when they return to the old neighborhood just a few years later. His only key to salvation rides on a heist designed to steal the cash -- "dead presidents" -- that could be the ticket to a better life. From start to finish, the Hughes Brothers assemble a sympathetic portrait of the young man's life, due in large part to the superb performances. The film score (by veteran composer Danny Elfman) and early '70s R&B hits help enhance an otherwise standard period piece. --Daniel Ramirez. Sony Nickelodeon.
HHH Devil in a Blue Dress
Denzel Washington plays Ezekiel "Easy" Rawlins, a man who endeavors into smoky streets of 1940s Los Angeles as a detective. After being set up by bad guys, he must track down a mysterious woman, played by Jennifer Beals. Good performances all around and direction by Carl Franklin (One False Move) highlight the involving, humorous story. Watch for some excellent set production. --John Dunagan. Sony Copley Place.
If life imitates art, then one might cringe at the society Jade portrays. The film leaves the audience to consider how justice sways with human emotions. David Caruso, ex-star of NYPD Blue, again plays the role of a detective -- actually, this time he is David Corelli, the assistant district attorney who investigates the murder of Kyle Medford, a millionaire and collector of artifacts. His biggest lead is an engraving of the Chinese character of jade on a silver jewelry box. He wander into San Francisco's Chinatown, where the engraver reveals that the box was purchased by a woman. Jade, of course, has a double meaning -- a gem and a disreputable woman -- as the story follows David's search through city for the mystery.
At the same time, David needs to resolve feelings for his ex-lover, Dr. Trina Gavin (Linda Fiorentino), who also happens to be married to his best friend, Matt Garvin (Chazz Palminteri). The plot takes so many twists and turns (especially during the car chases) and ultimately goes back to the leading characters. Everyone is somehow involved in Kyle Medford's death (even the governor of California). The movie is exciting, and executive producer William McDonald does a wonderful job in mixing a little of everything (violence, sex, drugs, love, and humor). The ending is surprising and leaves the audience wanting more. --Charlene Chen. Sony Cheri.
The latest entry in the genre of psychological thrillers, Seven offers viewers the gimmick of a serial killer who masterminds his murders based on the seven deadly sins. Morgan Freeman is the archetypal police detective on the verge of retiring, and Brad Pitt plays his young, idealistic counterpart. Together, they must join forces to outsmart the criminal. The film is filled with darkness, and it employs this effect to represent the moralistic undercurrents of the movie. However, this theme fades to a mere afterthought in the wake of a murky plot, incomprehensible dialogue, and a predictable conclusion. Director David Fincher (Alien3) does little to distinguish the film from being a clone of films like The Silence of the Lambs. --Benjamin Self. Sony Cheri.
Director Paul Verhoeven's latest exercise in cinematic exploitation turns out to be a real bore, and lacks the wit of Verhoeven's earlier films. Partner-in-crime Joe Eszterhas (who wrote Verhoeven's Basic Instinct) deserves blame for a weak script and laughably bad dialogue. But the acting isn't much better in this story of a young woman whose dream is to make it big as a dancer in a Las Vegas casino. There are plenty of naked bodies but the promise of sex and eroticism is weak, even in the mechanical dance numbers. If overacting and a propensity to prance around naked is all that newcomer Elizabeth Berkley has to offer, she ought to be exiled back to television for the rest of the decade. However, the phony moralism that accompanies the narrative makes the film truly repellent. --Scott Deskin. Sony Fresh Pond.
HHHH To Die For
Nicole Kidman stars in the role of her life: a beautiful and ambitious woman who is willing to step over (or on) anyone to reach her dream of getting on television. This includes her husband, who she has killed by a high school student that she is romancing for just this reason. The story is incredibly well told, given in the form of interviews with each of the major characters.
This allows us to get into the heads of each of characters, who are all very interesting. One of the year's best films. --DR. Sony Harvard Square
HH To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar
This recent film expands the repertoire of Wesley Snipes and Patrick Swayze, who play dragsters stuck in middle America during a cross-country road trip. About the changes the drag queens bring to rural America, the film remains too haphazard to be believable -- even among funny slapstick. The film also borrows too often from the better Australian production, The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. --Teresa Esser. Sony Nickelodeon.
In this sentimental, oddball coming-of-age tale, a boy (Nathan Watt) must face the growing complications he faces in junior high, the sudden illness of his mother (Andie MacDowell), and the increasing estrangement he feels from his scientist father (John Turturro). The boy doesn't find his bearings until he moves in with his eccentric uncles: Arthur (Maury Chaikin), a soft-spoken but unkempt soul who wraps gifts in toilet paper and scavenges trash dumps for valuable items; and Danny (Michael Richards, aka Kramer from the TV sitcom Seinfeld), a paranoid communist whose belief in fascist conspiracies is topped by his inclination for physical humor. As in most tearjerkers, we know there isn't a happy ending, but at least director Diane Keaton gives the characters enough wit to deal with the pain. --SD. Sony Nickelodeon.