MOVIE REVIEWS
by Eric Lee Baker


Music Review: Julee Cruise, Floating Into The Night
By:
Eric L. Baker, Entertainment Writer

Julee Cruise's new album, The Voice Of Love, is a masterpiece of the new electronically oriented jazz sound. Fans of Twin Peaks may very well recognize the voice behind this flawless recording as none other than that of the lounge singer which David Lynch constantly utilized in his landmark series. The release of The Voice Of Love also marks the return of Cruise to studio recording since her equally impressive 1989 debut, Floating Into The Night, and a tour with the B-52's as a backup singer. Returning to lend the same distinctive flair to this album are Angelo Badalamenti and his talented group of jazz musicians along with the deeply emotional lyrics of David Lynch.

Cruise's music is an experience which must simply be heard to be fully appreciated. Her fragile and angelic voice envelop the listener into a rapturous aura of sound and vision. Complimented by Badalamentis' rich and haunting instrumentation, the songs become caricatures of the emotions which swath the human soul in such an unexplainable mystery and power. The entire album works around this phenomenon, building to an intensely climatic experience in which it is impossible not to be swept away in the ethereal intensity of Cruise's music.

The Voice Of Love offers no new changes since the release of Floating Into The Night, but that is only because there are none necessary. Instead, the listener is treated to 11 tracks of startling depth and warmth, some of which appeared on the Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me soundtrack. Fans of the music featured in this film and series will find this album to be a pure delight and bask in its mellow presentation along with those who enjoy music which speaks to both the spiritual and physical aspects of our existence.


Movie Review: Go Fish
By:
Eric L. Baker

Go Fish is a haunting, imagery laden inquiry into the modern lesbian lifestyle. Directed and co-written by newcomer Rose Troche, the film portrays the day to day lives of several lesbian roommates along with their own doubts, concerns and fears concerning their sexuality and the outside world's perception of it. The film also deals with the attempts of these women to encourage a relationship between two of their roommates. The resulting match between Max, a young and energetic woman and Eli, her older and shyly reserved lover, serves to give the film a more direct focus and help harness its powerfully dramatic story and cinematography.

Go Fish director Rose Troche utilizes an avant-garde approach towards her subject matter. Her camera continually teases the viewer with its whimsical sense of direction and continual close-ups of her character's faces and bodies. The setting and physical backgrounds are almost ignored entirely in favor of this approach. The camera never pulls back long enough to convey the film's physical settings beyond a fleeting glimpse. It is always moving in or focusing upon a specific person or group of people. The houses, rooms and city where the film takes place are virtually excluded from the film's scope.

There is also a tremendous amount of imagery which is subtly erotic and sensual in its presentation, beautifully underscoring the sexual and emotional tension within the film. For instance, during one sexual exchange between two of the women, the camera continually cuts to scenes of a lavish breakfast being prepared. Close-ups of loaves of bread being split open, fresh fruit being peeled and sliced and eggs frying in a crackling hot pan are just a small sampling of the bountiful examples of imagery laden cinematography within the film itself.

Although explicitly frank and often aggressively sexual in tone, the movie never loses focus of its goal. The viewer is seductively pulled into a world which virtually none of us has ever had any desire or occasion to experience. This is where Troche really outdoes herself in terms of staying focused. At times wavering between a seemingly blatant desire to shock the audience while also conveying the reality of being gay at the same time, she eloquently shows her subjects to be on the same journey as the rest of us throughout our lives, experiencing the same pain, joy and disappointment as the rest of the world. One scene in particular brilliantly displays the prejudice within the gay community itself when one of the main characters is accosted upon leaving the apartment of a male companion and brutally accused by her "friends" of betraying the cause.

The quest for fulfillment and the continual search for a companion with whom to share that journey are the dominant themes which give this film its universal appeal. These traits are also what make Go Fish much more than a simplistic and cliche'ed exposure of the gay lifestyle. Instead, the viewer is presented with a powerful assertion of resolve and confidence. Every frame of this film is a testament to that fact. Go Fish is ultimately a celebration of both intellectuality and individuality within people of all creeds and its message is one which should be given serious consideration in such an intolerant and often indifferent society. Playing at the Grandin for a limited time only.


Movie Review: The Good Son
By
Eric L. Baker, Entertainment Writer
October 10, 1993

The Good Son was supposedly the vehicle for MacCauly Culkin to prove to the world that there is something of substance beneath that cute impish smile. However, a miserable script and lukewarm directing dooms this movie to oblivion from its very beginning.

After his mother's death, young Mark (played by Elijah Wood) is sent to "relax" with his relatives and it is there that he discovers the evil which lurks beneath the beaming exterior of his cousin (MacCauly Culkin). Since this film is merely another rendition of The Bad Seed, and since The Bad Seed has already been remade twice, this film would have had to really struggle to create something original out of the initial idea. Instead, we get the exact same plot which existed in the previous two films. Apparently, director Joseph Ruben assumed the majority of the moviegoing public would not care about the obvious "borrowing" of ideas from his predecessors.

Culkins' acting is not horrible. but he simply isn't believable as the murderous little devil we are supposed to accept him as and the adults in the film are little more than stooges who stumble around in a fog of ignorance until the climax lamely exposes the truth.

The problem with this film is the lack of originality which is so evident in its construction. Almost every scene has a grandiose flare to it, as if the director wanted to make every object, sunset, or facial expression a sign of something much bigger than we could possibly have realized without his help. There are numerous shots of young Mark contemplating what he should do about evil Henry while standing amidst glorious scenes of ocean, coastline and sunset along with numerous closeups of Culkins' expressionless face as he commits one heinous act after another.

You can see the ending so far in advance in this film that you hardly even have to stay for it and even when everything does fall into place it was all I could do to keep from laughing at the extreme implausibility of it all. Hollywood is, admittedly, about stretching the imagination and getting us to forget the confines of reality once in a while but unless this operation is performed in a competent manner, we spend to much time laughing at its ignorance rather than its ingenuity and, unfortunately, such is the case with The Good Son.

People who are really interested in this film would do better by themselves to rent the original black and white version or the late 1970's remake which starred Linda Blair. This particular version is not recommended for any interested person whatsoever.


Movie Review: Grumpy Old Men
By: Eric L. Baker, Assistant Features Editor

Grumpy Old Men allows the comedic talents of Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau to combine together for a hilarious, yet serious look at old age. This film relies heavily upon its two stars to captivate and hold the audience's interest, a task which they do tremendously well. Matthau and Lemmon are simply unbeatable in terms of their clashing personalities and the script and directing are relaxed enough to allow them ample opportunity to ad-lib and improvise with their characters. GRUMPY OLD MEN brings Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon together in a compelling story regarding the process of aging and the struggles of two elderly men to come to grips with it. While not a preachy film or sentimental in its delivery, it does project a warmth which is often accompanied by its two stars' hilarious bickering and practical jokes upon each other. Director Donald Petrie has given Matthau and Lemmon a very loose environment in which to weave their cynical magic. There is ample opportunity for both men to poke fun and harass each other throughout the film.

The film revolves around the relationship between two best friends and the strain placed upon it when a spirited, vibrant woman moves in next door and both men find themselves competing for her affections. Director Donald Petrie gives his two stars ample opportunity to yuk it up as they struggle to foil the other's attempts at courtship via outrageous sabotage and adolescent pranks. However, Grumpy Old Men is not all fun and games. A serious subplot involving one of the characters slowly emerges throughout the course of the film, thereby setting the stage for a touching and selfless act of true friendship.

While this film is somewhat formulamatic, it is still pure enjoyment to watch, particularly because of its standout performances from the cast. As mentioned earlier, Matthau and Lemmon are hilarious, using their crusty and sharp-tongued wit to bring the movie's title to life. Burgess Meredith lends his talent in a special appearance as Lemmons' young-at-heart father, constantly coaching his son on the crudest ways to win a woman's heart. Ann-Margaret also makes a welcome return to the spotlight as the two men's love interest while Daryl Hannah has a small part as Lemmons' soon-to-be-divorced daughter. These performances, coupled with the film's poignant yet amusing story, make it a highly recommended film which everyone should enjoy. Those who choose to stay for the credits will get the added treat of watching some of the botched scenes which occurred during the making of this film.


Movie Review: Guarding Tess
By: Eric L. Baker, Assistant Features Editor

Guarding Tess is a delightfully surprising film regarding the complex relationship between a matronly former First Lady (Shirley MacLaine) and her Secret Service agent (Nicolas Cage). Written and directed by veteran TV director Hugh Wilson, this film is both lighthearted and highly enjoyable and is certain to earn him a respectable reputation in the entertainment industry.

Wilson's script moves immaculately in its portrayal of the film's two main characters and his talented cast make up for the few drab scenes. Shirley MacLaine, playing a widowed Tess Carlisle, gives a crusty, yet vulnerable performance as a popular public figure suddenly forced to face her own mortality. Using her still considerable influence in Washington, she requests that her current Secret Service agent, Doug Chesnick, be assigned to permanently protect her. Chesnick, a career minded agent who detests his current assignment due to its lack of action, now finds himself attempting to balance his "by the book" attitude with his steadily increasing feelings for the woman he must protect. While these feelings are not ones of love, they serve to gradually bring both Carlisle and Chesnick closer to one another throughout the course of the film.

This film's true accomplishment lies in its ability to truly entertain without resorting to the use of any pomp or flair whatsoever. The set design and directing are quietly effective in making the movie's story seem truly plausible and the performances of both Cage and MacLaine are simply the final touches to an extremely well executed film. The scenes in which Chesnicks' strict and no-nonsense attitude clash with that of his "assignment" are hilarious and the added treat of watching MacLaine utilize her barbed tongue to the max certainly should command the attention of all movie buffs. This film is highly recommended for fans of its two stars and anyone else who enjoys gimmick and cliche-free entertainment. Playing at Tanglewood Mall only.


Movie Review: Heat
By
Eric L. Baker, Entertainment Writer

Director Michael Mann makes a triumphant first impression on the big screen with the release of his stunning and highly visual film Heat. Mann, known for creating the smash T.V. series Miami-Vice has successfully created another crime drama which may very well outdo any of his previous work. Driven by relentless performances from both Al Pacino and Robert De Niro and fueled by a screenplay of equally intense action, Heat delivers a first class excursion into the minds of a professional thief and the tortured detective intent on catching him.

De Niro portrays the thief, a man tired of the growing demands of his profession yet also secure in his reputation as being one of the best at his trade. Working with a team of crack professionals which include Val Kilmer and Tom Sizemore, De Niro sets out to do one last stunning job and put his past behind him once and for all. For De Niros' character, the job will allow for a graceful exit into the normal life he never had, but hopes of now achieving.

Pacino plays a hard-nosed detective, a veteran of countless years of red tape -- both personal and professional. As a man devoid of any faith except in his own abilities to catch his man, Pacino gives a melancholy performance as a tired cop whose personal life is a disaster and who can function in the realm of his work. It is here where he feels most comfortable and secure, second-guessing someone other than himself and it is this same quality in both men which makes their eventual showdown one of the most anticipated moments in recent films.

The script could have easily been a disastrous undertaking but Mann shows a great eye for detail with this picture and an even sharper feel for character. Heat does what so many films have failed to do in the past in that it makes the audience feel for both the protagonist and the antagonist by portraying them as real human beings caught up in the circumstances beyond their control. By the time that the point of resolution in this movie is reached, the audience wants both of them to win while knowing that such an outcome is an impossibility. It is to Manns' credit that he did not take the easy way out of this dilemma as well. The ending is as shocking as it is authentic. Heat is an intense film of great physical and emotional power, a rare merger of two of the most important resources available to any successful picture. A skilled cast and a director as talented as this film possesses is a union that I hope to be seeing a lot more often.


Movie Review: Heavenly Creatures
By:
Eric L. Baker, Entertainment Writer

Heavenly Creatures, based on a true story, is a shocking film regarding the brutal murder of a mother at the hands of her own daughter and her best friend. The movie carefully chronicles the obsessive and somewhat disturbing relationship between these two best friends and the growing concern of their parents over the increasing amount of time which this relationship requires. When both sets of parents decide it to be in the best interest of everyone involved if contact between them were to be nullified, the girls take drastic measures to protect their friendship.

Foreign cinema is often less inhibited than its American counterparts in terms of its visual style and Heavenly Creatures is no exception. The entire film has an intensely ethereal air about it and it this quality which gives the movie its eerily surreal presence on the screen. Awash in vibrant colors and dreamy photography, the film is a visual roller-coaster of optical stimuli. Characters are bathed in pastel blues, reds and yellows. Landscapes are photographed in lush, sweeping detail and the film combines an effective variety of time-lapsed and slow-motion sequences to make the viewer feel just as displaced as many of the film's characters must have felt in real life. The murder scene itself is the most drawn out sequence of the film and its stark brutality is unmatched by anything currently in release. Its intensity is so horrific and terrifying in its scope that although the viewer wants to avert their eyes, such a feat becomes impossible due to the careful craftsmanship of the story before it. The viewer knows what is going to happen, yet cannot bring themselves to accept the inevitably of the murder itself without actually seeing it happen.

Heavenly Creatures does not attempt to portray its characters as either saints or sinners and manages to remain aloof of the semantic pitfalls which could have easily hindered the film's impact. Instead, the focus is on drawing the viewer into the realm of chaos and confusion which obviously enveloped its central characters. To this effect, Heavenly Creatures is a true masterpiece of film craftsmanship. Viewing this film will leave you both emotionally and physically drained, but for all the right reasons. While not easy to watch or even think about after its conclusion, this film's tremendous power will leave an uneraseable impression on the minds of all who see it. A must see for any serious film fanatic. Playing at the Vinegar Hill Theater in Charlottesville


Movie Review: Higher Learning
By: Eric L. Baker, Entertainment Writer

John Singleton took Hollywood by storm with the release of Boyz N' The Hood, his impressive directing and writing debut. His accomplishments with that film earned him an Oscar nomination for Best Director, making him the youngest nominee ever for such a prestigious honor. Poetic Justice soon followed and met with a tepid response from both audiences and critics alike, having nowhere near the intensity or power of his previous film. Unfortunately, Higher Learning suffers from the same lack of charismatic drive which afflicted Poetic Justice. Its almost as if Singleton is so intent on driving his message home that he bombards the audience with it, rather than allowing his film to speak for itself.

The main part of Higher Learning's ineffectiveness is in its characterization. Most of the central characters are so stereotypical that their function is totally one-sided. Worst of all, Singleton never allows his characters to stray from their stereotypical roles, emphasizing the movie's packaging over its potential. Although he does attempt to present these characters and their problems in a complex fashion, he never successfully achieves the necessary empathy from the audience in order for the film to work effectively. Its far to easy to pick out what will happen to whom and who will change from victim to victor.

While all of this does work in terms of a purely formula film, Singleton self-destructs with his strict adherence to such limitations. Higher Learning had massive potential to break new ground in such a contemporary-based theme, yet Singleton's refusal to exploit this potential turns the viewing of this film into little more than watching the evening news. There's simply nothing new here to be seen and this flaw seriously hampers the film's obvious message that change is necessary within our society. At the end of the film, Singleton displays the words UNLEARN over an American flag. Perhaps he should unlearn the formula of filmmaking which he has embraced and concentrate his efforts on more effective communication with his generation.


Movie Review: In The Line Of Fire?: Right On Target!
By Eric L. Baker, Entertainment Writer
Monday, September 13,

In The Line Of Fire marks Clint Eastwoods' return to the Dirty Harry method of acting which propelled him into the ranks of international stardom. His performance as agent Frank Hoorigan is finely tuned to elicit the most of his infamous gruffness and trademark insensitivity in the portrayal of an aging secret service operative intent on proving that he still has what it takes to make it in the field.

Hoorigan's mid-life crisis is sharply intensified by the presence of Mitch Leary, a miffed CIA hit man who has made Hoorigan an unwilling sparring partner in Learys' bid to assassinate the President during the hectic re-election campaign. Leary is brilliantly played by John Malkovich in a performance that should net him another best supporting actor nomination at this year's Oscars. Malkovich portrays Learys' warped sense of loyalty and betrayal to the hilt, giving his character an intensely unnerving presence.

The tension between Hoorigan and Leary eventually builds to volcanic proportions during the course of the film and makes for a heart stopping showdown between the two combatants in a grand finale that should not disappoint the action movie connoisseur.

Although the script is fairly predictable, the direction of Wolfgang Peterson is competent enough to keep the film moving at an acceptable pace. Ennio Morricones' score is evocative and well suited to the movie's mood and the cinematography is above average for a suspense film.

In The Line Of Fire is not without flaws, however. At times the script seems to try to rationalize Hooligans' actions almost to the point of exhaustion and one begins to wonder if his behavior is too obsessive for his own good. The schmaltzy scenes of Eastwood at a piano playing jazz tunes and reminiscing about his relationships with past presidents to love interest Rene Russo also seem overwrought and rather corny in attempting to flush the "humanitarian" side of Hoorigan into the open.

The real reason behind this film's success, however, rests squarely in the acting of the high-priced talent. Eastwood and Russo compliment each other well and Malkovichs' over-the-top performance is simply icing on the cake.

Supporting actors include Gary Cole as Eastwoods' security detail supervisor, a young, brash agent intent on lording his authority over Hoorigan to the max and Richard Dale Thompson as the chief of staff who is intent on making sure the president wins re-election. regardless of his safety in the process.

These performances, combined with the film's exciting yet predictable outcome, make it a highly recommended film for viewing. Even if you end up paying the outrageous evening prices, this one should not be missed. Rated R for violence and profanity.


Movie Review: In The Name Of The Father
By:
Eric L. Baker, Assistant Features Editor

In The Name Of The Father is a dramatic and powerful film based on actual events in British history. Daniel Day Lewis and Pete Postelwhaite, both Oscar nominees for their performances in this film, play a son and father unjustly accused of a terrorist act. Emma Thompson also turns in an Oscar-nominated performance as the lawyer who discovers the cover-up within the legal system and the suppression of evidence which would have freed her clients years ago, although at considerable embarrassment to the British legal system.

Jim Sheridan, also nominated for the coveted Best Director Oscar, keeps this film moving at a relentless pace. Many of the scenes utilized such primal and overwhelming force in their harshly wrought images of detail and emotion that viewing this film could be likened to the equivalent of riding a non-stop roller-coaster. Sheridan also does a remarkable job of adequately canvassing all of the territory which his film encompasses. The viewer is able to gain an inside view of this story from every angle, including not only the accused, but that of their families and the police involved as well.

However, what remains truly remarkable about this film is its sheer ability to convey such a graphic and violent vision of social and personal angst. The acting of Daniel-Day Lewis is particularly memorable in this picture because of its tremendous impact on the viewer. Lewis is flawless in his tormented portrayal of a man unjustly imprisoned for 15 years for a crime he didn't commit and the added horror of watching his father die in prison for the same reason. In light of this performance, it is easy to see why Lewis has received successive nominations for his acting and the movie's multi-talented supporting cast only heightens the atmosphere of this already highly charged film. Likewise, Jim Sheridans' camera invades every nook and cranny of an environment for its maximum effect.

In The Name Of The Father would be HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for its sheer power alone, but its' true accomplishment lies in its' successful juggling of the numerous implications such an event would have on not just a personal level, but a social and political level as well. Sheridan adequately touches on all of these subjects, in addition to focusing on the boiling currents of tension which led to such a tragic events occurrence in the first place without ever once losing focus of his main objective. This rare accomplishment is to be thoroughly enjoyed on the big screen if at all possible and its subject matter to be seriously considered by all who view it. Playing at the Grandin theater.


Movie Review: Intersection
By:
Eric L. Baker, Entertainment Writer

Intersection, a remake of an older French film, revolves around a triangular love affair between architect Vincent Eastman, a woman he has fallen in love with outside of his marriage and the ensuing conflict with his wife and daughter. The cast of Richard Gere, Sharon Stone and a host of mostly unknown actors do their best to try and pull this slightly entertaining, but ultimately unsatisfying drama together.

Unfortunately, Intersection leaves much of the plot of this film to supposition. Gere obviously struggles to get a hold on his character but can never seem to get above the pathetic whining and whimpering of a man who wants the best of both worlds but knows he must choose only one in the end. Stone simply rehashes her Basic Instinct role, playing a frigid Sally Eastman who shows remarkably little emotion when her husbands casually mentions his affair. Lolita Davidovich is the only person who seems to have been given anything to work with in terms of fleshing out her character. She brings a pleasant, carefree attitude to the role Of Vincent's lover but this performance is greatly overshadowed by the terrible writing in this film.

Intersection really fails by offering the viewer no explanation for the events which take place without any provocation whatsoever. Not once is the relationship of the Eastman's ever explored. Except for the brief scene in which Gere tells her that he has been cheating on her, we never get to see what really went wrong in their relationship. Gere and Davidovich are only portrayed as love-struck starlets who really don't know what they want from each other besides sex. Once again, the movie portrays everything so topically that it becomes very hard to give a damn about what happens to any of the characters at all.

These flaws, coupled with an embarrassingly copied scene from War Of The Roses in which Gere bids Davidovich higher and higher on an antique clock simply to get her attention (just as Michael Douglas did to Kathleen Turner), really pushes this film over the edge into video hell. There is a nice plot twist in the very ending, but as mentioned earlier, its hard to care about what happens to whom by the time the film actually gets there and it is certainly not worth dropping $5.75 or even $3.50 to view it. Believe me, this one will hit video stores fast so rent it there if you feel the need.


Movie Review: Interview With The Vampire
By: Eric L. Baker, Entertainment Writer

Interview With The Vampire is an intensely atmospheric film, one which depends heavily upon its visual presentation to adequately captivate its audience. In this respect, Interview With The Vampire may well be the most successful film of the year, since its heavily staged and lavish attention to style completely immerse the viewer into the Gothic culture of Anne Rice's novel. However, the film also has its faults, most of which are contained in its screenplay and the overeager zeal of director Neil Jordan (The Crying Game).

Rice's screenplay, based on her own novel, seems somewhat rushed at points and it appears as if she neglected to transfer all of the novel's power to the screen as effectively as she could have. Characterization is somewhat taken for granted by Rice (a noticeable fault for those who haven't read the book) and the sketchy narration she gives to Brad Pitt (Louie) simply fails to flesh out an adequate portrayal of the movie's main characters.

The acting itself is sufficient to make up for gaps in the screenplay, but Brad Pitt tends to overact in many crucial instances. Tom Cruise, however, seems to have a great time as Lestat. He plays his assigned character with a loose hedonism that is both chilling and oddly comical at the same time. Antonio Banderas also turns in an exquisite performance as the oldest living vampire, Ormond.

In terms of directing, Neil Jordan handles the formidable task of recreating the novel's dark and gloomy environments with ease. However, he also tends to overdo the mood at times. Key points in the movie are so lost in the rush for atmosphere that the viewer is unaware of the significance of what they have just watched until some other key event within the movie illuminates the past scene.

While these flaws do not seriously jeopardize the movie's overall credibility on screen, they do create enough of a significant effect to make their mention essential. For the most part, Interview With the Vampire does provide good entertainment despite its minor flaws and seeing it in a theater would do much more justice to its flamboyant effects and theatrical staging than a home viewing would allow. Although fans of the book may be disappointed at some of the sacrifices made for the sake of the movie's production, the overall results are still worth checking out.

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