MOVIE REVIEWS
by Eric Lee Baker


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

Jeffrey was originally a popular play by Paul Rudnik, and its' adaptation into a screenplay seems to have gone remarkably well, despite its' negative, critical reception. Working with a low budget, Rudnik successfully retains most of the plays' witty dialogue and manages to secure some of Hollywoods' most sought after stars to play in various cameo appearances without apologizing or making excuses for the gay community at large. The movie deals with the difficulty of being gay in modern America, particularly with the presence of AIDS and the continual public outrage concerning gay lifestyle, issues which would seem to denote a heavy-handed and serious picture. But there is also a great deal of humor scattered throughout the course of the film as well. While Rudnik obviously wants to convey a serious message, he also is not above poking fun at some of the sacred icons of American culture (the church, government, etc.) as well as the gay community itself.

Most importantly, Rudnik conveys an image of gay America which neither demands an immediate acceptance of homosexuality on the part of the straight population or to establish being gay as an automatic consideration for special rights and treatment. Instead, the film focuses on the similarities between gay and straight people. Both groups share the same concerns, enjoyments, etc. with the only key difference being that of sexual preference. Rudnik puts the emphasis on similarities because the view that being gay is something so totally foreign that there is no way possible of understanding it is simply not accurate.

Jeffreys' ultimate point is that people should not go out of their way to condescend to the gay community just as they should not make a special effort to single them out for persecution. Rudniks' effective use of humor and his multi-faceted approach to this issue are vital to the films' success in getting this message out. By the movies' end, it is not quite as easy to proudly declare yourself separate from what many consider to be a sinful lifestyle because if being "gay" means having emotions, conflicts, fears and insecurities then "straight" people themselves should be in a very confused state as well.


Movie Review: Judgment Night
By:
Eric L. Baker, Entertainment Writer
November 7, 1993

Hollywood often relies upon proven formulas to ensure a good return at the box office and, unfortunately, Judgment Night is a film which fits this category to perfection. Director Stephen Hopkins has attempted to create an urban form of Deliverance but Judgment Night does nothing in its nearly 2 hour length that hasn't already been done a thousand times before by more competent personnel.

The story revolves around 4 friends who take a wrong turn off the expressway, end up witnessing a murder and find themselves trapped in the bowels of the city. These friends, typical urban yuppies, all undergo an identity crisis in which they face the primal beast within them all and must choose between survival and the common threads of friendship and morality which link them together.

A lot of promise is lost in the transition of this story to its actual unfolding on the screen. There was a lot of potential in the relationships and reactions of these men to there circumstances, but the emphasis is placed instead upon sarcastic humor and petty violence. Dennis Leary catches only glimpses of what truly motivates his street-wise punk character and ends up repeating his fast-talking comedy routine to substitute for adequate acting. While the other cast members are enjoyable to watch, they simply cannot work around the flaws of the script and its limitations.

As an action movie, Judgment Night offers absolutely nothing new for the viewer. The violence is exasperatingly predictable all the way to the climax. There are brief scenes of powerful rage and anger which do provoke a queasiness in the average stomach, but these are few and far between and not adequate enough to make up for the film's other flaws.

Judgment Night is best viewed at home when it comes out on video or at bargain prices if you're really dying to see it. Hollywood must stop assuming that formulas always hold true to what makes a good movie. Judgment Night could have been a much better picture if it had not been made under the guidance of such prejudice and allowed to fully explore the capacity of the human drive for survival. However, this films provides little more than a festival of predictable outcomes in a laughable reality at best.


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

Kids is a graphic film, certainly in a visual context, but more so in terms of its' sound. Audio-wise, it is perhaps unmatched in conveying a mood as powerfully and implicitly as the dialogue in Kids does. The people in this movie have no concept of life and have nothing to live for outside of the now and it shows in their voices through their deadly dialect of apathy. Directed by 51 year old photographer Larry Clark and based on a screenplay by 19-year old Harvey Korine, the film is a powerful mixture of the old and the new. Clark made the film hoping to cure a seemingly deaf and blind society while Korine wrote it to document its' descent. The film itself is a lurid and depressing dive into the depths of despair and callousness, one which leaves the viewer with little or no hope of re-surfacing.

The films' title says it all, Kids is about kids. More specifically, it chronicles a 24 hour period of partying, smoking pot, robbing, and raping amongst a group of 12 to 19 year old teenagers in New York City. The two main characters, Telly and Casper, are inseparable, living their lives with such reckless abandon that even the most hard-core hedonist would get sick watching them. Tellys' favorite thing is the deflowering of virgins ("You can't get nuthin from them", he boasts) while Casper has no identity outside of Tellys' influence. He spends the film drunk or high and in search of sex (just like his "friend" Telly), until he rapes a girl who has passed out at a party. She doesn't even wake up through the entire act and the last scene has Casper waking up in the morning beside the girl he's just assaulted to ask the films' most probing and profound question "What happened?"

There are also other elements of depravity scattered throughout the film but none of them are tied to any conventional plot elements. The closest thing to a conflict is the laconic effort of one of Tellys' "victims" to inform him that she has tested positive for AIDS, a disease she obviously contracted through him because of her virgin status. When she finally does find him, he is already in bed with another girl who is screaming in agony while he pumps away in a drunken fury. She says nothing, closing the door and passing-out on the couch, only to be raped by Casper minutes later.

Critical and conservative leaders are already calling for Kids to be banned and the public backlash against the film has already driven it beyond even underground status. I was fortunate enough to see it at Hollands' College with a packed audience that quickly emptied at the films' conclusion. Every one in that room, including myself, wanted to get as far away from anything connected with that movie whatsoever. But at least (I would like to think anyway, that there were a great number of adults present). We all understood the films' urgency and the need for it to be seen by as many people as possible, particularly the parents who allow their children to grow up in this manner. This film is not kiddy-porn as many have labeled it, but a reflection of where we're headed FAST. It shouldn't be easy to watch such a thing given the current state of affairs and it is to Clarks' credit that he has refused to stroke the corporate or the public ego in the making of this film. Kids deals with life in the rawest of terms, with no guarantees or promises except for our ultimate end if we fail to correct the dire circumstances which spawned as terribly realistic a film as this.


Movie Review: LEAVING LAS VEGAS
By
Eric L. Baker, Entertainment Writer

Watching the film Leaving Las Vegas is an emotionally draining experience. Director Mike Figgis has created a portrayal of one mans' descent into his own personal hell unlike any other film I have had the occasion to see. Nicolas Cage gives a gut wrenching (and Oscar nominated) performance in the lead role, a man so tormented by his own demons that he can no longer function in a world that has lost its' meaning for him. Elizabeth Shue also gives an Oscar caliber performance as a woman torn between her desire to save the man she has fallen in love with or let him end his life as he so desperately desires. These elements, combined with an overwhelming sense of visualization by director Mike Figgis (also an Oscar nominee) made this film both a depressing and enlightening look at the human condition.

Cage plays Ben Sanderson, a washed-up screen writer who has lost everything he ever had. After the final blow of losing his once respected position at a screen writing firm, Sanderson burns all of his possessions, scrapes up whatever cash he can and heads to Las Vegas with the full intention of drinking himself to death over the weekend. However, a chance encounter with empathetic prostitute changes Bens' plans just a bit and it is their tumultuous (and emotionally harrowing) relationship over the next several weeks which occupy the rest of the films' focus. Shue gives a real breakthrough performance with the role of the prostitute as she reacts to Bens' determined mindset to end his life despite her obvious attempts at trying to pull him back from the edge of death. She covers a lot of ground in portraying a woman who suddenly must realize the limitations of her love. Cage also gives the performance of his career as a man so fraught with pain that he can no longer understand any other emotion.

Rarely can a film tackle such emotional material and not fall victim to sermonizing its' audience to sleep or being overly sentimental towards its' characters. Leaving Las Vegas is so stark in contrast that its' message seems almost impossible to be ignored. Everything in this movie from the city lights to the fragile and sometimes brutal aspects of sexuality is imbued with a certain sense of metaphorical dreaminess. The camera often views its' physical territory through the same sort of drunken haze that Sanderson has come to view his surroundings. The main character moves through the landscape in a sort of controlled state of illusion and it is their individual confrontations with that realization and its' effects on their lives that gives the movie its' overwhelming emotional clout.

Director Mike Figgis has created a film which is difficult to watch but which also rivets your eyes to the screen when every ounce of your being screams for you to turn away. As much as we want to believe that love is stronger than anything else or that the simple act of belief in another person is enough to pull them through, Leaving Las Vegas never gives the viewer that option. Instead, this film takes its' audience past the comfortable shroud of distance which most movies offer from emotion and replaces it with a magnifying glass of searing intensity. This film has the rare power to change lives because it requires its' audience to face up to the thin line which separates reality from perception and it will unquestionably leave an impression of immeasurable proportions in the minds of all who see it. Strongly recommended for those who feel up to its' challenge of self examination.


Movie Review: Legends Of The Fall
By:
Eric L. Baker

Legends Of The Fall is an intriguing and sprawling film about a family torn apart by its passions. The story centers mainly around the relationship of brothers Alfred (Aidan Quinn), Tristan (Brad Pitt) and Samuel (Henry Thomas) and the woman who eventually tears them apart. A slight amount of attention is also given to the equally high-strung interaction between the boys and their estranged father (Anthony Hopkins).

From the opening credits, it immediately becomes obvious that Legends intended to lull the viewer into an amazingly complex world of psychological turmoil and idealistic betrayal. Unfortunately, director Edward Zwick attempts to force all of these issues into one cohesive theme and ends up creating an unsynchronized sense of intended harmony which detracts from the film's often overwhelming aesthetic presence. Photographed with lush cinematography and awash in an impressive collage of moody images, the film depends heavily upon its visual appeal to make up for the often meandering script.

While the story is certainly impressive in scope, it stifles itself when given the opportunity to truly break free from typical Hollywood convention. This flaw becomes especially evident when the viewer finds themselves feeling empathetic towards the main characters even though the resolution of their respective dilemmas becomes all to predictable halfway through the film.

Fortunately, the multi-talented cast manages to imbue each of their characters with a spirit which was clearly not evident in the screenplay. Quinn (a seriously underrated veteran actor) and Pitt are mesmerizing as the two brothers torn apart by hatred for each other and Hopkins is once again a model of perfection as their embattled father, even though his part is seriously underwritten.

These performances are certainly well worth the price of admission alone but Legends also manages to create an enticing visual atmosphere with its rich photography and moody settings. Had the film stayed on this course for its two hour and fifteen minute duration and not tried so hard to force its screenplay to conform to some higher sense of cosmic spirituality, a superior and intellectually stimulating film would have resulted. Unfortunately, much of the imagery is left to convey the film's gaping script deficiencies and ends up becoming an overwhelming factor in what could have been a potentially well balanced and though provoking movie.


Movie Review: The Madness Of King George
By: Eric L. Baker

Adapted from the play by the same name, The Madness Of King George is an often witty, yet equally poignant drama. Nigel Hawthorne and Helen Mirren portray the historically famous couple in Oscar nominated performances, giving their characters a vibrant presence which dominates the film's overall attributes. The acting is worth the price of admission alone, but director Nicholas Hytner also adds just the right amount of flair at the appropriate times to make this a truly enjoyable film in all respects.

Hawthorne's performance is the most impressive aspect of the movie by far, having won the part despite the presence of an interested Anthony Hopkins. Once the film begins, it is easy to why producers decided to go with Hawthorne in the lead role. His portrayal of King George is a perfect blend of arrogance, delusion and comical denial. The supporting cast is also flawless, particularly Ian Holm as the radical doctor of last resort to whom the king's supporters turn to in desperation.

Alan Bennett, working from his own play, seems to effortlessly transform his work into an exceptional screenplay and director Nicholas Hytner creates a simple atmosphere to allow it the freedom to develop on its own. Although the film gains its overall appeal (as well as its power) from Hawthorns' acting, such an excellent performance would not have been possible had not the aforementioned characteristics already been in place. It is often the successful combination of all these elements that make certain movies unique, but this is especially true in the case of The Madness Of King George and also why it should be seen by all those who appreciate good film in general. Highly recommended.


Malice Review
by
Eric L. Baker, Entertainment Writer
September 27, 1993

Fall usually signifies the beginning of Hollywood's attempt to lure the more sophisticated movie goer to the big screen and with the release of Malice, the fall season sets out to equal the record breaking summer enjoyed by the major studios.

Relying on an intense and well-developed plot which is full of numerous twists and turns, Malice becomes a vehicle for the chilling exposure of human deceit and greed. Alec Baldwin plays a surgeon who suffers from a severely inflated ego and may or may not be the victim of a fiendish scam while Nicole Kidman portrays a housewife who becomes the prey of Baldwins' scalpel but may not be as innocent as she appears. Thrust into the middle of this web of deceit is Bill Pullman as the mild-mannered college professor and devoted husband who is torn between his friendships, responsibilities and instincts.

It is difficult to really discuss this film without giving away key elements of the story, but it delivers its surprises with precise timing and always stays one step ahead of the viewer. Malice accomplishes what films like The Firm failed in doing because they relied entirely on star performances to support a pathetic script. Malice offers the viewer a no- nonsense suspense thriller in the tradition of Hitchcock and is relatively free from gimmicky implausibilities.

Malices' only fault lies in the fact that director Harold Becker and screenwriter Aaron Sorkin try too hard at times to make the film work. The subplot involving a serial rapist is totally unnecessary and serves as an annoying diversion from the film's main story. Without it, the film would have a nicer flow and would have left the audience just as stunned at the conclusion.

The performances in this film are also an integral part of its brilliance. Baldwin is exquisite in his role as the egotistical doctor, and I found myself wanting to see more of him in the movie, despite the fact that he was given ample screen time. Kidman also easily shifts from the innocent, naive housewife to a raging and intensely brutal personality. Bill Pullman does an excellent job of showing the changes which take place in a man pushed over the edge by betrayal, especially since his character has little ego to boast of.

Malice is certainly a promising preview of the fall lineup and sets a high standard for future releases to follow. This film could easily become the sleeper of the year and is certainly worth seeing if you enjoy a good, serious thriller.


A-HA: Memorial Beach
Eric L. Baker, entertainment writer
Mon., Sept. 13

Fans who have stayed with the group A-HA since their phenomenal smash "Take On Me" have seen the group evolve from an electronically-oriented style to a more acoustical approach towards their music. Their break with electro-pop was made clear on East Of The Sun, West Of The Moon and Memorial Beach picks up where that album left off.

The once dominant keyboards and drum machines have virtually disappeared on this record and the haunting vocals are mainly supplemented by sparse string and rhythm arrangements. Consequently, Memorial Beach sounds almost to suppressed in it's efforts to prove to the listener (and perhaps even to the band) that the music is indeed as well-written as it was intended.

Despite this, the band never loses focus on the goal it has apparently set for itself, namely that of making music which is sincere and straightforward in its presentation. Each song flows easily into the others, yet retains a strong independence in regards to the emotional and physical impact each imparts.

While not a dance record, producer David Z (a first timer with the band) has brought forth a successful balance of both up-tempo tunes and ballads without interfering with the band's style or artistic freedom. The music also boasts of a tightness that a only a group which has played together for almost 10 years could boast of.

Memorial Beach does suffer from some glaring problems. The band seems afraid to really let itself explore the new freedom it has given itself and this becomes apparent in the 10 tracks included in this album. While not repetitive, the style differs little from the first song to the last and before long one is able to predict the outcome of the next track before actually hearing it.

A-HA has proven its respectability with Memorial Beach but not it's durability. Fans who liked their earlier releases will probably be shocked at the differences which have taken place and those who have stayed with the band this long will probably be generally un-impressed with the new material. Memorial Beach offers no concrete direction for the band and is not up to the quality of work that they are capable of producing.

Is Memorial Beach worth buying? I think that it is, but it cannot command the inflated price of CD's and would only be an average purchase on tape. Unfortunately, Memorial Beach is simply not as memorable as it could have been.


Movie Review: Murder In The First
By: Eric L. Baker, Entertainment Writer

Murder In The First is a powerful depiction of one man's abuse at the hands of a corrupt system and the efforts of an ambitious public defender to bring those injustices to the public's attention. Based on a true story and propelled by a flawless performance by Kevin Bacon as inmate Henry Young, this film leaves the viewer both shocked and amazed at the capabilities of the human spirit.

The story revolves around the treatment of prisoner Henry Young, an inmate imprisoned at Alcatraz for a petty crime. Young is captured during an escape attempt from the prison and placed in solitary confinement for over three years. Once released back into the general prison population, Young kills a fellow prisoner in a fit of madness and is charged with first degree murder by the state. An ambitious public defender (Christian Slater) is then assigned to what appears to be a routine, paperwork-only case. However, once Henry's trust has been gained, the horrible truth concerning his treatment at the hands of a sadistic, bible-touting warden (Gary Oldman) and a prison system ungoverned by any moral principles whatsoever becomes the catalyst for one of the nation's most celebrated trials.

This film is highly impressive because of its well-rounded approach to its subject. Impressive directing, writing and outstanding acting, along with some of the most moody and visual cinematography in American cinema in recent years, help make this film an alluring and powerful viewing experience. Bacon's performance is of Oscar worthy potential and he more than assures himself of a nomination with this role. Slater and Oldman also imbue their characters with their own sense of charisma and fervent zeal, particularly Oldman in his role as the warden.

Most importantly, this film doesn't exploit the obvious emotional issues which such a film will undoubtedly raise. Henry is not portrayed as a saint by any means, but the audience does get to see him as much more that just another criminal to be filed away in an already overflowing prison population. The audience sees him transform himself from a child-like state into one which commands the respect of those around him, allowing him to regain his sense of dignity. Consequently, the true success of Murder In The First lies not in its depiction of the evils of which humanity is capable of, but rather the ability of that same potential to be channeled into something pure and uncorrupted by an often harsh reality. Playing at Tanglewood Mall.


Mr. Hollands' Opus
Wonderfully Orchestrated

Movie Review: Mr. Hollands' Opus
By Eric L. Baker, Entertainment Writer

Mr. Hollands' Opus is a wonderful film which celebrates the power of the human spirit. Richard Dreyfus gives an Oscar nominated performance in the title role and receives tremendous support from an excellent supporting cast which includes Olympia Dukakais and Glenne Headleay. Most important, however, is the films' ability to make the viewer feel as if they are actually taking part in the characters' lives, a result brought about by superb directing and a well-written screenplay.

The story involves the circumstances of the life of Glenn Holland, a composer who desperately wants to write his own music and make a profitable living at it. However, due to circumstances, he ends up teaching music at the local high school. While he hates his job at first, Mr. Holland soon learns to see beyond his jaded perceptions of the teaching profession as well as his prejudices towards his students. However, his life is further complicated when his wife gives birth to a son who is born deaf, robbing him of the one passion he had wanted the most to share with his child. He didn't give up though and his struggle to come to terms with what has happened to him and his family as well as his struggle to compose the ultimate symphony are what make him the most beloved teacher in the history of the entire school by the films' end. The process by which this change takes place is where the movie gains its' real emotional clout and by the time it's over, the audience may have difficulty choking back a tear or two.

Dreyfus' performance is pivotal in this picture because he portrays a man going through just about anything that life can throw at him. He is also faced with the task of making his character seem believable without resorting to cheap semantics to pull it off. He captures the essence or Mr. Holland perfectly - a man driven by the passion to share his love for something with the surrounding world in whatever way he can and the nomination for the coveted Best Actor Oscar offers outstanding proof of his achievement in that regard.

The film itself also rises to the challenge of making its' characters and situations believable without resorting to cheap sentimentality as well. While the sentimental aspect certainly is one of the films' main attributes, it also is one which the filmmakers wisely chose not to exploit for its' emotional power. Instead, they focus on Mr. Holland himself and give the viewer an ordinary man who admirably rises to face the difficulties which life has set before him. It is this characteristic which Mr. Hollands' Opus, a refreshing film which beautifully plays upon our compassion and portrays the human spirit in all its' glory.


Movie Review: Mrs. Doubtfire
By: Eric L. Baker, Entertainment Writer

Robin Williams has become one of America's most beloved actors and with his performance in Mrs. Doubtfire, it is easy to see why. This film is warm, pleasant family entertainment and proves that good films don't always have to rely upon four letter words and violence to entertain its audience.

Williams' portrays a carefree voiceover artist (Daniel) who has difficulty in holding down a job due to his rambunctious spirit. Sally Field (Miranda) is his architect wife of 14 years who has grown intolerant of what she feels is her husband's irresponsible behavior. When Daniel quits his most recently acquired job, Miranda demands a divorce and Daniel loses contact with his beloved children.

Despite his attempts at reconciliation, Daniel is unable to persuade his ex-wife to allow him more time with his children and when Miranda decides to advertise for a nanny, Daniel decides to apply. Creating an elaborate costume with the help of his brother and adopting a British accent and name, Daniel is able to get the job and fool everyone with his disguise. Now faced with having to do all of the things he detested before, (cooking, cleaning, etc.), Daniel finds himself in a hilarious struggle to manage his former home and keep his identity secret from his wife's new suitor (Pierce Brosnan).

Williams is a sheer delight to watch on screen and his performance is worth the price of admission alone but this film doesn't rely entirely on its stars to make it work. Combining humor with a light dose of some tear-jerking scenes, director Chris Colombus outdoes himself with this film and proves that he can indeed make a good picture without it having to be about little kids left at home during the holidays. Field and Brosnan are also enjoyable, despite their obviously one-sided characters.

What makes this film a true delight in the long run is its uplifting yet serious representation of the crisis in so many American homes. Unlike a typical Disney picture, this film provides no easy solution and no fairy tale ending to the circumstances which its characters have undergone. However, it does leave its audience with the reminder of the power of love above and beyond all other emotions, and that is what makes Mrs. Doubtfire one of the best films of this year.


Movie Review: Murder In The First
By: Eric L. Baker

Murder In The First is a powerful depiction of one man's abuse at the hands of a corrupt system and the efforts of an ambitious public defender to bring those injustices to the public's attention. Based on a true story and propelled by a flawless performance by Kevin Bacon as inmate Henry Young, this film leaves the viewer both shocked and amazed at the capabilities of the human spirit.

The story revolves around the treatment of prisoner Henry Young, an inmate imprisoned at Alcatraz for a petty crime. Young is captured during an escape attempt from the prison and placed in solitary confinement for over three years. Once released back into the general prison population, Young kills a fellow prisoner in a fit of madness and is charged with first degree murder by the state. An ambitious public defender (Christian Slater) is then assigned to what appears to be a routine, paperwork-only case. However, once Henry's trust has been gained, the horrible truth concerning his treatment at the hands of a sadistic, bible-touting warden (Gary Oldman) and a prison system ungoverned by any moral principles whatsoever becomes the catalyst for one of the nation's most celebrated trials.

This film is highly impressive because of its well-rounded approach to its subject. Impressive directing, writing and outstanding acting, along with some of the most moody and visual cinematography in American cinema in recent years, help make this film an alluring and powerful viewing experience. Bacon's performance is of Oscar worthy potential and he more than assures himself of a nomination with this role. Slater and Oldman also imbue their characters with their own sense of charisma and fervent zeal, particularly Oldman in his role as the warden.

Most importantly, this film doesn't exploit the obvious emotional issues which such a film will undoubtedly raise. Henry is not portrayed as a saint by any means, but the audience does get to see him as much more that just another criminal to be filed away in an already overflowing prison population. The audience sees him transform himself from a child-like state into one which commands the respect of those around him, allowing him to regain his sense of dignity. Consequently, the true success of Murder In The First lies not in its depiction of the evils of which humanity is capable of, but rather the ability of that same potential to be channeled into something pure and uncorrupted by an often harsh reality. Playing at Tanglewood Mall.


Movie Review: Natural Born Killers
By:
Eric L. Baker, Entertainment Writer

Natural Born Killers is a relentless excursion into the lives of fictional serial killers Mickey and Mallory Knox. Written by Quentin Tarantino and given life by the fierce directing of Oliver Stone, the resulting two hours of film are a frantic collision of style and substance. Prolific amounts of visual imagery, razor sharp editing and stomach churning violence give the viewer the impression of watching a music video on MTV in the privacy of their own room rather than sitting in a darkened movie theater with an equally captive audience.

From its visually stunning beginning to its equally surreal ending, the movie maintains a pace unequaled by any other film to date. Woody Harrelson and Juliette Lewis give outstanding performances as the film's title characters, making their actions appear as truly ghastly events, yet oddly rational in the midst of a society tearing itself apart. The strong supporting cast of Tommy Lee Jones as a self righteous warden and Robert Downey Jr. as a tabloid television host are also outstanding. Downey is particularly exquisite as the tortured puppet of his own cravings and repressions, cravings which are violently unleashed during the film's shocking climax.

Despite these highly polished performances, the real beauty of this film lies in its technical brilliance. Director Oliver Stone has amassed a tremendous and often overpowering collage of truly shocking cinematography. Many parts of the film often seem like some extended photo shoot held within the darkest recesses of the human soul. Using such stunning techniques, Stone constantly manipulates the environment in which we see his actors, as well as his ultimate outlook on our rapidly deteriorating society. Under these conditions, Natural Born Killers becomes an unequaled journey into a chaos of immense proportions. It seizes the viewer within its immense scope and forces an intrusively painful self-examination, a reflection that is almost certain to reveal some unsettling results.

The only fault in this film is in Stone's eagerness to place the blame for the serial killer phenomenon on sources other than the killers themselves. At times the film takes on an almost blatant finger pointing stance towards the media and society in general. This thinly veiled accusation is one which somewhat detracts from the film's tremendous impact, although Stone does do an unusually good job of keeping his ego in check for most of the movie's duration.

Natural Born Killers may very well be the most unsettling film of the year, possibly even of its time. Not only does it draw its material from an ill defined pop culture, it also does it in a brilliantly creative and revolutionary manner. Its first impressions will most certainly be uneraseable from the minds of the viewer and its disturbing indictment of the public at large as being directly responsible for the current state of society is one which has far reaching implications.

This movie also does much more than entertain. It frightens, manipulates and forces us into the darkness of our own hearts. Once Stone has taken us there, he dumps the task of finding a way out squarely upon our own shoulders. It is this trait which sets this film apart from its peers. Its forces us to confront our own demons both collectively and individually and paints a horrific destination for mass culture if such an undertaking is continually ignored. Playing at Valley View and Salem Valley 8.


Movie Review: Naked Gun 33 1/3: The Final Insult
By: Eric L. Baker, Assistant Features Editor

Naked Gun 33 1/3: The Final Insult was supposed to signify the end of the popular series of films which were based on the short-lived TV series Police Squad! and if this turns out to be true, it will be none to soon. While the first two films were indeed funny and utilized sight gags in a hilarious and often unpredictable manner, this latest installment is simply awful from beginning to end. Barely clocking in at an hour and half, the endless repetition and simple moronic humor which were acceptable in the first two films grows old VERY quickly the third time around. The Zucker brothers, once again directing, producing and writing the series which they created, have worn out their credibility with this insipid mess and the blame for this film rests entirely upon their shoulders.

This time around we find Frank Drebin retired from police Squad and trying to settle down with his wife Jane (Priscilla Presley) when he is called back to stop a mad bomber (Fred Ward) intent on blowing up the building where the Oscars are being held, a pretty weak concept to begin with. This could have been a great opportunity to bring the series to a graceful close but instead the viewer is treated to some of the most pathetic comedic situations and endlessly recycled punchlines in the history of film itself. Watching Leslie Nielsen provide countless sperm samples at a fertility clinic, all of which are accompanied by grunts, groans, and other sexually related sounds, is no longer funny after a good 10 minutes of the same material being utilized over and over. This example, along with countless others like it, all serve to show that the Naked Gun series has finally run out of bullets and is shooting blanks at the minds of the audience. Even the acting is horrible, a pretty sad fact when considering that films like this depend on actors to "ham it up" to a certain degree. Leslie Nielsen (Lt. Frank Drebin) looks and acts like an escaped nursing home resident and George Kennedy (Drebins' colleague in foolery) acts as if he is about to keel over at any minute from a heart attack, uttering every line with a desperate wheeze or gasp for air.

These are not the same people or the same concepts which we all laughed at in the first two films. The fast and furious punch lines and sight gags are gone in this film or passť at best, a clear cut disgrace when compared to the other two Naked Gun films. Fans of this series have been handed a cheap imitation of what could have been made had anyone taken the time to really construct and film a real movie. The Naked Gun series deserved more than this as its parting finale to the public as did the people who paid top dollar to see it. Unfortunately, movie goers have been given a film which, for once, finally lives up to its name.


Book Review: THE ROLE OF SUICIDE IN NIGHT MOTHER
By Eric L. Baker

Marsha Normans' Night Mother raises disturbing questions concerning the ability of the human spirit to emerge victorious from lifes' harsh conditions. The plays' central character, Jessie Cates, comes to the unsettling conclusion that her salvation lies not in facing her tragic circumstances, but rather escaping them through suicide. It is this same decision which enables Normans' cold, yet oddly enticing logic regarding Jessies' suicide to effectively haunt the mind of the reader. Although repelled by its severity, the reader cannot help but feel as though Jessies' decision is indeed the best that could have been made under the circumstances.

Night Mother derives most of its power from Normans' masterful portrayal of Jessies' feelings of helplessness and isolation. These same feelings, experienced by most every human at one point or another in their lives, enables Norman to force the reader into a thorough examination of the objections raised to Jessie's ultimate solution. Jessie is easy for the reader to relate to and the audience feels her pain just as acutely as they do their own. Her simplistic resolve and seemingly complacent attitude concerning her imminent demise are also presented in such a way as to make suicide seem almost inviting as a way of preventing further pain from occurring. Norman uses this effect to make the reader think about their objections to Jessies' decision in a different light. Do we as readers object to her suicide on mere moral and ethical principles or are we simply uncomfortable at being presented with a case which seems to indicate no other possible solution?

At one pivotal point in the play, Jessie compares her life to that of a bus ride, stating that "Well, I can get off now if I want to, because even if I ride fifty more years and get off then, it's the same place when I step down to it" (Norman 722). This passage is perhaps the clearest and most direct in showing Jessie's resolve to carry out her plans. Norman portrays Jessie as being completely free of any inhibition regarding her impending suicide. Never once does the audience see her falter in her resolve to carry out the act.

Normans' careful structuring of the dialogue between Jessie and her mother are also indicative of the futility that plagues any hopes of reconciliation between them. When confronted on several different occasions concerning events in the past, Thelma Cates (Mama) is still unable to see past her own delusions and speak honestly with Jessie concerning her "embarrassing" illness and its effects upon both her and the family. Under these circumstances, Jessies' options are increasingly limited in terms of her ability to ever find some sort of peace and happiness. She learns too much too late and it this tragic turn of events which prompts her to end her life.

Once again, the reader is torn between what is seen as a horrifying reaction to a tragic situation along with the equally disturbing reality of Jessies' being trapped in a no-win scenario. Under these circumstances, the role which suicide plays in Night Mother is largely left to that of the reader. Although undeniably horrific, the climax of the play presents this problem in a manner which can only be interpreted by individual conviction and that is undoubtedly how Marsha Norman intended it to be.


Movie Review: Nobodys' Fool
By: Eric L. Baker, Entertainment Writer

Nobodys' Fool is an engaging character study of one mans' attempts to make atonement for his past. Paul Newmans' performance as the title character is flawless, giving the already polished script an added air of distinction. Director Robert Benton (who also wrote and produced the film) wisely allows Newman all of the freedom he needs to make this picture a truly memorable viewing experience.

Nobodys' Fool is ultimately about the portrayal of grace and class more than it is any real substantial story. The theme adheres strictly to the conventional Hollywood "formula film" and there are no frills added to the uncomplicated plot or its predictable resolution. However, this effect is exactly what makes the film work. Newman conveys such authenticity in his role that the viewer becomes totally absorbed in his performance, as well as the movie itself. Fellow cast members Bruce Willis and Melanie Griffith also offer wisely restrained support as the films' other main characters. The exquisite talent of Jessica Tandy is also featured in what was to be her last performance.

Although formula films are often unworthy of the film stock on which they were shot, Nobodys' Fool is a film which delivers its ageless message with a renewed sense of resolve and elegance. Robert Bentons' direction successfully avoids the pitfall of mediocrity while also delivering a quality film of tremendous heartwarming capability. The result is Hollywood escapism and sentimental filmmaking at its best. Highly recommended.

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