MOVIE REVIEWS
by Eric Lee Baker


Music Review: Orchestral Maneuvers In The Dark: Liberator
By Eric L. Baker, Entertainment Writer
September 27, 1993

OMDs' new album, Liberator, marks the return of one of the best electro-pop groups to the current glut of new releases. Founding members Andy McCluskey and Paul Humphreys have obviously used the two year gap between albums to correct the minor mistakes of 1991s' Sugar Tax and have emerged with a triumphant new body of material.

While Liberator does not differ much from Sugar Tax, it does offer a better selection for the picky listener. The album is more at ease and a bit more subtle in in tone than previous releases and is excellent for simply relaxing to. McCluskeys' voice shines on all the tracks and goes well with the deeply layered synthesizers which have been pumping out the bands' lush arrangements for over 11 years.

This is not to say that Liberator forsakes the techno crowd. It offers several tracks which are highly moshable, including the brilliant "Agnus Dei," which layers a choirs' voices over a frantic mixture of high-speed computer generated noise and "Heaven Is," a showtune for any rave enthusiast.

Since OMD produced this recording themselves, there are no annoying glitches or producer-related quarks which muddy up the album. The buyer gets a well-written body of material which is capable of standing on its own in an increasingly competitive market. Fans of the group will remember that OMD was one of the forerunners of electro pop along with such founding bands as The Human League and the Eurythmics and was already establishing an excellent collection of recordings before techno and electro-pop gained international recognition. This album proves that OMD retains their cutting edge in musical construction and still remains one of the most prominent bands in electronic music today.


Movie Review: The Pelican Brief
By: Eric L. Baker, Entertainment Writer

The Pelican Brief displays a rested and invigorated Julia Roberts to the viewing public in this tightly paced political thriller. Roberts' absence from the screen has been a noticeable glare in recent releases and her triumphant return to acting is one of the main reasons this film can successfully revive the endlessly recycled plots involving high ranking government corruption and the innocent citizens who stumble upon the facts and find themselves running for their lives while on their quest to enlighten the world.

Roberts plays Darby Shaw, a law student who becomes curious when two Supreme Court Justices are murdered on the same night. At the behest of her law professor who doubles as her lover (Sam Shepard), Shaw prepares a theory in which she claims to have identified the motive behind the killings. After showing the report to her professor, who in turn gives it to a friend at the FBI, Shaw watches her friends and acquaintances become the victims of mysterious "accidents" and outright murder. Convinced her report is the cause, Shaw goes underground and contacts investigative reporter Gray Grantham (Denzel Washington). Armed with their continually mounting evidence, both of them set out to expose the truth amid many squealing tires and a hail of bullets.

Director Alan J. Pakula, a veteran of such films, paces this film in an immaculate fashion. He wrings the most (in a physical and action oriented sense) from every scene in this film and never allows it to lose the audiences' interest. Unfortunately, he fails to do anything else with his considerable talent and places too much of an emphasis upon the action within the film rather than concentrating on the story or the acting behind it.

As was the case with The Firm, The Pelican Brief contains some of Hollywoods' best actors but fails to take advantage of their talents. With the exception of Roberts and Washington, everyone else in this film is reduced to a fleeting shadow with a few weakly scripted lines. Robert Culp is simply laughable as the President and acting gurus such as Hume Cronyn, John Heard, John Lithgow and James B. Sikking are gone almost as quickly as they appear. The list on acting mis-management could go on, but the film's main weakness is in its strict adherence to the traditional formula of the thriller genre.

While the results on screen are not bad, they certainly mask the major flaws in this film. Pakula sticks so closely to the action oriented goal on this picture that he inadvertently represses the acting which could have given this film a more vibrant life and made it more than simply another entry into an already overpopulated category. As for the authenticity of the screenplay in relation to the best selling novel, it is almost certain that there will be those who either love or hate the changes which most certainly have been made. However, one should judge this picture strictly as if it were an original screenplay and decide its merit based upon the film itself. When judged under these conditions and in light of a superb job by the cast of this film, The Pelican Brief turns out to be just slightly above average but still worth your $5.75 at the box office.


Review: A Perfect World
By: Eric L. Baker, Entertainment Writer
November 29 ,1993

A Perfect World presents the story of an escaped convict and his young hostage on their perilous journey towards freedom. Directed by Clint Eastwood (who also acts in the film) and starring Kevin Costner as the escaped convict, A Perfect World is an excellent drama which showcases the talents of both Costner and Eastwood in their respective roles as both actors and director.

Eastwood takes only a small acting role in this film and focuses his attention entirely on the task of fleshing out his picture with strong performances and a tightly written script. The personal ego battles which were reported to have existed between Costner and Eastwood never show up on screen and the film is able to come across as a true collaboration between two of Hollywood's greatest assets. Costner's performance is simply outstanding and may possibly garner him another best actor nomination at next year's Oscars. Eastwood has also portrayed a realistic character without resorting to cheap semantics and keeping the film's direction in focus.

A Perfect World garners its title from the fact that none of the events portrayed in this film would happen in such an environment, yet human passions often dictate otherwise. Costner's character is torn between his growing devotion to his young hostage and his basic survival instinct. Throughout the film, both reveal their oppressive childhoods to each other. Consequently, Costner's character must come to terms with his own unhappy childhood while showing his young companion a good time before his eventual return to a fatherless and strictly religious household. As time grows shorter, their run becomes one last joy ride which can only end in desperation.

The eventual showdown between Costner and Eastwood is almost an unimportant aspect of this film. The emphasis is placed instead upon the parting words between kidnaper and kidnapee, a touching sequence which serves as a reminder of the unfortunate circumstances which brought them together and the equally tragic events which are doomed to separate them. A Perfect World is a near perfect representation of the human drama which lies behind the headlines and media glitz of everyday life and is highly recommended for critical audiences.


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

Philadelphia, the first film by Jonathan Demme since his acclaimed Silence Of The Lambs, confronts the tragedy of AIDS and the painful prejudices which those afflicted must suffer through. Tom Hank's much ballyhooed performance is certainly worthy of every word of praise it has received and the film's overall theme is so emotionally charged that it may bring some viewers to the point of tears.

As a promising lawyer fired over his contraction of the disease, Hanks gives a tremendously moving performance as he slowly comes to terms with the realization of his own death. Along with a superb cast to back him up, Hanks gives the performance of a lifetime. At a scene in which he and his lawyer (Denzel Washington) prepare for a grueling day of testimony, Hanks suddenly breaks into a beautifully rendered translation of the words to his favorite opera. Accompanied by Demme's eerie and unsettling camera work, this touching eulogy to the human spirit is the high point of the film.

Denzel Washington also gives an outstanding portrayal of an individual who finally faces up to the prejudice within his own heart while Jason Robards turns in an absolutely vile and hateful version of the bigoted lawyer behind Hank's dismissal From the realistic scenes in which Hanks and his gay lover face the tragic outcome they both know awaits their relationship to the touching moments in which his family rallies around him until the bitter end, Philadelphia moves with a determination and resolve seldom seen in the typical portrayal of the human condition.

This film is virtually flawless except for some minor message muddling in the first half. Demme sometimes cannot decide whether preaching against the evils of prejudice or simply relating the tragic reality which consumes the film's characters should be the final goal of the picture. However, Philadelphia more than makes atonement for this glitch when it forces its viewers to seriously evaluate their own positions on this issue. Scenes involving a gay party thrown by Hanks to ease the tension caused by his illness and the interplay between Hanks and his lover show a truly loving atmosphere behind the stereotyped image which so many of us embrace. Whether or not one agrees with the principles of this film or its portrayal of the gay lifestyle, there is no denying the power it possesses. It virtually oozes from the screen directly into the mind of the viewer and it difficult not to choke back some tears at various points in the film, especially the ending.

When the credits emerge from this tear-ridden picture, a part of the viewer may seem to have died along with its main character, but the birth of a new understanding and awareness of the indestructible human spirit gives it a distinction which should be viewed at all costs. At Salem Valley 8 only.


Movie Review: The Piano
By:
Eric L. Baker, Assistant Features Editor

The Piano's startling success in America has been one of the most critically heralded triumphs for foreign cinema since Like Water, For Chocolate. Director and writer Jane Campion's harrowing story of a mute woman's passionate relationship with her music and the complex emotional turmoil which ensues is both disturbing and enthralling to watch. Strong performances from both Holly Hunter and Sam Neill also highlight this film's mysterious attraction to viewers.

The plot revolves around a mute woman (Holly Hunter) and her arranged marriage with an aristocratic New Zealand settler (Sam Neill). Along with her daughter from a previous marriage, Hunter finds herself thrust into a life in which her beloved piano is the only means of comfort available. When she arrives at the island where her new husband resides, he refuses to lug the piano up from the beach and eventually sells it to a fellow settler (Harvey Keitel) in a real estate deal. Desperate to regain her piano, Hunter agrees to give lessons to Keitel in exchange for ownership of the instrument. As the lessons progress however, it becomes clear that Keitel is not interested in the piano, but the woman who plays it. Thus begins a torrid affair and the tragic unfolding of events which have made this film the talk of Hollywood.

Campion's directing is both tight and concentrated, yet stunningly visual. Her flair for scenery and an obvious artistic talent propel this film into such unchartered territory that it becomes difficult to adequately describe its immense power on the screen. The cinematography is simply breathtaking and one of the main reasons this movie is at the top of the critic's Oscar lists. Campion's camera moves in broad sweeping angles, encompassing not only the physical spaces and beauty in which this film takes place but also the vast emotional landscape which her story inhabits.

From this visual feast of sound and color emerges a script which pulls the viewer through a moody, atmospheric examination of the primal emotions within the human heart. This makes the characters in this film hard to identify with, making it difficult to feel sympathy for them yet just as hard to judge them as well. There are no stereotypical characters here, just ordinary people faced with overwhelming emotions and compelled to act on them. This is part of the lure of Campion's film in that it makes no statements about its character's actions but simply portrays them against the brutally lush environment in which they transpire, producing an almost intoxicating effect which can leave the viewer both stunned and exhausted.

The actors chosen to bring this film to life also play no small part in this film's mesmerizing presence. Sam Neill plays his best part ever as the betrayed and tormented husband while Hunter gives a rigid, yet childlike, portrayal of a woman enslaved to her passions. Rounding up the cast is Harvey Keitel (perhaps the next Robert De Niro of our generation) in an unfortunately small role as the settler whose primal desire unlocks the animal within not only his own heart, but those of his fellow neighbors as well.

If there is any criticism to be made of The Piano, I find it in the unfortunate squandering of Keitel's abilities. His character is not nearly as well sculpted as that of those around him and he ends up being a simple gear in the movie's otherwise stunning machinery. Whether this was Campion's intention or not, Keitel deserved more than his few sparse and scattered scenes. However, regardless of this small criticism, The Piano remains a formidable masterpiece in both the handling of its subject matter and the overwhelming collage of images which it hurls from the screen.

Despite all of the conjecturing which this film has inspired, its stunningly haunting ending or the seemingly unforgettable anguish it inspires in the darkest recesses of the human soul, The Piano will always remain the truly ingenious creation of a world in which the passions become the soul catalyst for existence. It was Fredrick Nietzsche who said that "in music the passions free themselves", but only with the viewing of The Piano can their tremendous power be fully realized.


Movie Review: The Postman
By Eric L. Baker, Entertainment Writer

The Postman is the warm hearted tale of a bumbling village fisherman named Mario Ruoppolo who finds salvation from his dreary surroundings through the friendship and guidance of the exiled Chilean poet, Pavlo Neruda. Mario takes on the job of delivering Nerudas' mail to him and soon grows to embrace the same passionate approach to life that Naruda himself has adopted. The film is an artistic triumph, creating a distinctive atmosphere which is easily felt in the breathtaking cinematography and the gentle characterizations provided by the cast. Loosely based on a true story, The Postman is a wonderful treatise on the potentials of the human heart, both in tragedy and triumph.

The films' chief strength lies in its' un-complicated approach to its' subject matter. There are no fancy gimmicks, no surprising plot twists and the viewer can probably figure out the films' ending long before the end. However, it is this same relaxed quality that makes the film such a pleasure to view. The viewer actually gets to see the films' protagonist (Mario) grow from a moronic fisherman into a political activist, in addition to his gradually intensifying relationship with Naruda. Things continue on in this manner until Naruda receives word that his exile is revoked and that he can return to his native Chile. Ecstatic at the chance to do so, Naruda immediately packs his bags, leaving the village and its' occupants (including Mario) far behind. It is here that the movie takes a tragic turn, one which changes the lives of everyone involved including Naruda himself.

Although the film is in Italian with English subtitles, it loses none of its' emotional power on the big screen. Some of the more impressive photography may have to be overlooked in order to keep up with the subtitles, but the film deserves more than one viewing anyway. What truly makes The Postman worthwhile is its' ability to let the viewer walk away with a slightly better opinion of our individual lots in life. It enables us to once again think of the Arts as a means of salvation as opposed to a mere outlet for self-expression. Most importantly, however, it reminds us that our spiritual freedom is something which can never be taken from us without our consent or willful abandonment.


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

Powder is a touching film reminiscent of such classics as MASK and E.T., both of which involve characters subject to the ignorance and prejudice of the world around them. The main character in Powder suffers from albinism (as well as an intense attraction to electricity) and has spent his entire life living in the cellar of his grandparents' home. When this is discovered by authorities, he is forced into a county shelter and subject to the stares and mistreatment by a world of which he has no knowledge. This leads to a series of predictable, yet creative situations in which the viewer is forced into questioning his or her own prejudices.

Director Victor DeSilva imbues the film with moody, yet evocative atmosphere and successfully creates a feeling of identity between his characters and the audience. Strong performances also lend to the films' quality as well, particularly Sean Patrick Flanery in the title role. In terms of story, the film uses an ingenious mix of science fiction, fantasy, and drama to convey its' message of the need for unconditional love and acceptance. The only faults with the film are DeSilvas' tendency to include conflicts which detract from the films' main theme. A fair amount of implied homosexuality is strewn throughout the films' screenplay but it never materializes into anything substantial. Had this aspect of the film been given a little more time to develop and not rushed into the screenplay at the movies' end, it would have made a good addition to the film.

Unfortunately, Disney has backed off from promoting this movie due to DeSilvas' admission of being homosexual, and accusations that he is a pedophile as well. This is too bad because for the most part, this is exactly the same trend which the film is attempting to expose to its' audience; namely, that our refusal to accept the differences amongst ourselves will cost us far more in the long run than just simple ignorance.


Movie Review: The Professional
By: Eric L. Baker, Entertainment Writer

The Professional, written, produced and directed by Luc Besson, is an unremarkable story given a remarkable screen presence by flashy production standards and highly technical directing. What this film lacks in terms of an intellectually based script, it more than makes up for with stunningly photographed action sequences and relentless violence.

Jean Reno stars as Leon, a Mafia hitman who witnesses the murder of a young girl's family by renegade DEA agents (led by Gary Oldman). When the girl comes to Leon for help and shelter, he teaches her the tricks of his trade, helping her carry out revenge on those responsible for the act while somewhere along the line, we are supposed to believe that a beautiful father and daughter relationship has developed. All of this is loosely tied together by Besson's rambling and directionless script, which ultimately serves as little more than a thinly veiled excuse for the extravagant acts of violence scattered throughout the movie.

Although this film ultimately pales in comparison to some of Besson's earlier and more atmospheric films, it still manages to disguise the majority of its flaws beneath the skilled direction of Besson himself. The film moves at such a relentless pace that the ridiculousness of the plot and the skeletal framework of the film's characters tend to be overlooked in lieu of the film's technical achievements. It rarely drags, except in minor instances and the action is intense and powerful, making the viewer feel as if they are right in the middle of it all. This is mostly due to Besson's unique camera angles and precision editing during action sequences. The stellar performance by Gary Oldman as the DEA agent turned psychotic junkie is also an integral part of the film's success. Although his part is pitifully underwritten, Oldman makes every moment of his screen time acutely felt by the viewer. Reno also does the same with his part as the hitman, although with nowhere near the same unbridled zeal that Oldman was able to command.

The emphasis in this film is clearly not on story or characterization, but action first and foremost and Besson's ability to deliver on this premise should not be doubted. The Professional does deliver maximum bang for the buck and somehow manages to keep its loosely constructed framework from flying apart or interfering with the films success as an action piece. This is ultimately what makes it recommended to action fans as an innovative and creative alternative to a market currently flooded with many other weaker releases.


Movie Review: Pulp Fiction
By: Eric L. Baker, Assistant Features Editor

Pulp Fiction No Fluke : Watching a Quentin Tarantino film is a totally enthralling experience. Combining striking visuals with witty, and highly philosophical script, Pulp Fiction proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that its' winning the best film award at this years' Cannes Festival was no fluke.

The movie tells an interrelated series of stories about a gangster, his wife, two of his hit men, a boxer, and the course of ironic events in which they all eventually meet. Told in a flashback format, the movie starts at the end and works its' way back to the beginning. Tarantino and co-writer Roger Avary do an outstanding job of tying all of the events together and making the viewer totally absorbed in his or her well-paced unfolding. The viewer also develops strange empathy and respect for each of the characters, particularly the two hit men, Jules and Vincent. This is because Tarantino gives his characters irresistibly likeable traits which, despite their obviously cold-blooded and callous attitudes, still endears them to the audience in a subtle manner. The movie also combines scenes of unsettling brutality, violence, and humor into an ingeniously successful mix. In short, nobody can watch this film and walk away unaffected.

To give the plot in this film would be an unpardonable sin, but it is safe to say that it certainly grabs hold of the viewer from the first frame and doesn't release its' choke hold until the ending credits. This can certainly be attributed in part to the flawless performances generated by the all-star cast. Harvey Keitel, Samuel Jackson, and John Travolta give remarkable performances, especially Travolta in his career redeeming role as Vincent. The constant philosophical bantering between the characters is also hilarious, although often more poignant than the audience may actually realize.

Pulp Fiction, under the command of Tarantinos' visually commanding style and intensely provocative script, is reviving the lost art of total immersion into a films' presentation on the screen, one which demands the undivided attention of the viewer. Drawing from the multitude of film history and innovatively fresh ideas, Pulp Fiction is a remarkably absorbing masterpiece and should not be missed at any cost.


Movie Review: Quiz Show
By: Eric L. Baker, Assistant Features Editor

Quiz Show Passes All The Tests: Quiz Show is a brilliant expose' of human greed and ethical bankruptcy, and a stirring drama based on actual game show scandals in the 1950s. Directed by Robert Redford and starring the impressive talent of John Turturro, Ralph Fiennes, and Rob Morrow in the principle roles, this film quickly absorbs the viewer into a thought provoking examination of just how big a role we allow entertainment to play in our lives.

The key to this films' greatness may well reside in Redfords' restrained, yet highly effective directing. He displays an impressive maturity in his handling of a films' element with the release of this picture. In Quiz Show, Redfords' directing takes on an almost technically passive stance. His camera serves merely to display his subjects without any pomp, gimmicky effects, or angles. Those scenes which do allow for such directorial indulgence are few and far between and handled with eloquent simplicity when they arise. By utilizing such technique Redford lets the film unfold onto the screen uninhibited and the real brilliance of the film is allowed to come from the stunning performances that Redford coaches from his actors and the impressive screenplay of Paul Attansio.

The story revolves around the popular game show, "Twenty-One", and the revelation that winners were given answers beforehand until their popularity wore off, at which time they were dumped in favor of a more popular pitch man for the shows' corporate sponsor, Geritol. One such victim, Herbert Stemple (Turturro), decides to expose the scandal after witnessing his successor, Charles VanDoren (Fiennes), attain outrageous levels of popularity and wealth under the guise of propagating education and knowledge to millions of viewers. This brings federal investigator Richard Goodwin (Morrow) into the picture. Through Goodwins' relentless and persistent inquiries, the case eventually comes before Congress for the hearings on the charges, bringing about startling implications for a culture based entirely on the realm of televisions'' influence.

The most impressive aspect of this film is its' strong characterization of the characters involved. We get to see all the main characters portrayed in a much broader light than simply their particular role in the scandal. In the case of Herbert Stemple, we see a man so desperate to live a life independent from his in-laws, yet also commanding of some intellectual respect that the temptation to gain it all at any cost was simply too overwhelming to resist. In the case of Charles VanDoren, we see the same scenario. Doren wants desperately to establish an identity for himself apart from that of his famous father and is likewise enticed by the wealth and popularity offered by his assured winnings on the show. We also get to see Richard Goodwins' ultimate quest as wanting to expose the television industry and its' executives, NOT the contestants who participated in the show. Attanasios' script handles all of these subtle details with amazing clarity without once detracting from the films' main message. In fact, it is these very sub-plots which give this film its' overpowering presence on the screen.

Redford has surely created a stunning original and effective piece of film in Quiz Show. His firm control of the films' broad focus and the indictment of society as growing increasingly shallow and careless in its' assigning of values are never compromised nor lost throughout the movies' course. In fact, the closing scenes are among the most powerful of the entire film. As the committee calls the executive officers of all the corporations involved to testify in regards to their knowledge of the scandal, Redford intercepts all of the responses within a precisely edited collage of responses. The viewer watches as one person after another swears that they knew absolutely nothing of the scandal what-so-ever, it was they themselves who were most involved in setting it up. As Goodwin watches all of this, another committee member congratulates him on exposing Stemple and VanDoren as frauds. Goodwin responds that his intent was never to get them, but to get the television industry itself. His final words, "But I guess television is gonna get us.", still haunts the viewer long after the film is over. It is this type of film making which separates Quiz Show from not simply being recommended as a good film, but as a GREAT film. Quiz Show is now playing at Valley View 6 and The Grandin.


Movie Review: The Remains Of The Day
By:
Eric L. Baker, Assistant Features Editor

The Remains of the Day is a deeply moving portrayal of the often irreconcilable differences between honor, love and devotion. Boasting Anthony Hopkins and Emma Thompson in the leading roles, along with the added distinctions of several Oscar nominations, including Best Picture, Best Actor and Best Actress, The Remains of the Day is an exquisitely well wrought accomplishment which beautifully reflects the intense nature of the human spirit.

Hopkins portrays Stevens, an articulate and refined English butler for whom service to his employer is the driving force behind his existence. Allowing himself little or no outside pleasures except those which his duties bring him, Stevens find the arrival of a new housekeeper (Emma Thompson) to be a direct threat to his orderly and undisturbed environment. As Stevens attempts to repress his growing affections for this woman and feign ignorance of his wealthy employers' courtship of the Nazi party, a crisis emerges which forces change in a man who detests it most.

The directing in this picture is both crisp and concise, allowing the camera to capture both the grandeur and elegance of the surroundings in which this touching drama unfolds. Hopkins is simply immaculate (as always), giving the audience an impeccable portrayal of a man too frightened of the risks involved in living his life spontaneously. Thompson also gives a matronly, yet delicate, performance as the woman who rekindles Stevens' desire for life. There are also surprising performances by Christopher Reeve and James Fox which only help to bolster this films' critical reputation.

The Remains Of The Day is a welcome revival of films which emphasize characterization over action and a fast-paced script. This film takes the viewer on a detailed and intricate journey through the passages of life itself and the struggle of two people to come to grips with their emotions in an extremely restrictive environment. As a result, the audience gets a glimpse into an aspect of their own lives and the means to gain a sense of truth that can best be understood in images rather than words. This is what makes The Remains Of The Day a true accomplishment: its undeniable power to expose the prisons of our own design and the means to set ourselves free. A must see for fans of serious and intense drama. Soon to be released on home video.


Movie Review: The River Wild
By:
Eric L. Baker, Entertainment Writer

The River Wild promises the viewer a white-water adventure complete with breathtaking scenery and a gripping story. Unfortunately, the results are much like watching Deliverance on Thorazine. Although director Curtis Hanson (The Hand That Rocks The Cradle) tries to keep the pace frantic and tense, the script is far to insipid and predictable to overcome. Even the awesome talent of Meryl Streep and Kevin Bacon cannot save this film from its utterly shallow content.

The story revolves around a vacation gone awry when criminals on the run from the law force a family to take them down-river through white-water country. Here, the movie begins its descent into mediocrity. As the mother, Streep gives a strong and confident performance (as always) but she simply has nothing to work with in terms of fleshing her character out. The viewer mostly gets to watch her pant, sweat and grunt behind the oars of a boat for the duration of the film. A lesser actress could have done the same thing and not have been as wasted as Streep was in this film. Kevin Bacon also turns in a surprisingly bland and disappointing performance as the film's resident villain/psychotic. Perhaps this can be attributed to Bacon's basically repeating the same role that he played in Whitewater Summer several years ago, the only difference being that he actually gets to kill several people in this movie. The rest of the cast is simply to dull to elaborate further upon.

In terms of the story, the movie falls apart from the beginning. The viewer is set up to see this vacation as a time for husband and wife to revive their failing marriage and rebuild their crumbling family. Of course, all of this family bonding is put on hold with the arrival of Bacon and his cronies, allowing the rest of the ridiculous plot to finally unfold. Suddenly, Streeps' mousy husband (who can't even pack his own suitcase for the trip without his wife's help) turns into Rambo after escaping from his captors. He follows them on foot for the rest of the movie, engineering elaborate traps for his former captors and surviving for several days off of his suddenly keen survival instinct. Pretty good for someone who couldn't even figure out what kind of shoes he should have taken with him on the trip. This type of pathetic contradiction continues all the way to the film's whitewashed and predictable ending, an unfortunate and tragic waste for such a talented cast.

The film does contain some beautiful photography and Hansons' camera utilizes the lush scenery to its maximum effect throughout the entire movie. However, the stunning camera work cannot make up for the lack of overall quality in the rest of the film's structure. Hanson has put to much emphasis upon aesthetics and nowhere near an equal amount of consideration into plot, pace or coaching the best from his actors. These directorial sins are quite unforgivable considering the talent and potential which this movie promised in its larger than life advertisements.

The only thing commanding of a large theater screen are the intense rafting scenes and the deafening sound they generate. Other than that, this film is as bankrupt as its script and unworthy of any consideration beyond a bargain show viewing and an overwhelming sense of boredom.

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