Archives - 1991 

  • The Doctor

    2018-03-10 16:04:56

    When he develops a cancerous tumour in his throat and is forced to undergo radiation treatment and surgery, Dr. Jack Mackee (William Hurt) is singularly ill-prepared for the indignities and endless frustrations that beset him when he becomes an ordinary patient in his own hospital. Long accustomed to calling the shots and never one to display anything approaching compassion for his patients, Mackee's reversal of fortune and abrupt confrontation with a system as impassive and indifferent as his own bedside manner signals a wake-up call that, were it not for his illness, he would never have heard. It's a sobering experience that compels MacKee to re-examine and re-assess the counterintuitive work ethics that heretofore have informed his self-centred professional life. Based on Dr. Ed Rosenbaum's aptly-titled book, A Taste Of My Own Medicine, and adapted for the screen by Robert Caswell, The Doctor reteams director Randa Haines and William Hurt, who both scored kudos four years ago with their work on the excellent Children Of A Lesser God. The obvious rapport the pair shared on that film is in evidence here. As is often the case with films whose central conceit deals with a character's search for moral and spiritual betterment when confronted by a potential death sentence, The Doctor is not without its moments of sentimentality and mawkishness, but for the most part it remains thoughtful and consistently engaging thanks to Haines' firm narrative grasp and outstanding performances from Hurt, Christine Lahti and Elizabeth Perkins.     

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  • Madonna: Truth or Dare

    2017-12-30 22:26:22

    Distilled from some 250 hours of footage shot during her 1990 Blond Ambition world tour - world as in USA, Canada, Europe and Japan - Madonna: Truth or Dare is a fascinating glimpse into what ostensibly passes as the private, off-stage, between-shows world of a bona-fide superstar. Directed by 26 year-old video-clip maker Alek Kershishian, the film follows Madonna on a dizzying journey through the cities, streets, buses, hotels and backstage dressing rooms that play host to her and her accompanying entourage of back-up singers, dancers, musicians and sychofantic hangers-on. It's a carefully calculated, shrewdly constructed vanity project predicated on a theatrical mantle of provocativeness that all too conveniently plays to the star's well-documented tabloid persona. There are no fly-on-the-wall reveals to speak of but there's ample opportunity for rubbernecking and the crisp black and white off-stage sections coupled with a profusion of spectacular multi-camera color footage of the singer's big-arena performances make for an entertaining, immersive couple of hours.

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  • Come See The Paradise

    2017-12-17 00:24:28

    Spanning the years 1936 to 1944, Come See The Paradise is a cross-cultural love story played out against the turmoil engendered by the US government's decision, in the wake of Japan's attack on Pearl Harbour, to intern tens of thousands of Japanese Americans in hastily constructed camps in the California desert. Dennis Quaid plays the brash, young former New York union organiser who drifts into Los Angeles and promptly meets, falls in love with and marries a young Japanese girl (Tamlyn Tomita). The pair's heady union, initially fragmented by its cultural diversity, is dealt a crushing blow when the girl and her family are rounded up and interned in the camp. Astutely written and directed by Alan Parker and impeccably period designed by Geoffrey Kirkland, the film's abject poignancy finds its focal point in the tonal coherence of a love story for the ages. It's the stuff epic melodrama is made of and the climactic reunion is guaranteed to leave few in the audience dry-eyed. The film was in competition at the 1990 Cannes Film Festival.

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  • The Object Of Beauty

    2017-12-16 19:29:40

    Alfred Hitchcock called it The McGuffin. He was referring to an ingredient fundamental to the mechanics of a movie; a plot device, not necessarily animate or seen, around which the narrative revolved. The eponymous McGuffin in this film is a small, very rare and very expensive bronze figurine. To Jake and Tina, a well-bred, over-fed, but stone broke American couple holed up in a swank London hotel, it represents the answer to their acute financial woes. To Jenny, the poor, deaf chambermaid who steals it, it is the means by which she is able to transport herself, albiet briefly, beyond her impoverished environment and the restrictions of her affliction. Written and directed by Michael Lindsay-Hogg, The Object of Beauty, despite its lightweight-farce-bordering-on-the-screwball tone, actually manages to pass muster as a reasonably clever, morally introspective parable about wealth and poverty and the overlapping vicissitudes attendant to both. As the effete, cash-strapped couple, John Malkovich and Andie McDowell effortlessly keep the film's easy-going irreverence buoyant.    

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  • Raise the Red Lantern

    2016-08-24 22:37:05

    In the northern hinterlands of China, circa 1925, 19-year-old Songlian arrives at the home of a wealthy feudal landlord to take up residence as his fourth wife. Over the years, in the context of their pampered concubinage, the competition to remain worthy of their master's largesse has ensnared the three wives in a web of jealousy and resentment that ebbs at nightfall when the servants arrive to raise a red lantern outside one of their bungalows. The chosen woman is thus accorded the honour of serving the master that night. Belying her sheltered upbringing, Songlian gradually sheds her inhibitions and embarks on an ambitous piece of subterfuge designed to usurp for good her rivals' claims to the master's affection. But in a classic case of underestimating the competition, her sham is uncovered and she is summarily banished indefinitely to the solitude of the compound's spartan outer residence. It's a tragic end to a life unfulfilled. 

    Universally acclaimed for his stunning Oscar-nominated Ju Dour, Red Lantern offers further testimony to director Zhang Yimou's pre-eminence as one of China's most gifted filmmakers. Adapted from Su Tong's novel by Ni Zhen, the film has two fundamental strengths: the extraordinary richness of its colour scheme, now an accepted Yimou trademark; and the absolute precision with which the mechanics of subjugation and subversion, as applied to the loss of innocence, are mapped. The ramifications of the resulting metaphor - powerful old men perpetuating an outmoded status quo - was not lost on China's ruling Politburo. Like Ju Dour, Raise the Red Lantern is banned in China. Compelling to the end. 

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  • Frankie and Johnny

    2016-07-23 19:58:17

    Frankie and Johnny finds director Garry Marshall waste deep in schmaltz again with a romantic comedy aimed squarely at the same multiplex hordes that made his Richard Gere Julia Roberts starrer Pretty Woman such a huge hit a few years ago. This time around Marshall has Al Pacino and Michelle Pfeiffer laddling out the syrup and though they are both major stars, their marquee wattage is considerably dimmer than the Gere/Roberts combo. In adapting his successful two-person, one-set Broadway play Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune for the big screen, writer Terrence McNally has sought to broaden its visual horizons by adding more locations and a small supporting cast but the dynamics of his story, focusing on a lonely, disillusioned waitress and a just-paroled short order cook who meet and fall in love amid the scrambled eggs and hash browns of a Noo York fast food diner, are seriously compromised by a simple case of miscasting.

    On stage Frankie and Johnny were a couple of lonely, middle-aged plain Janes carrying the scars of broken relationships and the actors playing them, Kathy Bates and Kenneth Welsh, by dint of their very ordinariness, convincingly disappeared into their roles. Pacino and Pfeiffer, on the other hand, despite their considerable talent, bring too much movie star baggage to the table to ever be able to fit the profile of a couple of nondescript working class stiffs who have spent the better part of their lives flipping burgers. Not that this is of any concern for the director, of course. This is, after all, a star vehicle geared to the sensibilities of an undemanding mass audience. Thus, what once played on the stage as a poignant, intimate portrait of disillusionment and resignation has been co-opted into a calculating rom-com that simply reduces the trials and traumas of life in a big cold city to casuistic cliches. Thankfully, both Nathan Lane as the heroine's wise-cracking neighbour and Hector Elizondo as the diner owner shine briefly in small supporting roles.        

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  • The Doors

    2016-07-09 17:57:35

    More so than the likes of Janis Joplin or Jimi Hendrix, Doors frontman Jim Morrison was, at least by dint of his looks and reputation alone, the quintessential rock star of the sixties. But while his music will always define his public persona, on a personal level, it was his poetry, surreal and symbolic and heavily influenced by the likes of Nietzsche and Rimbaud, that seemed to stir and animate his inner demons the most. One writer at the time described him as a brooding intellectual in a snakeskin suit. 

    Sadly, instead of condescending to embrace at least a modicum of the conformity that fame invariably demands of a successful artist, Morrison instinctively recoiled by embarking on a course of self-destruction that manifested itself in a series of increasingly erratic and controversial live performances that quite often culminated with his arrest for lewd behaviour. His untimely death at the age of 27 in a bathtub in a Paris hotel in 1971 reinforced unequivocally the prevailing notion that too much sex, drugs and rock n roll would indeed kill you. For his family and the surviving band members, his demise and subsequent elevation to the pantheon of rock star immortality proved to be financially rewarding: more Doors albums were sold following his death than when he was alive.

    Director Oliver Stone, in a screenplay co-written with J. Randall Johnson, documents Morrison's much vaunted private and largely public excesses with an operatic flamboyance that reaches a crescendo of sorts with a death scene that is as rich in its spiritual implications as it is in its funereal solemnity.

    The film's biggest asset is undoubtedly Val Kilmer. He is an eerie dead ringer for the late singer and even critics who were critical of the film's alleged fusion of fact and fiction generally agreed that Kilmer's was a powerhouse performance. As Pamela Courson, Morrison's longtime girlfriend (who died of a drug overdose three years later) and rock journalist Patricia Kennealy (who married Morrison in an unrecognised pagan ceremony), Meg Ryan and Kathleen Quinlan shine in brief scenes but it's Kilmer's show all the way. The dozen or so Doors songs perfectly underscore the key highs and lows of Morrison's all to brief sojourn under the spotlight.


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