GRAY AREAS MOVIE REVIEWS - SEPTEMBER 1997
Reviews By Netta Gilboa
THE BEAUTICIAN AND THE BEAST (Paramount Home Video, 107 minutes) A beautician is mistakenly hired as a private tutor for a foreign leader he falls in love with her and she turns out to be an excellent teacher and an asset to his hou sehold as well. Somewhat sappy, this is still worth seeing for those interested in love stories and foreign politics.
BEVERLY HILLS NINJA (Columbia TriStar Home Video, 88 minutes) Chris Farley stars as Haru, an American orphan who is raised among the finest Ninjas of Japan. He comes to the USA to prove himself after failing miserably in attempt after attempt to be a s uccessful Ninja. Unbeknownst to him another Ninja is sent to follow him, keep him out of trouble and correct his mistakes. This is very funny, believable too, and engrossing enough you can lose yourself in it for an hour and a half.
BOOTY CALL (Columbia TriStar Home Video, 79 minutes) Safe sex is definitely pushed in this film about two Black men who have dates and want to get some. The film does a superb job of portraying the differences in what men and women are often taught to expect from dates and explores issues such as how one knows it's time and how to bring up using protection. Far better than one would expect from the title and box cover, this is worth seeing as perhaps a 90s version of Porky's.
CITIZEN RUTH (Miramax Home Entertainment, 105 minutes) A drug addicted, unfit mother gets pregnant and is charged with by a judge with a felony level crime for harming the unborn infant. This groundbreaking charge leads crusaders on both sides of the R ight To Life cause to claim the woman for their own. They offer her money to have the child, to have an abortion, give unwanted interviews on her behalf, etc. This very gray subject is handled with an amazing amount of sensitivity to both sides of the iss ue and is unflinching in its convincing portrayal of the drug addicted woman. Stars Laura Dern, Swoosie Kurtz, Kelly Preston and Burt Reynolds. Not to be missed, even if you could care less about drug abuse or abortion.
DOUBLE PLAY (Hallmark Home Entertainment, 101 minutes) A teenager inherits a corporation and becomes a valuable enough property that he is kidnapped. The corporation finds and hires a lookalike to be a figurehead until the real teenager can be found. S tars Jonathan Jackson, Richard Lee Jackson, and William Shatner. I found this extremely well done and more enjoyable than the plot might lead you to believe.
EVERYONE SAYS I LOVE YOU (Miramax Home Entertainment, 105 minutes) Woody Allen tried something new this time, and asked the stars of this film to sing at least one song each in it. Alan Alda, Drew Barrymore, Goldie Hawn, Julia Roberts and Tim Roth star in this film about dating, romance and love. I didn't much care for the songs, and admit to fast forwarding through most of them, but the plot was first rate and if you like musicals it's even better. The songs were well written and fit the plot, but I j ust wanted to get to the rest of the story and see what happened next. It's nice to see actors willing to take new risks and Allen attempting something different as well.
FOOLS RUSH IN (Columbia TriStar Home Video, 109 minutes) Matthew Perry and Salma Hayek star in this spectacular love story about two people who have a one night stand and decide to make a go of it once they discover she is pregnant. They come from diff erent religions, cultures and lifestyles and the relationship causes as many problems as it seems to solve. Addresses what love is and how far two people have to go in order to make things work between them.
GET ON THE BUS (Columbia TriStar Home Video, 121 minutes) Spike Lee's film about a group of Black men on their way to the Million Man March is definitely a must-see for all races, ages and cultures. In between arguing, debating and bonding, the men por tray a wide spectrum of experiences as Blacks, which are perhaps more eye-opening for White viewers than Blacks. I was moved to tears by this and enjoyed it far more than I ever could have guessed. Don't miss this, although it helps to be in the mood for a serious film.
THE GHOST AND THE DARKNESS (Paramount Home Video, 110 minutes) I put off seeing this film for quite a while because the plot about two lions who shut down construction of a railroad in 1896 East Africa made me yawn. People kept telling me how great the film was so I finally watched it and now you get to hear me rave too. Michael Douglas and Val Kilmer star as the men who must hunt two unusual lions. The story, while unbelievable at times, is true. When the film ends viewers are left hoping they can som e day visit the stuffed lions, which now reside at the Field Museum in Chicago, IL. Very suspenseful and truly unique.
GIRLS TOWN (Evergreen Entertainment, 90 minutes) Focusing on four inner-city high school friends who experience the death of one of their posse, this remarkable film explores a painful time in their lives and how they cope. After one woman discloses sh e was raped and never came forward, the women decide to extract revenge on the rapist. Very realistic, with a superb soundtrack of songs by over a dozen popular artists. Definitely a "chick film," this should appeal to women of all ages.
HUMAN DESIRES (Columbia TriStar Home Video, 94 minutes) Shannon Tweed stars in this film about a group of models who attend a party where one guest ends up dead. Everyone turns out to be sleeping with everyone else and finding the murderer is no easy t ask. Very erotic and better than average for its genre, this will keep you guessing until the end.
I SHOT ANDY WARHOL (Evergreen Entertainment, 104 minutes) Focusing on the all but forgotten Valerie Solanas, this film deals with a radical feminist looking to push her writing. She hooks up with Warhol's Factory crowd and is marginally tolerated becau se she has little to contribute and lacks the right look. When Solanas is shunned she takes revenge by shooting Warhol. Extremely well done, this is probably fairly accurate and a story that needed to be told. It takes a very gray group of people and make s them even grayer, leaving the viewer with much food for thought.
JUNGLE 2 JUNGLE (Walt Disney Home Video, 105 minutes) This hysterical comedy had me laughing repeatedly. Tim Allen stars as a Wall Street executive who is informed he has a teenage son living in the Rainforest who wants to see America. Allen brings the child to New York and exposes someone who lives by eating bugs, shooting poison into animals he is hunting and urinating in the woods, to his upscale life. In one comedic scene after another, the kid urinates in the wrong places, wants to eat the family cat and so on. Don't miss this, especially on a night you really need a good film to help you unwind.
MARS ATTACKS! (Warner Home Video) Jack Nicholson, Glenn Close, Annette Benning, Pierce Brosnan and Danny DeVito star in this comedy about Martians invading the Earth. The All-star cast also includes Martin Short, Sarah Jessica Parker, Michael J. Fox, R od Steiger and Tom Jones. Cool special effects and lots of laughs for those who don't take outer space too seriously.
MOTHER (Paramount Home Video, 104 minutes) A middle aged man (played by Albert Brooks) moves back home with his mother (played by Debbie Reynolds). In the process they become friends and learn to understand each other better as well. There are some sup erb scenes here, such as one in a supermarket where Brooks selects yuppie food while Reynolds argues he is wasting money. Recommended for comedy fans as well as anyone who has faced challenges with their own parents.
MURDER AT 1600 (Warner Home Video) Wesley Snipes and Diane Lane star in this action thriller about the White House. Lane plays a secret service agent assigned to interact with Snipes who is a D.C. cop investigating a homicide that occurred within the W hite House. Alan Alda even plays a bad guy here. Worth seeing.
MY NAME IS ABBIE (Mystic Fire Video, 30 minutes) This documentary about Abbie Hoffman alas focuses only on his first interview after seven years in hiding, rather than an overview of his entire life. Still for its length it's spectacular and Abbie mana ges to touch on the Chicago Seven trial, his work as Barry Freed and some of the hardships involved with being a public figure as well as an activist. Highly recommended viewing for those who remember the 60s and especially for those too young to have bee n there.
THE NURSE (Live Entertainment, 94 minutes) This horror film focuses on revenge as a woman whose family died seeks employment as the nurse for the man who she feels caused the deaths. She begins to murder members of his family one by one. Well done if y ou like this emerging genre of women as stalker films.
THE PREACHER'S WIFE (Touchstone Home Video, 124 minutes) Denzel Washington and Whitney Houston star in this romantic drama about a preacher, his wife, someone who stays with them and his congregation. It's about making time for your family instead of y our work. Well done.
THE SAINT (Paramount Home Video, 118 minutes) Val Kilmer stars in this action thriller about a spy with multiple identities. Breaking the law in order to accumulate his goal of $50 million, we are introduced to Kilmer's character when he has almost ach ieved this goal. He is hired to steal a mathematical formula from a university professor. Of course, he falls for her too. Extremely well done, this raises many gray areas about ethics and is recommended for anyone who likes Kilmer, spy movies, or thought -provoking films in general.
SEX IS SEX (Water Bearer Films, 52 minutes) Male prostitution is the subject of this compelling documentary. Males both in the life and presently retired speak frankly about how they got into it, how they fake sex, what they charge and what kind of dan gers are involved. This very gray world is totally illuminated here and it's a shame this film didn't get more attention. Simply superb if you can stomach the material.
SHADOWZONE: THE UNDEAD EXPRESS (Evergreen Entertainment, 98 minutes) One of the better horror movies to come along in a long time, this one's about a teenager who encounters real vampires after making a wrong turn in the subway. He tells his friends, w ho don't believe him, and to prove he isn't lying he insists on bringing them along. I won't reveal what happens, but you won't be disappointed.
SLING BLADE (Miramax Home Entertainment, 134 minutes) A teenage boy murders a man he believes is raping his mother and upon discovering she was having the affair voluntarily he kills her too. After years of being confined to a mental institution for hi s crimes he is released into society, now supposedly rehabilitated. He makes all new friends, one of which is a young boy whose mother is a battered woman. He commits another murder, raising some questions about the gray areas of sanity, criminal justice and what is right and wrong. Highly recommended even though the plot is quite depressing.
SMALL WONDERS (Miramax Home Entertainment, 80 minutes) Aspiring musicians and parents who provide musical lessons for their children should seek out this film about a real group of students who compete to play live concerts. Kind of a real life Mr. Holland's Opus, this is inspiring as well as being entertaining.
SO WRONG THEY'RE RIGHT (Provisional (307) 742-3418, 93 minutes) This eccentric documentary is about fans and collectors of 8-track tapes. Included are twenty interviews with people who explore their fascination with this medium and explain where they f ind tapes, which ones are rare and why they want 8-tracks instead of CDs or cassettes. This is so well done you will never think about 8-tracks the same way again, and it speaks to why people collect things in general and the passion many have for the pas t. Provisional turns out to have lots of other gray videos so if you are into the offbeat you should definitely request their catalog.
SUBURBIA (Warner Home Video) From the director of Slacker and Dazed and Confused, comes this new film about a group of teenagers who regularly congregate on a street corner in their neighborhood. This annoys the convenience store owner, w hose property they hang out on, to no end. Does an excellent job of showing what it's like to be a teenager with nowhere to go as well as what it's like to be a person who can't get rid of the teenagers.
THAT DARN CAT (Walt Disney Home Video, 89 minutes) People always accuse me of writing skewed reviews because I praise everything I review and simply omit things not worth one's time. I make a rare exception for this film which was SO bad it deserves a mention not only could I not finish watching it but I fell asleep in the middle of it trying to find some merit so I could properly review it. Billed as a "hilarious comedy adventure," this is a remake of an older Disney film and grossed $17 million at th e box office.
TIMOTHY LEARY'S LAST TRIP (WinStar Home Entertainment, 60 minutes) Ideal for explaining the psychedelic counterculture to a newbie, this documentary about Leary's friendship with author Ken Kesey is first rate. Made by Ken Babbs' son, this includes int erviews with Wavy Gravy, music by the Grateful Dead and a superb CUSeeMe segment where Leary says goodbye to Kesey on the Internet. Also shown is a trip Leary made to Wavy Gravy's annual Hog Farm Pignic and interviews with participants there who sh are what Leary means to them. Since his recent passing there has been a flood of literature about Leary and I can't help but think this is surely one of the better efforts. Highly recommended for taking a gray subject and making him very colorful.