Movie Reviews from the MacDougall Newspaper


PLAYING WITH YOUR HEAD

Nov. 15, 1995, Issue 22

There have been a proliferous amount of movies recently capitalizing on the current technological drive of the mass public. Hollywood has gotten "wired" with such movies as JOHNNY MNEMONIC starring Keanu Reeves (based on a short story by William Gibson, the father of cyberpunk), VIRTUOSITY with Denzel Washington, THE NET with Sandra Bullock, and the soon to be released HACKERS. But its not enough, or so hope the makers of STRANGE DAYS.

Ralph Fiennes (SCHINDLER'S LIST) portrays Lenny Nero, a former cop turned drug dealer. But the drug of the day is different. The city is Los Angeles and the year is 1999, a mere few days left before the next millenium. Lenny deals in people's experiences, recorded onto virtual reality discs. Part of a growing black market trade, he deals in a highly sophisticated form of VR, one which feels entirely real for all the five senses. Lenny: "This is life - a piece of somebody's life, straight from the cerebral cortex." Of course, it doesn't come cheap.

Lenny's colleague (Brigitte Bako) is murdered, and Lenny receives a disc of her death. From there, he is gradually pulled into a web of deceit, an enigma that could kill him, and rip apart the very fabric of LA in a test of morals and willpower. Also starring with Fiennes are Juliette Lewis (NATURAL BORN KILLERS) as his ex-girlfriend, Tom Sizemore (WATCH IT, HEART AND SOULS) as his private detective friend, and Angela Bassett as his close friend and chauffeur, of sorts. Bassett produces a typically command performance following her role as Tina Turner in WHAT'S LOVE GOT TO DO WITH IT?, and is set to star in the soon to be released VAMPIRE IN BROOKLYN with Eddie Murphy.

An edgy, fast-paced flick by James Cameron, the director of the Abyss, the action, excitement, and highjinks are sure to pack in the theatre seats. But the blood spurting, and the techno-rape scenes are not for the squeemish.


NICK OF TIME

Jan. 24, 1996, Issue 24

(1995) Hitchcock would be envious of this film's style of suspense and thrills. One's stomach is tied in a knot, slowly but surely, counting down the minutes. My friend Stephanie's was wound so tight she spent ten minutes as soon as the movie ended heaving her guts into the theater's toilet (however, we have more-or-less traced that to the tuna salad). A tense 89 minutes, done in real-time, it is an extremely well-conceived film. Johnny Depp, playing the average-joe, is stopped on his way home in Los Angeles, and blackmailed into becoming the blunt end of an assassination plot against the incumbent governor (Marsha Mason). Christopher Walken plays his usual best as the powerful, and rather evil, villain. The web of conspiracy spreads far and wide, and the only real down side is the cinematography. Whoever decided on most of these shots was either fully deranged, or desperately trying to be artistic. All the wrong angles were used in most shots. In conclusion, a quick and entertaining thriller.


From Dusk Till Dawn

Feb 14, 1996, Issue 25

This is no ordinaryt horror movie, though it may be something of a gore fest. George Cluney and his brother (Quentin Tarantino) are on the run from the law. A priest who has lost his faith (Harvey Keitel) and his son and daughter (Juliette Lewis) are on vacation. Their pasths cross and the whole lot head for Mexico. Keitel's acting is as good as ever, thouhg not to dtract from Tarantino, how has the acting ability of a bucket of sick. Give the poor fool a role identical to his own personality, however, (fast-talking psychopathic pervert) and he shines as in this film. But that is not acting. Lewis is shockingly different, away from her usual psychoslut roles. Watch also for Cheech Marin in numerous cameos. Give the film a little, the blood-sucking fiendsdo come out of the woodwork after a little while.


Heat

Feb 14, 1996, Issue 25

At base, what one has is an exciting cops-and-robbers movie. But what matters more are the characters' personal lives, and their women. Al Pacino has difficulty giving his wife time, since he is a workaholic. Coming home to find his wife in bed with another man, he proclaims: "Why'd you do it? I know hwy you did it. Because she has a GREAT ASS!" Val Kilmer is having difficulty keeping his wife happey, blowing all his stolen money on his gambling addiction. Robert DeNiro, constanly waxing poetic about how necessary it is that a thief should be able to have no ties he couldn't dop in a heartbeat, should he feel the "heat" coming around the corner, laments his lack of love and family. Although it is rather lengthy, the film is lush with imagery, meaning, and action.


TWELVE MONKEYS

Feb 14, 1996, Issue 25

Director Terry Gilliam (Brazil, Time Bandits) offers a trip into dementia with this apocalyptic time-travel fantasy. Bruce Willis, sent back through time from a future ravaged by a virus which has killed a majority of humanity, is hunting for a cure in the 1990's. Madeleine Stowe is his psychiatrist in his first trip, which lands Willis in the loony bin. Before long, Stowe is not unsure that she shouldn't be locked up as well, and the frenetic cinematography brings to the viewer skewed, machine-gun insane imagery. Willis is at his worst (or perhaps he was just playing the simian-esque drooling nincompoop a little too well?) but the movie works despite his every flaw. The smooth operation of the film can be attributed to some extent to Brad Pitt, who plays a live-in loony to perfection, proving that he might just be a real actor. To the delight of sci-fi fans, the time-travel paradox is addressed, as well as all manner of philosophical questions (IS IT JUST ME OR IS EVERYBODY ELSE INSANE?) See it.


SUDDEN DEATH

Feb 14, 1996, Issue 25

A definite no-brainer, it is DIE HARD in an ice hockey arena. Cameos and acting debuts by North American ice hockey players will doubtlessly go unappreciated in the UK. In fact, with Jean Claude Van Damme acting even worse than usual, the only redeeming factors for you might be the action itself, of which there is a fair bit. The only reason I even went to see it was because it was filmed in my city, Pittsburgh, and my neighborhood and favorite hockey team were featured. If you're not from Pgh., or an ice hockey fan, skip it.


Barcelona

Jan 24, 1996, Issue 24

Whit Stillman wrote, produced, and directed this gem about two American cousins living in Barcelona in the early 1980s. Fred (Chris Eigeman) is a navy consul sent there to prepare for the arrival of a fleet at a time of serious anti-NATO sentiment. Ted (Taylor Nichols) is a salesman, thoroughly immersed in the ``Ideology of Sales'' and continually despondent about the passage of his love life. So it continues with his new love Monserrat (Tushka Bergen). With a hefty political backdrop (numerous dealings with the CIA and comparisons of US foreign policy to ants), the movie is overflowing with brilliant wit and Tarantino-esque three-liners. Marta, girlfriend of Fred, claims that the sexual revolution in Spain has truly ended: "I won't sleep with just anyone anymore, I have to be attracted to them sexually."

Are you shaving the right way? Find out.


To Die For

Jan 24, 1996, Issue 24

I saw this movie at a last-run theater in the US, and promptly went to the manager to ask for my two dollars back. Overloaded with stereotypes, like "All Italians are in the mafia" and "all teenagers are morons," this movie saw Nicole Kidman wearing enough makeup to drown a large horse. The only decent acting came from her husband in the movie, played by Matt Dillon, who thoroughly convinced me that he was either the most naive person on earth, or the absolute thickest. The only thing to die for about this movie is that I've heard it is being exported to Third World authoritarian torture masters.

Plot: Nicole Kidman marries Matt Dillon and wants to be a big news anchorwoman. She thinks he is standing in her way, so she entraps three teenage morons, one of them sexually, into killing him and taking the rap. Negative stars.


The FUNERAL

Issue 31, January 22 1997

Even more depressing than its title might suggest, this disjointed cinematic exercise leaves the viewer feeling low and confused. Sometimes it feels like existentialist cinema, followed by an empty feeling akin to that from reading Albert Camus' THE STRANGER. Christopher Walken comes across as a cold, yet stable, person, trying to bring order to his wider family following the death of his youngest brother. Chris Penn (RESERVOIR DOGS), the middle of the three brothers, seems like a nice guy. It all goes terribly wrong when it turns into a bizarre sort of Italian mafia story; when you find that Walken is not just cold, but so cold-hearted he hardly qualifies as a human being, and that Penn is a pychopath with numerous wierd sexual hang-ups. This movie is most dangerous when watched alone...


The FRIGHTENERS

Issue 31, January 22 1997

Dubbed by some as a GHOSTBUSTERS for the nineties, this film has some of that one's humour, and all the bone-chilling horror it lacked. Michael J. Fox is a fake ghostbuster, runnings cons and scams with the help of a crew of ghosts. Death (aka the Grim Reaper) is shadowing him, though, and all hell breaks loose in his town.  The number of ghosts rises astronomically, because people juct keep dropping off like flies. The special effects are quite good, and it is better done than most horror film fare.


WHITE MAN'S BURDEN

Issue 31, January 22 1997

John Travolta, and a host of great acting talent can't save such a poor excuse for a plot. Reversing racial roles might have seemed originally like a good idea, but it doesn't make for much of a film - a white man being discriminated against by a nation of dominant black folk. At the beginning I was waiting for Rod Serling to introduce that we were going to take a trip into the Twighlight Zone- I guess that is because the TZ already did this plot before, and did it better.


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