Daily Archives: September 1, 1987

Deadline

An American TV reporter (Christopher Walken) arrives in Beirut to cover the war in Lebanon, and receives an unexpected invitation to tape an exclusive interview with a major PLO official who speaks out against violence. Before long, the reporter is accused by other PLO officials of having perpetrated a hoax, and accused by the Christian Phalangists of working for the PLO. Equivalent in some respects to Oliver Stone’s Salvador, this well-intentioned and efficient thriller by Israeli filmmaker Nathaniel Gutman, partially financed by German TV, explores some of the complexities of a major trouble spot through the moral reeducation of a cynical and flippant outsider. Nothing major, but capably scripted by Hanan Peled and crisply cut by Peter Przygodda, Wim Wenders’s usual editor. (JR)… Read more »

Best Seller

While it may not add up to anything very profound, this paranoid thriller is put together with so much craft and economy that a significant part of its pleasure is seeing how tightly and cleanly every sequence is hammered into place. Brian Dennehy is Dennis Meechum, an incorruptible police detective who doubles as a successful crime writer; James Woods is Cleve, a hit man who doubles as a corporate executive, and who wants Meechum to write a nonfiction best-seller exposing his ruthless and respectable former boss — a philanthropist tycoon who has stealthily slaughtered his way to the top. Dennehy’s square and skeptical cop is an adroit reading of a dull part, but he makes a wonderful straight man for Woods’s fascinatingly creepy yet sensitive killer — modeled in part on Robert Walker’s Bruno Anthony in Strangers on a Train, with a comparable homoerotic tension between the two men. Tautly and cleverly scripted by Larry Cohen, crisply shot by Fred Murphy, and directed by John Flynn without a loose screw in sight, this is first-class action storytelling stripped to its essentials: no shot is held any longer than is needed to make its narrative point, and the streamlining makes for a bumpless ride.… Read more »

Amazon Women On The Moon

Virtually a sequel to John Landis’s Kentucky Fried Movie, this collection of comic sketches (1987), most of them TV and grade-Z movie parodies, was written by Michael Barrie and Jim Mulholland and directed by several hands: Joe Dante, Carl Gottlieb, Peter Horton, Landis, and producer Robert K. Weiss. Like most such ventures, it’s pretty hit-or-miss, with Dante and Weiss providing most of the energy; Horton is competent (in a single bit with Rosanna Arquette and Steve Guttenberg), Gottlieb routine, and Landis is OK with sight gags but somewhat adrift in satire. Overall, too many of the ideas –e ven some of the better ones — are paranoid derivations from either Sherlock Jr. (by way of Woody Allen) or Paul Bartel’s The Secret Cinema, and too many of the objects satirized are easy targets. The strongest aftertaste is left by Dante’s bad-taste rendition of movie critics reviewing a failed life, a sequence that eventually turns into a celebrity roast for the dead person, attended by Slappy White, Jackie Vernon, Henny Youngman, Charlie Callas, and Steve Allentoo sinister for comfortable laughs, but queasy in the best Dante manner. (Other stars in cameos include Ralph Bellamy, B.B. King, Griffin Dunne, and Michelle Pfeiffer.) 85 min.… Read more »

Absolute Beginners

From the Chicago Reader (September 1, 1987). Twilight Time is bringing out a lovely Blu-Ray edition of this, and it looks even better to me now than it did in 1987. — J.R.

absolute-beginners

A fascinating attempt by rock video director Julien Temple to do several things at once — adapt a Colin MacInnes novel, show the London youth scene in 1958 (while dealing at length with the racial tensions of the period), build on some of the stylistic innovations of Frank Tashlin, Vincente Minnelli, and Orson Welles, and put to best use a fascinating score by Gil Evans that adapts everything from Charles Mingus to Miles Davis. A mixed success, but an exhilarating try (1986). With David Bowie, Keith Richards, and James Fox. 107 min. (JR)

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