Monthly Archives: June 1990

Betsy’s Wedding

As writer-director-actor, Alan Alda isn’t remotely the equivalent of Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett, Vincente Minnelli, or Spencer Tracy, but this is still an attempt to update Father of the Bride 40 years later. The setting is once again comfortable suburbia, and the father’s headaches concerning his daughter’s upcoming wedding are still the main focus, but there’s a world of difference between, say, the genuinely disturbing nightmare in the Minnelli movie and Alda’s embarrassing experiments with dry ice to simulate anxiety. The young couple this time is a New Age pair played by Molly Ringwald and Dylan Walsh; the father this time (Alda) is a building contractor from an Italian background married to a Jew (Madeline Kahn), which paves the way for some extremely broad ethnic caricatures, particularly when it comes to the wife’s brother (a slum landlord played by Joe Pesci) and his Mafia business associates (Burt Young and Anthony LaPaglia) who become involved with a building project the father is working on to pay for the big-scale wedding. To complicate matters, the crook charmingly acted by LaPaglia happens to be smitten with the bride-to-be’s sister (Ally Sheedy), a cop. This is a fairly decent comedy about contemporary mores if you aren’t looking for too much; with Catherine O’Hara, Julie Bovasso, Nicolas Coster, and Bibi Besch.… Read more »

Beat Girl Goes Calypso

If it matters, this is also known as Bop Girl Goes Calypso. Judy Tyler and Bobby Troup star; the musical groups include Lord Flea, the Goobers, the Cubanos, and the Titans. Ed James wrote the script; Howard Koch directednot the Howard Koch who scripted Casablanca and certainly not the director of The President’s Analyst or the 1978 Heaven Can Wait, as the Psychotronic Film Society claims in its publicity (1957). (JR)… Read more »

Another 48 Hrs.

A sequel to 48 HRS. (1982) that reunites director Walter Hill with overzealous cop Nick Nolte and convict and reluctant ally Eddie Murphy in San Francisco, joining forces again to crack another case. The portraiture of macho biker lowlifes, the infernal atmospherics, and the violent action (with tons of shattered glass) all seem very characteristic of Hill, and it’s a minor pleasure to see Murphy slightly subdued. What seems more problematic is the virtual exaltation of Dirty Harry vigilantism, the storm trooper mentality and behavior on Nolte’s part that the film breezily takes for granted; if there’s any irony about it, it’s carefully designed to wash over the storm trooper types in the audience and not give offense to themonly to the rest of us. Larry Gross, who helped to script the original, collaborates here with John Fasano, Jeb Stuart, and Fred Braughton; the backup cast includes Brion James, Kevin Tighe, and Ed O’Ross. (JR)… Read more »

American Stories

Chantal Akerman’s compendium of Jewish jokes, filmed in English in a vacant lot in Brooklyn, with a cast that includes Eszter Balint (Stranger Than Paradise), Judith Malina, and Max Brandt. It’s not as visually striking as most of Akerman’s work, and the jokes often don’t come across as funny, but it’s steeped in the brooding melancholia and the nocturnal, insomniac ambiance of Toute une nuit, one of her best films. Fans of Akerman’s work won’t want to miss this; its distinctive bittersweet taste lingers (1989). (JR)… Read more »

Total Recall

Although I haven’t read the Phillip K. Dick story (“I Can Remember It for You Wholesale”) that this is derived from, this loud, fast, bone-crunching SF action thriller has at least two of the virtues of much good SF in print: the creation of a foreign (if vaguely familiar) landscape and the alienated sensation of displacement. Arnold Schwarzenegger plays a construction worker in the year 2084 who discovers that he’s been implanted with both false memories and a false identity; he has to make it to Mars–now colonized and controlled by greedy capitalists who create and abuse mutants through their control of the air–in order to clear things up. A worthy entry in the dystopian cycle of SF movies launched by Blade Runner (including The Terminator and Robocop), this seems less derivative than most of its predecessors while being just as accomplished as straight ahead story telling, with plenty of provocative satiric undertones and scenic details. Paul Verhoeven (Robocop) directs from a script by Ronald Shusett, Dan O’Bannon (Dark Star), Gary Goldman, and Jon Povill; with Rachel Ticotin, Sharon Stone, Michael Ironside, Mel Johnson Jr., and Ronny Cox, not to mention 68 stunt people, some swell production design, and Rob Bottin’s gory makeup.… Read more »