Tuesday, May 8, 2018

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Reviews of '87: Keep It Brief

The following films should be easy to remember - they are, after all, only one word apiece!

dir: Paul Verhoeven
scr: Edward Neumeier & Michael Miner
Oscar Winner: Special Achievement Award for Sound Effects Editing
Oscar Nominee: Best Film Editing, Best Sound

Near future cop becomes law-and-order cyborg. Fierce critique of commodification of public services increasingly relevant; glorification of violence also biting (RoboCop is a good guy with a gun!). Not a detail missed: the ads, the cheery news reports, murder as minor setback at work. Peter Weller's performance a ballet of understatement. Lean, mean, sharp. Dare I say...perfect?

Ten more, including Predator and Mannequin, after the jump...

dir: Barbet Schroeder
scr: Charles Bukowski

Alcoholic writer drinks and fucks. More interesting than it sounds, if just for Mickey Rourke's Brando-by-way-of-Snagglepuss routine, Faye Dunaway, and Robby Müller's cinematography - harsh, uninterested in glamming out the nicotine-stained wrinkles. Highly watchable!

dir: Michael Gottlieb
scr: Edward Rugoff & Michael Gottlieb
Oscar Nominee: Best Original Song ("Nothing's Gonna Stop Us Now")

Struggling artist finds inspiration, romance from a mannequin who only comes to life for him. The sincerity of Xanadu with the comic snap of a 1930s screwball comedy, you'd have to be heartless not to see this movie for what it is: smart, sexy, clever, deeply uncynical, with a kickin' soundtrack. God bless Hollywood Montrose!

dir: Ken Russell
scr: Stephen Volk

A speculative telling of the night that inspired Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. Always here for Russell's dreamscapes, though sparse production values hint at budgetary constraints. As usual for Russell, the ladies stand out: Natasha Richardson and Myriam Cyr.

dir: James Ivory
scr: Kit Hesketh-Harvey and James Ivory, based on the novel by E.M. Forster
Oscar Nominee: Best Costume Design

A young Englishman comes of gay in the years before WWI. A queer period piece determined not to be a sob story. Maurice development interesting: selfish and thoughtless, yes; true to and aware of himself and his identity, also yes. Carefully observed relationships, social mores. Intriguing hints of other closeted characters (even to themselves?) on the sidelines, remembering that all have their own story. Passionate score. Delicious costumes, sets. Delectable Rupert Graves.

dir/scr: Clive Barker, based on his novel The Hellbound Heart

Undead bad'un on run from underworld torture-lovers convinces ex-mistress to resurrect him via human sacrifice. Except for the grisly makeup effects, a surprisingly dull feature with so-so performances. Cenobites' reveal almost worth the wait, gotta admit.

dir: John McTiernan
scr: Jim Thomas & John Thomas
Oscar Nominee: Best Visual Effects

Tough commandos are hunted in the jungle by an extraterrestrial force. Awesome fun, parodically masculine. Effects and makeup hold up, in a grand "BUT HOW?" way.

dir: Martin Ritt
scr: Tom Topor and Darryl Ponicsan & Alvin Sargent, based on the play by Tom Topor

Call girl facing murder charges must first prove she is mentally competent enough to stand trial. Full of writerly contrivances and odd behaviors, mostly overcome by talented cast - standouts include frightening Leslie Nielsen, leading lady Barbra Streisand (miscast, but terrific despite). Peaks early.

dir: Joe Dante
scr: Jeffrey Boam and Chip Proser, story by Chip Proser
Oscar Winner: Best Visual Effects

A hotshot pilot is shrunk and accidentally injected into a neurotic grocer. A fun-filled treat, from the effects to the imaginative screenplay to the livewire performances! Just wow!

dir: Fred Schepisi
scr: Steve Martin, based on the play Cyrano de Bergerac by Edmond Rostand

Modern take on Cyrano in which big-nosed local hero falls for newly-arrived beauty. Martin in fine form: hilarious, self-deprecating, romantic. Generous to all characters/co-stars, making sure everyone is defined, some with a broader brush than others, though not unrealistically so. So simple and gentle, yet possesses an underlying depth of feeling.

dir: Alex Cox
scr: Rudy Wurlitzer

True story of an American mercenary who became president of Nicaragua. Meant to shed light on and mirror the Iran-Contra scandal (the film was released just one month after a congressional investigation committee published its report on the matter). Anachronisms abound to further parallel: unnecessary, half-committed. Ed Harris a force to be reckoned with, but arcs, genuinely interesting historical beats are trashed or rushed to make room for directorial showboating. I could applaud the effort if it was in any way illuminating. A missed opportunity.

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