Wednesday, May 9, 2018

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Reviews of '87: Read a Book, Read a Book....

These were all based on books.

The Princess Bride
dir: Rob Reiner
scr: William Goldman, based on his novel
Oscar Nominee: Best Original Song ("Storybook Love")

Terrific fun. Large cast of heavy-hitters delivers the goods: Mandy Patinkin stands out, but Andre the Giant, Wallace Shawn, Christopher Guest, Chris Sarandon, Billy Crystal...all great! Bad electronica orchestration of an otherwise good score; wish Robin Wright had more to do.

Full Metal Jacket, The Living Daylights, and more, after the jump....

Gaby: A True Story
dir: Luis Mandoki
scr: Michael James Love, Martin Salinas, developed by Luis Mandoki, from the book Gaby Brimmer: An Autobiography in Three Voices by Gaby Brimmer with Elena Poniatowska
Oscar Nominee: Best Supporting Actress (Norma Aleandro)

The true story of Mexican-Jewish author-activist Gabriela Brimmer, born with cerebral palsy and only able to control her left foot. The source material is not credited but Brimmer's co-author is, and the device of Gaby's mother and caretaker narrating the story is kept. Frank, eschewing melodrama and sentimentality. Fine performances, beautiful cinematography. Wish I saw more of her activism and advocacy.

The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne
dir: Jack Clayton
scr: Peter Nelson, based on the novel Judith Hearne by Brian Moore

Lonely spinster strikes up friendship, hopes for romance, with frustrated Irish-American boarder. Could this be Maggie Smith's finest performance? She's shattering here, a far cry from the confident bon mot-tossers we're used to seeing from her. It's a fine ensemble surrounding her, too, from the shady Marie Kean to the patient Prunella Scales.

The Living Daylights
dir: John Glen
scr: Richard Maibaum and Michael G. Wilson, suggested by the short story by Ian Fleming

Bond saves a cellist, goes up against an arms dealer and a defector. Timothy Dalton stylish, sexy, feels more a thinking Bond. Vanilla Bond girl, difficult-to-follow scheme...too much globe-trotting?

84 Charing Cross Road
dir: David Jones
scr: Hugh Whitemore, based on the book by Helene Hanff and the play by James Roose-Evans

True story of American writer Helene Hanff's 30-year correspondence with British bookseller Frank P. Doel. An engrossing romance of the written word, showing the power of the books we read and the letters we compose. Passionate!

Angel Heart
dir/scr: Alan Parker, based on the novel Falling Angel by William Hjortsberg

Private eye tracks down missing singer amidst some voodoo shit. Atmospheric horror-noir can't maintain suspense; climax a silly letdown. Lisa Bonet easily steals the flick.

Prick Up Your Ears
dir: Stephen Frears
scr: Alan Bennett, based on the biography by John Lahr

Bio of gay playwright Joe Orton, murdered by his lover Kenneth Halliwell in 1967. Gary Oldman's Orton is pure sex, casually cruel, amusing and attractive. An incredible cruising sequence that brings to life the secret, unspoken language of the act, the dangerous freedom of anonymous hookups. Blackly comic. Haunting climax.

Flowers in the Attic
dir/scr: Jeffrey Bloom, based on the novel by V.C. Andrews

Following their dad's death, a mother brings her children to live with grandmother - who locks them in the attic. A guilty pleasure. You have to watch it. I think I've seen it...four or five times?

The Believers
dir: John Schlesinger (!!!!)
scr: Mark Frost, based on the novel The Religion by Nicholas Conde

Police psychiatrist suspects a voodoo-type cult is targeting his son for sacrifice. I actually read this book a year ago, not knowing that the two were related. The book is racist as hell, and the movie isn't much better, but also removes all agency from the non-white characters while simplifying the motives of the central antagonists into something more cynical - in the film, whites manipulate Santeria to gain power; in the book, many use Santeria as a means to deter nuclear war. It does improve on the protagonist: in the book, he's an anthropologist flummoxed by human behavior. Women remain an afterthought. Hokey, dumb. Would absolutely watch again just to show people it exists.

The Untouchables
dir: Brian De Palma
scr: David Mamet, based on the memoir by Eliot Ness with Oscar Fraley
Oscar Winner: Best Supporting Actor (Sean Connery)
Oscar Nominee: Best Original Score, Best Art Direction-Set Decoration, Best Costume Design

Agent Eliot Ness gathers a team to bring down Al Capone in Prohibition-era Chicago. De Palma, you done done it again! Packed with thrills! Violence! Humor! Justice! Sean Connery refusing to do a Chicago accent and getting away with it! Robert De Niro chewing the scenery! Long takes ending in brain matter splattered everywhere! Ennio Morricone rocking the hell out of it! A crowdpleaser.

Full Metal Jacket
dir: Stanley Kubrick
scr: Stanley Kubrick & Michael Herr & Gustav Hasford, based on the novel The Short-Timers by Gustav Hasford
Oscar Nominee: Best Adapted Screenplay

Never know how I feel about this one. The first act is the most famous, thanks to R. Lee Ermey and Vincent D'Onofrio's performances as the tough-as-nails drill sergeant and the private whose life becomes a living hell. Then there's the last bit where a troop is hiding out from a sniper, which is great. And it's all in service, not so much for a "war is hell" message so much as a "what animals, what monsters we become in the name of God and country." But it never feels like a single, cohesive film. The tangents get the better of Kubrick here.

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