Congo

Add Comment on June 09, 1995 by Jean Oppenheimer

   When will filmmakers learn that, without a good script, a movie is doomed to sink like Atlantis? Adapted by the usually reliable John Patrick Shanley ("Moonstruck") from the Michael Crichton novel, this tale of whites entering darkest Africa in search of ancient riches suffers from a preposterous set-up and even more ludicrous plot developments. The actors are saddled with feeble dialogue and silly motivations; even the dependable Ernie Hudson, adopting a Cary Elwes accent, fares poorly.    Director Frank Marshall ("Alive") must shoulder most of the blame for this fiasco; what...

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Arizona Dream

Add Comment on June 07, 1995 by -Michael Lightcap

Johnny Depp and Faye Dunaway must enjoy working together. Perhaps they also enjoy making incomprehensibly inane movies, because that is what "Arizona Dream" is. In this UGC production, made in 1991 by Cannes favorite Emir Kusturica and slated for distribution by Warner Bros. but never released, Depp plays a New York City fish counter (he catches and weighs fish, then throws them back in the river, but why?) who's recalled to his hometown in Arizona by his obnoxious Cadillac-dealing uncle (Jerry Lewis), who wants to make a mensch salesman of him whether he likes it or not. Instead, when Dunaway shows up as a rich eccentric widow obsessed with reinventing the biplane for jaunts around her farmland, Depp becomes her lover.

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   As he demonstrated in his Academy Award-winning short "Precious Images," Chuck Workman is peerless when it comes to choosing and seamlessly editing moments representative of Hollywood's rich history. The virtue of "Precious Images" was that it stuck to a precise, limited formula in which Workman strung together brief and indelible cinematic images. By contrast, "The First 100 Years: A Celebration of American Movies" tries to cover too much ground in too short a running time. The end result is a documentary that feels maddeningly superficial, unlike recent and more specific historical summations (e.g., last year's PBS series on American cinema or the exquisite "Visions of Light").

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Dance Me Outside

Add Comment on June 02, 1995 by Shlomo Schwartzberg

   Bruce McDonald, director of "Roadkill" and "Highway 61," shifts gears with his third feature, a flavorful rendition of W.P. Kinsella's novel about life on a Northern Ontario Indian reserve. Unlike such mythically resonant films as "Dances With Wolves," "Dance Me Outside" is an often hard-scrabble take on the contemporary native life of teenagers with more in common with their white counterparts than with their tradition-bound parents.    Some of the teens are grappling with what to do with their lives after high school; others are dealing with the murder of a native woman by a white man. And there's Illianna (Lisa Lacroix), who's married to a white Toronto lawyer and is being pressured by her mother to have children.

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The Bridges Of Madison County

Add Comment on June 02, 1995 by Michael Lightcap

   Whatever tragic resonance is attained by this screen version of Robert James Waller's bestseller about a brief 1965 love affair between Iowa farmwife Francesca Johnson and National Geographic photographer Robert Kincaid is due to Meryl Streep's exquisitely modulated, lived-in performance and fine supporting turns by Annie Corley and Victor Slezak as Francesca's grown children. Eastwood is charmingly likable, self-confident and good-humored, but he's miscast. He is 20 years too old, has a limited emotional range, and lacks the erotic power to generate the needed sexual chemistry with Streep.

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Pushing Hands

Add Comment on June 02, 1995 by Kim Williamson

Canada's CFP Distribution makes a fine launch of its New York-based stateside operation with the first film by Ang Lee (who has since directed the art-house successes "The Wedding Banquet" and "Eat Drink Man Woman"). The story of a retired tai chai master (Sihung Lung) who has left Beijing to move in with his Americanized son (Bo Z. Wang) and comes into conflict with his son's all-American wife (Deb Snyder), "Pushing Hands" shows the emotional empathy of Lee's later works is no accident.    Although the motif of pushing hands -- an Oriental exercise that teaches the art of keepin...

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Fluke

Add Comment on June 02, 1995 by Jean Oppenheimer

Based on the novel by James Herbert, "Fluke" faces an uphill battle: It's too dark a story for children, and its earnest but corny underpinnings will bore adults. Matthew Modine stars and voices as a driven businessman who dies and is reincarnated as a dog. Troubling dreams from his human past propel the pooch on a journey to find the home of his former wife (Nancy Travis) and young son ("Searching for Bobby Fischer's" Max Pomeranc), in the conviction that they are in danger. This plot-pusher, however, turns out to be a red herring. "Flight of the Innocent," the Italian-born director's first film, married an emotional story to highly imaginative, even magical visuals; it swept the viewer along. "Fluke" lacks a similar lyricism.

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