Daily Archives: December 1, 1987

Batteries Not Included

Not long ago, Steven Spielberg was offering his own feel-good whimsies with movies like E.T.; now that he’s usually more in the throes of feel-bad Serious Art, he generally farms the lighthearted fantasies out to others. Matthew Robbins, coscripter of The Sugarland Express and director of Corvette Summer, Dragonslayer, and The Legend of Billie Jean, acquits himself honorably here as cowriter and director of a gentle fantasy about miniature spaceships that land on a tenement in Manhattan’s Lower East Side and save the tenants from imminent expulsion and disaster at the hands of greedy real estate developers. The likable Capra-esque victims are Hume Cronyn and Jessica Tandy, who run a cafe, a quiet ex-boxer (Frank McRae), a pregnant Hispanic (Elizabeth Pena), and a painter (Dennis Boutsikaris). The extraterrestrial elves, who thrive on electricity and replicate themselves out of scrap metal, are no less charming, and the special effects show them off gracefully. (JR)… Read more »

Barfly

The first four letters say it all. Nostalgie de la boueliterally, nostalgia for mudtends to motivate Barbet Schroeder’s fiction films, which have focused on heroin addicts (More), hippies (The Valley Obscured by Clouds), masochists (Maitresse), and gamblers (Tricheurs). This 1987 treatment of flophouse drunks, his first American film, is no less voyeuristic. Working from an original and autobiographical screenplay by Charles Bukowski, Schroeder amasses a lot of talent to yield what is essentially a tourist’s-eye view of the lower depths, defended from within as a way of life. An unshaven Mickey Rourke delivers his lines like W.C. Fields and swaggers like a gutter prince, Faye Dunaway as a fellow alcoholic seems even more authentically disassembled, and Robby M… Read more »

And Then You Die

Quebec director Francis Mankiewicz’s crime thriller, his first feature in English, follows a power struggle in the Montreal underworld between an ex-con (Kenneth Welsh) dealing in soft drugs and a ruthless cop (R.H. Thomson). Based on real-life events, this comic and violent film was shot by Richard Leiterman, Canada’s best-known cinematographer. (JR)… Read more »

The Adventures Of Huckleberry Finn

None of the film versions of Mark Twain’s classic novel is anywhere near worthy of the original, which continues to be more radical than anything adapters can make of it. This 1960 version directed by Michael Curtiz is pretty much par for the course; the cast is a good one (Eddie Hodges, Archie Moore, Tony Randall, Patty McCormack, Neville Brand, and, in smaller roles, Buster Keaton, Judy Canova, Andy Devine, John Carradine, Mickey Shaughnessy, and Sterling Holloway), but the results are relatively tepid. (JR)… Read more »