Daily Archives: March 1, 1993

Swing Kids

Rebellious German teenagers who like big-band jazz trying to resist social pressures to join the Hitler Youth in 1939 Hamburg is the subject of this corny but sincere weeper written by Jonathan Marc Feldman, directed by Thomas Carter, and shot mainly in Prague. Needless to say, all the German kids are played (pretty well, as it happens) by Americans, and if it seems that kitsch of this kind is a less than ideal way to teach history, it’s still infinitely preferable to Reagan’s Bitburg pieties. With Robert Sean Leonard, Christian Bale, Frank Whaley, and Kenneth Branagh. (JR) Read more


In 2020, after Japan and the U.S. have joined forces politically and economically, an undercover cop (Olivier Gruner) specializing in robot-generated crimes has to undergo reconstructive surgery before investigating his ex-lover and fellow operative on a tropical island. Albert Pyun directed this 1993 feature. 95 min. Read more

Half The Kingdom

Considering certain Orthodox Jewish practices (e.g., a daily prayer recited by men that thanks God for not making them female), Jewish feminism may be a contradiction in terms. Francine Zuckerman’s hour-long Canadian talking-head documentary seems quite aware of this possibility, and her film is interesting not so much because it provides conclusive answers, but because it offers several intelligent and determined Jewish womenincluding a rabbi, a journalist, a novelist, an activist, a professor, an experimental educator, and an Israeli Knesset membera forum for describing some of their own approaches to the problem (1990). (JR) Read more

Watch It

The title refers to an interminable practical-joke game played by the four preppy leadsthree Northwestern graduates (Jon Tenney, John G. McGinley, Tom Sizemore) and the cousin of one of them (Peter Gallagher), all of whom share a house in the Chicago suburbsin a smart-ass, conventionally misogynist locker-room comedy that I found tiresome in spite of the better-than-average cast, which also includes Suzy Amis, Cynthia Stevenson, and Lili Taylor. Tom Flynn wrote and directed this first feature; Stanley Clarke is in charge of the music. (JR) Read more

Untamed Heart

The heart, a weak one, belongs to Christian Slater, playing a reclusive and eccentric busboy at a Minneapolis coffee shop, but the movie mainly belongs to Marisa Tomei (My Cousin Vinny), a waitress at the same establishment who falls for him after he saves her from being raped. It’s a sure sign of how good Tomei is that she can even occasionally do something with Tom Sierchio’s lachrymose script; the usually wonderful Rosie Perez, stuck with an uninteresting part, is less lucky. Tony Bill (Five Corners, Crazy People) directed, and Kyle Secor, Willie Garson, Gary Groomes, and James Cada costar. (JR) Read more

Rose Marie

The 1954 ‘Scope version of the Canadian Mountie operetta, with Howard Keel and Ann Blyth replacing Nelson Eddy and Jeanette MacDonald, who starred in the 1936 original, and Fernando Lamas completing the triangle. Busby Berkeley handled the choreography, and the underrated Mervyn LeRoy directed; what they yield may be hokum, but it’s hokum with a certain zip and polish, apart from the stagy sets. With Bert Lahr, Marjorie Main, and Ray Collins. (JR) Read more


Ken Loach, perhaps the last unreconstructed English realist (Kes, Land and Freedom), takes a funky, intermittently comic, and generally uncompromisingly grim look at a group of men on a London building crew, placing particular emphasis on a young man from Glasgow and his affair with an aspiring singer (1991). Using actors experienced in construction, Loach shot on an actual building site complete with rats. Written by the late Bill Jesse, a former laborer himself, this film has a gritty authenticity about English working-class life that makes even Mike Leigh seem like a bit of an artificer. With Robert Carlyle and Emer McCourt. Recommended. (JR) Read more

The Opposite Sex And How To Live With Them

A fairly threadbare Boston singles comedy with tired stand-up routines and one pretty funny Ted Koppel parody. With Arye Gross, Courteney Cox, Kevin Pollak, and Julie Brown; written by Noah Stern and directed by Matthew Meshekoff. (JR) Read more

Married To It

Three New York couplesa young Wall Street broker (Robert Sean Leonard) and a child psychologist (Mary Stuart Masterson), a toy manufacturer (Ron Silver) and his upper-crust second wife (Cybill Shepherd), and a welfare worker (Beau Bridges) and his politically committed wife (Stockard Channing)wind up on a school committee helping to prepare a pageant on the theme of the 60s. Janet Kovalcik’s plot-heavy and programmatic screenplay bristles with implausible premises, and the deadly Arthur Hiller is not the sort of director who can make up the difference with style. Each couple experiences a crisis that is resolved Hollywood-style, and the fact that these six people quickly overcome their differences in age, class, and politics to become steadfast friends remains hard to swallow. But some of the performancesespecially by Channing and Bridgesgive this a modicum of feeling, at least until the climactic 60s pageant. (JR) Read more

Mad Dog And Glory

John McNaughton (Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer) directed this picture from a predictable script by Richard Price about a police photographer (Robert De Niro at his most nebbishy) inadvertently saving the life of a gangster (Bill Murray at his oddball best), who rewards him by sending over one of his barmaids (Uma Thurman) as a gift for a week. This is stronger in terms of characters (male ones, that is) than in terms of story or mise en scene, but the actorsincluding David Caruso, Mike Starr, Kathy Baker, and McNaughton regular Tom Towleskeep this pretty watchable. Martin Scorsese coproduced, and none too well apparently: the ending had to be reshot after disappointing previews. (JR) Read more


John Turturro stars in his own impressive if occasionally rambling first feature (1992), based on his own father, a carpenter who became a contractor, and his Italian immigrant New York family. At nearly two hours, it’s a mite longer than it has to be, but the editing is genuinely crisp, and most of the acting is spirited. Cowritten with Brandon Cole; with Ellen Barkin, Michael Badalucco, Carl Capotorto, Katherine Borowitz (Turturro’s real-life wife), and John Amos (1992). (JR) Read more

Like Water For Chocolate

Based on the best-selling novel by Laura Esquivel, who adapted her own work for the screen, this delightful 1991 piece of magical realism from Mexican director Alfonso Arau contemplates the unrequited love of a single woman for her brother-in-law, which can be expressed only through the sensual meals she prepares for him. (The original novel even contained recipes.) The title, incidentally, derives from a Mexican slang expression that means, approximately, ready to boil. With Lumi Cavazos, Marco Leonardi, and Regina Torne. In Spanish with subtitles. 113 min. (JR) Read more

The Last Days Of Chez Nous

Even if the storytelling and visual style aren’t as compelling as the characters, this woman-oriented 1992 feature by Australian filmmaker Gillian Armstrong (My Brilliant Career, High Tide), working here with novelist and screenwriter Helen Garner, is so alive with felt and observed experience and subtle familial interaction that you may not care. The story concerns a group of people living in a ramshackle house in Sydney, among them a middle-aged novelist (Lisa Harrow), her teenage daughter (Miranda Otto), her French husband (Bruno Ganz), her younger sister (An Angel at My Table’s Kerry Fox), and a young male boarder (Kiri Paramore); the plot consists largely of what ensues when the sister has an abortion and then becomes involved with her brother-in-law. The performances are so powerful and persuasiveespecially those of Harrow, Ganz, and Bill Hunter, who plays the novelist’s fatherthat you may periodically forget they’re performances; these are complex characters you remember, not actors’ turns you’re asked to admire. (JR) Read more

Jack The Bear

It’s surely no insult to call this story about a small-time TV performer (Danny DeVito) with a drinking problem trying to raise two sons (Robert J. Steinmiller Jr. and Miko Hughes) alone during the 60s a male tearjerkerespecially when it’s such an effective example of the genre, pointing to what seems like an authentic slice of lived experience. Adapted by Steven Zaillian (Awakenings) from the best-selling novel by Dan McCall, and directed as a first feature by Marshall Herskovitz, the cocreator of thirtysomething, this tragicomic fictionalized memoir has a small-scale earnestness and a feel for the period (enhanced by Fred Murphy’s cinematography and many of the smaller acting roles) that are both uncommon nowadays. As an adaptation it’s reportedly both reductive and sanitized, but at least some sincerity remains. With Gary Sinise, Art LaFleur, Stefan Gierasch, Erica Yohn, Reese Witherspoon, and Andrea Marcovicci. (JR) Read more


Made to commemorate the 40th anniversary of Cinecitta, the famous Roman film studio, Federico Fellini’s 1987 feature, done in the pseudodocumentary style of Fellini’s Roma and The Clowns, is a fairly tired trip down memory lanenot entirely without its charms but a far cry from prime Fellini. The film alternates between Fellini’s (fictional) preparations to shoot an adaptation of Kafka’s Amerika and his memories of his first trip to Cinecitta as a young journalist (Sergio Rubini) to interview a glamorous movie star. After Marcello Mastroianni turns up in the present, Fellini invites him and a Japanese documentary film crew to visit Anita Ekberg’s rural villa, where they watch silent clips from Fellini’s La dolce vita. The film bears the same sort of relation to earlier Fellini that the dehydrated Love on the Run bears to earlier Truffaut. (JR) Read more