Daily Archives: March 20, 1995

Major Payne

This fumbling and formulaic semiremake of The Private War of Major Benson (1955) is basically just an excuse to let comic Damon Wayansfunctioning here as cowriter and executive producer as well as starstrut his stuff. But he’s strutting in a void, and not even two gold teeth will light his way. The initial premise, good for a couple of laughs at most, is that he’s a professional marine consumed with blood lust who can’t adjust to his honorable discharge and a new job training boys in a Virginia prep school’s junior ROTC; after that, it’s whatever strikes Wayans’s and the filmmakers’ fancies from one moment to the next. That includes some threadbare noncomic material about bonding with the recruits. Directed by Nick Castle and cowritten by Dean Lorey and Gary Rosen; with Karyn Parsons, Michael Ironside, and Albert Hall, and a strained cameo by William Hickey. (JR) Read more

Dolores Claiborne

Although most of the elements are familiar and virtually all of the characters are unpleasant, this is a better than average melodramamainly because of the volcanic power of Kathy Bates in the title role, but also because of some attractive cinematography by Gabriel Beristain and disciplined script work by Tony Gilroy in adapting a Stephen King novel. (William Goldman, credited as a consultant, likely lent a hand to the writing as well.) Centered on a remote island off the coast of Maine teeming with regional accents, the plot involves a bitter, hard-nosed maid (Bates) who’s suspected of murdering her wealthy longtime employer. Her long-alienated daughter (Jennifer Jason Leigh), a neurotic and ambitious New York journalist, reluctantly turns up to help her out. The story is full of achronological flashbacks, delayed revelations, bitter recriminations, and long-term grudges, but Bates gives them all more flavor and substance than the conventions require, and the other cast membersincluding Christopher Plummer, David Strathairn, John C. Reilly, Eric Bogosian, and Judy Parfittdo their best with relatively limited parts. Taylor Hackford directed, with a fair amount of panache. (JR) Read more