Daily Archives: May 8, 1995

The Last Good Time

A sturdily made and beautifully acted comedy-drama about aging from Bob Balaban, whose Parents showed him to be an imaginative director who knows what to do with a set and how to enter the worlds of lonely people. The story here, adapted by Balaban and John McLaughlin from a Richard Bausch novel, concerns a retired violinist (Armin Mueller-Stahl) living in Brooklyn who puts up a homeless former neighbor in her early 20s (Olivia d’Abo) and develops an unexpected relationship with her. His only friendanother former neighbor, now dying in a rest homeis played by the late Lionel Stander, one of the juiciest Hollywood character actors who ever lived. His fabulous swan song is reason enough to see this picture, though Balaban’s taste and intelligence and the warmth of the other cast members (including Maureen Stapleton, Adrian Pasdar, and Kevin Corrigan) provide further incentive. This is one of those rare American movies that know what they’re doing and where they’re going every step of the way. (JR) Read more

The Englishman Who Went Up A Hill But Came Down A Mountain

Drawing upon a legend in his own Welsh family history, writer-director Christopher Monger (Waiting for the Light) comes up with a quaint little comic tale about the interactions between two English mapmakers (Hugh Grant and Ian McNeice) and the prideful Welsh village of Ffynnon Garw in 1917. The results are self-amused and pitched to tourists (rather like John Ford’s The Quiet Man in respect to Ireland), but the scenery is lovely and the folksy period ambience is tolerable if you can put up with the vats of malarkey. With Tara Fitzgerald, Colm Meaney, Ian Hart, Kenneth Griffith, and Tudor and Hugh Vaughn. (JR) Read more

The Perez Family

Mira Nair (Salaam Bombay, Mississippi Masala) directed this 1995 adaptation of Christine Bell’s novel about Cuban immigrants in Miami. Consistently pleasurable for its lead performances (by Marisa Tomei, Alfred Molina, Chazz Palminteri, and Anjelica Huston) it concerns a former political prisoner (Molina) who hasn’t seen his wife (Huston) and daughter (Trini Alvarado) in two decades. The circumstances delaying their reunion seem a little contrived in spots, but the details about what Cuban immigrants have to contend with and the actors’ spirited riffs keep this busy and bubbling. With Celia Cruz and Lazaro Perez. 112 min. (JR) Read more

Crimson Tide

Quentin Tarantino did an uncredited polish of the dialogue of this very silly submarine thrillera bit of cold-war nostalgia set in the present, seemingly derived from The Bedford Incident of 1965, with Gene Hackman taking over the Richard Widmark part as dictatorial captain and Denzel Washington replacing Sidney Poitier as the desperate liberal. One hopes it wasn’t Tarantino (or the similarly uncredited Robert Towne and Steven Zaillian) who dreamed up the phrase a violation of nuclear launch protocol, which sounds like a line from Dr. Strangelove and is actually used here at a military hearing without a trace of irony. Behind all the macho bluster stand (or, it would appear, sit) director Tony Scott, writers Michael Schiffer and Richard P. Henrick, and producers Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer, trying (and failing) to get all the characters to behave like grown-ups. With George Dzundza, Viggo Mortensen, James Gandolfini, and an uncredited Jason Robards. (JR) Read more

Swimming With Sharks

Originally known as The Buddy Factor, writer-director George Huang’s repulsive low-budget first feature purports to tell us something about the movie business, but all that it actually has on its mind is a plodding S and M scenario about a cruel and crass producer (Kevin Spacey) berating and humiliating his young executive assistant (Frank Whaley) until the latter decides to take brutal revenge. None of the characters is believable or interesting, and despite the imposture that one is being offered an infotainment special a la The Player full of inside smarts, this is too bereft of imagination, detail, and wit to offer much edification to any but the extremely gullible (and aficionados of humiliation). With Michelle Forbes (1994, 101 min.). (JR) Read more