Monthly Archives: August 2002

Blood Work

As a director Clint Eastwood often follows his own bent, but as an actor he seems more interested in following the whims of his audience. This detective thriller he directed and stars in often comes across as another Dirty Harry entry in disguise; the Eastwood hero may be a little different (an FBI man in forced retirement after heart transplant surgery who’s persuaded to hunt down his heart donor’s killer), but the serial killer he’s after is standard issue. This is a picture at war with itself: the ailing, aging hero performs with superhuman fitness and stamina, and his friends and coworkers tell him he looks like shit. Fun as long as it stays with its more mundane peripheral characters (Anjelica Huston, Tina Lifford, Alix Koromzay), this becomes tiresome whenever it falls back on generic types (e.g., Paul Rodriguez’s comic Mexican cop, Igor Jijikine’s Russian heavy); in between are Jeff Daniels and Wanda De Jesus providing the hero’s immediate backup. Brian Helgeland’s script adapts a novel by Michael Connelly. 111 min. (JR) Read more

Slap Her, She’s French!

No French people were harmed during the making of this film, reads a jokey disclaimer during the final credits, and since to all appearances no French person was associated in any way with this miserable attempt at a comedy, the filmmakers might have a point. Yet French people are, like Texans, a part of the human race; and out of self-disgust, it appears, rather than any satiric intent worthy of the label, this movie tries very hard to slime both these types despite knowing little about either. Jane McGregor plays a Texan high school cheerleader whose life is taken over by a French exchange student (Piper Perabo) who, for reasons never explained, takes the same French course as the heroine. The rest of the movie is equally thoughtful. Melanie Mayron directed the tiresome script by Lamar Damon and Robert Lee King; with Trent Ford, Julie White, Brandon Smith, and Michael McKean. 93 min. (JR) Read more

Ornette: Made In America

The last major work of the late, great American independent Shirley Clarke (The Connection, Portrait of Jason, The Cool World), this 1985 documentary about the innovative and singular jazz saxophonist Ornette Coleman finds her straining at times to match his eclecticism. (Among the interview subjects are William S. Burroughs and Buckminster Fuller.) The film’s biggest limitation may be its focus on a single piece, Skies of America, through many performances and incarnations over a seven-year period, which stretch geographically from Fort Worth and Berkeley to Morocco and Italya good idea in theory, but the third-stream trappings of the piece make it less than ideal for this kind of workout. Still, this ambitious and affectionate effort to capture an elusive subject is undoubtedly worth a look. 90 min. (JR) Read more

The Master Of Disguise

Imagine combining bad imitations of the Ace Ventura and Austin Powers movies and you’ll have a rough idea of this feeble Dana Carvey farce about an Italian-American named Pistachio Disguisey who, like his father and grandfather, is supposedly a master impersonator. The movie has to enlist Bo Derek and Jesse Ventura to achieve imitations of them, and George W. Bush in the flesh would have been much funnier than this movie’s impersonation. The only time I chuckled was when Carvey tried to approximate a giant turtle. Percy Andelin Blake directed; with Jennifer Esposito, Mark Devine, and Harold Gould (2002). 80 min. (JR) Read more

The Kid Stays In The Picture

If you ever suspected that assholes are running the world, this documentary adapting producer and former actor Robert Evans’s autobiography, narrated with relish by Evans himselfthe cinematic equivalent of a Vanity Fair article, complete with tuxes and swimming poolsoffers all the confirmation you’ll ever need. A particularly telling moment occurs when Evans boasts about convincing his pal Henry Kissinger to attend a premiere just before flying to Europe on a diplomatic mission, leading one to speculate whether the world would be different today if Evans had become secretary of state and won the Nobel Peace Prize in the mid-70s and Kissinger had been pegged to play Irving Thalberg and a matador, then star in The Fiend Who Walked the West. Evans is equally proud of having produced Love Story and Chinatown, and his friendship with such comrades in arms as Kissinger and Peter Bart, the current editor of Variety, is further evidence or how wideor how narrowhis talents are. He’s also not bad at impressionswhether he’s imitating Kissinger or his producer pals. Brett Morgen and Nanette Burstein do a swell job of making this self-dramatization entertaining. 93 min. (JR) Read more