From the Chicago Reader (May 1, 1995). — J.R.
Steven Soderbergh’s remake of the classic noir thriller Criss Cross tells substantially the same story (a divorced couple who can’t let go of each other, an armored car heist that grows out of their deceptions after the avaricious woman marries a hood) but gives it such a different emphasis that it functions only fitfully as a thriller (chiefly in a dazzling hospital sequence near the end). What it unmistakably has is a feeling for the insecurity of contemporary relationships, an often ravishing visual style, some very funny crusty dialogue, and subtle and sensitive direction of actors (Peter Gallagher, newcomer Alison Elliott, William Fichtner, Anjanette Comer, Elisabeth Shue, Adam Trese, Joe Don Baker, and Paul Dooley, among others). This is a quirky personal effort with much of the humor and pain of Soderbergh’s earlier Sex, Lies, and Videotape and King of the Hill, though filtered through material that sometimes seems to engage the writer-director less fully; as partial compensation, the ‘Scope cinematography is stunning. (JR)
From the Chicago Reader (September 1, 1995). — J.R.
This 1995 live-action film about a piglet that behaves like a sheepdog is impressive, though I do think it’s creepy to be so entertained by a movie in which I can’t tell from one moment to the next whether I’m watching a real animal or a fake. Writer-producer George Miller is the Australian wonder responsible for both the antihumanist brilliance of the Mad Max movies and the humanist brilliance of Lorenzo’s Oil, and that same paradox animates this movie. Directed and coscripted by Chris Noonan from a novel by Dick King-Smith, the film succeeds because its talking animals are more than just ersatz humans. In addition the lip sync is more skillful than in Forrest Gump, the characters (both animal and human) are solidly conceived, and the storytelling and visuals are expertly fashioned. With James Cromwell and Magda Szubanski. G, 92 min. (JR)
Two consecutive items from Harper’s Index (Harper Magazine, December 2010):
Percentage of Americans who believe that Stephen King wrote Moby-Dick: 4
Number of U.S. states in which it is legal to own a tiger without a license: 9