The Miami Herald from Miami, Florida on August 12, 1990 · 621
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The Miami Herald from Miami, Florida · 621

Miami, Florida
Issue Date:
Sunday, August 12, 1990
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CD SUNDAY AUGUST 12 1990 DD THE MIAMI HERALD INTERNATIONAL EDITION AT THE MOVIES The Two Jakes makes a lot of mistakes By BILLCOSFORD Herald Movie Critic Jack Nicholson who directed The Two Jakes long-awaited sequel to Chinatown and who stars in it reprising the role of Jake Gittes private eye has said he will consider himself lucky if he has made a film half as good as the “brilliant” original Nicholson is right: Chinatown was quite brilliant — it’s one of the truly commanding films of the last few decades arguably one of the best talkies ever made And Nicholson by his own calculation at least is lucky too The Two Jakes is at least half as good Which is not to say this sequel is about to become a blockbuster At a little over 140 minutes in length and fully as dense as the original The Two Jakes is a “difficult" movie Don’t go for popcorn in the middle Or if you do plan on returning some other night and picking up what you missed Chinatown was like that too Both films are mysteries about Los Angeles early in its boom days In Chinatown water was the element over which the several rapacious elements led by the rapist (figurative and literal) played by John Huston fought in blood This time it’s oil although for much of the story no one seems to be aware of it even though Nicholson’s Gittes the main Jake is blown 10 feet into the air after lighting a cigarette over a natural-gas vent in a San Fernando Valley housing tract before the film is a half-hour gone The setting may be the same but the time is quite different It’s now more than 10 years after Chinatown — the second world war is over Oake was decorated and Lt Escobar of homicide now a captain lost a leg on Guadalcanal) Flatliners a blip on silver screen By BILLCOSFORD Herald Movie Critic Flatliners in the goofily self-important movie by that name refers to a small band of itchy Chicago med students who experiment with life after death by clinically extinguishing themselves for minutes at a time then reviving with the help of their pals to recall their experiences The machines monitoring their vital signs show a flat line while they’re out being dead so they begin to call themselves flatliners The movie presents all of this as material of high drama But what profound things do the students discover? Not the traditional tunnel with the unearthly light at one end or even a heavenly choir but a series of moral dilemmas It turns out that basically when you die you find out that you should have been nicer when you were alive One by one the students — played by post-brat-packers Kiefer Sutherland Kevin Bacon and Julia Roberts as well as William Baldwin — "flatline” only to become wracked by guilt (in two cases for being mean to other children when they were young) This concept which is roughly that of neurosis-by-death actually was refined by Woody Allen decades ago and you wonder about a new generation that finds it startling (as one of the students cries in exultation “We finally found something to upstage those bleeping baby boomers!”) As it happens what they have discovered is a particularly traumatic form of psychotherapy It’s all as silly as can be and you have to feel for Joel Schumacher the director who whacks away to put art into all his projects whether it fits or not In The Lost Boys a nicely off-center comedydrama about vampirism in suburban California it worked wonderfully Here with the young docs making their high-tech magic in a Gothic hall with vaulted ceilings inexplicably backlit floor grates and Medieval art looking down from walls and ceilings (it’s supposed to be med school but looks more like the Renaissance wing of a Hollywood wax museum) all that style seems wasted Schumacher has become a smoke-machine addict and a hoser-down of streets his films are dressed in incongruous vapors and shiny-wet pavement And his camera this time falls hard for the extravagantly puffy upper lip of Julia Roberts with which the frame is periodically filled MOVIE REVIEW FLATLINERS (R) Cast: Kiefer Sutherland Julia Roberts Kevin Bacon William Baldwin Oliver Platt Director Joel Schumacher Producers: Michael Douglas Rick Be-ber Screenwriter Peter Ftlardi Cinematographer: Jan de Bont Music: James Newton Howard A Columbia Pictures release Running time: 1 12 minutes Vulgar language nudty sexual situations violence MOVIE REVIEW THE TWO JAKES (R) Vz Cast: Jack Nicholson Harvey Keitel Meg Tilly Madeleine Stowe Eli Wallach Ruben Blades Frederic Forrest David Keith Richard Farnsworth Director: Jack Nicholson Producers: Robert Evans Harold Schneider Screenwriter: Robert Towne Cinematographer: Vilmos Zsigmond Music: Van Dyke Parks A Paramount Pictures release Running time: 1 43 minutes Vulgar language brief sexual situation violence ' Everyone seems fatter especially JJ Gittes who has his name on the building where his offices are located and now dodges publicity as carefully as he once cultivated it Nicholson plays J J the way Nicholson himself appears — suddenly puffier more wrinkled older Nor is Jake any longer the quasioutlaw we knew back in 1974 He’s a figure of the establishment now in league with lawyers and cops Still murder finds him It catches Jake by surprise as usual It happens after he has set up a motel trap for the benefit of Jake No 2 (played by Harvey Keitel) whose wife has been having an affair with No 2’s business partner Infidelity has been good to Jake Gittes as he’s the first to point out but every now and then his business backfires When Jake No 2 guns his partner down and a recording of the incident mentions the name of Kathryn Mulwray — luckless daughter of the Faye Dunaway character in Chinatown — the bones of a mystery have been exposed While you’re enjoying its convolutions Robert Towne’s script seems wonderful This “new” (circa 1948) FLYING HIGH: Mel Gibson and demonstrate different styles of Air America nosedives new Viet war film poor By JUAN CARLOS COTO Herald Entertainment Writer In the 1960s the CIA ran a private war in the ’ Southeast Asian country of Laos a $5 billion venture that smuggled arms and trained Laotian mountain folk to fight Communism in their country and neighboring Vietnam Air America one of its fronts also was a successful opium-running business Whether you believe that covert tactics such as Air America are fodder for big-screen action comedies is up to your own political constitution — but don’t bother asking Air America starring Mel Gibson and Robert Downey Jr as gung-ho pilots settles it The CIA in Laos isn’t funny Or engaging Or entertaining British director Roger Spottis-woode (Shoot to Kill) has made the worst kind of Vietnam puffery subscribing to the theory that jungle scenes breathtaking explosions and American guys grousing about their hopeless predicament make for social commentary At least Rambo II — which was produced by the same team responsible for Air America — had convictions Air America can’t answer the questions it poses at least not convincingly Spottiswoode working from a script by John Eskow and Richard Rush treats the pilots as danger-loving buffoons who are ornery in front of their CIA bosses but really don’t have second thoughts about what they’re doing After all the movie establishes early on that they’re only hauling rice and pigs Rnight Enter Downey in a stiff performance as the Wide-Eyed Innocent Guy He seems surprised when he discovers curious cargo " That was opium ?! "he shrieks Gibson reveals his profitable gun-running biz — and shows himself as a right-of-center haw k gravitating toward doveness TITLE CHARACTERS: Jack Nicholson reprises his Chinatown role as Los Angeles is a more comprehensible piece of history than the arcana of Chinatown and the two mystery women played by Madeleine Stowe and Meg Tilly keep both Jakes as Robert Downey Jr drinking MOVIE REVIEW AIR AMERICA (R) Cast: Mel Gibson Robert Downey Jr Nancy Travis David Marshall Grant Lane Smith Director: Roger Spottiswoode Producer: Daniel Melnick Screenwriters: John Eskow Richard Rush Cinematographer: Roger Deakins Music: Charles Gross Tri-Star Pictures Running time: 112 minutes Vulgar language violence Downey becomes determined to make him a politically correct gun-runner Here the movie attempts to tackle tough questions mostly during designated Morality Moments For example: Gibson and Downey argue about the opium trade they’re helping along Downey: “You’re telling me that doesn’t bother you in your soul?” Gibson: “Hey Leave my soul out of this” Other political pathos is provided by Nancy Travis who was so captivating as Andy Garcia’s wife in Internal Affairs and here has the toughest job you’ll ever hate — playing the dedicated peace volunteer with the heart of Hollywood gold For all its jumbled morality what Air America lacks is a caper There’s opium chicanery between a local general and the CIA buffoons (David Marshall Grant and Ken Jenkins) but the characters are cliches Clean-cut Ollie North types have become hackneyed screen heavies on the order of Nazis They’re so predictable they’re boring Gibson’s lines never give him the chance to charm the so-called action never allows him to engage and worst of all — his rear remains covered the entire film Watch those profits dip well as audience bouncing from clue to clue But by the end you realize that Towne has left a half-dozen narrative threads dangling incredibly Without You is weird but funny Bernhard film spoofs censorship By RYAN MURPHY Herald Staff Writer The conclusion of Sandra Bernhard’s Without You I’m Nothing is one of the rarest strangest film finishes in the history of the medium A weird hybrid of Twin Peaks and Gypsy with a dash of Behind the Green Door thrown in for good measure the no-holds-bared wrap-up features Bernhard undulating before director John Boskov-ich’s camera which zooms in on the multimedia diva’s every snap crackle and pop Loofahed to a brilliant sheen plucked of every stray hair and writhing with pure abandonment to the strains of Prince’s Little Red Corvette Bernhard — snarling in a G-string and pasties — is conservative Sen Jesse Helms’ nightmare come to life Which is the point not only of the conclusion but of Without You I’m Nothing A deconstructivist comedy of sorts daring in its inception and purposefully self-conscious and aggressive in its delivery the film is a florid exploration of freedom and artistic license More than just a brazen display of flesh Bernhard’s exhibitionist go-go dance is a snippet of bold that wildly sums up the tawdry tales that have preceded it and gives a hearty raspberry to the rising tide of conservatism that threatens this country’s supposedly liberal arts It’s an “in your face” scene calculated to amuse horrify provoke and spoof the ever-creeping tide of censorship Perhaps as an afterthought we learn one other highly Henry’s horror has mark of By BILLCOSFORD Herald Movie Critic Henry- Portrait of a Serial Killer is one of the original four notorious X’s of this year’s movie-rating controversy (the others sensation-mongers will recall were The Cook the Thief His Wife and Her Lover Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down! and the subsequently bowdlerized Wild Orchid) Of the group Henry seems the only one remotely deserving the red flag and not because of any single image it contains — you could find gorier movies in drive-ins as far back as the 1960s — but because of its atmospherics It’s not so much a portrait (Henry is a bit too thin for that) as a snapshot — pure film pure sensation utterly grim And it’s a piece of work Henry has been kicking around since 1985 when it was made (in four weeks) by John McNaughton a Chicago ad man who was commissioned by MPI Home Video to make a low-budget horror film McNaughton and a friend Richard Fire wrote a script based on the most graphic horror they could think of the case (then current) of Texas serial killer Henry Lee Lucas who at one point confessed to killing Jake Gittes Harvey Keitel is real estate developer Jake Berman even the oil plot is unresolved The Two Jakes is almost incredibly complex requiring considerable audience "work” not to mention a working knowledge of the original MOVIE REVIEW WITHOUT YOU I'M NOTHING (R) - Cast: Sandra Bernhard John Doe Steve Antin Lu Leonard Ken Foree Cynthia Bailey Director: John Boskovich Producer: Jonathan D Krane Screenwriters: Sandra Bernhard John Boskovich i Cinematographer: Joseph Yacoe Music: Patrice Rushen A New Line Cinema release Running time: 89 minutes Profanity nudity adult situations important lesson Sandra has a killer bod Not to mention a vicious wit (which dissects everyone from Madonna to Martika) a riveting screen presence and a nifty singing voice (at one point Bernhard — in a Diana Ross pageboy — croons Ain ’t No Mountain High Enough to a spectral Warren Beatty a commentary on rampant idolatry) Based on her “smash one-woman off-Broadway show” (a self-deprecating direct quote in the film) Without You I’m Nothing is a comedic hodgepodge There is no plot really just a premise: Bern-hard overcome with her own celebrity and burgeoning fame is sent by her manager (the jolly earnest Lu Leonard) back to a black Los Angeles nightclub to get in touch with her roots where the stoned nightclub announcer like so many of the misinformed consistently refers to her as “Sarah Bernhardt” MOVIE REVIEW HENRY: PORTRAIT OF A SERIAL KILLER (U) Cast: Michael Rooker Tracy Arnold Tom Towles Director: John McNaughton Producers: John McNaughton Lisa Dedmond Steven A Jones Screenwriters: John McNaughton Richard Fire Cinematographer Charlie Lieberman Music: Robert McNaughton Ken Hale Steven A Jones A Greycat Films release Running time: 90 minutes Vulgar language nudity sexual situations violence and gore several hundred people The resulting film (much fictionalized) went straight to video before receiving some critical attention during the 1989 Telluride Film Festival Theatrical bookings followed and Miami gets McNaughton’s dark little horror starting today It’s a relentlessly downbeat story about three losers and the price they exact from those they run into along their way Oddly the least interesting of these is Henry himself (played with a truly eerie flatness by Michael Rooker) largely because he is a nice guy He admits having killed his mother though he seems vague on the choice of weapon but because his confession comes with a convincing tale of early abuse at mom’s hands his pals are quick to forgive film But there’s no payoff to match the thing simply ends It has finally the air of a project that was made out of a sense of obligation rather than a drive to entertain to amaze What follows is a melange of comedy skits tributes to such pop culture icons as Andy Warhol Nina Simone and disco big daddy Sylvester musical numbers and cameo appearances by such friends as the charismatic actor Steve Antin who trashes Jodie Foster with glee and tries to put the Sandra phenomenon in perspective Without You I’m Nothing however aims for more than cheap yuks and consistently hits the mark It s an anti-concert film of sorts (the nightclub audience is shown yawning and rudely talking among themselves) and a socially oriented one at that Bernhard has slowly evolved to become the Ralph Nader of popular culture and her bits of business have a watchdog feel to them Alienation (expressed in the guise of a black alter ego for Bernhard who haunts the film) media misogyny (the infamous Newsweek cover story proclaiming that women older than 30 were doomed to become old maids is explored wittily via a medley of Burt Bacharach tunes) and sexual orientation are sliced and diced with panache and brave bombastic overkill Through sheer theatricality Bernhard cuts through the artifices of today’s pop culture and social mores and painfully hits bone time and time again Without You I’m Nothing isn’t always funny — it’s too cerebral for that — but it’s consistently provocative and disarming a gripping glance at one woman’s demons strident opinions and beautifully toned torso movie genius Of course they’re none too bright either Otis (Tom Towles) is a leering emotional defective who grows exponentially more brutish once Henry teaches him murder as a way of letting off steam Becky (Tracy Arnold) Otis’ sister is sweetly dumb but entirely too forgiving for her own good Nonetheless when she falls in love with Henry it doesn’t seem impossible or absurd but oddly correct Henry- Portrait of a Serial Killer doesn’t give us much by way of clues to Henry’s behavior beyond his mother’s depredations He’s simply out there a dervish of mayhem spinning down the road of life and leaving death behind When he talks about murder Henry retreats to the banal matter-of-factness of a craftsman discussing technique he could be a baker talking about bread The script is not what drives this film which is nothing if not a director’s handiwork McNaughton’s cool framing the pace of his cutting and the dreadful merciless flatness of his lighting are the works of a genuine talent This is one mean little movie fully deserving of some sorUBf warning badge to keep out the faint of heart and blue of nose It’s not by any stretch of the imagination pornography so disregard the onetime X (the film is being distributed without a rating) But make no mistake: Henry will give you the creeps

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