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Teen Movie Critic

Reviews for the week starting on February 5, 1996

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MOVIES IN THEATERS

From Dusk Till Dawn (1996)

From Dusk Till Dawn
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Before you see this film, try and think about a cross between Desperado and Sam Raimi's Evil Dead series. The film follows two bank robbing brothers (ER's George Clooney and actor-screenwriter Quentin Tarantino), who kidnap a priest (Harvey Keitel) and his family. They head south of the border to a disgusting, filthy town, full of bikers, truckers, pimps and whores. The town is actually a feeding ground for hundreds of vampires. So, the people are forced to fight for their lives until dawn.

Like Evil Dead, it's simply a comedy disguised as a full-blown horror film, full of gross sight gags and hilariously sarcastic characters. I'll admit, it begins rather slow, with only a couple of good action scenes. Then it picks up when it gets down into Mexico. After that, it's all out chaos. Most of the performances are good. Clooney makes a convincing killer, Keitel has no problem with his southern accent and Juliette Lewis (as Keitel's daughter) has her moments. However, when Tarantino is on screen, it makes me want to say to him, "Don't quit your day job". Despite Tarantino's miscasting in a pivotal role, the movie is pretty entertaining. Robert Rodriguez (El Mariachi) is getting really good at these slam-bang action westerns of his. Let's just hope he doesn't cast Tarantino in any more of his films.

My Rating = Three Stars

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MOVIES ON VIDEO

Here are three films on video and/or laserdisc.

Jurassic Park (1993)

Jurassic Park
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An amazing film adaptation of the best-selling novel by Michael Crichton, that revolutionized special effects in movies the way Star Wars and 2001: A Space Odyssey did. The story concerns a tropical island, that is the home to living Dinosaurs, brought back by way of DNA. The billionaire (Richard Attenborugh), who owns the island, invites two paleontologists (Sam Neill and Laura Dern), a mathematician (Jeff Goldblum) and his grandkids (Ariana Richards and Joseph Mazzello) to the island, unaware that anything can go wrong. Something does! In a major way! A power failure allows the dinosaurs to escape from their cages and roam the park, causing destruction and chaos.

Magnificent direction by the master of film fantasy Steven Spielberg, as well as amazing digital effects, make this a captivating, rollercoaster ride, with plenty of suspense and astonishment to go along. True, the story isn't really close to the book version, but why quibble. The actors work well together within some well set up scenes. Still, someone else should have been chosen for the part of the mathematician other than Goldblum. He is completely unconvincing in his role, and doesn't really fit in that well. Other than that, the film is practically flawless.

A fellow critic once said that when he saw this film, he didn't think it brought out the same excitement and feeling of awe as Spielberg's other films. My first thought was "Did we see the same movie?" Anyone who says this doesn't engender much excitement, has to see the film a few more times.

My Rating = Four Stars

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Cleopatra (1963)

Cleopatra
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One of the most notorious flops ever, and rightfully so. This overblown epic biography of the life of Egypt's most famous rulers is woefully long, flat and dull. Elizabeth Taylor overacts outrageously as the Queen of the Nile. Richard Burton, to my amazement, is not much better as Cleopatra's lover, the Roman Mark Antony. There is some impressive art direction, and some good acting by Rex Harrison and Roddy McDowell as the two Caesars (Julius and Octavian), but their acting is lost in this monstrosity.

Nevertheless, it earned four academy awards, for art direction, cinematography, costumes and special effects. However, the sets are the only element that works well. The rest is garbage. It's these type of movies that nearly killed film epics.

My Rating = Two Stars

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Citizen Kane (1941)

Citizen Kane
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This is Orson Welles' first motion picture and probably his best. Director, writer, producer and star of one of Hollywood's greatest films. The movie follows the rise and corruption of tycoon Charles Foster Kane (a thinly disguised version of William Randolph Hearst). The story of Kane's life is told to a reporter (Mercury theater player William Alland), trying to find out the meaning of Kane's last word "Rosebud". Alland talks to some of Kane's closest friends and family, searching for the truth about his life and times.

Welles made a true masterpiece when he was only 25. Not many people make their masterpieces when they were young. Welles strong performance in the title role is rounded out by a fine supporting cast. Joseph Cotten as Kane's partner, Dorothy Comingore as his floozy wife (based on Hearst mistress, actress Marion Davies), Everett Sloane as Kane's assistant and Agnes Moorehead as Kane's domineering mother. I must not forget the stunning technical achievements: The editing by future director Robert Wise, the use of sound by John Aalberg, the chilling score by Bernard Herrmann, the surrealistic art direction and the excellent black-and-white cinematography from Gregg Toland. True artists all!

Hated and booed when first released, this has become the influence of countless filmakers, actors and cameramen as well as a celebrated film in it's own right. Hearst tried to destroy this amazing piece of work, but it has lived on as the film that could not be killed.

My Rating = Four Stars

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