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Teen Movie Critic

Reviews for the week starting on March 25, 1996

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MOVIES IN THEATERS

Earlier in my Director of the Week page, I featured the directors, Joel and Ethan Coen. This week, I will be reviewing their movies, including their latest film.

Fargo (1996)

Fargo
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This film is sort of a hilarious tribute to Minnesota and it's way of life. Despite the films title, the settings are mostly around Brainard and Minneapolis. The story involves a car salesman (William Macy), who hires a couple of thugs (well-played by Steve Buscemi and Peter Stormare) to kidnap his wife, in order to collect ransom from his wife's rich father. However, things go horribly wrong, when the thugs kill six people. Meanwhile, a polite police officer (wonderfully played by Frances McDormand) from Brainard is trying to track the thugs down and solve this bizarre case.

The Brothers Coen continually poke fun at Minnesota lifestyles, customs, accents and most especially at the Minnesota politeness. Take McDormand's character! She is so polite, that when she's interrogating Macy, she comes off as almost shy. Great performances, witty dialogue and the fantastic Minnesota settings make this an - what are the right words: An enjoyable experience? Not exactly!! It has a bit of the Pulp Fiction type gore throughout the movie, but like Pulp Fiction, some of the gory scenes are so outrageous they become funny. It's certainly a bizarre film, like many of the Coen's productions, but still very mesmerizing. One final note. The opening of the film says that the story is based on a true incident that happened in Minnesota, but many people here know that it didn't really happen. Maybe it's just another way the Coen's can make us laugh at ourselves. So if you are asking whether I liked this or not, all I'll say is "Ya sure, Ya betcha".

My Rating = Four Stars

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MOVIES ON VIDEO

Here are three films on video and/or laserdisc.

Raising Arizona (1987)

Raising Arizona
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An extremely funny comedy, set in the desert state of Arizona. An ex-con (Nicholas Cage, in an incredibly flaky character) and his wife, a police officer (Holly Hunter), who falls in love with him while taking his mug shots, decide to kidnap a baby, after Hunter finds out she can't have one herself. They steal one of a group of quintuplets and find that raising a baby isn't as easy as it seems. Considering that this baby is stolen, the child raising experience doesn't become much easier anyway.

Plus, there are two other major problems the couple must deal with. One is Cage's old prison buddies (John Goodman and William Forsythe), who have escaped from prison and decide to kidnap the baby themselves and use the infant in a bank robbery. The other problem involves a dirty bounty hunter (Randall "Tex" Cobb) on a motorcycle, who will stop at nothing to get the baby back. He even goes as far as trying to kill Cage and Hunter. Now I'll admit, the premise doesn't exactly sound like the feel-good movie of the year. However, the Coen's combination of awesome chase scenes, side-splitting site gags and the usual assortment of oddball characters make this one an TRUE enjoyable experience. My favorite characters are the inept crooks, Goodman and Forsythe. If you don't like much else about this movie, you'll still like these guys!

My Rating = Four Stars

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Barton Fink (1991)

Barton Fink
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Winner of three awards at the Cannes Film Festival in 1991, Fink is not as great as some of the Coen's other work, but it certainly has plenty of good moments. It involves a befuddled playwright (John Turturro), who is given a job offer to write a screenplay for a wrestling picture in 1941 Hollywood. But when he comes to the movie capital and moves into a rundown hotel, he develops a severe case of writers block. Soon strange things start to happen to him. He befriends an insurance salesman (John Goodman), who may be hiding a big secret. Like say, he's actually a deranged serial killer! In the mean time, Turturro just can't seem to think of a good story for the picture.

When you watch this, think Eraserhead in color. There are some mind-blowing scenes in this film, thanks especially to the set design and the scene-stealing performances of Goodman, as the towering salesman and Michael Lerner, as a Louis B. Mayer type studio head. The film is not for everyone's taste, but it's certainly a film that deserves to be watched at least once. Best scene: Goodman's showdown with two cops in the hotel hallway, near the end of the film. Don't miss that scene!

My Rating = Three Stars

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The Hudsucker Proxy (1994)

Hudsucker Proxy, The
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In the Coen's continuing tribute to old Hollywood films, this is not one of their greatest. A spoof on Capra films about underdogs that make it to the top, the plot involves Norville Barnes (Tim Robbins), a real moron, who becomes the new president of a corporation. The corporation is actually trying to use him, so a tyrannical executive (Paul Newman) can become the new head of the company.

I was divided on this one. I liked the wonderfully colorful set pieces and some of the characters (including Jennifer Jason Leigh as a Kate Hepburn-type reporter), but then the story is a little too cliched and recycled. Much of the humor doesn't come off well and there are just one too many stale one-liners. Of all Coen's films, I wish they could have done something better with this one. It was such a waste of a perfectly good premise.

My Rating = Two Stars

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