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Review of the day for the week of July 15, 1996.

Monday:
The American President (1995)

American President, The
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One of the underrated films of 1995, this is a charming tale of what happens when the President (Michael Douglas) wishes to go on a date with lobbyist Annette Benning. In the mean time, most of the president's aides, friends and opponents are going hog wild about this presidential dating game, fearing or hoping that it will cause a major scandal for Douglas. To make things more complicated, it looks like both Benning and Douglas are truly falling in love.

Another Capra-esque yarn, this is a little more humorous than most films that attempt to go for the Capra formula. Douglas and Benning have perfect chemistry together, Martin Sheen has some good moments as the chief of staff, and Michael J. Fox is, for the first time since Back to the Future, quite impressive. The message of the media's invasion of privacy is laid on a little thick, and it does get gooey from time to time, but all and all it's a very pleasant romantic film. In other words, a nice date movie.

My Rating = Three Stars

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Tuesday:
A Chorus Line (1985)

A Chorus Line
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Well isn't this a nice idea. Make a film out of something that is so obviously unfilmable. Based on the long-running Broadway show, the story (such as it is) follows a group of young men and women, auditioning for a dance revue. However, this is no ordinary audition. The director of the show (Michael Douglas, hopelessly miscast) wishes for the small group to bare their souls to them. All the private details! Omit nothing!!

That's the story plain and simple. Oh, there are quite a few scenes of dancing and singing, but nothing that wouldn't drive you crazy after listening to them for 24 hours non-stop!!! The films dance routines are okay, but it's mainly the story that leaves something to be desired. Dull, lifeless performances don't help much either. I'm sorry to say that I've never really been much of a fan of the stage show, and this movie sure doesn't change my viewpoint one bit.

My Rating = Two Stars

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Wednesday:
Christine (1983)

Christine
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When will filmakers make a Stephen King film that's watchable? Considered one of his weaker stories, this tale introduces us to Arnie Cunningham (Keith Gordon), a real geek and Christine, a 1958 Plymouth Fury. It's love at first sight, and Gordon will do almost anything for his love-on-wheels vehicle. Oh, did I fail to mention that the car comes alive and starts killing people.

In some ways it stays true to the book, but most of the time, it misses the mark. Gordon is the only impressive actor in the whole bunch, while the other actors (John Stockwell as Gordon's best friend, Baywatch's Alexandra Paul as Gordon's girlfriend) are all airhead stereotypes. The book was much better, despite it's own literary weakness. In the book, you truly got to know Gordon's character and the people around him. In the movie, all the characters but Gordon are treated as throwaways. The movie makes the book seem like Moby-Dick by comparison.

My Rating = Two Stars

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Thursday:
Edward Scissorhands (1990)

Edward Scissorhands
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I'd have to say, out of all the films Tim Burton has done, none have been more beautiful than this Beauty and the Beast story. The title character (wonderfully played by Johnny Depp) is a man-made human, who's creator died before he was able to finish him. That leaves poor Depp with hands that can hurt people, whenever he uses them the wrong way (mostly by accident). He's brought out of his secluded mansion, into the suburban world by a kindly Avon lady (Dianne Wiest). At first the community accepts him as a unique change in their humdrum lives, but eventually, through unpleasant circumstances, he is rejected and thrown away by the community as an inhuman outcast. He is actually a kind, lonely soul, simply yearning to be accepted. The only person who learns to love and understand him is Wiest's teenage daughter (Winona Ryder). That is where the Beauty and the Beast metaphor comes in.

The performances are marvelous including Depp, Ryder (who made a one-dimensional character into a living breathing three-dimensional being) and the extremely funny Wiest. Burton's dark flare, as well as his usual outcast-among-society theme, work wonders with the story and the sets are amazing. If Burton ever had a true masterpiece, this would be it. Touchingly, comic and tragic, this is one of the true tearjearkers.

My Rating = Four Stars

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Friday:
The Crush (1993)

Yet another one of those (fill-in-the-blank) from Hell movies. This one involves a young nymphet (Alicia Silverstone), who falls in love with an older successful businessman (Cary Elwes, who's seen better days) and she will stop at nothing to make him love her, etc., etc.

Need I say anymore? Well, the script, acting, directing and editing truly suck, as does Silverstone (Clueless). I've never thought much of her acting talents, I still don't and this film doesn't convince me otherwise. I'll spare you anymore of this bashing by saying that you can find much better things to do with your time. By the time you finish watching this film, throwing yourself off the Brooklyn Bridge will sound like a more entertaining way to spend a few hours. Who knows! You might swim to shore and get to enjoy some better movie tomorrow..

My Rating = One Star

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Saturday:
Blade Runner (1982)

Blade Runner
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One of the all time great sci-fi cult films, Harrison Ford stars as a blade runner (android killer/detective), who is sent to kill five invading "replicants" (androids) who have escaped the off-world colonies, and have landed back on Earth in rain-soaked LA, 2019. While hunting for them, he falls in love with one of the female replicants (Sean Young), which may cause some problems for him and his case along the way. We also meet the android's super-powerful leader Roy Batty (Rutger Hauer), as he and his crew wreak havoc through the city, while searching for a way to expand their short life spans (4 years).

Beautiful production design and special effects, as well as gritty characters that seem to have come right out of a Raymond Chandler novel, make this exciting from beginning to end. Ford gives a good impression of a film noir detective, Young is quite impressive in one of her earliest roles and Hauer is no less than outstanding. This film has been shown in two major versions. One is director Ridley Scott's (Alien) cut of the film, released in 1992, which cuts the film noir narration of Ford's and has an altered ending, that was considered by Scott considerably bleaker than what audiences saw in 1982. Both versions are still quite good, and you can get an amazingly different feel from each of them.

My Rating = Four Stars

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Sunday:
Allegro Non Troppo (1976)

Allegro Non Troppo
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Italian animator Bruno Barretto's tribute to Fantasia, this treat for the eyes offers amazing animated vignettes set to classical music (by such composers as Dvorak, Debussy and Stravinsky). The only thing is that mars the animated action is the incredibly stupid live-action sequences, involving a nebbish animator, a brutish conductor and an egotistical director (played by Barretto himself).

The best sequences from the animated segments includes: A strange evolution that takes place on an Alien planet after some astronauts leave a coke bottle behind; What happens when the snake in the Garden of Eden tastes the apple and receives his own medicine; A cat roaming through a desolate war-torn city; And, a female bee attempting to set dinner for her husband, when a young couple come to her garden spot and constantly mess up her plans by making love all over the place. These are all stunning sequences, brilliantly animated. The underlying theme of the film seems to be the destruction of the old peaceful ways of life, by modern day technology. Not such an uninteresting theme when you think about it. Now if only they could have left out those damned live-action sequences with their no-talent actors.

My Rating = Three Stars

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