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Review of the day for the week of February 1, 1999.

Monday:
A Simple Plan

A Simple Plan
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The entire point of the too- long, too-treacherous film A Simple Plan can be summed up in one common axiom: "Money is the root of all that kills". In this movie, money and greed kill a lot of people.

Three hicks from the sticks are out hunting one day when they discover a crashed plane, buried in the snow (apparently they live way up north where winters are long). Inside the plane, they find a lovely bird-pecked corpse and a gym bag containing nearly four and a half million dollars. One of the hicks, a self-righteous, do-good accountant, wants to turn the cash over to the police. His buddies, who are basically two bumbling idiots, want to just keep the money for themselves, reasoning that, "It's probably drug money so keeping it isn't wrong". When he lets his friends talk him into keeping the money, things quickly go from bad to worse, and by the end of the film a lot of people are dead.

A Simple Plan was amusing for the first hour or so, and there was a lot of suspense, but after a while it got boring. Based on a book (which I vaguely remember reading several years ago), this story should have been scaled back more when it was turned into a film. Furthermore, the lack of ethics and bad judgment displayed by most of these characters didn't impress me. On the way out of the movie I heard a woman remark that the movie was too "dark", and I found it a little depressing myself. This certainly isn't what they call a "feel-good" movie. It's more like a "feel-bad" movie.

My Rating = Two Stars

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Tuesday:
Wall Street

Wall Street
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Charlie Sheen and Michael Douglas star in the absorbing movie Wall Street.

Sheen plays Bud, a stockbroker who desperately wants to make it big. His attempts to butter up important stockholder Mr.Gecko (Douglas) fail at first but eventually earn him his big chance. Soon, Bud is something like Gecko's protege; he gets a nice apartment, meets a beautiful interior decorator, and makes a lot of money.

You can just see it all falling apart can't you? Gecko stabs Bud in the back regarding a pet project (the buyout of his father's airline), and Bud is furious. His cold-fish girlfriend informs him that she no longer wants to be with him if he turns against Gecko, so now he's really on his own. Still Bud has a plan.

Wall Street was an entertaining movie wonderful performances. However, a few scenes were too routinely customary and staged-looking. For example, Bud has a fight with his father and later learns that his father is in the hospital after suffering a heart attack. There they go with the prototypical "I love you" deathbed scene (although actually his father doesn't even die after all that). Still, it was overall an interesting and fun movie to watch.

My Rating = Three Stars

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Wednesday:
MASH

MASH
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MASH is an asinine but rather amusing film.

It takes place during the Korean War on a naval base in Korea. MASH's crazy cast of characters includes several surgeons, nurses, and soldiers who act terribly silly and unprofessional. Their antics include making an audio recording of two officers (one of them is married) having sex. The next day, they proceed to play the tape over the loudspeaker for morning entertainment. Meanwhile, two surgeons get into a fistfight, and nobody likes the stern, unsmiling new head nurse. (Obviously, this is all very unrealistic, yet it proves quite amusing.)

I never saw the TV series spin-off from MASH, but I enjoyed the movie. The levity was neither overdone nor understated, and, although I didn't recognize any of the actors, I thought the acting was generally convincing. MASH reminded me somewhat of Down Periscope, in that it was about a bunch of lazy, comical military officers. If you liked Down Periscope, you'll probably like MASH.

My Rating = Two Stars

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Thursday:
Splitting Heirs

Splitting Heirs
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Splitting Heirs is a wonderfully senseless comedy about two people who are mixed up at birth.

Henry Thomas Butterfly Rainbow Peace (yeah, that's his name all right) is the son of a British Duke. As a baby, his brainless hippie parents forget him in a restaurant. By the time they return, he has disappeared, only to be found a few days later.

About thirty years later, Henry, who has been raised as an American, becomes the Duke after his father's death. His friend, Tommy, secretly discovers that he is the rightful heir, not Henry (the wrong child was returned). Tommy is told by a lawyer that he won't have much luck proving he's the rightful heir, but if Henry were to have an untimely death, Tommy might get to be Duke anyway, so everything will keep running smoothly. Of course, Henry's friend Tommy would never try to do anything underhanded like kill Henry off, would he? Oh yes he would! (He also sleeps with Henry's fiance, and kills off several innocent people in the process of trying to nail Henry.)

Splitting Heirs is a delightfully funny comedy, although some parts are just a little too daft to be believable. Comedies sometimes stretch things just a little too far. I prefer movies that are closer to being believable than Splitting Heirs. All in all though, I enjoyed Splitting Heirs and recommend it.

My Rating = Three Stars

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Friday:
Malice

Malice
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Malice takes so many twists and turns that when I recently watched it on TV my head was spinning by the first commercial break.

Nicole Kidman, George C. Scott, and Alec Baldwin are the stars - what a cast! Kidman plays a woman who is an accomplished conniver, schemer, and liar. This character is also a convincing actress - she has everyone, including her own husband, thinking that she is a sweet, wonderful person. After all, she does volunteer at the hospital day care center five days a week, and does every other nice, normal thing you can imagine.

Secretly, she is very cunning. She and a doctor (Baldwin) have hatched a plan: she will sue the hospital he works for over a mistake that they both planned he'd make. She will get twenty million dollars, and then run off with him. Her clueless husband (Scott) will never know the truth.

But things go wrong. Scott finds out what happened and tries to blackmail her. Along the way, he learns that she lied to him about nearly everything, and that Baldwin isn't who he pretends to be either.

The action, suspense, and plot twists make Malice a truly thrilling thriller.

And, the end of the movie was almost laughable in its simplicity and irony (don't read any further if you don't want to know the end): To make a long story short, Scott helps the police lay a trap for Kidman and she is hauled off to jail. Amazingly, I almost found myself sympathizing with this character, ruthless and malicious as she is, because I could easily imagine how frustrating it would be to end up in her situation (behind bars for an incredibly stupid little mistake). You can just imagine how she must be kicking herself. (Although I've never committed any crimes, I do know what it feels like to have a seemingly good plan blow up in my face!) To have a murder plot go bad must be unthinkably maddening! Only one thing: Kidman's character is so delightfully crafty and resourceful, I was sure she was planning an escape from jail at the end of the movie. I'm surprised a sequel hasn't been made yet...

My Rating = Four Stars

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