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Review of the day for the week of July 27, 1998.

Monday:
The Jerk

The Jerk
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Steve Martin's failed attempt at a serious role in The Spanish Prisoner makes his older movies, like The Jerk all the funnier. Martin is not an actor that you want to see in a deadly serious mood - it's light and funny, or Martin shouldn't bother doing it at all.

In The Jerk Martin plays Navin R. Johnson, a young white man who, on his twentieth birthday, finds out from his black parents that he isn't really their child (he was left on their doorstep as a baby). Right then and there you get an accurate reading on his I.Q.

That night, Navin decides to go out in the world and "make something of himself". He gets a job at a gas station, and even gets his name in the phone book. This leads to a deranged killer randomly picking Navin as a target. Navin is just stupid enough to narrowly escape with his life, and soon joins up with the circus where he meets a woman named Marie (Bernadette Peters ) and falls hopelessly in love. But he already has a tough biker girlfriend, and this leads to problems.

The Jerk, which was co-written by Martin, really tickles your funny bone. Navin's terrific successes and failures are terribly amusing in their outlandishness. Perhaps the next time Martin considers another serious role he ought to reconsider how he got so famous in the first place - with movies like this.

My Rating = Three Stars

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Tuesday:
Lethal Weapon 4

Lethal Weapon 4
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Lethal Weapon 4 is an action-packed comedic thriller starring Mel Gibson, Danny Glover, Rene Russo, and Chris Rock.

Gibson and Glover are cops who get in so much trouble that their boss wants to fire them - but he can't, because they really are pretty good at doing their job. Finally, he promotes them to Captains so they'll be out of his hair, instructing them to stay out of trouble.

Easier said than done. After catching some immigrants sneaking into the country, Glover big-heartedly allows some to stay at his house rather than be deported. Meanwhile, he and Gibson continue to investigate the people that they believe are in charge of sneaking the immigrants in. And let's not forget that Gibson's girlfriend - that's Russo - is expecting a baby any day now. So is Glover's daughter, whom he doesn't know is married to a young cop (Chris Rock). Glover becomes suspicious when Rock is always so nice to him and suspects that it's because Rock is gay! (Gibson encourages him to believe this, which leads to some very comical scenes.)

Lethal Weapon 4 was very amusing, although a little obvious at times. I don't usually pay much attention to special effects, but I had to notice these were incredible! Much comedy was also provided so that it wasn't straight shoot-em-up action the whole way through.

My Rating = Three Stars

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Wednesday:
Once Upon a Crime

Once Upon a Crime
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Once Upon a Crime is a twisted, mind-melding mystery and an hilarious comedy.

An apparently dense young woman heads to Paris to be with her boyfriend - forever, according to him. At least until she gets there and he dumps her. Having spent all her money flying to Paris, she is now broke and needs cash. When she finds a dog that matches a lost-dog ad in the paper, she is forced to split the reward with another guy who found the dog - after she shooed it away. That is, if they ever get the reward - when they arrive at the old woman's mansion, they find it deserted - except for a dead body.

Meanwhile, a compulsive gambler loses quite a lot of money in a casino. Miserable, he wanders around trying to figure out how to tell his wife, who understandably disapproves of his habit. That's when he finds a suitcase and takes it with him, thinking that there might be something valuable in it. It turns out there's a dead body in it.

Once Upon a Crime is a wonderfully funny rental and, with a not-so-obvious ending, keeps you thinking while you laugh. Granted, it's a little spoof-ish - it begins on a train with several mysterious characters, bringing to mind an Agatha Christie story - and somewhat cliche, but it proves entertaining nonetheless.

My Rating = Three Stars

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Thursday:
Armageddon

Armageddon
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Armageddon has all the makings of a big hit summer movie: star power, millions in special effects, tireless promoting since the beginning of the year. (You should see the loads of promotional material they sent me. I received a nice but pretty useless "countdown clock" that literally counted down the days until the movie opened for me, a t-shirt - I liked that one - and a huge wall poster that will probably be a collector's item one day. Did I mention the press kit?)

And no, I'm not going to give Armageddon a good review just because I got all that free stuff, although it does help....a little. In all fairness, Armageddon was splendidly done, if the ending was ridiculously obvious (well, it is a disaster movie, go figure). Bruce Willis stars as Harry Stamper, a redneck deep core oil driller sent up into space to drill nuclear weapons into the asteroid heading for Earth. Hopefully, the nukes will blow the blasted piece of rock to space dust and avert the End of the World. Meanwhile, Harry's stepdaughter Grace wants to marry his protege, A.J., a turn of events which he appears less happy about than the fact that the world may soon be coming to an end. Incidentally, A.J. is sent on the mission also, so they may both die up there in outer space and leave Grace utterly alone.

Well, you know that isn't going to happen, don't you? Still, the acting was very convincing - in one scene, well-known macho man Willis actually cries, what is the world coming to? - and I was thoroughly entertained by Armageddon. (I noticed that my dad, the big wimp, and several macho looking guys in the audience were a little misty eyed at the emotional scenes - it's always the big tough guys who cry at movies! I myself am not given to bawling about imaginary characters.) My only gripe is that director Michael Bay got a bit carried away pushing the Big Loud Explosion button, and several of the action scenes took too long. My mind just started wandering - I don't have a short enough attention span for too much of that. Otherwise, Armageddon, even at two and a half hours long, was quite riveting - keep in mind that anyone with half a brain cell can figure this one out in two seconds and you'll realize how extraordinary that is.

My Rating = Three Stars

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Friday:
Madeleine

Madeleine is the nice, cute, sweet story based on the book of the same name. And, well, if that's what you're looking for in a movie, then you've got it.

Madeleine is the cute little red- haired girl who lives in a church-run orphanage and constantly disturbs the nun who is in charge of the girls. She falls off a bridge and is rescued by a dog - whom she later brings home as a pet, although no pets are allowed. She has her appendix taken out and nearly causes the nun to faint when she displays her scar. On the ride home from the hospital, she makes friends with the chicken that the cook later serves for dinner. Promptly deciding that she can't eat the chicken, Madeleine becomes a vegetarian and convinces the other girls to refuse to eat the chicken, too. (Well, I didn't see anything wrong with that. This teaches kids respect for animals.) She later gets in a fight with a little boy in the neighborhood and all the girls get punished. The nun is at her wit's end.

Of course, that isn't what I look for in a movie, and I noticed that most of the people in the theatre had small children - mostly girls. (I heard one little boy griping, "I really didn't want to see this," to his sister and parents.) I could understand how he felt. When I was eight I might have enjoyed this movie a lot - but, for now, I was bored.

My Rating = Two Stars

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