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Reviews for the week of October 18, 1999.

Random Hearts

Random Hearts
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I hate to say it, but Harrison Ford is finally starting to show his age. He just isn't Han Solo anymore (not that I liked Star Wars, but at least he was something to look at back then).

I suppose this has nothing to do with the technical merit of his latest film, Random Hearts, and I'm certainly not implying that his looks are his only good attributes as an actor. But it really does help a love scene when you've got a great looking hunk in it.

Perhaps Ford's apparent lack of youth in this movie has less to do with his age than with his character. Don't expect much of his trademark charm or handsome grin. Ford's character Dutch is a serious guy with serious problems and he is rigidly expressed as such.

Ford stars opposite Kristin Scott Thomas, who plays Congresswoman Kay Chandler. They meet because it becomes apparent that her husband was sleeping with Dutch's wife.

You have to feel sorry for the two unfaithful spouses, because they get caught in such an embarrassing way - while on a flight to a mutual vacation, their plane crashes into the ocean. Before long, the bodies and the truth both surface, to put it bluntly.

Ouch. What a sticky situation for everyone involved - but especially for Kay, who is naturally much in the public eye.

The interesting thing is that she and Dutch actually end up in a romance together, how's that for mixed up love affairs. It is hard to believe that this relationship, having sprung from such circumstances, could have any long term reach. You would expect that once they both get over the tragedy, they'll find no use for each other, and end up wishing they never got involved.

It doesn't quite turn out that way, although the end is rather ambiguous. The producers left it open-ended. (Having read the book, I knew how that ended, but so much was different in the movie that the producers might have meant for you to assume any one of a number of things.) If I hadn't read the book, I would have been even more upset about the lack of a firm, concise ending. Oh, they make some pretty obvious implications, but you don't really know for sure from the film's conclusion.

That reminds me of Thomas' last movie, The Horse Whisperer, which also had a rather vague ending. It didn't bother me as much at the time, because I hadn't read the book. After seeing the movie, however, I did read the book, and the ending was not at all what anyone would have expected from the movie.

As a viewer, I find this trend frustrating and a bit nagging - I wish they'd tell you exactly how everything turns out, period. I'm not saying that Hollywood should go back to predictable, stereotypical, they-fall-in-love-and-live-happily-ever-after endings - heaven forbid. An unhappy ending would be fine. But just make it clear!

Now after all the criticism and nitpicking, it may surprise you that I actually liked this movie. The characters were interesting, if not completely believable. Ford and Thomas, both skilled and accomplished actors were well cast in their roles. Perhaps Ford could have been a bit more like his Patriot Games and Air Force One characters - serious, but with the occasional dry humor remark for comic relief. But overall, I found Random Hearts enticing.

My Rating = Three Stars



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Superstar is one of the funniest movies I've seen recently. It may not offer any deeply profound insights or provoke any soul searching, but it will keep you entertained.

If you've ever watched Saturday Night Live, you're probably familiar with Mary Katherine Gallagher (Molly Shannon), the geeky high school student portrayed in Superstar.

Mary Katherine attends a Catholic high school where she endeavors to be a superstar in various ways - dance, gymnastics, singing, etc. (Her desire to be a superstar apparently began with a crush on Happy Days' Fonzie, whose mug she enthusiastically smooches on the TV screen while still a kid.)

Of course, now that she's in high school, Mary Katherine is much more mature. She's moved on to passionately French-kissing trees.

Her love life might consist of more than making out with inanimate objects if only her school crush, Sky Corrigan (Will Ferrell), would fall in love with Mary Katherine. Unfortunately, he's taken - by the school snob (Elaine Hendrix), a bulimic blond cheerleader who enjoys making fun of Mary Katherine.

Not discouraged, Mary Katherine lets her vivid imagination (which conjures up dreams of God, who guides her by badly imitating Will Smith songs) lead her to enter a school talent show.

Molly Shannon and Will Ferrel are obviously not teenagers - both must to be at least thirty years old. But who else could play the roles they developed on Saturday Night Live?

Superstar wouldn't be realistic anyway, for a variety of reasons. But it's so uproariously laughable that none of its minor flaws matter.

Last year's A Night at the Roxbury was also an SNL spinoff, featuring everybody's favorite disco idiots. While also a wonderful comedy, Roxbury was markedly different from Superstar.

Superstar features more of the current event parodies and jokes that trademark SNL. Most frequently, Superstar spoofs popular movies (Mary Katherine is the tape rewind girl at a video store). In several especially comical scenes, she acts out movie scenes, decides whether to express herself in monologue or dialogue, and discusses a variety of films.

I don't know if everyone will find this as enjoyable as I did - after all, I've watched an excessive amount of movies myself. In some ways, I guess being a movie critic is like being a tape rewind girl - you watch so many eventually you start seeing everything as a really long movie scene. It all blurs together for a while. Until you realize that you did indeed just watch four movies in an eight-hour period.

At any rate, SNL fans are likely to welcome Superstar. I recommend it as an excellent comedy - and not just for people who watch too many movies.

My Rating = Three Stars


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