Viva La Muerte

Spanish surrealist playwright Fernando Arrabal loosely adapted his own autobiographical novel Baal Babylon, about a 12-year-old boy growing up during the Spanish civil war, into this violent, scatological, blasphemous, and extremely tiresome phantasmagoria, with very little filmic sense. If you like this, you might think it has something to do with Bosch, but it looked like bosh to me back in 1971, when misogynist visionary romps of this ilk were all the rage. In French with subtitles. 90 min. (JR)

Published on 01 Aug 1989 in Featured Texts, by admin

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Uncle Buck

A comedy written and directed by John Hughes about a disreputable bachelor uncle (John Candy) assigned to take care of two nieces and a nephew (Jean Kelly, Gaby Hoffmann, and Macaulay Culkin) in the suburbs while their parents are away (1989). Candy manages to be both funny and likable as a kind of updated Fatty Arbuckle in the lead part, and the treatment of the teenager in his care (Kelly) seems a bit less formulaic than usual for Hughes. But don’t be fooled; heaping gobs of the usual fake sentiment eventually come crashing down, defeating even Candy’s ebullience in the process. Even so, Hoffmann and Culkin both manage to project a certain cuteness without being too sickening about it, and Amy Madigan isn’t bad as Candy’s beleaguered girlfriend. 100 min. (JR)

Published on 01 Aug 1989 in Featured Texts, by admin

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Tango Bar

Raul Julia, Valeria Lynch, and Ruben Juarez star in this rather enervating 1988 musical about the tangoa Puerto Rican-Argentine coproduction directed by Marcos Zurinaga from a script that he authored with Jose Pablo Feinnman and Juan Carlos Codazzi. Set in Buenos Aires, the film centers on a cabaret show and its three stars, who form a menage a trois offstage. The main problem is that, as in many low-budget backstage musicals, the narrative is so slight that it barely seems to justify its own existence. Some of the actual tangos, however, are well executed and nicely photographed, and there is a series of enjoyable clips from American, European, and Latin American films in which tangos are featured. (JR)

Published on 01 Aug 1989 in Featured Texts, by admin

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Rude Awakening

Two hippies from the 60s (Eric Roberts and Cheech Marin) emerge from a Central American jungle, where they’ve been smoking dope and hiding from the feds, come to New York, and discover what the U.S. in 1989 is all about. Aaron Russo (Bette Midler’s former manager) and David Greenwalt codirected this comedy from a script by Neil Levy and Richard LaGravenese; Julie Hagerty and Robert Carradine play the heroes’ now-yuppified friends who are gradually inspired to return to their former values. As disheveled in some ways as its leading characters are, this movie is still something of a rarity: a sincere, somewhat nuanced, relatively uncliched, and actually judicious look at both the 60s and 80s and what they mean in relation to each other. A far cry from the more reductive treatment of these issues in various sitcoms, this movie is genuinely interested in the question of what happened to 60s ethics, and in spite of an occasionally awkward plot that weaves in and out of comedy, it manages to come up with a few answers. The costars include Louise Lasser, Cindy Williams, Cliff De Young, Andrea Martin, and Buck Henry; the latter two are especially funny in the one extended sequence in which they appear. (JR)

Published on 01 Aug 1989 in Featured Texts, by admin

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Relentless

Judd Nelson gives the sweatiest performance as a psycho serial murderer that I’ve seen since John Barrymore Jr. in Fritz Lang’s While the City Sleeps. In other respects though, this slightly better than routine cop film is striking only for the consistent incompetence of the LA police department as it operates throughout the plot. William Lustig (Maniac Cop) directed; Robert Loggia, Leo Rossi, and Meg Foster costar. (JR)

Published on 01 Aug 1989 in Featured Texts, by admin

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