Kull the Conqueror
You can keep your dinosaur romps and your cartoon fairy tales; this is the kind of kids’ movie I treasured in my own youth, sexy, pictorial, and unfathomable. Raffaella De Laurentiis produces her third sword and sorcery fantasy based on the works of Robert E. Howard (the two Conan movies of the 80s were the others). Scripted by Charles Edward Pogue and directed by John Nicolella, this one’s a campy hoot by most standards, and for me a highly pleasurable one–in part because everything from the anachronistic rock score to the simplicity of the story line to the lurid, boyish fantasies about evil and women manages to suggest the clunky innocence of Howard’s original tales. The title hero, played by Kevin Sorbo, a sort of Rock Hudson with longer and greasier hair, inadvertently becomes hunky king of Valusia by being in the right place at the right time, but then meets and is lured into marriage by the evil sorceress Akivasha (Tia Carrere) inside of about 30 seconds. Others in the cast include Thomas Ian Griffith, Karina Lombard, Litefoot, and (believe it or not) Harvey Fierstein, and SF writer L. Sprague de Camp is credited as technical adviser. Burnham Plaza, Ford City, Gardens, Golf Glen, Lincoln Village, North Riverside, Water Tower, Webster Place.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): film still (Kevin Sorbo as Kull).
Five years after their powerful collaboration on Deep Cover, director Bill Duke (A Rage in Harlem) and Laurence Fishburne pool their talents again, this time on a crime story loosely based on the true-life exploits of Ellsworth “Bumpy” Johnson (Fishburne), king of the numbers racket in 1934 Harlem–at least until Dutch Schultz (Tim Roth) muscles in on the business while Johnson is away in Sing Sing. Also involved in the intricate power plays are Lucky Luciano (Andy Garcia), Johnson’s partner Stephanie St. Clair (Cicely Tyson), and Thomas Dewey (William Atherton), while the major fictional characters include Johnson’s cousin and best friend (Chi McBride) and his idealistic girlfriend (Vanessa Williams). Clocking in at 142 minutes, this is an ambitious effort to re-create Harlem in the 30s; Chris Brancato’s script supplies a provocative character study of a killer with a Robin Hood streak and only occasionally takes on more than it can handle. The grisly violence (most of it suggested rather than depicted) overwhelms the story in spots, but the interracial politics in divvying up the spoils of a city remain fairly lucid. Duke is a superb director of actors, and, as in Deep Cover, Fishburne manages to suggest a lot with a deft economy of means. (JR) Bricktown Square, Burnham Plaza, Ford City, Gardens, Golf Glen, Hyde Park, 900 N. Michigan, North Riverside, Plaza, Webster Place.
I have a weakness for movies described as pretentious, at least when they appeal to my imagination, but this terminally pretentious first feature by writer-director Alan Wade seems too far removed from reality to carry any sort of allure. I haven’t read the short story it’s adapted from, Branimir Scepanovic’s La mort de Monsieur Golouga, but the French title and eastern European author’s name suggest an attempt on Wade’s part to adapt European material to an American context, which is where I suspect some of the problems begin. The title hero (Christian Slater), a bookkeeper on holiday, wanders into a remote small town that isn’t accustomed to visitors and arouses everyone’s suspicions; when questioned he blurts out that he’s been contemplating suicide, and he’s regarded thereafter as a mythic, messiahlike figure. If this screenwriter’s notion of a townits inhabitants, its buildings, its faded signs (Supersweet Feeds says one of them)bore any resemblance to any real town on earth, the symbolic hardware might be a little more palatable. With Robin Tunney, Michael Parks, Harve Presnell, and LaTanya Richardson. (JR)
In the Company of Men
Don’t tell anyone, but this blistering piece of provocation by independent writer-director Neil LaBute, his first feature, has a lot to do with capitalism and how it alters our notions of masculinity and romance; in short, it’s about how business affects the way we live and think and feel. Two 30ish male execs (Aaron Eckhart, Matt Malloy) sent to their company’s branch office for six weeks decide to date, flatter, and then humiliate a woman they pick at random. (They settle on a deaf typist, deftly played by Stacy Edwards.) It doesn’t sound like a believable story without the context provided by LaBute’s concentrated minimalist style and the strong performances, but every nuance here counts, and most of them add up to something pretty potent as well as scary. Check this one out. Evanston, Pipers Alley. –Jonathan Rosenbaum
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): film still.