Planet Of The Apes

The entertaining if facile 1968 original was cowritten by Rod Serling, and though this fancy new version claims to be neither a remake nor a sequel, I’d call it the formerthough one that tries to reconfigure the various commercial elements (SF adventure story, satire, action, surprise ending) rather than duplicate them. The problem is that Serling was a liberal satirist and fabulist (as presumably was Pierre Boulle, author of the source novel Monkey Planet), while the gifts of Tim Burton are chiefly visual. Pictorially, this is sometimes wonderful (and some of the credit should go to production designer Rick Heinrichs). But as satire it’s toothless and at times close to incoherent; its predictable swipes are aimed equally at conservative racists and bleeding-heart liberals, and the screenplay by William Broyles Jr., Lawrence Konner, and Mark Rosenthal doesn’t seem terribly invested in anything. The tone swerves between satire and straight-ahead action and frequently into bits of unintentional camp, such as the snorts and growls (complete with martial-arts flying and lots of pounding violence) of the simians, Charlton Heston’s cameo as a dying Yoda-type ape, and Estella Warren in cavegirl-jailbait attire that’s worthy of black-and-white 50s drive-in fodder. Even a few standard-issue explosions are folded into the mix, reminding us repeatedly that this isn’t so much a story as a set of attractions for kids. None of the characters captured my interest. With Mark Wahlberg, Tim Roth, Helena Bonham Carter, Michael Clarke Duncan, Kris Kristofferson, and David Warner. 119 min. (JR)

Published on 24 Jul 2001 in Featured Texts, by admin

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Imitation Flavors

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Published on 20 Jul 2001 in Featured Texts, Featured Texts, by jrosenbaum

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America’s Sweethearts

Overwritten by Billy Crystal and Peter Tolan, overdirected by Joe Roth, overplayed by most of the cast, yet typically undernourished, this would-be satirical comedy, about a movie-star couple who have broken up but must give interviews together to publicize their final movie, seems very vaguely inspired by the screwball comedies of the 30s. Among the usually efficient actors (including John Cusack, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Hank Azaria, Christopher Walken, and Alan Arkin), only Julia Roberts and Crystal himself (who also produced) emerge relatively unscathed. They appear to be acting in a different, more reasonable movie than the others. 100 min. (JR)

Published on 18 Jul 2001 in Featured Texts, by admin

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Lost And Delirious

The first English-language feature of Quebecois filmmaker Lea Pool (Set Me Free), this is nicely written as well as filmed, at least if one can tolerate an excessive and rhetorical use of slow motion. It focuses on a girl at a boarding school (Piper Perabo) whose roommate and lover (Jessica Pare) aggressively turns to boys, and on the viewpoint of a third roommate (Mischa Barton) who’s caught between the turmoil of both girls. It’s one sign of the film’s sensitivity that two of the adult characters, played by the inimitable Jackie Burroughs (a teacher) and Graham Greene (a gardener), are every bit as intense as the students. Written by Judith Thompson, who adapted Susan Swan’s novel The Wives of Bath. 100 min. (JR)

Published on 10 Jul 2001 in Featured Texts, by admin

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The Best Years of Our Lives

This 1946 domestic epic about three World War II veterans returning to civilian life, 172 minutes long and winner of nine Oscars, isn’t considered hip nowadays. Its director, William Wyler, and literary source, MacKinlay Kantor’s novel Glory for Me (adapted here by Robert Sherwood), are far from fashionable, and the real veteran in the cast, Harold Russell, who lost his hands in the war, has occasioned outraged reflections from critic Robert Warshow about challenged masculinity and even sick jokes from humorist Terry Southern. But I’d call this the best American movie about returning soldiers I’ve ever seen — the most moving and the most deeply felt. It bears witness to its times and contemporaries like few other Hollywood features, and Gregg Toland’s deep-focus cinematography is one of the best things he ever did. The rest of the cast — including Dana Andrews, Myrna Loy, Teresa Wright, Fredric March, Cathy O’Donnell, Virginia Mayo, Hoagy Carmichael, and Ray Collins — is strong too. (JR)

Published on 07 Jul 2001 in Featured Texts, by jrosenbaum

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