Harvey and Sheilaís Movie Reviews

March 1999 Edition

Meet the Critics

Harvey Parr has been an investigative journalist for the highly respected Philadelphia Star-Gazette since 1962. He became that paperís resident film critic in October, 1995.

Sheila Douglas writes a weekly movie review column for the Independence Shopper, a free publication in the Kansas City metropolitan area. She has been writing her column since July, 1997.

Rating Scale

* Bomb ** Poor *** Average **** Incredible

 

Stepmom

Sheila Douglas Ė The Independence Shopper Ė Monday, February 1, 1999

I just got back from seeing Stepmom, starring Susan Sarandan and Julia Roberts. This is by far the best movie Iíve seen this year. I cried until I didnít think I could cry any more. My friend Betsy and my little boy Bobby went with me. I think Bobby was a little shaken up by the film. Afterwards he seemed pretty subdued. Iíll bet he really related to the little boy in the film who wanted to be a magician. Itís hard to say too much about the film without giving too much away. Susan Sarandan plays this woman with two children, a boy and a girl, who is divorced from Ed Harris. Heís shacking up with his new girlfriend, Julia Roberts. I think that Susan takes things awfully well, even though sheís less than thrilled with the fact that this skinny little fashion photographer (Roberts) is taking care of her children. I just donít understand why Ed Harris divorced her in the first place! What was his problem? Anyhow, you must go see this, but be warned: take along a lot of kleenex! My Rating: **** - "Absolutely Great!"

Harvey Parr Ė The Philadelphia Star-Gazette Ė Tuesday, February 2, 1999

Boo-freaking-hoo. If the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences gave out awards for the most emotionally manipulative movie of the year, Stepmom would win hands down. I havenít seen this much on-screen crying sinceÖ Hell, Iíve never seen this much on-screen crying! Camille doesnít even come close. (Of course that was more coughing than crying.) I went to see this turkey on a weekend night and the theater was packed with kids in their twenties and thirties. About half the audience was made up of couples. I pitied the poor slobs who had been dragged to this sob-fest by their wives and girlfriends. The rest of the theater was filled with small groups (packs) of women. If figured they were either single or simply lacked the feminine wiles to persuade their men to come along. Good call, guys! After awhile all the blubbering just reached the point where it was beyond ridiculous and I started to laugh. This drew more than a few angry looks from the women sitting nearby. In one scene, Susan Sarandon tearfully asks Ed Harris why he left her for Julia Roberts. Oh, that was a good one. Donít get me wrong, now. I happen to think Sarandon is still pretty hot, even after all these years. Remember her in Atlantic City opposite Burt Lancaster? Whew! I still think fondly of her when I see a nice stack of lemons in the grocery store. Julia Roberts is no Lana Turner, but sheís certainly quite a dish. Itís too bad she has that weird lip thing going. The last time I saw lips like that wasÖ well, never mind. All in all I thought this was a pretty weak movie, the same studio crap that Hollywood keeps churning out. If youíre a woman and you feel you simply have to go to this movie, please donít pester your man to go with you. Guys just donít go for that sob-sister stuff like women do. And if youíre a man and your woman asks you to take you to it, just make up some excuse. Lie if you have to. Tell her youíve decided to fix something around the house. Take the $8.50 you would otherwise spend on this crap and go down to the hardware store and buy yourself a nice ball-peen hammer. If youíve already got one, go to your favorite corner bar and get yourself hammered. My Rating: *1/2 - "A tear-jerking waste of time."

 

The Thin Red Line

Sheila Douglas Ė The Independence Shopper Ė Monday, February 8, 1999

I donít normally watch war movies, but this one was so beautiful to look at. At times I just wished the soldiers would stop shooting at each other so I could enjoy the scenery. Itís a lot like Saving Private Ryan, only with a little less gore. Thereís still more than enough -- I certainly wouldnít take my little boy Bobby to see it! To be honest, Iím not really sure what the movie was about, actually. My friend Irene (Betsy was sick and couldnít go) tried to explain it to me afterwards, but I just got confused. It sure was packed full of stars, though! Woody Harrelson, Nick Nolte, John Travolta, John Cusack, George Clooney, and Sean Penn were all in it. I havenít seen Sean Penn in anything in years! He was pretty scary looking and really looked like a hardened soldier. I definitely didnít like this movie as much as Stepmom, but itís a good movie, even if I didnít understand it. My Rating: *** - "Good"

Harvey Parr Ė The Philadelphia Star-Gazette Ė Thursday, February 11, 1999

I remember the way they used to make war movies back when I was a kid. Duke Wayne would kick the living hell out of the Germans or the Japanese or the North Koreans or the North Vietnamese. Those were real war movies. Men shot at the enemy. The enemy shot back. People blew each other up with grenades. Johnny Farmhick, the blonde kid from Kansas was always the first to get it and everybody knew it from the end of the first reel. Just what the hell ever happened to movies like that? Iíll tell you what. The only experience the kids making movies today have about war are from reruns of McHaleís Navy or M*A*S*H. As I was watching the first twenty minutes of this thing I kept asking myself one question: What the hell is this? The director used some idiotic technique in which they had a voice-over of what different characters were thinking. Pretty soon it seemed like there wasnít any dialogue any more, just these bizarre philosophical voice-overs. I began to wonder if the soldiers were attempting to defeat the Japanese using telepathy. If you believe this movie, every soldier in WWII spent their time thinking deep thoughts and waxing poetic. If I want poetry, Iíll go to some beatnik coffee shop and play the bongos. Call me a nut, but Iím not usually in the mood to listen to poetry when Iím watching a war movie. One sure sign of a bad movie is when you leave and youíre not sure what the plot was, and this piece of cinematic tripe fell soundly into that category. Save your money. If youíve really got $8.50 burning a hole in your pocket, take a trip to your local army surplus store. Youíd be amazed at what you can buy! My Rating: * - "True SNAFU"

 

Kalifornia

Sheila Douglas Ė The Independence Shopper Ė Monday, February 15, 1999

Anyone whoís ever read my column knows just how much I love Brad Pitt. I couldnít believe Iíd never seen this movie before. It also stars X-Files star David Duchovny as this writer who is working on a book all about serial killers. He and his girlfriend pick up a strange pair, played by Brad Pitt and Juliette Lewis. It was rated R, so I made sure that Bobby stayed in his room while I watched it. Itís a good thing. It got pretty violent at times, but Iíd still recommend it strongly, mostly because of its stars! My Rating: ***1/2 - "Great!"

Harvey Parr Ė The Philadelphia Star-Gazette Ė Thursday, February 25, 1999

Thanks to some demonic pact that my paper has with some damned internet movie review syndicate, I was asked to rent and review this 1993 piece of crap. Itís a road movie about two yuppie idiots who decide to share costs with a white trash couple. The male alpha-yuppie (played by X-Fileís star David Duchovny), is working on a coffee-table book. His topic? Serial killers. Itís painfully obvious from the get-go that he has some sort of fixation on the subject. The couple who rides with them to "Kalifornia" is played by Brad Pitt and Juliette Lewis. Thanks to the magical logic of the 1990ís high-concept film, Pitt just happens to be a serial killer himself. Itís an awfully convenient coincidence, donít you think? The whole thing is nauseatingly predictable from beginning to end. Pitt and Duchovny start to buddy up and eventually it becomes apparent that Pitt has been killing people as theyíve driven along. Folks, save your money, please. Rent anything other than this. My Rating: * - "Trash"

 

Shakespeare in Love

Sheila Douglas Ė The Independence Shopper Ė Monday, February 22, 1999

Before I went to see Shakespeare in Love I wasnít too sure what it was about. I certainly didnít expect to like it as much as I did! This movie tells the behind-the-scenes story of what William Shakespeare went through while he was writing Romeo and Juliet. Boy was I surprised Ė he went through a lot! I also never realized that he wrote the whole thing in just a couple of weeks. There was a lot of confusion and cross-dressing and the plot was kind of hard to follow a lot of the time, but it was sure funny. I thought that Gwyneth Paltrow did a sensational job in her role as the woman who plays Juliet to Shakespeareís Romeo. I would definitely recommend this movie. It would probably make a wonderful "date" movie! So, if thereís somebody special in your life, take them to see this film! My Rating: **** - "Way more fun than expected!"

Harvey Parr Ė The Philadelphia Star-Gazette Ė Tuesday, February 9, 1999

Holy Hamlet! What a load of crap. Who the hell wants to watch a movie set in 1500ís England? As far as I can tell, Shakespeare in Love is apparently some kind of feeble attempt to show a modern audience just how painful it is to sit through a Shakespearean tragedy. Iíve got PBS for that, thank you very much. The attempts at humor were pathetic. . How this movie got nominated for "Best Picture" of 1998 is beyond me, but Iíve never fully understood how the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences makes its selections anyway. I think Iíve said my piece. Hereís my suggestion as to how to better spend your $8.50: bourbon. My Rating: * - "A plague on anyone stupid enough to see this movie."

 

Spotlight Film of the Month:

Seven Brides for Twelve Angry Men

Harvey Parr, Philadelphia Star-Gazette Ė Thursday, February 18, 1999

This month my editor gave me a choice between reviewing two recently released "lost classics": Snow White and the Seven Samauri or Seven Brides for Twelve Angry Men. I think I probably made a mistake. You have to forgive me folks -- I was a little hung over when I made my choice.

Iíd like to know where the hell they find these "lost classics" anyway. Is there a storage garage somewhere in New Jersey where all these "treasures" have been kept stored for the last thirty years? When I was younger I certainly donít remember ever seeing this movie on any marquee anywhere. According to the back of the video box, Seven Brides for Twelve Angry Men was released in 1959, was directed by Sidney Lumet and features music by Johnny Mercer and Gene DePaul. The original movie was in Cinemascope, and the video version is presented in the wonderful "letterboxed" format, which means that at least half the television screen is black. According to the kid at the video store if I rented the DVD version I would have my choice of watching it either full screen or letterboxed, but I donít have any plans to buy a DVD player anytime soon.

This movie is meant to be a sequel to Twelve Angry Men, only itís a musical. Henry Fonda reprises his role as "Juror #8." Lee J. Cobb reprises his role as "Juror #3." Jack Klugman reprises his role as "Juror #5." You get the idea. To make things worse, all the brides are numbered too. When youíre watching a movie where 19 characters only have numbers for names it can get pretty confusing. Itís a good thing for you I took notes.

For some reason that makes absolutely no sense to me, the twelve jurors get together a month after the trial that served as the focus of the first movie. Everybodyís had a chance to calm down and so theyíre not so angry anymore. They all feel a strange sense of camaraderie, one felt (apparently) only by army buddies and ex-jurors. The juryís foreman (AKA Juror #1), played by Martin Balsam, suggests that the best way for them to cement their friendship is to take a two-week vacation in Oregon. Everybody agrees that this would be a wonderful idea and they launch into the first especially jarring musical number as they make their way down to port authority and board a greyhound bus.

On the several-day trip across the country, tempers flare occasionally, but in general they all become closer and the jurors find that they all have one thing in common: theyíre all terribly lonely. Juror #4 (E.G. Marshall) suggests that perhaps their loneliness is at the root of their anger. Juror #5 (Klugman) disagrees, saying that their anger is the cause of their loneliness. The two argue about this point and tensions escalate until Juror #5 pulls out a switchblade and threatens to kill #4. Juror #8 (Fonda) -- who has been silent and sullen for most of the trip -- stands up and starts singing "When Youíre in Love." Soon all the other jurors and everybody else on the bus joins in. This more or less diffuses the situation.

When they arrive at the bus station in Oregon, the twelve men hear some locals talking about a barn raising at a local ranch. Cranky and irritable after the long bus ride, they all get into a big argument. The even-numbered jurors want to go straight out to the ranch and join in the fun. The odd-numbered jurors want to go to their hotel first and freshen up a little. They tell each other (musically) to go to hell and they split up into two groups of six.

The even-numbered six that go to the ranch join in with the barn-raising straight away. They attract a lot of attention from the women-folk. This isnít too surprising considering theyíre all wearing wrinkled gray suits and all the other men are wearing colorful cowboy outfits. Immediately following a dance number that seems to last forever, they all sit down to eat and are joined by seven beautiful sisters. Sister #3 (played by Julie Newmar) seduces Juror #8 (Fonda) and lures him out behind the newly-erected barn. Apparently things go pretty well for the two of them because upon their return they announce theyíre going to be married. This starts a mating frenzy, and soon brides 1,2,4,5, and 6 are paired up with jurors 4,2,10,6, and 12, respectively. Bride #7 feels terribly left out. It turns out that itís been her dream ever since she was a young girl to have an angry man in a wrinkled gray suit for herself. Sheís inconsolable and cries a lot. Juror #8 tries to make her feel better by singing "When Youíre in Love" again, but this just makes things worse.

Just about this time, the remaining 6 (odd-numbered) jurors return from the hotel. They catch wind of whatís happened and are furious! A big fist fight breaks out between the 12 jurors and soon it escalates until rocks and broken beer bottles and switchblades are flying. Not wanting to be left out, the seven brides grab crowbars and brass knuckles and join in the fight. Meanwhile, the cowboys Ė who Iím guessing are gay -- just sing and dance gleefully around the outskirts of the melee.

When the dust settles and the final score is taken, there are only seven jurors and six brides left in any kind of condition to get married. If you do the math, I guess this means the brides are a hell of a lot tougher and/or a little better at fighting dirty than the jurors. Jurors #7 (Jack Warden) and #4 (E.G. Marshall) decide that instead of fighting each other to the death theyíre willing to give bigomy a try. A minister pops out of nowhere and marries the 13 of them on the spot. He seems surprisingly unconcerned about performing a mass wedding for an odd number of people. Apparently this kind of thing happens a lot in Oregon. The movie ends with the wounded and dead being carted away to the local hospital while everybody else sings "When Youíre in Love" one final time.

Rating: *1/2 (Slightly better than bad)

 

Copyright © 1999, Terran J. Boylan.

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