Posts Tagged ‘1986’


Movie Review #683


Hemdale Film presents…

Distributor: Orion Pictures Corporation
Country: UK — USA
Spoken Languages: English — Vietnamese

Directed by Oliver Stone. Produced by Arnold Kopelson. Written by Oliver Stone.

Rated R by the MPAA — war violence, frequent profanity. Runs 2 hours. Limited release in Los Angeles, California and New York City, New York on December 19, 1986. Wide release in the USA on February 6, 1987; and in the UK on April 24, 1987.

Narrated by Charlie Sheen. Starring Tom Berenger, Willem Dafoe, and Charlie Sheen. Also starring Keith David, Forest Whitaker, Francesco Quinn, Kevin Dillon, John C. McGinley, Reggie Johnson, Mark Moses, Corey Glover, Johnny Depp, Chris Pedersen, Bob Orwig, Corkey Ford, and David Neidorf.

Cinemaniac Reviews four stars

“Rejoice O young man in thy youth…”
- Ecclesiastes

“Platoon” is Oliver Stone’s retelling of war. I don’t mean retelling as in what Francis Coppola and Stanley Kubrick offered in their renditions. This is a movie concerned so much about its story that the style is a mere sub-operation to substance. Stone was an actual veteran of the Vietnam War. He was also the first of several filmmaking veterans to make a movie about the horrors he encountered. I have to say that, while I do respect “Apocalypse Now” and “Full Metal Jacket” for their perfect dehumanizations of the Vietnam War, “Platoon” comes out on top. It’s not a movie about what happened in the Vietnam War. It’s about how one man’s reality was changed (maybe even rectified) by war.

And the movie is effective. It takes full ownership of Samuel Barber’s “Adagio for Strings”. The piece is played seemingly throughout the film in multiple variations. It builds poignancy in the story. Maybe this is a good 5% of why “Platoon” functions strictly as a drama and a reality-centric horror movie. It’s not an action movie, and it anything but desires to bloat the struggles into a triumphant epic. It doesn’t even wish to entertain, I don’t believe. It’s one focus is to explicate a perilous vision of what being in the war is like.

The narration comes in letters written home from the protagonist. That’s what brings out the film’s terrific (and terrifying) authenticity. Rarely will the movie convince us that it’s indeed a movie. It’s presentation is visceral. Beautiful contrast is suggested between this storytelling method and the actual imagery. What we are told is visceral. What we see is extremely mild for a war movie.

Charlie Sheen both portrays the protagonist and narrates the film. His delivery crafts the movie for war what “The Shawshank Redemption” was for prison life. Sheen has never played such a character since. Even his performance in Oliver Stone’s followup “Wall Street” doesn’t ask for our sympathy at all costs. This is a man who dropped out of college to voluntarily serve in the infantry. Not one soldier seems to befriend him, or each other, and enemies could be anywhere and everywhere. Just knowing that much, and how seriously it’s taken, makes did quite a horrifying movie–maybe the most horrifying I’ve ever seen. Though by the end, it’s more than just one level of emotion that’s getting whipped.

Tomorrow’s Review

Casino Royale

Jason Lives: Friday the 13th Part VI

Movie Review #641


Studio: Paramount Pictures – Terror Films Inc.
Distributor: Paramount Pictures
Country: USA
Spoken Languages: English

Directed by Tom McLoughlin. Produced by Don Behrns. Written by Tom McLoughlin.

Rated R by the MPAA. Runs 1 hour, 27 minutes. Wide release in the USA on August 1, 1986.

Starring Thom Matthes, Jennifer Cooke, David Kagen, Renée Jones, Kerry Noonan, Darcy DeMoss, Tom Fridley, and C.J. Graham as Jason Voorhees.

Cinemaniac Reviews three stars

Not that we have many hurricanes where I live, but Sean S. Cunningham’s original “Friday the 13th” is easily the best movie I’ve ever watched while sheltering from an imminent hurricane.  Since neither of my parents nor my sister enjoy horror movies, I was told that if I wanted to watch it, I’d have to watch it on the upper floor, where the breeze was playing the windows like flutes.  And the AMC’s “Fearfest” was calling to me.  It was promising me that I would be laughing myself to death, and maybe a bit scared, since it was ten, maybe eleven o’clock at night.

Fast-forward six years in moviemaking, and just over a year in moviewatching, to “Jason Lives”, perhaps more simply subtitled “Friday the 13th Part VI”.  The tagline is “Kill or be killed,” which basically identifies the entire Friday the 13th franchise.  Which means that either they’ve just copped out, or the guilty pleasure is at its apex.

Decidedly enough, “Jason Lives” is the latter.  It’s so bad that it’s terrible, so terrible it’s good, so good it’s enthralling.  (One cannot simply describe the Jason Sensation as “so bad, it’s good.”)  We have a gimmicky opening–a really gimmicky opening, to kickstart everything else that happens in this movie.  Tommy Jarvis, a returner from “The Final Chapter” and “A New Beginning”, is with one of his friends, driving to go and enact vengeance on Jason for ruining his life.  He opens the grave, spears Jason with a metal object…and then a lightning bolt strikes the rod and resurrects Jason.  Who, after retrieving his mask, is on the loose once more!  But everyone thinks Tommy’s a psychopath; only his recent girlfriend believes him when he says that Jason has been found.  How many (and who in particular) will be dead by the time Jason is found and “killed,” making Tommy the hero?

There’s many possibilities for that lightning bolt that jolted Jason back to life.  Could it be ’80s cheese?  Bad writing?  Desire to fit as many special effects into a $3 million budget?  Who knows.  The movie doesn’t want to be horror anymore, which isn’t exactly bad.  We’re at the point in the series where we realize it’s not scares that make a Friday the 13th movie so much fun.  It’s everything else.  “Jason Lives” succeeds under this epiphany.  It doesn’t allot the first twenty minutes for suspense; it cuts right to the chase.

I actually feel like those who worked on “Jason Lives” understand random pop culture, enough that I can tell when they’re acknowledging completely unrelated movies.  The combination of music (saga veteran Harry Manfredini), cinematography (Jon Kranhouse), and editing (Bruce Green) amusingly put Jason in his own sort of “gun barrel opening” (i.e. James Bond).  These can also combine to create a pretentious music video quality in the film; it’s more fun than it should be, to watch massacres MTV-style.  Even if Jason’s umpteenth “death” suggests that maybe he’ll stay dead, I can’t help but point out my bigger thought at that moment: I was reminded of “Jaws” in these final moments.

In a nutshell, these lighthearted killings made me feel like Bart Simpson watching The Itchy & Scratchy Show.

Postscript: For those who love Alice Cooper, “He’s Back (The Man Behind the Mask)” plays through the end credits.

Ruthless People

Review No. 567

How should I describe the humor? It’s “Ruthless” on the lungs.



Director — David Zucker & Jim Abrahams & Jerry Zucker
Producer — Michael Peyser
Screenplay — Dale Launer

Danny DeVito — Sam Stone
Bette Midler — Barbara Stone
Judge Reinhold — Ken Kessler
Helen Slater — Sandy Kessler

Distributor — Buena Vista Distribution
Release Date — June 27, 1986
Language — English
Country — USA
Running Time — 1 hour, 33 minutes
MPAA Rating — R
Flags ( — adult humor; adult language; adult situations; not for children; nudity; profanity


“ruthless: adj. Having no compassion or pity; merciless”

Ruthless People concerns one ruthless man, his ruthless wife, and a normal married couple who tries to be ruthless. Why is it so funny? The latter party has the advantage. Sam Stone (Danny DeVito) is a ruthless man who wants his wife Barbara (Bette Midler) dead. He willingly lets her into the hostage of the two ruthless-wannabes, Ken and Sandy Kessler (Judge Reinhold, Helen Slater), who just want a little bit of money. But will he even hand over the ransom cash? Hell, no.

This might be a good twenty percent of the story. The laughs skyrocket when a sex tape becomes involved in the crime, mainly because it’s confused for a tape of the unhappened “murder” of Sam’s wife. And then the laughs skyrocket again. And again. Maybe only the sky could be the limit for the utterly misanthropic DeVito, and the enthusiastically wacky Midler. (Actually, “enthusiastically wacky” might just understate her performance.)

‘She six feet unda yet?

It could both help and mislead, knowing that this is from David Zucker, Jim Abrahams, and Jerry Zucker. These are the men behind such comedies as The Kentucky Fried Movie, TV’s Police Squad!, and its spinoff series of Naked Gun movies. They’ve worked as a directorial trio on three films: Top Secret!, Airplane!, and Ruthless People. With the exclamation point, we lose the farcical, madcap feel to black comedy. That goes without saying, I don’t doubt this is their best work in the genre, solo works included.

Ruthless People was the debut screenplay from writer Dale Launer, and it doesn’t show until the movie starts to drag near the last few minutes. Everything is brilliantly written here. I’m really not sure what was intended here, apart from being dark to no end, but if the attempt was to screwball-ize Bonnie and Clyde, Strangers on a Train, and just about any “cat-and-mouse” thriller…well, then, there’s all the more reason to say, well done. Well done, one and all.


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Pretty in Pink

Review No. 483

“Pretty” good, but we’ve seen much better from John Hughes.





“This is a really volcanic ensemble you’re wearing, it’s really marvelous!” –”Duckie” (Jon Cryer)

When we think of writer-director John Hughes, we think of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off or The Breakfast Club, not National Lampoon’s Vacation or Planes, Trains and Automobiles. I’m not saying the latter aren’t classics, but that he wouldn’t be a household name three decades later if he hadn’t written and directed that handful of teen flicks.

Pretty in Pink is proof that until one of his films has hit theaters, only John Hughes himself knows what he’s talking about. This was the only teen-centric script he wrote and let someone else direct, and it shows. Yes, Hughes has his writing translated in the same calligraphy as his chefs d’oeuvre. Molly Ringwald, check. Synthesizer music, check. School that is demographically 95% “cool kid” and 5% outcast, check. An outcast lead, check. But in spite of all this, there’s something missing, and something that just goes too far.


“A working class hero is something to be.”

Andie (Molly Ringwald) is fearing prom night, particularly because she is convinced she won’t be there. She’s a working class girl, her mother left years ago, and her father feels it’s safer to lie and make her feel better than to be honest about his troubles. She isn’t having the best time as a high school senior. But lo and behold, the richest guy in school has approached her and asked her out. She’s fallen in love with him, but neither one of them can feel instantly broken apart. She feels awkward being around his uptight, rich friends, and he is afraid that if he’s seen with someone who can’t afford nice clothes, his friends will never accept him.

I find it reasonable to note that the ending doesn’t begin to become obvious until at least an hour has passed. We’ve seen this story countless times before, so on those grounds, its entertainment value is high. It’s somewhat ironic, as well, that the two über-bloated caricatures here are delivered quite memorably. Jon Cryer goes to both north and south poles as far as his acting efforts. On one hand, he ad libs his minor comic relief as if he were the male lead, almost to the point at which this romantic drama is excusable for a comedy. On the other, he’s funny as all hell, so whether it matters depends on how well you, personally, can tolerate the film’s pacing. Another notable performance is from Annie Potts, as the amusing gossip queen Iona. I couldn’t help but think of her as a pure ’80s echo of Anita in West Side Story. It’s performances like these that sophisticate Pretty in Pink beyond anything it deserves to be. It’s decent, but far from perfect. Let’s just say that upon its initial release, this little drama was simply warmup for Hughes’s quintessential Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, which took charge less than four months later.

Addendum – 5/26/2013 10:39 PM: Howard Deutch also directed Some Kind of Wonderful, a teen drama also written by John Hughrs.


Review No. 422


The Bottom Line: Hoosiers: A True Underdog Story.

Directed by: David Anspaugh
Written by: Angelo Pizzo
Coach Norman Dale: Gene Hackman
Myra Fleener: Barbara Hershey
Shooter: Dennis Hopper
Cletus: Sheb Wooley
Jimmy Chitwood: Maris Valainis
Merle: Kent Poole
Rade: Steve Hollar
Buddy: Brad Long
Ollie: Wade Schenck
Also Starring: Brad Boyle, David Neidorf, Fern Persons, Scott Summers

Distributed by Orion Pictures and Hemdale Pictures on November 14, 1986. Produced in English by the United States. Runs 115 mins. Rated PG by the MPAA (mature themes; violence; language).

Hoosiers was watched on February 17, 2013.

“Forget about the crowds, the size of the school, their fancy uniforms, and remember what got you here. Focus on the fundamentals that we’ve gone over time and time again. And most important, don’t get caught up thinking about winning or losing this game.” –Coach Norman Dale (Gene Hackman)

It’s difficult to find a sports movie that’s not uplifting, even in the slightest sense of the word. I’ve seen more sports movies than I can physically count, and I can come up with merely two examples that go against this grain. One is Raging Bull, Martin Scorsese’s psychosocial shredding of an aggressive and dedicated boxer. The other, Bull Durham, a goofy but nonetheless straightforward sex comedy about the groupie for a minor league baseball team.

Hoosiers does conform, but it conforms like almost no other movie. In the end, I was left with one small but somewhat meaningful question:

Why were the stadiums so packed? We learn in one scene that there are 63 male undergraduates at the small town high school Hoosiers focuses on squarely, which probably means no more than 130 students total attend. My own high school has something between eleven- and thirteen-hundred undergraduates, yet the stadiums at our basketball games aren’t much more packed than the ones we see in Hoosiers.

Now let’s suppose the head count was lesser. Empty a single seat seat and I can’t imagine being so easily captivated by Hoosiers. The film tells a simple story that we’ve likely heard already, one you wouldn’t so easily cheer for if you didn’t feel the need to cheer. The year is 1951, and a basketball coach, Norman Dale (Gene Hackman), was fired twelve years ago for an aggravated assault on one of his students. Now he’s brought back–temper and all–to coach the crumbling basketball team at Hickory High School. And the team surely isn’t one to instantly skyrocket to the top. The renowned player of the team has left because his father has died. The coach has an anger issue that keeps him from a good number of games. The team can’t function as one unit.

Yet despite all this, there’s no question that Dale will succeed in coaching the team to win, win, win. It’s the plague of nearly every sports movie. Without overly spoiling too many endings: You watch Jerry Maguire, and you know from the moment Tom Cruise lays eyes on Renée Zellweger that they’ll be a couple by the end. You watch Rocky, and every training scene only makes you more sure that he will beat Apollo. Hell, you watch Dodgeball–which I do, deep down, consider a “sports movie”–and it’s always clear the Average Joes will win.

We all know that it doesn’t always happen this way. As I understand it, the majority of sports studies work by handing us weak underdog characters, and then moving forward to show how they are determined to succeed. A sudden loss at the very end would entirely kill off the message.

And despite ending on a predictable note, the climactic scenes in Hoosiers are some of the most dynamic a sports drama has ever delivered. I wouldn’t say I felt inspired by the film in a literal sense, since never would I ever play basketball by choice. I did, however, feel involved during quite a few scenes.

Hoosiers is flawed here and there. It’s not too unconventional in how it tells its “feel good” story, especially when that was “based on a true story.” But I do feel like I got something out of this one, and I did feel good in the end. The alternative is a story so banal and unrealistic that you feel cheated; Hoosiers offered far more slam dunks than technical fouls.


A Good Day to Die Hard

Top Gun

Review No. 414


The Bottom Line: Oh the fun! Oh the flaws!

Directed by: Tony Scott
Written by: Jim Cash and Jack Epps, Jr.
“Maverick”: Tom Cruise
“Goose”: Anthony Edwards
“Charlie”: Kelly McGillis
Carol Bradshaw: Meg Ryan
“Iceman”: Val Kilmer
“Slider”: Rick Rossovich
“Viper”: Tom Skerritt
“Jester”: Michael Ironside
“Hollywood”: Whip Hubley
“Stinger”: James Tolkan
Also Starring: Adrian Pasdar, Barry Tubb, Clarence Gilyard Jr., David Patterson, Duke Stroud, John Stockwell, Linda Rae Jurgens, Tim Robbins

Distributed by Paramount Pictures on May 16, 1986. Re-released in IMAX 3D on February 8, 2013. Produced in English by the United States. Runs 110 mins. Rated PG by the MPAA (mature themes; profanity; war violence).

Top Gun was watched on February 9, 2013.

“I feel the need…the need for speed!” –Maverick (Tom Cruise)

Top Gun is a basic representation of director Tony Scott’s career. It’s lightweight, carefree, loud, and explosive. You can’t do any harm applying the word “fun,” but “fun” is not always “good.” With Top Gun, that’s the somewhat unfortunate truth. Should the film remain in my memory, it’ll be for the dogfights that kept me at the edge of my seat, not the hokey cheese that pressured me to get up and flee the theater.

I’m very grateful I had the chance to see Top Gun in IMAX 3D. I’m also relieved, however, that I wasn’t the one paying. The film clocks in at precisely one hour, forty minutes, but the plot is a log in the middle of the woods. It’s definitely there, but so are the termites, and they’ve eaten at least ten servings of it before the end is visible on the horizon.

Maverick (Tom Cruise) is the “cool cat” of a Navy training academy. He isn’t there to protect and to serve, but because he feels “the need, the need for speed.” Furthermore, he’s competing with those of his own league for the honorary title “Top Gun.” Clearly this is an action movie, not a solemn war drama. It’s also a bit of a corny romance. Somehow, Maverick meets his instructor Charlie (Kelly McGillis) at a nightclub first, not in training. It’s predictable at this point that no matter how much she tells him she can’t stand him, his persistence will win her in the end.

Perhaps substance isn’t as important for Top Gun as for most movies. Not only is the film poorly conceived, it’s poorly delivered and poorly written. Okay, I’ll cut some slack for a few of the film’s famed quotes, but color me surprised by Tom Cruise’s overacting ability. It’s a wonder the man withheld a steady career long after 1986, and that he’s now the highest paid actor in Hollywood.

Top Gun made me feel like an adrenaline junkie. I don’t avoid action flicks, but I don’t watch them religiously as some genre fiends do. Most of that demographic would say the action was what made The Godfather (a three-hour crime drama) a suitable experience. Truth be told, I’d say the same for Top Gun (a less-than-two-hour cornball action flick). I did get pretty excited by some of these rock music-fueled, airborne, high-flying sequences. At least these portions can force me to wolverine through nearly a tub and a half of popcorn.


The 1st Annual Cinemaniac Awards – Winners

Blue Velvet

Review No. 383

The Bottom Line: Frightening. Weird. Demented. In two words, David Lynch.

Directed by: David Lynch
Written by: David Lynch
Dorothy Vallens: Isabella Rossellini
Jeffrey Beaumont: Kyle Maclachlan
Frank Booth: Dennis Hopper
Sandy Williams: Laura Dern
Also Starring: Dean Stockwell, Frances Bay, George Dickerson, Hope Lange, Priscilla Pointer

Distributed by De Laurentiis Entertainment Group on September 19, 1986. Produced in the English by the United States. Runs 121 minutes. Rated R by the MPAA (graphic violence; nudity; strong sexual content; profanity; substance abuse).

Blue Velvet was watched on January 4, 2013.

“She wore Blue Velvet
Bluer than velvet was the night
Softer than satin was the light…”

Blue Velvet is a chilling, perturbing, and macabre thriller. Starting up, this seems a harmless drama, touched lightly by elements of romance and crime. Then the true David Lynch takes action, and now it’s a morbid psychodrama with elements of romance and crime that are equally brutal, equally disturbed, equally unpredictable.

It’s no secret that I’m a fan of his work; that I’m a recent inductee to the world of his intoxicating cult appeal; that I’m well into the second season of his crime-cum-supernatural TV saga Twin Peaks. Lynch’s consistency, however, makes this an equally mind-blowing criminal complex. He’s the cinematic embodiment of both genius and insanity, leaving no loose ends on either spectrum and tying them rather finely into one whole.

Before fifteen minutes have passed, and without giving even the most buried omen, he’s already spinning a graphic, twisted murder mystery. First it’s about the discovery of a severed ear, which leads to the possibilities of murder; then it’s about a detective’s obsession with a bipolar rhythm-and-blues singer/nymphomaniac, who has been thought to have certain aspects of involvement with the crime; then it’s about her increasing mania.

What’s most amazing—among the several hundred other factors that place directly below—about Blue Velvet is how rationally and all the more shockingly all those events are tied together in the end.

Blue Velvet is a definition of style. I do love Federico Fellini’s as well as Luis Buñuel’s Un chien andalou, but just the symbolism of a single element (blue velvet), the way David Lynch proposes it, decimates just about any figurative intrigue in those two avant-garde masterpieces.

What’s even better is the cinematography. Most, if not all of the scenes set in the murderess’s apartment feature dimly lit point-of-view shots from the eyes of our detective, as he stares at her from inside a closet. It’s a voyeuristic style popularized by Alfred Hitchcock in films such as Psycho and Rear Window; David Lynch’s resurrection is much appreciated. Every now and then, the sensation of an approaching figure delivers an uneasy notion of fear.

Undoubtedly, Blue Velvet is strange in every unconventional sense of the word. Its graphic, psychotic, often paranoid look at humanity makes it difficult to watch (not that it doesn’t demand attention). But those same descriptors are also just why this thriller is so intensely and morbidly realistic, as if stranger than fiction.


Big Trouble in Little China

Review No. 379


The Bottom Line: John Carpenter’s silly, silly, silly, fun, fun, fun cult movie.

Directed by: John Carpenter
Written by: W.D. Richter
Based on: an early screenplay by Gary Goldman and David Z. Weinstein
Jack Burton: Kurt Russell
Gracie Law: Kim Cattrall
Wang Chi: Dennis Dun
David Lo Pan: James Hong
Egg Shen: Victor Wong
Miao Yin: Suzee Pai
Also Starring: Al Leong, Carter Wong, Chao-Li Chi, Donald Li, James Pax, Kate Burton, Peter Kwong

Distributed by 20th Century Fox on July 2, 1986. Produced in English by the United States. Runs 99 minutes. Rated PG-13 by the MPAA (comic violence; language).

Big Trouble in Little China was watched on December 28, 2012.

“I’m a reasonable guy. But, I’ve just experienced some very unreasonable things.” –Jack Burton (Kurt Russell)

Ask me not why Big Trouble in Little China is often recognized as John Carpenter’s work, sometimes even billed that way. Carpenter is known mainly for his work in the horror genre, with films like Halloween and The Thing. Big Trouble is a blend of the Chinese martial arts genre and American slapstick.

Knowing how absurdly this turns out, I wasn’t very appalled to find out that the story was originally set not in San Francisco’s Chinatown during the 1980s, but in the Old West, circa 1880s. Please note that the film’s tagline reads, “Jack Burton’s in for some serious trouble and you’re in for some serious fun,” and that “serious” is used to mean “absolute,” not “stern and straightforward.”

Jack Burton (Kurt Russell) is a truck driver who has picked up a hitchhiker named Wang Chi (Dennis Dun) and is driving him to San Francisco’s Chinatown. Wang Chi is constantly preoccupied by the thought of his fiancé, Miao Yin (Suzee Pai), the only known Chinese woman with green eyes, and he has plans to marry her soon. But when she is abducted, their path brings them instead to the home of David Lo Pan (James Hong), a lonely, several-hundred-year-old sage with a spiritual belief in Chinese magic.

Is any of this sounding familiar? I began thinking it was something along the lines of The Gods Must Be Crazy 3. The same madcap, draw-an-idea-from-the-hat-every-ten-minutes-and-find-a-brilliantly-loopy-way-to-transition-into-it sort of humor was used to killer effect in the early 1980s by the first entry of that series, a South African comedy. Essentially, the only change here is what deus ex machina tactic just about falls from the sky to get the film going: ancient Chinese worship in lieu of Coke bottles.

Our story revolves, in part, around the importance of martial arts and inhuman magic in China’s spirituality. When this staple makes a flamboyant show of itself, it works with massively humorous results. When it’s forced just a “push over the cliff,” it falls flat on its face.

Big Trouble in Little China is two tons o’ fun. For a film that was rushed into production, with the directorial attachment of John Carpenter seeming about as random as golfball-sized hail during a blue moon, the results are no less than incredible. To any lesser extent, this is merely a whimsical, silly farce with equal parts cheese and class.

Oh wait, there is one huge surprise: Kurt Russell plays the impatient sidekick. We’re not used to him as the subservient Western man to the short, talkative Eastern man, but it’s the underlying source for the better half of the film’s comedy.

If you enjoy the classic comedy of the Three Stooges or Abbot and Costello, you’re guaranteed to enjoy this wildly chaotic and hysterical farce. Dare I say such individuals would be in “big trouble” having not seen it.


The Color of Money


Bottom Line: It ain’t silver, but it’s worth summa’ yer silver.

Directed by: Martin Scorsese
Fast Eddie: Paul Newman
Vincent Lauria: Tom Cruise
Carmen: Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio

“I’ve got to admit it’s getting better,
A little better all the time.
I have to admit it’s getting better,
It’s getting better,
Since you’ve been mine,
Getting so much better all the time!”
–”Getting Better” by The Beatles

Had The Color of Money not been crafted in the hands of director Martin Scorsese, I may have easily given it a pass. This is (in technicality) the sequel to The Hustler, and there’s certainly a fear of a similarly slow work. But essentially, this isn’t a sequel. It has a different style, color cinematography, and it sets up two and a half decades after its predecessor. Sequels have certainly done this, but what we’re dealing with here feels like something more broad. If The Hustler is the appetizer, The Color of Money is the main course. Watching the two consecutively, the 1961 work feels as if it were produced for the sake of its own successor. The back story is a decent supplement (particularly during the opening twenty minutes), but it isn’t at all necessary to fully enjoy this later, slightly better work.

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Bottom Line: The original, low budget Hannibal Lecter.

Directed by: Michael Mann
Starring: Benjamin Hendrickson, Brian Cox, David Seaman, Dennis Farina, Joan Allen, Kim Greist, Michael Talbott, Stephen Lang, Tom Noonan, William Petersen

We recognize Anthony Hopkins as Hannibal Lecter just as much as remember Heath Ledger as The Joker.  Dare I say we tend to forget all the other characters who portrayed the doctor because of how outstandingly he performed in 1991′s The Silence of the Lambs.  Perhaps it comes as an even greater shock that Hopkins was not the first to portray Thomas Harris’s cunning cannibal for the screen, and we would never know him for such a tour de force performance if it weren’t for 1986′s Manhunter.  Generally, we would call a film such as Silence a sequel to Manhunter.  Oddly enough the films don’t seem to be too closely related; just at a starting point, this earlier Hannibal seems more like The Shining‘s Jack Torrance.  Whereas the ’91 film used Hannibal as the main source of increasing horror, among more of a crime thriller plot, the ’86 film uses an arranged low-budget technique for a thoroughly frightening experience…with a pretty sub par Hannibal.

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