Cinema: Two Out of Five Ain't Bad

A pair of romantic comedies works nicely, while a trio of ambitious dramas misfires

  • Share
  • Read Later

(3 of 4)

Playing another radio host, Robin Williams spun this voluptuous sort of word web for maybe 15 minutes in Good Morning, Vietnam and won an Oscar nomination. What does Bogosian deserve? For most of this engrossing, infuriating movie, he sits in a radio studio and just talks, a shaman sparking his listeners' minds around the communal campfire. It is a spellbinding turn.

Bogosian wrote and played this role last year off-Broadway, and when he sticks to the old script, he brings the thing to life onscreen. So, at first, does director Oliver Stone. He makes a voice in the dark seem a perfect subject for motion pictures. The camera prowls with a purpose; the movie gleams like Formica lighted by witchcraft.

The play had a point: in America agony is just show biz, life-and-death issues are matters of style, and even the most desperate night callers seek sleazy entertainment, not salvation. But Stone wants more. In Salvador and Platoon he found drama to match his message; here he must invent tragedy to suit his spleen. He moves Barry from Cleveland to Dallas and appropriates the murder of Denver radio host Alan Berg -- a little silver anniversary present to the Kennedy-assassination city. Stone's camera closes in on Bogosian's face as if it were the cratered moonscape of the American mind, and the actor / starts shouting into his megaphone mike. Finally, these two have become like Barry's listeners, shrill and unconvincing, weaving their own conspiracy theories in the bleat of the night. This is bag-lady cinema. -- R.C.


Directed by Richard Benjamin; Screenplay by Jerico Weingrod, Herschel Weingrod, Timothy Harris and Jonathan Reynolds

Suppose E.T. had not been a sweet-tempered little brown guy. Suppose, instead, he had been a sweet-tempered woman built like a movie star -- Kim Basinger, say. On the face and figure of it, there is something to be said for this switcheroo. All right, she seems to be on a battery-acid diet and needs instructions on matters as diverse as earthling sexual practices and the historical significance of Jimmy Durante. Nobody's perfect. But Celeste is a willing learner, and Dr. Steve Mills (Dan Aykroyd), the widower, father and scientist on whose signal into outer space she beamed down, is an eager, bedazzled teacher.

There is one miscalculation -- a libidinous brother, heavily played by Jon Lovitz -- but it is ultimately redeemed by the four dab hands who wrote this comedy. Richard Benjamin has directed a pleasant holiday surprise. The fable is sweet without being cloying, light without being too airy, suspenseful and sexy without being so much so that a parent has to distract himself with a lot of guidance. R.S.


Directed and Written by Robert Towne

Dale McKussic (Mel Gibson) is your basic existential hero of the California '80s: humanist hunk, thoughtful father, loyal friend, gentle lover and, oh, yes, a cocaine dealer. Now he wants to retire -- no pension, thank you, but no penance either. No police heat courtesy of an old-buddy cop (Kurt Russell). And no mortal wounds from rival coke kingpins or Mexican comandantes (Raul Julia). Just a cozy table for two with a hard-to-get restaurateur (Michelle Pfeiffer) who chirps skepticism like a tequila mockingbird.

  1. 1
  2. 2
  3. 3
  4. 4