‘Blue Sky” is one of those films that begs to be taken seriously.
Its director, the late Tony Richardson, was a major force in British film during the 1960s, winning an Oscar in 1963 for “Tom Jones.”
Its two major stars, Jessica Lange and Tommy Lee Jones, have garnered three Oscars among them (one of those, Lange’s Best Actress award, for this very film).
And its subject - the emotional distress of a woman caught in a world that stifles her natural buoyance - is well worth study.
But there’s a problem here. “Blue Sky,” which was held from release for nearly three years because of Orion Pictures’ bankruptcy proceedings, doesn’t live up to its pretensions. It is, essentially, only half a movie.
The time period is early ‘60s. Lange plays Carly Marshall, Jones is her husband Hank and they are the typical mismatched couple: He is a U.S. Army officer and nuclear engineer; she is a Marilyn Monroe wannabe.
They do have something in common, though. He continually flirts with insubordination because he refuses to mindlessly approve nuclear research that is inherently harmful. She continually flirts with other men, going too far with the ones who she fools herself into thinking will protect her when Hank isn’t around.
For Hank is her knight in tarnished armor. In much the same way that enabler Andy Garcia takes care of alcoholic Meg Ryan in “When a Man Loves a Woman,” Hank protects Carly. And, clearly, it isn’t always for her own good.
Lange is terrific, and so is Jones. Both, as is the nature of their talents, make much of what they’re given.
But when the film needs to find a resolution to the pain and grief that it has documented, it fails. Instead, we’re given a trip to fantasyland that only postpones the search for health that these people - parents and children - will one day, finally, be forced to face. (Rated PG-13, C-plus)
It would be easy to dismiss this Robert Redford film as just another vanity project by a fading movie starturned-auteur. But that would be a mistake. For in adapting Washington attorney Richard Goodwin’s memoir of the 1950s television quiz-show scandal, Redford tackles some weighty issues, not the least of which is the “Faust”-like deal that patrician Charles Van Doren made to achieve success on the popular show “Twenty-One.” Redford benefits from an intelligent script by Paul Attanasio, from fine performances by such actors as Ralph Fiennes, Rob Morrow, John Turturro and Paul Scofield and from his own innate talent for storytelling. (Rated PG-13, A-minus.)
His penchant for the bizarre aside, Tim Burton has little in common with the notoriously bad film director, Edward D. Wood Jr. For one thing, he’s light-years more talented - which, considering how truly atrocious Wood’s films are (remember “Plan 9 From Outer Space”?), is not saying very much. So why Burton would obsess on such a loser is anyone’s guess; certainly the film never comes up with a satisfactory reason. In fact, with Johnny Depp mugging his performance, the character of Wood himself remains a cipher. Only the film’s perfectly appropriate blackand-white helps. And the humor, of course, which is provided mostly by Bill Murray and by Martin Landau, who plays the late horror star Bela Lugosi with a sense of sympathy that fully warranted his Best Supporting Actor Oscar. (Rated R, C-plus.)
‘I Like It Like That’
This romantic comedy-drama features an East Coast tone that is distinctly fast-forward. Taken from the streets of NYC, it tells the story of a Puerto Rican-American family’s struggle to find love and happiness in the face of big-city pressures - poverty, family intolerance and drugs. All the serious sides are addressed, and the protagonist - effectively played by Lauren Velez - makes a solid statement about the ignored rights of women. The only problem is that writer-director Darnell Martin, in an attempt to capture the real New York, has his actors yell their lines throughout. Bring an aspirin tablet or two. (Rated R, C-plus.)
xxxx What’s new to view Available this weekend - “Blue Sky” (Orion), “Quiz Show” (Hollywood), “Ed Wood” (Touchstone), “Double Dragon” (MCA/Universal), “The Spy Within” (New Horizons), “I Like It Like That” (Columbia TriStar). Available on Tuesday - “Terminal Velocity” (Hollywood), “The Puppet Masters” (Hollywood), “Radioland Murders” (MCA/Universal), “Hoop Dreams” (New Line). Available on Thursday - “Forrest Gump” (Paramount).