So, in plenty of time for the March 25th Academy Awards broadcast, for which it owns 10 nominations, “Braveheart” - Mel Gibson’s historical treatise on violence as a means of winning “freedom” - becomes available for home video use.
Ten nominations. Wow.
Then again, if you’ll recall, “Airport” was nominated for 10 Oscars way back in 1970.
And as “Airport” star Burt Lancaster said at the time, “I don’t know why it was nominated. It’s the biggest piece of junk ever made.”
Well, “Braveheart,” which is now available for rental (see capsule review below), certainly isn’t a piece of junk. But whether it’s worth 10 nominations is purely a matter of opinion (again, see capsule review below).
By the way, the record for most Oscars won by a single film is 11, won by “Ben-Hur” in 1959. The most nominations went to to “All About Eve,” which earned a whopping 14 in 1950 (it ended up winning but six).
Mel Gibson directs and stars in this biographical look at William Wallace, the 14th-century Scottish rebel who led his ragtag forces against the English army. Although nearly three hours long, the film moves well, and Gibson’s use of the Scottish landscape is admirable. It’s violent as only medieval combat could be, though, and Gibson’s transformation from peace-seeking farmer to rebel leader is a tad abrupt. Rated R
This adaptation of Richard Price’s novel, which director Spike Lee co-wrote with Price, doesn’t really say anything new about drugs and the big city. It merely follows a 19-year-old drug-dealer (in street parlance, a “clocker”) as he tries to negotiate the mean streets of New York, pleasing his boss, keeping his troops in line and avoiding the glare of a police detective’s spotlight. All things begin to fall apart when his brother turns himself in for a killing that the teen himself was supposed to pull. There are a few loose ends, situations presented without enough background and a few too many Lee “touches” (slo-mo, grainy film stock, Lee making a cameo appearance, etc.), but the setting feels authentic, and the acting by Mekhi Phifer as the teen, Harvey Keitel as the cop and Delroy Lindo as the drug overlord is uniformly superb. This isn’t Lee’s best, but it’s still pretty good. Rated R
Sylvester Stallone, his mugging ratio minimized, portrays a hitman for hire who finds himself in competition with a loony Latin for the same “contracts.” Less absurd than the self-consciously arty “The Specialist” and more thrilling than the semi-serious action efforts “Demolition Man” and “Judge Dredd,” “Assassins” benefits from the skill of “Lethal Weapon” director Richard Donner. It may be Stallone’s best film in years, even if Antonio Banderas seems to have stepped directly from the set of “Desperado.” Rated R
Muriel Heslop (Toni Collette) comes from Porpoise Spit, Australia. And just as that name reflects the crass nature of her hometown, it captures the spiritless nature of Muriel herself as the film begins. Desperate for her own life to begin, she tricks her mum into giving her the money that she parlays into a new existence with her new best friend Rhonda (Rachel Griffiths) and, ultimately, the wedding of her dreams. Ultimately, she gains the sense of self-determination that she needs to emerge sadder, but wiser, into the first stages of maturity. And she does it to the beat of ABBA. Rated R
The Baby-Sitters Club
The books on which this Melanie Mayron-directed movie is based are popular among the pre-teen set, but it’s difficult to figure out at whom Mayron’s movie is directed. It’s too juvenile for adults, too mature in spots for the young set and too silly and disjointed for any age group in between. The acting is barely adequate, which is especially true for protagonist Schuyler Fisk (the daughter of Oscar winner Sissy Spacek). But the real problem is Mayron, the former “thirtysomething” actress, who can’t seem to sustain a cinematic narrative beyond 90-second soundbites. Rated PG
Never Talk to Strangers
In what feels like something that should have gone straight to video, Antonio Banderas is largely wasted as a mystery presence in the life of lonely head-shrinker Rebecca DeMornay. Is he her lover or the mad stalker who sent her dead flowers? Or is he something else completely? It hardly matters. DeMornay, a limited actress under the best of circumstances, is believable only when she shows her evil side. And since that happens only for a short time here, and since she is the ostensible star, the majority of the movie features her either screaming, purring or staring bug-eyed at shadows. As for the surprise ending, well, the “surprise” is obvious halfway through. Rated R
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