For those of you who wondered what other movie critics around the nation listed as their top 10 (and sometimes more) lists for 1997, I give you the following:
Janet Maslin/New York Times: “Titanic,” “L.A. Confidential,” “The Apostle,” “Deconstructing Harry,” “The Pillow Book,” “The Sweet Hereafter,” “In the Company of Men,” “Boogie Nights,” “Ponette,” “Ulee’s Gold,” “Face/Off,” “La Promesse,” “Donnie Brasco,” “The Full Monty.”
(Various reviewers)/Associated Press: “Amistad,” “Boogie Nights,” “Eve’s Bayou,” “The Full Monty,” “Grosse Point Blank,” “The Ice Storm,” “L.A. Confidential,” “Ma Vie en Rose,” “Men in Black,” “The Sweet Hereafter.”
William Arnold and Paul Nechak/ Seattle Post-Intelligencer: “Donnie Brasco,” “Jerusalem,” “Breakdown,” “The Full Monty,” “Ulee’s Gold,” “L.A. Confidential,” “Comrades: A Love Story,” “The Wings of the Dove,” “Titanic,” “The Sweet Hereafter.”
Bob Strauss/Los Angeles Daily News: “Boogie Nights,” “As Good As It Gets,” “Oscar and Lucinda,” “Deconstructing Harry,” “The Ice Storm,” “Sunday,” “Face/Off,” “L.A. Confidential,” “Amistad,” “Wag the Dog.”
Kevin Thomas/Los Angeles Times: “L.A. Confidential,” “The River,” “Hamsun,” “The Sweet Hereafter,” “Underground,” “La Promesse,” “Capitaine Conan,” “Up/Down/Fragile,” “Waco: The Rules of Engagement,” “Bang,” “Family Name.”
Jack Mathews/Newsday: “L.A. Confidential,” “Deconstructing Harry,” “The Ice Storm,” “Boogie Nights,” “Breakdown,” “Ma Vie en Rose,” “Fast, Cheap & Out of Control,” “Mrs. Brown,” “Welcome to Sarajevo,” “Titanic.”
Eleanor Ringel/Atlanta Journal-Constitution: “As Good As It Gets,” “Donnie Brasco,” “Eve’s Bayou,” “Fairy Tale: A True Story,” “In the Company of Men,” “L.A.
Confidential,” “Men in Black,” “Shall we Dance?” “Ulee’s Gold,” “The Wings of the Dove.”
Some of the above are already out on video (“Face/Off,” “Men in Black,” “Grosse Point Blank,” “Breakdown”). Some are scheduled (“The Pillow Book” later this month, “Shall We Dance?” in March, “The Full Monty” in April”).
The others should be out sometime before summer. Look here to see the exact dates.
The week’s major releases:
Dream With the Fishes
When a lonely voyeur is stopped from committing suicide by a man afflicted with a fatal condition, the scene is set for just the kind of offbeat relationship movie that first-time director Finn Taylor intended. Displaying all the roughness that comes with low-budget productions - chancy cinematography, uneven pacing, the occasional plot hole - “Dream With the Fishes” is redeemed by the concern it has for its characters. In addition to David Arquette (“Scream”), who has become a star on the cult circuit, look for newcomer Brad Hunt. He has emerging star written all over him. Rated R
Laurence Fishburne portrays Ellsworth “Bumpy” Johnson, a Harlem gangster who aligns with the devil (Andy Garcia playing Lucky Luciano) to fend off the takeover efforts of Dutch Schultz (Tim Roth). Directed by Bill Duke, the film’s main flaw is its attempt to copy the atmosphere and capture the grandeur of “The Godfather.” Because when that proves impossible, all we’re left with is a thin script, 30 minutes of wasted running time and mannered performances by the likes of Garcia, Cicely Tyson and Vanessa L. Williams. Still, Fishburne makes an imposing main character, and Roth eats up the screen as the sociopathic Schultz. Rated R
When the Cat’s Away
This disappointing little French film concerns what happens when a young Parisian woman takes off for a week’s vacation and the elderly woman looking after her cat ends up losing it. The film becomes a tour of the neighborhood, which is located in a crumbling Paris neighborhood that is being renovated. Renovation, of course, means that all the poor, bohemian and elderly residents are being evicted. The best parts of the film are the way in which it draws us into Parisian life and its portrayal of the residents of all ethnicities and ages. The problem is that the movie presents all of this with no underlying context. And the self-absorbed protagonist is curiously unsympathetic, to the point where she seems unappreciative of the efforts of those attempting to help her. The final feel-good ending, then, feels tacked-on and utterly phony. Not rated
Fire Down Below
Steven Seagal may be the only Environmental Protection Agency investigator in history who wears expensive leather coats while hiking through the woods. But that’s hardly the most ridiculous aspect to this addition to the Seagal oeuvre. The premise is similar to Seagal’s last epic - bad men are despoiling the pristine quality of mother nature - and the evil entity this time is Kris Kristofferson, who is dumping toxic wastes in the Kentucky backwoods. Seagal, who is as stiff an actor as ever, breaks a few noses, snaps a few elbow joints and even picks a guitar (?!), before triumphing over his enemies and picking up a pretty girl (this is Kentucky, remember) in the process. “Fire Down Below” is enough to make you root for the tobacco lobby. Rated R
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