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1987 Movie Reviews

The Untouchables

A wonderful movie if 1) accuracy or truth are not considered and, 2) one can overlook the rather blatant subtext. The analogy between the utterly evil Capone's bootleggers and the more recent cocaine kings is too obvious to remain unremarked. So why has it? The swarthy Mafia of Chicago look remarkably like the Columbians on "Miami Vice," and seem to exist simply to be brutal. Capone could only flourish in an incredibly corrupt city- which it was - and in an incredibly hypocritical time - like ours. If the new Untouchables isn't a propaganda film it's the next thing to it.

That said, any movie with Sean Connery is worth seeing. This most under-rated actor provides the only multi-dimensional characterization in the entire movie. Everyone else is a type.

Some very weird - and again unremarked by an over-awed press - scenes. A cavalry charge against multiple machine guns in which not one horse is hit. Shotguns are used with the accuracy of rifles. Most odd is the rather pointless distortion of fact. Elliot Ness's men were not ultimately responsible for bringing down Capone: it was - bummer! - The Internal Revenue Service. And Frank Nitti was not killed by Ness but lived many years after, dying by suicide perhaps bolstered by venereal disease.Something else. While Capone was vermin, there is another story that does not get the coverage it deserves. Capone did cynically manipulate the press, but his deeds sometimes point up the serious ethical deficiencies of the Anglo establishment he fought against. For example, it was Al Capone who forced the Illinois dairy industry to sell-date its containers. Ghetto children often found the just purchased bottle of milk had gone bad when they got home, and investigation showed dairies were taking their unsold bottles from the rich neighborhoods and putting them in the poor. At Capone's suggestion, milk was only allowed to stay on the shelves for three days - and then dumped. A modest proposal by today's standards. Too bad it took a gangster to implement it. And enforce it.

The Witches of Eastwick

Oh, go see it. You will anyway, no matter what anyone tells you. You'll see anything with Jack Nicholson in it. Just as Sean Connery is our most under-rated actor, Nicholson is easily the most over-rated. He plays, essentially, one character, no matter how it is written. Be it pianist, biker, writer, cowboy, hit man, or Ole Scratch Himself, Nicholson immediately turns his role into a smarmy, cynical, drugged, ethical insect who gets to throw at least one histrionic fit each movie. Such is the case here. In the matter of the insect, the movie gives proof.There are other implausibilities in this movie, but these are my favorites: we are asked to believe Cher is attractive, when any caring friend would make sure a room she is to inhabit had not recently been sprayed with Black Flag. Susan Sarrandan looks like something unentombed. Michelle Pfeiffer still cannot act. What possible power could a witch have over the Devil? That sort of pulls of the rug out from under the whole, tenuous conceit. Eh. Go see it.

Full Metal Jacket

Nurturing my imp of the perverse, I hope to be able to die without 1) ever sitting in a hot tub, 2) ever joining a support group, and 3) ever seeing Platoon. The last avoidance is due to the oppressive sense of civic duty with which the press has covered that film, and its inevitable Oscar. A nation so lame in the imagination that it requires a movie to inform them war is messy and dangerous deserves to fight them endlessly and to lose most. The hypocrisy that led the public to simply dismiss Vietnam from mind for years is the same quality that empowers it to most recently indulge in an orgy of The Truth About 'Nam.That said, Stanley Kubrick's Full Metal Jacket may be one of the best movies in years. It is actually two movies: one about Marine boot camp at Paris Island and one about the Tet Offensive. The first 'movie' is about how normal people can become psychotic killers under a given set of circumstances, like induction into the Marines. The allegory to Charles Whitman, a murderer to whom the film refers, is made a tad too obvious, but the acting is of a quality that can modestly be called inspired. Not a false move, not a missed nuance. Brilliant.The second movie, or half of the movie, reverts to the combat types endemic to the screen since Wings. Only this time, a lot of them get killed. In its realism, the movie is probably superb, although as a coward who avoids violence, I cannot truly judge. But the anti-war slant (slant, hell, it's a hammer...) runs aground on the question the public never really asks: what did those kids think war would be? From being exclusively crazy killers, Vietnam Vets are now portrayed as victims, and neither stereotype is entirely true.It speaks to the power of this movie that these questions are at least hinted at, which covers its obligation as social commentary. As art, Full Metal Jacket is Stanley Kubrick's best film to date, which places it among the best movies ever made. See it alone. Think about it.