Rating: The Good – 75.8 Genre: Romantic Comedy Duration: 113 mins Director: Mike Nichols Stars: Melanie Griffith, Harrison Ford, Sigourney Weaver
Of its time but in the best ways possible, Mike Nichols’ Working Girl is a superior rom-com starring Melanie Griffith as an ambitious secretary who, on discovering that her ruthless boss (a delightfully obnoxious Sigourney Weaver) has stolen her idea for a lucrative merger, assumes the role of an executive to close the deal herself. Along the way, she inevitably falls for the man helping her to put it together (Harrison Ford in top comedic form) while evading any and all situations that might disclose her real identity to him and everyone else. Working Girl achieves that priceless balance between the drama and romance by laying out a well developed plot and seamlessly weaving it with the various romantic angles. Nichols compensates for Griffith’s acting limitations by setting a comedic tone just wacky enough to forgive her flat delivery but not so much that it detracts from the relative sophistication of the story. Ford greatly assists him in this endeavour as he demonstrates, yet again, his impeccable timing and instincts for light comedy while Weaver proves equally critical with a brave and perfectly judged turn that she uses, like Ford, to coax the best out of Griffith. Nichols composes the entire thing with polish and remains master rather than victim to the business and fashion cultures from which so much of the humour is derived but the jewel in the movie’s crown is undoubtedly Kevin Wade’s witty screenplay that Ford in particular has a ball with. All that plus an electric Alec Baldwin as Griffith’s old squeeze, and some glorious cameos from Oliver Platt and Kevin Spacey ensure that Working Girl sits right at the top of that era’s genre offerings.
Rating: The Good – 77.3 Genre: Crime, Comedy Duration: 97 mins Director: George Armitage Stars: Fred Ward, Alec Baldwin, Jennifer Jason Leigh
“Now, I want you to sew my eyebrow back on.” George Armitage’s deeply quirky crime comedy stars Alec Baldwin as Junior, a recently released convict, whose behaviour and personality borders between the enigmatic and the downright eccentric. Landing in Miami, he steals a suitcase full of clothes, kills a Hare Krishna, hooks up with a call girl (player by Jennifer Jason Leigh) to whom he is trying to hock the stolen clothes, and sets out on a campaign of mugging and armed robbery. However, it’s not long before a local homicide detective (the always excellent Fred Ward) picks up his trail and the two enter into a compelling and completely unpredictable game of cat and mouse with each other.
It’s not easy to pigeon-hole Miami Blues into one particular genre or another and that’s exactly what’s so damn refreshing about it. There’s some drama, there’s lots of crime, and there’s lots and lots of dark quirky comedy. Plot is almost entirely replaced by characterisation but it’s seriously intense characterisation. Junior’s bizarre personality seems to steer him unerringly from one insane encounter to another and Armitage and his co-writer Charles Williford make no judgements either way. Nor do the actors. The relationship which Junior strikes up with Leigh’s call girl is wonderfully realised and she sparkles in the role. Ward is utterly outstanding as the bewildered and highly sympathetic good guy and is as important to the film’s progression as Baldwin. That said, Baldwin is a force of nature in his role as he unleashes all his skewed and electric charisma. It’s a completely unique portrayal of a sociopath that has rarely been equalled in its charm and, indeed, its empathy for the character being played (as the final 20 minutes attest to best). It’s also a genuinely hilarious portrayal and his Tony Montana imitation alone will leave you howling with laughter.
Miami Blues is a gutsy triumph of outside-the-box writing, extremely sensible direction, and thunderously inspired acting. It has to be seen to be believed or even understood but, once seen, you may find yourself going back for more.
Rating: The Good – 78.4 Genre: Fantasy Duration: 92 mins Director: Tim Burton Stars: Michael Keaton, Alec Baldwin, Geena Davis
Tim Burton’s imaginative and authentically quirky tale of a young married couple (Alec Baldwin and Geena Davis) who after dying in a car crash become trapped for an eternity as ghosts in their own home. When a somewhat unwholesome family (led by the always excellent Catherine O’Hara) move into the dead couple’s house, the two ghosts hire a professional exterminator of the living called Beetlejuice (Michael Keaton) to get rid of them. Burton’s magical eye helped create one of the most distinctive looking films of the 1980′s and as a work of pure fantasy, it is arguably his most well-rounded work. Initially, the movie depicts two very incompatible worlds (mirroring the confusion of the young couple): the near-incomprehensible world of the afterlife set against the more familiar and comfortably framed world of the living. The real feat of genius, however, lies in how he subtly transforms the latter into the former as the film progresses only to rapidly invert that process at the end. If Burton is making magic happen behind the camera well then he is matched every inch of the way by what Keaton is doing in front of it. Keaton is simple astounding as the “ghost with the most” as his timing, delivery, and improvisation collide to form a whirlwind of comedy-horror and one of cinema’s most memorable characters. “You’re working with a professional here!”. You better believe it!
Rating: The Good – 76.8 Genre: Action, Thriller Duration: 134 mins Director: John McTiernan Stars: Sean Connery, Alec Baldwin, Scott Glenn
John McTiernan was the undisputed daddy of action directors in the late 80′s to early 90′s and The Hunt for Red October shows exactly why. Set in 1984, the original adaptation of Tom Clancy’s “Jack Ryan” novels has Alec Baldwin playing the CIA field analyst who gets wind of a new type of Soviet submarine (the “Red October”) and heads off to Washington to report his suspicions. Meanwhile, on the other side of the Iron Curtain a distinguished Soviet submarine commander Ramius (Sean Connery) ignores the orders of his superiors and takes the new submarine straight for US waters. Ryan is charged with determining if Ramius is intending to attack or defect before the US navy is forced to blow him out of the water. McTiernan doesn’t hang around and before you know it Ryan is being helicoptered onto an aircraft carrier in the middle of the stormy Atlantic and so begins a nail-biting adventure that traverses every corner of that ocean and involves some of the very best naval battles you could wish to see (kudos to legendary action cinematographer Jan DeBont). The tension is handled perfectly by McTiernan and the 134 minutes never lag nor get confusing even though the action is relentlessly switching between three different submarines, an aircraft carrier, a battle cruiser, sonar planes, helicopters, Moscow, and Washington. The impressive cast is uniformly superb and in addition to the excellent turns from the two leads, Scott Glenn, Sam Neil, and James Earl Jones do particularly well in supporting roles. However, the real star is McTiernan, who strikes the perfect balance between writing and action and in sequence after sequence uses the claustrophobic atmosphere to create a permeating tension. Just check out that cat-and-mouse scene wherein Bart Mancuso’s (Scott Glenn) US Dallas silently stalks the Red October as Ramius explains to his first officer (Neil) his perspective on the modern world. Timeless.