Wolfgang Peterson’s star-studded thriller proves yet another mainstream success for 1990’s cinema as Dustin Hoffman’s USAMRID Colonel attempts to stay ahead of a lethal virus which is laying waste to a small California town. With former wife and CDC big-wig (Rene Russo) in tow alongside his own team (an Oscar-laden Kevin Spacey and Cuba Gooding Jr.), they go about town disobeying orders from their shadowy superiors, breaking quarantine, and any number of other drastic measures in the hope of manufacturing an antibody before Donald Sutherland’s nasty General destroys the whole town – simply to keep the virus for his own biological weapons programme! It’s a sweeping popcorn movie expertly crafted to draw every bit of tension out of an old plot and infused with all manner of personality, chemistry, and light humour by that glittering cast. Hoffman, in particular, seems to be enjoying himself no end while Russo shows yet again that she can not only hold her own next to any A-Lister in the business but enhance both of their performances with that endearing rapport she seems to so easily generate. Sutherland is the straight bad guy but Morgan Freeman gets his teeth into an altogether more textured role as the General who discovers that duty and honour make for poor bedfellows. Throw in a couple of cracking helicopter chases and a last minute dash to stop the town’s imminent destruction and you’ve got a decent night in front of the box.
Rating: The Good – 78.3 Genre: Comedy Duration: 116 mins Director: Sydney Pollack Stars: Dustin Hoffman, Jessica Lange, Teri Garr, Bill Murray
Producer: “I’d like to make her a little more attractive. How far can you pull back?”, Cameraman: “How do you feel about Cleveland?”. Great comedy fare that hasn’t aged a day in terms of its humor. Dustin Hoffman stars as an out of work actor who in desperation for a job dresses up as a middle-aged woman and auditions for a part on a day-time soap, General Hospital. Hoffman is excellent as both the struggling actor and disguised woman and he’s surrounded by top pros such as Jessica Lange, Geena Davis, Charles Durning, and of course Bill Murray (in a rare minor role). Sydney Pollack proves a dab hand at the comedy and his timing and framing of the funnier moments is spot on. It all builds up to a cracking ending which has lost none of its comic punch over the years. “That is one nutty hospital”.
The president is about to become embroiled in a scandal only a couple of weeks before the election. Enter Conrad Brean (Robert De Niro), a political spin doctor who together with a Hollywood producer (Dustin Hoffman), engineers a fake war to distract the public’s attention. Barry Levinson’s satirical comedy says some interesting things about how politicians and the media can change not only the opinions of the populace but their actual knowledge as well. However, the real strength of Wag the Dog is its witty and well-timed banter between Hoffman, De Niro, and a host of great actors in well placed cameos.
Rating: The Good – 79.3 Genre: Thriller Duration: 113 mins Director: Sam Peckinpah Stars: Dustin Hoffman, Susan George, Peter Vaughan
An American mathematician and his English wife find themselves targeted in different ways by some begrudging locals as they spend his sabbatical in the English countryside. Straw Dogs is as daring and ambiguous a film as you’re likely to see and while difficult to watch, it makes for some compelling viewing. Dustin Hoffman’s smouldering performance as the fish-out-water becomes a lesson in acting as he transforms slowly before our eyes from timid victim to something far more primal. Sam Peckinpah does as much behind the camera to make this the seminal exploration of manhood and its implications that it became. Suzanne George is perfect as the flirtatious and immature wife who embodies the confusion that lies at the heart of this film. As controversial as it is ferocious, Straw Dogs will live long in memory and command repeated viewings.
Perhaps the best of all the 70′s conspiracy thrillers, this slow burning drama follows the investigation of Washington Post reporters Woodward and Bernstein into the Watergate break in. The film captures all of the complexity of the story and can spin the head of even the most astute viewer. That said, the complexity actually serves to enhance the drama and ultimately the suspense as the two reporters find themselves targeted by the intimidating force they find it so difficult to put a face to. Alan J. Pakula’s direction is superb as he switches between long lens close-ups of the various notes and documents and wide shots of the offices and underground car parks. His use of deep focus and staging in these latter shots is truly extraordinary, a technique he uses on more than one occasion to set the historical as well as circumstantial context to the reporters’ investigations. In setting the tense atmosphere, Pakula is helped ably by David Shire’s subtle and foreboding score and it remains amongst the most recognisable scores from that period. There are some major heavy hitters duking it out on the acting front. Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman are brilliant as Woodward and Bernstein respectively and have great chemistry together. Jason Robards is in his usual scene-stealing form as editor Ben Bradlee and Jack Warden, Martin Balsam, and Hal Holbrook (as Deep Throat) are excellent in support.
Rating: The Good – 78 Genre: Comedy, Drama Duration: 106 mins Director: Mike Nichols Stars: Dustin Hoffman, Anne Bancroft, Katharine Ross
Mike Nichols’ iconic film is one of those rare gems that perfectly blends humour with serious character study. Whereas most comedies corrupt reality to generate laughs, The Graduate embraces it and in doing so exposes its inherent contradictions and natural absurdities. Dustin Hoffman plays the title character Benjamin, who becomes trapped in a malaise after graduation and instead of moving forward as everyone expects, he begins to regress. Ann Bancroft plays the infamous Mrs. Robinson who, drawn to his youth, takes advantage of his confusion for her own selfish purposes. However, Benjamin’s life is suddenly snapped into perspective with the arrival of Robinson’s daughter (Katherine Ross) and as the two of them grow closer, Mrs. Robinson’s desperation turns malevolent. Hoffman is brilliant in the lead role but his performance is complemented wonderfully by Bancroft’s. Ross scores well also with her comparatively smaller role. Nichols’ film is a totally original comedy that is flushed with symbolism and technical innovation. Despite the genuinely funny moments, it’s a very dark film that mocks the eternal search to fill life’s empty voids. Mirroring the inertia of Benjamin, it moves forward at a hypnotic pace thanks largely to Simon and Garfunkle’s seminal soundtrack which more than anything else captures the irony of this timeless masterpiece.
Rating: The Good – 79.7 Genre: Thriller Duration: 125 mins Director: John Schlesenger Stars: Dustin Hoffman, Laurence Olivier, Roy Scheider
Atmospheric adaptation of William Goldman’s novel that sees grad student/marathoner Dustin Hoffman get involved in a conspiracy that involves his brother (played by Roy Scheider in outstanding form), diamond smuggling, and an ex-Nazi with a penchant for dentistry (Laurence Olivier). As with all the great 70′s thrillers, Marathon Man is defined by a heightened sense of paranoia thanks largely to Michael Small’s memorable score and the top class acting on show. Olivier and Hoffman got all the plaudits but one mustn’t overlook the contribution of Roy Scheider who carries the opening act on his shoulders. Rumour has it, there is a whole sequence of scenes missing where Scheider tears through Paris wreaking vengeance on those who attempted to kill him before returning to New York and that these scenes were removed because of their violence. Judging by how good he is in the cut version it would be a treat to see these scenes restored.