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 – 84.2 Genre: Horror, Science Fiction Duration: 96 mins Director: David Cronenberg Stars: Jeff Goldblum, Geena Davis, John Getz
Few directors demonstrated the innate ability to disturb like David Cronenberg did in his earlier films and in this more mainstream outing he didn’t hold back in the slightest (deleted cat-baboon scene notwithstanding). The result is a sci-fi horror masterpiece unlike anything before it or since. A remake of the 1958 original, this film also tells the story of a scientist who while testing a teleportation device gets spliced together with a fly resulting in a incremental transformation into a diabolical hybrid of the two species. Jeff Goldblum is phenomenal as the scientist Seth Brundle. He makes the character his own and brings a host of perfectly fitting idiosyncratic mannerisms to both Brundle’s human character and ultimately the Brundlefly character. He is well supported by Geena Davis as Veronica, the journalist documenting his project and inevitable love interest.
On the technical front, the creature effects are incredible but certainly not for the squeamish while Howard Shore’s score is tremendous and reminiscent of Herrmann at his most dramatic. The Fly is a peculiar film in many ways. It has a very small cast as most of the action takes place in Brundle’s lab. This augments the authenticity of Brundle’s and Veronica’s relationship, making the climax all the more poignant. On an implicit level, The Fly is perhaps better remembered for its more sinister undertones. The idea that technology is the manifestation of the over-boldness of genius lies at the heart of the film. Rarely has this message been expressed in colder more effective fashion than in Cronenberg’s masterful use of the Kuleshov effect where Brundle gets told the cold hard truth from his seemingly insidious computer. Take a bow Mr. Cronenberg.
Rating: The Good – 76.4 Genre: Comedy Duration: 89 mins Director: Howard Franklin and Bill Murray Stars: Bill Murray, Geena Davis, Randy Quaid
With films like Groundhog Day and Caddyshack on Bill Murray’s CV, it’s very easy to forget this little gem even if it isn’t too far behind the aforementioned in skill, craft, and outrageousness. Murray plays a bank robber who dresses up as a clown in order to pull off the perfect bank robbery and finally escape the hell that is his life in New York. Murray’s performance is straight out of the top drawer even for him as his instinctive timing and awareness makes every line unforgettable. He is helped by an awesome assortment of comedy greats some with important roles and some with perfectly placed cameos. Counted amongst the former are Geena Davis (as his girlfriend), Randy Quaid (as his buddy), and the legendary Jason Robards in a hysterical performance as the chief of police who takes charge of the manhunt. Counted amongst the latter are Phil Hartman, Stanley Tucci, Philip Bosco, Kurtwood Smith, and best of all Tony Shalhoub as the cab driver who keeps asking them where they are going. Quick Change is one of those perfect comedies where the great set pieces (e.g., Quaid jumping out of the cab) are complemented with a seemingly endless series of little flourishes such as Robards inexplicably holding his deputy’s hand or Murray mimicking the mobster “nobody does that to Mrs Russ Crane”, so many in fact that you’ll see something new every time you watch it. Murray not only co-wrote the screenplay for this minor masterpiece but also shared the directing duties with his co-writer Howard Franklin. “Oh, they’re *on* a blufftoney.”