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THE SECRET OF MY SUCCESS: Michael J. Fox takes...

By
CATHY BURKE, United Press International

THE SECRET OF MY SUCCESS: Michael J. Fox takes his popular television character on the hit series 'Family Ties' and brings him to the silver screen in this Yuppie movie. As he is sassy, smart and sweet on TV, so is he here as the boy from Kansas sneaking his way to the top of the corporate world in New York while making love to the boss's wife, played by Margaret Whitton, and mistress, played by Helen Slater. Whitton nearly steals the movie as the kind of raunchy Mrs. Robinson-like character not seen or heard from since 'The Graduate.' Otherwise, this is strictly a Fox-fan picture.

GARDENS OF STONE: The last time Francis Coppola did a movieabout Vietnam was 1979, when the eerie epic 'Apocalypse Now' presented the filmmaker's own lurid vision of the horror of America's involvement in that tragic war. With 'Gardens of Stone,' he again takes on Vietnam, but this time his tone is funereal, solemn and steeped in the emotion of his hero, played by James Caan. There's almost no mystery to how this war story will turn out. But for want of a timeless message on the horrors of war, Coppola does indeed tell a compelling story of one man's battle on the homefront. Caan gives a stunning performance after a five-year absence from the movie screen.

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TIN MEN: Filmmaker Barry Levinson uses the 1963 Baltimore eatery with which he launched his career with 'Diner' to provide a bitersweet and often hilarious portrait of a gaggle of 'tin men,' middle-aged aluminum siding salesmen who nickel-and-dime their way to pseudo-success. The leading bozos are Richard Dreyfuss and Danny DeVito, who slug through a comic battle looking like two punch-drunk pugs in the last round of a 15-round bout. These two and their gang are really just grown-up boys, as rootless as Levinson's young men in 'Diner.' But the grownups have learned to live their lives and leave the truth-seeking to television. Levinson has an unerring eye for the trappings of the period, and like 'Diner,' the supporting characters add a realism that is often forgotten in the 'big movie' mentality of the 80s.

RAISING ARIZONA: Brothers Joel and Ethan Coen wrote, produced and directed 'Raising Arizona,' and the collaboration is so high-spirited and zany you forget that what it is at heart is a straight-forward case of falling in love. Hi, played by Nicolas Cage, and Edwina, his wife and a former jail guard, played by Holly Hunter, decide they want a baby, can't have one, then plot to steal one of five toddlers born to a furniture baron and his fertility pill-taking wife. This baby is like a hot potato from the moment he's wrapped in Hi and Edwina's loving arms, resulting in a non-stop chase movie filled with so much good humor it's like an all-expense paid trip to another planet.

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BLIND DATE: Walter (Bruce Willis) is the kind of guy who's always a mess, who means well and who tries hard to conform to the button-down rules of an image-conscious world. Nadia (Kim Basinger) is the kind of woman who works hard to keep bottled inside the more truthful, albeit wilder, side -- and of course, the bottle is her undoing. The result of their 'Blind Date' is mixed. There are pratfalls aplenty and enough animal antics to elicit a few giggles, but Willis and Basinger never quite bring the necessary spark to the roles and the film disappears as fast as a bag of popcorn.

EXTREME PREJUDICE: Director Walter Hill might as well be Sam Peckinpah in this all-too-familiar modern cowboy saga filled with violence and exaggerated symbolism. Westerns have fallen out of box-office and big-studio favor in recent years, and it's too bad Hill couldn't have made a cowboy movie without the gratuitous attempt to lure the high-tech Rambo crowd. Though not perfect, 'Extreme Prejudice' provides a steely Nick Nolte as the white hat hero and for those who pine for the days when Westerns were king, the film is worth seeing.

MALONE: Harley Cokliss directs Burt Reynolds in 'Malone,' the story of an ex-CIA man and ex-cop in deep trouble with a sinister right-wing, Hitleresque group controlled by a filthy rich developer, played by Cliff Robertson. Cokliss must never have seen Reynolds act before, because he forgets Reynolds has more skill at comedy than drama. A little wisecracking might have done this movie a world of good. But instead of 'good ole boy' banter we get grim faces and stilted dialogue.

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SWIMMING TO CAMBODIA: Jonathan Demme directed a film of Spalding Gray's stage performance at the Performing Garage in Manhattan in November 1986. Although the film is strictly Gray's monolgue of his life as an actor and how he was cast in the role of an America diplomat in 'The Killing Fields,' it is both drama at its most entertaining -- and an enlightening peronal lesson in the history of America's involvement in Cambodia during the Vietnam era. Splices of clips from 'The Killing Fields,' lighting and music by Laurie Anderson turn 'Swimming To Cambodia' into an uplifting drama -- even on the silver screen.

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