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Notable movies for the week of July 6, 1990

Notable movies for the week of July 6, 1990 — Short reviews on recently released titles

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Notable movies for the week of July 6, 1990

Another 48 HRS. (R)
A real comedown from 48 HRS., Walter Hill’s overblown sequel is like a Rambo flick set in San Francisco. The laughs are mostly buried in Dolby-ized mayhem — apocalyptic gunfire, heavy explosions, and enough random images of stuntmenenrashing through plate-glass windows to stock a dozen thrillers. Eddie Murphy skulks through the picture like a pasha who has been ordered to perform for his slaves. He still has his laser-accurate timing, but megasuperstardom appears to have coarsened Murphy’s soul. It has taken away his lightness, his devilish charm. C-

Back to the Future Part III (PG)
Director Robert Zemeckis and executive producer Steven Spielberg must have been exhausted by all that hurtling back and forth along the space-time continuum Michael J. Fox did in Back to the Future Part II. In Part III, they simply plop down Marty McFly (Fox) and Doc Brown (Christopher Lloyd) in the Old West and leave them there. This last entry in the series is also the first dud. It plays like one of those campy Western episodes from ’60s sitcoms, and the time-travel logic seems shakier than ever. D+

Bird on a Wire (PG-13)
Even in an era of paint-by-numbers moviemaking, director John Badham has brought off some sort of feat. He has made a film that’s 100 percent generic — it should have been called ROMANTIC ACTION COMEDY. Mel Gibson plays a former ’60s radical who runs into ex-flame Goldie Hawn while on the lam from some government stooges. The movie is nothing but machine-tooled wisecracks and endless car chases. It pummels you with formula, until there’s nothing left to do but give in. D

Cadillac Man (R)
Robin Williams plays Joey O’Brien, a lecherous used-car salesman, and Tim Robbins is the machine-gun-toting prole who takes everyone in the showroom hostage in an attempt to find out who has been fooling around with his wife. The movie begins as a human comedy about Joey’s economic desperation and then turns into a canned farce — a comic gloss on Dog Day Afternoon. Williams doesn’t really get a chance to cut loose, but he’s charming anyway, and Robbins makes a beguiling crazy. B-

The Cook, The Thief, His Wife & Her Lover (Unrated)
British filmmaker Peter Greenaway is an exuberantly sick sadofetishist who directs like an avant-garde butcher. His latest misanthropic outrage is set almost entirely inside a plush, red velvet restaurant, where a ranting gangster-gourmand (Michael Gambon) discovers his wife’s adultery and exacts a hideously cruel revenge. The movie is just an exploitation fantasy done with bodily fluids instead of guns. C-

Dick Tracy (PG)
More than Batman or Superman, Warren Beatty’s bid to ace the summer-movie sweepstakes has been fashioned as a live-action comic strip — a lavishly eye-popping Day-Glo gangster movie. Beatty and his team of collaborators have heightened the vibrantly tawdry urban night world of Chester Gould’s classic comic strip: It’s as if a ’30s crime-wave melodrama had been colorized by Andy Warhol. As an exercise in American pop surrealism, Dick Tracy succeeds brilliantly, yet it also feels thin and dissociated. Beatty plays the hard-boiled Tracy as a charming, polite nothing, a Clark Kent with no Superman inside him. Overall, the picture could have used a little less color and a little more flesh and blood. B-

Gremlins 2 (PG-13)
Like its predecessor, The New Batch is a demonically surreal Muppet movie that leaps from high point to high point, from sick jokes featuring gremlins fed through paper shredders to gleeful anthropomorphic satire. This time, the movie’s cartoon darts are aimed at a Donald Trump-like uber-honcho (John Glover) whose Clamp Centre office building provides the setting for nonstop gremlin hijinks. The beastie-boy monsters are a trifle more individualized this time: One even talks. Although the movie is nothing but the sum of its whirring pop-culture mechanics, it’s enough to keep you occupied, and occasionally exhilarated. B

Longtime Companion (R)
Produced by American Playhouse, this courageous and deeply affecting drama about the AIDS crisis is a lively ensemble movie — at once funny and tragic — that focuses on the hip, upscale fringes of New York gay life. While the film lacks the three-dimensionality of a major Hollywood production, one is carried along by the pungent writing, and by the fact that AIDS is treated here with such frankness and intelligence. B+

Pretty Woman (R
There isn’t much chemistry between Julia Roberts as a Hollywood hooker and Richard Gere as the corporate raider who hires her for a week. Garry Marshall’s plastic screwball soap opera is an upscale Cinderella fantasy with a feminist veneer. The movie pretends to be about how love transcends money, but it’s really obsessed with status symbols. D

Q&A (R)
Sidney Lumet’s new police movie is about a criminal justice system so saturated with cronyism and rancor that it’s beginning to strangle itself. Nick Nolte gives a performance of venomous brilliance as Mike Brennan, a NYPD rogue at the heart of a homicide cover-up. Q&A has its flaws, but it’s a superbly complex vision of urban racism and corruption. A-

Total Recall (R)
Director Paul Verhoeven, who made the brilliant RoboCop, has come up with a head film for action freaks. Set in 2084, it stars Arnold Schwarzenegger (at his deadpan best) as a happily married construction worker who learns that his entire existence has been prefabricated. He journeys to Mars to reclaim his old identity and get even with the people who hijacked it. Total Recall starts out as mind-bending futuristic satire and then turns relentless — it becomes a violent, postpunk version of an Indiana Jones cliff-hanger. On that level, however, it achieves total pumpitude. The special makeup effects are by Rob Bottin, who proves himself a mad genius of the perverse. B+

Without You I’m Nothing (R)
Sandra Bernhard has refashioned her Off-Broadway show into a kind of one-woman Star Search, a catalog of her mock-celebrity obsessions. The movie isn’t even trying to be very funny, but as an example of American showbiz narcissism gone psychotic, it’s quite a spectacle. It might have been easier to take if she didn’t seem obsessed with using black people as symbols. D