Notable movies for the week of June 1, 1990 -- Short reviews on recently released titles

A Show of Force

Notable movies for the week of June 1, 1990

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

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 really just an exploitation fantasy done with bodily fluids instead of guns. C-

The Guardian (R)
Director William Friedkin (The Exorcist) returns to the horror genre with an inordinately earnest gothic chiller about an evil nanny (Jenny Seagrove) and a baby-eating tree. It’s a competent, run-of-the-mill fright flick — not terrible, but not anything to get excited (or nauseous) about, either. These days, serving up horror without comedy seems a bit of a folly. B-

The Hunt for Red October (PG)
With the plot of Tom Clancy’s Cold War best-seller at its core, John McTiernan’s submarine thriller glides from climax to climax. Sean Connery, Alec Baldwin, and Richard Jordan head an outstanding cast. 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 unblinking 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 an epic portrait of an urban-bureaucratic nightmare — it’s 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 treacherous NYPD rogue at the heart of a homicide cover-up. The movie has its flaws, but it’s a superbly complex vision of urban racism and corruption — Lumet’s darkest, most labyrinthine drama yet. A-

Strapless (R)
David Hare’s stiff, heavy-handed drama features Blair Brown as a repressed physician living in England who is swept off her feet by a seemingly kind and worldly Continental gentleman with a sinister interior. The movie plays like a Pretty Woman for Mensa alumni — it’s pitched too high for human ears. C-

Tales From the Darkside: The Movie (R) Despite some imaginative gross-outs and a slew of creative casting turns, this slow, clunky horror-compilation film feels more like a TV show than a movie. It’s not very scary, and there isn’t much contrast among the episodes: They’re about a killer mummy, a killer cat, a killer gremlin, and a killer housewife. So much for subtlety, suggestion, atmosphere. The performers include William Hickey, David Johansen (who proves a terrific straight actor), Deborah Harry, and James Remar. C-

Wild Orchid (R)
Packaged by the same writer-producer team that did 9 1/2 Weeks, this ludicrous soft-core fantasia wants to be a kind of Last Samba in Rio, but it’s really just a racy perfume commercial posing as a movie. Mickey Rourke gives another soft, impassive performance as a monosyllabic stud. He and newcomer Carre Otis don’t actually bed down until the final scene, rendering Wild Orchid the longest film ever made about foreplay. D-

Without You I’m Nothing (R)
Sandra Bernhard has refashioned her much-heralded 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 show- biz narcissism gone psychotic, it’s quite a spectacle. It might have been easier to take if Bernhard didn’t seem obsessed with using black people as symbols. D

A Show of Force
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