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Volume 1, Number 16

The General's Daughter

(Dir: Simon West, Starring John Travolta, Madeleine Stowe, James Woods, James Cromwell, Timothy Hutton, Clarence Williams III, Rick Dial, Boyd Kestner, and Leslie Stefanson)



Simon West, well well well. I think that one of the things that most mark my criticism is my hatred for directors under the Jerry Bruckheimer pay roll. Whether Michael Bay (The Rock, Armageddon) or Simon West (Con Air), I'm in a constant battle against these action directors that know nothing better than loud explosions and bad acting. The only exception would be Tony Scott, who under Bruckheimer and his late co-producer Don Simpson, made the terrific Crimson Tide and the enjoyable Enemy of the State. Now Simon West is at it again. Normally I would be cringing a little more at his name, but at least this time it is not Bruckheimer producing.

West gives the most by the book direction of the year of one of the most enjoyable scripts of the year. The General's Daughter is set around the murder and could be rape of the title character (Stefanson). It seems that this seemingly well rounded girl has some skeletons in her closet (actually much more than skeletons when we do delve into her closet). Things wouldn't be as bad for Army investigators Paul Brenner and Sara Sunghill (Travolta and Stowe) if it was not for the fact that if all her secrets were to get out immediately, it would tarnish the future political career of her father General "Fighting Joe" Campbell (Cromwell). The film goes through many suspects before settling down on about 5 for the most part red herrings.

The script is exquisitely done polished up by sarcastic scribe William Goldman. His dialogue in scenes involving Travolta and Woods are terrific and make the film run fluidly. Another plus to the film is its use of music, supervised by Coen brothers favorite Carter Burwell (Fargo, Gods and Monsters). The big problem with the film is that West just cannot direct. The scenes of drama are too edgy and the scenes of action are way too edgy. Another problem with the film is that it does not seem to know exactly where it is going. I thought that there would be a nice last act telling all, no there are 3 last acts, all of which seem to be just as lost as the previous one. In a weird way I'd almost like to give The General's Daughter a recommendation, but the fact of the matter is that the script cannot save the film from its own mistakes.


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(Dir: Chris Buck and Kevin Lima, Voices include Tony Goldwyn, Minnie Driver, Rosie O'Donnell, Glenn Close, Lance Henrikson, Wayne Knight, Nigel Hawthorne, Brian Blessed, Alex D. Linz, and Joe Whyte)



The simple way to take on Tarzan is that children will love it, adults merely might. Tarzan seemed to me to be just a chance for Disney to wink back at a few of its previous films (Beauty and the Beast and The Lion King for the most part) not to give us another terrific piece of storytelling like Beauty and the Beast or a whole lot of fun like Toy Story.

This is actually the first time the Edgar Rice Burrows story has been animated, which is shocking considering that according to the Boston Globe's Jay Carr this is the 48th time its been brought to the screen. This filming has a little more of a period spent with Tarzan (Goldwyn) being raised by a recently childless gorilla (Close). We learn how domineering the gorilla tribe's male (Henrikson) is to the rest. There enters a young gorilla that grows up with Tarzan (O'Donnel) that is his best friend, along with a young elephant (Knight). After disgracing his family many times, Tarzan is finally disowned when he brings a group of Europeans to the gorilla nest: Jane (Driver), a girl he saves and falls in love with, Porter (Hawthorne), her professor father, and Clayton (Blessed), a poacher highly interested in this nest and its inhabitants.

I did find Tarzan's animation to be slightly mesmerizing at times,a suprise considering its feeble looking trailer. I also enjoyed the music by Phil Collins. It was not his best, but it did fit the film in the same way Elton John did with The Lion King. The problem with Tarzan is that it is straight forward for younger children, lacking a real try at complex storytelling to keep from confusing. That was one of the great things about Beauty and the Beast and Toy Story: that they gave children what they wanted while delivering enough for the parents. I find Tarzan to be marginally enjoyable but a far cry from Disney's Mulan last summer.


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Blatant Opinion: Last Wednesday, the American Film Institute released their voted list of the top 25 actors and the top 25 actresses meeting certain standards (must have been in first film before 1950 or dead, historically important, and from their own list of 250 in each category). Well the list was just as enjoyable and maddening as their list of the 100 greatest American films last year. Names like David Niven and Claude Rains were pushed to the side for Robert Mitchum and Sidney Poitier, while Olivia DeHavilland and Joan Fontaine were replaced by Marilyn Monroe and Ava Gardner. Sure everyone on the two lists is a respectable performer, but only the top four guys could compare to Sir Alec Guinness (or the great character actor Claude Rains, for that matter). The fact of the matter is that if I sat here and just complained about who was left out, then it would take forever, so look for that in this section next week. What I will set forth now is what I predicted just before the show and what suprised me. First of all, here is the final listing:

25. Ava Gardner
24. Mary Pickford
23. Carole Lombard
22. Jean Harlow
21. Sophia Loren
20. Lauren Bacall
19. Rita Hayworth
18. Shirley Temple
17. Lillian Gish
16. Vivien Leigh
15. Mae West
14. Ginger Rogers
13. Grace Kelly
12. Claudette Colbert
11. Barbara Stanwyck
10. Joan Crawford
9. Marlene Dietrich
8. Judy Garland
7. Elizabeth Taylor
6. Marilyn Monroe
5. Greta Garbo
4. Ingrid Bergman
3. Audrey Hepburn
2. Bette Davis
1. Katherine Hepburn
25. William Holden
24. Edward G. Robinson
23. Robert Mitchum
22. Sidney Poitier
21. Buster Keaton
20. Marx Brothers
19. Burt Lancaster
18. James Dean
17. Kirk Douglas
16. Orson Welles
15. Gene Kelly
14. Sir Laurence Olivier
13. John Wayne
12. Gregory Peck
11. Gary Cooper
10. Charles Chaplin
9. Spencer Tracy
8. James Cagney
7. Clark Gable
6. Henry Fonda
5. Fred Astaire
4. Marlon Brando
3. James Stewart
2. Cary Grant
1. Humphrey Bogart

And my predictions in alphabetical order:

Lauren Bacall (20)
Ingrid Bergman (4)
Claudette Colbert (12)
Joan Crawford (10)
Bette Davis (2)
Olivia DeHavilland (--)
Marlene Dietrich (9)
Joan Fontaine (--)
Greta Garbo (5)
Judy Garland (8)
Rita Hayworth (19)
Audrey Hepburn (3)
Katherine Hepburn (1)
Grace Kelly (13)
Vivien Leigh (16)
Carole Lombard (23)
Sophia Loren (21)
Marilyn Monroe (6)
Ginger Rogers (14)
Barbara Stanwyck (11)
Elizabeth Taylor (7)
Shirley Temple (18)
Lana Turner (--)
Mae West (15)
Natalie Wood (--)
Fred Astaire (5)
Humphrey Bogart (1)
Marlon Brando (4)
Richard Burton (--)
James Cagney (8)
Charles Chaplin (10)
Montgomery Clift (--)
Gary Cooper (11)
James Dean (18)
Henry Fonda (6)
Clark Gable (7)
Cary Grant (2)
Buster Keaton (21)
Gene Kelly (15)
Robert Mitchum (23)
Sir Laurence Olivier (14)
Gregory Peck (12)
Sidney Poitier (22)
Edward G. Robinson (24)
Peter Sellers (--)
Frank Sinatra (--)
James Stewart (3)
Spencer Tracy (9)
John Wayne (13)
Orson Welles (16)

Even though my predictions did not even expect it to happen, the line of character actors were completely left out. Claude Rains and John Barrymore had to make way for the leading men, the stars, the legends. I know that the show was called as to point to legends, but I think of Barrymore well before Kirk Douglas in legendary actors in my own mind.

In the women, they actually left out their precious legends. I do believe that Lana Turner is quite a legend, well more than Lillian Gish (an inclusion I did like) or Mary Pickford.

The fact of the matter is that there is no list that I would love, except for maybe the one I shall release next week.

Reviews by:
David Perry