MERMAIDS (1990)

 Directed By: Richard Benjamin 
Written By: June Roberts
Based on the book by: Patty Dann
Cinematography: Howard Atherton 
Editor: Jacqueline Cambas 

Cast: Cher, Bob Hoskins, Winona Ryder, Christina Ricci, Michael Schoeffling, Caroline McWilliams, Jan Miner 

An unconventional single mother relocates with her two daughters to a small Massachusetts town in 1963, where a number of events and relationships both challenge and strengthen their familial bonds.


Cher is the Star of the film even though the film is more centered around Winona Ryder’s character and is at heart a coming-of-age film. Her character ark is a kind of sneak attack where all of a sudden the supporting performance is actually the main one. By the end, we realize she is the film’s heart and soul. 

Here the main spectacle was supposed to be Cher as after all she is the star of the film and is center stage in all the advertisements but while she is healthy in the film she comes on strong at the beginning then becomes more of a supporting background performer. The nemesis to a certain degree of the protagonist is her daughter played by Winona Ryder.

This is a film that is dependent on each element. As only Cher had the star power and the cool to be the spectacle. She ends up doing good character work, but also she is the only person at the time who could play a fabulous independent female character. who is strong and knows what she wants and is not ostracized for it. Where it fits her personality to a t. It also allows for her to shine as a character and show more shades and a bit of vulnerability.

If anything I applaud this movie for its cast. Young Christina Ricci’s debut film and Bob Hoskins as Cher’s love interest and father figure to her daughters. A shoe salesman who is an artist at heart and open-minded, who tries to domesticate the family but not forcefully. He is understanding and a nice guy. Not to mention Michael Schoeffling is older, but kind of playing an older version of the same type of character he played in SIXTEEN CANDLES more of a mystery but genuinely a nice guy

Though Winona Ryder at large walks away with the whole film. Playing a teenage neurotic girl who also is the narrator and makes this almost a woody Allen Esque adventure in pursuing a crush. Only while the film seems that way it is about more than that. As she is driven by teenage angst and catholic religious obsession. Not to mention the changing and challenging times of the 1960s

Directed by Richard Benjamin who was a replacement for original director Lasse Hallstrom. and then Frank Oz. Before he finally came along. Whereas you could see Hallstrom’s version in your thoughts. Richard Benjamin’s direction is sensitive and strong.  Even more impressive that he was more of a last-minute replacement. One of his best-directed pictures. While some others came close this was truly his most heartwarming and dramatic that hit all the buttons. His best next to this movie MY FAVORITE YEAR.

By the end, the film shows how when young something can be an obsession you think about day and night but also how once something new comes along it can easily be dropped and forgotten entirely. It’s a quality of youth but might also be an inherited quality. 

Though this film at times might seem more formulaic, one quality the film possesses. Is that it feels lived in. It’s comfortable and feels more natural. The habitat of the characters is refreshing and gives the scenes so much more strength and allows them to be subtle when they need to be. 

The film even has a memorable soundtrack. Including the theme song which is a remake but sung by the star Cher. 

I will admit this is more of an underrated film that I have enjoyed ever since it came out. 

Grade: B

CELEBRITY (1998)

Written & Directed by: Woody Allen 
Cinematography: Sven Nykvist
Editor: Susan E. Morse 

Cast: Kenneth Branagh, Winona Ryder, Famke Janssen, Leonardo DiCaprio, Gretchen Mol, Greg Mottola, Charlize Theron, Judy Davis, Douglas McGrath, Joe Mantegna, Andre Gregory, Sam Rockwell, Adrian Grenier, Michael Lerner, Melanie Griffith, J.K. Simmons, Famke Janssen, Becky Ann Baker, Issac Mizrahi, Anthony Mason, Kate Burton, Debra Messing, David Marguiles, Tony Sirico, Bebe Neuwirth, Patti D’Arbanville, Ingrid Rogers, Jeffrey Wright, Hank Azaria, Karen Duffy, Aida Turturro, Allison Janney, Donna Hanover, Celia Weston, Wood Harris, Donald Trump 

Lee Simon, unsuccessful journalist and wanna-be novelist, tries to get his foot in the door with celebrities. After divorcing his wife Robin, Lee gets to meet a lot folks of the rich and/or beautiful, partly through journalism, and partly because he has a script to offer. But life amongst those from out-of-this-world is hard, and his putative success always results in defeat. Meanwhile, Robin meets a very desirable television producer and takes the first steps in the world of celebrities.


This seems to be more of a moralistic take more than a character piece. filming in black and white the film does come off looking beautiful and Classic but just like the characters, it’s empty.

This isn’t a typical woody Allen film. This feels more aggressive and verbose than usual a bit more hardcore. Where you can’t tell if he is angry or trying to fit in with the cinematic trends and language of the time. As this film and DECONSTRUCTING HARRY have that in common. 

While we have the typical Woody Allen type surrogate lead character played here by Kenneth Branagh. Here he feels disposable and never quite makes a mark. As he is just one of the many unlikeable characters throughout the film.

The characters are all physically beautiful but seem to be grotesque internally. As it seems only the lead character seems to know better. As he constantly cheats on his wife as his profile seems to rise, but as he slowly gets his comeuppance his suffering wife seems to become famous herself and finds love and good fortunes. 

The film seems more like a commentary on modern life at that time. The nature of celebrity web tabloids. A kind of acid commentary on it all. While feeling like a tabloid itself how it jumps around from character to character and tale to tale. Though it also feels like with this film though not surreal Allen seems to try to emulate Fredrico Fellini’s LA DOLCE VITA to a degree. While it tries to feel like that movie it never quite rises to that level. 

Using the nature of having a lot of big names in his cast. They are here for a reason. While this little is a commentary the film seems scattershot and ultimately lost because it never seems to come to a point. Just cruelty  As the Lead and the movie goes on many misadventures on his way to trying to achieve being a great writer and screenwriter. He finds the romantic entanglements prove to be as artificial as the proper and the world he is trying to enter. Even if all are around him are supposed to be artists and of such depth and passion. Showing all to be more in the moment and inauthentic with a love of self More than anything. 

Falling in love with the image in which others see them and list after them. Loving their own image More than anything else. 

The most noteworthy thing about this movie is that it has Leonardo DiCaprio in it. Mirroring his TITANIC fame of popularity but this was filmed before that film’s release. So it seems like life imitating art. Though some of the films revolve around him, he isn’t actually in it much. 

While not a classic the film is admirable in it’s own ways. It is beautifully shot and tries to say something overall it just has a funny way of showing it. 

Grade: C

WELCOME HOME, ROXY CARMICHAEL (1990)

Directed By: Jim Abrahms

Written By: Karen Leigh Hopkins Cinematography: Paul Elliott

Editor: Bruce Green

Cast: Winona Ryder, Jeff Daniels, Laila Robins, Frances Fisher, Dinah Manoff, Thomas Wilson Brown, Graham Beckel, Stephen Tobolowsky, Robin Thomas, Beth Grant, Heidi Swedberg, Carla Gugino, Ava Fabian

 Although Roxy left town more than fifteen years ago, her memory has never faded. Her expected return starts to impact a number of lives, including that of her former partner Denton Webb. But it is Dinky, the adopted daughter of the Bossettis and ignored by most of her classmates as a strange loner, who may be most changed. She is convinced she is Roxie’s secret child.


I saw this movie in a sneak preview when I was around 12 years old. I was very excited to watch it. As at the time I was still nursing a heavy cinematic crush on Winona Ryder after the 1, 2 punch of HEATHERS and BEETLEJUICE. She was my type of lady.

Unfortunately at the time while I thought the movie was ok on the end i found it disappointing, so disappointing I avoided it over the years and considered it a minor failure. She came back later that year with the far better (to me at least) MERMAIDS. starring with Cher and a young Christina Ricci. 

I decided to watch this film once again recently and while it’s still not a favorite. It is more understandable to me now more so then when I was younger. I seemed to miss quite a few things.

Like the lesbian relationship between two characters. That watching it now seems brave for that kind of material at the time. It also explains why the character of Dinah Manoff is so obsessed with Roxy Carmichael’s return. At first thought it was a rivalry and jealousy thing. Now realize it went much deeper than that.

While it follows a similar tread of Jeff Daniels character. His is more understandable as they had a relationship and Carmichael’s relationship with Manoff’s character seems more like a friendship that had a fling. Though both are felt deep and fell hard by this woman and hurt by her leaving. 

At least Daniels character seems to try to get over her by getting married and having children but can’t seem to let her go. So her return makes him kind of obsessed and slowly eats at his wife. Who knows she can never be number one in his heart. 

The film’s clear star is Winona Ryder as even as an ensemble she is in the middle of it all and the film is built around her upcoming stardom

The movie breaks down more into a small town ensemble film. Where we meet many characters and see how their intermix and mingle in this town. As the big event is the return of hometown hero Roxy Carmichael. 

The feelings and situations this creates that ultimately by the end comes to a head but also ends up almost much ado about nothing.

While Ryder’s character is one of many she makes the impression the most as she is an outsider in this town and looking to escape. As she Is adopted she latches onto the legend that Roxy Carmichael has a daughter she gave up for adoption. That she must be her as she is so different from everyone in the town. Even as a boy in town is falling for her but is embarrassed by his attraction because of what his friends might think. Add to it her adoptive parents where only the father seems to get along and care about her. Also the only friend the girl seems to have is a teacher who tries to defend her against bullying. Whereas other teachers turn a blind eye.

Another aspect I never realized was that all of Roxy Carmichael’s songs are sung by Singer/Songwriter Melissa Ethridge who was a rising singer-songwriter at the time and whose music i didn’t notice or become a big fan of until she did the soundtrack for the Movie WHERE THE DAY TAKES YOU. 

Directed By Jim Abrahms who usually directs spoofs and occasionally directs dramas. He gives the film heart and a few laughable scenes.

This film feels more like a novel brought to life. That is entertaining enough even if it Never feels quite like it comes alive. Not does there seem to be a point to it all. Just a slice of life. That tries to be filling but comes off sweeter than anything.

Grade: C+

BLACK SWAN (2010)

blackswan

Directed By: Darren Aaronfsky
Written By: Mark Heyman, Andres Heinz, John J. McLaughlin
Based On A Story By: Andres Heinz
Cinematography By: Matthew Libatique
Editor: Andrew Weisblum

CAST: Natalie Portman, Barbara Hershey, Mila Kunis, Vincent Cassell, Winona Ryder

Nina is a ballerina in a New York City ballet company whose life, like all those in her profession, is completely consumed with dance. She lives with her obsessive former ballerina mother Erica  who exerts a suffocating control over her. When artistic director Thomas Leroy decides to replace prima ballerina Beth MacIntyre for the opening production of their new season, Swan Lake, Nina is his first choice. But Nina has competition: a new dancer, Lily, who impresses Leroy as well. Swan Lake requires a dancer who can play both the White Swan with innocence and grace, and the Black Swan, who represents guile and sensuality. Nina fits the White Swan role perfectly but Lily is the personification of the Black Swan. As the two young dancers expand their rivalry into a twisted friendship, Nina begins to get more in touch with her dark side – a recklessness that threatens to destroy her.

Continue reading “BLACK SWAN (2010)”

FRANKENWEENIE (2012)

FRANKENWEENIE

Original Idea & Directed By: Tim Burton
Written By: John August
Based On The Original Screenplay By: Leonard Ripps
Cinematography By: Peter Sorg
Editor: Mark Solomon & Chris Lebenzon
Music By: Danny Elfman 

Cast: (Voices) Charlie Tahan, Atticus Shaffer, Martin Short, Catherin O’Hara, Winona Ryder, Martin Landau, Conchetta Ferrell, Tom Kenny

When young Victor’s pet dog Sparky (who stars in Victor’s home-made monster movies) is hit by a car, Victor decides to bring him back to life the only way he knows how. But when the bolt-necked “monster” wreaks havoc and terror in the hearts of Victor’s neighbors, he has to convince them (and his parents) that despite his appearance, Sparky’s still the good loyal friend he’s always been.

Continue reading “FRANKENWEENIE (2012)”

THE INFORMERS (2008)

informers3

Directed By: Gregor Jordan
Written By: Bret Easton Ellis & Nicholas Jarecki
Based on the Novel By: Bret Easton Ellis
Cinematography: Petra Korner
Editor: Robert Brakey 

Cast: Jon Foster, Billy Bob Thornton, Kim Basinger, Amber Heard, Winona Ryder, Lou Taylor Pucci, Chris Issak, Mickey Rourke, Brad Renfro, Rhys Ifans, Angela Sarafyn, Katy Mixon, Theo Rossi, Jessica Stroup 

One week in L.A. in 1983, featuring movie executives, rock stars, a vampire and other morally challenged characters in adventures laced with sex, drugs and violence.

Continue reading “THE INFORMERS (2008)”

THE ICEMAN (2012)

iceman

Directed By: Ariel Vromen
Written By: Morgan Land & Ariel Vromen
Based on the book: “The Iceman: The True Story of a Cold-Blooded Killer” by Anthony Bruno and the documentary “The Iceman Tapes: Conversations with a Killer” By James Thebaut Cinematography By: Bobby Bukowski
Editor: Danny Rafic 


 Cast: Michael Shannon, Ray Liotta, Chris Evans, Winona Ryder, David Schwimmer, James Franco, Stephen Dorff, Robert Davi, John Ventimiglia

In the 1960s, Richard Kuklinski is working as a porn film lab tech until his mob bosses persuade him to change his career into that of a contract killer. For years, Kuklinski gains a reputation for cold blooded professionalism even as he raises a family who are kept in the dark about his true career. Unfortunately, mob politics ultimately forces him to secretly work independently with the psychopathic Robert ‘Mr. Freezy’ Pronge. As much as Kuklinski tries to keep his lives separate, circumstances and his own weaknesses threaten a terrible collision as the consequences of his choices finally catch up to him.

Continue reading “THE ICEMAN (2012)”