James Wolcott


New Age Cyrano

While Roxanne is steeped in friendliness, Summer Heat is full of humid clichés; Personal Services is too pleased with itself, but The Big Easy has a hang-loose, big-spender quality.

Extreme Imitation

Extreme Prejudice trips over its bloody missteps; Heaven climbs a staircase to the stars; Prick Up Your Ears delivers crisp witticisms and cruisy pickups; Ishtar completely lacks l’amour.

Trailer Trash

Everyone in Raising Arizona has a libido for the ugly, and the guys in Tin Men can’t see past their hood ornaments; Hollywood Shuffle loses its hip mind; Street Smart has a crazed, electric menace.

Tuned Out

Radio Days is a nostalgic doodle; Black Widow needs fewer poses and more cheap lust; Dead of Winter is spookhouse-scary—but schlocky; The Good Wife is soapy yet strangely affecting.

Epic Embroidery

The action in Platoon is brilliantly sustained, but The Mission falls with a stately thud; The Bedroom Window aspires to be as spellbound as an Alfred Hitchcock, but The Defense of the Realm is the engrossing thriller.

The Three Sisters

Crimes of the Heart is a warm spill of sunshine, but Betty Blues is a mindless lump of misery and ¡Three Amigos! isn’t friendly at all.

Scratch Shot

The Color of Money veers off into technique; Police goes flaccid; Menage succumbs to mystification; Round Midnight reduces jazz to a dirge; Something Wild has a lurid kick.

Ball of Glitter

Technologically, Captain EO is a marvel, but the plot is banal to the point of retrograde; Touch and Go has drive and laughs; True Stories has no stories; The Men’s Club is a stag party with pretensions; Shanghai Surprise is a passable waste of time.

Getting Even Gets Old

Revenge has seldom been so incendiary, but Heartburn fails to ignite; Blue Velvet is for the brave; Club Paradise is for the jolly.

Dagwood As D.A.

Legal Eagles is guilty of being humdrum and hokey; Mona Lisa has some fine, gracing touches; Vagabond finds purity within the dirtiest packaging.

High and Dry

Top Gun is just a high-tech skeet shoot; Alan Alda shows a wet blanket over the fun in Sweet Liberty; Desert Bloom has a bittersweet significance; The Manhattan Project needs an attitude adjustment.

Slow-motion Dilemma

Violets Are Blue is swimming in heavy conflict; Wise Guys is mostly slob humor, Absolute Beginners is an absolute mess; At Close Range is a violent ambush.

Pokey Romance

A Room With a View takes in edifying sights; Gung Ho settles for schmaltz; Just Between Friends makes glib chat.

Upper West Side Story

Hannah and Her Sisters is Woody gone schmaltzy; F/X is implausible but entertaining; 9 1/2 Weeks is an eternity; Power is oppressively didactic.

Dizzy Spin

Down and out in Beverly Hills is Mazursky magic; Clan of the Cave Bear is Sheena of the Stone Age; Trouble in Mind is—never mind.