James Wolcott

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Articles by James Wolcott

New Age Cyrano

Jun 30, 1987 By James Wolcott

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

May 31, 1987 By James Wolcott

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

Apr 30, 1987 By James Wolcott

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

Apr 1, 1987 By James Wolcott

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

Mar 1, 1987 By James Wolcott

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.

Scratch Shot

Dec 1, 1986 By James Wolcott

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

Nov 1, 1986 By James Wolcott

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.

Dagwood As D.A.

Jul 31, 1986 By James Wolcott

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

Jun 30, 1986 By James Wolcott

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

May 31, 1986 By James Wolcott

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

Apr 30, 1986 By James Wolcott

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

Dizzy Spin

Mar 1, 1986 By James Wolcott

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.

Me Redford, You Streep

Feb 1, 1986 By James Wolcott

Out of Africa is lavishly done up but emotionally dehumidified; Young Sherlock Holmes is more Hardy Boys than Conan Doyle; Revolution is nothing but a megabucks disaster.

Queen of the Rodeo

Dec 1, 1985 By James Wolcott

In Sweet Dreams, Jessica Lange is a dynamo of female gumption; Hail Mary makes the Immaculate Conception an inconsequential miracle; Joshua Then and Now is entertainingly busy and uncouth; Twice in a Lifetime is twice too often.

Waxy Buildup

Sep 30, 1985 By James Wolcott

Plenty isn’t enough; Year of the Dragon is a yellow-devil hysteria; uncompromised casting makes Compromising Positions click; Volunteers imposes eighties cynicism on sixties idealism.

Restless Itch

Aug 31, 1985 By James Wolcott

Songwriter is like a great party; Kiss of the Spider Woman doesn’t connect; Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome runs out of gas; Key Exchange is too cute; Disney’s Black Cauldron isn’t for kids.

All in the Family

Jul 31, 1985 By James Wolcott

Prizzi’s Honor is a macabre satire of the two-career marriage; Cocoon can’t burst free of its nice-guy limitations; Pale Rider recycles all the wrong western riffs; St. Elmo’s Fire should have been doused from the start.

Boffo Brits

Jun 30, 1985 By James Wolcott

The Shooting Party hits the bull’s-eye; Rambo: First Blood Part II makes Viet Nam the Club Med of mass death; A View to a Kill should have considered suicide.

Fish Story

Apr 30, 1985 By James Wolcott

Alamo Bay gets in over its head; Lost in America finds itself through comedy; The Slugger's Wife strikes out.

Liquid Shimmer

Mar 1, 1985 By James Wolcott

In The Purple Rose of Cairo, Woody Allen takes a cold look at movie-fed dreams; the late, great Sam Peckinpah gave us an impassioned view of a violent world.

Star Dreck

Jan 1, 1985 By James Wolcott

2010: a space travesty; Dune gets mired in pomp and slime; A Soldier’s Story is a murder mystery with soul; even Streep and De Niro can’t save Falling in Love; The Brother from Another Planet is woozily morose.

Half of Me

Sep 30, 1984 By James Wolcott

Steve Martin’s new comedy All of Me is half-baked; The Gods Must Be Crazy is an amiable tall tale with giraffes; Tanya Roberts is sexy-heroic as Sheena, queen of the pulp jungle drama; Last Night at the Alamo is a rowdy last stand.

Prince of Wails

Aug 31, 1984 By James Wolcott

Prince’s Purple Rain is short on plot and dialogue but long on fancy anguish; The Bostonians is a namby-pamby treatment of Henry James’ biting novel.

Getting Slimed

Jul 31, 1984 By James Wolcott

Ghostbusters is funny but flawed; Streets of Fire is not the place to spend a care-free afternoon; plus three films from abroad.

Cheetah! Fetch Tarzan New Script

Apr 30, 1984 By James Wolcott

In Greystoke, neither Tarzan nor the audience gets to have any fun; Moscow on the Hudson takes a wonderful comedy and runs; Racing With the Moon is nostalgic and sure, but the plot comes undone.

Bait and Switch

Apr 1, 1984 By James Wolcott

Against All Odds promises love, delivers yawns. Entre Nous repels rather than attracts. Footloose and Reckless aren’t. This is Spinal Tap is painless.

Mermaid Love

Mar 1, 1984 By James Wolcott

Ron Howard’s Splash is a refreshing frolic; Broadway Danny Rose gives us the old soft shoe; And the Ship Sails On is out to sea; Reuben, Reuben is a dark but funny double-decker.

Terminal Endearment

Dec 1, 1983 By James Wolcott

Terms of Endearment features a Houston setting but also drab cinematography and cramped direction. The sickening Star 80 goes too far; the impressionistic Rumble Fish reaches too high.

Cool Minds in a Hot War

Nov 1, 1983 By James Wolcott

Nick Nolte is a journalist dodging bullets and political involvement in Under Fire. The Right Stuff is about Americans, space, and manifest destiny. The Big Chill is a warm look at the cooling of sixties idealism.

Daniel’s Lot

Sep 30, 1983 By James Wolcott

In Daniel the hero has to bear the burn of his parents’ treason, while the audience must endure a lot of misery. The Moon in the Gutter is a film in search of eclipse. Education Rita is an enjoyable elective.

History’s Nebbish

Aug 31, 1983 By James Wolcott

The tale of schlemiels schlemiel, Zelig is as funny, endearing, and slight as Woody Allen himself. Staying Alive is suicidal. The quick Grey Fox jumps nimbly the pitfalls of making a western.

Slower Than a Speeding Bullet

Jul 31, 1983 By James Wolcott

The third time is not always the charm. In Superman III our hero finds himself in a blue funk, and his melancholia is the liveliest part of the show. The Survivors doesn’t make it. Escape your little gray cells and enjoy The Man With Two Brains. Trading Places exchanges wit and finesse for boorishness and bigotry.

Wookiees on Parade

Jun 30, 1983 By James Wolcott

Return of the Jedi is a star shower of new creatures and old favorites that leaves you wowed but underwhelmed. Breathless is suffocating. WarGanes starts out with a bang and ends with a whimper. Flashdance has a certain twinkle.

Double Jeopardy

Apr 30, 1983 By James Wolcott

What’s Exposed is the worlds of fashion and terrorism and the curves of Nastassia Kinski. Blue Thunder is nothing but noise; Tender Mercies, on the other hand, is practically a silent.

The Nerd Who Would Be King

Mar 1, 1983 By James Wolcott

Martin Scorcese’s The King of Comedy is about the stock-in-trade of comedians, but who’s the laughingstock? You’ll be smitten with Lovesick. The Year of Living Dangerously teeters precariously between metaphysics and lust.

Nolo Contendere

Jan 1, 1983 By James Wolcott

Paul Newman stars as an existential ambulance chaser in The Verdict, a dismal study of law and disorder. Best Friends will alienate you; Heartaches will make you feel good. 48 Hrs. is dirty talk and deja vu.

Truth and Woolworth’s

Dec 1, 1982 By James Wolcott

Life is false fronts and fantasies to the women who flock to a dusty Texas town in Robert Altman’s Com Back to the 5 & Dime Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean. The Missionary won’t convert you. Still of the Night is still, all right.