Two Flat Films

As hard as I struggle against the demons of preconceived notion, I must
confess to having expected both the best and the worst this weekend, with
the local arrivals of ASSASSINS and TO DIE FOR.  The pre-release buzz was
polarized:  previewers flunked the former, while critics lavished the
latter.  Imagine my surprise, when ASSASSINS proved watchable and TO DIE
FOR a bit of a bore. 

To paraphrase somebody else, ASSASSINS doesn't suck.  The cold, often
humorless story of two rival "contract artists" may not be very exciting,
but at least you can watch it.  Director Richard Donner (LETHAL WEAPON)
seems to be aiming for more than pointless pyrotechnics and he might've
hit his mark with a thinner, less-contrived story.  (These characters do
the *dumbest* things.  Such as the absurd one-door-and-one-door-only
finale.)  Time passes, though, thanks to the playful chemistry between
Stallone and Banderas.  They're a pair.  The cat-loving, fur-hating,
surveillance-expert love-interest is played by Julianne Moore, who *must*
have something on somebody to be miraculously spared a love scene with the
Italian Stallion.  

Grade: C+

TO DIE FOR is also flat.  Curiously flat, given the praise its raised in
recent days.  There's satire to spare in director Gus Van Sant's
pitch-black comedy about tabloid fame, thanks to a wicked script from
GRADUATE scribe Buck Henry, from the novel by Joyce Maynard, from the
real-life incident.  Nicole Kidman does her second star turn of the year
and it's a sizzler.  (Think Alicia Silverstone meets Linda Fiorentino.)
She's backed by a superb supporting cast that includes Matt Dillon,
Joaquin Phoenix, and an unbilled George Segal, who, these days, looks
remarkably like Richard Crenna.  Have we seen these guys in the same room
together?  TO DIE FOR is played in faux-documentary fashion, with most of
the characters speaking into the camera.  And that's the joke.  

Grade: B

Copyright 1995 by Michael J. Legeros 

Originally posted to triangle.movies

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