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 Popular Seventies Movies - F-O

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FAREWELL, MY LOVELY
Mystery/Suspense, 1975, Great Britain, R, * * *
Robert Mitchum, Charlotte Rampling, John Ireland, Sylvia Miles. Directed by Dick Richards. 95 min.

videos bullet iconDirector Dick Richards tries to weave all the complex threads of Raymond Chandler's tauth, hard-boiled classic into this salute to film noir. Richards can't quite pull it off, but he does manage an intelligent, stylish evocation of Philip Marlowe's seedy Los Angeles milieu. Richards picked Robert Mitchum -- already a film noir icon -- to play Marlowe. Mitchum makes a good Marlowe, but Bogart and Dick Powell were both more effective as the tough, lonely, incorruptible private eye. Charlotte Rampling is sexy and dangerous as the female lead. An inferior sequel also starring Mitchum, The Big Sleep, followed in 1978. Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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FAT CITY
Drama, 1972, USA, * * *
Stacy Keach, Jeff Bridges, Susan Tyrrell, Candy Clark, Nicholas Colasanto. Directed by John Huston. 100 min.

videos bullet iconThis taught adaptation of Leonard Gardner's novel about a tanktown boxer (Keach) and his young protegé (Bridges) is Huston's best film in 20 years. Keach, Bridges and Tyrrell are all fine. Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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FIDDLER ON THE ROOF
Musical, 1971, USA, G, * * * 1/2
Topol, Norma Crane, Leonard Frey, Molly Picon, Michael Glaser. Directed by Norman Jewison. 180 min.

videos bullet iconAn unknown in this country when he was picked for the lead (a surprise to nearly everyone, who just assumed that Zero Mostel, the stage Tevye, would play him on screen as well), Israeli actor Topol brings extraordinary grace and physicality to the role of Tevye in Norman Jewison's stirring film version of the great Broadway musical about life in the tiny Russian-Jewish village of Anatevka. Although occasionally sappy and cute, it remains one of the few epic musicals that lives up to its grand scale. The songs, including such standards as "If I Were a Rich Man," "Sunrise, Sunset," "Do You Love Me?," and "Tradition," are milked for all they're worth. Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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FIVE EASY PIECES
Drama, 1970, USA, * * * *
Jack Nicholson, Karen Black, Lois Smith, Susan Anspach, Fannie Flagg, Sally (Ann) Struthers, Helena Kallianotes. Directed by Bob Rafelson. 98 min.

videos bullet iconFive Easy Pieces could easily have been just another antiestablishment "road picture." Bob Rafelson, however, turned the story of an oil-rigger who travels home to his dying father into a perceptive, picaresque adventure. After the seminal Easy Rider, Jack Nicholson consolidated his star status with this volatile, charismatic portrait of a working-class man from a highly cultured background. It's Nicholson's show, but the supporting cast is equally colorful: Karen Black as his pregnant girlfriend, Susan Anspach as a piano student with whom he becomes smitten, and Helena Kallianotes as a tough-talking hitchhiker. Rafelson has never duplicated the brilliance of his work here, which also includes highly innovative editing (by Christopher Holmes and Gerald Sheppard) and edgy, intense camara movements (by Lazslo Kovacs). A modern American "must see." Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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FM
Comedy, 1978, USA, PG, * 1/2
Michael Brandon, Eileen Brennan, Alex Karras, Cleavon Little, Martin Mull, Cassie Yates. Directed by John A. Alonzo. 110 min.

videos bullet iconThe perfunctory plot of this soundtrack album masquerading as a movie concerns a group of radio station deejays who rebel against their conservative corporate bosses and play the kind of music they know their radical fans want to hear: Jimmy Buffett, Bob Welch, Steve Miller, and Linda Ronstadt. This is revolutionary? No, but there's a lot of it, and although the cast of comedians is for the most part wasted, Ronstadt and Buffett do turn in decent concert appearances. Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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FOR PETE'S SAKE
Comedy, 1974, USA, PG, * 1/2
Barbra Streisand, Michael Sarrazin, Estelle Parsons, William Redfield, Molly Picon. Directed by Peter Yates. 90 min.

videos bullet iconStreisand is the whole show in this broad slapstick farce about a Brooklyn housewife who inadvertently becomes involved in crime and prostitution while trying to help her struggling husband. Director Peter Yates has placed Bringing up Baby in French Connection country and come up with a sloppy, wildly uneven, but occasionally funny outing. Peter Bogdanovich's thirties hommage -- What's Up, Doc? -- was lighter and more consistent, but Streisand again manages to pull the loose parts together. Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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FOUL PLAY
Comedy, 1978, USA, PG, * * *
Goldie Hawn, Chevy Chase, Burgess Meredith, Rachel Roberts, Dudley Moore, Marilyn Sokol. Directed by Colin Higgins. 116 min.

videos bullet iconGoldie Hawn gives a warm, knowing performance as a shy San Francisco librarian who stumbles on a harebrained murder scheme, but she's used mostly as a screamer, to be jumped at from dark corners. This push-button scare tactic is used so crudely that we always see it coming. Chevy Chase -- as the cop who comes to Goldie's rescue -- is always drawing his lips up over his teeth in the romantic scenes, like a horse begging for sugar, but the way he understates his lines makes even the thinnest jokes seem funny. Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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FREAKY FRIDAY
Children's, 1976, USA, G, * *
Jodie Foster, Barbara Harris, John Astin, Patsy Kelly. Directed by Gary Nelson. 95 min.

videos bullet iconJodie Foster is a teenager who switches bodies with her suburban mother (Barbara Harris) for one day in a predictable, pessimistic, and humorless Walt Disney comedy directed by Gary Nelson. Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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THE FRENCH CONNECTION
Action/Adventure, 1971, USA, R, * * * *
Gene Hackman, Fernando Ray, Roy Scheider, Tony LaBianco, Marcel Bozzuffi. Directed by William Friedkin. 104 min.

videos bullet iconWilliam Friedkin's superbly executed cop thriller brought the genre into the modern era with tough, foulmouthed narc Jimmy "Popeye" Doyle in pursuit of an international heroin ring and its multimillion-dollar cache of dope. Ernest Tidyman's taut, furiously paced script structures the entire movie as a series of chases, the most memorable being a car-versus-train race through Brooklyn that must be one of the most nerve-racking vehicle duels on film. The novelty of cops who look and sound like real people has diminished since The French Connection was released, due partly to the host of imitations and rip-offs it spawned, but it still packs a whallop as dynamic action entertainment, masterfully handled on all levels. Eddie Egan and Sonny Grasso, the former cops whose real-life exploits inspired the film, appear as Simonson and Klein. Academy Awards for Best Picture, Director, Actor (Hackman), Screenplay Adaptation, and Film Editing. Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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FRENCH CONNECTION II
Action/Adventure, 1975, USA, R, * * *
Gene Hackman, Fernando Rey, Bernard Fresson, Jean-Pierre Castaldi, Cathleen Nesbitt. Directed by John Frankenheimer. 119 min.

videos bullet icon"Popeye" Doyle goes to France in pursuit of the nefarious heroin magnate Charnier in this solidly entertaining follow-up to the 1971 hit. Gene Hackman and Fernando Rey reprise their roles to fine effect, each adding fresh nuance of characterization and insight to what could have been stock roles. John Frankenheimer's direction, however, is not up to Friedkin's, and the chase scenes, desperately trying to top the original's by adding everything from a trolley to a yacht, fall noticeably short. The film's middle section, in which cop Doyle is kidnapped, forcibly addicted to heroin, and then left to withdraw or die, is outstanding and allows Hackman to do some of his most impressive work. Overall, a good sequel to a great movie. Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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THE FRIENDS OF EDDIE COYLE
Action/Adventure, 1973, USA, R, * * * 1/2
Robert Mitchum, Peter Boyle, Richard Jordan, Steven Keats, Alex Rocco, Mitchell Ryan. Directed by Peter Yates. 102 min.

videos bullet iconUnrealistic depiction of criminals and police, as hardened con Mitchum labors to supply guns and make deals with cops. A bleak nightmare picture of the underworld enhanced by numerous Boston locations and flawless performances. The only liabilities are the film's offbeat low-key narrative approach and the finale. Based on the novel by George V. Higgins. Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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FRITZ THE CAT
Comedy, 1972, USA, X, * * *
Directed by Ralph Bakshi. 78 min.

videos bullet iconOne of the few Ralph Bakshi animated features to have some genuine audacity and wit. R. Crumb's classic comic-book cat becomes a friendly, collegiate, irrepressibly horny creature who gets pulled into a series of erotic misadventures, including an imaginatively drawn ghetto sequence. Followed by the far inferior sequel, The Nine Lives of Fritz the Cat. Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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FROGS
Horror/Science Fiction, 1972, USA, PG, * * 1/2
Ray Milland, Sam Elliott, Joan Van Ark, Adam Roarke, Judy Pace. Directed by George McGowan. 87 min.

videos bullet iconFlannery O'Connor meets Willard. This being an American-International movie, Willard of course wins. A Southern family, formerly aristocratic but now just rich, gathers for the annual "kiss up to the patriarch so he won't cut us out of his will" weekend. Because the family fortune was made in a terribly unecological industry, the local swamp fauna (and, in one case, flora) get together to do this not-so-happy clan in. The title is slightly misleading; the amphibians mentioned get the most discussion on the soundtrack, but equal screen time is given to various lizards, snakes, crabs, spiders, turtles, and what-have-you. Not as silly as it sounds, but reasonably fun. Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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FUN WITH DICK AND JANE
Comedy, 1977, USA, PG, * * *
Jane Fonda, George Segal, Ed McMahon, Dick Gautier, Fred Willard. Directed by Ted Kotcheff. 95 min.

videos bullet iconJane Fonda, reminding us that she is one of America's funniest, sexiest comediennes, and George Segal play a conventional upper-middle-class couple who find themselves in desperate financial straits when Segal loses his job as an aerospace engineer. They turn to crime, first because their backs are against the wall and later because they find it a wicked sexual turn-on. Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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FUTUREWORLD
Horror/Science Fiction, 1976, USA, PG, * *
Peter Fonda, Blythe Danner, Arthur Hill, Yul Brynner, Stuart Margolin. Directed by Richard T. Heffron. 107 min.

videos bullet iconIn this sequel to Westworld, leftover robots from the first film reproduce and plot to take over the world. Michael Crichton's original film built terror from a mildly satirical premise -- people paying money to live out their childhood playtime fantasies. This has none of that, denegrating quickly into standard sci-fi stuff. Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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THE GAMBLER
Drama, 1974, USA, R, * * * 1/2
James Caan, Paul Sorvino, Lauren Hutton, Morris Carnovsky, Jacqueline Brookes, Burt Young. Directed by Karel Reisz. 109 min.

videos bullet iconJames Caan gives one of his finest performances in Karel Reisz's muted, brutal, beautifully textured study of a compulsive gambler whose efforts to pay off his debts have a cataclysmic effect on those around him. Though slow and, at times, murky, The Gambler benefits from a strong, well-conceived script by James Toback and beautiful acting from the large supporting cast, especially Paul Sorvino and Burt Young as two cold-blooded loan shark collectors and Lauren Hutton as Caan's sympathetic friend. Victor Kemper did the fine, dark cinematography, and Roger Spottiswoode, who later directed Under Fire, supervised the editing. Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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THE GAUNTLET
Action/Adventure, 1977, USA, R, * * *
Clint Eastwood, Sondra Locke, Pat Hingle, William Prince, Bill McKinney, Michael Cavanaugh, Carole Cook, Mara Corday. Directed by Clint Eastwood. 108 min.

videos bullet iconNot just another Clint Eastwood renegade-cop movie, this one was directed by Eastwood himself and it's a lot of fun. Eastwood's dim, drunken Ben Shockley, who must escort a witness (Sondra Locke) that everyone wants killed back to trial, is his most touching, vulnerable characterization in years. For once, you feel there's something behind the scrunched-up eyes and bullet-biting grimace. Eastwood's direction occasionally has a charming eccentric touch. Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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THE GETAWAY
Action/Adventure, 1972, USA, PG, * *
Steve McQueen, Ali McGraw, Ben Johnson, Sally Struthers, Al Lettieri, Slim Pickens, Richard Bright, Bo Hopkins. Directed by Sam Peckinpah. 122 min.

videos bullet iconThis dull, overlong chase film about a just-released con and his wife (Steve McQueen and Ali MacGraw) who pull off a bank robbery and promptly go on the lam was Sam Peckinpah's one out-and-out attempt at a non-auteurist commercial success. Had he treated the story with any of the viscerality he brought to The Wild Bunch or Straw Dogs, he might have been able to turn Walter Hill's shoddy script into something watchable, or at least coherent. Instead, the director stages a few undeniably exciting set pieces that are afloat in a sea of confusing, stagnant drama. McQueen, always underappreciated as an action hero, is fine here, but MacGraw is miscast and embarrassingly bad. Based on the grisly novel by Jim Thompson. Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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GIMME SHELTER
Documentary, 1970, USA, PG, * * * 1/2
Rolling Stones, Jefferson Airplane, Melvin Belli. Directed by David Maysles, Albert Maysles, and Charlotte Zwerin. 91 min.

videos bullet iconThis stunning "rockumentary" deals with the Rolling Stones's tragic Altamont concert in December of 1969, where one of the Hell's Angels security guards knifed a spectator to death. The Stones, the Jefferson Airplane, and Ike and Tina Turner performed, but something went awry -- in the concert's conception, planning, and organization -- and Altamont signaled the end of innocence for the Woodstock generation. The film's tone is dark rather than celebratory, and the bad vibes are palpable. The Maysles were major figures in the early years of cinema-verite documentary filming. Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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THE GODFATHER
Drama, 1972, USA, R, * * * *
Marlon Brando, Al Pacino, James Caan, Richard Castellano, Robert Duvall, Diane Keaton, Talia Shire, Sterling Hayden, Richard Conte. Directed by Francis Ford Coppola. 175 min.

videos bullet iconFrancis Ford Coppola's gangster film about the Mafia has achieved such classic status that many have forgotten the controversies surrounding its original release: the negative representation of Italian-Americans and the sympathetic portrayal of gangsters and killers (problems also found, incidentally, in Mario Puzo's best-selling novel, on which the film is based). These difficulties are in many ways reconciled by the sheer brilliance of the filmmaking; so far, this is one of the high points of Coppola's checkered career. He paints a vast, dark canvas of characters and events, concentrating on the concern of Don Corleone (Marlon Brando) about the son who will succeed him as Godfather. The action begins in the mid-1940s and spans several years (then several more in the sequel The Godfather, Part II maintaining a remarkable authenticity). The ensemble of Method actors is superb, with Brando's Oscar-winning Don almost outshined by Al Pacino's likable-soldier-turned-ruthless-gangster. A remarkable film. Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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THE GODFATHER, PART II
Drama, 1974, USA, R, * * * *
Al Pacino, Robert Duvall, Diane Keaton, Robert De Niro, John Cazale, Talia Shire, Lee Strasberg, Troy Donahue, Harry Dean Stanton, Michael V. Gazzo. Directed by Francis Ford Coppola. 200 min.

videos bullet iconThe Godfather, Part II has a problem: while it considerably enriches the original Godfather, it also needs to be seen with it to be fully appreciated as an epic depicting the rise and fall of one Mafioso family. In Part II, the new Godfather (Al Pacino) is faced with crooked business partners, disloyal brothers, and a wife (Diane Keaton) who disapproves of his activities. Meanwhile, the film recalls, in extended flashback sequences, how the young immigrant Don Corleone (Robert De Niro) built the now-collapsing empire. Much of the production (which won seven Oscars, including Best Picture) -- acting, direction, period design -- is as good as, if not better than, the original. A must-see film, all the more after a screening of the first. Followed in 1990 by the equally worthwhile The Godfather Part III. Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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GOING IN STYLE
Comedy, 1979, USA, PG, * * * 1/2
George Burns, Art Carney, Lee Strasberg, Charles Hallahan, Pamela Payton-Wright. Directed by Martin Brest. 97 min.

videos bullet iconIn outline, this film by Martin Brest (Beverly Hills Cop) sounds as though it has a case of the formula cutes: a comic caper yarn about three aged roomies (George Burns, Art Carney, and Lee Strasberg) who join forces to knock over a bank. But unlike so many cuddly-oldster movies, this one is about something: old people are useless because we make them feel useless. All three of the performers are brilliant, and so is their twenty-eight-year-old writer-director. A single world, a double take, a line that would read like nothing on the printed page -- all are transmitted into the provocations to laughter or tears. There is no mechanical prodding. Brest has created a comedy that embraces us all. Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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GONE IN 60 SECONDS
Action/Adventure, 1974, USA, PG, * *
H. B. Halicki, Marion Busia, Jerry Daugirda, James McIntyre, Ronald Halicki. Directed by H. B. Halicki. 105 min.

videos bullet iconNinety-three cars, over half of them police cars, get demolished in the central car chase sequence of this movie. That was probably a record until The Blues Brothers, for whatever that's worth. The big chase lasts forty-five minutes onscreen, but that still leaves us with an hour of impenetrable plot about a luxury-car theft ring. Director/star H. B. Halicki also wrote and produced this. In publishing, these things are put out by what are known as "vanity presses." Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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THE GOODBYE GIRL
Comedy, 1977, USA, PG, * * *
Ricard Dreyfuss, Marsha Mason, Quinn Cummings, Paul Benedict, Barbara Rhodes, Theresa Merritt, Michale Shawn, Nicol Williamson. Directed by Herbert Ross. 110 min.

videos bullet iconAnother odd couple battles its way to romance in Neil Simon's movie. As Simon-watchers might expect, the film is calculated, predictable, shameless in heart-tugging, and often scarcely credible. But as a young actor, Richard Dreyfuss unleashes his dizzying, apparently boundless energy and yet manages to be a believable romantic lead (he won an Academy Award for his performance). Marsha Mason, a warm, likeable performer, is unfortunately stuck with an unlikable role as the whining hoofer who's been loved and left by a succession of handsome actors. Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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GRAND THEFT AUTO
Action/Adventure, 1977, USA, PG, * * 1/2
Ron Howard, Nancy Morgan, Marion Ross, Don Steele. Directed by Ron Howard. 89 min.

videos bullet iconThis follow-up to Eat My Dust is another demolition derby from the Roger Corman factory. The main human beings on screen are a pair of newlyweds, but that's not important -- lots of cars get sped around and crunched up. Ron Howard, on vacation from Happy Days and prior to Splash, directed (his first effort) and cowrote the script with his father, Rance; the editor was Joe Dante (Gremlins) and the second unit director was Allan Arkush (Rock and Roll High School). Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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GREASE
Musical, 1978, USA, PG, * * 1/2
John Travolta, Olivia Newton-John, Stackard Channing, Jeff Conaway, Didi Conn, Jamie Donnelly, Dinah Manoff, Barry Pearl, Kelly Ward. Directed by Randal Kaiser. 110 min.

videos bullet iconThis noisy, undistinguished pastiche of fifties musicals is worth seeing for John Travolta. Funny-looking as well as beautiful, Travolta is a romantic hero with an ingratiating streak of self-parody. Unfortunately, his energy is released only intermittently here and, among the supporting players, only Stockard Channing gives her performance any heat. Olivia Newton-John, toothy and unspeakably bland, makes you wish that a juvenile delinquent would come along and stomp on her. Grease 2, a misbegotten sequel starring Michelle Pfeiffer and Maxwell Caulfield with Grease's choreographer Patricia Birch now also directing, was released in 1982. Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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THE GREAT GATSBY
Drama, 1974, USA, PG, *
Robert Redford, Mia Farrow, Karen Black, Bruce Dern, Sam Waterston, Scott Wilson. Directed by Jack Clayton. 144 min.

videos bullet iconF. Scott Fitzgerald's works compete with Ernest Hemingway's as the hardest to portray accurately on screen, and 1974's The Great Gatsby definitely puts Fitzgerald out in front. Jack Clayton is able to make a pretty shallow film out of an ugly, sad book by glossing over all Gatsby's negative traits -- leaving the character almost nonexistent, a fact underscored by Robert Redford's timid performance. Further, the social fabric of the era and of the central characters is virtually demolished in favor of a crude and vapid sentimentality. The good -- Bruce Dern; the mediocre -- Karen Black; and the bad -- Lois Chiles all intermingle with practically nothing to tell them apart. Mia Farrow must be rated the worst of the film's acting horrors; her Daisy seems not only anorexic but only half awake. Yet all the blame does not go to Farrow, who is an excellent actress in better situations. Jack Clayton was able to translate the enigmatic Turn of the Screw into the extraordinary The Innocents, so his complete failure here must be seen as a forgivable misunderstanding of the work. Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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THE GREAT SANTINI
Drama, 1979, USA, PG, * * *
Robert Duvall, Blythe Danner, Michael O'Keefe, Lisa Jane Persky. Directed by Lewis John Carlino. 115 min.

videos bullet iconA touching, impeccably acted drama about a marine colonel (Robert Duvall) whose gung-ho militaristic ethics extend to the way he treats his wife and kids. The tenuous relationship between him and his increasingly rebellious son (Michael O'Keefe) forms the core of an emotional exploration of a man who can't -- or won't -- accomodate his personality to fit his family. Duvall gives one of his finest performances; he and O'Keefe won well-deserved Oscar nominations for their work. Ideal for home-video viewing, where the film's small-scale charms aren't swallowed up by the big screen. Based on Pat Conroy'snovel. (a.k.a. The Ace) Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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THE GREAT WALDO PEPPER
Drama, 1975, USA, PG, * * 1/2
Robert Redford, Bo Svenson, Bo Brundin, Susan Sarandon, Edward Herrmann, Geoffrey Lewis, Margot Kidder. Directed by George Roy Hill. 107 min.

videos bullet iconThe gallant, silk-scarved pilots who made their reputation as daredevils in the 1920s are the subject of George Roy Hill's visually spectacular, gently emotional salute to the glory days of aviation. Pepper (Robert Redford), a great flyer who just missed combat in World War I, now barnstorms in an aerial circus, hoping to challenge a great German ace (Bo Brundin) to a showdown in the skies. William Goldman's quirky script falls completely apart by its conclusion, but until then Hill succeeds in creating a pleasingly atmospheric tale. Good, unaffected work from the actors, especially Redford and Susan Sarandon. Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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THE GREEK TYCOON
Drama, 1978, USA, R, *
Jacqueline Bisset, Anthony Quinn, Raf Vallone, Edward Albert, James Franciscus, Charles Durning. Directed by J. Lee Thompson. 106 min.

videos bullet iconThis move was made for people whose primary source of news is the National Enquirer. He's a shipping magnate from Greece, she's the glamorous widow of an assassinated American president, and any relation to persons living or dead is purely intentional, not to mention smarmy, speculative, and resolutely uninvolving. What tries to be a jet-set romance set in the international playgrounds of the rich ends up as a sedative. Anthony Quinn and Jacqueline Bisset seem to have been cast because they fit the costumes, and sulk through the film as if they were being forced to stay after school. Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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THE GROOVE TUBE
Comedy, 1974, USA, R, * * *
Chevy Chase, Richard Belzer, Ken Shapiro, Buzzy Linhart, Jennifer Wells. Directed by Ken Shapiro. 75 min.

videos bullet iconThis sometimes tedious but mostly funny lampoon of television in the form of bits of imitation programming was put together by Ken Shapiro, who honed this by taking his video performances to colleges across the country in the late sixties and early seventies. Some of the bits are sophomoric (a kiddie-show clown who reads from Fanny Hill), but there are enough surreally weird sequences to make repeated viewing worthwhile. Shapiro went on to the more conventional Modern Problems. Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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HALLOWEEN
Horror/Science Fiction, 1978, USA, R, * * *
Jamie Lee Curtis, Donald Pleasence, Nancy Loomis, P.J. Soles, Charles Cyphers, Kyle Richards, Tony Farlow. Directed by John Carpenter. 90 min.

videos bullet iconMichael Myers, whose violent insanity may well be the result of demonic possession, escapes from the psychiatric home where he has been incarcerated after murdering his older sister and returns home to kill some more. He stalks and slaughters several baby-sitters before the survivor learns once and for all that there is indeed a bogeyman. Consummate craftsmanship makes a conventional genre story into something special; the film goes easy on the bloodletting, but the subjective camera is relentless and highly effective. Halloween was one of the most profitable independent features ever made, and launched the damsel-in-distress career of Jamie Lee Curtis. Many sequels followed and it inspired the entire teen slasher genre of the following decade. Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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THE HAPPY HOOKER
Comedy, 1975, USA, R, *
Lynn Redgrave, Jean Pierre Aumont, Nicholas Powell, Tom Poston, Lovelady Powell. Directed by Nicholas Sgarro. 96 min.

videos bullet iconWhy Cannon, a good sleaze outfit if there was one, decided to make such a prissy, antiseptic version of Xaviera Hollander's exploitative autobiography will forever remain a mystery. But they did, and it's a dull, dressed-up version of some pretty naked material. Best scene -- Lynn Redgrave's striptease for Tom Poston (playing a businessman roué). Followed by the equally weak The Happy Hooker Goes to Washington (1977) and The Happy Hooker Goes to Hollywood (1980). Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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HARDCORE
Drama, 1979, USA, R, * *
George C. Scott, Peter Boyle, Season Hubley, Dick Sargent, Leonard Gaines, David Nichols. Directed by Paul Schrader. 108 min.

videos bullet iconPaul Schrader, compelled by obsessive devotion and lack of imagination, continues to remake John Ford's classic The Searchers. The pathological search for the sexually corrupted young woman may have clicked for Martin Scorsese in Taxi Driver, but under Schrader's heavy-handed direction, it seems simpleminded and flat. George C. Scott is unconvincing as the prude rube from Grand Rapids, Mich., (Schrader's own hometown before he relocated to Los Angeles) adrift in the California sewers, but Peter Boyle makes a nice corrupt private detective. Susan Raye sings the opening and closing theme song, "Precious Memories." Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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THE HARDER THEY COME
Musical, 1973, Jamaica, R, * * * 1/2
Jimmy Cliff, Carl Bradshaw, Janet Bartley, Ras Daniel Hartman, Basil Keane, Bobby Charlton. Directed by Perry Henzell. 109 min.

videos bullet iconThe original reggae classic still rocks as Jimmy Cliff leads his one-man rebellion against the exploitation of the Jamaican music mafia. The first native Jamaican feature, the movie has an absorbing sense of place and a fierce anticolonial bent, and places the hero's fight in the larger political context of freedom from oppression. Cliff is the genuine article, a great charismatic presence. The movie is in Jamaican-English patois and subtitled, and the pulsating soundtrack features reggae superstars Toots and the Maytals and Cliff singing such hits as "Pressure Drop," "Many Rivers to Cross," and the great "You Can Get It If You Really Want." Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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HAROLD AND MAUDE
Comedy, 1971, USA, PG, * 1/2
Ruth Gordon, Bud Cort, Vivian Pickles, Cyril Cusak. Directed by Hal Ashby. 90 min.

videos bullet iconHal Ashby's cult classic is a cutesy black comedy about the romance between a teenage rich boy (Bud Cort) who stages jokey fake suicides and an eighty-year-old woman (Ruth Gordon) who spouts moronic homilies about wildflowers and the life force. Despite patches of amusingly bloody slapstick, it remains an insufferable piece of sixties free-spirit sentimentality. The film is a popular double feature at revival houses with the equally saccharine King of Hearts. Good song score by Cat Stevens. Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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HARPER VALLEY P.T.A.
Comedy, 1978, USA, PG, * 1/2
Barbara Eden, Ronny Cox, Nannette Fabray, Susan Swift, Louis Nye, Pat Paulsen, John Fiedler. Directed by Richard Bennett. 93 min.

videos bullet iconIn the grand tradition of Convoy, Ode to Billy Joe, The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia, Girls Just Want to Have Fun, ad nauseam, here is another movie based on a hit song. Barbara Eden is the freethinkin' mom who socks it to assorted hypocrites of the local school board by exposing their various vices in public. The film was later made into a television series, from which this can be distinguished only by its lack of a laugh track. Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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HARRY AND TONTO
Comedy, 1974, USA, R, * *
Art Carney, Ellen Burstyn, Larry Hagman, Chief Dan George, Geraldine Fitzgerald, Josh Mostel, Barbara Rhodes, Cliff DeYoung. Directed by Paul Mazursky. 115 min.

videos bullet iconPaul Mazursky's Ugly Americanized version of Bergman's Wild Strawberries features Art Carney as Harry, an aging widower who, after facing eviction, decides to travel across the country with Tonto, his pet cat, planning to meet his daughter and two sons en route. Carney, who won an Oscar as the old man in search of himself, is too young for the role that is already an abstract and distanced view of what elderly men are like. Others in the cast -- Ellen Burstyn as his daughter, Geraldine Fitzgerald as an old love, and Barbara Rhodes as a prostitute -- contribute nice bits, but they are lost in a meandering narrative. Mazursky would later return to the self-exploratory theme in Tempest (1982), with slightly improved results. In the meantime, he has turned the real issue, the plight of the homeless elderly, into a cutesy "road" movie. Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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THE HEARTBREAK KID
Comedy, 1972, USA, PG, * * * 1/2
Charles Grodin, Cybill Shepard, Jeannie Berlin, Eddie Albert. Directed by Elaine May. 104 min.

videos bullet iconNeil Simon's original screen comedy remains one of his funniest. Charles Grodin became a star as a man who becomes disenchanted with his new bride on their Miami honeymoon and dumps her for a young girl. The first half is serious, but overall the film rates high as a whole. Jeannie Berlin, daughter of director Elaine May, is perfect as the unsuspecting bride whose annoying habits lead to trouble. She, along with Eddie Albert as Cybill Shepherd's daddy, won Oscar nominations. Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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HEAVEN CAN WAIT
Comedy, 1978, USA, PG, * * *
Warren Beatty, Julie Christie, James Mason, Charles Grodin, Dyan Cannon, Buck Henry, Jack Warden. Directed by Warren Beatty and Buck Henry. 100 min.

videos bullet iconThis updated, all-star remake of the great 1941 fantasy film Here Comes Mr. Jordan is not quite as good as the original, but it still makes perfect family entertainment, and it admittedly has more modern-day appeal. In the earlier version Robert Montgomery plays a prizefighter, but in this one Warren Beatty plays a Los Angeles Rams quarterback who is mistakenly summoned to heaven before his time and returns to earth in a millionaire's body. Life the second time around is complicated by his longing to play football again, his romance with Julie Christie, and the murderous plotting of his inherited wife (Dyan Cannon) and secretary (Charles Grodin). Codirector Buck Henry joins the fun as the overambitious messenger from heaven who screws up, and James Mason serves as his boss, the amenable Mr. Jordan. Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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THE HELLSTROM CHRONICLE
Documentary, 1971, USA, G, * * *
Laurence Pressman. Directed by Walon Green. 90 min.

videos bullet iconWe've come a long way in educational documentaries about insects, but this pioneer feature still contains some of the best footage of these creatures this side of Nova. David Seltzer's often ludicrous narration (as spoken by Laurence Pressman as "Dr. Nils Hellstrom") makes a gloomy plea for ecology while reveling in sensational insect wars. The point of view is fuzzy, to say the least, but rarely have ants, bees, locusts, and butterflies provided such exciting screen material. Enjoyed a brief vogue as a "head" movie. Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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HESTER STREET
Drama, 1975, USA, PG, * * * *
Carol Kane, Steven Keats, Dorrie Kavanaugh, Mel Howard. Directed by Joan Micklin Silver. 92 min.

videos bullet iconJoan Micklin Silver's lovely, intelligent portrait of the plight of immigrant Jews settling on New York City's Lower East Side tells the story of a quickly Americanized tailor (Steven Keats) whose new values are shaken when he's joined by his wife and the trappings of the old country that she can't give up. Carol Kaine plays Gitl as a woman desperately trying to please her husband and at the same time rebelling against him; her acting here is so on-target that she virtually disappears into the character. Shot in black and white on a low budget, Hester Street, which looks like a dusty tintype come to life, marked a fine debut for director Silver. In English and in Yiddish (with subtitles). Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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THE HIDING PLACE
Drama, 1975, USA, PG, * *
Julie Harris, Eileen Heckart, Arthur O'Connell, Jeanette Clift. Directed by James F. Collier. 145 min.

videos bullet iconA terribly long, pious, well-intentioned and tedious tale of Christian endurance during World War II, this is a true story (based on the book of the same title) of what happened to a Dutch family that hid Jews from the Nazis. The truly unusual acting is direct and persuasive, but the travelogue shooting and staggeringly simpleminded theology just about ruin it. Produced with an ample budget by an anjunct of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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HIGH PLAINS DRIFTER
Western, 1973, USA, R, * * *
Clint Eastwood, Verna Bloom, Mariana Hill, Mitchell Ryan, Jack Ging, Stefan Giarasch, Ted Hartley, Robert Donner, John Hillerman. Directed by Clint Eastwood. 105 min.

videos bullet iconAn enigmatic drifter wanders into the corrupt Western town of Lagos and, after receiving a less-than-warm welcome from the townspeople, undertakes to clean it up. Strongly influenced by the stylized Sergio Leone Westerns (A Fistful of Dollars and others) that made Clint Eastwood an international star, High Plains Drifter carries his Man with No Name just one step further away from the common run of humanity, positioning him as a vengeful angel of death whose retribution is swift, sure, and cosmically just. Stark, violent, and very Italian, though shot in the United States. Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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THE HINDENBURG
Drama, 1975, USA, PG, *
George C. Scott, Anne Bancroft, William Atherton, Roy Thinnes, Gig Young, Burgess Meridith, Charles Durning, Richard Dysart. Directed by Robert Wise. 125 min.

videos bullet iconWhen the best catastrophe that disaster-purveyors can think of is an exploding dirigible, and names like Gig Young and Roy Thinnes fill out the requisite "all-star" cast, you know there's trouble. Fortunately, The Hindenburg will probably put you to sleep before you realize how awful it is. Nefarious Nazis, a German countess, ad execs, and card sharks are all aboard this Love Boat of the skies. Who will live? Who will die? Don't even bother fast-forwarding to the blowup for effects -- the best finale the producers could provide (on a then-astronomical $15 million budget) was 1937 newsreel footage of the actual crash, intercut with shots of the star either escaping or exploding. After this, only Meteor was needed to kill the genre. Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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THE HOSPITAL
Drama, 1971, USA, PG, * * * 1/2
George C. Scott, Diana Rigg, Barnard Hughes, Nancy Marchand, Frances Sternhagen, Robert Walden. Directed by Arthur Hiller. 102 min.

videos bullet iconThe cast is excellent in Paddy Chayefsky's witty, observant, and harshly ironic look at an incredibly mismanaged hospital. George C. Scott plays a doctor who is forced to investigate the mysterious deaths of several staff workers; he also falls for a woman who is trying to get her father released from the hospital. The mystery plot is played down for several amusing vignettes, including one devestating sequence in which Frances Sternhagen as an emergency ward nurse who bullies patients for their Blue Cross and Blue Shield forms. Arthur Hiller's crude caricatures work well in this milieu, but it is Cheyefsky's screenplay that provides the real bite. Strong, funny stuff. Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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THE HOT ROCK
Action/Adventure, 1972, USA, PG, * * *
Robert Redford, George Segal, Ron Leibman, Paul Sand, Zero Mostel, Moses Gunn, Charlotte Rae, William Redfield. Directed by Peter Yates. 102 min.

videos bullet iconWry and knowing, The Hot Rock succeeds by not wasting a bit of its precious resources: the cast is uniformly convincing and clever, Yates's direction is snappy, and Donald Westlake's excellent source novel provides a clearly thought out, yet comically convoluted yarn. George Segal and Robert Redford may not be Paul Newman and Robert Redford, but they hit it off as contrasting crooks, and Segal is able to provide the foil that Redford so desperately requires. The story involves the theft of a diamond in New York City (with background shots of the ill-fated World Trade Center under construction) and the subsequent troubles that arise when the gem is abandoned in a police station. Needless to say, it all works out in the end, but along the way there are more odd, surprising touches than seasoned viewers could hope for in a thriller. Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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I WALK THE LINE
Drama, 1970, USA, PG, * * 1/2
Gregory Peck, Tuesday Weld, Estelle Parsons, Ralph Meeker, Lonny Chapman. Directed by John Frankenheimer. 95 min.

videos bullet iconRural sheriff Peck falls for moonshiner's daughter Weld, thereby destroying both his professional and personal life. Offbeat but aimless drama, helped by excellent Weld performance. Johnny Cash sings five songs. Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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IN SEARCH OF NOAH'S ARK
Documentary, 1976, PG, *
Directed by James L. Conway, Steven Gray. 95 min.

videos bullet iconSunn Classics, the producers who brought you such gems of unrevealed knowledge as Chariots of the Gods and In Search of Historic Jesus, brings you another rubbishy pseudodocumentary about Noah's Ark. Just for visual interest: they reconstructed it and restage the loading of the animals. Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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JANIS
Documentary, 1975, USA, PG, * * 1/2
Directed by Howard Alk, Seaton Findlay. 96 min.

Joplin, of course. This documentary traces the life and times of the gravel-voiced queen of rock-and-roll blues from her pre-Big Brother and the Holding Company days. Not a great piece of filmmaking, although Joplin is such a galvanizing presence (onstage and off) that it hardly matters. By concentrating on concert footage, though, the film doesn't really delve much into the more lurid and dramatic aspects of her offstage life. Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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JAWS
Action/Adventure, 1975, USA, R, * * * *
Roy Scheider, Robert Shaw, Richard Dreyfuss, Lorraine Gary, Murray Hamilton, Peter Benchley. Directed by Steven Spielberg. 125 min.

videos bullet iconThis Grade A horror film engendered an unprecedented amount of surfside paranoia. Peter Benchley's screenplay, based on his own novel (which was in turn patterned vaguely after Moby Dick), is turned into nail-biting suspense by Steven Spielberg. The story of a Long Island police chief's battle with officials and townspeople over the handling of a couple of shark attacks becomes a nerve-racking suspense adventure as the policeman (Roy Scheider), an oceanographer (Richard Dreyfuss), and an experienced hunter (Robert Shaw) set out to kill the Great White. Spielberg is better at manning his mechanical shark (as in the brilliant opening sequence) than directing his actors, but he does get gritty, solid work from all three leading men. Everything about the film is far superior to either of Jaws's sophomoric sequels, and the film holds up well next to Spielberg's more recent successes. Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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JAWS 2
Action/Adventure, 1978, USA, R, * * *
Roy Scheider, Lorraine Gary, Donna Wilkes. Directed by Jeannot Szwarc.

videos bullet iconThe moral still is: If you're swimming and hear ominous cello music, you are about to be eaten by a giant shark. About everything else is the same, too, though the classy flourishes added to the 1975 original by Robert Shaw (already gobbled up), Richard Dreyfuss (other fish to fry), and director Steven Spielberg (not interested) are gone. The same dopey mayor is worrying about the tourist trade, another great white shark has heard about a good feeding ground off Amity, Long Island, and Roy Scheider, fulfilling a commitment to Universal, appears again as the police chief. He is to be commended for not just walking through, though his character is hopelessly addicted to staring at the ocean. The problem is that the best gimmicks were used the first time around, and despite a couple of tense who'll-be-main-course-and-who'll-be-dessert sequences, the $25 million sequel turns out to be only ordinary. Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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JEREMIAH JOHNSON
Drama, 1972, USA, PG, * * *
Robert Redford, Will Geer, Stefan Gierasch, Allyn Ann McLerie. Directed by Sydney Pollack. 107 min.

videos bullet iconSydney Pollack's leisurely, reverent saga tells the story of society dropout/mountain man Jeremiah Johnson, who began life as a trapper in the Rocky Mountains in 1825. Robert Redford gives his usual understated, almost reluctant performance, but for once it fits his character perfectly, and Pollack's direction gently interweaves scenes of adventure and suspense with moments of reflection and intropsection. The screenplay (coauthored by John Milius) tends to be pompous and grandiloquent about the philosophical issues it raises, while not answering enough of the small, practical questions any viewer will have about Johnson's way of life. But the often-vivid canvas of man in and against the wilderness will draw audiences in, especially -- but by no means exclusively -- children. Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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THE JERK
Comedy, 1979, USA, R, * *
Steve Martin, Bernadette Peters, Catlin Adams, Mabel King, Richard Ward, Dick Anthony Williams, Bill Macy, M. Emmet Walsh, Dick O'Neill. Directed by Carl Reiner. 104 min.

videos bullet iconSteve Martin's first star vehicle is a lurching, ugly-looking film that still manages to be quite hilarious in places -- thanks to his hyperactive brand of nerdiness. Martin plays a tow-headed, thirty-year-old waif who leaves his black parents to make his way in the world. This warped Horatio Alger burlesque might be even funnier if director Carl Reiner didn't show such a pendant for crude racial and sexual stereotypes. Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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JESUS CHRIST, SUPERSTAR
Musical, 1973, USA, G, * * 1/2
Ted Neely, Carl Anderson, Yvonne Elliman, Josh Mostel. Directed by Norman Jewison. 107 min.

videos bullet iconLike Robert Altman, director Norman Jewison seems most interested in his later period in adapting stage works to the screen. But whereas Altman makes a point of limiting his mise-en-scene to the physical boundaries of the stage production, Jewison, in such films as this, A Soldier's Story, Agnes of God, and Fiddler on the Roof, insists on opening it up. In a conventional production such as Fiddler he has obtained outstanding results, but with something more abstract, such as Jesus Christ, Superstar, the results are at best unnecessary and at worst annoying and obtrusive. The stage production, itself adapted from the popular "rock opera" by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice, depended to a great degree on physicality, and Jewison is not able to provide a cinematically equivalent form of viscerality by adding tanks and jet fighters to his authentic desert locations. As for content, anyone who is converted to Christianity by this rendering of the last days of Christ will remain so only until they happen to wander in front of a screening of Mohammed, Messenger of God. Or even Fiddler on the Roof. Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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JOE
Drama, 1970, USA, R, * * *
Peter Boyle, Dennis Patrick, Susan Sarandon, K. Callan. Directed by John G. Avildsen. 107 min.

videos bullet iconThe title character of this small film is a blue-collar hard-hat bigot (terms which were, at the time of the film's release, all but synonymous). Much less loveable or forgiveable than the television character, Joe is most proud of his collection of World War II weaponry, which he dreams of being able to use on the "hippies, faggots, and niggers" that he sees as the enemy. In the best parts of the film, he develops an odd relationship with an upper-middle-class advertising executive who, in a fit of rage, murdered the junkie-lover of his wayward daughter. Although Joe finally degenerates into a forced, inflammatory climax, the bulk of the film is provocative and subtly frightening, with a performance by Peter Boyle that he has yet to equal, and strong, certain direction from John G. Avildsen (Rocky), who photographed this minor low-budget classic in various New York street locations. Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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JOE COCKER: MAD DOGS AND ENGLISHMEN
Musical, 1971, Great Britain, G, * * *
Joe Cocker, Leon Russell, Chris Stainton, Carl Radle, John Price, Bobby Keys, Rita Coolidge, Claudia Linnear. Directed by Pierre Adidge. 119 min.

videos bullet iconExcellent rockumentary of Joe Cocker's 1970 American tour, highlighted by Cocker, Leon Russell, and Claudia Linnear in performance. Also known as Mad Dogs and Englishmen. Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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JONATHAN LIVINGSTON SEAGULL
Children's, 1973, USA, G, *
Voices of James Franciscus, Juliet Mills, Hal Holbrook, Philip Ahn, David Ladd, Dorothy McGuire, Richard Crenna. Directed by Hal Bartlett. 101 min.

videos bullet iconAn exasperatingly mawkish screen translation of Richard Bach's early-seventies, ten-million-copy best-seller about a Zen-obsessed bird whose flights eventually take him to a higher plane of existence. Whatever charms the story had, its archly cute dialogue was not among them; here a number of otherwise reputable actors mouth lines that are, pardon the pun, for the birds. Worse yet, J.L.S.'s midflight transitions are aaccompanied by (ugh!) Neil Diamond songs. The endless bird footage resembles the ugly slides that some theaters show before their main feature. Read the book: not only is it slightly more entertaining, but it takes less time to get through. Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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JULIA
Drama, 1977, USA, PG, * * *
Jane Fonda, Vanessa Redgrave, Maximilian Schell, Jason Robards, Hal Holbrook, Rosemary Murphy, John Glover, Lisa Pelikan, Meryl Streep, Susan Jones. Directed by Fred Zinnemann. 116 min.

videos bullet iconLillian Hellman's tantalizing memoir of her friendship with an underground leftist activist identified only as Julia is given a full-scale period piece by Fred Zinemann, and the result is an impeccably mounted, beautifully acted, and finally rather static drama. A gallery of famous literary intellects -- Dashiell Hammett, Dorothy Parker, Alan Campbell -- populates the tale, but like Hellman's story, the film is less compelling as history and/or politics than as the story of an odd and troubled friendship. Even in that capacity, Alvin Sargent's screenplay constantly promises more than it delivrs -- the plot ultimately evaporates rather than concludes. But see it for Jane Fonda's wiry intensity as the young Hellman -- and for Vanessa Redgrave's dazzling, impassioned portrayal of Julia. Academy Awards went to Redgrave, Jason Robards, and Sargent's script. Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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THE KENTUCKY FRIED MOVIE
Comedy, 1977, USA, R, * * *
Donald Sutherland, George Lazenby, Henry Gibson, Bill Bixby, Tony Pow, Richard A. Baker, plus 110 bits and cameos. Directed by John Landis. 90 min.

videos bullet iconThis a rarity -- a blackout-style spoof of movies and TV that's genuinely funny. The handiwork of the Los Angeles theater troupe that went on to make Airplane!, this hit-or-miss compendium of media gags works by lampooning the form of various movies and TV shows as well as the content. The acting is terrific, too, because all the characters, fished by the hundreds from the L.A. talent pool, are natural-born caricatures, luscious porn queens, hulking musclemen, blandly handsome news commentators, and karate champs able to leap tall buildings in a single bound. Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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THE KIDS ARE ALRIGHT
Documentary, 1979, USA, PG, * * * 1/2
The Who (Peter Townshend, Roger Daltrey, John Entwistle, Keith Moon). Directed by Jeff Stein. 108 min.

videos bullet iconYour opinion of the above rating is, of course, based on your predilection for The Who, the subject of this compilation documentary. Every public figure of note should have a biographer as meticulous and loving as Jeff Stein, who put together two decades worth of film clips, television interviews, and assorted other public appearances by one of the few bands with a valid claim to speak for "my generation." Fans will also enjoy the songs culled from a live performance staged especially for this film. Non-fans should still enjoy this history of an engaging and occasionally thoughtful bunch of loonies, especially the late drummer Keith Moon, who describes himself to one interviewer as a "rust repairer and full-time survivor." Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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THE KILLER INSIDE ME
Mystery/Suspense, 1976, USA, R, * * *
Stacy Keach, Susan Tyrrell, Keenan Wynn, Tisha Sterling, Don Stroud, Charles McGraw. Directed by Burt Kennedy. 99 min.

videos bullet iconBizarre opus about a psychotic deputy sherrif (flashbacks accounting for his present state) about to go off the deep end; saved and made believable by a strong performance from Keach. Panavision. A 2010 remake stars Casey Affleck. Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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THE KING OF MARVIN GARDENS
Drama, 1972, USA, R, * * * 1/2
Jack Nicholson, Bruce Dern, Ellen Burstyn, Julian Anne Robinson, Scatman Crothers. Directed by Bob Rafelson. 104 min.

videos bullet iconPretentious but genuinely haunting, original drama about Nicholson's failure to discourage brother Dern's outlandish financial schemes. Burstyn's performance as an aging beauty is chilling in its perfection, and Laszlo Kovac's photography rates with the best of the decade. Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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KING KONG
Horror/Science Fiction, 1976, USA, PG, * 1/2
Charles Grodin, Jessica Lange, Jeff Bridges, Rene Auberjonois. Directed by John Gullermin. 134 min.

videos bullet iconDino De Laurentiis's $22 million remake of probably the greatest boy's-book fantasy ever put on film (by Ernest Schoedsack and Merian Cooper) is a procession of stiff set pieces devoid of flow, tension and cumulative power. Screenwriter Lorenzo J. Semple has made the dreadful mistake of killing the romantic adventure with 1970s cynicism, put-ons, and sour little jokes; Jessica Lange turns Fay Wray's reluctant beauty into a flipped-out prom cutie; and director John Guillermin (The Towering Inferno) misses every opportunity for excitement. The special effects are wasted on blurry color, awkward process shots, and a mechanical forty-foot-tall monster that, when it appears (most of the time we're watching a guy in a monkey suit), isn't nearly as interesting as the eighteen-inch animated model of 1933. Followed by a sequel in 1986. Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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KLUTE
Mystery/Suspense, 1971, USA, R, * * * 1/2
Jane Fonda, Donald Sutherland, Roy Scheider, Jean Stapleton. Directed by Alan J. Pakula. 114 min.

videos bullet iconJane Fonda won an Academy Award for her smashing performance as a sophisticated New York call girl in Alan J. Pakula's emotionally gripping thriller. Donald Sutherland costars as a small-town detective who falls in love with her while stalking a sadistic customer who is trying to kill her. The film is a searing portrait of a woman whose physical attractiveness and financial success can't compensate for her rock-bottom self-esteem. The long conversations between Jane and her psychiatrist may seem a trifle long-winded, but the film ultimately gives the viewer the feeling of knowing everything about the victimized prostitute. Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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KRAMER VS. KRAMER
Drama, 1979, USA, PG, * * * *
Dustin Hoffman, Meryl Streep, Justin Henry, Jane Alexander, JoBeth Williams, Howard Duff, George Coe. Directed by Robert Benton. 105 min.

videos bullet iconAn intelligent, moving account of a New York advertising executive and his young son struggling to make it alone after mom (Meryl Streep) leaves home. Veteran Dustin Hoffman outdoes himself in the box-office smash, and newcomer Justin Henry is both endearing and believable as the child caught in the middle of a heartrending custody battle. The characters and the case are multi-dimensional, absorbing, provocative -- anything but flat, pat, or cut-and-dried. Emotional types should be warned to have a hanky handy. Oscars were awarded for Best Picture, Actor (Hoffman), Supporting Actress (Streep), and Director and Screenplay Adaptation (both Robert Benton). Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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THE LADY IN RED
Action/Adventure, 1979, USA, R, * 1/2
Pamela Sue Martin, Robert Conrad, Louise Fletcher, Dick Miller. Directed by Lewis Teague. 93 min.

videos bullet iconYet another New World gangster flick with lots of blood, nudity, and enough exploitative elements to make any sleaze fan's day, this film is based on the factual (so we're told) exploits of John Dillinger's gun moll, who was present at his shooting in her infamous red dress. The cast, which includes some very good actors, seems as though it can't wait to get off the set. The film was written by John Sayles, who teamed up with diretor Lewis Teague for the enjoyable horror spoof Alligator, there next and much better low-budget outing (a.k.a.: Guns, Sin, and Bathtub Gin) Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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LADY SINGS THE BLUES
Drama, 1972, USA, R, * * *
Diana Ross, Richard Pryor, Billy Dee Williams, James Callahan, Paul Hampton, Virginia Capers, Ned Glass, Isabel Sanford. Directed by Sidney J. Furie. 144 min.

videos bullet iconMotown Records coproduced this grim, assaultive biography of Billie Holiday. They hoped to spotlight the talents of their reigning star Diana Ross, and in the goal of creating a showcase, the film is completely successful. Ross's acting is startingly natural, easy and emotionally spontaneous, and her singing, though it may disatisfy Holiday purists, is a canny blend of imitation, homage, and revision. If the movie had been able to match her gripping performance instead of coast on it, Lady Sings the Blues might have been great. Instead, director Sidney J. Furie and the screenwriters turn Holiday's unhappy romantic life and battle with drug addiction into the fodder of another melodramatic showbiz biography, exploiting much, illuminating little, and inevitably cheapening the life it studies by turning it into the stuff of myth. Still, it packs an undeniable emotional punch, in the vein of the later, very similar film The Rose. Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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THE LAND THAT TIME FORGOT
Action/Adventure, 1975, Great Britain, PG, * * 1/2
Doug McClure, John McEnery, Susan Penhaligon, Declan Mulholland. Directed by Kevin O'Connor. 91 min.

videos bullet iconSaturday morning kid stuff, from a story by Edgar Rice Burroughs, along the lines of those old movie serials but without the self-consciousness of Steven Spielberg's ventures into the same area. Trouble is, it's also lacking in most of the thrills as well. A German U-boat picks up some survivors from an Allied ship during World War 1, and the whole group stumbles onto an American island populated by dinosaurs and other critters presumed extinct. Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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THE LAST AMERICAN HERO
Drama, 1973, USA, PG, * * * 1/2
Jeff Bridges, Valerie Perrine, Geraldine Fitzgerald, Gary Busey, Ed Lauter, Art Lund. Directed by Lamont Johnson. 95 min.

videos bullet iconA gritty racetrack drama brimming over with lots of backwoods local color. With persuasive charm, Jeff Bridges plays a part-time moonshiner who nurses ambitions of winning a race-car championship against the big boys. Lamont Johnson effortlessly captures the dusty Southern ambiance of race tracks populated by down-home speed enthusiasts and drivers' groupies. The film is a commendable slice of naturalism. (a.k.a.: Hard Driver) Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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THE LAST DETAIL
Comedy, 1973, USA, R, * * * 1/2
Jack Nicholson, Randy Quaid, Otis Young, Michael Moriarty, Carol Kane. Directed by Hal Ashby. 105 min.

videos bullet iconWhen two career navy officers (Jack Nicholson and Otis Young) are given the unpleasant task of escorting a petty thief (Randy Quaid) to an unjust eight-year-term in a New Hampshire brig, they decide to give their naive prisoner a taste of the high life en route. Nicholson shines as the cocky Buddusky in one of Hal Ashby's most heartfelt comedies. Nicholson and Quaid both won Oscar nominations, as did Robert Towne's intelligent, ironic script, adapted from a novel by Darryl Ponicsan. Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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THE LAST PICTURE SHOW
Drama, 1971, USA, R, * * * *
Timothy Bottoms, Jeff Bridges, Cybill Shepard, Ben Johnson, Cloris Leachman, Ellen Burstyn, Ellen Brennan, Bill Thurman. Directed by Peter Bogdanovich. 114 min.

videos bullet iconShot in stark black and white, Peter Bogdanovich's jaw-droppingly assured look at small lives in a small Texas town remains a raw heartbreaker. Bogdanovich uses the closing of a theater on Main Street as a motif to frame a great many things that happened to America in the early 1950s. The theater is the Royal, and along with the pool hall and the all-night cafe it supplies what little excitement and community survives in a little West Texas crossroads named Anarene. The Last Picture Show has been described as an evocation of the classic Hollywood narrative film. Using period songs and decor to create nostalgia is familiar enough, but to tunnel down to the visual level and get that right, too, and in a way that will affect audiences even if they aren't aware how, is one hell of a directing accomplishment. Best Supporting Actor Oscars were awarded to both Ben Johnson and Cloris Leachman. Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.



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LAST TANGO IN PARIS
Drama, 1972, Italy/France, X -- also shown in an R-rated version, * * * *
Marlon Brando, Maria Schneider, Darling Legitmus, Jean-Pierre Leaud, Catherine Sola, Mauro Marchetti. Directed by Bernardo Bertolucci. 130 min.

videos bullet iconThis film was widely hailed at its release for revolutionizing the cinematic depiction of sex. Before Last Tango in Paris, films dealing with sex were de facto required to make a choice between emphasizing genuine feeling -- on the one side were all varieties of pornography, from the mildest teen turn-ons to the most X-rated skin flicks; on the other were romances covering the whole spectrum of sentimentality, marriage movies, "sensitive" but inexplicit elaborations of the social forms physical love was permitted to take. With Last Tango, these two hitherto mutually exclusive threads were joined, in a story that shows the complex interdependency of love and lust in the imaginative space between two people whose emotional involvement is anything besides static. Marlon Brando, in a remarkable performance -- in both French and English -- that was to some extent ad-libbed, plays an aging American aimlessly looking for a new apartment the day after his wife's suicide; he encounters Maria Schneider in an empty flat both are inspecting, and they abruptly and passionately make love. They then form a "no names, no pasts" compact with each other, and continue to meet in their anonymous hideaway, initially for sex only. Gradually, she begins to develop genuine love for Brando, but because of the unusual circumstances, cannot conceive how their affair can be given a more permanent status. She ends up marrying somebody else, and only then -- and only after getting very drunk -- can Brando declare his love for her and propose marriage. But it's too late. This is a film of innumerable elusive moods superbly evoked by Bernardo Bertolucci's camera and the principals' performance; with a lush Gato Barbieri score. Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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THE LAST TYCOON
Drama, 1976, USA, PG, * * *
Robert DeNiro, Tony Curtis, Robert Mitchum, Jeanne Moreau, Jack Nicholson, Donald Pleasance, Ingrid Boulting, Ray MIlland, Dana Andrews, Theresa Russell, Peter Strauss, John Carradine, Jeff Corey, Angelica Houston. Directed by Elia Kazan. 122 min.

videos bullet iconPerhaps because the F. Scott Fitzgerald novel on which this is based was never finished, Elia Kazan's film version (from a script by Harold Pinter) has a vaguely empty, soulless feel; but then again, given the subject matter, it may have been intended that way. Robert DeNiro is cast against type as Monroe Stahr, boy wonder film producer in 1930s Hollywood. (Fitgerald's model was Irving Thalberg). Most of the stellar cast appear in small roles. Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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THE LAST WALTZ
Documentary, 1978, USA, PG, * * * *
The Band, Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, Van Morrison, Eric Clapton, Neil Diamond, The Staples, Muddy Waters, Emmylou Harris, Ringo Starr. Directed by Martin Scorsese. 117 min.

videos bullet iconThis documentary of The Band's farewell concert, featuring some of rock's premier talents, is among the most stylish and exciting of its kind. Martin Scorsese's masterful direction avoids most of the clichés and self-seriousness that often plague rock films. Bob Dylan and the late Muddy Waters contribute two of the film's most outstanding performances. Eric Clapton's guitar work is polished but far from his best. The finale, with The Band onstage with all those rock and roll legends, is momentous. Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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THE LEGACY
Horror/Science Fiction, 1979, USA, R, * *
Katharine Ross, Sam Elliott, John Standing, Roger Daltrey, Ian Hogg, Margaret Tyzack. Directed by Richard Marquand. 100 min.

videos bullet iconThe right elements for a horror treat are all in place: a lavish country manor in England, a group of guests assembled for no apparent reason, and a series of violent deaths that will eventually leave just one person to inherit the mantle of evil. Unfortunately, elements are all they are -- The Legacy is long on clichés and short on sense, and anyone who's seen one haunted mansion movie will be able to stay at least three steps ahead of the predictable plot. (a.k.a.: The Legacy of Maggie Walsh) Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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THE LEGEND OF HELL HOUSE
Horror/Science Fiction, 1973, Great Britain, PG, * * *
Roddy McDowall, Gayle Hunnicutt, Clive Revill, Pamela Franklin. Directed by John Hough. 95 min.

videos bullet iconThe film's visual pyrotechnics are a bit overdone -- as though the director were trying to camouflage the familiarity of the plot. However, overlooking the sense of déjà vu, this is an above-average thriller about four psychic researchers who agree to spend a week in a haunted house because they are professionals with the ability to take the situation firmly in hand. The ghosts under their scrutiny have other prankish ideas in mind and begin trying out a few experiments of their own on the harried scientists. This is a good goose-bumper that bears favorable comparison to The Haunting. Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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LENNY
Drama, 1974, USA, R, * * * 1/2
Dustin Hoffman, Valerie Perrine, Jan Miner, Gary Morton. Directed by Bob Fosse. 112 min.

videos bullet iconDustin Hoffman's brilliantly edgy, hopped-up portrayal of Lenny Bruce -- the beat generation's prophet-jester -- greatly aids Bob Fosse's dark look at Lenny and the alternate demons of drug addiction and obscenity charges that he had to face. There are lengthy scenes of Bruce's greatest monologues along with pseudo-vérité interviews with other characters. Fosse, however, presents everything with the same off-putting combination of lurid gawking and cool detachment, so that this depiction of a troubled, complex life, though showy and intermittently powerful, is not invariably illuminating. Hoffman does, however, find something in Bruce, as does Valerie Perrine in her role as his gorgeoous, strung-out wife Honey. The film was nominated for six Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Actor, and Actress. Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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LET IT BE
Documentary, 1970, Great Britain, G, * * *
The Beatles (John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Ringo Starr), Yoko Ono, Billy Preston. Directed by Michael Lindsay-Hogg. 80 min.

videos bullet iconThis documentary following the Beatles at work in the recording studio is fascinating mostly because of what came afterward: The album they were recording, Let It Be, turned out to be their last group work, and they broke up shortly before the film's release. Given that knowledge, viewers had a tendency to read too much into the minor disagreements and squabbles that marked the creative process. Aside from a few songs performed for a street crowd from the roof of their recording studio, there are really no live performances in this film. But for fans of the group, stage director Michael Lindsay-Hogg has captured a fascinating look at the tensions and harmonies that permeated their work and their public performance.

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LET'S DO IT AGAIN
Comedy, 1975, USA, PG, * * 1/2
Sidney Poitier, Bill Cosby, Calvin Lockhart, John Amos, Denise Nicholas, Ossie Davis, Jimmie Walker. Directed by Sidney Poitier. 110 min.

videos bullet iconThis semi-sequel to Uptown Saturday Night is an infectiously cheerful low-comedy caper, a sort of all-black Sting that also owes a lot to Abbott and Costello and, for that matter, Fred Flinstone and Barney Rubble. The plot has lodge brothers Sidney Poitier and Bill Cosby scamming some no-good gangsters by backing a spindly prizefighter (Jimmie, Walker, then hugely popular thanks to TV's Good Times). Director-star Poitier seems a little uncomfortable with comedy, and, for the most part, takes a backseat to the antics of Cosby, Walker and Ossie Davis. Nothing special overall, but very pleasant on its own terms. Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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THE LIFE AND TIMES OF JUDGE ROY BEAN
Western, 1972, USA, PG, * * *
Paul Newman, Victoria Principal, Anthony Perkins, Ned Beatty, Jim Burk, Tab Hunter, John Huston, Stacy Keach, Roddy McDowall, Jacqueline Bisset, Ava Gardner, Anthony Zerbe, Richard Farnsworth. Directed by John Huston. 120 min.

videos bullet iconJohn Huston's revisionist fantasy of the Old West is genial and amusing, even when it's overly episodic and a bit too loose with historical facts. Paul Newman cleans up the character of the title, the West's infamous "hanging judge," who here becomes a nice guy with a couple of grudges. There's a sequence in which Newman and Victoria Principal, as his Mexican wife, dance with a lovable bear to the strains of Andy Williams singing a song called "Marmalade, Molasses and Honey," and it is to Huston's credit that the scene does not make you want to throw up. The film was written by John Milius. Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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LIFEGUARD
Drama, 1976, USA, PG, * * 1/2
Sam Elliott, Anne Archer, Kathleen Quinlan, Stephen Young, Parker Stevenson, Sharon Weber. Directed by Daniel Petrie. 96 min.

videos bullet iconThe many interesting moments of this offbeat drama add up to a watchable but inconclusive film. Sam Elliott gives a fine performance as an overaged beach boy who wonders if endless summer is what he really wants when a more stable job beckons; Anne Archer plays his girlfriend from high-school days, wondering if the magic is still there. The film is low-key and often perceptive. Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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LITTLE BIG MAN
Western, 1970, USA, PG, * * *
Dustin Hoffman, Faye Dunaway, Martin Balsam, Richard Mulligan, Chief Dan George, Jeff Corey. Directed by Arthur Penn. 147 min.

videos bullet iconA sprawling, picaresque tragicomic Western about Jack Crabb, half-white, half-Indian, the only white survivor of the battle of Little Big Horn. In this adaptation of the National Book Award-winning novel by Thomas Berger, director Arthur Penn manages to capture Berger's ambivalences and bawdiness, but can't really do justice to the pro-Indian tone, although the remarkable performance of Chief Dan George helps. Dustin Hoffman gives a rich and searching performance as Crabb, who ages from adolescence to over 120 in the frame story. Richard Mulligan is also good as George Armstrong Custer, played here as an overblown loony. Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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THE LITTLE GIRL WHO LIVES DOWN THE LANE
Horror/Science Fiction, 1976, USA/Canada/France, PG, * *
Jodie Foster, Martin Sheen, Alexis Smith, Mort Shuman, Scott Jacoby. Directed by Nicolas Gessner. 94 min.

videos bullet iconStrange little drawing-room horror film about a thirteen-year-old girl (Jodie Foster) living alone in her late father's house and killing the strangers who want to interfere. She's the good guy; the bad guys are an officious Miss Gulch type (Alexis Smith) and her child-molester son (Martin Sheen), who have their own idea about how to bring up the girl. Jodie Foster is never uninteresting, even in the unlikeliest of roles, but this slow-moving Gothic isn't up to the talents of its cast, and the scares, with a couple of notable exceptions, are quite halfhearted. Laird Koenig, adapting his own novel, wrote the screenplay. Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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LIVE AND LET DIE
Action/Adventure, 1973, Great Britain, PG, * * 1/2
Roger Moore, Jane Seymour, Yaphet Kotto. Directed by Guy Hamilton. 121 min.

videos bullet iconThe previous non-Sean Connery Bond film, On Her Majesty's Secret Service, had been atypically serious and a failure. The introduction of a new James Bond, Roger Moore, meant a new tone for the series. Live and Let Die is the first one to be more comedic than suspenseful. Moore's lightweight condescending attitude infects the film with a sense of boredom early in the story, although the actor delivers his bon mots completely. This one has more locations than action, but the sidetrack into a Southern sheriff character proved popular. Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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LOGAN'S RUN
Science Fiction/Horror, 1976, USA, PG, * * *
Michael York, Richard Jordan, Jenny Agutter, Peter Ustinov, Farrah Fawcett-Majors. Directed by Michael Anderson. 120 min.

videos bullet iconAn ambitious and fairly successful look at a post-nuclear 23rd century future where, in order to control the population, no one is allowed to live past thirty. To enforce this rule, "sandmen" terminate those who would try to escape their fate. One of these police officers is recruited to find a reputed sanctuary for the "runners," and discovers the world outside of his dome. A good pace and some spectacular action sequences keep things moving along. Notable for its excellent, glittery set design (most of the interiors were shot at a shopping mall), this is one of the money-making sci-fi pictures that paved the way for Star Wars. Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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LOOKING FOR MR. GOODBAR
Drama, 1977, USA, R, * * *
Diane Keaton, Tuesday Weld, William Atherton, Richard Kiley, Richard Gere, Tom Berenger. Directed by Richard Brooks. 135 min.

videos bullet iconA harrowing morality play about singles bars and the perils of promiscuity. Adapting Judith Rossner's novel, director Richard Brooks has played up the split personality of protagonist Terry Dunn, a schoolteacher by day who cruises Chicago's low-life watering holes in search of semi-anonymous sex. That she ends up meeting Mr. Wrong will come as no surprise -- Goodbar telegraphs the punishment it has in store for its heroine early on. What makes the rather vicious tale work is the conviction with which Brooks delineates his story's ugly milieu. There's also fine acting from Diane Keaton (at the time, it was overshadowed by her near simultaneous appearance in Annie Hall), and from Tuesday Weld, Oscar-nominated as her unstable sister. Goodbar also marks Richard Gere's first major screen appearance, and one of his better performances. Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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THE LORDS OF FLATBUSH
Drama, 1974, USA, PG, * *
Perry King, Henry Winkler, Sylvester Stallone, Paul Mace, Susan Blakely, Maria Smith, Paul Jabara. Directed by Stephen F. Verona and Martin Davidson. 85 min.

videos bullet iconThis is passable but dull 1950s nostalgia made on the heels of American Graffiti. The Lords are four Brooklyn high school seniors who like to hang out, skip school, make out, fool around, hang out, skip school... The sitcom writing and slack direction keep the film's motor idling, but the four principals, seen here before they became stars, provide some nice character touches. For a much wiser look at the same era, see The Wanderers. Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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LOST HORIZON
Musical, 1974, USA, G, * 1/2
Peter Finch, Liv Ullmann, Sally Kellerman, George Kennedy, Michael York, Olivia Hussey, Bobby Van, James Shigeta, Charles Boyer, John Gielgud. Directed by Charles Jarrott. 143 min.

videos bullet iconThe first half-hour copies the 1937 film (an adaptation of James Hilton's classic story about five people stumbling into a strange Tibetan land where health, peace and longevity reign) scene-for-scene, and everything's fine; then we get to Shangri-La and awful Burt Bacharach-Hal David songs, and it falls apart. "Lost" is right. Originally released at 150m. Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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LOVE AT FIRST BITE
Comedy, 1979, USA, PG, * * *
George Hamilton, Susan Saint James, Richard Benjamin, Dick Shawn, Arte Johnson, Sherman Hemsley, Isabel Sanford. Directed by Stan Dragoti. 96 min.

videos bullet iconGeorge Hamilton's first intentional foray into outlandish comedy was this sometimes heavy-handed but often funny spoof of Dracula movies. In Robert Kaufman's script, the Count is escaping from behind the Iron Curtain and settles in modern Manhattan, where he meets up with a flippant fashion model. Hamilton displays some unexpected comic timing, but everyone else mugs outrageously: Arte Johnson as Dwight Frye, Dick Shawn as a cop, Richard Benjamin as a neurotic psychiatrist, and even talented Susan Saint James (in her brief sexpot phase) as the model (Director Stan Dragoti should have used his then-wife Cheryl Tiegs). There are sporadic laughs, but the pacing is slow and uneven. The intended highlight is a disco number with Hamilton and Saint James dancing to "I Love the Nightlife," but the camerawork misses all the humor. Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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LOVE STORY
Drama, 1970, USA, PG, * * 1/2
Ali McGraw, Ryan O'Neal, John Marley, Ray Milland, Katherine Balfour. Directed by Arthur Hiller. 100 min.

videos bullet iconThe title says it all -- this romantic drama, as definitive as it is generic, will leave you either weeping or rolling in the aisles, depending on whether your temperament tends toward the moonstruck or the cynical. The most popular screen tearjerker ever, Love Story depicts the romance between rich, handsome brilliant Harvard student Oliver Barrett IV (Ryan O'Neal) and poor, beautiful Radcliffe student Jenny Cavallari (Ali McGraw). But the film's real trump card is played in its first line, when Ollie sighs, "What can you say about a twenty-five-year-old girl who died?" The film can be attacked on infinite levels -- for its banality, its blatant manipulation, its mannequin-like acting, and its saccharine beautification of everything from immense wealth to terminal (unspecified) illness. But none of this explains why audiences adore it and went back again and again. Making a crowd-pleasing blockbuster means never having to say you're sorry, even if you're screenwriter Erich Segal, who committed perhaps the most lasting artistic sin of all -- with this movie, he created the genre of novelization. If none of this has seriously dissuaded you, you're going to love it. A sequel, Oliver's Story, followed in 1978. Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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LOVERS AND OTHER STRANGERS
Comedy, 1970, USA, R, * * *
Gig Young, Bea Arthur, Bonnie Bedelia, Anne Jackson, Harry Guardino, Michael Brandon, Richard Castellano, Cloris Leachman. Directed by Cy Howard. 106 min.

videos bullet iconSort of The Father of the Bride of the seventies, only more like the Family of the Bride, this is a congenial grouping of vignettes about the impact of a couple's decision to marry has on their two families, with all the different factions choosing sides. There is rippling hilarity throughout, but only a modicum of belly laughs. Unlike earlier wedding comedies, this isn't a fluffy farce; we can really identify with these family squabbles. Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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MACARTHUR
Action/Adventure, 1977, USA, PG, * *
Gregory Peck, Ed Flanders, Dan O'Herlihy, Marj Dusay, Sandy Kenyon, Nicolas Caster. Directed by Joseph Sargent. 128 min.

videos bullet iconThis is an obvious but failed attempt to do for General Douglas MacArthur what the film Patton did for that other flamboyant World War II general: portray both the attractive and the objectionable sides of a man who was a brilliant strategist but also a hopeless egomaniac. The problem is neither the production nor the director (whose primary experience has been in television) could grasp the kind of scope that such an undertaking would require, and in trying to project a larger-than-life character have only come up with a big frog in a small lily pond. Peck does what he can with the title role, but the support to flesh it out and provide a context just isn't there. Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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MAGIC
Mystery/Suspense, 1978, USA, R, * * 1/2
Anthony Hopkins, Ann-Margret, Burgess Meredith, Ed Lauter, E.J. Andre, Jerry Houser. Directed by Richard Attenborough. 106 min.

videos bullet iconWilliam Goldman wrote this mechanical thriller about a professional ventriloquist (Anthony Hopkins) whose murderous alter ego, as represented by dummy Fats, begins to take over his personality. Magic owes a great debt to the Michael Redgrave segment of the British classic Dead of the Night, which was a lot smarter and scarier. Though the film is easy to watch and intermittently entertaining, Richard Attenborough's clumsy direction doesn't allow any of the plot twists to come as surprises. The casting of Hopkins as the fast-talking New York protagonist and Ann-Margret as a blowsy hotel manager is so totally in error that you have to suspect that the studio executives at Fox were out to lunch the day the decisions were made. Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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MAGNUM FORCE
Action/Adventure, 1973, USA, R, * * 1/2
Clint Eastwood, Hal Holbrook, Felton Perry, Mitchell Ryan, David Soul, Tim Matheson, Robert Urich. Directed by Ted Post. 122 min.

videos bullet iconThere's an interesting thematic twist to this first sequel in the Dirty Harry series; here, vigilante cop Callahan must track down a band of renegade officers in a case that will test the same system he opposes. As always, Clint Eastwood's cooly calculated performance suggests that there's more going on in his character than he'll allow the script to show, but, this time around, he has a fairly intricate story written by John Milius (Red Dawn) and Michael Cimino (The Deer Hunter) to back him up. Healthy doses of violence appear with reassuring regularity to remind you that, despite its small pretensions, this is still a Dirty Harry flick with a vengeance. Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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MAHOGANY
Drama, 1975, USA, PG, * 1/2
Diana Ross, Billy Dee Williams, Anthony Perkins, Jean-Pierre Aumont, Nina Foch, Beah Richards. Directed by Berry Gordy, Tony Richardson. 109 min.

videos bullet iconRiding on the crest of her Oscar nomination for Lady Sings the Blues, Diana Ross sunk in this follow-up rags-to-riches yarn, this time concerning a small-time fashion designer who becomes an international model. Ross and the rest of the talented cast are wasted in stereotyped roles and forced to mouth inane dialogue. Anthony Perkins's patented Psycho bit provides the most fascinatingly bad performance, but the others are merely routinely awful. The largest mistake, obviously, was in conceiving a Diana Ross movie without songs, although the hit "Do You Know Where You're Going To?" comes from this film. It's a tedious trash wallow, even for Ross fans. Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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THE MAIN EVENT
Comedy, 1979, USA, PG, * *
Barbra Streisand, Ryan O'Neal, Paul Sand, Whitman Mayo, Patti D'Arbanville. Directed by Howard Zieff, Tony Richardson. 110 min.

videos bullet iconMade in the mold of the Hepburn-Tracy comedies, The Main Event fails to provide much old-fashioned fun. Barbra Streisand and Ryan O'Neal, who proved a winning team in What's Up, Doc?, are reuited. Barbra's a bankrupt perfume manufacturer and her only asset is broken-down boxer O'Neal. It's hate at first sight and, of course, later -- love. It all resembles a sitcom, but sitcoms don't often have a larger-than-life star like Streisand -- she is often funnier than the material. Patti D'Arbanville scores briefly as O'Neal's chronically coughing girlfriend. Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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MANHATTAN
Comedy, 1979, USA, R, * * * *
Woody Allen, Diane Keaton, Michael Murphy, Mariel Hemingway, Anne Byrne, Meryl Streep. Directed by Woody Allen. 96 min.

videos bullet iconThis wonderful, bittersweet saga of love in the city stars Woody Allen as a comedy writer torn between an affectionate schoolgirl, Mariel Hemingway, and a neurotic intellectual, Diane Keaton. The film is a joy throughout, funny, touching, poignant. The romance is real and wrenching; the characters ring true. The chemistry between Allen and Keaton has never been better. Hemingway, in her best performance by far, is perfect as Allen's innocent and appealing young love interest. Meryl Streep, as Allen's ex who has discovered lesbianism, is superlative as usual. Gordon Willis's elegant black-and-white cinematography superbly conveys the film's picturesque, romantic tone. Whether you see it alone or with a sweetheart, this romantic masterpiece will do your soul good. Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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THE MAN WHO FELL TO EARTH
Horror/Science Fiction, 1976, Great Britain, R, * * * 1/2
David Bowie, Candy Clark, Buck Henry, Rop Torn. Directed by Nicholas Roeg. 140 min.

videos bullet iconNicolas Roeg's beautiful, complex pop-art film has become a science-fiction cult classic. David Bowie plays a frail and exotic extraterrestrial who splashes down into a Southwestern lake and, in a noble attempt to find water for his people, is overcome by modern technology, American capitalism, and earthly love. Roeg has constructed a highly offbeat, intellectual film, but there is so much going on that the story is occasionally hard to take. Despite its unwieldiness, the film succeeds through sheer originality and directorial flair. Bowie's performance is haunting and unique. Don't expect a "family movie," however; there's enough nudity for the British to have given it an X rating. Based on a novel by Walter Tevis, author of The Hustler. Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN
Action/Adventure, 1974, USA, PG, * 1/2
Roger Moore, Christopher Lee, Britt Ekland, Maud Adams, Herve Villechaize, Bernard Lee, Desmond Llewellyn. Directed by Guy Hamilton. 125 min.

videos bullet iconA leading candidate for the booby prize as the worst James Bond film of all time, this movie is Roger Moore's second outing in the role. It features Britt Ekland and Maud Adams as guest bunnies, and for a villain offers Christopher Lee with a plastic third nipple pasted to his chest. If we had Bond's license to kill, we'd start here. Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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MARATHON MAN
Mystery/Suspense, 1976, USA, R, * * * 1/2
Dustin Hoffman, Laurence Olivier, Roy Scheider, William Devane, Marthe Keller, Fritz Weaver. Directed by John Schlesinger. 126 min.

videos bullet iconThe star (Dustin Hoffman) and director (John Schlesinger) of Midnight Cowboy team again to create another riveting portrait of New York City. This time, Hoffman plays the innocent, a student and marathon runner pursued by a Nazi war criminal (Laurence Olivier) who believes that the young man has knowledge of some valuable diamonds. William Goldman's screenplay, based on his novel, becomes confusing at times but eventually straightens itself out, and Schlesinger's noirish tonality sustains the sudden jumps in location and action. Several set pieces are memorable: the innocent argument in midtown traffic that triggers all the events to come; Hoffman tortured with a drill in Olivier's dentist's chair; Hoffman chased on city highways in nothing but his pajama bottoms; and Olivier (who gives one of his best latter-day performances) recognized in the diamond district by a concentration camp survivor (Lotta Andor-Palfi). The conclusion is slightly disappointing, but otherwise this is a superb thriller. Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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M*A*S*H
Comedy, 1970, USA, R, * * * *
videos bullet iconDonald Sutherland, Elliott Gould, Tom Skerritt, Robert Duvall, Sally Kellerman, Jo Ann Pflug, Rene Auberjonois, Roger Bowen, Gary Burghoff, John Schuck, G. Wood, Fred Williamson, Bud Cort, Danny Goldman. Directed by Robert Altman. 116 min.

If you loved this increasingly drippy sitcom descendant, which wore its heart on its sleeve in a way that Robert Altman would never dream of, you won't be prepared for the brutality of the original if you've never seen it. The movie M*A*S*H is quite another thing from "Little House on the Korean Prairie," it is an often heartlessly funny film about people living in a heartless situation. Donald Sutherland's Hawekeye would chew up and spit out Alan Alda's in the same mouthful as the other "Regular Army clowns." The movie was the first of Altman's multi-character extravaganzas, and its blend of 1960s irreverence and 1970s cynicism instantly established him as the director most in tune with the zeitgeist of his era. Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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McCABE AND MRS. MILLER
Western, 1971, USA, R, * * * *
Warren Beatty, Julie Christie, Rene Auberjonois, Shelley Duvall, Michael Murphy, Keith Carridine. Directed by Robert Altman. 121 min.

videos bullet iconAn evocative Western that re-creates a period when one form of civilization, the brothel, was taming the clapboard towns out on the edge of the wilderness. Warren Beatty is mesmerizing as a fast-talking pipe dreamer who teams up with Julie Christie, Oscar-nominated as a hardened whore who tries not to let her romantic inclinations for Beatty interfere with her business sense. Never have Robert Altman's predilections for overlapping dialogue and misty cinematography been so suited to his theme of people being judged, not be what they accomplish, but by how big their dreams are. Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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MEAN STREETS
Drama, 1973, USA, R, * * * *
Harvey Keitel, Robert DeNiro, Amy Robinson, Cesare Danova, Richard Romanus. Directed by Martin Scorsese. 110 min.

videos bullet iconThis is an electrifying portrait of a troubled young man's fall from grace in a local Mafia family, set to the beat of the Rolling Stones and the Ronettes, and enriched by a palpable evocation of New York City. Early in his career, Martin Scorsese seemed more interested in the guilt-obsessed, compulsively Catholic Harvey Keitel character with his uptight philosophical angst; but, even here, Robert DeNiro steals the show with his mannered, crazy-boy histrionics. The movie is a jazzed junkyard of burned-out characterizations, an I Vitelloni of Little Italy itself. Best scene: a magical rooftop confrontation between DeNiro and Keitel after DeNiro's Johnny Boy has been shooting at the Empire State Building. Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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MEATBALLS
Comedy, 1979, Canada, PG, * *
Bill Murray, Harvey Atkin, Kate Lynch, Kristine DeBell, Russ Banham, Chris Makepeace. Directed by Ivan Reitman. 92 min.

videos bullet iconBill Murray is the whole show in this amiable but witless summer camp comedy. Murray, in his first feature after his success on Saturday Night Live, is likably raunchy as an activities director who is more interested in the female counselors than in the crew of misfits to which he is assigned. The rest of the film shifts from crude slapstick to sentimental drama about one particular outcast (Chris Makepeace). Even Murray can't survive the scenes with the latter. The sequels -- Meatballs Part II (1984), Meatballs III (1987) and Meatballs 4 (1992) -- were even worse. Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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MIDNIGHT EXPRESS
Action/Adventure, 1978, USA, R, * * * 1/2
Brad Davis, John Hurt, Irene Miracle, Mike Kellin. Directed by Alan Parker. 121 min.

videos bullet iconA harrowing account of American college student Billy Hayes's arrest, incarceration, and subsequent escape from a Turkish prison for hashish smuggling, Midnight Express is one of the most skilfull exploitation films ever made (and one of a small handful to be nominated for a Best Picture Oscar). But exploitation it remains, especially in its relentlessly voyeuristic (and racist) depiction of the horrors of Turkish jails, and in the considerable liberties it takes with the events on which it is based. Alan Parker's direction is consistently intense, as are the tour de force performances of Brad Davis and John Hurt; notable as well is Giorgio Moroder's pulsating synth score, a classic of its kind. Enjoy it as terriffic suspense, but take the grandstanding commentary it pretends to provide with a grain of salt. Oliver Stone's screenplay won an Academy Award. Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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MIDWAY
War, 1976, USA, PG, * *
Charlton Heston, Henry Fonda, James Coburn, Glenn Ford, Hal Holbrook, Robert Mitchum, Cliff Robertson, Toshiro Mifune, Robert Wagner, Edward Albert, Robert Webber, Ed Nelson, James Shigeta, Monte Markham, Christopher George, Glenn Corbett, Erik Estrada. Directed by Jack Smight. 132 min.

videos bullet iconA prominent cast acts to reels of stock shots from Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo, antique Japanese war films, and actual wartime footage. A silly soap opera (Heston's ensign son is in love with a Japanese girl) doesn't help. Still, some of the drama and impact of the great naval battle comes through. Many familiar faces are in the cast: Tom Selleck, Kevin Dobson, Pat Morita, Dabney Coleman, Erik Estrada, Steve Kanaly, etc. Paul Frees dubbed Mifune's English dialogue. Panavision. Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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THE MIND OF MR. SOAMES
Horror/Science Fiction, 1970, Great Britain, PG, * * * 1/2
Terence Stamp, Robert Vaughn, Nigel Davenport, Christian Roberts. Directed by Alan Cooke. 95 min.

videos bullet iconExceptionally fine sci-fi tale of a man who has been in a coma since birth; finally revived, he must be taught thirty years' worth of knowledge in a brief span of time. Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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MONTY PYTHON AND THE HOLY GRAIL
Comedy, 1974, Great Britain, R, * * *
Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, Michael Palin. Directed by Terry Gilliam and Terry Jones. 90 min.

videos bullet iconThe Monty Python troupe, extending their irreverent half-hour comedy show to feature length, more or less, retains the bare bones of the legend of King Arthur and his knights' search for the Holy Grail. Unexpected and outrageous turns come in the form of a killer rabbit, the decapitation of a "you are there"-type of reporter, a castle of lusty young maidens, a fey depiction of Robin Hood and his merry men, and much, much more. Uneven, like the TV series and all the other Python films, but with so many solid laughs that the duds don't matter. Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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MOONRAKER
Action/Adventure, 1979, Great Britain, PG, * * *
Roger Moore, Lois Chiles, Michael Lonsdale, Richard Kiel, Corinne Clery, Bernard Lee, Desmond Llewelyn, Lois Maxwell. Directed by Lewis Gilbert. 126 min.

videos bullet iconFor the eleventh entry in the James Bond series, producer Albert Broccoli dropped the spy-versus-spy intrigue of the Sean Connery era completely, in favor of a cartoonish, effects-laden, light-spirited style better suited to Roger Moore, and almost as entertaining. This installment isn't quite as clever or well crafted as The Spy Who Loved Me, but the gimmick, which has 007 traveling into outer space to foil a world-conquest plot, is irresistible. Lois Chiles is cold and drab as the requisite Bond bedmate, but there's a very funny subplot involving the return of Richard Kiel's steel-toothed villain Jaws (who gets his very own girlfriend), and a bang-up finale. Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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MORE AMERICAN GRAFFITI
Comedy, 1979, USA, PG, * *
Candy Clark, Bo Hopkins, Ron Howard, Paul Le Mat, Mackenzie Phillips, Charles Martin Smith, Cindy Williams, Anna Bjorn. Directed by B.W.L. Norton. 111 min.

videos bullet iconMore is less, in this sequel to the 1973 hit, placing that film's likable characters in a quartet of pointless vignettes. Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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THE MUPPET MOVIE
Children's, 1979, USA, G, * * * 1/2
Jim Henson's Muppets, Frank Oz, Jerry Nelson, Richard Hunt, Dave Goelz, Charles Durning, Austin Pendleton, Scott Walker. Directed by James Frawley. 98 min.

videos bullet iconIn their much-heralded move from the tube to the big screen, the Muppets pack along their special brand of charm and wit for an entertaining, music-filled journey to Hollywood and stardom. It's Kermit's big dream to get that major studio contract, instead of performing in a Doc Hopper television commercial for fried frogs legs, or, worse yet, ending up in the frying pan himself. When Orson Welles (one of the film's fifteen cameos) finally signs the "standard furry animal" contract, it's a bittersweet cinematic reference in this generally self-aware film: Kermit gets the contract from the man who could never secure one himself. The casual references to other films -- from High Noon to Attack of the Fifty-Foot Woman -- and the movie's own sincere self-mockery -- "I just turned to page eighty-seven of the script and" -- keep the mood light and entertaining. The unobtrusive special effects, which allow full body movement, visually reflect this big-screen freedom. Steve Martin as an arrogant waiter, Dom De Luise as a drifting Hollywood agent, and Mel Brooks as the mad scientist determined to give the frog an "eletronic cerebrectomy" spice up the film's wacky humor. Although the middle bogs down somewhat (too many cameos), the Muppets' bubbling enthusiams is highly contagious. Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS
Suspense, 1974, Great Britain, PG, * * * 1/2
Albert Finney, Lauren Bacall, Martin Balsam, Ingrid Bergman, Jacqueline Bisset, Jean-Pierre Cassel, Sean Connery, John Gielgud, Wendy Hiller, Anthony Perkins, Vanessa Redgrave, Rachel Roberts, Richard Widmark, Michael York, Denis Quilley. Directed by Sidney Lumet. 127 min.

videos bullet iconA grandly old-fashioned mystery is brought to life by Sidney Lumet's lavish direction, Paul Dehn's tight script, and an all-star cast that, for once, really is made up entirely of stars. Agatha Christie's Hercule Poirot novel, written in 1934, was one of her best -- she put her Belgian detective on a luxury train, trying to solve a murder with too many suspects. On screen, her occasionally mechanical plotting works like a dream, every cog and whell in perfect order. It's unquestionably the best screen adaptation of her work, and the almost unrecognizable Albert Finney makes a dazzingly funny and on-target Poirot. Murder may seem tedious to viewers unused to Christie's leisurely way with a mystery, but those who know her work will be enraptured with the film's high style. Ingrid Bergman won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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MYRA BRECKENRIDGE
Comedy, 1970, USA, X/re-edited R, *
Raquel Welch, Mae West, John Huston, Rex Reed, Farrah Fawcett, Roger C. Carmel, George Furth, Calvin Lockhart, Jim Backus, John Carradine, Andy Devine, Grady Sutton, Tom Selleck. Directed by Michael Sarne. 94 min.

videos bullet iconA homosexual movie nut (critic Rex Reed) gets a sex-change operation and, in the person of Raquel Welch, goes to Hollywood to devastate mankind, Hollywood, and America, not necessarily in that order, or in any kind of order at all. The director and producer rejected Gore Vidal's screenplay adaptation of his novel -- whether they used any screenplay at all is questionable, because Myra Breckenridge is an incoherent, aimless, terminally "hip" hodgepodge of gaudy visuals interspersed with old movie clips. This was one of the first (and only) major Hollywood productions to receive an X rating, though now it would have to be spiced up in order to be assured of an R. Aside from the various thirties and forties idols shown in clips, there is the questionable spectacle of such prewar supporting players as Andy Devine, Grady Sutton and John Carradine in "cameo" appearances, as well as future television sex stars Farrah Fawcett and Tom Selleck in parts they'd probably rather forget. Sole saving grace: Mae West, who does show her age, but who was at least allowed to write her own lines. The movie lacks even camp value, mostly because that's just what it tries so hard to achieve. Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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NAPOLEON AND SAMANTHA
Children's, 1972, USA, PG, * * 1/2
Michael Douglas, Jodie Foster, Johnny Whitaker, Will Geer, Arch Johnson, Henry Jones. Directed by Bernard McEveety. 92 min.

videos bullet iconDisney tale of two kids (Jodie Foster, in her big screen debut, and Johnny Whitaker of TV's Family Affair) who run away with pet lion is OK family fare. Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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NASHVILLE
Comedy, 1975, USA, R, * * * *
Barbara Baxley, Ned Beatty, Karen Black, Ronee Blakeley, Kieth Carradine, Geraldine Chaplin, Shelley Duvall, Allen Garfield, Henry Gibson, Scott Glenn, Barbara Harris, Michael Murphy, Cristina Raines, Lily Tomlin. Directed by Robert Altman. 159 min.

videos bullet iconThis brilliantly detailed, epic collage of the lives of twenty-four unforgettable characters during five hectic days in Nashville -- the city where showbiz and politics merge -- is one of the greatest American films of the 1970s. Altman has created a triumphantly idiosyncratic portrait of American strength, weakness, folly, and grace in a film that slides between tragedy and comedy with a remarkably lifelike fluidity. Constantly overlapping dialogue gives many of the scenes a narrative richness and naturalism that verges on the poetic. The huge cast (many of whom wrote the songs they sing in the film, superb country-music spoofs) does splendid work as an ensemble, and still allows performances of particular incisiveness -- Lily Tomlin's and Ronee Blakeley's foremost among them -- to shine through. Politics, pop culture, and personal relationships blend to create a cinematic rarity -- a highly individual but all-encompassing vision of America. Stay with Nashville -- its apparent early rambling conceals a carefully calculated structure not fully evident until the last scene. Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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NATIONAL LAMPOON'S ANIMAL HOUSE
Comedy, 1978, USA, R, * * *
John Belushi, Tim Matheson, John Vernon, Verna Bloom, Thomas Hulce, Cesare Danova, Donald Sutherland, Karen Allen, Mary Louise Weller. Directed by John Landis. 109 min.

videos bullet iconA cast of real pros makes this famed frat house comedy many grades higher than the rest: John Belushi incites a cafeteria food fight; Tim Matheson beds the dean's wife (Verna Bloom) during a wild toga party; Thomas Hulce gets "high" with his professor (Donald Sutherland); and John Vernon, as the dean, conducts Nazi-like drill sessions. The Harold Ramis-Douglas Kenny-Chris Miller screenplay is less raucous than National Lampoon's magazine humor and goes for some cheap laughs, but it is funny. John Landis (The Blues Brothers, An American Werewolf in London) directs in an appropriately crude yet breezy manner. Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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NETWORK
Comedy, 1976, USA, R, * * * 1/2
Peter Finch, William Holden, Faye Dunaway, Robert Duvall, Wesley Addy, Ned Beatty, William Prince, Beatrice Straight, Marlene Warfield. Directed by Sidney Lumet. 120 min.

videos bullet iconPaddy Chayefsky's lacerating satire of the television industry begs to be taken as a scathing indictment of the manipulative scum that foists tube trash on mindless masses; as a black comedy it's often funny and nasty enough to score its points with humor. Peter Finch, in his last role, plays a network anchorman fired after years of service. He breaks down on the air, and his deranged rantings send the Nielsens skyward and the megalomaniacal, string-pulling programmer (Faye Dunaway) into ecstasy; she dubs him the Mad Prophet of the Airwaves, and a star is born. Finch and Dunaway's robust, over-the-top performances won them Oscars, and Beatrice Straight was also honored for her brief, histrionic turn as a unappreciated wife. Nominated here as well were Ned Beatty as one of the corporate powers-that-be, and William Holden, who gives the best performance in the thankless role of Chayefsky's mouthpiece. There are many great moments and hysterical set pieces. Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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THE NEW CENTURIONS
Action/Adventure, 1972, USA, R, * * 1/2
George C. Scott, Stacy Keach, Jane Alexander, Rosalind Cash, Erik Estrada. Directed by Richard Fleischer. 103 min.

videos bullet iconBased on Joseph Wambaugh's novel, which was culled from his own experiences as an L.A. cop, this film is to the men in blue what the 1968 John Wayne movie The Green Berets was to the marines: a recruitment film for general consumption. This reflects the Nixon-era swing of public opinion to the opposite extreme from the "Off the pigs!" cries of the late 1960s. The title refers to an equation of today's police with the Roman centurions, the last stronghold of that civilization against the barbarians who eventually overtook it. Fortunately, director Richard Fleischer is incapable of creating a film with any real depth, so while it never sinks to the camp depths of The Green Berets, it stays at the level of glib, unconvincing entertainment. Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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NICHOLAS AND ALEXANDRA
Drama, 1971, Great Britain, PG, * * 1/2
Michael Jayston, Janet Suzman, Roderic Noble, Fiona Fullerton, Ania Marson, Lynne Frederick, Harry Andrews, Tom Baker, Michael Bryant, Maurice Denham, Jack Hawkins, Ian Holm, Curt Jurgens, John McEnery, Eric Porter, Michael Redgrave, Alan Webb, Irene Worth, Laurence Olivier. Directed by Franklin J. Schaffner. 189 min.

videos bullet iconFranklin Schaffner's retelling of the troubled lives of the last Russian Czar and Czarina is overstuffed with visual splendor, spectacularly decorative crowd scenes, historical portent, and all-star appearances, but someone forgot to stir in the drama. Although Janet Suzman makes a compelling Alexandra, Michael Jayston is a very bland Nicholas, and James Goldman's script tends to stoop to obvious manipulation and very silly name-dropping ("Who is this Stalin fellow anyway?"). The wide-screen mastery will be lost on video, and the story feels lopped off, too, but the overwhelming display of pageantry and a number of small, sharp star turns make it passable epic entertainment; the art direction and costume design won Oscars. The film is based on a popular historical study by Robert K. Massie, who also wrote Peter the Great. Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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NORMA RAE
Drama, 1979, USA, PG, * * * 1/2
Sally Field, Ron Liebman, Beau Bridges, Pat Hingle, Barbara Baxley, Gail Strickland. Directed by Martin Ritt. 114 min.

videos bullet iconSally Field won both the Academy Award and the Cannes film festival prize for her vivid portrayal of a Southern textile worker whose unremarkable life is changed by the arrival of a union organizer (Ron Liebman) from New York City. Martin Ritt's triumphant mounting of this depiction of a brave, unforgettable woman is among his best work; he's right at home with this kind of populist-inspirational material. Field, even for nonfans, is especially impressive -- you can see her struggling (successfully) to make Norma Rae a real woman, warts and all, and deglamorize herself in the process. Norma Rae isn't terribly complex, but on its own level it's thoroughly successful. The lovely theme song, "It Goes Like It Goes," won an Oscar. Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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NORWOOD
Comedy, 1970, USA, G, * *
Glen Campbell, Kim Darby, Joe Namath, Carol Lynley, Pat Hingle, Tisha Sterling, Dom DeLuise. Directed by Jack Haley Jr. 96 min.

videos bullet iconEx-Marine Campbell hits the road for a series of unrelated adventures with his service buddy Namath, a midget (Billy Curtis), a Greenwich Village girl (Sterling), a shiftless brother-in-law (DeLuise), a dancing chicken, and a young girl (Darby) with whom he falls in love. Easy to take, but pointless. Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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ODE TO BILLY JOE
Drama, 1976, USA, PG, *
Robby Benson, Glynnis O'Connor, Joan Hotchkis, Sandy McPeak, James Best, Terence Goodman. Directed by Max Baer. 105 min.

videos bullet iconThe Bobbie Gentry song of the title was so memorable on the radio in 1967 because it was such an eerie evocation of mood, a three-minute piece of Southern Gothic in which we significantly never learn just why "Billie Joe McAllister jumped off the Tallahatchie bridge." In the screenplay by Herman Raucher (Summer of '42), we find out why, and a good song is ruined. Robby Benson and Glynnis O'Connor do their puppy-love bit yet again, this time in 1953 Mississippi, and although this is a cut above most of its ilk, it will be palatable only to those who haven't yet had their fill of films about the sensitivity of youth. Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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THE ODESSA FILE
Mystery/Suspense, 1974, Great Britain, PG, * * 1/2
Jon Voight, Maximilian Schell, Mary Tamm, Martin Brandt, Maria Schell, Sybil Danning, Derek Jacobi, Peter Jeffrey. Directed by Ronald Neame. 128 min.

videos bullet iconIn 1963 Hamburg, a determined journalist (Jon Voight) hunts down a secret network of ex-SS officers planning to overthrow Israel. This predictable, often plodding entry in the Nazis-in-hiding genre doesn't measure up to efforts like The Boys from Brazil and Marathon Man, but even if the outcome is obvious, Voight's low-key work and Maximilian Schell's chilling portrayal of his nemesis are reason enough to follow along. Based on a somewhat more effective novel by Frederick Forsyth. Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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OH GOD!
Comedy, 1977, USA, PG, * *
George Burns, John Denver, Teri Garr, Paul Sorvino. Directed by Carl Reiner. 110 min.

videos bullet iconJust for safety's sake, one should probably be wary of giving God a bad review, and thankfully, here it's not strictly necessary. George Burns is a nice, grandfatherly version of the Almighty (as Burns himself remarked, they're fairly close in age), but one wished God had chosen a funnier vehicle for his return to earth or a more interesting person to bless than grocery clerk John Denver. The worldly trevails experienced by Denver and clan exert all the interest of an ingrown toenail, but Burns, even spouting the most ridiculous aphorisms, proves a reassuring presence. He wrings as much charm out of the role as possible -- the rest of the film is less than a religious experience. Followed by two sequels, Oh God! Book II (1980) and Oh God! You Devil (1984). Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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OLIVER'S STORY
Drama, 1978, USA, PG, *
Ryan O'Neal, Candice Bergen, Nicola Pagett, Edward Binns, Benson Fong, Charles Haid, Kenneth McMillan, Ray Milland. Directed by John Korty. 90 min.

videos bullet iconIt took eight years for Hollywood to produce a sequel to the phenomenally popular Love Story, and the result of the long wait seems a rather nasty joke: In casting a romantic interest to preppy Oliver Barrett (Ryan O'Neal), the producers obviously couldn't use Ali MacGraw -- she died in the original. Who better to replace her than the only other actress of the 1970s who matched MacGraw's stupefying inexpressiveness -- Candice Bergen. This was her last really bad performance, and it's a stinker -- she plays an heiress to the Bonwit Teller fortune, although you may confuse her with one of that store's window dummies. O'Neal (also at his worst here, or close) falls for her -- but will he be able to shake the memory of dear, dead Ali? Whether or not you enjoyed the original, save yourself the disappointment of this continuation; even Francis Lai's insistent love theme will get on your nerves. Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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THE OMEGA MAN
Horror/Science Fiction, 1971, USA, PG, * *
Charlton Heston, Rosalind Cash, Anthony Zerbe, Paul Koslo, Eric Laneuville. Directed by Boris Sagal. 98 min.

videos bullet iconIn a Los Angeles where dusk is longer than the day (both beautifully photographed by Russell Metty), Charlton Heston cruises barren streets and, by night, staves off surfer-like zombies in priestly robes who want to occupy his luxury penthouse. In this solid adaptation of Richard Matheson's novel I Am Legend set in a post-plague 1976, Heston plays a scientist who develops a serum and searches for unrobed people; Rosalind Cash is delicious as one of his finds. Unfortunately, the midsection with Cash either sags or soars, depending on whether you hate digression or admire human interaction and wit. The intelligent Heston delivers many awkward soliloquies and the film ends with a crucifixion, which is exactly what the ending deserves. Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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THE OMEN
Horror/Science Fiction, 1976, USA, R, * * *
Gregory Peck, Lee Remick, David Warner, Billie Whitelaw, Leo McKern, Harvey Stephens, Patrick Troughton. Directed by Richard Donner. 111 min.

videos bullet iconThe Antichrist, a changeling child born of a jackal and foisted upon the U.S. ambassador to Britain and his unsuspecting wife, wreaks havoc on all those who inhibit his plans to bring about Armageddon in the twentieth century. This is a ground-breaking big-budget horror movie whose respectable cast, expensive special effects, and exceptional production values ultimately compensate for its silliness and lack of conviction. Pay particular attention to the Gregorian chants-on-acid soundtrack that was used in both sequels -- Damien - Omen II and Omen III - The Final Conflict -- in a desperate attempt to inject some life into them. A made-for-TV sequel, Omen IV: The Awakening, followed in 1991. Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO'S NEST
Drama, 1975, USA, R, * * * *
Jack Nicholson, Louise Fletcher, Will Sampson, William Redfield, Brad Dourif, Scatman Crothers, Danny DeVito, Michael Berryman, Peter Brocco. Directed by Milos Foreman. 133 min.

videos bullet iconKen Kesey's 1962 best-seller was adopted into the only movie since It Happened One Night (1934) to win the five major Academy Awards -- Best Picture, Director, Screenplay, Actor, and Actress. Jack Nicholson delivers an ingenious, truly unforgettable performance as rebellious MacMurphy, the mental hospital patient who undermines the tyranny of stoic Nurse Ratched (Louise Fletcher) and breathes new life into his otherwise spiritless fellow patients. Interaction between the actors is so refreshingly, tangibly real, so inspired, that we are compelled not merely to sympathize with the insane, but also to identify with them; not only to cry for them, but also to laugh with them. Impeccably directed by Milos Foreman, the film dissolves preconceived boundaries between normality and abnormality, establishing itself as one of those rare movies that can both broadly entertain and subtly change us. Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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ONE ON ONE
Drama, 1977, USA, PG, * 1/2
Robby Benson, Annette O'Toole, G.D. Spradlin, Gail Strickland, Melanie Griffith. Directed by Lamont Johnson. 98 min.

videos bullet iconThis meek, mawkish drama about a slightly dull-witted high school basketball star who's in danger of losing an athletic scholarship was written by its star, Robby Benson, and his father, Jerry Segal. Unless you think of Benson as multitalented, stay away. One on One scores some points against the business of sports, but none that weren't made more forcefully in All the Right Moves. And why Benson's mumbling, bumbling, graceless presence brought him teen fandom in the 1970s is still a mystery; his mere appearance can numb a viewer more quickly than almost anyone we've seen since Fred MacMurray in "My Three Sons." Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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THE ONION FIELD
Drama, 1979, USA, R, * * * 1/2
John Savage, James Woods, Ted Danson, Franklyn Seales, Ronny Cox, David Huffman, Christopher Lloyd. Directed by Harold Becker. 126 min.

videos bullet iconDeeply dissatisfied with the previous screen adaptations of his works (The New Centurions, The Choirboys), crime writer Joseph Wambaugh closely supervised this factual drama about the kidnapping of two cops, the murder of one of them, and the toll of the nightmarish experience on the partner who lived. The result is a sterling tale of justice miscarried, abetted by four terrific performances. Ted Danson, as the slain cop, and Franklyn Seales, as the weaker of the criminals, give admirably understated performances, allowing you to rivet your attention to John Savage, as the officer who, as the trials drag on four years, begins to crumble, and James Woods, a terrifying incarnation of the calculating killer. It's not always as clearly or neatly told as it might have been, but the story's oddities come from its close adherence to the facts, and Wambaugh's refusal to sacrifice truth for drama is hard to fault. Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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THE OTHER
Horror/Science Fiction, 1972, USA, PG, * * *
Uta Hagen, Diana Muldaur, Chris Udvarnoky, Martin Udvarnoky, Chris Connelly, Victor French. Directed by Robert Mulligan. 100 min.

videos bullet iconEerie tale of the supernatural, with twin brothers representing good and evil. Stark, chilling mood tale adapted by Thomas Tryon from his novel. Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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OUR TIME
Drama, 1974, USA, R, * * 1/2
Pamela Sue Martin, Parker Stevenson, Betsy Slade, George O'Hanlon, Jr., Karen Balkin. Directed by Peter Hyams. 88 min.

Nice nostalgic tale of young love, set in a Massachusetts girls' school in 1955. Bad color photography mars otherwise effective comedic and dramatic elements. Shown on network TV as Death of Her Innocence. Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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THE OUTFIT
Action/Adventure, 1973, USA, PG, * * *
Robert Duvall, Joe Don Baker, Karen Black, Joe Don Baker, Robert Ryan, Joanna Cassidy. Directed by John Flynn. 103 min.

videos bullet iconThis down-and-dirty Rebert Duvall revenge movie deserved a wider audience. Based on a spare pulp novel by Richard Stark (one of genre heavyweight Donald E. Westlake's many pseudonyms), The Outfit feels like a lost Sam Peckinpah film. It's full of bruised-knuckle threats, screeching car chases in '70s gas guzzlers, hitmen dressed as priests, dark dive bars, and open roads. Plus, there's an outstanding supporting cast of such veteran character actors as Joe Don Baker, Robert Ryan and Timothy Carey barking lines like "I want his ass wrapped in cellophane!" As for the plot, well, you've seen most of it before (Duvall is an ex-con who has to hunt down his brother's killers), but the execution is downright flawless. Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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THE OUT-OF-TOWNERS
Comedy, 1970, USA, G, * 1/2
Jack Lemmon, Sandy Dennis, Sandy Baron, Anne Meara. Directed by Arthur Hiller. 98 min.

videos bullet iconDoesn't Neil Simon ever throw anything away? This, his first original screenplay, was meant to be one of the segments in his play "Plaza Suite," but was wisely dropped. Why Simon felt compelled to pick it up and put it on the screen is a mystery; this noisy, imbecilic farce about a couple's disastrous trip to New York City isn't any funnier on screen than it would have been as a playlet. Although they lose their luggage (of course) early on, Jack Lemmon and Sandy Dennis did remember to pack a steamer trunk full of their overly familiar tics, whines, shrugs, twitches, and brays; they're such an unpleasant pair that you actually begin to enjoy seeing them pelted with urban misfortune. Now, if only the screenplay would follow their lead and go back where it came from. Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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THE OUTLAW JOSEY WALES
Western, 1976, USA, PG, * *
Clint Eastwood, Chief Dan George, Sondra Locke, Bill McKinney, John Vernon, Puala Trueman. Directed by Clint Eastwood. 135 min.

videos bullet iconClint Eastwood's fifth directorial effort was his last Western until Pale Rider (1985) and its an unfortunately clumsy, very standard revenge saga. Clint plays a peaceable farmer who seeks bloody retribution after his family is slain... and we mean bloody. Wales becomes a frontier frontrunner of Dirty Harry, piling up corpses at a rate beyond belief (and, one would think, beyond the confines of the PG rating as well). Eastwood can be a very effective director, but this slackly paced, muddled effort doesn't show it; with its strightforward lift of Death Wish's plot, it may satisfy action buffs more than Western fans. Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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OVER THE EDGE
Drama, 1979, USA, PG, * * * 1/2
Matt Dillon, Vincent Spano, Michael Kramer, Pamela Ludwig. Directed by Jonathan Kaplan. 95 min.

videos bullet iconYou can catch a few rising stars in this frenetic youth-in-revolt film, made by former New World action director Jonathan Kaplan. A planned community has been built solely for adults' needs and the town's bored and dissatisfied teenagers are pricked into acts of vandalism. A skillful and perceptive filme, taken from a script by Kaplan and Tim Hunter (director of the sensitive Matt Dillon vehicle, Tex), Edge is a remarkable examination of the generation gap. Among the teen pictures that followed, none has dealt as well with sex and drugs. Dillon is excellent in his first role as a doomed delinquent. Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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THE OWL AND THE PUSSYCAT
Comedy, 1970, USA, R, * * *
Barbra Streisand, George Segal, Robert Klein, Allen Garfield, Roz Kelly. Directed by Herbert Ross. 96 min.

videos bullet iconThough stagebound and claustrophobic, Buck Henry's screen adaptation of Bill Manhoff's two-character play is delightful entertainment. George Segal plays an aspiring writer who allows a prostitute (Barbra Streisand) to spend the night in his apartment after indirectly causing her eviction. The resulting verbal exchanges about his writing and her "modeling" is loud, fierce, and extremely funny. As with so many adaptations, however, the attempts to "open up" the play with additional characters and New York City location shooting are obtrusive, and the final reel gets sloppy and sentimental. But Streisand (in her first non-singing role) and Segal contribute some of their best work to date in this ribald and raunchy farce. Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

- excerpted from The Complete Guide To Videocassette Movies by Steven H. Scheuer (New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1987).

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