David Ansen

Stories by David Ansen

  • Playing For Keeps

    NICHOLAS VAN ORTON (MICHAEL Douglas) is a divorced San Francisco investment banker. A chilly, strictly business sort of guy, he's the ultimate control freak. But in the course of The Game he will lose all control over his life, slipping into a nightmare world where all certainties turn into enigmas, the rules turn into riddles and paranoia is the only logical response to events. ...
  • Shaking Their Booty

    IN A DRAB GOVERNMENTAL OFFICE in Yorkshire, rows of unemployed men stand dolefully in line when suddenly a radio begins to play Donna Summer's ""Hot Stuff.'' Almost imperceptibly one of the men begins to roll his shoulder to the beat, then another. A third traces dance steps with his feet, while a fourth, a fifth and a sixth suddenly succumb to the siren call of disco, momentarily transforming a bureaucratic hellhole with Wednesday Afternoon Fever. ...
  • The Wealth Of The Indies

    IT'S A ROUGH TIME FOR small movies, trampled underfoot by a stampede of Hollywood monsters. Up against $30 million marketing campaigns, with no merchandise to hawk (a ""Mrs. Brown'' riding crop? Don't think so), they are the movie world's poor relations, quietly trudging from door to door in a hot, overcrowded season. Here are four (one from 34 years ago) you'd be wise to consider: ...
  • Do You Hear What I Hear?

    IN Contact, PLAYING ASTRONOMER ELLIE Arroway, Jodie Foster looks haunted, driven. Behind the fierce intelligence of her eyes, you can see the hurt child who grew up motherless, and then lost her father when she was 9. Her drawn face hints at a lifetime spent hopefully, fruitlessly gazing at the stars, awaiting a signal. Ellie's conviction that we are not alone in the universe arises from a deep need. As Robert Zemeckis's movie makes clear, the contact she seeks from the heavens - and ultimately finds - is a recompense for the deep solitude she holds in her heart. ...
  • The All American Hero

    THE STORY GOES THAT when the news first hit Hollywood of Ronald Reagan's ambitions to be president, Jack Warner, the legendarily blunt mogul, responded, ""No. Jimmy Stewart for president, Ronald Reagan for best friend.'' ...
  • The Batmobile Blows A Tire

    IT MAY BE PROFITABLE, BUT IT'S sort of sad what's become of the Batman franchise. The series began, under Tim Burton's twisted gaze, with a grave Gothic grandiloquence that appealed to kids and grown-ups alike. Now it's just silly. Batman & Robin is a costume party for 9-year-olds - albeit with kinky, S&M-inspired costumes. Noisy, campy, overproduced, it's abdicated all solemnity in pursuit of a boom-kaboom videogame esthetic. ...
  • His Own Worst Enemy

    IMAGINE THE SHOCK: EVERY TIME YOU look in the mirror you see your own worst enemy, the man who murdered your son. This is the outlandish predicament that faces FBI antiterrorist agent Sean Archer (John Travolta), who has surgically replaced his own face with that of the man he hates the most - the evil genius Castor Troy (Nicolas Cage). Castor has planted a bomb somewhere in Los Angeles. Now he's in a coma, and the only person who knows the bomb's location is his unhinged brother Pollux (Alessandro Nivola), who happens to be locked up in a high-tech prison. So Archer borrows Castor's identity to save L.A., but one major glitch arises in his plan. The wily and now faceless Troy arises from his coma, hijacks Sean's mug (and voice) and is running around town impersonating the FBI agent - not to mention fulfilling his marital duties. Meanwhile, good guy Sean - looking like bad guy Castor - is stuck in prison, where of course no one believes his farfetched story of who he really is. ...
  • Always The Bridesmaid

    JULIANNE (JULIA Roberts), a food critic, and Michael (Dermot Mulroney), a sports-writer, are former lovers, current best friends and about to turn 28. Once they made a vow that if neither had fallen in love by 28, they would marry each other. Now Michael has lost his heart to someone else--and when he tells Julianne the news, just four days before the wedding, she is suddenly convinced she's been in love with Michael all along. Obsessed with derailing the nuptials, Julianne speeds to Chicago, determined to change roles from bridesmaid to bride. ...
  • The Buzz On 'Ulee'? A Honey.

    ULEE JACKSON (PETER Fonda), the hero of Victor Nunez's Ulee's Gold, is a man who, by his own description, "fell off the planet" when his wife died. Over the course of this richly felt movie he will climb back aboard. A Florida beekeeper, this Vietnam yet-- a wily, naturally reserved man to begin with- has withdrawn into his work, barely connecting with the two granddaughters in his care. His son Jimmy (Tom Wood) is in prison for robbery; his daughter-in-law, a junkie, has run off, and he shuns the advances of his neighbors, clinging to an old-fashioned creed of self-reliance.But a call from his incarcerated son draws him back into the world: he's sent on a mission to rescue Jimmy's strung-out wife, Helen (Christine Dunford), and bring her home. But with her comes trouble: thugs who are looking for the stolen money her husband stashed away on Ulee's land.These are surprisingly melodramatic ingredients from the maker of "Ruby in Paradise," but Nunez's use of melodrama is as...
  • A Big Crash Bang Boom

    "WELCOME TO CON Air,'' purrs the bald, brilliant psychopath Cyrus (The Virus) Grissom (John Malkovich), having just skyjacked a prison transport plane carrying a gaggle of the most twisted felons in the land. Also on board is the one man crazy and heroic enough to foil the escape: the just-paroled Cameron Poe (Nicolas Cage), heading home to deliver a stuffed bunny rabbit to the 8-year-old daughter he's never met. ...
  • Basinger, Devito And Foie Gras For 100

    ENTERING A BIG HOLLYWOOD MOVIE in the Cannes film competition is a bit like driving a beer truck in the Indy 500: you probably won't win, but you'll have a blast trying. Last week in Cannes, the makers of ""L.A. Confidential,'' a stylish thriller adapted from James Ellroy's novel, had a blast. ""Treasure this moment,'' Kim Basinger whispered to her director, Curtis Hanson, as she stepped out of a 1953 Thunderbird, gave his hand a squeeze and strolled into the film's screening. Hanson got the message. ""I've been told there's no way we can win - too Hollywood,'' he said later. ""It's great just being here.'' ...
  • The Mice Roar

    THE OSCARS THIS year were read as a David and Goliath morality tale in which the scruffy but noble independents vanquished the lumbering, overstuffed studio movies on their home turf. That was then, but this is summer--and as we all know, in the hot months, Hollywood rules. What David would be foolish enough to go up against the Jurassic giant "The Lost World" on May 23? ...
  • L.A. Is One Hot City

    THE SECRET OF Volcano's success as a better-than-average disasterama is its nonstop pace. Like the lava that streams down L.A.'s Wilshire Boulevard incinerating everything in its path, the relentless succession of wham-bang images simply rolls over each and every cliche in the script, smothering your objections in the process. ...
  • High School Confidential

    I DON'T THINK WHAT A person does for a living really reflects who he is," argues the dissatisfied Martin Q. Blank (John Cusack) to his shrink Dr. Oatman (Alan Arkin). Though millions of people, no doubt, feel exactly the way Martin does, few of them are professional hit men. Martin is, which helps explain why his shrink is scared to death of him and also why Martin's quest for inner peace will be a rocky one. ...
  • Boy Meets Lesbian

    A LOT OF PEOPLE WHO FELL IN LOVE with "Clerks," Kevin Smith's funky convenience-store comedy, were worried, after the dismal "Mallrats," that New Jersey's scruffiest independent filmmaker was a one-hit wonder. You can now banish the thought. With Chasing Amy, Smith more than redeems himself: he grows up. He hasn't lost his raunchy bad-boy humor, and he's back to working on a shoestring. But instead of cool twenty-something irony, Smith startles us with raw emotional honesty. ...
  • A Family Affair

    THE FAMILY THAT TRAVELS TOGETHER unravels together in The Daytrippers, a comedy that happily keeps catching you by surprise. Writer-director Greg Mottola's low-budget debut, shot in only 16 days, takes place in a 24-hour time frame. It starts the morning that young suburban wife Eliza D'Amico (Hope Davis) discovers what looks to be a love letter addressed to her husband, Louis (Stanley Tucci), from a mystery woman named Sandy. Instead of keeping her suspicions to herself, she charges over to her parents' house, where mom (Anne Meara), pop (Pat McNamara), little sis (Parker Posey) and her pretentious would-be novelist boyfriend (Liev Schreiber) all pile into the station wagon with Eliza and drive into Manhattan to confront Louis at the publishing house where he works. ...
  • Rebel With A Cause

    UNDER THE ALIAS RORY DEVANEY, IRA terrorist Frankie McGuire (Brad Pitt) finds himself in New York hiding ""in plain sight'' with the family of cop Tom O'Meara (Harrison Ford), who has no idea the charming Irish lad camped out in his basement is on a mission to buy Stinger missiles for the republican cause. This will not sit well with the honest cop, who prides himself on never having killed anyone in his long career. Frankie, on the other hand, is a trigger-happy Belfast fanatic whose cause always justifies his violent means. Just as the righteous cop and the hot-headed rebel are working up a nice father-son bond ... kaboom, Pitt's world of violence comes crashing in on Ford's family. Once the Irishman's cover is blown, the cop's gotta do what a cop's gotta do--bring the fugitive to justice--and, with any luck, keep him alive before his many other enemies get to him. ...
  • Married To The Mob

    YOU'RE TELLING YOURSELF: I need another wiseguy movie like I need to pay more taxes. Al Pacino as a two-bit mafioso? Is the pope Catholic? Johnny Depp as some goombah named Donnie Brasco? Fuggedaboudit ... ...
  • To Catch An Old Thief

    LUTHER WHITNEY, THE perfectionist cat burglar played by Clint Eastwood in Absolute Power, is as meticulous in his craftsmanship as Vermeer, as adept at disguise as Alec Guinness, as elusive as Houdini, as solitary as a monk and, when he wants to be, as crustily charming as ... well, as Clint Eastwood has ever let himself be. ...
  • The Return Of The Rope-A-Dope

    IT'S NOT HARD TO SEE why When We Were Kings has been crowned the year's best documentary by nearly every critics' group in the country. This exuberant movie, about the legendary 1974 "rumble in the jungle" between Muhammad All and George Foreman in Zaire, packs so much heady stuff into 87 juicy minutes that it might win over even the most diehard boxing foe. Here, at the height of his bravado and political controversy, was Ali, a black sports hero like none before. And here was his most formidable foe, the devastating knockout artist Fore,,man, as .silent and. forbidding :then as he is loquacious and beloved today. No one gave Ali a chance--except Ali. ...
  • Pick Your Disaster

    THE DISASTER MOVIE IS BACK, though I'm not sure anybody was asking for it. Why the sudden torrent of twisters, volcanoes and alien invasions? We could give you a sociopolitical tap dance about the post-cold-war Zeitgeist, and how we're projecting our fears of communism back onto Mother Nature, but it would be hard to keep a straight face. No, Hollywood is cranking out this stuff because it needs to put its new high-tech toys to work. When you can create piping-hot streams of lava entirely inside a computer, and digitalize rolling black clouds of smoke and ash, why not make Dante's Peak, the first of 1997's two volcano lavapaloozas? ...
  • Gotta Sing! Gotta Dance!

    HEY, KIDS, LET'S PUT ON A SHOW! THE Mickey and Judy spirit is alive, if somewhat talent-challenged, in Blaine, Mo. To celebrate its sesquicentennial, the city council has commissioned a musical show to commemorate Blaine's 150-year history, from its discovery to its heyday as the "stool capital of the world." This show will be written, directed, choreographed and designed by local legend Corky St. Clair (Christopher Guest), the high school's flamboyant drama teacher. Having once resided in the Big Apple, the temperamental Corky is held in something approaching awe by the can-do Blaineans, who hope that the effete impresario will bestow the same magic on "Red, White and Blaine" that he brought to his theatrical production of "Backdraft." ...
  • The Dark Side Of A Hit

    IS "STAR WARS" THE MOVIE that destroyed Hollywood? A lot of people in the movie industry would say yes. According to Steven Bach, the former production chief of United Artists, the success of George Lucas's space opera was "one of the most disastrous things that ever happened to the business. And I'm someone who loved "Star Wars'." Lucas's movie set off an economic chain reaction that has killed Hollywood's appetite for adventurous moviemaking.The ironies go deep. In 1977 this $10 million movie--which few people at Fox wanted to back, because it was so different--represented the rebellion, with Lucas as a film-school Skywalker who intended to bring down the establishment. Lucas/Luke won, but the result was an empire far more forbidding than the one preceding it, a Death Star industry that can no longer tolerate idiosyncratic visions.Along with "Jaws," "Star Wars" locked Hollywood into a blockbuster mentality that has become dangerously inflated and depressingly monochromatic. ...
  • Emotional Fireworks

    ONSTAGE, SCOTT MCPHERSON'S Marvin's Room was acclaimed for subverting its disease-of-the-week premise with bracing and unexpected humor. The comedy and the drama don't always mesh smoothly in Jerry Zaks's movie version, which McPherson adapted for the screen before he died of complications of AIDS. There are laughs, to be sure, but the jokes feel like frosting, applied more as distraction than out of necessity. With Rachel Portman's music tugging too hard for tears, the movie sometimes comes dangerously close to being the soap opera McPherson worked so hard to disguise.The sick one is Bessie (Diane Keaton), a woman who has devoted 20 years of her life to caring for her ailing father, Marvin (Hume Cronyn). Now she's diagnosed with leukemia, and in need of a relative with matching bone marrow for a transplant. Enter her estranged sister, Lee (Meryl Streep), who has always fled her family responsibilities in horror. An angry, chain-smoking single mom, Lee brings her two sons with her...
  • Naked Ambition

    HE'S THE LEAST LIKELY man to be the hero of a big-budget Hollywood Christmas movie. He became a millionaire peddling smutty photos. He published a parody of a liquor ad that claimed Jerry Falwell had had sex with his mother in an outhouse. He was married to a bisexual former stripper who got strung out on dope and died of AIDS. He became a born-again Christian through the efforts of President Jimmy Carter's sister. He was shot by a would-be assassin and confined to a gold-plated wheelchair. He once showed up in court draped in a Stars and Stripes diaper. Millions of Americans would consider Larry Flynt the epitome of unregenerate bad taste, a redneck vulgarian whose contribution to the culture has been baneful at best. ...
  • Aliens, Angels And Artiness

    THE PILEUP SEEMS TO GET WORSE every year: that end-of-the-year deluge in which Hollywood hangs out its Oscar bait, its seasonal heartwarmers, its would-be blockbusters, and waits to see who'll bite. Here's a sampling of seven, whose aspirations--not to mention accomplishments--couldn't be more diverse. Let's start with the silliest... ...
  • Madonna Tangos With Evita

    The pop diva says she was "destined' to play Eva Peron. When you consider how it almost didn't happen, you wonder if she's got something there. Here's the whole strange saga. ...
  • The Jets And The Sharks

    .FT.-IF THE ENTREPRENEURIAL HIGHSCHOOLER TOM CRUISE PLAYED IN "RISKY BUSINESS" GREW UP, HE MIGHT WELL HAVE TURNED INTO JERRY MAGUIRE, THE SUCCESS-OBSESSED SPORTS AGENT CRUISE PLAYS IN CAMERON CROWE'S DELICIOUSLY SMART ROMANTIC COMEDY. HE'S A CLASSIC TYPE A HUSTLER--GOOD AT FRIENDSHIP, BAD AT INTIMACY--AND IT'S MADE HIM A STAR AT SPORTS MANAGEMENT INTERNATIONAL. THAT IS, UNTIL AN UNCHARACTERISTIC TWINGE OF SOUL-SEARCHING LEADS HIM TO WRITE A PASSIONATE "MISSION STATEMENT" CALLING FOR THE AGENCY TO CARE MORE FOR ITS CLIENTS THAN ITS PROFITS. A WEEK LATER, HE'S FIRED FOR HIS INAPPROPRIATE OUTBURST OF IDEALISM. ...
  • God, Sex And Sacrifice

    IN A BLEAK SCOTTISH SEACOAST VILLAGE in the 1970s, dominated by a rigid Calvinist sect with a profound distrust of outsiders, a childlike, God-fearing young woman named Bess (Emily Watson) marries an oil-rig worker named Jan (Stellan Skarsgard), a hearty, worldly sensualist. Ideally, you will see Lars von Trier's remarkable Breaking the Waves knowing no more than this. The narrative takes jolting turns best experienced afresh, which is how its innocent heroine sees the world--through untainted eyes. The subject of this daringly emotional movie is faith, and it demands to be taken on it. ...
  • That Wicked Witchcraft

    NICHOLAS HYTNER'S passionate movie version of Arthur Miller's The Crucible gets your blood boiling, which is just what it's meant to do. Miller has revised his venerable opus, quickening its rhythms for the screen, but what works is what's always worked when this play is well produced: you feel pity, horror, moral outrage. For in the Salem witch hunts of 1692, Miller, in 1953, found a metaphor that seems to resonate endlessly. We know it was the McCarthy-era witch hunts that inspired the play, but today's audience need know nothing about those Red-baiting days to connect to the communal hysteria, the paranoia, the totalitarian illogic "The Crucible" depicts. Contemporary analogies readily come to mind: the McMartin child-abuse case; the unyielding proclamations of the fundamentalist right; campus P.C. thinking run amok. "The Crucible" is never in danger of seeming untimely. ...
  • Spotty But Not A Dog

    ACCORDING TO VARIETY, THE 1961 ANimated "101 Dalmatians" is the sixth most popular movie of all time, judged by the number of tickets sold. If ticket prices then were what they are now, it would have made twice as much money as the blockbuster "The Lion King." There's gold in them thar hounds, which explains why Disney has ordered up a live-action remake. It doesn't explain what writer-producer John Hughes's 101 Dalmatians offers that the original didn't. One thing alone: real pooches. Is there a dog lover who'll be able to resist the sight of 99 Dalmatian puppie? Who won't coo as the grown-up Pongo kicks off the movie by starting his master's shower and pulling down his bedcovers with his teeth? Is there a Dalmatian breeder alive who can supply enough pups to meet the upcoming demand for black-and-white spotted things? ...
  • When The Music Stopped

    WHEN WE MEET THE HERO OF THE stirring Australian movie Shine, we don't know quite what to make of this odd, tic-ridden, chattering misfit who stumbles into a wine bar from a pouring rain. Is this bespectacled, chain-smoking middle-aged man one of the homeless? A madman? Is his whirring, strangely jaunty energy benign or malignant? Who is this guy, the bar's nervous staff wonders. So do we. ...