David Ansen

Stories by David Ansen

  • Hook, Lyne And Stinker

    You're a pretty Los Angeles real-estate agent (who looks like Demi Moore) blissfully married to an up-and-coming architect (who looks like Woody Harrelson). You have a picture-perfect life until the recession hits. Now the money's gone, the debts are piling up and you find yourself in Vegas (not like you, but what the heck) down to your last desperate dime when suddenly a glamorous billionaire (who looks exactly like Robert Redford) offers you a million dollars to spend one night with him, no strings attached. What's a newly poor girl to do? ...
  • Rites Of Passage

    Every male American writer who ever grappled with the theme of adolescence owes a debt to "Huckleberry Finn." The vernacular poetry of Huck's voice is the source that flows through Salinger's "The Catcher in the Rye" and, consciously or not, must have informed Tobias Wolff when he sat down to record his own memoir of coming of age in the 1950s, "This Boy's Life." Written a hundred years apart, Wolffs and Twain's books are nonetheless haunted by similar demons: violent, abusive father figures, the search for identity, the push-pull American battle between respectability and wildness. ...
  • Devil Or Charlie's Angel?

    To call Point of No Return a remake of the 1991 French pop fantasy "La Femme Nikita" isn't adequate; carbon copy is more like it. The screenwriters, Robert Getchell and Alexandra Seros, have simply taken the Luc Besson movie and, with a few minor alterations, duplicated it in an American setting. The change of locale to Washington, D.C., Venice, Calif., and New Orleans only re-emphasizes the fact that this sleek comic-strip mix of violence and romance could take place anywhere except in the real world. ...
  • The Heart Has Its Reasons

    Edith Wharton, one of the greatest American novelists, is also one of the sexiest, which is not the least of the reasons filmmakers have been gobbling up her books for the screen. While we wait for the anticipated feast of Martin Scorsese's "The Age of Innocence," we have this American Playhouse production of her tragic love story Ethan Frome-a solid appetizer. Abandoning her usual New York high-society haunts, Wharton turned her exquisite eye on a doomed triangle amongst laconic 19th-century rural New Englanders. Ethan Frome (sensitive hunk du jour Liam Neeson), the strong, silent Massachusetts farmer, is trapped in a joyless marriage with his hypochondriacal distant cousin Zeena (Joan Allen) and falls in love with their spirited young housekeeper Mattie (Patricia Arquette). ...
  • Revenge Of A Supernerd

    Joel Schumacher's slick, deeply confused exploitation movie Failing Down is a thriller designed to fan the flames of urban paranoia. Michael Douglas plays a divorced, unemployed defense-industry worker who gets stuck in a hellish Los Angeles traffic jam, abandons his car, pops his cork and proceeds to go on a violent rampage across the city. His final destination: the home of his terrified ex-wife (Barbara Hershey) and child. The only man who can stop him: a mild-mannered desk cop named Prendergast (Robert Duvall) who is, as we are told too many times in Ebbe Roe Smith's none-too-subtle screenplay, serving his last day before retirement. ...
  • A Princess In Disguise

    Her charm was lighter than air, but her impact was volcanic. It's hard to overestimate the effect Audrey Hepburn had upon the world when she breezed into prominence in the 1950s. Hepburn's elfin, Givenchy-clad elegance, her stirring combination of tomboy spunk and ethereal innocence created a stylistic revolution. She changed the way men looked at women-and, more important, the way women looked at themselves. Pre-Audrey, in the bulging boom years of postwar affluence, the standards of pulchritude had been set by the curvaceous, brassy amplitudes of Betty Grable and Marilyn Monroe. Then along came this small-breasted waif with an unlocatable but decidedly aristocratic accent, a princess in disguise riding joyfully on the back of Gregory Peck's motorbike in "Roman Holiday" (1953), a bookworm transformed into a fashion goddess by Fred Astaire in "Funny Face" (1957). Suddenly a new option in femininity had arisen-to many women, a liberation from the tyranny of the buxom sex goddess; to...
  • Hot And Cold Survival Skills

    You may find this hard to believe, but the star of Body of Evidence, an actress named Madonna, actually reveals a lot of flesh in this courtroom drama. The exhibitionism, let me hasten to add, is entirely in the service of her character, Rebecca Carlson, a sexpot dominatrix who is accused of murdering her lover, an older man with a weak heart and a big fortune, by exciting him to death. The district attorney (Joe Mantegna) is intent on proving that Rebecca's body is a lethal weapon. Her defense attorney (Willem Dafoe), though a married man, believes in trying out the weapon himself. Discovering the kink in his own lustful heart, the lawyer and his client indulge in some sweaty S&M game-playing themselves: she pours hot wax on his tied-up body; they make love atop broken glass on the hood of a car parked in the courthouse garage; later, she brings out the handcuffs ... ...
  • A Lost Generation

    For the public record, Rudolf Nureyev, 54, was said to have died last week of "a cardiac complication, following a grievous illness." His physician in Paris, Michel Canesi, then added, like a cardplayer signaling his bluff, "Following Mr. Nureyev's wishes, I can't say any more." ...
  • Fatal And Foolish Obsessions

    directed by Louis Malle from Josephine Hart's best seller, is superb moviemaking-but not exactly a superb movie. It's probably as good a screen adaptation (written by David Hare) of Hart's swank tale of tragic obsession as is possible. On every technical level-editing, scoring, cinematography, production design and costumes-the work is impeccable. And it's brilliantly acted. Jeremy Irons plays Stephen Fleming, an elegant and repressed member of Parliament who falls instantly and uncontrollably into an erotic entanglement with his son's mysterious girlfriend. Rupert Graves is the son; Miranda Richardson is Stephen's wife, and Juliette Binoche is the fatally attractive, "damaged" Anna, whose powerful sexuality unleashes chaos upon her father-and-son lovers. (And unleashed yet another NC-17 ratings flap. It's now trimmed to an R.)Malle is a mesmerizing storyteller. He unfolds this disturbing, violently sexual and luxuriously appointed tale of amour fou with coolly gripping precision....
  • Not A Season To Be Jolly

    There have been a lot of good movies in 1992, but precious few came from the big Hollywood studios, which have had a creatively dismal year. Wait until Christmas, everybody said, when the majors trot out their class acts. The crowds will roar, the Academy will festoon these giants with laurels. ...
  • An Amorous Knight In Queens

    A comedy that can make you cry, Used People is the season's most pleasant surprise. It's set in Queens in 1969, an "age of miracles." The Mets have won the pennant, America has landed on the moon, and on the day of her husband's funeral Pearl Berman (Shirley MacLaine), widowed after 37 years of a not-so-wonderful marriage, meets Joe Meledandri (Marcello Mastroianni). Joe is a preposterously gallant Old World charmer, who outrages her family by asking her out on a date. His tenacious courtship of the embittered widow-whom he's loved from afar for 23 years-is the center of a quirky urban fable about four generations of a downright dysfunctional Jewish family whose ingrained defeatism is upended by Joe's stubborn romantic optimism. ...
  • The Trials Of A Top Gun

    Rob Reiner, whose commercial instincts are as acute as any director's in Hollywood, will doubtless hit big with A Few Good Men. He's been on a popular roll with "When Harry Met Sally ..." and "Misery." Now, with the all-star arsenal of Tom Cruise, Jack Nicholson and Demi Moore enacting Aaron Sorkin's crowd-pleasing Broadway military courtroom drama, Reiner seems perfectly positioned for a blockbuster. If this guy were a stock, the experts would say, "Buy." And if the industry buzz on "A Few Good Men" is to be trusted, multiple Oscar nominations are a sure thing. ...
  • Very Dangerous Liaisons

    I can't think of another movie that mixes the tragic, the playful and the perverse in quite the delicious way _B_The Crying Game_b_ does. Neil Jordan, the Irish novelist, screenwriter and director who made "The Company of Wolves," "Mona Lisa" and the wonderful, little-seen "The Miracle," likes to go out on a limb. But nothing compares to the tonal tightrope walk of "The Crying Game," which seems to contain four movies for the price of one, each full of surprises. It starts as if it were going to be an IRA thriller, takes a turn toward romance and, by the time it reaches its unpredictably buoyant conclusion, pulls the rug and the floor out from under your feet. What's so satisfying about these mind-popping maneuvers is that they're never cheap tricks: Jordan's sleight of hand is always in the service of his theme, an investigation of the mysteries of human nature. As a melodrama, a Hitchcockian thriller or a wry comedy, this is a study of the notion of "character"--what constitutes...
  • L'AMOUR FROM CRADLE TO COFFIN

    When we first glimpse Gary Oldman's ancient Count Dracula at home in his dank Transylvanian lair, he's approximately 460 years old, deathly pale and wearing a twin-peaked hairdo that makes him look like the chalky, androgynous libertine in "Fellini's Casanova." It's Francis Ford Coppola's notion in Bram Stoker's Dracula to reimagine the count as the ultimate romantic. Here's a man who has been pilling for four centuries for his lost love Elisabeta, only to recover her in the form of Mina Murray (Winona Ryder), a Victorian Englishwoman engaged to Jonathan Harker (Keanu Reeves). If Scott Spencer hadn't gotten there first, this could have been called "Endless Love." ...
  • Walt and the Waif

    This holiday season, there are only two names that count for anything in the family-movie sweepstakes: Walt Disney and Macaulay Culkin. So dominant is the revitalized Disney animation department, coming off the triumph of "Beauty and the Beast," and so popular is superwaif Culkin, that the competition has headed for the hills. Between now and Christmas, Home Alone 2: Lost in New York and Disney's Aladdin have the kiddie field locked up. ...
  • FROM SINNER TO MARTYR: A MAN OF MANY FACES

    The big, ambitious, fascinating Malcolm X is Spike Lee's first foray into the epic mode, and he takes hold of the form with verve and confidence. Its 3-hour 21-minute running time passes swiftly, with only a few lulls. In many respects, it's Lee's most conventional movie, the one that rests most securely within the highly polished conventions of Hollywood big-budget film biographies. But unlike most epics, it's impossible to come away from "Malcolm X" with one simple, singular impression: there are as many movies and styles within it as there were aspects of Malcolm's constantly evolving character. ...
  • Pulp, Passion, Petty Hoods

    Quentin Tarantino's debut film, Reservoir Dogs, has been creating a stir at film festivals around the world; long before its commercial opening, Tarantino's Hollywood future was secured. Watching this flashy, startling crime movie, it's easy to see why: this may be a first film, but as both a writer and director, Tarantino oozes confidence. He knows his way around genre movies, knows exactly what effects he's after and bags them in one set piece after another. Like the Coen brothers' first feature, "Blood Simple," or Stanley Kubrick's early racetrack robbery movie, "The Killing"-which is the model for this bloody tale of a botched jewel heist-" Reservoir Dogs" leaves no doubt that you are in the presence of major-league talent. ...
  • Beautiful Dreamers

    DE NIRO HUSTLES, PESCI OBSESSES AND DEPARDIEU DISCOVERS THE NEW WORLD IN THREE NEW FLICKS
  • Love, Death and Fly-Fishing

    Few books could be considered less likely movie material than Norman Maclean's now classic novella, "A River Runs Through It." Maclean's ruminative recollection of his Montana youth is a meditation on fly-fishing, religion, art and family. At the heart of it is the author's relationship with his "beautiful," self-destructive brother, Paul, and with his father, a Presbyterian minister who taught Maclean to write and to fish. The novella, written when he was in his 70s, was Maclean's attempt to grapple with the mystery of his brother's death. But it's not the story itself, which is told in a roundabout fashion, that makes it so moving, it's the extraordinary prose-as hard and luminous as a rock dredged up from a riverbed. ...
  • Heels, Heroes and Hustlers

    Though _B_Hero_b_ is graced with a fine, bigname cast-Dustin Hoffman, Geena Davis, Andy Garcia-the real our of this and lively satire is the story itself. In this and many other ways, "Hero" is a conscious throwback to the social comedies of the '30s and '40s. It calls to mind Capra, the Ben Hecht/William Wellman "Nothing Sacred" and, especially, the Preson Sturges of "Hail the Conquering Hero," which also dealt with the fabrication of a hero. Written by David Webb Peoples ("Unforgiven") from a story by Peoples, Laura Zisk in and Alvin Sargent, it has the intricate, steel-trap plotting that has largely vanished from screen comedy. Stylishly directed by the versatile Stephen Frears ("Dangerous Liaiwns"), it has a refreshing draft of moral complexity. ...
  • Mann In The Wilderness

    Not many filmmakers today are attempting grand passions, bold romantic gestures, love stories unfolding against breathtaking period landscapes. It's certainly not what you'd expect from macho stylist Michael Mann, the master of Armani-meets-Sartre urban fatalism, who brought us "Miami Vice" and the movies "Thief " and " Manhunter." Then again, if Susan Sontag can try her hand at a romance, why shouldn't the hard-boiled Mann translate James Fenimore Cooper for a late-20th-century audience? His gorgeous The Last of the Mohicans gets off to a bumpy start, gathers feeling and momentum and comes roaring into the homestretch at full gallop. When this historical adventure kicks in, it's thrilling in the way old-fashioned epics used to be, but its romanticism has a fierce, violent physicality that gives it a distinctively modern stamp. ...
  • The Games People Play

    The techno-wizard heroes in Sneakers aren't the dirty dozen, or the magnificent seven, but this winning team of brainy misfits deserves a moniker, so we'll call them the Farfetched Five. Led by Robert Redford, as a former '60s radical long gone underground, the multigenerational group includes a politically paranoid breaking-and-entering expert named Mother (Dan Aykroyd), a former CIA man bounced from the Company (Sidney Poitier), a 19-year-old computer whiz kid (River Phoenix) and a blind audio expert named Whistler (scene-stealer David Strathairn). Hired by companies to test their security systems (by breaking into them), these five guys with shady pasts are blackmailed by the National Security Agency into embarking on a high-risk, topsecret operation. Their mission impossible: to steal a little black box that has the capacity to break all the secret codes in the government's computer banks. Just the kind of little black box that people will kill for. ...
  • Woody: The Movie

    Woody Allen's comedy Husbands and Wives is set in his familiar New York world of verbal, neurotic achievers, but there's something new in it, a rawness we haven't seen before. It makes you laugh, deeply, and it makes you squirm. Part of the discomfort is intentional, for the movie is designed to cut close to the bone. But now, of course, we squirm for other reasons. Unless you've been lost in the rain forest for the last month, you won't be able to watch "Husbands and Wives" with innocent esthetic detachment. The Woody-Mia-Soon-Yi scandal turns the audience into voyeurs and detectives scouring the film for "clues," decoding it for nuggets of confession. Allen's new movie is in the uncomfortable (but very marketable) position of competing with its own real-life shadow. Bursts of inappropriate laughter greet lines that were never intended for chuckles: when Mia asks screen husband Woody, "Do you ever hide things from me?" knowing elbows nudge censorious sides. When the couple fight...
  • Rattling The Political Cage

    Timely doesn't begin to describe Tim Robbins's political satire, Bob Roberts. This pseudo-documentary account of a 1990 Pennsylvania senatorial race pits a right-wing, folk-singing Yuppie touting "family values" against an aging liberal incumbent who tries to talk about the issues while fending off rumors of a sexual liaison with a teenage girl. From its pointed gibes at the vacuity of TV campaign coverage, its allusions to the then approaching war in the gulf, to its dead-on sendups of the candidates'TV ads, "Bob Roberts" mimics reality so closely it runs the danger of being outdone by the real thing. Which is to say that satirists have a tough job these days. How can you top the absurdities of our current political carnival, in which Newt Gingrich can say with a straight face that the Democrats are following the Woody Allen platform of family values, our Republican president decides he's really the reincarnation of Harry Truman and the religious right is convinced that "militant...
  • Columbus As A Hollywood Hustler

    Alexander and Ilya Salkind's Christopher Columbus: the Discovery has beaten Ridley Scott's "1492" to the screen by a couple of months, but it's not an occasion for trumpets. A perfunctory historical epic with no clear point of view, it makes one long for the hokey old Hollywood swashbucklers that at least generated some star power. George Corraface plays the determined Genoan explorer (here called by his Spanish moniker, Cristobal Colon) as a Hollywood hustler with a cocky, lounge-lizard grin and a way with women. He pitches his highconcept voyage (The world is round! We'll sail west to China!) to Queen Isabella of Spain, portrayed by Rachel Ward as a bright-eyed Jesus freak with hormones raging under her breastplate. She green-lights the trip, over the objections of Marlon Brando's heretic-sniffing Torquemada and Tom Selleck's petulant, sleepy King Ferdinand, but by the time the Nina, the Pinta and the Santa Maria set sail, half the movie is over and the audience is ready to jump...
  • Off The Beaten Track

    Andrew Bergman may not be a household word, but to those who are keyed into his lunatic sense of humor, the arrival of any new Bergman movie is a major comic event. This is the guy who wrote and directed "The Freshman" (Marlon Brando in a priceless sendup of his "Godfather" role), scripted the hilarious "The In-Laws," coauthored "Soapdish" and came up with the story for Mel Brooks's "Blazing Saddles." His latest japery, the sweetly cuckoo Honeymoon in Vegas, is the most pleasing comedy of the summer. ...
  • Old Formulas, New Variations

    The Year of the Woman? In politics, maybe. In Hollywood, however, it's been the year of the demon woman. It started with Rebecca De Mornay's psycho nanny in "The Hand That Rocks the Cradle," gathered steam with Kim Basinger's and Sharon Stone's very fatale femmes in "Final Analysis" and "Basic Instinct," and even infested the light comedy "Housesitter," in which Goldie Hawn seemed as unhinged as a horror-movie harpy. Now get ready for Jennifer Jason Leigh's Hedy Carlson, perhaps the most unnerving figure of the lot--a psychic invader whose creepiness is enhanced by her credibility. ...
  • Bloody Good And Bloody Awful

    From the start of his career, Clint Eastwood has been pushing the Western into new, dangerous territory. In his breakthrough role as the Man With No Name in Sergio Leone's "A Fistful of Dollars" (1967), he replaced the traditional heroic idealism of the Western hero with a more ruthless pragmatism. In the first one he directed, "High Plains Drifter" (1973), he played a ghost from hell, wreaking bloody Biblical vengeance; he was a ghostly presence in the last Western he directed, " Pale Rider" (1985), again blurring the line between good and evil. ...
  • Revenge Of The Living Dead

    No place in the world is as obsessed with youth as Hollywood. Where else do people over 30-not just actors but writers-feel compelled to lie about their age to protect their careers? It's a place where only plastic surgeons and personal trainers have real job security. If fear of aging is as American as apple pie, it's in part because Hollywood, hand in hand with Madison Avenue, has trained us so well to associate happiness, desirability and fun with the sight of a firm tush. Robert ("Back to the Future") Zemeckis, a key Hollywood player, has obviously observed this malady firsthand. He has made that fear, that obsession, the subject of his mascara-black comedy Death Becomes Her, in which Meryl Streep and Goldie Hawn--one driven by vanity, the other by revenge-make a Faustian bargain for eternal youth. ...
  • A Kiss Is Not Just A Kiss

    In sickness or health ... till death do us part. When Peter (Alec Baldwin) and Rita (Meg Ryan) take their marriage vows at a sun-dappled ceremony, all the odds seem to be in favor of this perfectly matched couple. She's a quirky, insomniac bartender whose gloomy view of the world can't disguise a real joie de vivre. He's a sensitive, wry and ardent lover who cherishes her for her brooding soul as well as her lovely shell. What could go wrong? ...