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By Ray Pride

MARCH 30, 1998: 

Badlands

Terrence Malick's 1974 haunting, often hilarious debut feature is one of the great, slippery masterpieces of the 1970s, at once a crackling outlaw couple story as well as a richly detailed satire of the fifties. Kit (a very young, very good Martin Sheen) is a garbage collector who gets it in mind to go on a spree with schoolgirl Sissy Spacek. Spacek's ethereally dopey narration offers a fan-magazine version of the facts, usually contradicted by the images in front of us, and the conflict makes the pulpy material even more mysterious. Great soundtrack; rich, delirious camerawork by Tak Fujimoto. Malick's first film since his 1978 "Days of Heaven," a $65 million adaptation of James Jones' "Thin Red Line," is tentatively scheduled for Christmas release. 94m. New 35mm print.


Grease

(1978, USA) Directed by Randal Kleiser. Day old pabulum. Kleiser (George Lucas' college roommate) proves that 1970s nostalgia can go just so far in this kiddie version of a 1950s high school musical.(There should be a little Nutrasweet warning logo on the poster down by the rating.) It made $153 million domestically; aren't they content already? Produced by Allan Carr (late of the Village People vehicle, "Can't Stop the Music" and the most loathed of recent Academy Awards shows), with John Travolta, Olivia Newton-John, Stockard Channing, Eve Arden, Sha Na Na, Jeff Conaway, Sid Caesar. 112m. Panavision. This twentieth-anniversary reissue boasts a restored print and soundtrack.


Wide Awake

This achingly winsome story of a fifth-grader (Joseph Cross) who undergoes a religious crisis after the death of winsome grandfather Robert Loggia and starts idiotic questions about God is just not my cup of communion wine. Cross, not angelic, not cherubic, but an effeminate little boy with gleaming blue eyes and churning little dimples, handles the voice-over narration, dense in every sense of the word. Rosie O'Donnell, as a butch, sports-loving nun, is, as always, about as welcome as a fart in church. With Denis Leary, Dana Delaney. 90m.


Wild Things

What a sweet little fuck-you of a movie, this "Abnormal Life," this craven, sun-soaked, color-drenched "Wild Things," shameless subtropical sleaze set in an upscale Miami yachting community. Ah, the glories of trash. Matt Dillon is a high school guidance counselor at Blue Bay High (blue balls?) who's accused of raping first one female student, then another, and an investigation by vice cop Kevin Bacon leads to a pile-up of single-minded reversals and wild contradictions that continue even beyond the end credits. The whole package is ripe beyond belief, the first of director John McNaughton's features since "Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer" to approach the flat-out nihilism of that cold classic. Denise Richards ("Starship Troopers") is the yupscale first accuser, luscious, plastic, unreal, resentful of her mother, Theresa Russell, shown bikini-ed as a concupiscent slab of mature womanhood; the second accuser is "swamp trash" Neve Campbell, butched-out with mehndi markings along her arms, kohl-rimed eyes and a full-on pout matched only by her tense dancers' calves. But McNaughton's corn porn is equal opportunity, giving Kevin Bacon a full frontal nude scene and alternating Dillon in butt-clinging khaki shorts with a Lycra-clad cheerleading squad with pronounced pubic mounds. Bill Murray is on hand as a low-rent lawyer, channeling his brother, Brian Doyle-Murray. Courtroom explosions are matched by aquatic catfights, all to a score by Zalman King's customary composer George S. Clinton that mingles with the dirty urgency of music by soundtrack contributors Morphine. The daylong, night-wide meanness is matched by the rashly trashy dialogue, such as Campbell gurgling, "What took you so long? What if somebody was... fucking me in the ass or something?"; Richards' "His fingers... they were in me... both places, you know?" and the classic of class resentment, spat out on the witness stand, "He raped me on the floor of his shitty house!" The ending of this film makes me very happy; there's no need to try to explicate the litany of jaw-dropping turns--they never quite qualify as twists--the story woven by these rancid souls continues to play throughout the end credits, adding a detail here, elaborating on a scene there, playing outrageous games with a narrative that was supposed to have ended five minutes earlier. 113m.


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