Movies

|

• Can a compulsive political activist (native Communist variety) find happiness with a conventional, compromising writer? Maybe not, but the offbeat combination, aided by a heavy dose of 1940's nostalgia, makes THE WAY WE WERE an engaging and superior film. Barbra Streisand and Robert Redford both play the types of characters they do best: she is high-strung, argumentative, compulsive and practically humorless, while he is talented, easygoing and indifferent to principles. Their characterizations receive a big assist from the script, and from the film's faithful recreation of America as it was a generation ago. Topical political issues of the time, from the Roosevelt mystique to the House Committee on Un-American Activities hearings in Hollywood, serve as a backdrop to the lives of the mismatched lovers. Although not the main focus of the movie, some of the political manifestations (such as the censorship issue) are directly relevant to our own time. Despite its overall good quality, THE 'MAY WE WERE does have a few problems. Most of the supporting performances (and their accompanying dialogue) seem awkward and contrived, and the movie's last half hour contains unmistakable overtones of soap opera. Streisand and Redford fans probably won't even notice these flaws; and for the rest of us, THE WAY WE WERE is still very much a movie worth seeing. Rated "PG." • WESTWORLD is one of those rare movies that qualify as pure entertainment. The plot, devised by Michael Crichton (THE ANDROMEDA STRAIN) and set in the not-too-distant future, centers around a vacation resort where people come to live out their fantasies, assisted by totally lifelike robots equipped to do everything from dueling to making love. The entire system is run by computer, and elaborate precautions are taken to make sure the guests do not get hurt. The advertisements proudly state, "Nothing can possibly go wrong." Well, sure enough, things begin going haywire about the time our heroes, Richard Benjamin and James Brolin, arrive in Westworld, a faithful re-creation of a Western town in the 1800's. First Brolin gets bitten by a computerized snake; then a robot gunslinger (played to perfection by Yul Brynner) begins acting strangely. Before you know it, all hell has broken loose. Crichton's writing and direction keep the film moving at a fast pace, constantly increasing the suspense and terror. Technical credits are flawless; the film is horribly believable. Of course, it's only a fantasy, and the creation of humanoid robots is still years away. But if they continue making dolls more lifelike, who knows? Rated "PG."

• WESTWORLD is one of those rare movies that qualify as pure entertainment. The plot, devised by Michael Crichton (THE ANDROMEDA STRAIN) and set in the not-too-distant future, centers around a vacation resort where people come to live out their fantasies, assisted by totally lifelike robots equipped to do everything from dueling to making love. The entire system is run by computer, and elaborate precautions are taken to make sure the guests do not get hurt. The advertisements proudly state, "Nothing can possibly go wrong." Well, sure enough, things begin going haywire about the time our heroes, Richard Benjamin and James Brolin, arrive in Westworld, a faithful re-creation of a Western town in the 1800's. First Brolin gets bitten by a computerized snake; then a robot gunslinger (played to perfection by Yul Brynner) begins acting strangely. Before you know it, all hell has broken loose. Crichton's writing and direction keep the film moving at a fast pace, constantly increasing the suspense and terror. Technical credits are flawless; the film is horribly believable. Of course, it's only a fantasy, and the creation of humanoid robots is still years away. But if they continue making dolls more life-like, who knows? Rated "PG."

• Because it is such a blatant propaganda film, EXECUTIVE ACTION does at least as much damage to its own theories as it does to the conventional wisdom regarding the assassination of John F. Kennedy. The movie is an attempt to dramatize what the authors (Dalton Trumbo, Donald Freed and Mark Lane) think might have been a conspiracy to kill the President. Documentary film is interwoven with conventional acting, much to the detriment of the latter. Burt Lancaster and Robert Ryan head up a group of Texas oil millionaires (natch!) who are opposed to Kennedy's policies because they see them as a threat to their own power. They decide to assassinate him and set up Lee Harvey Oswald as a patsy. As the plotters make their preparations, their dialogue seems to consist mainly of a recitation of facts regarding the conspiracy; one can almost see Mort Sahl lecturing at his blackboard. Many of these facts do seem to indicate that Oswald may not have acted alone. But presenting the facts is one thing, and integrating them into a viable theory is another. And this is where EXECUTIVE ACTION founders, substituting rampant paranoia for reasoned judgment. No attempt is made at characterization, to make understandable in human terms why such men would feel impelled to murder the President. The plotters are presented as caricatures of callous power-brokers, every left-winger's nightmare of the greedy capitalist pigs who run the country. These emotionless oil barons deal in human life and death as an everyday matter, discussing casually among themselves the most efficient means of depopulating the non-white world. They have intimate contacts in various U.S. intelligence agencies, which number several hundred, each unaware of what the others are doing. Oswald is a double agent, or even triple or quadruple. After 91 minutes of this barrage, one gets the impression that conspiracy theory is not merely the authors' view of the Kennedy assassination; it is their view of life. Rated "PG."

• ROBIN HOOD is the latest all-cartoon feature from Disney, and somehow it doesn't measure up to most of that studio's previous efforts. In this version, the characters are all animals, with Robin Hood played by a fox and Prince John by a cowardly lion. The villains are incompetent buffoons and not particularly menacing; suspense is lacking. Filling inthe gaps in the skimpy plot are pratfalls and clowning on the order of a Yogi Bear television cartoon. The limited animation employed here is a far cry from the exquisite detail of some of the earlier Disney cartoon features. The portrayal of the villains as tax collectors results in some fairly sophisticated political humor that should delight libertarian children. All in all, ROBIN HOOD is a pleasant diversion, but it lacks bite. Rated "G."