â€¢ Clint Eastwood's latest magnum opus, MAGNUM FORCE, is a sequel to DIRTY HARRY and in many ways a significant departure from the earlier film. While DIRTY HARRY sought to dramatize the folly of laws and court decisions that give aid and comfort to criminals, MAGNUM FORCE focuses on the potential reaction to this state of affairs within a big-city police department. Eastwood, reprising his role as a law-and-order detective, is confronted with a group of young rookies who have formed a "death squad" to execute gangsters who have hidden successfully behind their lawyers. While not abandoning his earlier principles, Eastwood is forced to defend them from a different and unexpected perspective, in a clash of ideas that lifts this movie several notches above conventional police thrillers. In the areas of action and plot development the film is absorbing and fast-moving; one hardly notices its two-hour length. Clint Eastwood delivers a coolly understated performance, keeping his superhero image intact if occasionally overdone. Impressive and capable support is provided by Hal Holbrook as Eastwood's bureaucratic superior and Felton Perry as his bemused partner. Adele Yoshioka has an ornamental role as Eastwood's compliant neighbor lady, and Margaret Avery is effective as a hapless prostitute who proves that drinking Drano can be hazardous to your health. David Soul, Tim Matheson, Robert Urich and Kip Niven seem chillingly real as the rookies wearing brown shirts beneath their blue uniforms. The tight script by John Milius and Mike Cimino is marred only occasionally by cliche. All in all, MAGNUM FORCE is a remarkable accomplishment: a sequel that has something new to say. Rated "R."
â€¢ JONATHAN LIVINGSTON SEAGULL is the biggest package of inspirational fluff (no pun intended) since THE SOUND OF MUSIC. The woozy concoction of "can do" psychology and Platonist-existentialist philosophy should be enough to give even Norman Vincent Peale the creeps. The book (and now the movie) concerns a young gull, Jonathan by name, who by his own solitary effort learns to fly much faster and farther than the rest of the flock. He tries to impart this knowledge to his peers; but the flock, locked into convention and conformity, orders him to cease and desist; when he refuses, he is exiled. So far, so good, even if the plot is simplistic and overly reminiscent of Ayn Rand's ANTHEM. Now the fun begins. Jonathan in his lonely travels discovers there are other gulls like him, but in a more advanced state of "perfection"â€"which is defined as being without limits. "A seagull," Jonathan learns, "is an unlimited idea of freedom, an image of the Great Gull." To achieve perfection, one must shed one's limits by shedding one's nature, else one is condemned to repeat one's life through reincarnation. The film implies that there is no such thing as deliberate evil, only the failure to understand; all must be forgiven. These ideas, of course, are all around us. But rarely are negations of reality, reason and ethics packaged as an explicit and comprehensive world-view. The "practical" implications of author Richard Bach's ideas can be found in the cults of Eastern mysticism that periodically sweep the country. Technically the film version of JONATHAN LIVINGSTON SEAGULL is a mixed bag. Visually the movie is quite stunning, with endless panoramic vistas of seagulls in flight; but the sonorous voice of Neil Diamond brings it back to earth quickly enough. The use of human voices for the gulls tends to spoil the illusion, especially since they don't open their beaks during most of the conversations. Those more disposed toward the movie's philosophy may be able to put up with these idiosyncrasies; for myself, two hours of watching seagulls is enough to drive me bats. Rated "G."
â€¢ Don't be misled by the title: SCHLOCK is an outrageous, well-made parody of horror films that could well become a classic of its type. The inevitable cliches are leavened with enough original humor to keep the satire from becoming too heavy-handed; the audience still has to guess what's coming next. John Landis, who wrote and directed, stars as the Schlocthropus, a "missing link" that has returned to life after being locked in ice for 20 million years or so. After terrorizing a community and doing in several hundred of its inhabitants, he becomes known as the "banana killer" because of his habit of leaving banana peels beside his victims. Schlock's misadventures include falling in love with a blind girl, who thinks he's a dog and makes him fetch sticks until he's out of his mind; becoming traumatized at a movie theater watching Steve McQueen in THE BLOB; and discovering the use of weapons in a brilliant take-off on 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY. The whole enterprise is calculated to drive the audience, as well as the victims, bananas. Rated "PG."