Jeff Goldblum, Christine Lahti

In this sci-fi thriller based on a Dean Koontz best-seller, Goldblum is miraculously brought back to life after a car accident. But, as attending physician Alfred Molina warns Golblum's wife (Lahti), "He may seem different to you."

Now here's a doctor who can make a diagnosis. Goldblum's brief journey to the other side has inexplicably given him a psychic connection to a mad killer (Jeremy Sisto). He frequently can see and feel what Sisto sees and feels. Moreover, Sisto can see through Goldblum's eyes.

What the killer sees is a fresh victim: Goldblum's beloved teenage daughter (Alicia Silverstone). Consumed by terrifying visions and nightmares made palpable by ludicrous special effects, Goldblum becomes more and more convinced that Silverstone is in imminent mortal danger. Everyone else, meanwhile, is becoming more and more convinced that Goldblum is rowing with only one oar.

Even in the most bizarre, twisted tales, there must be a seedbed of logic. No such thing here. More delicate direction would have been appreciated. Hideaway begins on such a feverishly portentious note that it has no place to go but out of control, and the pervasive soundtrack, which sounds like a migraine, is no aid to the cause.

Goldblum, all wild eyes and unkempt hair, has the look of a man about to turn into a werewolf, and Lahti is stuck playing the unrewarding role of supportive-skeptical-scared wife. (R)

Christopher Lambert, John Lone, Joan Chen, Yoshio Harada

Tired of action movies where everyone gets shot to smithereens? Try this one, where they get sliced and diced to bits with massive Japanese swords and daggers.

The Hunted is about body count—the corpse pile is near triple digits by movie's end—and little else. Its minimal plot features the ever stolid Lambert as an American businessman in Japan who accidently witnesses a ninja assassin (Lone) at work. Now a target himself, Lambert teams up with a samurai warrior (Harada) intent on settling a centuries-old feud with the ninja.

Much slashing and severing ensues, though screenwriter-director J.F. Lawton (whose scripts include Pretty Woman) mercifully stops just short of showing many of the beheadings and other gory bits. Hunted does boast two redeeming moments: an angst-ridden Lone moaning, "How much blood must I bathe in to get clean?" before halving another victim; and a lady friend (Chen) discovering that Lambert's undershorts are bedecked with pictures of pigs.

"Piggies?" she asks surprisedly.

"Yeah, I like piggies," he replies.

Amid all the swordplay this exchange passes for rapier-sharp wit. (R)

Allen Payne, Eddie Griffin, Joe Morton, Roger Floyd

God, they say, is in the details. Nobody ever noted His presence in the marketing campaign. Yet this film, billed as defining the "black experience in Vietnam," is so murky and convoluted that it makes the real war seem a model of clarity and common sense by comparison.

Though himself a former Marine, writer-director Preston A. Whitmore II displays little understanding of the war's tension and terror, but that is the least of his weaknesses. He underlights most scenes and pays little attention to sound quality (a particular flaw with gunfire and helicopters constantly drowning out the dialogue).

The unit in question—a platoon of newly arrived Marines—is assigned to liberate a POW camp but meets unexpected resistance. Meanwhile, Whitmore bewilderingly tries to interweave jokey flashbacks of his main characters in civilian life. Payne, for instance, was a well-educated, repressed militant. Griffin was a libidinous meatpacker in Cleveland, while Morton, the cast's most familiar face,-was a clergyman with a dark secret. The only white characters are racist landlords and bosses, hopelessly un-hip officers and a combat-fatigued psycho (Floyd), who shoots at his buddies and bites off their ears.

What seems intended to be a triumphal ending is undercut by the clumsy exposition of the plot. The definitive movie on American blacks in Vietnam remains to be made. (R)

Documentary

Jazz fans are the obvious audience for this engaging little film (an Academy Award nominee for Best Feature Documentary), but its 60 minutes are so lively, good-natured and full of unforced affection that others, too, will find it thoroughly enjoyable.

Great Day chronicles a 1958 photograph commissioned by Esquire art editor Robert Benton (later director of such films as Kramer vs. Kramer and Places in the Heart) for a special issue on jazz. Benton asked freelance art director Arthur Kane, who had never taken a professional picture, to gather as many jazz stars as he could on 126th Street in Harlem for a group picture.

Kane, mostly through blind luck, wound up with a remarkable photograph that included Count Basie, Dizzy Gillespie, Lester Young, Coleman Hawkins, Gene Krupa, Marian McPartland, Roy Eldridge, Buck Clayton, Art Blakey, Bud Freeman, Pee Wee Russell, Thelonius Monk, Charles Mingus, Willie "The Lion" Smith, Jimmy Rushing, Sonny Rollins and Mary Lou Williams. (In a sad footnote, Kane died last month at 69 in Lancaster, Ky., an apparent suicide.)

Fortunately for the makers of this documentary, the group also included bassist and longtime amateur photographer Milt Hinton, who brought his wife, Mona, and his 8-mra movie camera. It is Mona's shaky but fascinating footage that producer Jean Bach mixes into filmed interviews with surviving members of the group, reminiscing about being in the photo. (The shot was taken around 10 a.m., a shockingly early hour for the nocturnal jazzmen. "Somebody said it was the first time he realized there were two 10 o'clocks every day," one participant recalls.) Bach rarely intercedes, letting the musicians' recollections and Mrs. Hinton's film speak for themselves. That reticence is a weakness at times, however, since the film cries for, among other things, an explanation of why such greats as Louis Armstrong, Billie Holiday, Benny Goodman and Duke Ellington skipped the portrait session (which ended up including an array of neighborhood children).

Still, Bach's interviews reflect the spontaneity and camaraderie that create (and are generated by) great jazz. And Susan Peehl stitched all the elements together in a spectacular job of editing, creating what is in effect an interpersonal variation on the jam session, (not rated)

  • Contributors:
  • Joanne Kaufman,
  • Leah Rozen,
  • Ralph Novak.