John Goodman, Cathy Moriarty, Simon Fenton

It lakes a long time to load the cargo for takeoff in this comedy set during the Cuban missile crisis. But when the satire finally takes wing, Matinee has its pleasures, however brief.

The genial Goodman is a sci-fi impresario in the mold of William Castle, the director of such gimmicky, campy classics as 1958's House on Haunted Hill and 1959's The Tingler. As Matinee begins, he is arriving in Key West, Fla., with his sardonic girlfriend and leading lady (the terrific Moriarty) for the premiere of Mant ("half man...half ant...all terror," heralds the poster), an opus he hopes will prove a worthy successor to his recent boffo The Eyes of Dr. Diablo.

The town's proximity to Cuba has sent the citizenry into a swivet—the perfect atmosphere, figures Goodman, to release a movie about atomic power run amok. Not that he's leaving anything to chance. Goodman parades Moriarty as a nurse—in case any young viewers become stricken by fright—and announces that his film will be presented in "Atomo-Vision," to give audiences that "you are there" feeling. No one is more eager for the opening than adolescent horror movie bull and military brat Fenton, whose father is serving on a boat in the Cuban blockade.

Matinee is at its antic best in the movie-within-the-movie framework—the unspooling of the hilarious Mant ("I wish you'd be a man and put the insect aside," Moriarty, playing a beleaguered wife, tells her metamorphosed mate. "Insecticide?" he gasps in reply). As for the several pointless subplots—among them a romance between Fenton's pretty classmate and her beat-poet beau—they should have been dealt a few stern blows with a fly-swatter. (PG)

Arye Gross, Claudia Christian

While it is being marketed as a spoof of Fatal Attraction and Basic Instinct, this crass, grindingly dull, inane comedy is relevant to neither of those films, nor their genre, nor much of anything else.

Gross plays a hotel clerk who gets' involved with a French supermodel. Christian, which leads to a frenzied, convoluted series of events involving murder and blackmail.

Writer-director Alan Spencer must think it hilarious when a man punches or kicks a woman in the face or stomach; he fills his movie with such incidents, played for laughs. The dialogue is mostly a succession of mumbled and shouted insults.

Gross projects a slothful image that's hardly conducive to comedy. But Christian is ideal as a gorgeous con woman with great legs. She is obviously not afraid to look dumb. And she sure came to the right place for that. (R)

Turn Berenger, Billy Zane

Somewhere in all these shadows, plot confusions and dizzyingly chaotic sequences lurks an adrenaline-pumping, invigorating and diverting action film about two American marksmen assigned to kill Colombian drug traffickers trying to infiltrate Panamanian politics.

Director Luis Llosa captures the confusion and terror of jungle combat. He captures it so well, in fact, that it's often hard to tell what is happening.

The movie's subtext involves the conflict between the two Americans, Berenger, a Marine sharpshooter who has killed 74 people, and Zane, a National Security Council operative whose main credential is an Olympic medal in riflery. Berenger, of course, scoffs at Zane's lack of jungle-fighting experience, not to mention his insufficiently bloodthirsty approach to killing people.

The villains are seen mostly through Berenger's and Zane's telescopic sights and the mini-telescopes they use to help see their targets. Michael Frost Beckner's screenplay also keeps tossing in inexplicable sub-skirmishes; at one point, Berenger and Zane seem to be stalking each other rather than the bad guys.

Zane's frail, yuppie look keeps him from ever mustering much authority as an assassin (as killing machines go, he is more cappuccino maker than meat grinder).

Berenger is another story. If Harrison Ford is today's John Wayne, Berenger is our Gary Cooper. His athleticism and grim, intense aura of integrity make him easy to root for in this kind of running battle. It would help, though, if the movie made it clearer who was trying to do what to whom, and why. (R)

  • Contributors:
  • Joanne Kaufman,
  • Ralph Novak.