Film Clips

AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN PARIS. This goofy, exuberant cross between a horror movie and a comedy is an unexpectedly refreshing way to waste 99 minutes. Director Anthony Waller packs a whole lot of snarling beasts, romance, rotting corpses and dare-devil stunts into this energetic homage to John Landis' 1981 An American Werewolf in London. Tom Everett Scott plays an American tourist who just wants to make fun of foreigners, but ends up being pulled into some beastly doings; Julie Delpy plays a young Parisian werewolf trying to control her bitch of a monthly "lycanthropic cycle." Of course, the two fall in love. One scene shows a detective carefully fingerprinting someone's hand; the camera pulls back and we see it's attached to a severed arm. That's the kind of movie this is. --Richter

Film Clips THE BOXER. This slow-moving drama about provincial life in besieged Northern Ireland is somewhat of a knock-down, drag-out affair. Daniel Day-Lewis stars as Danny, a former IRA member who returns to his home in West Belfast after 14 years in prison. Though the opening sequences introduce us to the IRA members' fierce loyalties, clandestine meetings and passionate toasts to "the prisoners" and "the prisoner's wives," Danny-boy strangely receives only frosty looks and stern warnings from his former friends and leaders. When he sets about reopening the boxing gym where he trained as a youth--a facility open to all faiths--suspicions and rivalries reach a fever pitch. More dangerous than his apolitical silence in the ring, however, is the unspoken threat that he's back for Maggie (Emily Watson), his childhood love who's now under the district's watchful, paternalistic eye as the wife of a prisoner. Though by far the best movie of recent memory to tackle the tragic violence and hatred wrought by IRA activity, The Boxer is strangely boring, relying more on contrived images and meaningful looks than emotive and revealing storytelling. Though The Boxer has all the right moves, it lacks the punch writer-director Jim Sheridan delivered with In The Name of the Father and My Left Foot. --Wadsworth

FALLEN. Aside from an eccentrically amusing but all-too-short performance by Elias Koteas as a mass murderer singing in the electric chair, this film is relentlessly boring. It's hard to believe this made it past test audiences, as my informal poll revealed that 40-percent of viewers spent the film thinking about work, 35-percent had unrelated sexual fantasies, 20-percent worried about environmental issues, 4-percent were there as part of a field trip from a traumatic head injury clinic, and the remaining 1-percent actually paid attention to the screen. The film's format is oddly cyclical: There are three minutes of plot, then Denzel Washington does a voice-over describing what just happened, then he tells his partner (John Goodman) what happened, then he tells an Angelologist what happened, then he walks around in the mist and the rain, then there's another three minutes of plot and the cycle starts again. This allows for nearly 12 minutes of action in a five hour film. At least I think it was five hours...I kind of lost track of time when I realized there were only two years left until the millennium. --DiGiovanna

AS GOOD AS IT GETS. This is one of the first films in what promises to be a rich and varied genre--the Prozac movie. Jack Nicholson plays Melvin Udall, a really mean novelist with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and a razor-sharp wit. The first half of As Good As It Gets, before the guy gets medicated, is honestly funny. Udall is the prototypical nasty New Yorker. He's fair, too. He hates everyone equally. But a saucy waitress (Helen Hunt) makes him "want to be a better man," and, in the style of Awakenings, he begins to snap out of his dark, dank little world. The second half of the movie is less funny than the first; Helen Hunt does okay in short scenes but becomes insufferable when she's on screen too long. And of course, she's way too young for Nicholson. Still, he is in rare form in this movie, charming and repulsive both, and there are plenty of genuine comic moments. This is about as good as it gets for seven bucks at the multiplex these days. --Richter

GOOD WILL HUNTING. Gus Van Sant directs this movie about a self-educated mathematical genius, Will Hunting (Matt Damon), a janitor who mops floors at MIT. Secretly, he's smarter than all the students and most of the professors, too. When the educated world discovers Will, he's torn between his beer-drinking, fiercely loyal buddies and the unfamiliar world of academics. Oh yeah, there's a sexy Harvard girl (Minnie Driver) in his life, too. Robin Williams plays the psychologist who tries to help Will figure out what to do with his amazing gift. There's a lot of good acting; and the screenplay, by Will Damon and Ben Affleck, can be pretty funny at points, though it tends to drift into sentimentality. Van Sant has a real talent for creating arresting visual images; he does it a little here, when he gets a chance, but a film about the inner life and psychological changes of a young boy doesn't really let him flex his muscles. Perhaps he should see a psychologist and get in touch with his gift. --Richter

HALF BAKED. Why would anyone make a movie about drug-addled losers in the nineties? I mean, Cheech and Chong were killed by an angry mob in 1984 for a reason. Watching people pretend to act stoned is not exactly my idea of a good time, but there were some brief and amusing cameos. Janeanne Garofalo's three-minute sequence is a gem; and oddly enough, Bob Saget, who only has three lines, is sort of fabulous, mostly by playing against type. Still, the whole thing can basically be explained by switching a couple of nouns in the old joke, "What did the Deadhead say when the drugs wore off? Hey, this music really sucks!" --DiGiovanna

HARD RAIN. If you flushed your toilet non-stop for the rest of your life, you wouldn't come anywhere near the quantity of water wasted in Hard Rain. An action thriller set during an ever-rising flood in a small Midwestern town, the flick is overflowing with freaky situations like high-school halls that become jet ski highways, jail cells turned into drowning traps, and rooftops that double as boat ramps. At first, there's an almost surreal quality to the film, like we're inside some sort of symbolic dream world. But the blandly calculating script soon turns everything into soggy cereal. Other than Morgan Freeman, who plays a refreshingly non-sadistic villain, most of the characters just tread the usual action-cliché waters, and the movie forfeits any claim it had to inventiveness when it climaxes with a last-minute bad-guy revival in slow motion. Ugh, get me a towel. With Christian Slater, Minnie Driver, Randy Quaid, and, in sadly humiliating roles, Ed Asner and Betty White. --Woodruff

PHANTOMS. For a relatively low-budget horror movie with no ideas of its own, Phantoms is mildly entertaining for a while. Director Joe Chappelle fills as much of the film as he can with basic scenes wherein characters hear strange sounds and go looking to see what caused them. When this spookiness wears thin, he brings in Peter O'Toole as a wizened archaeologist-turned-tabloid writer. But much more than charisma is needed, so the film gruesomely kills off deputy Liev Schreiber just to bring him back as an evil, mutilated being who sings "I Fall To Pieces" at every opportunity. When that gets old, the Dean Koontz story veers from Satanic to scientific and a bogus last-minute plot emerges, leading to several cheesy special-effects scenes reminiscent of The Thing and The Blob mixed together in a blender with some sludge. The boring Ben Affleck, Joanna Going and Rose McGowan (Scream's doggie-door girl) also star. Unfortunately, they survive. --Woodruff

SPIKE AND MIKE'S SICK AND TWISTED FESTIVAL. Suggested alternate titles for this collection of perverse 'toons: Spike and Mike's Festival of Animation for People with Serious Ass Fetishes; or We Think Cartoons Involving Fart Noises Are Funny, How 'Bout You? Animated Things That Bleed, Curse, Have Sex, Commit Violent Acts, and Randomly Spout Insults. Spoofs of Japanese Animation Can Be Witty and Fun, Particularly When They Include Nudity and Car Crashes. This Ain't No Feminist Animation Festival! The We-Know-You're-Here-For-Two-Hours-of-Animation, But-We-Don't-Actually-Have-That-Much-Material Festival (intermission and moronic introductions included, free of charge). Some Cynical and Funny Animation, Some Mildly Amusing Animation, and Some Truly Disgusting Animation. And finally, The South-Park-Is-Hip-So-We-Can-Get-Away-With-Charging-Seven-Bucks Animation Festival. --McKay

STAR KID. Hey, it's E.T. meets Robocop! As combinations between Steven Spielberg and Paul Verhoeven films go, we could do a lot worse ("Hey, it's Schindler's List meets Showgirls!") than this pleasantly executed--if completely unoriginal--boys' movie. Joseph Mazzello, best remembered as the little scrub who got zapped off the electric fence in Jurassic Park, plays a frustrated lad whose workaholic, widower father hasn't the time to help poor Mazzello overcome his persistent bully problem and his catatonic shyness around the cute girl at school. What better solution than the alien-assisted omnipotence of an extraterrestrial cybersuit? If the film's revenge and love fantasies aren't enough, Mazzello must also fight an intergalactic war--complete with a scary, slobbering morphing monster. Totally awesome! Star Kid too often resorts to gratuitous destruction and bodily functions scenes, and will never be mistaken for a children's classic. But it's cute, and displays enough overall restraint to keep parents (and reviewers) from going bonkers. --Woodruff

TAXI DRIVER. Robert DeNiro has some bad ideas in his head in this Martin Scorcese masterpiece. Its script, by Paul Schrader, is poetic enough to commit to memory; the acting, by DeNiro and Peter Boyle, is seamless; and the story moves insistently without succumbing to the Hollywood desire for meaningless action. The subtle Bernard Herrmann score eschews the conceit of producing tension with intrusive music and provides an eerie counterpoint to the sociopathic world of a New York taxi driver who moves inexorably towards an explosive expression of anomie. It's also a good chance to see Jodie Foster, Cybill Shepherd and Harvey Keitel before they became insufferable. Without a doubt one of the best American films ever made. --DiGiovanna

WAG THE DOG. Director Barry Levinson makes a brave attempt at political satire, but he can't resist the impulse to water it down. And what is it with the aging big stars? They can't resist playing it cute. Dustin Hoffman is an adorable movie producer; Robert DeNiro is a cuddly spin doctor working for the President. Together they concoct the ultimate diversionary device--a war. (This is necessary because the President seems to have broken one of the Ten Commandments with a girl scout). Occasionally Wag the Dog is very funny; the first half hour is especially good. But then it starts to repeat itself, and Levinson and his screenwriters seem to feel far more comfortable making fun of Hollywood than of Washington. Eventually, it all degenerates into the regular, old, predictable ruts. --Richter

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