Film Clips

ANACONDA. It's been about 20 years since audiences were scared out of the ocean by Jaws, so in these nostalgic times why not another huge, man-eating creature flick? First off, the snake sucks: Choose between really cheesy animatron rubber snake puppet (smiling and looking for all the world like a reptilian George Hamilton), or really fake looking computer animated snake, neither of which does much in the way of terrifying. Secondly, the script is willfully poor ("Oh, shit, look!" one character says upon seeing a snake the size of a space shuttle coming towards him). On the plus side, though, you get an entertainingly mismatched cast (Jon Voight, Eric Stoltz and Ice Cube), a couple of beautiful, screaming women (only one of whom survives), another look at Owen Wilson (Bottlerocket), and a snake that kills its prey by first spinning it in a fast tango and then twisting its head like the cap on a Bud Light (I've had worse dates). Your call. --Marchant

CHASING AMY. Director Kevin Smith (Clerks, Mallrats) falters in his latest attempt when he tries to describe the experience of young women, a group he seems to neither respect nor like. Chasing Amy is the story of Holden McNeil (Ben Affleck), an outsider who falls hard for Alyssa Jones (Joey Lauren Adams), a sweet but sharp-tongued comic book artist. She's also a lesbian, a fact Smith uses as a cute little obstacle to their love, which of course prevails. Though Adams is delightful as Jones, no amount of snappy dialogue can overcome the film's overt distrust of female sexuality: While Holden is somewhat fascinated with Alyssa's lesbianism, he's disgusted when he finds out she's had sex with other men. This is the point where an annoying movie becomes insufferable. Smith offers nothing new, even by way of misogynistic anxiety on the subject of female sex. Hitchcock was doing the same thing years ago, but at least he had the grace to be entertaining. --Richter

THE DEVIL'S OWN. Brad Pitt and Harrison Ford team up for this trite, far-fetched "action" movie about an Irish Republican Army freedom fighter/terrorist. Rory Devaney/Frankie McGuire (Pitt) flees to America to escape a wrongful death, develop a heartwarming relationship with the Irish-American family of a Boston beat cop (Ford), and buy a bunch of missiles from a prototypically sleazy American nightclub owner/hustler. Lots of people, mostly Irishmen, die violently, lots of people wear ski masks, and lots of people cry. We don't care, though, because the plot is so insidiously stupid we know early on all their personal dramas will be for naught. Pitt's character is fond of saying, "I told you, it's not an American story; it's an Irish one." Nothing could be further from the truth. Strangely enough, the most believable aspect of the film is Pitt's affected accent. --Wadsworth

GROSSE POINTE BLANK. John Cusack and Minnie Driver hammer out a love-hate relationship in a black romantic comedy so thick with irony that watching it is like watching two people fall in love on the David Letterman show, if you can imagine that. The dialogue is hip and witty, but the love story is straight out of a 1960s Doris Day movie, and at times, the script seems to be groaning under decades of stress. Cusack plays a smooth, amoral hit man who decides to return to the affluent suburb where he grew up for his high school reunion. Driver plays the girl who has been conveniently waiting for him for 10 years. Well, it's convenient for him. Grosse Pointe Blank is funny, forgettable, and aimed directly at viewers between the ages of 29 and 33. Everyone else may wonder what the hell is going on. --Richter

KAMA SUTRA: A TALE OF LOVE. Mira Nair, the director of Mississippi Masala and Salaam Bombay! delivers a sexy, good-natured, and slightly self-indulgent meditation on love and sex in 16th-century India. Indira Varma plays Maya, a saucy servant girl talented in the art of love. Her beauty and cunning take her from the palace to the street and back again in this sexy Cinderella story featuring bare-chested hunks wrestling and dark-eyed beauties making out with each other. Nair's visual sense is stunning and lush, cinnamon and rose-colored; you can practically smell the spices on the breeze. The sex scenes are torrid too--Nair has apparently confounded the censors in India, who allow depictions of violent sexuality like rape but prohibit the portrayal of direct physical contact. It's easy to commend Nair for wanting to introduce positive images of sexuality to Indian cinema; it's a little more difficult to sit through the second half of Kama Sutra, after the plot starts to wind down and all the principals have already done the deed with each other. --Richter

KOLYA. If Disney had a foreign film division, they might produce something very like Kolya, a sweet movie verging on sentimental that's just saved from being unforgivably cute by its political content. Louka (Zdenek Sverák), a middle-aged cellist forced from the Prague philharmonic by the communist regime, makes a deal to marry a young Russian woman. He's a confirmed bachelor, but she needs Czech citizenship and he needs money. When she runs off to Germany, he's stuck caring for her adorable, 5-year-old son, who teaches Louka a little bit about love, life, and family. Some of the filmmaking here is surprising and sensitive, which makes the manipulative, cloying aspects all the more irksome. --Richter

THE SAINT. Who, indeed, is the Saint? Val Kilmer twitches his way through about 12 different roles as the enigmatic, disguise-addicted Saint, a man so divided from any abiding notion of identity that he doesn't even know who the hell he is. Kilmer, as always, is fun to watch; somehow his sense of perfect self-love shines through in all his roles, making him seem just a little psychotic, like he really believes he's a Great Movie Star. The Saint is a loosely based on the Roger Moore TV series, but reinterpreted here in a darker, fuzzier vein. The Saint is hired to nab a crucial formula from Dr. Emma Russell (Elisabeth Shue), a brilliant physicist who wears little teen-girl barrettes in her hair. Of course, he falls in love. But can he save her from the bad guys?--Richter

VOLCANO. Blows. --DiGiovanna, Woodruff, Richter

WHEN WE WERE KINGS. The legendary prize fight between Mohammed Ali and George Foreman, set in Zaire in 1974, is the subject of this terrific documentary. If you doubt, or have forgotten, that Ali was at that time the coolest guy on the planet, this film aims to remind you. The footage was shot in the '70s, but director Leon Gast only obtained the funding to complete the film recently. He added snappy narration from George Plimpton and Norman Mailer, who've had more than 20 years to reflect on the big event. The result is a tense but elegiac record of an exciting boxing match, the most cinematic of sports. --Richter

Special Screenings

LAST CHANCE. If you've been kicking yourself for missing the Arizona International Film Festival, take heart. This weekend The Screening Room presents a pair of documentaries held over from last week's festival. Children of Fate, from Director Robert Young, traces the lives of a poor, Sicilian family in the 1960s, then catches up with the them again in the 1990s. Poetic, evocative, black-and-white footage alternates with a more pragmatic, colorful picture of the family today. Fire on the Mountain chronicles the daring exploits of America's only mountain and winter rescue unit from the 1940s through the '90s, and won rave reviews from festival audiences last week. Now, this really is your last chance.

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