Celluloid Closet. This terrific documentary traces both the overt and covert portrayal of lesbians and gays in the movies from the freedom of silent era, to the middle of the century (when same-sex relationships in the movies usually ended in death), to today, when a gay character actually has a chance of surviving! This movie is full of wonderful clips and intriguing, behind-the-scenes glimpses from actors and screenwriters. Learn all about the secret love-plot embedded in Ben Hur from Gore Vidal; hear about the obsessive lesbian yearning of the housekeeper Mrs. Danvers in Hitchcock's Rebecca from Susie Bright. Best of all, hear Susan Sarandon talk about the triumph and trials of bedding Catherine Deneuve.
Dragonheart. Not since the Star Wars trilogy have we seen an otherworldly creature this "realistic" and lovable. Unfortunately, the quality of the storytelling is light years away from that cinematic masterpiece. The plot (and the occasional quip) err at times on the contemporary side considering the 18th century setting; but Dragonheart overcomes its weaknesses to deliver an action-adventure-comedy that's perfect for bored, young audiences out-of-school with nowhere to go. The moral for insolent teenagers-in-training may alone be worth the price of admission. Dennis Quaid plays the dragon-slaying knight and Sean Connery is wise, clever Draco, the last dragon. Overall, this is a marvel of special effects with plenty of comic relief to make the cloying sentimentality bearable. On an unlikely yet appropriate scale, it's better than First Knight but not as good as Princess Bride.
Flower Of My Secret. Famed Spanish director Pedro Almodovar takes a stab at melodrama in his most earnest work to date. The film is dotted with delightful high points and disappointing lows as Leo, a middle-aged romance writer, negotiates the loss of the love of her husband. Almodovar is best known for his comedies, and sometimes it's hard to tell if this movie is satirical. The illogical script is also sometimes annoying, but when things are working in this movie, it has the quality of life being portrayed as it really is, instead of all chewed up and processed like in Hollywood movies.
Heaven's Prisoners. This long, sweaty look at cops and robbers in bayou country never really coalesces into much of a movie. There are lots of stylish shots and the atmosphere is so thick you could eat it with a fork, but beneath this is virtually nothing! Alec Baldwin plays a tough homicide detective who's trying to retire, but bad guys keep literally falling out of the sky and landing on top of him, and he just can't resist chasing them. Not only is he addicted to fighting crime, he's also battling, unsuccessfully, to stay on the wagon. A bevy of babes, both good and evil (including Teri Hatcher as a clothing-impaired villain), come to soothe and tempt him. The characters run around for two and a half hours, then it's over.
Mission: Impossible. Rather than having a plot, this movie features an accretion of random events arranged next to each other on film. If you're confused during this movie, join the rapidly expanding club. On the other hand, Brian DePalma is a genius at directing action scenes, and you will almost certainly gasp involuntarily when Tom Cruise hangs above that white supercomputer by a thread. Those who consider Cruise to be a babe will certainly find him in top form here. But if you were a fan of the Mission: Impossible TV series, or if you expect your movies to have coherent plots, you will be disappointed.
THE TRUTH ABOUT CATS AND DOGS. Janeane Garofalo stars as Dr. Abby Barnes, a veterinarian with the title call-in radio show for distraught pet owners. The plot thickens when, amidst the daily grind of callers with finicky basset hounds and rashes from three-hour cat tongue baths, a mysterious photographer with a European accent has a crisis with a Great Dane on roller skates. When the grateful caller, Brian (Ben Chaplin), talks Abby into meeting him in person, she inexplicably describes herself as her supermodel neighbor, played to dippy perfection by Uma Thurman. It's an insipid premise--smart-but-unattractive woman chooses beautiful-but-dumb proxy to win the man of her dreams. But from start to finish the movie is so damn cute--cute animals, cute actors, cute lines--you might not even notice. Not recommended for those afraid to laugh out loud in public.
Twister. After a tornado kills Helen Hunt's father, she becomes obsessed with revenge in this incredibly stupid Michael Crichton thriller. Every plot point is explained at least three times in dialogue before being realized in action, and the actors, especially Bill Paxton, appear to be truly embarrassed by the script. In an interesting twist, while the good guys in this movie are weathermen, the bad guys are also weathermen--Bad Weathermen, in black vans. Nevertheless, there is something to be said for watching cows, trucks and cars sailing through barns.
Badlands. A stunning film about a boy and a girl who go on a senseless killing spree in the Badlands of the Dakotas and Montana by Terrence Malick, the critically revered director who has made only two films in 20 years. Martin Sheen and Sissy Spacek make a haunting young couple--hollowed-out, affable and detached, they drive around visiting friends and murdering, demonstrating a warped misunderstanding of the nature of morality and the American dream. Beautiful shots of barren landscapes and the spare, elegant script combine to create one of the most evocative and intimate portraits of emptiness and alienation since the paintings of De Chirico. Badlands plays at The Screening Room, 127 E. Congress St., Friday through Sunday. Call 622-2262 for show times.
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