Celluloid Closet. This terrific documentary traces both the overt and covert portrayal of lesbians and gays in the movies from the freedom of the 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.
Chungking Express. This delightful, bittersweet love story from Hong Kong filmmaker Wong Kar-Wai is innovative and stylish from start to finish. Two loosely affiliated stories about love connections in the big city blend detective-story intrigue with fantasy romance. Filmmaker Wong Kar-Wai, who is widely known in Hong Kong, has a sly, offbeat sense of how stories should be put together, and the structure of this film is as surprising and fresh as the love lives of the characters. Good performances by handsome young actors make the whole thing even more appealing.
Dragonheart. Dragonheart overcomes its weaknesses to deliver an action-adventure-comedy that's perfect for bored, young audiences out-of-school children 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 Phantom. A flick that truly earns the adjective unwatchable, The Phantom is simply the corniest, most predictable, flat piece of filmmaking imaginable. Okay, yes, so a guy runs around the jungle in a purple spandex suit, but don't let that fool you: There's nothing exciting here. Every single line of dialogue has been recycled from other movies (example: "She's a feisty one, isn't she!") and all the sets look like they've been borrowed from the back lot of Xena: Warrior Princess. There's some plot here somewhere, something about forbidden skulls or something; but believe us, it's nothing you haven't seen before. Don't waste an irretrievable portion of life on this travesty.
Spy Hard. A feeding-frenzy of rampant stupidity, shoddy production values and of course, fart jokes. In one particularly depressing aspect of this movie, a whole bunch of actors we haven't seen in a while reappear looking fatter, older and less talented than they ever have in their lives.
SCREENING ROOM BENEFIT. Since 1992, The Screening Room in downtown Tucson has provided an alternative forum for often overlooked local, independent and documentary films. The nonprofit Arizona Center for Media Arts recently purchased the Congress street theater and the local independent film community has organized a special event to help the Center foot the bill. There will be music, food and films from local independent filmmakers, including Casualty Call by PCC Media Communications Department; Dinner, by Penelope Price; Martin B, by Theron Patterson; and Toka, by David Wing. See City Week for times and ticket information; or call 622-2262.
BOYS LIFE. Blue Coyote Productions presents a trilogy of coming-of-age films to celebrate gay pride week in Tucson. Boys Life, which explores themes of love, discovery and sexual identity, has won a ton of awards at film festivals and runs the gamut from high school crushes to disco dancing lessons. It plays at the Screening Room, 127 E. Congress St., at 7 and 9 p.m. Wednesday, June 19. Tickets are $5. Call 622-2262 for information.
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