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.
Cold Comfort Farm. John Schlesinger makes a wonderful comeback with Cold Comfort Farm, a zippy comedy with a very sly, British sense of humor. Tons of witty dialogue and clever asides pepper this story of a plucky gal who decides, after the death of her parents, to go live with the most "interesting" family members she can find in order to scavenge fuel for her writing career. The distant relatives she locates are closer to insane than interesting--a weird, gothic clan of vaguely inbred farmers who don't even observe the custom of afternoon tea. The plucky Flora Poste tries her 1930's modern-girl best to turn her relatives' shame-filled, squalid lives into something out of the society section. Ah--but will she succeed?
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 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.
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.
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.
When Night is Falling. This story of forbidden love is sure to mesmerize from start to finish with its visually stunning cinematography and set design. The two hesitant lovers, Camille and Petra, are perpetually swathed in warm rose and gold tones and surrounded by an exotic circus of images contrasted with the wintry blue light of the Canadian winter. It's true: You'd have to be pretty cold-hearted not to feel writer/director Patricia Rozema's sense of tenderness and romance. But the plot is a tease. Though Camille is a theologian at a Christian college, the tension between religion and homosexuality--between private and public, individual and society--are only superficially developed. Nonetheless, the film retains a less-is-more resonance that leaves the mind free to admire all the pretty pictures.
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