Film Clips

THE EDGE. Grrrrr! A big bear threatens rich, glamorous men in this Hemingway-esque adventure tale with a Hollywood aftertaste. Anthony Hopkins plays a bookish billionaire with a head full of unused facts; Alec Baldwin plays his young, taut rival. Together they take a three-hour tour into the Alaskan wilderness where they battle the elements, each other, and a bear with an appetite for human flesh. Director Lee Tamahori and screenwriter David Mamet really go macho with this one: throbbing music, tight close-ups, and a series of tribal, coming-of-age-style obstacles to be overcome by the mostly male cast. It's big, it's fun, it's adolescent, but in a good way. Breathtaking alpine scenery and Mamet's offbeat dialogue save this from being just another boy-meets-boy-and-pretends-he's-his-father story. And the bear is excellent. --Richter

Film Clips THE GAME. This is perhaps the world's longest episode of Fantasy Island. Instead of flying to the tropics, though, rich, bored executives pay big bucks to have a mysterious company deliver custom-made thrills to their doorsteps. Wealthy, bored, empty, hollow-eyed industrialist Nicholas Van Orton (Michael Douglas) is given a gift certificate to play the game by his black sheep of a brother; not surprisingly, things quickly get out of hand. Not surprisingly, he learns a little something about himself and his capacities as he engages in a series of dangerous adventures that seem designed to break his sanity. If you can stomach the sheer emptiness of The Game, and if you're not pre-disposed to paranoid episodes, this movie is kind of fun. It's so random and senseless that the lurches of the game, as Van Orton plays, are unexpected and jarring, sometimes in a good way. Michael Douglas gives a polished, subtly humorous performance, and director David Fincher has a way of making everything look expensive and shiny. Of course, savvy movie watchers will realize this movie, like every movie, is all fantasy, and that any debate over what's "part of" and "not part of" the game on screen is the kind of absurd speculation that makes computers explode on Star Trek. --Richter

KISS THE GIRLS. Few girls get kissed, and when they do they don't like it. If that's your idea of a good time, you might enjoy this derivative sicko flick about a kidnapper of beautiful women who locks them in a dungeon and forces them to act like they love him--but don't count on it. Morgan Freeman, as a detective trying to track "Casanova" down, seems positively bored by his role, and the ennui is contagious. I'm sure having to play a carbon copy of his Seven character, deliver knowing lines like "This guy's a collector," and wear a Mod Squad-ish leather jacket without any accompanying groovy music didn't help Freeman's enthusiasm any. Perhaps he was attracted to the film because it teams him up with Ashley Judd, whose tough-spirited character escapes the kidnapper/rapist/killer and tries to help Freeman solve the case. Unfortunately, there's no room in the script for the feisty Judd and the sagely Freeman to display any romantic tension or even personality, so the movie just turns into another by-the-numbers killer thriller with a few predictable "twists." Ho hum. The only original, amusing moment happens at the end, when Freeman fires a gun point-blank through a carton of milk, prompting one viewer to comment, "Got Milk?" But that's nothing you couldn't try at home. --Woodruff

L.A. CONFIDENTIAL. Glamour girls! Scandal! Gunplay! Nose Jobs! The place is the City of Angels; the time is the 1950s. The thrills starts when honest but prissy officer Ed Exley (Guy Pearce) opens the door to the men's room of the Nite Owl Café and finds a half dozen bullet-pierced bodies strewn across the linoleum. From then on it's seedy characters, clever plot twists and bracing moral dilemmas as a precinct full of cops harass, pummel and caress each other and the smelly underbelly of Los Angeles. Ed Exley goes head to head with his nemesis, fellow officer Bud White (Russell Crowe), a thug known for his brawn but not his brains. The two tackle the Nite Owl mystery with a passion while their suave, detached colleague Jack Vincennes (Kevin Spacey) coolly observes. L.A. Confidential courses down the same clotted drainage ditch as Chinatown, but without Polanski's dark and brooding spirit. L.A. Confidential is sort of like Chinatown lite--a taut and rousing thriller that's well worth seeing. --Richter

THE MATCHMAKER. You can bet your lucky four-leaf clover this travesty won't stick around the theaters for more than a couple of weeks, so if your idea of a great movie is a thin plot about a slimy U.S. senator who sends his surly campaign flunky (Janeane Garofalo) to drum up endearing relatives in his supposed ancestral town in rural Ireland--populated, of course, by every pathetic Irish stereotype to wash up on the dreary shores of Hollywood comedy writing--don't delay another minute: Face your destiny and meet The Matchmaker. Supposedly, this is a romantic comedy about a lonely American political junkie and a jaded, small-town Irish journalist; but it's terminally unfunny and there isn't a single spark between Garofalo and leading lout David O'Hara. On the plus side, the scene starring a shitbucket, a narcoleptic, and a demented, cursing patriarch makes the rest of the ordeal almost worthwhile. --Wadsworth

MRS. BROWN. Foul-mouthed Scottish comic Billy Connolly seems like an odd choice for the lead in this relentlessly somber film, but he aptly gives the sense of a free spirit increasingly fettered by the Byzantine rules of the English royal household. The story, set over 15 years, but always during autumn, concerns the long mourning of Queen Victoria (Judy Dench) after the death of her husband, Prince Albert, and her difficult friendship with Connolly's Mr. Brown. While director John Madden shows a remarkable control of the mood, he doesn't allow enough life or activity into this tale of sorrow and stifling morals, and the film becomes noticeably dull as it wears on. Nonetheless, it escapes the sickly sweetness and quaint cuteness of many recent movies set in the 19th century; and when Madden allows the camera out of the dark and stuffy palaces and into the autumnal Scottish and English countryside, the results are spectacular. --DiGiovanna

PEACEMAKER. George Clooney ably takes over the role of the Caped Crusader in this latest installment of the Batman series, though there are a few changes from the earlier versions: For example, he never dons the attractive black-and-gray bat costume known for striking fear into the hearts of cowardly and superstitious villains. However, he still swings from a rope to knock the bad guys on their butts, and demonstrates his superhuman abilities by taking out hordes of heavily armed terrorists single-handedly. While his unerring aim and virtual invulnerability would seem silly in an ordinary thriller, viewers are accustomed to this level of detachment from reality in the superhero genre. Nicole Kidman, whom fans will remember as the crime-fighting Dr. Chase Meridian in Batman Forever, returns in this episode, having been promoted to Chief of the White House Task Force on Nuclear Terrorism...or something. Her forced, wooden acting is perfect for this comic-book-brought-to-the-screen as she portrays one of the shapeliest nuclear scientists on the government payroll. While I was disappointed that Robin had been dropped from the cast, I anxiously look forward to the next episode, wherein, I hear, Batman becomes a philandering pediatrician in an urban emergency room. --DiGiovanna

SHALL WE DANCE? This elegant, sweet-spirited comedy focuses on Shohei Sugiyama (Koji Yakusyo), a quiet-tempered 42-year-old businessman who starts secretly taking dance lessons to ward off his mid-life crisis. As his dancing gradually improves, he begins feeling less empty, and that's great for him but not for his wife, who worries he's having an affair. Which, in a way, he is--though you can bet they'll be two-stepping by the end of the movie. Writer/director Masayuki Suo's use of dancing as a metaphor for marriage and life certainly qualifies as corny, but the story addresses its characters' need to rise above their regimented existence with touching amiability; and the supporting cast, a combination of frustrated dance instructors and bumbling would-be waltzers, is terrific. The film's real strength, though, lies in its pleasantly flowing dance scenes, which eschew editing in favor of wide shots so that the screen becomes the dance floor. Shall We Dance? won all of Japan's 13 Academy Awards, and it's the only movie I've ever seen that inspired a couple to dance in the parking lot afterwards. --Woodruff

A THOUSAND ACRES. Based on Jane Smiley's Pulitzer prize-winning novel, A Thousand Acres is a weeper about brave farm wives that has some fine moments despite its sentimentality. Michelle Pfieffer and Jessica Lange play a pair of sisters battling against their powerful, angry father for the possession of the family farm and, metaphorically, possession of themselves. The story is a twist on King Lear--as told from the point of view of the selfish daughters. Here, we get to finally see what the daughters are so pissed off about. Family secrets, illness, court battles, love affairs: Unfortunately, there isn't enough time for all this stuff to develop. It just keeps coming at ya, and if you haven't read King Lear lately, it's even more perplexing. --Richter

WISHMASTER. Ever since Scream, it's been tempting to see any movie with the name Wes Craven attached to it, even if he's only the "executive producer." Time to revise that plan, because Wishmaster is pure hokey schlock; predictable, formulaic and dumb. Its premise: that true genies, also known as Djinn, are not the happy-go-lucky creatures depicted by Barbara Eden and Robin Williams, but in fact evil smart-asses who want to turn the world into a giant S&M parlor. The only way a Djinn can do that is if the person who frees him asks for three wishes; fortunately he's just been freed by a feisty girls' basketball coach (Tammy Lauren) who keeps her wishes to herself by chanting "stillness" in a Brady Bunch-style voice-over. This unremitting wish-chastity is very frustrating to the genie (who talks in one of those low, glottal voices that there must be a rule all evil beings are supposed to have), so he gets revenge by offering wishes to her friends, then making them come true in all the wrong ways. If anybody in this movie had seen Bedazzled, they'd know that you have to word your wishes very carefully, saying things like "in a way so that nobody gets hurt" at the end. But no; soon the cheesy special effects go into overdrive, and people are vomiting their internal organs or getting their heads pulled off by piano wires. The bottom line: See Wishmaster at the drive-in, drunk, or not at all. --Woodruff

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