THE GHOST AND THE DARKNESS. Screenwriter William Goldman, who wrote Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, All the President's Men and The Stepford Wives, among others, proves once again that the nineties will never be as good as the seventies, movie-wise. This "true" tale about great white hunters protecting the natives from a couple of man-eating lions endorses the standard myopic myths about colonialism, manhood, hunting, etc. Val Kilmer plays John Patterson, an engineer who has been sent to the African savanna to build a bridge that will expand the ivory trade. He speaks of Africa as if it were a town, rather than a continent ("I love Africa!"), and sets about proving his manhood and protecting his men (various racial stereotypes, mitigated somewhat by one or two heroic black characters) against a pair of man-eating lions. A great hunter, Charles Remington (Michael Douglas) comes to show him how it's done. The two men bond, hunt, kill etc. Remington remarks with revulsion that the pair of unnatural lions "are doing it for pleasure," i.e., killing, but the movie doesn't have the intelligence to draw the connection between the lion's pleasure in killing and man's pleasure in hunting, colonization and dominance. After a while, it's hard to not root for the lions. At least they're resisting the conquest of their domain.
INFINITY. Matthew Broderick directs and stars in this rambling film based on the life and loves of Nobel prize-winning physicist Richard Feynman. The film, written by the director's mother, Patricia Broderick, follows the courtship and marriage of Feynman to Arline Greenbaum (Patricia Arquette), through their days as high school sweethearts to their life as a couple in New Mexico, where Feynman worked at Los Alamos developing the bomb. Though this movie has many rewarding moments and a sweet, old-fashioned sensibility that makes it seem like the perfect flick to take your silver-haired grandma to, it nonetheless lacks cohesion and depth. Feynman gets to run around explaining nuclear physics to folks, while his wife Arline fawns over pretty dresses in shop windows. Is this a match made in heaven? Hard to say, but it's worthy to note the love story is a short, autobiographical chapter in the life of one of the most interesting scientific minds of the 20th century. The ending is a long time coming, and you may begin to suspect that the title refers to the length of the film; but if Infinity piques your curiosity, ferret out a paperback copy of the infinitely more rewarding memoir, Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman.
PAPERBACK ROMANCE. A loopy, endearing little romantic comedy from down under, Paperback Romance has, um, interesting production values and not a familiar face in the cast. There's nothing very weighty here, but the story of a pretty, handicapped romance writer (she conveniently composes her smutty stories aloud) who pretends to have been injured in a skiing accident in order to nab Prince Charming has a ridiculous but undeniable charm. Like While You Were Sleeping or even Funny Face, Paperback Romance does a fine job of conflating absurdity with romance. Bring a date.
THAT THING YOU DO. Tom Hanks wrote and directed this one (yes, he's in it too), and it seems like just the kind of thing Hanks would produce: It's cute, endearing, and utterly without tension or meaning. The core idea for this movie though, is great. It traces the rise and fall of a little rock and roll band from Pennsylvania during the mid-sixties; a "one-hit wonder" group that rocked the charts for a few weeks, then disappeared from view. The young cast is adorable, the music is infectious (we get to hear that one hit, the eponymous "That Thing You Do," something like 11 times), and the sixties sets, costumes and cars are a pleasure to look at. There's not much conflict, though, and the character Hanks plays, the record company representative, never really sorts himself out as being for the band or against it. This fuzziness makes That Thing You Do a little boring at times, and the speech Liv Tyler gives about wasted kisses is absolutely humiliating, but this movie is so good-natured that it's hard not to like it at least a little.
TWO DAYS IN THE VALLEY. A sprawling, non-linear series of interweaving stories that's as fun as is it vapid, Two Days in the Valley follows the lives of a dozen loser-grade characters through the seamy blandness of California's San Fernando Valley. Unexpected though curiously convenient connections tie this movie together, as a nice hit man and a psychotic hit man set rolling a series of events that affect a surprising number of closely connected people. Good acting and fast pacing make this movie enjoyable entertainment, though its yearnings to follow in the footsteps of Altman's Nashville or, at least, Tarantino's Pulp Fiction, aren't fully realized.
KUNG FU THEATER. The cult classic Enter the Dragon, one of the last films of kung fu superstar Bruce Lee, will play this weekend at The Screening Room, 127 E. Congress St. A goofy tale of good and evil, the 1973 Enter the Dragon, and Lee himself, are probably responsible for the original cross-over appeal of kung fu and martial arts movies. The immensely likable Lee is a blast to watch: He makes funny noises when he fights, and who can forget the famous maze-of-mirrors scene? Also playing at The Screening Room this weekend is the 1943 tragic love story Maria Candelaria, a seminal film in the history of Mexican cinema which won the Golden Palm at Cannes in 1946. Call 622-2262 for ticket and show information.
LESBIAN AND GAY FILM FEST. Tucson's second annual Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, organized by Wingspan, opens Wednesday, October 23, with a 7:30 p.m. screening of Stonewall at the UA Gallagher Theater, on campus. Screenings continue through Sunday, October 27, at The Screening Room, 127 E. Congress St. The festival includes both feature-length and short films. Upcoming screenings include Raising Heroes and Change the Frame on Thursday and Friday, October 24 and 25. Tickets are $5 for individual screenings, $4 for Wingspan members with valid ID. Call 624-1779 or 622-2262 for information and show times.
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