Film Clips

GANG RELATED. It's not "gang related" at all; the title is undoubtedly an attempt to capitalize on Tupac Shakur's death. The actual story follows two cops, played by Shakur and Jim Belushi, who spend their off-hours setting up phony drug deals so they can murder the dealers and make some quick money. When they unknowingly kill an undercover DEA agent, their attempts to find a suitable scapegoat lead them on a downward moral spiral that would make Harvey Keitel's Bad Lieutenant character proud. In spite of the script's excuses for them--Belushi dreams of buying a sailboat, Shakur has a bad gambling debt and a torturous guilt complex--there's really no feeling sympathy for these guys, or caring about their fate. The filmmakers seem to know this, because they play up Belushi's despicable behavior for laughs, though that doesn't work either. Things improve slightly with the introduction of seasoned actors like Dennis Quaid, as a hapless transient accused of the crime (the exact same role he played in Suspect), and James Earl Jones, as a lawyer who calmly tears the case apart. While their presence makes the movie more watchable, it doesn't make it any less pointless. You'll spend most of the movie counting the multitudes of F-words in each scene, and marveling at how little "acting" it takes for Belushi to make a convincing asshole. --Woodruff

Film Clips HOUSE OF YES. Perhaps the most notable aspect of House of Yes, a low-budget independent film, is the appearance of Tori Spelling in a rare "dramatic" role. Spelling plays an agreeable, innocent girl-next-door-type who falls in with the decadent Pascals, a family of Washington blue-bloods who indulge one another in the most shocking improprieties, including a sexualized re-enactment of the Kennedy assassination. House of Yes is based on the play by Wendy MacLeod and it both benefits and suffers from all the standard problems of transferring a play to film: It's static and claustrophobic, though the characters are colorful and the dialogue witty. The movie (like the play--in fact, like most plays) is about a stress-filled Thanksgiving weekend when all the members of a crazy, memorable family reach a crisis and reveal their deepest secrets. It's diverting, but basically pointless, unless you count the vaguely suggested Amish-style theme that wealth and power have an unlimited potential to corrupt the family. For an actor who's inherently annoying, Spelling does just fine; Parker Posey and Josh Hamilton, as an unstoppable brother-sister pair, are even better. --Richter

I KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER. Four teenagers suffer through guilt, anonymous taunting, and ice-pick impalement a year after they accidentally run over an unidentified man and dump the body in the ocean. Who knows their secret? Is one of them the culprit? And will the road to revelation be paved with creatively grisly murders? Actually, this time the killer's murder methods are pretty standard (no garage doggy-door executions here), so Scream screenwriter Kevin Williamson just fills the picture with dozens of jolting scares. This old-fashioned emphasis works fine--the almost entirely teenage audience shrieked on several occasions--and Williamson sneaks in all the witty, self-referential lines he can. It's just too bad the story, based on Lois Duncan's 1934 book, resorts to so many conventional mystery mechanics. With its many dull, talky stretches, the movie often plays like a violent episode of Scooby Doo. On the plus side, I Know What You Did... wins teen bonus points for its attractive if not necessarily charismatic cast of cocky hunks and chesty nymphs, many fresh from the land of television: Freedy Prinze, Jr., Jennifer Love Hewitt (Party of Five) and Sarah Michelle Gellar (the Buffy the Vampire Slayer show). And Anne Heche is amusingly creepy as a lonesome hick; somebody should set her up with the kid from Deliverance. --Woodruff

MOST WANTED. Keenan Ivory Wayans stars as an ex-Marine who must blow things up when he's framed in a secret government plot to make the world's worst movie. Don't miss the special guest appearance by Jon Voigt's career as it spirals down the drain. --DiGiovanna

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

ROCKETMAN. You may remember Harland Williams from Dumb & Dumber, as the highway patrolman who unwittingly drank a beer bottle filled with urine. That scene pretty much sums up all of Rocketman, which is essentially a big-budget excuse for fart jokes in space. Williams, who looks like a runty Kevin Costner and is about as funny, plays a goofy computer-programming nerd who, at the last minute, is enlisted to be the third man on a NASA expedition to Mars. His oblivious idiocy turns out to be one of his strengths, somehow, and he manages both to make a fool out of his egotistical male shipmate and to woo the female one with childlike affection and low-voiced renditions of "When You Wish Upon A Star." It's sort of Oedipal, really; too bad it isn't also fun. --Woodruff

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

U-TURN. Sean Penn, Nick Nolte, Jennifer Lopez, Jon Voight, Powers Boothe, Claire Danes, Joaquin Phoenix, Billy Bob Thornton, Bo Hopkins and Liv Tyler just want to get out of Arizona, but get so disoriented by pointless camera tricks and meaningless close-ups that they wind up talking with Southern accents. Then there's lots of blood and shooting and double crosses and cheating and backstabbing and surprise revelations, and when there are no more film noir clichés left the movie is over. In spite of all the killings, the character of the Incompetent Director, played by Oliver Stone, remains alive at the end of the film, threatening to come back again to slash audience sensibilities with his deadly pretense and sharpened vacuity. --DiGiovanna

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