Film Clips

BEAN. We pull their butts out of World War II, and this is how the British repay us? The most tragic thing about this picture is that star Rowan Atkinson is actually tremendously funny as his character "Blackadder," seen in a BBC television series. However, while Blackadder relies on cerebral, verbal humor, Bean is a near-mute who stumbles through vomit jokes and some unsavory nose-blowing bits. If your idea of a good time is to watch a dumbed-down version of a Jim Carrey movie with the sound off, and you've recently lost 30-percent of your brain capacity to carbon monoxide poisoning, and you're completely drunk on wood alcohol, then Bean will only be way too stupid for you. Anyone else would get more laughs out of watching an eight-ounce glass of water evaporate. --DiGiovanna

Film Clips BOOGIE NIGHTS. This film about porno actors in the 1970s is nice 'n' sleazy, but in a good way. Boogie Nights tracks the career of Eddie Adams (porno name: Dirk Diggler), a sweet kid from The Valley who's not really all that bright. But, as he says, "everyone is blessed with one special thing," and his is located in his pants. The best and worst of '70s cultural detritus forms the perfect backdrop for the story of Dirk, who believes fervently, despite all evidence to the contrary, that adult movies are a force for good. There's dissolution, loss of innocence, and a strange, fragile sense of triumph in this movie that is, at the core, about a bunch of untalented people struggling to make art. --Richter

EVE'S BAYOU. A movie that begins with the line, "The summer I killed my father, I was 10 years old," Eve's Bayou is a sluggishly paced family drama that, at the least, always gives you something to look forward to. But this isn't primarily a murder story, and Eve's not really a murderess. Instead, the confused, curious title character is the starting point for several threads relating to women's feelings about men. When Eve (played by the thoroughly watchable Jurnee Smollett) isn't competing against big sis for the affections of her charismatic father (Samuel L. Jackson), she's watching her mother's emotions wither away due to daddy's small-town philandering. Then there's daddy's psychic sister, a three-time widow who's convinced she's cursed. Add a pinch of witchcraft here, a dollop of female bonding there, lace in some strong performances by an all-black cast, serve it up with lovely images from a mossy Louisiana backwater--and oh yeah, don't forget that murder--and you've got a Southern gothic that'd probably be affecting if the direction were sharper. Unfortunately, it isn't, and Eve's Bayou gets stuck in a murky quagmire somewhere between compelling and boring. --Woodruff

GATTACA. Imagine, if you will, a future society so obsessed with flawlessness that Uma Thurman fails to measure up to the standards of perfection. Also, there are two brothers: The genetically perfect one grows up to be a cop, but the genetically imperfect one becomes a criminal--so they must fight! And then there's this one scene where a drop of snot dangles at the tip of Uma's nose, never falling, as she turns her head a bit to the left, a bit to the right. It's arguably the best snot scene ever filmed. While much of the film is preachy, pretentious and slow, the snot scene is easily worth the $7 admission price. See, she has the snot coming out of her nose--because she's not perfect! Oddly, genetic anomaly Danny DeVito produced this film. --DiGiovanna

LA PROMESSE. See the 15-year-old Igor help his slumlord dad exploit illegal immigrants. See Igor promise to take care of a poor tenant's wife and child as the man lay there dying from an accident. See Igor's dad hide the body and continue to exploit the man's wife and child instead of telling them what happened. See Igor slowly realize his dad is scum. See Igor develop a moral conscience and, though disoriented, come into his own as a human being. See the Belgian filmmakers Luc and Jean-Pierre Dardenne use a stark hand-held camera technique until you're dizzy. See this movie anyway, because it has a detailed documentary feel with verisimilitude and subtlety that more than make up for what it lacks in conventional dramatic satisfactions. --Woodruff

A LIFE LESS ORDINARY. The third film from the team that brought us Trainspotting and Shallow Grave has the same startling sense of composition and color as these previous efforts, but none of the wit. Ewan McGregor plays a poor janitor who falls in love with a beautiful rich girl (Cameron Diaz) due to the influence of some bizarre angel-creature-things. The film lurches from fantasy to romance to road movie without rhyme or reason; even worse, the Boy and Girl don't even seem to like each other, much less light up each other's lives. If you crossed the 1932 Hollywood romance It Happened One Night with Touched by an Angel and stirred in a little bit of Tommy and then doubled your dose of Prozac, then you'd be watching A Life Less Ordinary. The question is, why would anyone want to do this? --Richter

MAD CITY. Who says a homicidal maniac can't be lovable? Who among us, given the right circumstances (a gun, a bag of dynamite, a snooty museum director who just won't listen) wouldn't take a bunch of schoolchildren hostage? Yes, this really is the premise of Mad City, an annoying, bombastic little frolic starring Dustin Hoffman and John Travolta as a pair of unlikely allies. Travolta plays a regular, not-so-bright working guy who sort of accidentally, without really intending to, holds a bunch of museum visitors hostage. But all he wants is his job back! And this mean lady won't give it to him! Hoffman plays a washed-up news reporter who just happens to find himself in the museum when the action goes down. A media circus of expected proportions ensues. Young innocents are corrupted. Lessons about exploitation are learned. Audiences feel ripped off. --Richter

RED CORNER. After a one night stand that finds his Chinese lover dead and her blood on his shirt, an American lawyer on business in China gets inserted into the Chinese penal and judicial systems. Trapped like a gerbil stuck in an unfamiliar dark maze from which there's no escape, the cocky businessman, played by Richard Gere's stylishly tousled hair, must rely on his wits and his plucky female Chinese lawyer to save his life. The movie's vision of China is like Steve Martin's old stand-up routine on France: everything is different there! The courts aren't like ours, cameras everywhere spy on the populace, and sometimes people with butcher knives chop the heads off chickens! The conspiracy is a recycled one and the characterizations are wafer thin, but fans of Gere's buttocks may find solace in a couple of seconds of his nude backside as he is tossed into a prison cell. -- McKay

STARSHIP TROOPERS. Johnny and Carmen are sweethearts, but Carmen loves Zander, because he looks so good in uniform. So she joins the army to be near him. So Johnny joins to be near Carmen. So Dizzy, who loves Johnny, joins to be near him. Oddly, even though they're from Buenos Aires, they all speak English with perfect Southern California accents, and are the most white-bread people in the armed forces. Anyway, Carmen sends a "Dear Johnny" letter, and Johnny has a night of passion with Dizzy, so giant space insects kill Dizzy. If the giant space insects kill Zander, then perhaps Johnny and Carmen can finally be together. Meanwhile, Doogie Howser MD has psychic congress with the bugs, even though he really loved Dizzy all along. An unprecedented number of things, people, and insects get blown up or chewed up, and some brains are eaten, but this provides the hope for salvation. Sadly, we have to wait for the sequel to see if the bugs are defeated, Johnny gets to have love with Carmen, and Doogie Howser learns how to say his lines without making the audience guffaw. Rated "R" for completely gratuitous nudity and lots of little pieces of human bodies flying all over the place. --DiGiovanna

SWITCHBACK. Jeb Stuart, the scribe behind such moneymakers as Die Hard and The Fugitive, directed this low-key but reasonably good thriller based on one of his early screenplays. The plot, which leads from Texas to the beautiful, snow-clogged Rocky Mountains, has an FBI agent (Dennis Quaid, sad-eyed and brooding) tracking the serial killer who kidnapped Quaid's son. Action-movie clichés abound, but Switchback has a surprisingly honorable feel to it; all the main characters, even (inexplicably) the villain, are granted heavy doses of sympathy and integrity. Danny Glover and Jared Leto are interesting as an unlikely pair of travelers (one of whom may be the killer); but the best is R. Lee Ermey as a scrupulous sheriff. Ermey, best known as the sergeant in Full Metal Jacket, has been cool in nearly everything he's done. --Woodruff

A TOUCH OF EVIL. This great, 1958 classic crime thriller directed by Orson Welles features one of the most famous, continuous tracking shots in Hollywood history--a three-minute crane shot running under the opening credits. Based on Whit Masterson's novel, Badge of Evil, the film was a box-office flop in its time and was reviled as a glaring example of the worst cinematic sleaze. Of course, it's widely loved now for the same reasons. This tale of good and evil in a corrupt, decaying border town features all of the exaggerated characters and moody, technical tricks of which Orson Welles was such a master. Starring Charleton Heston, Janet Leigh and Orson Welles' lumbering girth. --Richter

YEAR OF THE HORSE. Jim Jarmusch consolidates his reputation as the Kurt Cobain of filmmaking with Year of the Horse, a gritty documentary about the original grunge band, Crazy Horse. The opening credits declare "proudly filmed in Super-8, 16mm, and hi-8," three low-budget formats that Jarmusch enhances with expensive post-production so they look as much like 35 mm film stock as possible. The film documents Neil Young and his bandmates over about 20 years, interspersing then-and-now interviews with footage from a recent tour. Okay, I like Crazy Horse, but only an absurdly devoted fan could be entranced by concert footage of three middle-aged guys standing in a half-circle clutching guitars and bobbing from the knees as though they were cranes engaged in a mating dance. Jarmusch is apparently such a fan. The concert footage takes up most of the film, and it's even more stale for being filmed in hi-8, a consumer-grade video format. This fandom extends to the respectful, fawning interviews with the band members. It's too bad Jarmusch didn't learn more from all the great documentaries that have been already made about bands. One of the strengths of D.A. Pennebaker's terrific Don't Look Back is that it portrayed Bob Dylan as an enormously talented artist who could also be a real asshole. But Neil Young could take his grandmother to Year of the Horse. --Richter

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