Film Clips

AFTERGLOW. Somewhere there must be a great script for Afterglow, because short stretches of brilliant dialogue show up in this otherwise intensely mediocre and cowardly film. The plot concerns a middle-aged marred man (Nick Nolte, whose new hair piece is apparently from outer space) having an affair with a young married woman (Lara Flynn Boyle, who looks so good she figures she doesn't have to do anything besides pout and flounce). Meanwhile, unbeknownst to them, their spouses carry on a parallel affair, in a story that is apparently inspired by some odd hybrid of Days of our Lives and Three's Company. Gee, I wonder if the two couples will run into each other at the bar they both frequent, and I wonder if Nolte and wife Julie Christie will ever find their long-lost daughter, and I wonder if there isn't some chance that an adult drama can be produced without using the most familiar of story elements and the safest of endings? --DiGiovanna

Film Clips THE BORROWERS. Set in an anachronistic city that's part '90s and part '40s, part Dickensian London and part Spielbergian America, The Borrowers is far more inventive and detailed than you'd expect from a movie that could be titled Honey, I Shrunk the Stereotypical Red-Haired Limeys. The dumb plot, which involves John Goodman as an obnoxiously evil real-estate lawyer who wants to destroy the home where the Borrowers hide out, can be overlooked when it leads to this many clever little-people-in-a-big-world scenes. Whether the Borrowers are in the refrigerator (with product placement galore, of course), sneaking among toy soldiers or hopping from bottle to bottle in a dairy factory, the special effects remain impeccable and there's always a palpable sense of danger. I actually worried the Borrowers might be squished at any moment. Kids really seemed to enjoy themselves, too--especially the girl who held up her teddy bear throughout so it could see the movie. When interviewed, the teddy bear said, "That was terrific! I very much liked it!" in a cutesy voice that became muffled as it was put away in a small, pink backpack. --Woodruff

CAUGHT UP. A wonderful surprise. I expected just another black gangster flick, but Caught Up turned out to be an exceedingly well-spun yarn that had far more in common with film noir and twisty mysteries than Menace II Society. Bokeem Woodbine stars as a tough, youngish ex-con who's determined to go straight and build himself a respectable life. That proves near impossible as the film keeps throwing strange, shady characters in his path, including criminals, mean cops and a sultry psychic played by the sexy Cynda Williams. The nothing-is-what-it-seems plot convolutes continuously from there, but it's well-sustained by a palpably surreal nighttime L.A. atmosphere, Bokeem's compelling intelligence and director Darin Scott's terse screenplay. Scott, who also wrote Tales From the Hood and Sprung, displays great skill at lacing standard genres (including the African-American morality tale) into a fresh-feeling whole; and though at times Caught Up heads way over the top, the storytelling remains solid. --Woodruff

DARK CITY. It's always dark in Dark City. So dark that the working titles for this film were Dark Empire and Dark World, so we can be assured of darkness. There are villains who wear outfits left over from Hellraiser, with make-up borrowed from Nosferatu, as they roam the back lot vacated after the shooting of City of Lost Children. Interiors from The Crow are peopled with characters out of Naked City, and an evil doctor who seems to have borrowed everything he owns from Terry Gilliam's prop closet. The story, dark as it is, moves along at a decent clip, except towards the end when the main characters get in the Boat of Expository Dialogue in order to discover the secret of the Dark City, and just why it's so damn dark there. A decent level of entertainment, though completely devoid of the originality that would've given it punch, there are still a few visual delights in this derivative sci-fi thriller. And it's so dark. So very, very dark. --DiGiovanna

KISSING A FOOL. This low-budget comedy with cute-guy substitutes David Schwimmer and Jason Lee is reasonably entertaining, reasonably funny, and reasonably moving. Basically, sleaze-ball sportscaster and cocksman Schwimmer finds love with the one woman (Mili Avital) who his sensitive and loving best friend Jason Lee could truly love, and she loves Schwimmer, but then realizes, no, she loves Lee, but then there's trouble, because even though Lee set her up with Schwimmer he did it because he loves her and couldn't express his love but then Schwimmer convinces Lee to try and bed Avital in order to test her love for Schwimmer but, quelle surprise, the plan backfires and Avital and Lee fall in love but then she finds out about the test and the love thing takes a downturn but the whole thing is told in flashback from a wedding so we know it all worked out for somebody but we don't know who. But we guess really quickly. Still, not an entirely unfunny film, if that's your romantic comedy bag. --DiGiovanna

KRIPPENDORF'S TRIBE. In Mr. Holland's Opus, Richard Dreyfuss reaffirmed the heroism of teaching and won himself a best-actor Oscar nomination in the process. Perhaps the good karma was just too much for the guy, because in Krippendorf's Tribe Dreyfuss plays a disorganized anthropologist who squanders his grant money and then pretends he's discovered a unique new culture in hopes of maintaining the cash flow. When colleagues demand evidence, Dreyfuss and his three kids dress up in the Papua New Guinea equivalent of blackface and film each other performing crude (in more ways than one) rituals in their back yard. Wouldn't you know it, further kooky comic hijinks ensue. There's a hint of social satire here on the level of "See? We're the really primitive ones," and Dreyfuss is somewhat sympathetic because, sniff, he's a single parent. But the movie's one offensive joke and sitcom-style wackiness get mighty painful mighty fast. That Dreyfuss, Lily Tomlin (as a skeptical academic) and Jenna Elfman (as an aggressively peppy love interest) try to reduce the agony via self-mocking exuberance didn't stop me from praying for their characters' swift and merciless demise. If there's one thing Krippendorf's Tribe teaches us, it's that when all else fails, you can always pick on the minorities who don't have access to movie theaters. --Woodruff

KUNDUN. The most annoying thing about the Tibet vogue that has swept Hollywood is that the actors and trendies who have hopped on this bandwagon are under the impression that Lhasa was some kind of delightful Shangri-La prior to the coming of the Chinese. In fact, it was run by a brutally oppressive and corrupt theocratic regime. Somehow, director Scorcese had the courage to at least hint at the atrocious state of affairs in Tibet under monastic rule. Further, his cast is made up exclusively of Tibetan, Chinese and Indian actors, despite what I'm sure was an overwhelming urge to call up Keanu Reeves to play the role of the Dalai Lama. The Himalayan landscapes (mimed by Moroccan mountains) are hard to shoot poorly, and Scorcese makes good use of Tibetan sand painting as a transitional device. Oddly, in spite of his dedication to authenticity in every other area, he largely eschews the rich musical tradition of Tibet in favor of a limp soundtrack by experimentalist-turned-new-age-shlockmeister Philip Glass. All of Glass' noodling drones turn the atmosphere to overly reverential mush, and the film often takes on the emotionally manipulative mode of a television movie of the week. Nonetheless, it's beautiful to look at and takes enough risks to make the viewer wish that other films would be this daring, and that this one had been a little more so. --DiGiovanna

MA VIE EN ROSE. Ma Vie en Rose (My Life in Pink) is an original little movie from Belgium about a 7-year-old boy who's thoroughly convinced that he would rather be a girl. Ludovic's (Georges Du Fresne) cross-dressing antics are received with tolerance at first; but with time, parents school mates and neighbors learn to hate the tyke for being different. Filmed in bright, splashy colors, with a lot of ultra-femme dream sequences on the pink planet of a Barbie-esque character named Pam, Ma Vie en Rose has the sweet, harmless look of a store-bought birthday cake. This stands in stark contrast to the gritty disintegration of Ludovic's family, who find themselves buckling to peer pressure in the community. Though adults in the family get to change and grow, poor little Ludovic basically gets booted around through the whole thing, which is kind of hard to watch. --Richter

PALMETTO. Oklahoma authorities recently made themselves look stupid when they outlawed Volker Schlöndorff's 1979 film The Tin Drum for what they construed as child pornography. They would have looked smarter if they'd instead outlawed this Schlöndorff film for mediocrity. It's a neo-noir about a Florida schlub (Woody Harrelson, in full density mode) who gets caught up in a poorly planned fake-kidnapping scheme. Despite a humid, tropical setting and some steamy scenes, the film has the dramatic resonance of a TV special--when it's hot, it's not that hot and when it's cool, it's not that cool. Worse yet, the casting's all mixed up: Gina Gershon plays the nice, dependable girlfriend while Elisabeth Shue plays the crazed, pointy-bra-wearing femme fatale. You keep waiting for the devilish-looking Gershon to do something nasty, and hoping the white-bread Shue will stop embarrassing herself by trying to mimic Gershon. Playing against type is one thing; playing against type ineffectually or without an (intentionally) humorous payoff is another. --Woodruff

SPHERE. What if your deepest fears came to life? Would they all involve snakes and tentacled sea creatures? Glazed donuts, perhaps? If you're prone to hazy Freudian interpretations, Sphere has a kind of goofy camp appeal, but as a thriller it's only average. A group of scientists descend to the bottom of the ocean, where they greet an alien entity that looks just like giant, gold marble. But it shows them the depths of themselves, you see. And then all their deepest fears, desires etc., come to life, and all of these things conveniently involve sea creatures. It's probably for the best: Why waste a good underwater set? Dustin Hoffman plays a cuddly psychologist; Sharon Stone plays an independent but sensitive marine biologist; Samuel L. Jackson plays a brilliant, weird mathematician. Remember: even if Sphere were based on Michael Crighton's very best novel, it would still be based on a Michael Crighton novel. --Richter

THE SWEET HEREAFTER. Kurt Vonnegut once described the literature of a race of beings who were not bounded by time. Their books were essentially read all at once, and contained a series of unordered sentences that, when taken as a whole, produced a still image of ideas, emotions, and histories. Atom Egoyan has directed films that work in much the same way, weaving their stories back and forth across time until the mystery of the characters' actions and reactions becomes clear in the light of devastating, defining or punctative events. In Sweet Hereafter, Ian Holm stars as a lawyer out to use a small-town tragedy for personal gain, and his overly mannered performance is the film's weakest link. Otherwise, all the actors, many from Egoyan's usual troupe, play their parts with a stiff naturalism that perfectly complements the horrific central event that practically disanimates an entire community. Two stories of the worst possibilities in father-daughter relations further accentuate the bland unpleasantness of quotidian existence, and as each thread of the tale is slowly unwound, a final image of pointless hope and senseless loss is formed. Definitely one of the bleakest, most despairing, and best films of last year. --DiGiovanna

WASHINGTON SQUARE. In biographies written before 1990, Jennifer Jason Leigh claims to have been born in 1958. Recently, she's changed that to 1962. In either case, she definitely looks a bit odd playing a 20-year-old opposite the youthful Ben Chaplin. Even stranger is the fact that she's been cast as the ugly girl; after all, she was voted one of America's 10 most beautiful women by Harper's Bazaar. Still, this film captures the stiffness, self-importance, and general boredom of Henry James' prose. --DiGiovanna

THE WEDDING SINGER. This film calls into question the value of the very large brain and the opposable thumb possessed by our species. Really, what's the point in creating cultural artifacts, if they're as stupid as The Wedding Singer? Adam Sandler plays a crooner who specializes in weddings (though he quits near the beginning and is a wedding singer no more); Drew Barrymore plays the sugar cube he falls for. There are a few little obstacles to their love, but nothing serious, and a few little jokes thrown in, but nothing funny. The '80s clothes are the best part of the whole thing, and that's not saying much. --Richter

ZERO EFFECT. Yes, it is a little like eating rice cakes and yes, the title does describe what you're left with a few days after seeing it, but Zero Effect is still a pleasant experience while it's actually happening. Bill Pullman can't help coming across as deeply affable, even when he's playing a psycho detective with a serious mood disorder (proving he is indeed the Jimmy Stewart of the '90s). Ben Stiller is similarly likable as Arlo, Detective Zero's faithful sidekick. The two of them go about solving mysteries with a Watson-and-Holmes routine, complete with amazing deductions gleaned from mere shreds of evidence, and, for master detective Zero, a nagging drug problem. The script leans towards the goofy end of the spectrum, rather than the ironic and witty, which is a nice change for a comedy in our Seinfeld-dominated era. We award five special bonus points for the tender age of writer/director Jake Kasdan, who is just 22. --Richter

Special Screenings

LESBIAN LOOKS. The Lesbian Looks Film and Video Series continues Friday, March 6, with a program of short works featuring award-winning romantic comedies from Germany and the U.S. Highlights include "Two Or Three Things But Nothing For Sure," a lyric portrait of author Dorothy Allison; and "The Heroines of Love," a satiric look at silent movies and an unlikely romance between soldiers. The series concludes on March 27 with "Out At Work," a narrative about three American workers dealing with workplace rights, legislation and labor. The film will be followed by a panel discussion of workplace issues at the UA. All screenings are free and begin at 7:30 p.m. in the Modern Languages Building auditorium on the UA campus. For further information, call 621-1239.

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