Film Clips THE BIG LEBOWSKI. The latest comedy from the Coen brothers never really comes together as a whole; but the texture of it, as it spills across the screen, is funny, strange and wonderful. Jeff Bridges plays a type-B personality called the Dude, a chronically unemployed pot smoker dedicated to nothing except his bowling buddies, and bowling itself. A case of mistaken identity leads the Dude into some uncool, high-stress situations: kidnapping, gunplay, robbery, and the like. All this seems like an excuse to introduce a palette of oddball characters from the California spectrum. The Coen brothers have a great time concocting visual subplots and dream sequences that reference everything from Busby Berkeley musicals to spaghetti westerns to detective films, but they give their most loving attention to the bowling sequences. Who knew bowling was such a photogenic sport? --Richter

DANGEROUS BEAUTY. This is why we love Hollywood! Dangerous Beauty mixes the crass and melodramatic with the lofty and noble, extruding trashy entertainment that's wildly enjoyable, even if it does leave you feeling used and guilty. Catherine McCormack plays Veronica Franco, a courtesan plying her wares in a strange version of 16th century Venice where everybody speaks English and appears in soft focus. Oh well, whatever--she's a plucky one, and her plain speaking, bawdy intelligence eventually charms most of the Venetian ruling class, including hunky Marco Venier (Rufus Sewell), who risks it all to be her boyfriend. Dangerous Beauty transplants progressive '90s sexual politics to the repressive 16th century, where uneducated wives were kept safely inside but courtesans read whatever they liked and had the run of the place. Veronica's pleas for independence, sexual equality, and erotic freedom resonate across the centuries, making her far more spicy than any 20th century spice girl. --Richter

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

HUSH. Jessica Lange does an over-the-top crazy lady in the most predictable film since The Ten Commandments. In what is one of the oddest decisions a director has ever made, most of the action in this film occurred 20 years prior to its start, and instead of showing it in flashbacks, it's all told in dialogue. It's as close to radio as a movie can get. On top of that, instead of following the normal thriller formula of tossing in plot twists, maguffins and false scares, everything is precisely what it seems to be and the story--what little there is of it--just heads straight to its obvious conclusion. After what would normally have been the scene right before the murdering mother goes psycho, I turned to my movie companion and said, "Wouldn't it be funny if it ended right here?" And then it did. It ended right there. And nobody got hurt. --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 gets 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 deaths. --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

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

TWILIGHT. This film noir project seems to have been started in 1955, when characters had names like Gloria Lamar and L.A. was full of dangerous broads who would kill to keep their reputations clean. Suddenly, the cast and crew fell asleep à la Rip Van Winkle, and woke up 40 years later, skin sagging and hair graying, but knowing that they must finish what they started. The only modification made to the script in response to this time warp is the scene where Paul Newman and James Garner discuss their prostate glands. Reese Witherspoon, sporting newly enhanced breasts, and Liev Schrieber, also with new breasts, are brought in as fresh blood to nourish the aging cast and crew. Schrieber bleeds real good, too. Real good. --DiGiovanna

U.S. MARSHALS. In Hollywood, if a sequel only brings back half of the original's stars, it's called a "spin off." If it brings back half the original's stars and none of its suspense, it's called U.S. Marshals. Tommy Lee Jones stars as the same squinty, no-bullshit character he played in The Fugitive. But because Harrison Ford was busy working on a movie about a president armed only with a bullwhip who commandeers a spacecraft in order to save an Amish community from IRA assassins, now Wesley Snipes is the dude on the run. After a big, noisy plane crash, Snipes escapes and soon enters the Phonebooth of Expository Dialogue, where we learn: (1) He's innocent; (2) he has top-secret info and is wanted dead; and (3) he's not nearly as fun to root for as Ford. Then Robert Downey, Jr. shows up as a federal agent with no sense of humor, and you know what that means--he's the dreaded two-armed man! As for poor Jones, he tries hard, but needs more to work with than the jumble of suitcase trades, gun switches and likable- good-guys- who- look- like- Judge- Reinhold- so- you- know- they're- dead- meat that the film supplies. As a result, U.S. Marshals maintains the peculiar distinction of being impossible to follow yet completely predictable. --Woodruff

Special Screenings

LESBIAN LOOKS. The Lesbian Looks Film and Video Series concludes Friday, March 27 with the award-winning documentary Out At Work (Kelly Anderson and Tami Gold, 1996). Out At Work tells the story of Cheryl Summerville, who in 1991 was fired from her job as a cook for "failing to demonstrate normal heterosexual values." She was shocked to discover that in 47 states, it was legal to fire workers simply for being homosexual. Out At Work chronicles the stories of three gay workers over the course of five years: Summerville, Detroit auto worker Ron Woods, and New York Public Library clerk Nat Keitt. The film will be followed by a panel discussion of workplace issues at the UA, moderated by the main library's Assistant Dean for Facilitation, Shelley Phipps. The free screening begins at 7:30 p.m. in the Modern Languages Building auditorium, on the UA mall.

 Page Back  Last Issue  Current Week  Next Week  Page Forward

Home | Currents | City Week | Music | Review | Books | Cinema | Back Page | Archives

Weekly Wire    © 1995-97 Tucson Weekly . Info Booth