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

Film Clips 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

GREASE. Bill Clinton is back and better than ever. He plays a young '50s high school stud, and let me tell you, his John Travolta impersonation is dead-on. Stockard Channing also stars, as a girl. It's systematic, automatic, hyyyydromatic--why, it's re-released lightning! --Woodruff

MEET THE DEEDLES. Two crrrrazy surfer boys foil an insidious, wacky plot at a National Park. Joel Shalit says, "The best comedy since Good Burger!" And Michael Medved calls it, "A delightful romp!" Not to be confused with Peter Jackson's gory, zany Meet the Feebles, about rapist cannibalistic muppets. --Woodruff

MR. NICE GUY. In a stunning departure from his previous films, Jackie Chan plays a martial artist who must fight vicious criminals. He is aided in this pursuit by Gabrielle Fitzpatrick, who mysteriously drops out of the film about halfway through and is never seen again. But Mr. Nice Guy isn't about consistency of plot, character and setting, but rather about Chan doing things that could get him seriously injured. As usual, after the story ends the audience is treated to the outtakes wherein Chan actually is injured. There's nothing funnier than seeing a guy get his butt stuck in a garbage can--and then not be able to get it out!!! I think this is the first time that Chan has had to speak in English throughout a film, and he does an admirable job of acting like he knows what he's saying. Maybe he could give Ethan Hawke a lesson. --DiGiovanna

MRS. DALLOWAY. Robin Williams stars as a man who can't get the courts to let him have time with his children, due to a messy divorce, so he dresses up in drag as a thick-framed older woman and gets hired as their nanny! Oh my god! Oh wait, that's Mrs. Doubtfire. Mrs. Dalloway stars Rupert Graves and Vanessa Redgrave in a very "grave" tale of people whose lives have complications, and then their complications have complications. It's complicated. Based on a Virginia Woolf novel, with lots of narration and flashbacks and minutiae about consciousness and the like. From the director of Antonia's Line. --Woodruff

OSCAR & LUCINDA. I used to think movies like this were over my head, but now I realize they're just ineptly conceived and flatly directed. Unless you've read the Peter Carey novel, you'll have no idea what Oscar & Lucinda is supposed to mean or why you should care--picturesque cinematography and Oscar-nominated costumes notwithstanding. Made in Australia and set in the late 19th century, this loooong drama follows the lives of Ralph Fiennes, a timid, sickly religious student with a bad gambling habit; and Cate Blanchett, a rich heiress who's obsessed with glass and who also gambles. They're too repressed or otherwise quirky to act on their love for each other, so Fiennes runs off to the jungle so he can deliver a glass church to a man Blanchett used to like. The whole experience is very PBS; Fiennes, with blowzy orange hair and a red-cheeked, womanly face, is even the spitting image of Lady Elaine Fairchild from Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood. At any moment I thought some twirpy volunteer might break in and ask for a pledge, and let me tell you, it would have been a welcome relief. --Woodruff

PRIMARY COLORS. In this wide-ranging, thought-provoking movie, director Mike Nichols takes a hard look at how our political system methodically churns out idealistic hypocrites just aching to run the country. in This thinly disguised account of the 1992 Clinton primary campaign centers on Governor Jack Stanton (John Travolta), a manipulative skirt-chaser with a big, throbbing heart; his lovely wife Susan (Emma Thompson), a behind-the-scenes power player; and the starry-eyed Henry Burton (Adrian Lester), the campaign manager who wants to believe that Stanton truly cares about the common man. Governor Stanton's supporters stick by their man through bimbo flare-ups and a general array of dirty tricks, but they suffer from his lack of moral sense. Nichols raises some interesting questions about who believes in what, and why they even bother, without being pedantic about it.

THE PROPOSITION. Willy Hurt, Kenny Branagh, Maddy Stowe, Doogie Howser and Bobby Loggia head up the cast of this film, which is something about a surrogate adoption, or an artificially inseminated dancing baby...or something. From the director who brought us Then and Now and left it on our doorstep and set it on fire and ran away. --Woodruff

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.

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.

WILD THINGS. If the previews hadn't given away the first hour of this poorly directed film noir outing, it would probably have been a lot less boring. As it is, things only start to get interesting when Kevin Bacon's penis first appears...but that may be true of life in general. Denise Richards makes her sophomore appearance here, and she is a marvel of modern science. Luckily, she didn't have the star power to demand a "no nude scenes" clause in her contract like box-office draw/no-talent Neve Campbell, so you can really get a good look at all the scalpel marks on her surgically enhanced body. There's also some plain-old lesbian sex between Richards and Campbell, shots of Theresa Russell's butt, and, I think, a plot. It has something to do with a teacher being framed for rape so that he can sue someone and split the proceeds with everyone who's in on the scam, which turns out to be just about everyone in southern Florida. There's some nice stuff at the end where the back story is filled in during the credits, but you have to sit through a lot to get to the payoff. Since there's no suspense or tension, the task of keeping the audience interested is handed over to the barely-legal sex and Bill Murray's comic-relief role as a sleazy lawyer in a phony neck-brace. Murray steals the show, but he's only in a few scenes; and unless you think Kevin Bacon's (admittedly impressive) penis is worth the $7.50 admission, this might not be your best movie value. --DiGiovanna

Special Screenings

FOUR DOLLAR FANTASY. The Screening Room presents Four Dollar Fantasy, a series of short films (shown on video) by David Bergan and Mike Plante. Just like Quentin Tarantino, Plante and Bergan labor at filmmaking when they aren't toiling at their media-soaked day jobs: Plante works at the Loft, and Bergan makes educational CD-roms. Their films cover "a variety of situations," like swimming, trombones, and porno, and feature music by a bunch of local bands. For you local hipsters sticking pins in the map, some of the films even star Bob Log III of Doo Rag fame. These films make vacuuming the Loft look poignant and full of meaning, plus the filmmakers have promised to give out free Pop Tarts to audience members. Four Dollar Fantasy screens at 8 and 9:30 p.m. Friday, April 3, at The Screening Room, 127 E. Congress St. Admission is $4.

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