Film Clips

BLACK MASK. None of our reviewers had a chance to see this Hong Kong action flick, so we pulled this review off an internet fan site. It's by Ralf Herzel of Moormerland, Germany:

"Summary: One of the greatest HK-Action Movies! The story deals about Jet Li who has to fight against his old friends. But there is one problem, the friends are superfighters! The film is filled with blood, super action and the best stunts forever. And Lau Ching-Wan is a great Co-actor. Of course the movie has the typical HK-Fun. But I love it! In Germany, Black Mask is uncut!" --Thanks, Ralf!

COOKIE'S FORTUNE. Director Robert Altman comes back strong in this quiet story about confused relations in a southern town. Charles Dutton turns in a career performance as Willis Richland, who is falsely accused of murder when Camille Orcutt (Glenn Close) rearranges things at the scene of her aunt's suicide. Julianne Moore gives even better than her usual turn as Camille's deranged, thespian sister. Also featuring the ubiquitous Chris O'Donnell (perhaps most tragically known for his role as Robin), the fetching Liv Tyler, the under-appreciated Ned Beatty and the indescribable Lyle Lovett. --DiGiovanna

ELECTION. I've never really agreed with universal participatory democracy, because so much of the electorate is ill-informed and their votes are easily manipulated by demagogues and heartlessly ambitious power-mongers. (That's why I just let Tucson Weekly editor Jim Nintzel pick my votes for me...he's well informed and has no ambition. I call it Nintzelocracy.) Commenting on this, Election takes all the worst traits of American politics and squeezes them into a high school full of immature teens, which is pretty much what American politics looks like to the rest of the world anyway. Director Alexander Payne's sharp eye for satire makes Election the funniest, and one of the smartest, films so far this year. --DiGiovanna

ENTRAPMENT. A rather lifeless crime spree, weighed down by mediocre plotting and a plodding script. Sean Connery stars as an aging art thief out for one last heist. Catherine Zeta-Jones emphasizes her assets as a young criminal hoping to get a good start by falling in love with Connery and stealing $8 billion. Lots of prancing about in tight clothing, James Bond-type gadgetry and unlikely sexual tension shove the story forward, though you'll probably get a better crime drama by staying home and watching Rockford Files reruns. --DiGiovanna

LIFE. The Shawshank Redemption meets Stir Crazy in this decades-spanning prison comedy. Eddie Murphy and Martin Lawrence play a couple of buffoons who get framed for murder in the Deep South. Their incarceration carries them from the Prohibition Era into modern times, and director Ted Demme takes the opportunity to mix social observation (it'd be a stretch to call it "commentary") into the story. This includes surprisingly well-shaded views of racism. Mostly, though, Life provides Murphy and Lawrence with scattered opportunities for comic riffing. Murphy does his funniest, most free-spirited work in years, and Lawrence makes a likable straight man. It's a shame the movie is so aimless, but a sloppy Life is worth a dozen tight Dr. Dolittles. --Woodruff

THE LOVE LETTER. Releasing a film the same weekend as Star Wars might at first seem insane, but the folks at DreamWorks are smart enough to realize that older viewers and women are two huge audiences not targeted by the Lucas blockbuster. Hence, The Love Letter: a romance with 40-plus-aged characters and lots of women. Kate Capshaw plays Helen, a bookstore owner whose faith in love is restored when she receives an anonymous letter she believes is meant for her. The letter is then found by several other characters, who all interpret it according to their own emotional needs. This premise gets tiring quickly, the main character is unlikeable and the slow pace may make you wish you'd stopped for coffee before hitting the theater. At the same time, there are a number of elements that are just wacky or unexpected enough to be enjoyable: Ellen DeGeneres, playing an overly determined heterosexual, dispenses blunt sarcasm and practical one-liners; there's the all-too-rare H-wood circumstance of a woman (Helen) bedding someone half her age; a strange All-That-Heaven-Allows-inspired feminist character (Jennifer, played by Julianne Nicholson) spouts academic rhetoric; Tom Selleck tests his powers without his mustache; and an older lesbian couple anchors much of the story. --Higgins

A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM. Local punk rock star Greg Petix told me that there's always one woman whom you cannot openly admire without pissing off every other woman in the country. Currently, that woman is Calista Flockhart, who I must say, turns in a fabulous performance in A Midsummer Night's Dream. She has a clear mastery of the language, and is the only actor in the production who emphasizes the iambic pentameter without sounding artificial. Kevin Kline is also outstanding, as are Stanley Tucci as Puck and Rupert Evert as Oberon. Unfortunately, Michelle Pfeiffer as Titania sounds like a non-native speaker attempting to phonetically sound-out the script; but there are enough strong performances here to make her insignificant. This is good stuff for Shakespeare lovers, but the difficult dialogue may be off-putting to those who prefer Shakespeare in Love to the real material. --DiGiovanna

THE MUMMY. When the female lead spouts dialogue like "we've lost everything...our tools, our horses, and all of my clothes!" you know you're watching a classy film. The Mummy is the story of Imhotep, an ancient Egyptian priest who gives his life for love. Three thousand years later, he's accidentally resurrected by capitalist/colonialist grave robbers Brendan Fraser and Rachel Weisz. In spite of the fact that Imhotep is the only character in the film who stands for anything besides plundering the treasures of other cultures, he's supposed to be the villain. Me, I just wanted him to kill Weisz, Fraser and their entire posse of white-ass imperialist war criminals. Bonus: this movie contains the most stupid and offensive stereotypes of Arabs that I've seen in a Hollywood film in the last 25 years, which can be considered quite an accomplishment given Tinsel Town's insensitivity on this subject. I'd rather you threw your $7.50 in the sewer than spent it on this racist and predictable pabulum. --DiGiovanna

NOTTING HILL. A glorified made-for-TV movie, Nodding-off Hill employs a mind-numbing pace and uncomfortable story-stretching conventions. For more than two hours, the simple premise of ordinary guy William (Hugh Grant) falling for very beautiful and very famous movie star Anna (Julia Roberts) is painstakingly told through a series of contrived scenes and an abundance of ridiculous montage sequences where songs are substituted for actual character development. For example, "Ain't No Sunshine" plays while William (sad? confused? hungry?) deals with Anna's absence over a year's time. The result is a lack of chemistry between the leads and a sense that William falls in love merely because Anna is pretty, and ends up in more scenes with him than anyone else. It's a welcome change that Rotting Hell is told largely from a male perspective, as William pines for the self-involved Anna. Further adding to this genre piece is the continuance of Roberts' persona, from My Best Friend's Wedding, of the romantic comedy anti-heroine who rejects stereotypically feminine characteristics for more masculine ones. Eventually, though, the tacked-on "happy" ending forces both William and Anna into traditional and dissatisfying roles.--Higgins

STAR WARS: EPISODE 1--THE PHANTOM MENACE. This movie is just like real life for a museum tour guide: the dialogue sucks and there's no plot, but it's full of pretty things to look at. --DiGiovanna

TREKKIES. Fans, especially those of the Star Trek television and film series, are often portrayed as freaks. Director/editor Roger Nygard, however, leaves any conclusion to individual viewers by offering a variety of footage from interviews, conventions and ST-based social gatherings. While stars such as Leonard Nimoy and Denise Crosby talk about their interactions with trekkies, we get a glimpse into the lives of fans such as a self-declared Spiner Femme (follower of Brent Spiner, a.k.a. Data); a couple that owns and operates Star Trek Dental (an office where employees dress in official garb amidst numerous toys and murals); and a high school boy who writes scripts based on the characters, and collects paraphernalia. The overall theme stresses the multifaceted relationships that have developed around this phenomenon, as ST conventions, club meetings and fan-generated literature become unifying sites where people of all races, nationalities, ages and sexual persuasions partake in a unique cultural exchange. Since Paramount Pictures both owns the Star Trek franchise and released this film, you might expect a biased portrayal. Instead, this well-organized and often hilarious documentary offers substantial evidence as to the marketing genius behind supporting a phenomenon that not only reaches uncountable subcultures, but encourages fans to approach their passion with open wallets. --Higgins

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