Film Clips BULWORTH. Warren Beatty's hilarious and intelligent new film successfully resurrects the political comedy. The fast-moving plot follows Senator Jay Bulworth through the final weekend of his campaign to win the democratic primary for California. Having hired someone to kill him so that his daughter can collect a large life insurance policy, Bulworth is suddenly liberated from his need to win and begins saying what's on his mind. The script is full of extremely funny and politically astute commentary by the increasingly demented Bulworth, and it doesn't lose steam throughout its 107 minutes. Everything about this movie seems to run contrary to the current style of filmmaking: There's a plot which unfolds and deepens; the hip-hop soundtrack is fresh and adds mood, rather than emphasizing what is already obvious; there's a rhythm to the pacing that keeps things moving without pandering to an imaginary attention-deficit disordered audience; the comedy is cerebral and profanity is used only in service of the larger theme. And instead of giant reptiles, the villains are insurance companies. Just like in real life. --DiGiovanna

FEAR AND LOATHING IN LAS VEGAS. Hunter S. Thompson's semi-journalistic novel of panic, drugs, and despair makes the leap to the big screen in this good-intentioned adaptation by director Terry Gilliam. Gilliam struggles to translate Thompson's stream-of-consciousness, hallucinogen-addled prose into a series of coherent scenes with some success. Special effects are nicely used to simulate acid trips, and a loopy sense of time sends Duke (Johnny Depp) and Dr. Gonzo (Benecio Del Toro) sliding along the already surreal streets and casinos of old-time Vegas. Depp is pretty annoying as the cigarette chomping Raoul Duke, and Benecio Del Toro steals the show with his dark, menacing portrayal of a drug-crazed hippie fiend. A rampant, insider's sense of nostalgia for the sixties makes the story a little hard to "get" for those of us who don't share in the longing for the Summer of Love, but Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas is still an entertaining ride that serves to remind us all that it's fun to watch people on drugs. --Richter

GODZILLA. In the original pictures, Godzilla was like an overgrown child throwing a tantrum, and I don't know about you, but that's why I loved him. In the new Godzilla, he exists on a purely biological level, motivated only to eat and to breed. With neither political themes nor anthropomorphism to sustain him, the sole reason to root for Godzilla is to see him destroy things while protecting his territory. Even then, this over-marketed, under-scripted special-effects vehicle doesn't deliver enough; in fact, director Roland Emmerich and producer Dean Devlin eliminate the big lizard from the movie's entire second act! Instead, we're introduced to Godzilla's spawn, several dozen man-sized babies who move, cast shadows, and produce visual puns exactly, and I do mean exactly, like Steven Spielberg's velociraptors. Yes, this is the Jurassic Park 3 you didn't know was coming. Sure, Godzilla turns up again, but his revival can't save the movie any more than that last-minute blue, singing alien could save The Fifth Element. As for the actors, Godzilla stars Matthew Broderick and Maria Pitillo in a wimpy love story that has no business being in a Godzilla picture. Fortunately, Jean Reno was thrown in to liven up the mix. He's the movie's one saving grace: a sleepy-eyed action hero who cusses in French. --Woodruff

HE GOT GAME. Spike Lee can't help himself--he's always taking on the grand themes, with varying levels of success. Here, he takes on The Game, i.e. Life, i.e. Basketball--and he scores! He Got Game is a long, ambitious movie about the country's best high-school basketball player negotiating the difficult terrain of success. Everyone wants a piece of Jesus Shuttlesworth (Ray Allen), a focused, talented, and personable kid--including his father Jake (Denzel Washington), a murderer who's been let out of prison briefly to try to persuade Jesus to sign up with a university referred to only by the Kafkaesque moniker, "Big State." The plot is so contrived that it actually turns a corner and becomes believable again. (Who could make this up?) Somehow Lee pulls it all off with aplomb. His filmmaking style is as fresh and wonderfully visual as ever, and the story has some of the heart-stabbing tension of Hoop Dreams. The score is by Aaron Copeland and Public Enemy--which gives some indication of Lee's territorial range. --Richter

HOPE FLOATS. After Birdee Pruitt's (Sandra Bullock) husband leaves her for her best friend on national TV, Birdee goes into a deep depression. She spends most of the day sleeping, waking only to have whiny fits. This goes on for 90 minutes while her childhood sweetheart (played by muscled man-flesh love-god Harry Connick Jr.) makes long speeches about the American dream and tries to get Birdee to quit pouting and have sex with him. This incredibly slow and largely plotless film was supposed to be Bullock's "reward" for agreeing to make Speed II, but why anyone would think this maudlin tripe would make an amusing movie is beyond me. If watching moss grow while embarrassingly trite dialogue plays in the background is your idea of fun, don't miss Hope Floats. --DiGiovanna

THE LAST DAYS OF DISCO. With genuine nostalgia edged with spite, filmmaker Whit Stillman (Barcelona, Metropolitan) chronicles the night life and loves of a group of budding Yuppies in the early 1980s. Chloe Sevigny plays Alice, a straight-talking innocent looking for fun. Kate Beckinsale is Charlotte, her conniving roommate. Together they charm half a dozen young men at a Studio 54-like nightclub in New York, without ever actually having a very good time. Whit Stillman's characters are funny, non-stop talkers who recite clever dialogue and seem to be interchangeable. They're entertaining, but they don't seem very authentic. They all keep saying how much "fun" the nightclub is, but it doesn't actually look like very much fun. The most notable thing about it is that characters can sit around talking all night, and they never have to shout over the music, and no one ever says what? Perhaps the amazing thing about The Last Days of Disco is that it does manage to evoke the spirit of the time, and to portray a group dynamic among friends, despite all the talking. --Richter

LOVE AND DEATH ON LONG ISLAND. Distinguished British actor John Hurt teams up with not-so-distinguished pretty boy Jason Priestly in this at first quirkily comic, then sublimely haunting film. Hurt plays a reclusive old novelist who accidentally catches a Porky's-like teen movie called Hotpants College II and finds himself obsessed with its star, who, in an amusing case of art imitating life, is a none-too-talented heartthrob played by Priestly. Because Hurt's character is so nervously out of touch, you're never quite sure whether his is an uncovered Lolita complex with a homosexual spin, or simply high culture falling (hard) for pop culture--and that makes the film funny. Cute gives way to disturbing, though, during the second half, when Hurt journeys to Long Island to actually meet Priestley. Fantasy and reality aren't supposed to butt heads, especially for someone as desperate as Hurt's character. But the conclusion, while inevitable, is both surprising and touching. Director Richard Kwietniowski owes most of the film's success to Hurt's richly great acting, but he also uses Priestly very well here, gently mocking his position in the acting world and getting the most out of his looks. The expression on Priestley's face at the end will stay with you long after the dialogue has faded away. --Woodruff

A PERFECT MURDER. Gwyneth Paltrow plays the impossibly beautiful young wife of evil, aged investment banker Michael Douglas in this remake of Dial M For Murder. When Douglas realizes Paltrow is having an affair with a young artist (played by smoky-hot Viggo Mortensen), he hatches an elaborate plot for revenge. The suspense film is one of the more difficult genres to pull off, but director Andrew Davis, cinematographer Dariusz Wolski and composer James Newton Howard synergistically combine to drop all the elements into place. Wolski, best known for inventing the neo-gothic style of cinematography seen in The Crow and Dark City, uses a much more subtle approach here, courageously shooting empty rooms and static scenes to create a threatening atmosphere and keep the viewer off-balance. The film is also notable for the Arabic-speaking police detective who's portrayed as smart, efficient and sympathetic, a rare departure from the normally stereotyped representation of Muslim peoples in Hollywood movies. The only flaws in this nerve-wracking outing are Michael Douglas' exaggerated performance and a slight loss of momentum in the final confrontation. Still, this is precision filmmaking that will leave you reaching for the nitroglycerin tablets.

SIX DAYS, SEVEN NIGHTS. For our summer enjoyment, Six Days, Seven Nights allows us to relive the dimmer aspects of African Queen, and with pirates. Anne Heche plays a fashionable magazine editor stranded on an island with a daddy-esque Harrison Ford. She's a feisty talker; he's a tough man of action. They hate each other, then they love each other, and it's all shot in a lush vacation-porno setting. Anne Heche is adorable, and you can see through most of her shirts. Harrison Ford is a charming piece of aging beefcake, though if you remember what he looked like in the Star Wars era, it's hard not to feel like we're missing something. This is puréed entertainment, easily digestible.

WILD MAN BLUES. It's little surprise that Woody Allen, who uses his films to confess every sordid aspect of his personality (see Deconstructing Harry if you haven't figured this out yet), would be happy to let a famous documentary filmmaker (Barbara Kopple) into his private world--provided he had the right to OK the final cut, of course. And it's little surprise that Kopple's footage of Allen and his companion Soon-Yi Previn reveals a functional, if sorely isolated by fame and notoriety, relationship. So why bother to see this document of Woody's progress as his old-style New Orleans jazz band tours Europe? Good question. Despite occasional nuggets of amusement--like Woody's trademark kvetching or Soon-Yi's blithe admission that she hasn't seen Annie Hall, thought Interiors was "tedious," and best loves Manhattan (the one in which Woody dates a teenage Mariel Hemingway)--there's little to recommend this glorified home movie. Call it a portrait of an artist if you wish, but at this point Woody's well past his artistic prime, and his clarinet dilettantism, while sweetly impressive, hardly merits a full-length motion picture. --Woodruff

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