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.

DEEP IMPACT. With a massive comet coming to destroy the Earth, everyone tries to mend their childhood traumas by producing the most maudlin speeches ever heard. What happened to the good old days when the end of the world meant marauding gangs of leather-clad bikers and violence in the street? In Deep Impact it seems like everyone is too bored to go out looting and rioting, so they just hang out watching the skies and waiting for the special effects. After 90 minutes of watching these whiny losers, you'll be rooting for the comet. --DiGiovanna

DIRTY WORK. Norm Macdonald has the sort of face and attitude that's funny even if he just stands there doing nothing. Unfortunately, in Dirty Work Macdonald runs around spewing stillborn half-jokes and pulling unimaginative revenge schemes on stereotypical villains. Big dogs hump big dogs, skunks hump little dogs, Macdonald gets ass-raped in jail, the highly obnoxious Artie Lange (Mad TV) and highly dead Chris Farley try to squeeze laughs out of their corpulence, Gary Coleman and Adam Sandler appear for so-over-the-top-they're-under-the-bottom cameos, Chevy Chase and Don Rickles do what they always do, tiredly--and none of it is funny. Then again, if you willingly go to a movie directed by Bob Saget (of America's Stupidest Home Videos fame), you have no one to blame but yourself. --Woodruff

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

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

MULAN. Disney storytelling is catching up to the 21st century, slowly but surely, by reaching ever farther into the past (about the 5th century, in this case). Mulan recounts the mythical Chinese tale of a daughter who disguises herself as a boy in order to take her aged and ailing father's place in the emperor's army. The crisis is that the Huns have crossed the Great Wall of China, with plans of deposing the emperor; and in the Disney version, a band of ragamuffin peasants, lead by a handsome young captain (singing voice provided by Donny Osmond) and the heroine Fa-Mulan, are China's last hope. Say what you will about the Disney empire, the animation here is so arresting at times--from the magic of watercolor strokes on the film's opening credits, to the breathtaking vistas of torches bursting into flame all along the Great Wall, and the Hun army descending a snowy cornice--you may be inclined to forgive all sins, such as the corny contemporary soundtrack, and the regrettably undignified ending. Eddie Murphy is a kick as the demoted spirit-dragon Mushu; and The Single Guy's Ming-Na Wen offers some much-needed spine to the first Disney character we know of to suggest the girl worth fighting for might be "a girl who always speaks her mind." This is the summer action flick for the wee ones. --Wadsworth

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. --DiGiovanna

POST COITUM. Ah, no one makes love stories like the French! Director Brigitte Roüan also stars in this sexy, bittersweet story about the love affair between an older woman and a younger man. Borris Terral plays the extremely hunky Emilio, an idealistic youth who begins a passionate affair with the married Diane. Emilio is a shameless romantic, shining all his charm on his successful lover, who promptly jeopardizes her family and her job to better fling herself into the affair. But just when Diane starts to really like Emilio, he dumps her with no explanation. The grieving scenes begin to become a bit elaborate, but Roüan has a light touch that helps keep things from getting too heavy-handed. Ever notice how much hotter the love scenes are when a woman is directing? --Richter

SHOOTING FISH. A cute caper comedy from Britain, Shooting Fish piles on the winks and smiles and skimps on anything you might actually feel in your gut. Dan Futterman and Stuart Townsend play twentysomething orphans who keep pulling off quick scams so they can save up to buy a mansion. Kate Beckinsale's pixie hair and perfect teeth star as the guys' perky love interest. Will Kate fall for the fast-talking, ever-smirking playboy, or the shy, socially awkward technical wizard? The movie hardly pauses for an answer, whisking our protagonists off for still more mini-adventures. For all its mobility, though, Shooting Fish never really catches you off guard, and gets about as sexy as a science fair. It would make a nice double feature with Cold Comfort Farm. Emphasis on the word "nice."

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. --Richter

THE TRUMAN SHOW. Though it has an exciting premise and Peter Weir directs the film beautifully, it's a little annoying how much praise has been heaped upon The Truman Show. Does the story really have anything to say about mass-media and invasion of privacy that hasn't been exposed by countless Orwellian knock-offs and the media itself? Not really. What the picture needs is an extra twist, something juicy, to push it over the edge. You'd think Jim Carrey could supply it, but he's toned himself down here, because (in a twisted bit of casting) he's supposed to play a non-actor in a world full of actors. His escape from the sunnily phony Norman Rockwell bubble created by Ed Harris' "Christof"--a scary portrait of what can happen when you give an artist too much power--remains fun, but more for the details of the deception than for Carrey's performance. The Truman Show is well worth a look, but as far as I'm concerned Albert Brooks' Real Life retains the kingship in this media-overboard genre. --Woodruff

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