Filler Film Clips

Courage Under Fire. Meg Ryan and Denzel Washington star in this Roshomon-style tale of a fighter pilot being investigated to see if she deserves the Medal of Honor for her performance in Operation Desert Storm. Not only is the pilot a girl, but the stories of her surviving squad-mates don't match very well and Washington must work overtime to try to sort the mess out. What's more, the investigator has some skeletons to clean out of his own closet before he can bask in the hard, clear light of The Truth. The structure of this movie is interesting, but the content is sort of revolting. Washington is consumed with remorse for killing some of his men with friendly fire, but feels nothing but lasting jingoistic triumph over blowing away scads of faceless Iraqis, whom he also refers to as "fuckers." If the thought of the strongest army in the world crushing a much weaker force in order to protect its economic interests strikes you as heroic, buy a ticket and have your patriotic chain yanked.

Independence Day. Good guys from Earth battle bad guys from outer space in this latest incarnation of War of the Worlds. The good guys are flawed but determined; the bad guys are tentacled and covered in slime: What could be simpler? The special effects are cool, the characters are likable, and there's never a dull moment. A thoroughly fun, mindless little vacation, Independence Day is sort of like an enema: eventful, and then you feel empty.

Lone Star. Director John Sayles delivers an offbeat, thoughtful examination of border life and love in this winding tale of one lawman searching for his roots. Chris Cooper plays a divorced Texas sheriff trying to sort out fact from legend, particularly in regard to his father, who may or may not have been a bad kind of a guy. His search leads him across the big, dusty state and into a half-dozen different recollections of a puzzling past. Though the characters have an annoying propensity for explaining their motivations in gruesome psychological detail, and though Sayles (as always) can't resist an opportunity to preach the liberal cause; and though the production values of this movie are so shoddy that nearly 20 annoying minutes of it are out of sync, Lone Star still somehow manages to be an engaging, surprising film.

Phenomenon. It's hard to spell and even harder to watch: Phenomenon, a corny, cloying, life-is-a-gift type of flick that tries its darnedest to recreate the optimism of Frank Capra movies like Mr. Smith Goes to Washington and It's a Wonderful Life. The marvel of Capra's movies though, is that they're actually incredibly bleak stories with a burst of light at the end, while Phenomenon keeps to a steady level of saccharine drivel throughout. John Travolta stars as a dimwitted mechanic who sees a light in the sky and then becomes breathtakingly intelligent, except that he can't figure out how to do practical things, like consult with the faculty at Stanford when the guys at Berkeley refuse to see him. Sentimental music and hazy, gold-filtered shots sabotage any chance at dignity this project may have ever had. This is one of those movies that might have been kind of good if it wasn't so idiotic.

Stealing Beauty. Bernardo Bertolucci splashes around with both the MTV and the Masterpiece Theater generations in this coming-of-age movie set in the Italian country side. Beautiful shots, sets, and actors, hallmarks of any Bertolucci film, make Stealing Beauty easy on the eyes--and Liv Tyler, the gorgeous 17-year-old star, doesn't hurt either. Tyler handles herself with ease and dignity as she plays the role of an American virgin aiming to get herself deflowered while a bored group of cosmopolitan grown-ups egg her on. Sometimes though, it seems like the camera lingers a little too obsessively on the upper region of the inner seam of her tight jeans, and it's hard to escape the sensation that perhaps this is just a classy way for Bertolucci to act like a dirty old man. The screenplay, by author Susan Minot, is disappointingly flat; but Tyler is so entrancing it hardly matters.

Striptease. Demi Moore peels it off in this plodding, predictable comedy about a mother who takes up stripping in the hopes of earning enough money to finance a custody battle for her daughter. Moore's routines seem forced and overstaged, and in fact she keeps most of her clothing on most of the time even as the supporting cast frolics about topless in the background. Burt Reynolds plays to the balcony in his role as a lecherous senator with a "thing" for tittie bars; in fact, everyone seems to be trying just a little too hard in this movie for it to ever seem engaging or believable. This is a poor bet for comedy; and if it's naked ladies you want, try going down the street to Curves Cabaret and stuffing your seven-fifty into the g-strings of some real single mothers, instead of giving it to filthy rich Moore.

A Time to Kill. An overblown but entertaining courtroom drama, based on a John Grisham novel, about racial strife in the deep South. Samuel L. Jackson plays a humble working man driven to take the law into his own hands when a pair of good ol' boys rape his young daughter; Matthew McConaughey plays the white-bread attorney who decides to defend him. (Chris Cooper is also in this movie, in a strange reprise of his role in Lone Star.) Somewhere in there is Sandra Bullock, playing an eager young law student who both helps and distracts the white guy from his lawyerin'. Yes, morality is laid out on a nice flat grid, but the fact that there even is a moral battle here gives this movie a heavy, heavy dose of tension and drama, despite the fact that its view of the South and the people in it are so stereotyped they're practically cartoons. If only director Joel Schumacher (of Batman Forever fame) would leave out the swelling music, this movie might have some real power.

Special Screenings

CHRISTMAS IN JULY. GKC Cinemas, 4690 N. Oracle Road, is always a good bet for a cheap flick. But on Saturday, July 27, the house presents Christmas in July. The Salvation Army benefit features a special screening of National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation (1989), third in the John Hughes slapstick hall of fame, in which the Griswold family has a disaster-filled holiday season. Starring Chevy Chase, Beverly D'Angelo, Randy Quaid and a bunch of other famous people. For this film only, you can pocket your $1.50 in favor of a non-perishable food item donation. Call 292-2430 for information and show times.

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