Film Clips

GADJO DILO. How many times have you searched in vain for a fresh, derogatory term for white people? Well, search no more, because now you can add "gadjo" to that delightful list that includes honky, haole, and ofay. "Gadjo Dilo," which is Romani for "Crazy-Ass White Motherfucker," is a meandering film about a young French man who moves in with a group of gypsies while searching for the mysterious Nora Luca. Seems Nora Luca is a gypsy singer, and, for no apparent reason, this crazy-ass white boy is obsessed with finding her. He doesn't, but he does get a taste of gypsy life, which apparently revolves around telling other people to place their mouths on your genitals...everyone from the tiniest children to the wizened elders seems to do this at least 10 times a day. Gadjo Dilo is either a moving and accurate portrait of life amongst the Romanian gypsies, or just two plotless hours with intermittent scenes of hot sex, great music and eye-catching costumes. In French, Romanian and Romani, with English subtitles, and, for no known reason, Italian credits--I kid you not. --DiGiovanna

Film Clips I STILL KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER. The killer might have a good memory, but he's still pretty boring. And, as far as horror films go, if the maniac's a yawn so's the movie. Julie (Jennifer Love Hewitt) and Ray (Freddie Prinze Jr.) hit a man with a car and left him for dead in I Know What You Did Last Summer, and apparently, he's still rather upset about it. The script cleverly isolates Julie and her friends on a tropical island during hurricane season, but other than that it's pretty standard fare. It takes the worst of straight-to-video horror films (underdeveloped characters, lack of a plot, bad music) but not the best (nudity, gore, camp), and the minimal suspense consists mostly of painfully long sequences of Hewitt looking for her stalker. --Higgins

LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL. When you heard about the plot to Life is Beautiful, you probably thought, "Oh no, not another zany comedy about the Holocaust!" Roberto Benigni plays a Jewish bookstore owner in 1940s Italy who, along with his son, is carted away to a Nazi concentration camp. Benigni seeks to shield his son from the terrors by convincing him that they are on vacation, and that the degradations of the camp are actually part of a game. The first to collect 1,000 points through starvation, hard labor and quiet obedience to "the scary men who yell" will win a tank. Unfortunately, the first half hour of this film is an overwhelmingly annoying series of slapstick routines, but once Benigni and family are carted off to the camps the movie achieves a nearly perfect balance between comedy and terror. It's definitely worthwhile to tolerate the first section in order to see something so rare as the second. This week Life is Beautiful was nominated by Italy as its Academy Award submission. --DiGiovanna

LIVING OUT LOUD. This journey-of-self-realization flick has the same problem a lot of movies have these days: It's entertaining but annoying. The ever-charming Holly Hunter plays Judith Nelson, a wealthy doctor's wife who loses it when she discovers her husband is in love with a younger woman. She slowly pulls herself back together with the help of some quirky new friends, a saucy nightclub singer (Queen Latifah) and the building's elevator operator (Danny DeVito). The ad campaign for this movie points out that director Richard LaGravenese also wrote The Fisher King and the screenplay for The Bridges of Madison County, as though this were a good thing. Living Out Loud suffers from the same gut-kick episodes of sentimentality and overwrought meaning-of-life moments as in LaGravenese's earlier movies, cheap shots all of them. Does anyone really need a movie to show them how to connect more deeply with their fellow humans? Even so, this could have been a decent film if LaGravenese had cut out the kids-dying-of-cancer, crack-baby-rescue subplots. The performances are quite good and the story zips along; yet, at the end of it all, it feels awfully fake for a movie about "authenticity." --Richter

MEET JOE BLACK. That's right, Brad Pitt plays Death in Meet Joe Black. Imagine The Seventh Seal remade as a three-hour episode of Mr. Roger's Neighborhood and you might get some idea of how pretentious, repetitive, and boring this movie is. What happens is this: Death comes to earth for a vacation, where he falls in love with a strange, wealthy, young woman (Clair Forlani), a doctor who can't stop squinting. Her father is Anthony Hopkins, and he is stinking rich, and quite understandably does not want his daughter to marry Death. All this occurs within a leisurely three-hour time frame. Somewhere in there is the least sexy sex scene from a non-porno movie ever, featuring super close-ups of the pores on Brad Pitt's nose. This reviewer recommends you stay home and clean the grout between your tiles with a toothbrush. You'll have a better time.

PLEASANTVILLE. A charming movie with teeth, too. Two bored teenagers of the '90s get zapped into a bland, black-and-white family inside a 1950s sitcom, a land with a veneer of harmony over a thick, deadening layer of repression. It's pretty cute watching '90s teens trying to cope with the peppy mores of the '50s while subtly undermining them; but even better, once the '50s folk start getting laid, their gray world begins to turn colors. This is one of the best-looking, smartest uses of computerized special effects so far, and this Capra-esque story of a threatened community is just the right place for it. --Richter

PRACTICAL MAGIC. Survey a bunch of witches about what they want most, and nine out of 10 will tell you good, old-fashioned love. The other 10-percent will insist that their true desire is a soundtrack that masquerades as a script. Sally (Sandra Bullock) and Gillian (Nicole Kidman) are sisters (but, really, aren't we all?) who are witchy and cursed--if they fall in love, their men will die. Sally resolves to beat it with normality (husband, kids, etc.), while Gillian accepts it and pursues a good time. This, of course, means that Gillian must be punished, so her boyfriend returns from the dead to torture her. Sally exorcises him, then falls in love with a cop (Aidan Quinn) and makes out. The more interesting story--the one of their aunts (Stockard Channing and Diane Wiest)--is unfortunately of lesser importance. But at least Wiest gets to utter the line, "There's a little witch in all of us." Gals, this is empowering stuff. --Higgins

THE SIEGE. The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) has expressed grave fears about the potential effects of this film, which they believe could increase hatred and suspicion towards members of the Muslim and American-Arab communities. The Siege tells the story of a wave of terrorist bombings that occur in New York City. In response, the U.S. government declares martial law and imprisons all Arab men (which here seems to mean anyone of Persian, Middle Eastern or North African descent) between the ages of 14 and 30. The film does attempt to address the issue of anti-Arab and anti-Muslim prejudice in the United States; however, in its broad Hollywood way, it employs stereotypes, simplifications and sometimes offensive misrepresentations of Islam. Perhaps most egregious are the images of the terrorists (who are only referred to as "Muslims" and "Arabs," as though those terms could constitute a cohesive identity or a terrorist organization) performing ritual hand washing prior to their attacks: the film implies that this is something specifically done in preparation for acts of violence, when in fact this is a daily ritual that Muslims engage in prior to prayer. When the army places all of Brooklyn's young males of Arab descent in a camp, the scene shows an unrealistically homogenous crowd of people, all with the same pigmentation and clothing. The effort to mute this effect by casting Tony Shalhoub as one of the FBI agents in charge of the investigation is itself muted by having him play sidekick and second-fiddle to leading man Denzel Washington. Still, interesting issues are raised here: in several scenes, disembodied voices point out that this kind of government action would not be tolerated against Jewish or Black Americans; the army is definitely portrayed as villainous in their treatment of the Arabic prisoners; and there are (fairly awkward) assurances that "most" Arabs are decent, law-abiding citizens. The very fact that the film begins to question the prejudices against Arabs and Muslims shows a radical leap forward in Hollywood thinking. In spite of the very reasonable reservations of the ADC, the history of American cinema shows that clumsy first steps like The Siege are often signs of real progress. --DiGiovanna

SOLDIER. Marx once said that the proletariat must "safeguard itself against its own deputies and officials, by declaring them all, without exception, subject to recall at any moment." Wow, he could have written the script for Soldier, wherein a team of super-soldiers are replaced by newer, even superer soldiers, who go on an evil killing spree (as opposed to the good killing sprees of the original super-soldiers). See, while the original super-soldiers are nearly soulless automatons trained from birth only to blow things up and destroy human life, the newer, superer-soldiers are almost entirely soulless automatons, trained from before birth only to blow things up and destroy human life. Kurt Russell plays one of the original super-soldiers, who, while speaking only 62 words during the course of the film (Entertainment Weekly counted 69 words, but I stand by my figures), shows himself to be nearly almost human-like in defending some poor interstellar settlers against the superer-soldiers. The superer-soldiers, see, are all bald, whereas the super-soldiers have some hair. So they're, like, our friends. Caution: This film contains some scenes of hugging. --DiGiovanna

TOUCH OF EVIL. Thirty years after its original release, this version of Orson Welles' film is re-edited according to changes the director requested after viewing the studio cut that significantly altered his vision. A beautifully shot film noir, the story follows the investigation of a car bombing in a small town on the Mexican border. Newlyweds Mike (Charlton Heston) and Susan Vargas (Janet Leigh) witness the explosion during their honeymoon, so Mike joins a nasty American police chief, Hank Quinlan (Orson Welles), in the investigation. In true noir style, Welles creates a claustrophobic world with a slippery definition of morality, where the cops are sometimes as corrupt as the criminals. Though the murder is solved by the end of the film, the most compelling question--why Heston is playing a Mexican--remains unanswered.

URBAN LEGEND. Did you ever hear the one about the Hollywood movie that was actually satisfying? A friend of my second cousin's friend heard about it, and it's true! Several of those scary stories you believed as a kid are compiled here for a by-the-book but nonetheless clever horror film. The tortured female this time is Natalie (Alicia Witt), a coed with a past that includes the death of a teenage boy because of her enactment of an urban legend. Well, somebody knows what she did last summer and is playing out other terrifying tales on her friends, such as hiding in the back of a car with an ax and killing her roommate while she sleeps in the next bed. Robert Englund (best known as Freddy Krueger from the Nightmare on Elm Street series) plays one of the main suspects, Professor Wexler, and doe-eyed Jared Leto and clean-skinned Rebecca Gayheart offer lots of frightening cuteness.

VAMPIRES. Please benefit from my suffering and don't waste two hours of your life hoping that director John Carpenter's (Halloween, Escape from New York) latest effort will be bad-good rather than bad-offensive. James Woods, showing his wood in particularly tight jeans, and Daniel Baldwin, struggling to stay awake, play vampire slayers who pursue the father of all vampires. Along the way they pick up Sheryl Lee so that Baldwin can take off her clothes, tie her up, call her a bitch and eventually fall in love; and a priest, so Woods can talk about his penis. Interesting ideas surface--such as the mixing of the horror genre with the western and viewing vampirism as a virus--but only for about 30 seconds. After that, it's back to Lee's rope burns. If you hate women, this film could be for you, but I still think you'll be tripped up by the bad dialogue, clichéd revenge plot, and hokey music. Oh, and there's some homophobic stuff thrown in for extra flavor. --Higgins

THE WATERBOY. Going into an Adam Sandler movie, I expected his aren't-mentally-challenged-people-funny persona, an aren't-gay-guys-funny joke or two, and maybe a cameo from a Saturday Night Live cohort. I got all this, and so much more. This is no mindless comedy, it's a message movie--proof that those Hollywood CEOs do care about our futures, and the futures of our children. No one wants that "Mommy, what were trees like?" bumper sticker to come true, so the masterminds behind The Waterboy demonstrate the importance of environmental consciousness by recycling the Forrest Gump script. It killed enough trees, so these eco-friendly folks simply took the story of an oddly athletic man with a IQ of 90 and set it on a football field. And to fill in plotholes without wasting additional paper, there's lots of recycled music (from Rush to Anita Ward) to help you along. For example, when Waterboy is awfully lonely, "Lonely Boy" plays in the background. Get it? Apparently careers are reusable, too, as witnessed by the dynamic screen presence of Henry Winkler as a coach. The funniest parts, though, are the recycled stereotypes. Southerners are especially hee-larious, what with those durn accents and all.

WHAT DREAMS MAY COME. Hamlet fretted over what dreams may come when we shuffle off this mortal coil, but Robin Williams doesn't have to worry, because he's already been to heaven. And Annabella Sciorra has been to hell. This well-intentioned but stupid mutation of the Orpheus story (based on the novel by Richard Matheson) concerns a very happy couple who like each other a lot. In fact, Christy and Annie Nielsen (Williams and Sciorra) are soulmates. They have it all: an upscale life, a nanny, expensive objects, until their kids die in a car crash, and then Christy dies in one, too. Eventually he ends up in heaven, and his wife ends up in hell--Max Von Sydow plays the shrink-turned-ferryman who navigates between the two. The special effects are pretty darn nifty here, and as a welcome relief, they don't involve any shooting or blowing up. But the freshman-level philosophy ("You know who you are because you think you do!" ) and tons of painful psychoblather shove this movie into the fiery depths of banality. There is one good part: We get to hear Robin Williams called "Christy" for two hours, evoking images of a freshly scrubbed teenage girl in a tennis skirt. --Richter

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