Film Clips

A BUG'S LIFE. Antz may've beat Pixar's computer animated insect-o-rama to the big screen, but A Bug's Life is the far superior of the two, both for enchanting animated life and a serviceable storyline. Where one hopes in vain for Antz' whiny, accidental hero (Woody Allen) to get irrevocably smashed, Bug's Flik (Dave Foley--whoever he is) is a far more dynamic instigator. Essentially a story about two engaging screw-ups--one a princess (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) and the other an unsinkable everyman (Foley)--who make good in the end, the most engaging aspects here are the cinematic direction and the zippy one-liners (yes, they saved a few for the paying audiences). Celebrity voices are well-matched to their insectine counterparts, including Kevin Spacey as the evil grasshopper leader, Phyllis Diller as the queenly cut-up, and Denis Leary as a ladybug at odds with his feminine side. If you go, be sure to stay through the credits for the animated outtakes. --Wadsworth

Film Clips ELIZABETH. Cate Blanchett plays the Virgin Queen, who ruled England during Shakespeare's time. She's a sassy wench, according to this version--a bejeweled rebel bucking the Catholic system and following the dictates of her royal heart in all things. It's ridiculous, but kind of fun. The court is perpetually bathed in inky gloom, and a series of stabbings, beheadings, stake-burnings and exotic poisonings make Elizabeth's castle look a lot riskier than any old sorority house in a horror movie. All pretensions to high art are abandoned early here anyway, so if it's lusty cads in short pants and fine ladies in satin gowns you want, this is your one-stop shopping place. If you're hoping for an intelligent story of any sort, however, browse elsewhere. --Richter

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

HAPPINESS. A funhouse view of varieties of suffering from Todd Solondz, creator of Welcome to the Dollhouse. A New Jersey family, featuring two miserable parents (Louise Lasser and Ben Gazzara) and three tortured grown daughters, put themselves and others through as much pure hell as possible. We witness a series of sex crimes, failed relationships, bitter rejections, and doomed quests for self as Solondz struggles to situate himself as the Hieronymus Bosch of our times. Happiness is a comedy, though a disturbing one, that exaggerates misery just enough so that some people--maybe a few--might laugh at it. In any case, it's a cheering antidote to the pat, happy endings of Hollywood movies, and this director has a real knack for capturing the nuance of suburban ugliness. Chairs that match the wallpaper! Endless cubicles of office space! The doings in Happiness are more exaggerated than in Welcome to the Dollhouse, and this film is less likely to evoke that complex, nauseating God-that-happened-to-me feeling of his earlier film. Nonetheless, it's an interesting, disturbing, and sometimes amusing tour of the downside of being alive. --Richter

HOME FRIES. Dark comedies aren't generally sweet, but cast a ringlet-adorned Drew Barrymore as a pregnant, small town drive-thru attendant, and you can skip those M&Ms at the concession stand. The enjoyably convoluted story centers around two families, the white trash, big-hearted Jacksons and the upper-class, insane Levers, and the adultery that brings them all together. Sally Jackson (Barrymore) dates the much older Henry Lever (Chris Ellis), but only until she discovers he's married. His wife (Catherine O'Hara) finds out about the affair and decides that one way to cure a cheating heart is to manipulate her sons, Dorian (Luke Wilson) and Angus (Jake Busey), into killing it. Dimwitted Angus suspects Sally knows of the murder, so Dorian goes undercover as a fry cook at the Burger-Matic where she works. In addition to lots of cute with a capital K between Dorian and Sally, Home Fries offers a cynical and funny look at the idealized bourgeois family, a great cast, and practical advise, such as, "a relaxed jaw means an open vagina." If that's not enough of a recommendation, at least go to see the ever-enchanting Shelley Duvall as Ma Jackson.

JERRY SPRINGER: RINGMASTER. In the 1920s, Robert Musil wrote his magnum opus, The Man Without Qualities, in which he bemoaned the excessively refined culture of his age. He expressed the belief, prevalent amongst intellectuals of the time, that the mannered, overly civilized society of the modern world had robbed humanity of all possibility for genuine self-expression by virtue of its insistence on historical knowledge and schooled, aestheticist sensitivities. Musil was wrong. Jerry Springer has brought us living proof that humanity's most immediate and unmediated desires are still capable of unfettered expression; that mankind still has the capacity to push aside the constraining sublimations of culture in order to be, freely and without shame, that which, at basest heart, it truly is. To stress this point, here's the finest bit of dialogue from Ringmaster: Stepfather: "Do that other thing." Stepdaughter: "What thing?" Stepfather: "That thing your mother won't do." I thank God almighty that the nightmare world of literate, cultured, effete snobs that Musil imagined so brilliantly has not overwhelmed the world, and that there is still room for a TV show about men who love their girlfriends' pet goats. Pull up a 40-ouncer and slide into Ringmaster, where hope reigns supreme and foley artists have perfected the slurpy noises that accompany oral lovemaking. --DiGiovanna

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. --Richter

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.--Higgins

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