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Tucson Weekly Film Clips

JANUARY 26, 1998: 

FALLEN. Aside from an eccentrically amusing but all-too-short performance by Elias Koteas as a mass murderer singing in the electric chair, this film is relentlessly boring. It's hard to believe this made it past test audiences, as my informal poll revealed that 40-percent of viewers spent the film thinking about work, 35-percent had unrelated sexual fantasies, 20-percent worried about environmental issues, 4-percent were there as part of a field trip from a traumatic head injury clinic, and the remaining 1-percent actually paid attention to the screen. The film's format is oddly cyclical: There are three minutes of plot, then Denzel Washington does a voice-over describing what just happened, then he tells his partner (John Goodman) what happened, then he tells an Angelologist what happened, then he walks around in the mist and the rain, then there's another three minutes of plot and the cycle starts again. This allows for nearly 12 minutes of action in a five hour film. At least I think it was five hours...I kind of lost track of time when I realized there were only two years left until the millennium. --DiGiovanna

HALF BAKED. Why would anyone make a movie about drug-addled losers in the nineties? I mean, Cheech and Chong were killed by an angry mob in 1984 for a reason. Watching people pretend to act stoned is not exactly my idea of a good time, but there were some brief and amusing cameos. Janeanne Garofalo's three-minute sequence is a gem; and oddly enough, Bob Saget, who only has three lines, is sort of fabulous, mostly by playing against type. Still, the whole thing can basically be explained by switching a couple of nouns in the old joke, "What did the Deadhead say when the drugs wore off? Hey, this music really sucks!" --DiGiovanna

HARD RAIN. If you flushed your toilet non-stop for the rest of your life, you wouldn't come anywhere near the quantity of water wasted in Hard Rain. An action thriller set during an ever-rising flood in a small Midwestern town, the flick is overflowing with freaky situations like high-school halls that become jet ski highways, jail cells turned into drowning traps, and rooftops that double as boat ramps. At first, there's an almost surreal quality to the film, like we're inside some sort of symbolic dream world. But the blandly calculating script soon turns everything into soggy cereal. Other than Morgan Freeman, who plays a refreshingly non-sadistic villain, most of the characters just tread the usual action-cliché waters, and the movie forfeits any claim it had to inventiveness when it climaxes with a last-minute bad-guy revival in slow motion. Ugh, get me a towel. With Christian Slater, Minnie Driver, Randy Quaid, and, in sadly humiliating roles, Ed Asner and Betty White. --Woodruff

STAR KID. Hey, it's E.T. meets Robocop! As combinations between Steven Spielberg and Paul Verhoeven films go, we could do a lot worse ("Hey, it's Schindler's List meets Showgirls!") than this pleasantly executed--if completely unoriginal--boys' movie. Joseph Mazzello, best remembered as the little scrub who got zapped off the electric fence in Jurassic Park, plays a frustrated lad whose workaholic, widower father hasn't the time to help poor Mazzello overcome his persistent bully problem and his catatonic shyness around the cute girl at school. What better solution than the alien-assisted omnipotence of an extraterrestrial cybersuit? If the film's revenge and love fantasies aren't enough, Mazzello must also fight an intergalactic war--complete with a scary, slobbering morphing monster. Totally awesome! Star Kid too often resorts to gratuitous destruction and bodily functions scenes, and will never be mistaken for a children's classic. But it's cute, and displays enough overall restraint to keep parents (and reviewers) from going bonkers. --Woodruff

WAG THE DOG. Director Barry Levinson makes a brave attempt at political satire, but he can't resist the impulse to water it down. And what is it with the aging big stars? They can't resist playing it cute. Dustin Hoffman is an adorable movie producer; Robert DeNiro is a cuddly spin doctor working for the President. Together they concoct the ultimate diversionary device--a war. (This is necessary because the President seems to have broken one of the Ten Commandments with a girl scout). Occasionally Wag the Dog is very funny; the first half hour is especially good. But then it starts to repeat itself, and Levinson and his screenwriters seem to feel far more comfortable making fun of Hollywood than of Washington. Eventually, it all degenerates into the regular, old, predictable ruts. --Richter

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