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Tucson Weekly Film Clips

MARCH 6, 2000: 

BOILER ROOM. Giovanni Ribisi wastes another great performance on a mediocre movie. Basically a rehash of Wall Street and Glengarry Glenn Ross, with a few good insights into the sleazy underbelly of stock trading, Boiler Room has Ribisi leaving his job as the owner and operator of an illegal casino to become a broker so his father will love him. Of course, this plan couldn't possibly work, a fact he illustrates by telling maudlin stories from his childhood that portray dad as incapable of love. Then there's lots of back-and-forth between the world of stock scams and the world of father-son relationships, all to no great effect. Still, Ribisi is making a name for himself as a crack actor, and if he can just get through a few more Mod Squads and The Postmans maybe they'll reward him with a picture worthy of his talent. -- James DiGiovanna

PITCH BLACK. Though it's utterly derivative (but aren't all sci-fi movies anymore?), Pitch Black earns the right to present its Alien-ish monsters and vampiric they-only-come-out-at-night plotline as fresh entertainment. Visually it's neato: the first half, after the passengers of a cargo ship crash-land on a mysterious desert planet with three suns, is filmed in a glaring style designed to dry your eyes out. Then, after the suns are blocked by a Very Special Eclipse, the darkness is heightened by phosphorescent blue and burning purple visuals. While Pitch Black's story has too many stupid B-grade coincidences (they crashed right by an abandoned outpost -- how lucky!), it keeps unfolding interesting revelations, both about the monsters and the characters. Best in the latter category is the muscled, low-voiced Vin Diesel -- he makes a scary and/or rockin' opponent for the Pterodactyl-winged, anvil-headed teeth-gnashers that chase them. Combine fast pacing and several Unknown Actors Worth Knowing (like the perky-but-serious Radha Mitchell) and you've got yet another good reason to avoid The Green Mile. -- Zachary Woodruff

REINDEER GAMES. Ben Affleck, Gary Sinise and Charlize Theron team up for a wild night of ex-con Indian gaming in this cheap-laugh, explosion-filled round of double-jeopardy. Is it a good movie? Hell no! Will you like it? If your standards for wise-cracking action flicks are looser than a Motor City beauty searching for true love in a back-page ad for penitentiary pen-pals, the odds are in your favor. Highlights include a prison food-fight, a cameo of Theron's perky breasts, the use of Ben Affleck as a dart board, and the bloody deaths of at least four Santas. Ho, ho, ho and ho. -- Mari Wadsworth

SCREAM 3. A very clever idea involving a film-within-a-film, wherein the inner film is a film about the outer film, fails to save this movie from lazy plotting. As in all the Scream movies, somebody who wears a mask and carries a knife wants to kill cute young women, especially Neve Campbell. Neve, of course, prefers not to die, thus setting up "tension." Beyond that, the script fails to pick up on any of the other major premises of drama, like "sense" and "purpose" and "interest". It does have some "jokes" and "gags," but not enough to save it from "boredom." -- James DiGiovanna

SNOW DAY. In the parts of the U.S. that are blessed with such wondrous weather as "slush," "sleet" and "freezing rain," there is a miraculous event called a "snow day" wherein schools are closed so that children may play in the frozen wastes. Chris Elliot stars in this unfortunate attempt to commercialize this magical event. He plays a snow-plow operator besieged by viciously playful youths in this sad waste of his awesome talent. Also starring Iggy Pop, Pam Grier, and that kiss of death, Chevy Chase. -- James DiGiovanna

WONDER BOYS. My friend Amy went to this movie thinking it would suck and wound up enjoying it; I went thinking it would be good and was disappointed, so it's basically one of those products that gives you anything except what you paid for. Michael Douglas plays Grady Tripp, writing professor at a Pennsylvania university whose critically acclaimed last book came out seven years ago. Since then he's been working on his now over-2000-page opus, which includes such things as "genealogies of everyone's horses, and complete dental records for all the characters." Tobey Maguire plays James Leer, Tripp's best student, who shoots the school chancellor's dog and likes to pretend that he's deathly depressed. Katie Holmes plays Tripp's boarder, who keeps trying to seduce him by wearing tight tank tops and talking literary criticism. Meanwhile, Tripp is in love with the chancellor (Frances McDormand), his wife has just walked out on him, and he can't stop smoking dope. The acting is all good, and Dante Spinotti does his usual bang-up job with the cinematography, but the script tends to wander into the dark alleys of pretension town. Still, there's a goodly number of funny lines and, except for a really sappy ending, the plot is convivial, if not daring. -- James DiGiovanna

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