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Bulworth, Godzilla, Fear & Loathing, Hanging Garden, I Got the Hookup.

By Ray Pride, John Broxton

JUNE 1, 1998: 


Directed by Warren Beatty. Beatty's single-handed drive to revive the daring of early 1970s filmmaking pays off with this startling political comedy about a California senator who has a nervous breakdown, and a la "Network"'s Howard Beale, becomes a compulsive truth-teller. In the opening scenes, Beatty is appropriately Nixonian, a politician weeping in cloacal gloom as he watches the lies being sold by his television ads. (Vittorio Storaro's cinematography, filled with deep blacks and Old Master shadows, is a lush treat.) Bulworth hires a hit-man to knock him off, which fosters his vehemence on the campaign trail. In a woozy turn, Bulworth meets a beautiful, much younger black woman (Halle Berry) and transforms himself into a got-no-rhythm rapper. Alternately outrageous and unrealized, Beatty attacks the story with an appealing vigor if a sometimes appalling simplicity. But when it clicks? This is great, provocative filmmaking with a knowing, profane sense of humor. The always-appealing Oliver Platt is priceless as Bulworth's right hand flack. (Ray Pride)

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

Directed by Terry Gilliam. Bring Dramamine, bring tequila, ether, whatever, if you're checking out "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas," Gilliam's all-too-faithful adaptation of Hunter S. Thompson's 1970s drug-fueled gonzo. While Johnny Depp does a wonderful personification of Thompson's hoarse, plaintive Kentucky staccato and herky-jerky paranoiac's body language, we're in trouble from the start with Gilliam having Depp almost immediately shove his cigarette holder up into the maw of the Super 35 lens. He's upset about all those damn bats out there in the desert; his shiny, glittering eyes scan a Dutch-angled landscape peopled only by his lawyer, Dr. Gonzo (a bloated Benicio del Toro), who starts the movie with a blot of blood on his neck from scratching just a little too hard. Gilliam's carnival take on the journey of Thompson's alter ego, Raoul Duke, does not let up. The result is a monotonous, numbing assault on the senses. (Ray Pride)

Friend of the Deceased

Directed by Vyacheslav Krishtofovich. Krishtofovich's acute, ticklish comedy of financial and emotional poverty in contemporary Ukraine is a realist farce of a high order. Even in its darkest turns, Krishtofovich maintains the same tenderness toward his characters as he demonstrated in his fine, 1991 "Adam's Rib." In Kiev, Anatoli is a translator who finds life impossible. He lives in an apartment with his ex-wife, who is "assistant" to a mobster. He makes phone calls, hoping for work, a clutch of onion domes in slight glimpse from his window. It is the only time religion enters the story-so close, so far away. "As long as we're healthy, we can work," a mob-connected friend broods as they polish off a bottle of vodka. Anatoli gets an idea: he will ask his friend to arrange for his own murder. ("Bulworth" shares this plot gimmick, to lesser effect.) But then a tiny, adorable pixie hooker girlfriend falls into his life, as such things must happen. He makes a couple of American bucks, life is suddenly good. Call off the hit. But no. There is still honor. Another character says, "Friendship disappeared with our glorious Soviet past. Now there's no friendship... only business relations," and Anatoli cannot get the hit called off. The cruel clockwork of the comic plot is filled with turns worthy of the great Ernst Lubitsch-Samson Raphaelson collaborations like "The Shop Around the Corner." (Ray Pride)


Directed by Roland Emmerich. The best moments are at the very start, with the lovely, retro animated logo for director-co-producer-co-writer Roland Emmerich and co-producer-co-writer Dean Devlin's company, Centropolis Films. Then, some gorgeous, sensual credits done after the style of Imaginary Forces, the supercool, superhot effects house. Then the movie. Saw it, did you? Sucks, doesn't it? Feel cheated? Gonna write a letter to the studio for being all tease, little tickle? GET A SCRIPT, you dolts, you should write. LET US HAVE SOME FUN WHILE YOU'RE COUNTING YOUR MILLIONS! There are dozens of rants I could go off on about my irritation with this illogical, dark, murky, wet piece of product. Let's see: Who would have thought there would be a form of narrative where you could lumber rapidly? What about creatures doodled from digital crayons, their pricey cheesiness obscured by endless sheets of filthy rain? There's more rain and less plot in "Godzilla" than in a Tarkovsky film. As it goes in contemporary digital Velveeta-fests like this, we're treated to ranks of second- and fifth-tier performers, with only Jean Reno retaining his dignity as "that French guy," the leader of a French secret service-led terrorist team that works out of a fleet of UPS step-vans. This is the kind of movie where Reno is given a sweet moment channeling Elvis Presley's accent, but then the dialogue is underlined-"I watched Elvis Presley movies"-for any dumb motherfuckers who might be in the audience. Matthew Broderick, ostensibly the key identification figure, is presented as a whiny, whiny, passive musical-comedy aficionado. If a story works, you don't give a hoot for plausibility, but let's talk about all these alleys that they find in Manhattan. THIS KIND OF ALLEY DOESN'T EXIST THERE-THE CHASES ARE TAKING PLACE IN DOWNTOWN LOS ANGELES. And how about Godzilla hiding out in "the 23rd Street subway station"? Is it the C-E? The 1-9? The F? The N-R? The 6? Bored minds want to know. And why do professional video cameramen in movies like this always forget to load tape? Idiots. Don't know where the extra cassettes are? Can't focus? Fooey. And you want to talk Godzilla? Okay. I want to talk lawsuits. I want to see H.R. Giger sue for momma Godzilla being a ringer for his Alien, and I want to see Stan Winston sue for the baby Godzillas being ringers for his "Lost World" raptors. And waitaminit, didn't Emmerich and Devlin trash Manhattan already in "Independence Day"? That wasn't for real? Which one was the false alarm, wolf boys? 138m. (Ray Pride)

The Hanging Garden

So many times you read a review and someone wants to tell you what the story wasn't, not what it was, what preconceived notion it doesn't live up to in their blinkered brain. Thom Fitzgerald's "The Hanging Garden" is a succulent, luxurious hothouse of a movie, mingling bold imagery, kitchen-sink family conflict, heady images that tease at surrealism, memory play about sexuality, thwarted and not. It will be unbearable to some; primarily to those who look away from the screen in order to take cryptic little notes that will remind them when it comes time to write a review why they were so uncomfortable, or perhaps, that they need to buy milk, new insoles for their tired shoes. Sweet William is a 25-year-old gay man who's spent a decade away from his rural Nova Scotia home and returns for his sister's wedding in the family garden. The family is "You Can't Take it with You" by way of "Sweetie": it is easier to describe the slim Sweet William's past; he was a 300-pound teenager who hanged himself over a flirtation with the boy who has now grown up to marry his sister (the glowing Kerry Fox). Sweet William's image still lingers from the tree in the garden where he hanged himself. Strange? Yes, and sophisticated in a rare and personal way. Strong performances all around, including Peter McNeill as the abusive father; Chris Leavins as the grown-up William and Troy Veinotte as the young William. 91m. (Ray Pride)

I Got The Hookup

The success of this carelessly-handled star vehicle, bankrolled by rapper Master P and his recording label, No Limit, will surely be measured in soundtrack dollars, not ticket revenue. After striking platinum with his autobiographical video, "I'm 'Bout It" ("the first time in history a soundtrack made the charts without an accompanying theatrical release"), Master P tries to recapture some of that marketing magic in "I Got the Hook Up." But his second effort has an amateurish, make-it-up-as-we-go-along feel usually reserved for student productions and the rare porn movie with a plot. The plot involves two backlot street hustlers, Black (Master P) and Blue (A.J. Johnson) who fall upon a shipment of cell phones. Hijinks? Ensue. The jokes are predictable in their randomness: pit bulls materialize out of thinnest air to sodomize a flamboyant homosexual; the back room of a run-down TV repair shop mysteriously transforms into a gilded whorehouse; masks are ripped from the faces of burlesque villains. Everyone we meet is either a stereotype or an aspiring stereotype, the script lacking even the rudimentary coherence to permit categorization. Unlike his contemporary Ice Cube, who graces this effort with a cameo, Master P appears uncomfortable in front of a camera and falls prey to one of the cardinal sins of bad taste comedy: he takes himself way too seriously. Unlike the more successful Mr. Cube, Master P has first-time director Michael Martin (even if the title credit indicates "A Film by Master P") and sidekick Johnson, whose routine shenanigans quickly grow old. "Hookup" leaves much to be desired on most levels, but as writer, star, and executive producer, Master P has no one but himself to blame. (John Broxton)

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