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Tucson Weekly Film Clips

SEPTEMBER 22, 1997: 

BRASSED OFF! This goofy, affable, golden-retriever of a movie trots along offering modest pleasures and no real surprises. The time is the 1980s; the place a coal-mining town in England where Margaret Thatcher's policies are forcing the closure of the pit that supports an entire community. And with it will go the brass band that's offered a small slice of glory and culture to men who spend most of their lives underground. To top it all off, a girl wants to join the band! Underground heartthrob Ewan McGregor (Trainspotting) portrays an angry young trumpet player with his usual flair, and Pete Postlethwaite does a fine job as the single-minded, ailing band leader; but Tara Fitzgerald is flimsy and annoying as the city-girl horn player Gloria. Plus, you could toss a tuba through the holes in the plot. Why doesn't the band ever turn the pages of the sheet music on the stands in front of them? --Richter

CAREER GIRLS. Mike Leigh's impressionistic portrait of the changes in the lives of two young women is sweet, refreshing, and original. When Annie (Lynda Steadman) comes to London to visit Hannah (Katrin Cartlidge), her former best friend, the two haven't seen each other since graduating from college. Their initial awkwardness fades away as the pair re-visit the site of previous betrayals and adventures; Leigh pops us back and forth in time so we can observe the changes in the character's lives. We see them in college, neurotic, full of ticks (Hannah has the annoying habit of using her hand as a talking puppet) and incessantly listening to The Cure. This alternates with footage of the two in the present, well-dressed and still slightly off-kilter, but with the grace and perspective to finally understand the confusion they'd gone through as undergraduates: Imagine Mary and Rhoda having a reunion, but with thick British accents and adult situations. What's more, the acting in this movie is wonderful--strange and natural at once. --Richter

EXCESS BAGGAGE. Alicia Silverstone plays an irascible rich girl who stages her own kidnapping to get attention from daddy; Benicio Del Toro plays a hapless thief who complicates the plan by stealing Alicia's car while she's tied up in the trunk. It's an inspired premise for a romantic comedy, but the rest of the movie feels as lackadaisical as an afternoon at a truck stop. Del Toro does an interesting sleepy-eyed Brando shtick, and the roadside Pacific Northwest locations have a misty charm, but it seems like somebody squeezed all the juice out of the plot and dialogue. Nothing much happens, and even the love story seems half-hearted. One minute the spoiled Silverstone is kicking Del Toro, the next she's asking him if he likes her tummy, and all it takes is a "Yes" for bam--true love. Say what? Time for the screenwriters to take It Happened One Night 101 again. Edgy supporting performances from Harry Connick Jr. and Christopher Walken don't hurt, but they're nothing we haven't seen before. --Woodruff

FIRE DOWN BELOW. Perhaps the best feature of this film is that they can use the same title for the inevitable pornographic parody. Steven Seagal, dressed in some of the most appalling leather outfits since Pamela Anderson's few clothed scenes in Barb Wire, stars as a bizarrely violent E.P.A. agent on the trail of evil polluter Chris Christofferson. Posing as a missionary carpenter (you figure out the symbolism), he goes to a small Appalachian community and starts repairing porches in the hopes that someone will be grateful enough to turn state's evidence. When this bone-headed plan doesn't work, he just blows his cover and starts hurting people until the pollution stops. Then he hurts more people because he thinks the judicial system wasn't tough enough on the polluters. Then he marries the woman whom the community has ostracized because they think she murdered her father when really her brother, who had been molesting her, murdered their father and got her to take the rap before joining the evil polluters and getting caught in a cave-in within the toxic-waste-filled coal mine after a shoot-out with Steven Seagal, who escapes so he can marry the aforementioned ostracized woman. Then the movie is over and nobody else gets their ass kicked while the credits roll. --DiGiovanna

THE FULL MONTY. This is a thoroughly enjoyable, fun little movie about some down-and-out steel workers who start their own male-stripping troupe. Robert Carlyle (the psychotic Begbie in Trainspotting) plays Gaz, a nice but irresponsible daddy who lost his livelihood when the steel mills of Sheffield, England, closed down. He finds that he needs to raise money in order to retain visiting rights to his son; with no other prospects in sight, he decides to become a stripper--with a heart of gold, of course. Gaz gathers together a rag-tag band of willing cohorts and together, they peel off their unstylish working-guy duds to the dance tunes of the '70s. Despite certain superficial similarities to the noxious Striptease (where Demi Moore took it off to get custody of her kid), The Full Monty tackles its subject with humor and style. --Richter

IN THE COMPANY OF MEN. This terse, low-budget feature by first-time director Neil LaBute presents a hyperbolic, deeply creepy vision of American manhood. Chad (Aaron Eckhart) and Howard (Michael Martin), two corporate ladder-climbers, coldly decide to woo, bed, and ditch a beautiful, vulnerable deaf woman to obtain a kind of blanket payback for every woman who's ever hurt them. As David Mamet's spirit chuckles in the background, LaBute shows us a nasty, competitive, male-dominated world that thrives on cruelty--or at least hides it really well. Chad and Howard exist in a misogynistic whirl, as they try to find someone to blame for the fact that the world hasn't given them everything they believe they've been promised. LaBute shows us more than we want to see about how aggression, competition and romance blur together in one ugly blob in this sick, old-boy company--and he does it from a sly, satirical vantage point that allows him to criticize that culture at the same time. Special bonus note: In this movie, someone is always eating a sandwich. --Richter

KULL THE CONQUERER. Kull is essentially a porno film without the hardcore: hyper-muscular guys, and women in bad Frederick's of Hollywood outfits mouth inane dialogue that they seem to have just memorized, all in the name of getting to the sex scenes. Kevin Sorbo, TV's Hercules, plays Kull, who goes from barbarian peasant to King in the first five minutes of the film. He then moves swiftly to marry evil goddess Akivasha, played by Tia Carrera's leather-uphostelered breasts. This is obviously a big mistake, and leads to a number of swordfights choreographed to heavy metal music. In fact, with all the men in long hair, bangs and codpieces, Kull sometimes seems to be a collection of MTV videos from the late '80s. In spite of all this, Kull is campy in a way that's not overly cute and moves at a swift enough pace to keep adults from falling asleep while junior thrills to the manly fight scenes and makes faces at the yucky parts where Kull kisses girls. --DiGiovanna

SHE'S SO LOVELY. This movie, starring Sean Penn, Robin Wright Penn and John Travolta, was made from a screenplay written by John Cassavetes, founding father of independent film. Armed with little more than a 16mm camera and friends who were very good actors, Cassavetes made intense, intimate films about lost, boozy characters who lived their lives in perpetual crisis. His son Nick directed She's So Lovely from a script that's vintage Cassavetes--full of confused, screaming, warm-hearted barflies overflowing with a voracious, destructive form of love. Cassavetes screenplay, though wonderful in many ways, doesn't make the jump to the '90s very gracefully. Though Robin Wright Penn gives a respectable performance, it just doesn't carry the film. Cassavetes probably meant the part for his wife, Gena Rowlands, who always brought an amazing warmth and charisma to Cassavetes' off-kilter, emotionally driven characters. When she appears briefly as Eddie's psychologist, it becomes all too apparent that this movie is lacking its central element. --Richter

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