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Tucson Weekly Film Clips

OCTOBER 6, 1997: 

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

THE GAME. This is perhaps the world's longest episode of Fantasy Island. Instead of flying to the tropics, though, rich, bored executives pay big bucks to have a mysterious company deliver custom-made thrills to their doorsteps. Wealthy, bored, empty, hollow-eyed industrialist Nicholas Van Orton (Michael Douglas) is given a gift certificate to play the game by his black sheep of a brother; not surprisingly, things quickly get out of hand. Not surprisingly, he learns a little something about himself and his capacities as he engages in a series of dangerous adventures that seem designed to break his sanity. If you can stomach the sheer emptiness of The Game, and if you're not pre-disposed to paranoid episodes, this movie is kind of fun. It's so random and senseless that the lurches of the game, as Van Orton plays, are unexpected and jarring, sometimes in a good way. Michael Douglas gives a polished, subtly humorous performance, and director David Fincher has a way of making everything look expensive and shiny. Of course, savvy movie watchers will realize this movie, like every movie, is all fantasy, and that any debate over what's "part of" and "not part of" the game on screen is the kind of absurd speculation that makes computers explode on Star Trek. --Richter

KICKED IN THE HEAD. Anyone's whose ever been kicked in the head, or even just punched, knows that rather than clear the mental palate, it tends to fuzz things up. Kicked in the Head, a droll, Gen X comedy, wades through the fuzzy, unfocused terrain of a young man's identity crisis without any particular route or destination. "I'm on a voyage of self-discovery," drones Redmond, the poor, lost little protagonist (Kevin Corrigan, who also co-wrote)--a sort of distant cousin of the poor, lost Benjamin Braddock in The Graduate. Redmond, however, has not graduated, and he doesn't live at home (though Linda Fiorentino does end up being his older mistress); he just sort of floats through a strange, disjointed city "looking for truth," bumping up against an assortment of eccentrics who may or may not help him in his quest. This is the kind of semi-surreal movie where characters get fortune cookies that say, "Your attendant godling has lost her way," and minor characters shoot each other up in "beer wars" while lounge music plays on the soundtrack. It's all pleasantly cute and mildly amusing, and then, in the middle of it all, it just ends. --Richter

L.A. CONFIDENTIAL. Glamour girls! Scandal! Gunplay! Nose Jobs! The place is the City of Angels; the time is the 1950s. The thrills starts when honest but prissy officer Ed Exley (Guy Pearce) opens the door to the men's room of the Nite Owl Café and finds a half dozen bullet-pierced bodies strewn across the linoleum. From then on it's seedy characters, clever plot twists and bracing moral dilemmas as a precinct full of cops harass, pummel and caress each other and the smelly underbelly of Los Angeles. Ed Exley goes head to head with his nemesis, fellow officer Bud White (Russell Crowe), a thug known for his brawn but not his brains. The two tackle the Nite Owl mystery with a passion while their suave, detached colleague Jack Vincennes (Kevin Spacey) coolly observes. L.A. Confidential courses down the same clotted drainage ditch as Chinatown, but without Polanski's dark and brooding spirit. L.A. Confidential is sort of like Chinatown lite--a taut and rousing thriller that's well worth seeing. --Richter

PEACEMAKER. George Clooney ably takes over the role of the Caped Crusader in this latest installment of the Batman series, though there are a few changes from the earlier versions: For example, he never dons the attractive black-and-gray bat costume known for striking fear into the hearts of cowardly and superstitious villains. However, he still swings from a rope to knock the bad guys on their butts, and demonstrates his superhuman abilities by taking out hordes of heavily armed terrorists single-handedly. While his unerring aim and virtual invulnerability would seem silly in an ordinary thriller, viewers are accustomed to this level of detachment from reality in the superhero genre. Nicole Kidman, whom fans will remember as the crime-fighting Dr. Chase Meridian in Batman Forever, returns in this episode, having been promoted to Chief of the White House Task Force on Nuclear Terrorism...or something. Her forced, wooden acting is perfect for this comic-book-brought-to-the-screen as she portrays one of the shapeliest nuclear scientists on the government payroll. While I was disappointed that Robin had been dropped from the cast, I anxiously look forward to the next episode, wherein, I hear, Batman becomes a philandering pediatrician in an urban emergency room. --DiGiovanna

SHALL WE DANCE? This elegant, sweet-spirited comedy focuses on Shohei Sugiyama (Koji Yakusyo), a quiet-tempered 42-year-old businessman who starts secretly taking dance lessons to ward off his mid-life crisis. As his dancing gradually improves, he begins feeling less empty, and that's great for him but not for his wife, who worries he's having an affair. Which, in a way, he is--though you can bet they'll be two-stepping by the end of the movie. Writer/director Masayuki Suo's use of dancing as a metaphor for marriage and life certainly qualifies as corny, but the story addresses its characters' need to rise above their regimented existence with touching amiability; and the supporting cast, a combination of frustrated dance instructors and bumbling would-be waltzers, is terrific. The film's real strength, though, lies in its pleasantly flowing dance scenes, which eschew editing in favor of wide shots so that the screen becomes the dance floor. Shall We Dance? won all of Japan's 13 Academy Awards, and it's the only movie I've ever seen that inspired a couple to dance in the parking lot afterwards. --Woodruff

A THOUSAND ACRES. Based on Jane Smiley's Pulitzer prize-winning novel, A Thousand Acres is a weeper about brave farm wives that has some fine moments despite its sentimentality. Michelle Pfieffer and Jessica Lange play a pair of sisters battling against their powerful, angry father for the possession of the family farm and, metaphorically, possession of themselves. The story is a twist on King Lear--as told from the point of view of the selfish daughters. Here, we get to finally see what the daughters are so pissed off about. Family secrets, illness, court battles, love affairs: Unfortunately, there isn't enough time for all this stuff to develop. It just keeps coming at ya, and if you haven't read King Lear lately, it's even more perplexing. --Richter

WISHMASTER. Ever since Scream, it's been tempting to see any movie with the name Wes Craven attached to it, even if he's only the "executive producer." Time to revise that plan, because Wishmaster is pure hokey schlock; predictable, formulaic and dumb. Its premise: that true genies, also known as Djinn, are not the happy-go-lucky creatures depicted by Barbara Eden and Robin Williams, but in fact evil smart-asses who want to turn the world into a giant S&M parlor. The only way a Djinn can do that is if the person who frees him asks for three wishes; fortunately he's just been freed by a feisty girls' basketball coach (Tammy Lauren) who keeps her wishes to herself by chanting "stillness" in a Brady Bunch-style voice-over. This unremitting wish-chastity is very frustrating to the genie (who talks in one of those low, glottal voices that there must be a rule all evil beings are supposed to have), so he gets revenge by offering wishes to her friends, then making them come true in all the wrong ways. If anybody in this movie had seen Bedazzled, they'd know that you have to word your wishes very carefully, saying things like "in a way so that nobody gets hurt" at the end. But no; soon the cheesy special effects go into overdrive, and people are vomiting their internal organs or getting their heads pulled off by piano wires. The bottom line: See Wishmaster at the drive-in, drunk, or not at all. --Woodruff

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