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Tucson Weekly Film Clips

OCTOBER 20, 1997: 

THE EDGE. Grrrrr! A big bear threatens rich, glamorous men in this Hemingway-esque adventure tale with a Hollywood aftertaste. Anthony Hopkins plays a bookish billionaire with a head full of unused facts; Alec Baldwin plays his young, taut rival. Together they take a three-hour tour into the Alaskan wilderness where they battle the elements, each other, and a bear with an appetite for human flesh. Director Lee Tamahori and screenwriter David Mamet really go macho with this one: throbbing music, tight close-ups, and a series of tribal, coming-of-age-style obstacles to be overcome by the mostly male cast. It's big, it's fun, it's adolescent, but in a good way. Breathtaking alpine scenery and Mamet's offbeat dialogue save this from being just another boy-meets-boy-and-pretends-he's-his-father story. And the bear is excellent. --Richter

GANG RELATED. It's not "gang related" at all; the title is undoubtedly an attempt to capitalize on Tupac Shakur's death. The actual story follows two cops, played by Shakur and Jim Belushi, who spend their off-hours setting up phony drug deals so they can murder the dealers and make some quick money. When they unknowingly kill an undercover DEA agent, their attempts to find a suitable scapegoat lead them on a downward moral spiral that would make Harvey Keitel's Bad Lieutenant character proud. In spite of the script's excuses for them--Belushi dreams of buying a sailboat, Shakur has a bad gambling debt and a torturous guilt complex--there's really no feeling of sympathy for these guys, or caring about their fate. The filmmakers seem to know this, because they play up Belushi's despicable behavior for laughs, though that doesn't work either. Things improve slightly with the introduction of seasoned actors like Dennis Quaid, as a hapless transient accused of the crime (the exact same role he played in Suspect), and James Earl Jones, as a lawyer who calmly tears the case apart. While their presence makes the movie more watchable, it doesn't make it any less pointless. You'll spend most of the movie counting the multitudes of F-words in each scene, and marveling at how little "acting" it takes for Belushi to make a convincing asshole. --Woodruff

KISS THE GIRLS. Few girls get kissed, and when they do they don't like it. If that's your idea of a good time, you might enjoy this derivative sicko flick about a kidnapper of beautiful women who locks them in a dungeon and forces them to act like they love him--but don't count on it. Morgan Freeman, as a detective trying to track "Casanova" down, seems positively bored by his role, and the ennui is contagious. I'm sure having to play a carbon copy of his Seven character, deliver knowing lines like "This guy's a collector," and wear a Mod Squad-ish leather jacket without any accompanying groovy music didn't help Freeman's enthusiasm any. Perhaps he was attracted to the film because it teams him up with Ashley Judd, whose tough-spirited character escapes the kidnapper/rapist/killer and tries to help Freeman solve the case. Unfortunately, there's no room in the script for the feisty Judd and the sagely Freeman to display any romantic tension or even personality, so the movie just turns into another by-the-numbers killer thriller with a few predictable "twists." Ho hum. The only original, amusing moment happens at the end, when Freeman fires a gun point-blank through a carton of milk, prompting one viewer to comment, "Got Milk?" But that's nothing you couldn't try at home. --Woodruff

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

THE MATCHMAKER. You can bet your lucky four-leaf clover this travesty won't stick around the theaters for more than a couple of weeks, so if your idea of a great movie is a thin plot about a slimy U.S. senator who sends his surly campaign flunky (Janeane Garofalo) to drum up endearing relatives in his supposed ancestral town in rural Ireland--populated, of course, by every pathetic Irish stereotype to wash up on the dreary shores of Hollywood comedy writing--don't delay another minute: Face your destiny and meet The Matchmaker. Supposedly, this is a romantic comedy about a lonely American political junkie and a jaded, small-town Irish journalist; but it's terminally unfunny and there isn't a single spark between Garofalo and leading lout David O'Hara. On the plus side, the scene starring a shitbucket, a narcoleptic, and a demented, cursing patriarch makes the rest of the ordeal almost worthwhile. --Wadsworth

MOST WANTED. Keenan Ivory Wayans stars as an ex-Marine who must blow things up when he's framed in a secret government plot to make the world's worst movie. Don't miss the special guest appearance by Jon Voigt's career as it spirals down the drain. --DiGiovanna

MRS. BROWN. Foul-mouthed Scottish comic Billy Connolly seems like an odd choice for the lead in this relentlessly somber film, but he aptly gives the sense of a free spirit increasingly fettered by the Byzantine rules of the English royal household. The story, set over 15 years, but always during autumn, concerns the long mourning of Queen Victoria (Judy Dench) after the death of her husband, Prince Albert, and her difficult friendship with Connolly's Mr. Brown. While director John Madden shows a remarkable control of the mood, he doesn't allow enough life or activity into this tale of sorrow and stifling morals, and the film becomes noticeably dull as it wears on. Nonetheless, it escapes the sickly sweetness and quaint cuteness of many recent movies set in the 19th century; and when Madden allows the camera out of the dark and stuffy palaces and into the autumnal Scottish and English countryside, the results are spectacular. --DiGiovanna

ROCKET MAN. You may remember Harland Williams from Dumb & Dumber, as the highway patrolman who unwittingly drank a beer bottle filled with urine. That scene pretty much sums up all of Rocket Man, which is essentially a big-budget excuse for fart jokes in space. Williams, who looks like a runty Kevin Costner and is about as funny, plays a goofy computer-programming nerd who, at the last minute, is enlisted to be the third man on a NASA expedition to Mars. His oblivious idiocy turns out to be one of his strengths, somehow, and he manages both to make a fool out of his egotistical male shipmate and to woo the female one with childlike affection and low-voiced renditions of "When You Wish Upon A Star." It's sort of Oedipal, really; too bad it isn't also fun. --Woodruff

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

U-TURN. Sean Penn, Nick Nolte, Jennifer Lopez, Jon Voight, Powers Boothe, Claire Danes, Joaquin Phoenix, Billy Bob Thornton, Bo Hopkins and Liv Tyler just want to get out of Arizona, but get so disoriented by pointless camera tricks and meaningless close-ups that they wind up talking with Southern accents. Then there's lots of blood and shooting and double crosses and cheating and backstabbing and surprise revelations, and when there are no more film noir clichés left the movie is over. In spite of all the killings, the character of the Incompetent Director, played by Oliver Stone, remains alive at the end of the film, threatening to come back again to slash audience sensibilities with his deadly pretense and sharpened vacuity. --DiGiovanna


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