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Tucson Weekly Film Clips

NOVEMBER 2, 1998: 

APT PUPIL. If ever we needed proof that no one truly knows how to beat an idea into the ground until it's mashed, bloody and dead like Stephen King, proof has arrived. The master of overstatement is back, this time with a lovable-Nazi-in-the-suburbs story. How bad is the Nazi? He's so bad he puts kitty cats in the oven. King, who wrote the novella on which the movie is based, should not bear the blame for this alone; screenwriter Brandon Boyce and director Bryan Singer (of The Usual Suspects fame) have truly wasted their energies on this gorgeously shot, utterly boring film. Ian McKellen makes a go of it as an aged Nazi officer living quietly in an American suburb, but this role is simply too silly for his talents. Teen heart throb Brad Renfro is eerily convincing as the self-satisfied high-school senior who is at first fascinated and ultimately corrupted by the older man, though he's so unlikable it's hard to care. The first hour of this movie consists of Renfro and McKellen sitting around talking about war crimes--a sort of My Dinner With A Nazi. Then the long knives and sledgehammers come out...but it's too late, much too late. --Richter

BELOVED. A Hollywood film with a female protagonist is rare enough, so a thought-provoking Disney movie with a black woman as the central character is certainly even more unexpected. Based on the Toni Morrison novel and directed by Jonathan Demme (The Silence of the Lambs, Something Wild), Beloved tells the story of Sethe (Oprah Winfrey), a former slave confronted with the ghost of her dead child. Narrative devices such as flashbacks and dream sequences help to maintain interest during the three-hour running time, but the film is most notable, and enjoyable, for the use of stylistic devices to reflect the psychology of its characters. The set of the house, where Sethe lives with her daughter Denver (Kimberly Elise) and, at times, with Paul D (Danny Glover) and Beloved (Thandie Newton), is claustrophobic and worn, and provides an important touchstone for this barely functioning family. The variety of filmstocks as well as camera and soundtrack manipulations also help convey the disjointed and uneasy existence of the characters. Winfrey is distracting at times because, well, she's Oprah; but Elise gives an excellent performance as her lonely dependent.--Higgins

HOLY MAN. Eddie Murphy must be blessed, because there's no other way to explain his recurring leading roles. This is the Oh God sequel you never expected nor wanted, with Murphy getting in touch with his spiritual side as G, a pilgrim who befriends infomercial director Ricky (Jeff Goldblum) and uses his vast powers to aid Ricky's faltering career and love life. The really tough choices, of course, Ricky must make for himself--such as whether to endure a relationship with fashion-challenged Kate (Kelly Preston) or set up situations to be naked with G. I don't want to give away the ending, so let's just say that most major religious groups won't be offended. --Higgins

SOLDIER. Marx once said that the proletariat must "safeguard itself against its own deputies and officials, by declaring them all, without exception, subject to recall at any moment." Wow, he could have written the script for Soldier, wherein a team of super-soldiers are replaced by newer, even superer soldiers, who go on an evil killing spree (as opposed to the good killing sprees of the original super-soldiers). See, while the original super-soldiers are nearly soulless automatons trained from birth only to blow things up and destroy human life, the newer, superer-soldiers are almost entirely soulless automatons, trained from before birth only to blow things up and destroy human life. Kurt Russell plays one of the original super-soldiers, who, while speaking only 62 words during the course of the film (Entertainment Weekly counted 69 words, but I stand by my figures), shows himself to be nearly almost human-like in defending some poor interstellar settlers against the superer-soldiers. The superer-soldiers, see, are all bald, whereas the super-soldiers have some hair. So they're, like, our friends. Caution: This film contains some scenes of hugging. --DiGiovanna

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