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Tucson Weekly Film Clips

NOVEMBER 3, 1997: 

DEVIL'S ADVOCATE. This pile of Faustian fluff doesn't win any points for subtlety--but then again, what movie about Satanic lawyers does? Al Pacino plays the seductive, know-it-all head of a law firm that specializes in defending corporate evildoers; Keanu Reeves plays the firm's latest acquisition, a hotshot lawyer whose virtuous conscience is only exceeded by his vanity about having a perfect trial record. It takes Reeves a full two-and-a-half hours to figure out that Beelzebub's on his side of the Bar, though his wife, played appealingly by Charlize Theron (she's the sole bright spot in the cast), catches on right away. In some parallel universe, this is a shrewd, scary movie, with disturbing images of murder, materialism, and women whose faces turn demonic moments after they expose their breasts. In this universe, The Devil's Advocate is uproariously bad in much the same way as Showgirls: It's mindlessly exploitative, filled with gaudy set design, and bursting at the seams with overacting. How can you hate it? The funniest thing about the movie is that it's about Pacino's attempt to seize control of Reeves' soul, yet it's obvious from the dude's performance that he doesn't have one. --Woodruff

FAIRY TALE: A TRUE STORY. So which is it: a fairy tale, or a true story? If only director Charles Sturridge and screenwriter Ernie Contreras could make up their minds! As it stands, their movie is a meandering pile of nothing: neither magical enough to sustain children, nor thematic enough for adults. The facts of the 1918 spiritualist sensation--which occurred after cousins Frances Griffiths and Elsie Wright photographed "fairies" outside their Cottingley Glen, England, home--are served up right alongside brief special-effects sequences that show actual fairies mindlessly frolicking. Peter O'Toole plays Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, who'd become unhinged after the death of his son and desperately championed the cause of fairy belief. Harvey Keitel, of all people, plays Harry Houdini, an outspoken skeptic of such things. There's a conflict there, but the wussy filmmakers don't pursue it--they just want everybody to be happy so long as their delusions don't directly hurt anyone (never mind the value of truth for its own sake). The only way this movie could have worked is if the filmmakers had scrapped their "true story" pretensions and agreed to lie outright. That's what the little girls did, after all: In 1981 one of the women admitted the fairies were cardboard cut-outs they'd propped up with hat pins. --Woodruff

GATTACA. Imagine, if you will, a future society so obsessed with flawlessness that Uma Thurman fails to measure up to the standards of perfection. Also, there are two brothers: The genetically perfect one grows up to be a cop, but the genetically imperfect one becomes a criminal--so they must fight! And then there's this one scene where a drop of snot dangles at the tip of Uma's nose, never falling, as she turns her head a bit to the left, a bit to the right. It's arguably the best snot scene ever filmed. While much of the film is preachy, pretentious and slow, the snot scene is easily worth the $7 admission price. See, she has the snot coming out of her nose--because she's not perfect! Oddly, genetic anomaly Danny DeVito produced this film. --DiGiovanna

PLAYING GOD. David Duchovny plays a drug-addicted doctor in this laughably bad thriller about medicine, crime, and the shocking redness of human blood. Duchovny is Dr. Eugene Sands, a surgeon who's had his license revoked for slicing a patient's artery while zoned out on an Elvis-style cocktail of speed and barbiturates. He's not only a drug addict, he's a junkie for practicing medicine, and when a bad guy offers to make him a surgeon again, he jumps at the chance to feed his evil habit. The result? More white clothing covered in spurting blood. There's something very odd about the directorial style of this movie--it's definitively '80s, with a 1970s drive-in edge. The clothes are out of style, the furnishings are out of style, and the music is weird. Far more interesting than the movie itself is the question of what, exactly, the director thought he was doing here. Being hip? Retro? Low budget? Straight to video? God only knows. --Richter

YEAR OF THE HORSE. Jim Jarmusch consolidates his reputation as the Kurt Cobain of filmmaking with Year of the Horse, a gritty documentary about the original grunge band, Crazy Horse. The opening credits declare "proudly filmed in Super-8, 16mm, and hi-8," three low-budget formats that Jarmusch enhances with expensive post-production so they look as much like 35 mm film stock as possible. The film documents Neil Young and his bandmates over about 20 years, interspersing then-and-now interviews with footage from a recent tour. Okay, I like Crazy Horse, but only an absurdly devoted fan could be entranced by concert footage of three middle-aged guys standing in a half-circle clutching guitars and bobbing from the knees as though they were cranes engaged in a mating dance. Jarmusch is apparently such a fan. The concert footage takes up most of the film, and it's even more stale for being filmed in hi-8, a consumer-grade video format. This fandom extends to the respectful, fawning interviews with the band members. It's too bad Jarmusch didn't learn more from all the great documentaries that have been already made about bands. One of the strengths of D.A. Pennebaker's terrific Don't Look Back is that it portrayed Bob Dylan as an enormously talented artist who could also be a real asshole. But Neil Young could take his grandmother to Year of the Horse. --Richter

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