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Tucson Weekly Film Clips

JANUARY 19, 1999: 

A CIVIL ACTION. This true story of a lawsuit gets off to a rousing start, with snappy, somewhat Mamet-esque dialogue and an extremely promising cast. William Macy, Robert Duvall and that Vinnie Barbarino guy all turn in crisp performances, though sadly the versatile Tony Shalhoub (Big Night, The Siege) is wasted in a tiny role. The plot concerns a sleazy personal injury lawyer who gets overly involved in a case against some polluters. There's a lot of good moments, but the film gets desperately lost about three quarters of the way through and trails off like a drunk telling a story. Things get so out of hand that director Stephen Zaillian finally resorts to the very non-cinematic move of just putting text on the screen. Hey Stephen, if we wanted to read we could have stayed home. Nonetheless, the fact that I enjoyed the film at all implies that it must have been pretty good, since my viewing of it was marred by an audience of corpulent half-wits who babbled like a convention of Tourrette's syndrome sufferers. Seriously, if you have nothing interesting to say, just write it down and send it to the Arizona Daily Star's letters page instead of barking it out like a trained dog every time something your Paleolithic intellect is capable of understanding happens to flicker across a movie screen. And if one more of you cretinous semi-literates brings a laser pointer to a movie theater I'm gonna...(editor's note: here the crayon-written text breaks off into an illegible smear).
--DiGiovanna (on his way to a well-deserved rest at a quiet place where he will be properly cared for)

A SIMPLE PLAN. Director Sam Raimi takes the campy, violent and juvenile sensibility that he honed to perfection on such films as Evil Dead and Darkman, and such television productions as Hercules: The Legendary Journeys and Xena, Warrior Princess, and chucks it out the window for this subtle and very grown-up film noir piece. An accountant (the omnipresent Bill Paxton), his mentally challenged brother (the also kind of omnipresent Billy Bob Thornton) and his brother's trashy, drunken friend (the largely unknown Brent Briscoe) find four million dollars inside a wrecked plane in a snow covered forest. They decide to hide the money until they know whether or not the heat is on. In standard noir fashion, double crosses, murders and intrigues ensue. The script is, obviously, not terribly original; but it is perfectly paced and plotted, a flawless rendition of this time-worn story. And Bridget Fonda wears this incredible fake-pregnant-belly prosthesis...probably the finest fake-belly prosthesis since they made the waif-like Marlon Brando look fat in The Island of Dr. Moreau. Although you should probably see it for the disturbing and evocative story of ordinary evil, rather than for the fake-belly prosthesis. But it's a really good fake belly prosthesis. Really. --DiGiovanna

WAKING NED DEVINE. Ah, the clever Irish. When they're not plotting world domination or making those Tamagotchis and lederhosen that they're so famous for, you can usually find them doing those slithery, funky, dances to those crazy jungle beats. So, what could be more fun than watching a village of 52 Irish persons try to con the Irish National Lottery out of nearly seven million Irish pounds ("pound" or "punt" is a zany Irish word for 1.4695 dollars)? I'll tell you: nothing. Waking Ned Devine is good, clean Irish fun, even if it does include some shots of naked Irish men. Really old naked Irish men, so don't get all excited. Naked old Irish people are in no way pornographic. And Waking Ned Devine is full of non-naked fun and surprises, too, like village intrigues, fake eulogies, pints of Guinness and a swiftly moving plot that unfolds against gorgeous landscapes that were shot on location in the Isle of Man. Which is just so Irish, to shoot a movie about Ireland in another country. So rather than waste your time going to some Babylonian or Akkadian movie that will just try to numb you with explosions and pseudo-snappy catch-phrases, go see this refreshing and crisp Irish film that features spot-on acting by Ian Bannen and David Kelly as Irish men, and funny, believable dialogue by the extremely Irish writer/director Kirk Jones. Well, okay, Kirk Jones is English, but he's so good he should be Irish.
--DiGiovanna


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