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Salt Lake City Weekly Summer Flicks

From dark comedy to action to classic remakes, it's entertainment time!

By Mary Dickson

JUNE 15, 1998:  OK, it's summertime. You know what to expect—explosions, crashes, action, adventure and effects galore. Godzilla's Roland Emmerich calls them "summer rides," since they're about as meaningless as taking a ride at a theme park—and that includes his Godzilla, an extravagant excuse to showcase modern moviemaking technology.

But wait, this summer also offers a few unexpected gems if you want more than an air-conditioned, low impact respite. If you see nothing else this summer, see The Truman Show and Bulworth. Two thought-provoking and darkly comic films that tackle some hard-hitting issues, they'll provide fodder for many a thoughtful conversation. Bulworth, Warren Beatty's pointed satire on the American political system, is a courageous film that only a man with complete artistic control could have made. He had it and he made it. The Truman Show, a completely ingenious concept that raises the big questions in life, is also the year's best. It's not the Jim Carrey we've come to expect. He shows his dramatic mettle in this one, and it's impressive. The Truman Show is a stroke of genius. I've already seen it twice.

Also in the Serious Drama category is The Horse Whisperer, one of those rarities where the movie is better than the book. Robert Redford knows that romantic longing and sexual tension are far more compelling and realistic than the obligatory affair.

Smoke Signals, the audience favorite at last year's Sundance Film Festival, is a landmark in Native American cinema. Based on the stories of Sherman Alexie, Chris Eyre's compellingly lyrical film is the story of a young man coming to terms with the father who abandoned him.

Steven Spielberg's Private Ryan takes a serious look at the vagaries of war. As vast armies storm the beaches on D-Day, a crack unit, led by Tom Hanks, is ordered to find and retrieve one man—Pvt. Ryan (Matt Damon). Putting their lives on the line, the captain and his men find themselves questioning their orders and asking why one man's life is worth more than their own.

Looking at another side of war is the British import The Land Girls, a bracing and complex character study of three young women and the war that changed their lives. Set in 1941 England as World War II rages and the young men have been called to the front, it tells the story of the women dispatched to work the farms in the men's absence.

In the "costume drama" category watch for Firelight, starring Sophie Marceau as a woman who, to pay off her debts, agrees to a secret arrangement to bear the child of a British diplomat, ensuring that his lineage is preserved. Instead of vanishing as agreed, she returns seven years later to seek employment as the governess.

Cousin Bette, based on Balzac's incisive study of vengeance, brings to life the rift between the old world and the new in nineteenth century France. Jessica Lange stars as Cousin Bette. Compelled to live with condescending relatives who are her social superiors, she directs her energies entirely toward their destruction.

Imports from overseas include the German nominee for Best Foreign Language Film, Beyond Silence, about the hearing daughter of deaf parents who wants to becomes a musician. Friends of the Deceased, a dark Ukranian comedy about the psycho-social havoc wrought by the new consumerism/free market greed in the former Soviet Union. From Australian director John Duigan (Sirens) comes Lawn Dogs about the friendship between a 22-year-old handyman and a 10-year old girl.

In the romance category, watch for big-name stars getting involved in romantic adventures. Harrison Ford stars in Six Days, Seven Nights as a cargo pilot heading on a carefree trip to the islands with a New York magazine editor (Ann Heche) who's looking for a relaxing tropical holiday. A storm forces them to land on an uncharted island where adventure and—of course—romance awaits in Tahitian locales.

Vanessa Williams and Chayanne star in Dance With Me, about a handsome young Cuban with a flair for Latin dance who meets a dance instructor wanting to enter the ranks of the professionals with a new partner. She follows not only her partner, but her heart. Sound familiar?

In Mask of Zorro, the swashbuckling tale of love and honor set again Mexico's fight for independence, Antonio Banderas plays the bandit with a troubled past who is tranformed into a fearless hero and gets the girl.

The Avengers, inspired by the old television series, casts Ralph Fiennes as John Steed and Uma Thurman as Emma Peel.

Steven Soderbergh's Out of Sight, based on Leonard Elmo's novel, stars George Clooney as a bank robber and Jennifer Lopez as the Fed on his tail (in more ways than one).

In the Disaster category, the meteors are restless this summer. They've already swept Manhattan away in a tidal wave in Deep Impact, and now in Armageddon, New York and the entire Eastern seaboard from Finland to South Carolina takes another beating by meteor showers. The big rock, however, is an asteroid the size of Texas headed toward earth, which could mean the end of mankind. Billy Bob Thornton plays the NASA director who sends up a crew to destroy the asteroid, enlisting the help of a deep core oil driller (Bruce Willis). Can they beat the clock and save mankind from destruction? Been there, seen that.

More trouble from space comes in The X-Files: Fight the Future, the movie version of the TV series, about a—guess what—global conspiracy with imminent destruction of the planet by aliens unless those FBI guys can stop them.

Small Soldiers (from the makers of Toy Story) takes the mayhem indoors as a platoon of war-loving commando action figures goes to war with monster toys in a suburban living room. The late Phil Hartman stars as the hapless home owner.

For sheer farce, there's BASEketball, from the creators of South Park about a couple of guys who invent a new game. Expect the same twisted view of the world as their hit cartoon series.

For the Kids, Disney is offering a remake of Parent Trap, the Hayley Mills vehicle about twins turned cupid to reunite their separated parents and give false hope to all children of divorced parents.

Mulan, an animated feature about a young Chinese woman who disguises herself as a man to become a warrior, saving her father and bringing victory to her country.

DreamWorks counters with the animated feature The Prince of Egypt, telling the story of Ramses (voiced by Ralph Fiennes) and Moses (voiced by Val Kilmer) with country, R&B, pop and gospel music.

When it comes to flicks this summer, you can pretty much take your pick. But don't forget to put The Truman Show on the top of your list.


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