Weekly Wire
Tucson Weekly Film Clips

July 8, 1997:  CHASING AMY. Director Kevin Smith (Clerks, Mallrats) falters in his latest attempt when he tries to describe the experience of young women, a group he seems to neither respect nor like. Chasing Amy is the story of Holden McNeil (Ben Affleck), an outsider who falls hard for Alyssa Jones (Joey Lauren Adams), a sweet but sharp-tongued comic book artist. She's also a lesbian, a fact Smith uses as a cute little obstacle to their love, which of course prevails. Though Adams is delightful as Jones, no amount of snappy dialogue can overcome the film's overt distrust of female sexuality: While Holden is somewhat fascinated with Alyssa's lesbianism, he's disgusted when he finds out she's had sex with other men. This is the point where an annoying movie becomes insufferable. Smith offers nothing new, even by way of misogynistic anxiety on the subject of female sex. Hitchcock was doing the same thing years ago, but at least he had the grace to be entertaining. --Richter

CITIZEN RUTH. A comedy about abortion? For that alone, Citizen Ruth deserves high marks--if you believe one role of popular art is to tackle the issues of our times. If you don't, you probably won't be interested in Citizen Ruth, which careens between stereotypes of doughy, suburban Baby Savers on a crusade for God, and militant, lesbian moon-goddess worshippers intent on keeping feminist slogan-slinging alive. Caught in the middle is the stereotypical Ruth, a paint-huffing, white-trash nowhere girl who becomes the unwitting poster child for both camps. Laura Dern steals the show as Ruth, an uncompromisingly honest loser who becomes the center of public spectacle when a judge quietly suggests she can reduce her sentence if she decides to "take care of her situation" while in jail. Some of the satire is scathingly apropos to our media-crazed, capitalistic culture--such as the bidding war that ensues to win Ruth's allegiance--but even the equal-opportunity-offender approach wears thin early on, seeming more clichéd than cutting. Still, it's when was the last time a spirited debate about abortion was good for a few laughs? It may not be a perfect comedy, but at least it's a comparatively intelligent one...and long, long overdue. (Ruth opened more than a year ago in New York.) --Wadsworth

CON AIR. (Senior editor Jim Nintzel was recently suffering from a neurological disorder, so he asked his 12-year-old nephew Michael Peel to fill in on this capsule review. Take it away, Mikey!) Nicolas Cage stars as Cameron Poe, an Army Ranger sentenced to several years behind bars for killing a Southern bar lout who harassed his pregnant wife. On his way home following his parole, Poe hitches a ride on a U.S. Marshall's plane filled with the most rotten convicts in federal custody. When the convicts escape and hijack the plane, it's Cage to the rescue! Lots of stuff blows up before the plane finally crashes into the Las Vegas strip. While this one's billed as an action-adventure, it's really one of the best comedies released this summer. --Peel

THE FIFTH ELEMENT. Writer and director Luc Besson sacrifices sensibility for style in this excessively fashion-designed science fiction movie. Besson, known for Subway, La Femme Nikita and The Professional, tries here for a sort of Blade Runner/Star Wars hybrid but ends up with something closer to Stargate meets Prêt à Porter. But it's not just another sci-fi flop--the film has a distinct French flavor (even hero Bruce Willis' cat looks French)--and you can't take your eyes off the screen even when it's mind-numbing to watch. As with The Professional, the story places intense emphasis on the preternatural beauty of a young woman (Milla Jovovich) who, this time, is turned into a half-naked, super-powerful-yet-sweetly-vulnerable Raggedy Ann doll. Gary Oldman once again plays the villain; now a new-wave Hitler cowboy with buck teeth. If Besson took any of this seriously, the movie would reek; he didn't, so it's just an eye-poppingly bizarre experience. --Woodruff

SPEED 2: CRUISE CONTROL. Almost unwatchable due to the excessive use of close-ups, shaky hand-held shots and meaningless strobe lights, this is perhaps the worst film so far this year. Its only competition is Lost World, and both films follow the same formula: 20 minutes of setting up nothing followed by an hour and a half of running, screaming, and explosions. Speed 2 does feature the first villain to be driven to criminal insanity by the lack of insurance regulation, and perhaps the first to express his villainy by sticking leeches to his chest. After the bad guy (Willem Dafoe, naturally) gives his requisite "this is why I'm doing this speech," there isn't much else in the way of plot, so he repeats the speech every 25 minutes, just in case we've forgotten. Then again, there's no time for plot or character development when you've only got two hours of movie and a virtually unlimited special effects budget. Basically, this is The Poseidon Adventure, if that film were incredibly boring and stupid. On the whole, Speed 2 is probably the best case for strict, Islamic-style censorship of cinema I've ever seen (i.e., no plot derived from sex or violence allowed). --DiGiovanna

WILD AMERICA. This is a great movie for boys who aren't interested in girls yet, and for girls already obsessed with boys. Three really cute brothers, teen idols all (Jonathan Taylor Thomas, Devon Sawa, Jamie Bairstow), buy a used 16mm camera and travel across the United States, looking to capture endangered species on film. Their final destination is the legendary "cave of a thousand bears," but on the way they meet wolves, owls, and anamatronic alligators. Computer effects make some of the nature scenes downright weird, and considering that the movie is set in 1967 ("Born To Be Wild" plays insistently, repeatedly, on the soundtrack) it's possible the brothers have discovered chemicals. Oh no, it's all squeaky clean and cute and dumb. Bring a kid. --Richter

Special Screenings

CREATURE. The Screening Room hosts a visit from the 1954 Creature From the Black Lagoon. Cringe to thrills and swampy chills as the fabled Gillman from the Amazon river falls in love with a fetching scientist...female scientist, that is. Watch man vs. nature in exciting 3-D, and...it's in English!

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