Weekly Wire
Tucson Weekly Film Clips

July 21, 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. 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

CONTACT. Jodie Foster plays an emotionally crippled scientist intent on visiting space aliens in this very long, sentimental, but nonetheless moving science fiction film. Despite that annoying, over-earnest quality Foster brings to all her roles as an adult, she's very good as the driven Ellie Arroway, a researcher so intent on finding solace from the skies that she forgets to notice how many people on earth love her. Matthew McConaughey plays her nemesis/boyfriend, a hunky, non-denominational preacher intent on saving the soul of a nation. There's some silly confusion between God and aliens, and Ellie has an annoying habit of looking at her boyfriend whenever anyone asks her a question, like maybe he's going to answer for her? Please. Nonetheless, the script, based on a story by Carl Sagan, manages to link the themes of scientific curiosity and spiritual longing despite some weak sections, and the special effects are nothing short of wonderful. --Richter

FACE/OFF. Hong Kong action guru John Woo's latest Hollywood product, a homoerotically violent take on Freaky Friday, will likely convert a lot of viewers from saying "Woo who?" to "Woo hoo!" Basically, good guy John Travolta has his face switched with evil nemesis Nicolas Cage so he can get crucial information; then Cage (now Travolta) gets loose, puts Travolta (now Cage) in prison and takes over his life (not to mention his wife). The grotesque and technically dazzling face-switching scene alone is worth the admission price, and it gives Woo his best-ever excuse for two men to obsess over each other. This time he throws family values into the mix, creating audacious contrasts between bursts of sexily edited slo-mo violence and bluntly sincere dialogue relating to Travolta's dead son. I loved watching Cage and Travolta try to out-ham and out-earnest each other; they're perfect sparring partners. But when Woo recycled the two best scenes from his most successful Hong Kong films, The Killer and Hard Boiled, it became apparent he'd lost a certain zany quality; and somewhere around the 1,000th gunshot he starts riding a fine line between "the poetry of violence" (as inspired by Sam Peckinpah) and hyperkinetic mush (as inspired by music videos). Sympathetic supporting performances by Joan Allen and Gina Gershon can't mask the cartoonishness of Woo's dramatic style; his attempts to make the audience care are such wholesome failures they become another part of the spectacle. In other words, resolve to take Face/Off only at face value and you'll probably have a good time. --Woodruff

NOTHING TO LOSE. I had a dream I was trying to write this thing but I couldn't remember the name of the movie...A swirling mass of trite phrases...Orange, manta ray, a dwarf...I believed the title might be the vaguely homoerotic The Bigger The Bucks; then I was convinced it was Nobody's Business, which I believe to be the name of some other movie (in real life). Bland, empty, meaningless wordplays arose and fell away in my tormented head; scenes from 20 different buddy movies blended together and recombined: A married man kisses a girl in an elevator while he is being lobotomized.... Alas, nothing that interesting: It's just your standard black guy/white guy buddy movie, with Tim Robbins as an advertising executive out-of-control. Strange coincidences that somehow aren't that strange and sugar-coated family scenes add up to something so bland and forgettable that really, I am awake now and I can't remember the title. I'm going to go look it up. --Richter

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

ULEE'S GOLD. This sweet, slow-paced movie about a beekeeper who holds his family together through a period of chaos is uneven but ultimately rewarding. Peter Fonda plays Ulee, an emotionally withdrawn man who must muster all his resources to save his family from mayhem, dissolution, and The Law. Some of the supporting characters aren't quite as well drawn as Ulee, but the story is mostly about him anyway. This quiet movie harbors big themes about the value of labor, the redemptive power of nature, and the daily task of giving love, but doesn't hit you over the head with them. And the bees are cool. --Richter

Special Screenings

SCREAMINGSCI-FI. Don't miss The Screening Room's ongoing summer science fiction series, at half the price and twice the heart of the bulk of the summer blockbusters. This weekend features 20 Million Miles to Earth (1957), Earth Vs. The Flying Saucers (1956), and chapters five through eight of Flash Gordon Conquers the Earth. See Cheap Thrills for more information, or call 622-2262.

Weekly Wire Tangents

  • DesertNet's Film Vault - Enjoy reading several contrasting opinions of the same film? This is the place for you. Hundreds of reviews lie at your fingertips, sortable by genre, date or director.

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