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BASEketball, Disturbing Behavior, Everest, Geneaologies of a Crime, I Think I Do, The Negotiator

By Ray Pride, Ellen Fox

AUGUST 3, 1998: 

Baseketball

Where the Farrelly brothers have turned to the superstructure of plot with "There's Something About Mary," "Airplane!" and "Naked Gun" veteran David Zucker turns to barely contained anarchy in "BASEketball," a hit-and-miss high mark of summer vulgarity, the pinnacles of which include a billionaire sleaze played by Robert Vaughn getting hosed with milk emanating from the breasts of... Matt Stone? Zucker came up with an insanely dull and dumb driveway game among friends over a decade ago, and nourished the thought of doing a TV show or a game show based on this forgettable mix of basketball and baseball. The most inspired moments in the resulting film takes on what's become of sports in that decade-a mass-merchandised scam for millions to be made, not a form of sporting excellence. The ruptures in decorum come fast and loud, as Zucker and his team brought on Matt Stone and Trey Parker, the unregenerately rude and dopey minds behind "South Park." Stone, frizzy-haired and given to puppy-dog reaction shots, and Parker, bleach-blonde, wild-eyed and going to paunch, had acted before in their productions, "Cannibal! The Musical" and "Orgazmo" (both opening later this year), but Zucker took a chance on them as regular-guy stand-ins before the massive success of their Comedy Central brat-romp. My only complaint about movies like this is the fact that you want more jokes after it's all over-no matter how many ad-libs and reshoots you have, there's still something that leaves you feeling wrung-out after all the manic riffing. (At least you could put down a copy of MAD magazine when you're annoyed by it.) Amazing political points are scored in the face of contemporary sports, and I'm partial to a description of child workers in a Calcutta sweatshop being described as "too young even for prostitution." Yet most of the other jokes make you laugh or sort your laundry in your mind. Stone frantically licking a vibrator after taking a sip from a bidet's jet? A kid dying of liver failure slamming tequila shooters as part of his gift from a last-wish foundation? The ultimate Fox TV mid-season replacement-"Road Kill Caught on Tape!"(Don't worry, if you like those, there are dozens of others where they came from.) The look of "BASEketball" is typical for this kind of venture as well, with the kind of rotten lighting that makes someone as relatively young as Jenny McCarthy or Yasmine Bleeth look like they're well into their forties. (Ray Pride)


Disturbing Behavior

They wish. Pretty kids do banal things in pretty awful "Stepford Wives" by way of "X-Files" and the lumpish, wannabe Tarantino-Williamson dialogue hash of Scott ("Things to Do in Denver When You're Dead," "Beautiful Girls") Rosenberg. Among the kids too cool to be part of the-gasp!-brain-engineered teens in rustic Pacific Northwest paradise Cradle Bay, Katie Holmes makes an exotic Natalie Wood-ish kewpie, nose- and belly-button-ringed, daubed in eyeliner and rubicund lip gloss and Nick Stahl makes a strong impression as the lank-haired stoner guide to this Bland New World, almost making Rosenberg's cracks sound like jokes. Most of the other casting in this glossy exploitation item continues the valorization of the male model and the manicured waif as ideals of beauty. At times, such as when the Muzak at the anachronistic soda "shoppe" favored by the Stepford Teens pours forth the likes of Olivia Newton-John, it seems that we may be in a satire, but the impression is momentary. There's a feverish intensity to this glossy, pared-down remnant of a film gone wrong, and one wonders what the earlier cuts by "X-Files" veteran David Nutter were like, particularly before the addition of Mark Snow's score that leans awfully heavily on Mike Oldfield's "Tubular Bells." 82m. (Ray Pride)


Everest

Directed by David Breashears, Greg MacGillivray, Stephen Judson. A matter-of-fact documentary about people matter-of-factly testing their resolve against a cold-hearted killer. "I like to do my falling down early on,"laughs Spanish climbing goddess Araceli Segarra, before tiptoeing over a crevasse on a precarious steel ladder. The three featured climbers have good enough reasons to climb: Segarra wants to be the first Spanish woman to the top; Jamling Norgay wants to honor the memory of his father (a Sherpa who climbed with Hillary); and Ed Viesturs wants to celebrate his honeymoon oxygen-free. But those reasons seem puny beneath the looming peak, and punier still when the team crosses paths with the ill-fated group featured in John Krakauer's "Into Thin Air."Tears are shed, but not sentimental tears or tears of total, rational understanding. They can't be: reason sends you hurrying back down to base camp. Even as the climbers reveal their emotions-"I was more tired than I'd ever been in my life"-they still have the quality of understatement. I wasn't left so much inspired by the scenery or even thrilled by the few scenes of laborious climbing (many weeks compressed into less than an hour can't help but feel slim). Instead, the mountain itself gets upstaged by the human brain's extraordinary ability to block out danger for stakes that clearly aren't worth it. Co-written by Tim Cahill and narrated by Liam Neeson. IMAX. (Ellen Fox)


Genealogies of a Crime

The absurdly prolific Raoul Ruiz is one of the cinema's great intellectual pranksters, a kind of Borges with bad attitude. His recent movies have been sleek, glassy shaggy-dog stories, full-blooded embodiments of Woody Allen's phrase, "a mockery of a travesty of a sham." Points-of-view are upended, distorted, distended. Ruiz bounds arcana and oddball lore into the drawing room or cafe and puts an even more intricate spin on already confusing plots. Catherine Deneuve stars as a lawyer drawn to lost causes, who finds herself enmeshed in the conspiracies of the French-Belgian Psychoanalytic Society. That group is conspiring, it seems, against her client's psychoanalyst, the quietly mad Michel Piccoli. (Two feuding analysts trade a fusillade of childlike invective in a cafe, allowing Piccoli to steal a spoon, tucking it neatly into his breast pocket.) Deneuve plays another character, in flashbacks, who grows almost as maddening as her own madwoman of a mother spinning out insane dreams on her analyst's couch. As one analyst comments on an office decor, "It's Kafka, mmm, Paul Auster without New York, Robbe-Grillet, basically." The whirligigs of profession and status turn and spit parts into the clouds, leading at last to a mass suicide of psychoanalysts that is sweetly droll. The malady of storytelling infects all of Ruiz's work; it's amazing that his leaps through the mirror ever wind up in American movie houses. Jorge Arriagada contributes his usual jaunty, mocking score. 113m. (Ray Pride)


I Think I Do

The talented director of the short "Pool Days," Brian Sloan, takes up the mantle of screwball comedy, with several fine twists in "I Think I Do," about the reunion of friends at a wedding, five years after college. Sexual identities have a way of shifting over those years, and on an extremely modest budget, Sloan manages to wreak maximum comedy and charm from them. Alexis Arquette is funny, as always, as a young gay man who longs for roommate Christian Maelan; their exchange of secrets is one of the setpieces of the movie. Among the other actors who brighten the screen are Maddie Corman, Guillermo Diaz, Marianne Hagan, Lauren Velez and Tuc Watkins. Modest stuff, but charming and enjoyable down the line. 93m. (Ray Pride)


The Negotiator

Directed by F. Gary Gray. The golden-hour Chicago displayed in so many lustrously lit action movies is nothing like the beat-down, color-parched, always-under-construction city I live in. Throughout "The Negotiator,"the largest movie yet by "Set It Off"'s Gray, I wanted to wander away from the actors manfully mano-a-manoing through miscellaneous actorly setpieces and just plop myself down along the river as lit by "Titanic"'s Russell Carpenter-in this fictive Chicago, all light is gleaming, glowing, clean, warmly enveloping. From an opening suicide-by-cop through all manner of plot foolishness and psychological chicanery, the key distractions here are the face-to-face acting exercises between Samuel L. Jackson and Kevin Spacey. Jackson plays a champeen hostage negotiator, framed by fellow cops, who takes hostages from Internal Affairs and plays the Chicago Police Department for fools. Spacey is a stranger to Jackson's character and the only other hostage negotiator he respects. The hallmark of a certain kind of contemporary action movie is grandiose implausibility, which this movie has coming out its ears. Don't think. Just watch the images accumulate, the eyes widen, the eyes roll, listen to the thunder of Graeme Revell's perfunctory score. With Ron Rifkin, David Morse, Paul Giamatti and the late J.T. Walsh. Panavision. (Ray Pride)


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