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Tucson Weekly Film Clips

AUGUST 24, 1998: 

THE AVENGERS. I was only 7 years old the last time I saw The Avengers TV series, but I don't remember it sucking in quite this fashion. The most striking thing about this super-spy story is that there's nothing striking about it--it has absolutely no salient characteristics. From the initial meeting of secret agents John Steed (Ralph Fiennes) and Mrs. Emma Peel (Uma Thurman, in a double role), through their encounters with super-villian Sean Connery, through Connery's attempts to control the world by controlling the weather, up to the final confrontation, every moment has exactly the same sense of force. It's like listening to a metronome while watching special effects: There's no more excitement or suspense in the explosions than in the expository dialogue. I can't say whether this movie was bad or good; it was so consistently the same, and so full of distracting if unorginal visuals, and slack but not painful dialogue, that seeing it was like having no experience whatsoever. After its mercifully brief 90 minutes were over, I almost completely forgot what it was about. --DiGiovanna

HOW STELLA GOT HER GROOVE BACK. Stella (Angela Bassett) may have gotten her groove back, but in the process she took mine away. After two hours and 20 minutes of ridiculous dialogue and clichéd situations, the only boogying I wanted to do was out to my car and far, far away from Whoopi Goldberg commenting on the Jamaican surf by saying "God is here," and six-figure Stella moaning about her mortgage amidst numerous Tommy Hilfiger product placements. This is a made-for-TV movie on the big screen, with the choppy editing and poor lighting to prove it. The semi-autobiographical story by Terry McMillan (Waiting to Exhale) is about 40-year-old Stella, who goes to Jamaica and enlists 20-year-old Winston (Taye Diggs) to pull her out of a sexual, emotional and creative dry spell. The majority of the film attempts to convince us that the two are in love, but Stella is so neurotic and Winston so accommodating that the requisite coupling at the end elicits screams rather than tears. --Higgins

THE NEGOTIATOR. Less gunplay! More wordplay! At least, that's the intention behind this talkative action picture starring Samuel L. Jackson and Kevin Spacey. Jackson plays a hostage negotiator who, framed after his buddy discovers a police embezzlement ring, takes his own hostages in hopes they'll buy him time to prove his innocence. Spacey plays a negotiator from another district, chosen by Jackson because he's unlikely to be corrupt. Needless to say, there's a lot of negotiating going on, and at times the theme is pushed so hard that the film feels strained; the uncleverly clever climax, in particular, begs for a rewrite. The law-enforcement clichés pile up, too, and director F. Gary Gray doles them out with no sense of irony--we're even subjected to close-ups of Jackson's badge. But Jackson and Spacey can brighten up the dimmest of screenplays, and they're well-supported by some of the bit players--especially a comic-relieving criminal played by Paul Giamatti, who looks like Rob Schneider after a holiday eating binge. The late J.T. Walsh supplies his trademark sad-eyed villainy, which leads to some very uncomfortable moments when art imitates death. --Woodruff

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