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Tucson Weekly Film Clips

SEPTEMBER 8, 1998: 

54. This is essentially Whit Stillman's Last Days of Disco and Paul Thomas Anderson's Boogie Nights mixed together and mildly dumbed down. It tells the story of Shane (played in Greek-god-with-a-lobotomy style by Ryanne Phillippe), a beautiful New Jersey boy who comes to the big city and finds happiness in the drug-crazed party atmosphere of legendary discotheque Studio 54. While we're treated to endless images of tasty men cavorting shirtless in the club of dreams, the movie lacks substance beyond the free play of manly nipples. Mike Meyers is particularly awful as Steve Rubell, Studio 54's Quaalude-loving impresario, hamming it up like a drunker, gayer version of Austin Powers. Director Mark Christopher may have meant to make a downbeat, moralizing film, but in failing at that he at least makes something that shows how much fun the New York club scene was. 54 manages to capture the ambiance of the disco scene in a way that other films have not, making it a lightly pleasant nostalgia piece that casts an unwittingly kind and loving glance at that magical era that brought us Donna Summers, the herpes epidemic, and glittery spandex posing straps. --DiGiovanna

BLADE. Wesley Snipes plays the comic-book hero come-to-life in this silly but satisfying morality tale teaching us the important lesson that being a bloodsucking vampire is bad, but ruthlessly slaughtering vampires is good. The pouting and posing suckheads in this movies make it look like pure, decadent fun to be undead--the blood-soaked rave scene alone is enough to make anyone want to bare their neck to the fangs. Yet Blade is cooler than all of them--a creature born of a newly bitten pregnant woman, so that he ends up half-human, half vampire. He can withstand sunlight and garlic, but has the thirst for human blood. His self-appointed mission to kill the undead legions requires him to wear heavy leather gear and carry a lot of big guns. Also, he must wear sunglasses at all times. Why ask why? Blade is like an expensive non-stick pan; it's all about surface, but sometimes a good surface is all you need. --Richter

DANCE WITH ME. In this piece that appears to have been penned by a standardized script-writing computer, a beautiful Cuban youth comes to America to find his father, the girl of his dreams, and a career as a celebrated ballroom dancer. I wonder if he will succeed?! The editing is perhaps the most atrocious I've ever seen in a big-budget production. One phone conversation is doubled in length by the fact that director Randa Haines can't seem to cut away from the last speaker fast enough, alternately leaving Vanessa Williams and male lead Chayanne standing there with strained "can we cut now?" expressions on their faces for several seconds after they speak each line. Even worse is the cinematography: The dance scenes are all shot in close-up. This travesty made me want to ask Haines if the word "duh" meant anything to her. All she had to do was rent any Gene Kelly or Fred Astaire movie to see how to shoot people dancing. Here's a clue: Include their feet in the shot; and while you're at it, why not include the rest of their bodies? Other than the fact that it successfully creates the illusion of movement through the rapid succession of still images, this film is a complete and utter waste of time.

PI. A New York mathematician searches for a number that, when placed in a formula, can effectively predict the ebb and flow of the stock market. In the process, he may just be discovering the secret to life and God--by way of Wall Street, Hebrew scripture, spiral patterns, and the ancient game of Go. Darren Aronofsky produced this audaciously premised first feature on the tiniest of budgets, but he gets the most out of his settings by using gritty black-and-white photography, smart editing and high-contrast lighting. And dig that techno music soundtrack! In addition to technical savvy, Aronofsky also proves himself a first-rate director of ideas, effectively communicating the kinds of connective concepts that might be more at home in a book like The Tao of Physics than on the screen. It's too bad, then, that Aronofsky decided to reduce Pi's second half to a neat little plot. He throws ideas on the back burner and instead opts for chase scenes and insanity. Consequently, lead actor Sean Gullette, whose hand shakes even more violently than that of Tom Hanks in Saving Private Ryan, totally freaks out. Then the Robert DeNiro Rules take over: If there is hair, you must shave it; if there is a mirror, you must punch it; if there is a drill, you must use it on your skull; and so on. It's a silly finale for an otherwise stimulating film.

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