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Tucson Weekly Film Clips

NOVEMBER 22, 1999: 

ANYWHERE BUT HERE.I expected the worst from this gal pal film starring Susan Sarandon and Natalie Portman, but I was dead wrong. The story artfully condenses the bestselling 1986 novel by Mona Simpson into a funny, ultimately uplifting screenplay about an eccentric small-town mom who packs her unwilling 14-year-old daughter into a used Mercedes and lights out for Beverly Hills. ("So I could be a child actor while I was still a child," intones Portman as narrator.) Director Wayne Wang (The Joy Luck Club, Smoke) helps Sarandon's over-the-top character achieve the perfect balance between deplorable and forgivable; and Portman is a convincing teenager, prematurely mature in her mortification and awe of her crazy mom. Their flawless performances capture the complicated and conflicting emotions of loving someone you hate, and the dialogue is mostly a delight. -- Mari Wadsworth

THE INSIDER. A great film trapped in a really long, boring, self-important film, The Insider tells the true tale of corporate corruption at the CBS television network and the Brown & Williamson tobacco company. Great performances by Russell Crowe and Christopher Plummer, and a really compelling tale of a media giant that sacrifices integrity in the face of a lot of cash, unfortunately don't entirely save this movie from some ham-handed directing by Miami Vice impresario Michael Mann. Still, it might be worth watching for its gripping final hour, if you can sit through its decent first 45 minutes and its really boring middle hour. -- James DiGiovanna

LIGHT IT UP. Not unintentionally, Light It Up comes across as an urban update to 1985's The Breakfast Club, complete with a band of disenfranchised students from a dilapidated school in Queens (with Judd Nelson as their mentor, no less). But in the lost innocence of the end of the century, the punishment these kids face isn't for skipping class or "getting smart" -- they've shot a cop and taken him hostage, and they have demands. The heavy-handed message is that kids shouldn't have to wage war to get a decent education. Duh. But writer/director Craig Bolotin tries too hard to make a film with impact, and delivers instead a slick production (with design by Blade Runner's Lawrence Paull and photographic direction by Steven Soderbergh and Spike Lee veteran DP Elliot Davis) that preaches without inspiring. Starring Usher Raymond, Fredro Starr (Clockers) and Forest Whitaker, among many other recognizable faces. -- Mari Wadsworth

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