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Tucson Weekly Film Clips

DECEMBER 1, 1997: 

ANASTASIA. Against all odds, Anastasia eventually won me over. The movie gets off to a typically lame-brained start by attributing the fall of the Czar to a magical spell by Rasputin, conveniently ignoring the rest of the Russian Revolution. Glossing over Anastasia's amnesia and the murder of her parents doesn't help. But once the "could she be the princess?" fantasy kicks in and leaves history behind, Anastasia becomes a pleasant little movie full of first-rate animation and mercifully brief musical sequences. The love story between the title character and Dmitri (a con-man who unknowingly trains Anastasia to pretend to be Anastasia) is so effective, in fact, that the evil schemes of Rasputin (now half-dead) and his droll bat sidekick Bartok (hilariously voiced by Hank Azaria) almost seem tacked on. I'm not so sure Anastasia will be a hit with kids--it scores low on the easily hummable tunes and cute animals meter--but I enjoyed it. Moreover, it's great to see 20th Century Fox steal some of Disney's fire (definitely see this before sitting through The Little Mermaid again). Besides, even when it was slow I had a swell old time closing my eyes and picturing Meg Ryan and John Cusack as the voices. --Woodruff

BLOW UP. This groovy, wonderful ramble on the theme of the obsessive, erotic, and subjective nature of photographs is both entertaining and intelligent. David Hemmings plays a hip fashion photographer in swinging '60s London. He drives around in his roadster, makes out with sexy teen models, and in his spare time, he becomes curiously fixated on one of his own photographs, which he believes contains evidence of a murder. Directed by the great Michelangelo Antonioni in 1966. --Richter

FAST, CHEAP, AND OUT OF CONTROL. Documentary filmmaker Errol Morris (Thin Blue Line, Gates of Heaven) turns his considerable talents to the world of work. Four men, each obsessed with their difficult, quirky occupations, are profiled in this looping, affectionate meditation on the lucky few who've managed to make their passion into their lives' work. A gardener with a gift for topiary, a robot designer, a wild animal trainer and a mole-rat specialist are the subjects of this exuberant film about talent, dedication, and the pleasures of marching to the beat of a different drummer. --Richter

MORTAL KOMBAT: ANNIHILATION. Let's see: The women are beautiful, the men are ugly, there's tons of cheesy techno music, the plot is skeletal, and the film follows a predictable pattern that alternates between inept talky scenes and heavy-duty action every ten minutes. Yep, basically this is a porno movie for kids. You might call it a porno trainer. The only differences are that there's fighting instead of fucking, the "special effects" cost more, and for a quarter you can play a video-game version in the lobby afterwards. If you want your kids to see a fun, inventive martial-arts film, wait for the next Jackie Chan picture. If you want to introduce them to the aesthetics of skin flicks, why not just cut to the chase and take them to Boogie Nights? --Vincent

ONE NIGHT STAND. Mike Figgis, the director of Leaving Las Vegas, brings us another bummer of a love story with One Night Stand. Max (Wesley Snipes) is a sell-out director of TV commercials who has a brief affair with Karen (Nastassja Kinski) on a business trip to New York. When he returns to L.A. he has an epiphany: His life sucks. His wife is annoying. His job is degrading. To top it off, his best friend Charlie (Robert Downey Jr.) is dying of AIDS, and the sight of Charlie's suffering reminds Max that life is brief and death is final. Figgis has a great visual sense, but this movie is filled with silly coincidences and mean-spirited characterizations. Figgis treats Max's marriage and family life with such animosity that it's hard to believe love is possible for this guy at all, even with Nastassja Kinski. --Richter

THE RAINMAKER. John Grisham's story of a courtroom battle between a fledgling lawyer and a corrupt insurance company may be too slight for the big screen, but (shhh!) don't tell Francis Ford Coppola--he thinks he's directing an epic. He's turned this TV-movie-of-the-week into a two-and-a-half-hour, star-studded opus complete with an irrelevant and equally TV-like sub-plot involving Claire Danes as an abused wife. In spite of its generic underpinnings, however, The Rainmaker is a fine film: The pacing's smooth, the cinematography and Memphis locations lovely, and the performances kick butt. Jon Voight is snaky as ever as a conniving corporate lawyer; and newcomer Johnny Whitworth is well-restrained as a leukemia victim who dies because the insurance company won't honor his claim to get a bone-marrow transplant. Best of all are Mickey Rourke, chewing up the scenery as a shifty lawyer named "Bruiser," and Danny DeVito as Damon's unscrupulous but practical-minded assistant. I usually find DeVito annoying, but he almost steals the show here. Mary Kay Place, Dean Stockwell, Roy Scheider, Danny Glover and the great Teresa Wright also star. --Woodruff

WINGS OF THE DOVE. This adaptation of one of Henry James' lesser-known novels is faithful to the original plot, but loses something of James' famous psychological complexity on screen. A beautiful, wealthy American travels to Europe to grab one last jolt of life before she'll surely die of a lingering illness. Her friend arranges for her boyfriend to marry the sick girl, so that he can inherit her money when she dies. But the young man can't help but be moved by the sick girl's courage and spirit, and a complicated triangle springs up between the three. There's some hot bedroom sex in here that James didn't write into the original, but even that can't save this movie from getting predictable and dreary. But the lavish art nouveau costumes and sets are so lovely they're practically worth the price of admission. --Richter

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