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Saving Private Ryan

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I saw Saving Private Ryan nearly 3 weeks ago and I have been unable to write any reviews since. Mayhap that says more than my review will. By now you have all heard stories of special phone hotlines springing up for veterans experiencing shell shock flashbacks after seeing this movie. You’ve witnessed grave theatre managers in the pre-show announcement offering the expectation-blasting disclaimer that “whatever you’ve heard about this movie is not enough to describe this cinematic experience.” With this more “legitimate” wave of hype than say, Godzilla’s, Saving Private Ryan is bound to make you expect the most important movie ever made – and if you don’t feel that way, you will surely go to hell or something. I tried unsuccessfully to ignore all the press about the movie. I went expecting a punch in the stomach sob drama and came out more thoughtful, reverent, and horrified by warfare, but with no emotional catharsis. This is not to say the movie fails in any way, it is just not what They are leading you to expect.

From a technical standpoint, Saving Private Ryan is pure art. Wallowing in surround sound, we have whizzing bullets and loudly crumbling destruction, colors fading as men focus on combat, alternative film speed and handheld action thrusting you into a shocking world that just doesn’t come across the same in a John Wayne movie. During the credits, my eye randomly caught the credit for the clapper loader, and I was struck by how very much not-movie SPR felt. I could not imagine a 2 dozen-person-plus team of regular people with chairs and film boxes and grip stands and sound carts and makeup bags and Polaroid cameras anywhere near what I was watching on screen. It was trying to picture a faceless man snapping shut the clapper “B Camera!” and walking off screen in jeans and a gore-tex windbreaker before watching the actors scrabble in the grey mud for their lives that truly drove home the “reality” of he movie for me. It’s like they just waged a real war and threw a 2 man crew in there. All the actors are familiar faces, be they Tom “the envelope please” Hanks or the plethora of people who have been on Friends, but at no point do you think of them as anyone but the men they are portraying. OK, that’s not true – Matt Damon’s preternaturally white teeth make him look like a Hollywood frat boy next to the men assembled to save him.

The story is based loosely on actual events (I mean, besides WW2 of course), otherwise it would ring jingoistic and improbable. As with Schindler’s List, Spielberg demonstrates that this is an important life-changing war without infusing it with personal, Oliver-Stonesque melodrama. I actually prefer Schindler’s List from an emotional standpoint, but this movie gave me new food for thought. In the weeks since seeing this movie, I have had more conversations about patriotism and bravery than I or anyone else I know have had ever. Generally, my generation (you know, the X one) agrees that by and large, if we were thrown into this situation as these men were, not really trained military personnel but folks from regular life handed a gun and told, “Get the bad guys,” we would all be crying on the staircase and die in a moment. I am not denigrating any of my contemporaries presently enrolled in the armed forces – I mean, like, the rest of us, the couch potatoes who would have been conscripted for that bloody mess. We’d be whining about how the water tastes and “I want my PowerBook!” Basically what I am saying is, I now have a million times more respect for veterans, particularly the older veterans of those wars back before the big red button, when there was a palpable enemy (as opposed to economic security being threatened) to fight and conquer.

Patriotism is almost an embarrassingly quaint, backwoods emotion to exhibit these days – we seem to associate it more with either sheep-like adherence to things only partially understood, or movies like Armageddon. Our soft, selfish minds consider getting shot for our country foolhardy and lame. Our executive branch is the target of tasteless jokes formerly targeting The Enemy. SPR has short framing segments at the beginning and end set in the present, and a well-cast older gentleman is at the veteran’s cemetery. All I could think at the end was, “That old guy I’m honking at while I am driving pell mell to my swing dance lessons went through all that? For me? So I can drive my Honda and speak English and watch cable TV?” Wow….so instead of the emotional punch in the stomach that I was expecting, I instead have a quiet, respectful reflection…oh, and did I mention the graphic depiction of the horrors of war? Do I need to? Most of the movie was spent agape in amazement at the hellacious conditions these boys were in, and the incredibly real-looking carnage and palpable pain and fear and tension. Forget Lt. Dan’s missing legs – watch Pvt. Smith’s disappear *before your very eyes!*

People ask me, “Have you seen Saving Private Ryan yet?” and I say yes, and they say, “So is it good?” I can’t answer that question with a yes like I can other movies. It is well done, it is vivid and thought-provoking, and it is three hours of….I can’t say entertainment or diversion, it’s genuine transportation into the world of the movie. And for a director to completely absorb me is worth every penny of admission. It’s not like other movies. Go see it.

MPAA Rating R for intense graphic war violence, language
Release date 7/24/98
Time in minutes 170
Director Steven Spielberg
Studio Dreamworks

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The Mask of Zorro

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Two bits, four bits, six bits a peso! All for Zorro, stand up and say so!

I must preface this review by mentioning that after watching this movie, my friends and I rented Zorro: The Gay Blade, and I never dreamed I would ever complain of that film being too plot-heavy, but after the relentless swashbuckling, classically macho theatrics, and gore-free violence of this new Zorro movie, I forgot that there were greater issues at stake than just revenge – and I didn’t care! George Hamilton was Zorro then, but Banderas is Zorro for all time! But don’t think for a minute that the filmmakers intended to make a serious Zorro movie – this, like Desperado, is really a cheeky romp with some genuinely fine swashbuckling.

Antonio Banderas (who has recently been shedding his sex appeal in the films since Desperado faster than Melanie Griffith can lipo herself) returns to his full, glistening brown Hot Latin Lover (TM) self, complete with comedy, wit, and some bad-ass sword fighting. For those who prefer their Zorro cool as a cucumber and smart as a whip, there’s the crackling British (?) Anthony Hopkins, still buff even grey, speaking with that even Dr. Lecter coolness that makes him The Man. For the guys who brought their panting girlfriends with a change of underwear, to avoid feeling inadequate under the 20 foot brown eyes of Banderas, there is the creamily sensual Catherine Zeta-Jones, who is just as hot to watch as any of her co-stars. When all three are on screen, all I can think is “sequel!”

You know from the preview that Zeta-Jones and Banderas have a fencing scene together – but WOOF! When was the last time such animosity was such great foreplay? Holy mackerel! Everyone’s skin is candlelit and glowingly exfoliated by the warm California sun. There’s wit and passion, and humor out the wazoo in unexpected places. The joy of Zorro is that he’s not a superhero, he’s just a man, a clever man, doing a Robin Hood on the baddies and avenging the people – and he does it for fun. He’s as driven as Batman, as clever as the Fox, as elusive as The Saint, but he’s also into his own image – sexy black cape and rakish sombrero and all. And The Mask of Zorro does not pretend (as the Batman franchise was doing) to take itself too seriously. Because of this, Zorro the movie is a fun and rollicking joyride, as well as a genuinely exciting tale of heroism and good over evil.

Oh and did I mention it’s totally sexy? It’s almost embarrassing how sexy it is – like being at the movies with your parents the first time you see a nude scene together thinking, oh man, I hope no one can tell how HOT I think this is! The thought of Banderas being on set with all those beautiful people (despite that weird Hall and Oates reject he battles at the end) and then going home to Melanie Griffith – love is truly blind. Anyway, the plot is pretty simple, the mechanisms to carry it are not much more complicated than they need to be – but by gum, it’s a blast. Overall, a nice generic score by James “Titanic” Horner, but there are some great Latin rhythm sections in it that tempted my music-lovin’ dollar.

All I want to know is – did Hopkins personally teach Banderas to dance like he does with Zeta-Jones – because that adds a whole new dimension to their training. Yow! Director’s cut! Director’s cut! Go see it. It gets Full Price Feature not because it is brilliant filmmaking, but for pure bang for your buck expectation fulfillment. Ole!

MPAA Rating PG-13
Release date 7/17/98
Time in minutes 137
Director Martin Campbell
Studio Tri Star Pictures

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There's Something About Mary

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The only reason I can’t give this movie a more resounding recommendation is due to the fact that it really is not for everyone. But it is for me and most people I would hang out with, so if that means anything to you, Gentle Readers, by all means, fork out the dough. But oh heavens, if you are the least bit sensitive about…well, about much of anything (they don’t mock religion or racism but they cover most of the other taboos), you may be appalled at this movie. An early situation culminates in a shot you never in a million years would have thought anyone would even *consider* getting. And this is PG-13? I have already considered seeing it again.

The Farrelly Brothers (them what brung you Dumb and Dumber and the execrable Kingpin) have finally figured out what is actually funny and what is not. Yes, gross bathroom humor is always a safe bet, as well as general farcical situations with multiple plot lines depending on an imbalance of information; but what has worked before for these guys, and works again agonizingly well in Mary, is personal, deep humiliation. More laughs are mined from what would in reality drive one to pull one’s hair and suck one’s thumb while rocking in a corner. Oh, the sweet agonies that Ben Stiller is forced to endure – and how hysterically contrived. Added bonus: It’s all new humiliations, not just the old farting on a first date chestnuts.

As an enormous Ben Stiller fan, I have to say I was pleased to see so many people in the audience a full week after the movie opened. Word of mouth is going to save this movie, and it’s high time I’m able to contribute to it! Ben is our hapless protagonist (Ted)whose innocent longing for Cameron Diaz’s Mary drives the whole movie – but it also had madcap moments, a wacky Greek chorus (consisting of a musical duo), and Matt Dillon doing his best Bruce Campbell impression. It also has another super actor, Lee Evans, who was the tempering force behind Mousehunt (a great flick – rent it – you’ll be surprised) that kept it from being a Nathan Lane solo act. In this movie he plays Mary’s good friend Tucker – and wackiness ensues. I love him – I hope he gets a lot more work from this movie.

I have endured a lot of complaining about Cameron Diaz’s overexposure lately, but her weird ethereal magic is perfect for Mary, for whose love the men of the world do incredibly nutty things – we have to believe they really have a reason to go to all these lengths, while not being intimidated by her perfection. I think Diaz is quite funny, as she proved in The Mask and My Best Friend’s Wedding, and I don’t think the overexposure whiners will mind her at all. She is alarmingly skinny, though.

Needless to say, not much of the overall story arc is a surprise, but that is not why we want to see it – we want to see painfully close-hitting yuks and some South Parkish brutal humor. Well, that’s why *I* want to see it. The closing credits also have some fun pre-planned on-set clowning – and watching that, you can appreciate how the energy on the set was at the time of shooting – and the fun the actors are having definitely comes across. It’s not Jane Austen, nor is it classic Zucker, but it’s a hoot.

MPAA Rating R -strong comic sexual content and language.
Release date 7/15/98
Time in minutes 120
Director Peter Farrelly, Bobby Farrelly
Studio 20th Century Fox

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Hands on a Hard Body

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Tales of Texas don’t get any weirder than true-tales of Texas, and Hands on a Hard Body joins the ranks of well-done, weird documentaries. I was not aware at the time that this movie opened in Austin that it was not playing anywhere else – but soon it will be released wide so when you see it in your local paper, GO SEE IT. Despite it’s un-Bible-Belt sounding title, it is a documentary about a contest run yearly in Longview, TX, where contestants passively battle to win a Nissan hardbody truck by standing next to it and touching it until everyone else gives up. Big deal, you say? So say some of the contestants, and the games begin!

As a native Austinite, I would like to state for the record that not all Texans are like the people who are trying to win this truck. That said, this is a wonderful sociological cross section of people from the Lone Star State, a whole other country from the US. Documenting this contest must have required grueling hours on the part of the camera team and an unusually tight focus on the film. That comment will make more sense once you have seen it. It’s the kind of film that sticks with you.

Hands on a Hard Body as projected on the screen evinces laughter from an audience, but the filmmakers tread that blade-thin line between mockery and detached documentation. The people participating in this contest are both inherently funny and unwittingly funny. The director’s sensitivity to point out the situational ironies while still keeping the participants’ dignity from hitting the cutting room floor is keen. Plenty of the characters are people you would have an immediate reaction to – and the material for that reaction is splashed up on screen for you to take – whether you would laugh at the person who has 200 people praying for her to achieve a material goal or pray with them, you are given that choice, without the filmmakers laughing or praying.

My friends and I were cheering on various contestants – as they would drop out or as their characters became, in our opinion, less worthy of winning, we were at the edge of our seats. How exciting can a bunch of lunatics with one hand on a truck for 72 hrs be? More so than you would think. It’s extremely interesting, well documented (supplementary footage and voice-overs came through interviews before the contest and during breaks), and respectful while still revealing the inherent insanity and comedy.

I don’t want to say too much more but let me tell you, I couldn’t do it. You have to respect these people, even as you might laugh at them. Go see it!

MPAA Rating PG
Release date 7/10/98
Time in minutes 97
Director S.R. Bindler
Studio Legacy Releasing Corporation

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Babe: Pig in the City

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(imagine the voice-over)
Alas, although Babe was an Oscar nominated film, filled with charm and technical brilliance, and although the production team this time around clearly churned out the most difficult of movies to make in the world, Babe was no longer the unsullied perfect memory in any of our minds. Babe 2 takes up right where the first ended.

(the mouse chorus) “A Disappointing Nightmare”
Babe 2 is beautifully lit, an engineering feat of amazingness, shot on truly spectacular sets, and it is NOT for children. Nor is it for adults. It is like a terrible nightmare, a disappointing nightmare, where Babe and his charm get whisked off to a horrible world where dogs are thrown from cars, the Boss is seemingly killed (but only gravely injured), animals are starving and hunted by animal control, goldfish and dogs alike nearly die for dearth or excess of water, sweet old women are strip searched and abandoned, and animals lie to other good hearted animals to hitch a free ride. A world-weary poodle waxes on more bitterly than a 50 year old $5 prostitute.

(mouse chorus again) “Too Much Coke In The Boardroom”
Next thing you know they will clamor for a sequel to Titanic. Babe is a cute pig, very toy-friendly, very sweet. It made a zillion dollars by live-action children’s film standards and was critically acclaimed to boot. No self-respecting businessman wouldn’t *consider* the idea of a sequel. But before word 24 of that 25 word pitch, someone should have said No. Twitching, crippled dogs that the dog catcher wouldn’t even take coming to life after being set upright? A lot of children are going to be weeping, propping up their dogs after they find their car-crushed bodies in the street. Why? Why did so many terrible things have to happen to everyone? The charm implicit with Babe’s reaction to the real world is crushed underfoot like a goldfish when you have such insurmountable wickedness and still try to win. Then there is the odd family of chimps. Are they good? Bad? Stupid? Devious? We are set up to mistrust them and then expected to side with them. Mickey Rooney stars as your own private nightmare after his chimps steal the Boss’ wife’s last possession and he locks Babe in a trunk. And why would the Boss say “that’ll do, pig,” again, if not only because someone HAD to have that in there?

“What beautiful sets!”
As if to make up for the script’s dreadful (and low-Babe) content, the production design department really outdid themselves. The city that is no city and all cities, the people existing in a no-time world “just to the left of the 20th century” where you see circle skirts and spectator shoes and navel rings and frumpy dresses all in the same frame. The Hotel, the one you see in the preview at the intersection of 2 river-streets, the lush look of the final scene in the ballroom, oh my heavens. It’s gorgeous. The cavernous, cold airport, the bustling black leather city, the rich woody balconies of the Hotel. Man oh man. It’s a shame that this part of the film is so excellent.

“Woe is me, Woe are we”
I only say catch it on HBO for the sets and the unspeakable amount of work these people did. It makes me very sad that it is so unwatchable.

MPAA Rating G = Should be PG-13
Release date 1998
Time in minutes 97
Director George Miller
Studio Universal Pictures

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Armageddon

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I know, I know what you are all thinking (unless you understand me as a person of course) – how can she recommend this movie? The science is appallingly terrible, it’s manipulative, improbable, embarrassingly jingoistic, and frankly, we the American people are sick to death of hugely hyped summer movies that suck – how long ago was Godzilla and Batman and Robin and Lost in Space anyway? Once bitten twice shy. Yeah yeah yeah. Well one major difference between Godzilla and Armageddon is that Godzilla was hideously awful and Armageddon was a blast. Do you ride a rollercoaster to garner deep insights into your psyche? NO. Do you see Godzilla to laugh, cry, learn a little about humanity? NO. Do you see Armageddon to be lambasted with great special effects, incredible acts of derring-do, and yell woo hoo? Yes, you do indeed. The reason I can recommend Armageddon as a Full Price Feature is because it delivers – it’s a perfect summer popcorn movie. It’s loud, long, and fulla cute men and women. The science is terrible, I won’t deny that. The asteroid belt has no members as big as Texas – we KNOW what’s out there and we know it decades ahead of time, not 8 days. Who cares? It’s not a movie if some guy in the 50’s sees a big bad extinction event in plenty of time to develop preventative technology. It’s a movie if some overprotective palooka has to take a scared, inexperienced crew of roughnecks into space to save humanity at the LAST POSSIBLE SECOND.

Get serious – which movie sounds like more fun to watch? There’s lots of chuckles and great special effects and I even jotted down, during the spectacular opening disaster sequence, “Grand Central Bitchin!” I am also pleased (and some of you may know my pet peeves on this) that the preview actually did not give away the store of visuals and plot points – hip hip hooray! On top of it, on video it will make a great drinking game (every time you see an American flag, drink – you will be unconscious by the middle of the 2nd reel). Of course, officially, I do not condone the despicable practice of alcohol consumption. (Thanks Zweibels!) The only thing that could make this movie more viscerally satisfying is if it were in 3D. It moves along at an unrelenting MTV pace and rocks us out with Aerosmith and some pumping Trevor Rabin score. Boom!!! There goes something else!

Yeah, there’s an AT&T’s commercial campaign’s worth of heart tugging and filter usage (and Sprint’s international calling) – and sure, the sun never sets on the earth, and of course, AMERICA is the only hope the earth has, and sure, I mean, OK yeah, there’s that too – oh, and OK, yeah, that was pretty silly. But come on! This is a man vs. man, man vs. nature AND man vs. himself kind of movie! It’s got all the classic elements of theatre: spectacle, conflict, and pure white-hot entertainment. Maybe I’m promoting the dumbing down of America to recommend you people spend your hard earned vacation pay watching this movie – well, you want something stimulating, see the Truman Show or Cousin Bette. You want plot holds you can drive kick ass looking exploding trucks through, see this. It delivers, baby! It violates every aspect of Newtonian and Euclidean science – who cares? It serves me up a steaming delicious pile of yuks. Sure, I saw the crane camera’s shadow in the smoke. But overall it’s visually very tight.

Another personal victory – in the wake of his failing marriage, Bruce Willis has stopped wearing too much blush in his movies. He asks, “Of 6 billion people on earth, why did you call me?” Because you’re frickin John McLean! Do I need to tell you they succeed? Of course not. Someone said every high school in America will be named after Willis’ character – I’m thinking more along the lines of the PACIFIC OCEAN should be renamed. And the US automatically wins all events at the next Olympics, or maybe just the World Cup. My rocket scientist friend (would you believe I know TWO?) said he had a great time but he would hate to have his name on this movie as technical adviser. *I* with my paltry English degree know more space science from watching Schoolhouse Rock than this movie demonstrates. I want science, I got Contact at home. Gimme some stuff blowing up. You want boom, pay your full price. You want intellectual stimulation – try elsewhere. This movie delivers pure fun and it does it well.

MPAA Rating PG-13
Release date 7/1/98
Time in minutes 144
Director Michael Bay
Studio Touchstone Pictures

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Mulan

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I realize a lot of people out there don’t go see “cartoons” thinking they’re for kids, but anyone reading this who still thinks that in the New Disney Renaissance has obviously not been keeping up. (Side note: All those Bugs Bunny cartoons are for adults too) After The Lion King, Disney pumped out the embarrassingly vapid and honkified Pocahontas, and then the unfairly lambasted Hunchback of Notre Dame and Hercules gave all the appearances that Disney was losing its touch. Without going into a diatribe about the virtues of Hercules and Hunchback (see old reviews), I want to say to you now – Mulan is really excellent.

My only gripe is the obnoxious perma-bend to commercialism that Disney feels it needs in order to keep its world-famous animation department going – the hideous pop-radio-ready song. Mulan’s greatest crime is attempting – at the VERY end – to insert this into an otherwise beautiful, elegant classic. It’s only a couple of minutes, though, and by then Mulan has won you over.

Ming-Na Wen (of ER and The Single Guy, oh and the Joy Luck Club) voices Mulan, a legendary Chinese character who saves China to defend her family’s honor. In this era of Riot Grrrls and Girl Power, she’s timely, but she also still believably exists in the strict patriarchal society of ancient China. She doesn’t do her own singing, but Lea Salonga vocally matches her nicely. The vocal cast is kind of bizarre – B.D. Wong and Harvey Fierstein and Eddie Murphy, Miguel Ferrer (as chilling Shan-Yu, leader of the Huns), Pat Morita, and George Takei, among others. B.D. Wong’s singing is taken care of by Donny Osmond. Yes, that Donny Osmond. But he’s not a little bit country or a little bit rock and roll – he sounds great – all that Technicolor Dreamcoat stuff, you know.

The songs are by Matthew “Breaka My Stride” Wilder, (who sings Ling) and score by Jerry Goldsmith, and it’s nice, pleasant, exciting when it needs to be, but not remarkable. Alan Menken is still the reigning king of toe-tapping Disney musicals. I was pleased that there was a minimum of precious sidekick character comedy relief moments – most of the comedy is handled by the human characters. Mushu the little dragon guardian (Eddie Murphy), whose exaggerated ethnicity is jarringly out of place in Hun-plagued China, but he is not as abrasive as one would expect.

The biggest joy of Mulan is the animation. A picky anime fan friend of mine appreciated the smoothness and the flow, which I deemed a great compliment coming from a Disney detractor. I loved the graceful lines, the amazing vistas and the judicious use of airbrushing. The computer generated stuff is obvious just in that there is no way it was done by hand, but it blends elegantly. Elegant is the word I would use for the whole movie – woo, and I did a few paragraphs ago – how sloppy of me! You may have seen a shot from the preview where her face is reflected in a sword and the sword is moving – you can see tiny details like a reflection dancing over moving metal, wispy cherry blossoms and cloud-covered mountains – oooh it’s very pretty! The last 3rd of the movie is all huge Ben-Hur scale visuals – wow!!!

It’s sweeping and epic and entertaining and it’s actually a full 90 minutes, packed with plot and action. Sheng, the captain of her soldiers, is WOOF hunky while Mulan is slim, androgynous, but never unfeminine inside.

MPAA Rating G
Release date 6/29/98
Time in minutes 87
Director Tony Bancroft, Barry Cook
Studio Walt Disney

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Wilde

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I don’t tend to see a lot of biopics, but generally they set a tone and stand by it – director Brian Gilbert does no such thing, and I think it made this story of the rise and fall of Oscar Wilde even more interesting. Stephen Fry, of Peter’s Friends and Cold Comfort Farm, and more, is wonderful as Wilde. He manages to pull off the gentility and the distress and the longing that defined Wilde’s life and the discovery of his homosexuality with amazing flair. Fry is really always very very good (even in Spice World!) but this role is really demanding. From revered and loving husband to humiliated prisoner, Fry is fully there and he’s just great. What I mean by an inconsistent tone, I mean that the audience sits back and watches – merry times are handled merrily, grave times handled gravely, with no concern about audience opinion. This is not a bad thing.

Jude Law fans (all 6 of us) will be sad to see how unlikeable Law’s role is as Lord Alfred, aka Bosie. It’s kind of shocking how the American youth and beauty culture is so (unintentionally?) slyly played with in Wilde – Americans automatically favor the lovely, but that gets turned terribly on its ear. Another standout is the character Robbie Ross, played by Michael Sheen (no relation) – he is really marvelous.

I knew almost nothing about Oscar Wilde going into the theatre, and I feel I have met him now. I admire the one play of his I have seen or read, the Importance of Being Ernest, and contrasting his light, verbose comedies with the actuality of his life is a sweet piece of subtext. His wife, Constance, (Jennifer Ehle), I would have liked to see more of, but she is peripheral to the film just as she was peripheral to Wilde’s true inner life.

The film spans a great many years in Wilde’s life, which is only really traceable through costume and the ages of his children. At times it seems to whisk along without really delving into anything, but it does not feel superficial. I must warn the inevitable homophobes out there, the love scenes can be a little much for your intolerant hearts. I thought they were very sweet and honest, but I am sure the frat contingency (and that is SUCH the demographic Wilde is shooting for!) will shuffle uncomfortably in their seats.

It’s a very interesting movie, and I recommend it highly – it would be a lovely evening to see a Wilde play as well as the film, and think about what it cost Oscar to commit those words to paper and to live the life he lived. I am grateful that he was not lost to literature, as he fears in the film.

MPAA Rating R for strong sexuality and language.
Release date 6/29/98
Time in minutes 115
Director Brian Gilbert
Studio Sony Pictures Classics

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X Files : Fight the Future

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Sundays at 9, 8 Central.

“That’s not a rating!” my readers cry out. “That’s when the show is on.” Exactly my point, my friends, exactly. With 60 million dollars, all I ask for my hard earned $6.75 is to get something more than I get on the show – either in plot revelation, character development, special effects, SOMETHING. I was disappointed. One of my party was not a viewer of the show, and he found the movie compelling. I have watched sporadically for about 2 years, and I fell asleep 3 times. Once during a chase scene.

It starts out well, with some amusing banter meant to introduce the characters to any X virgins, and I looked forward to a Star Trek: The Movie style inside joke fest laced with plot. Nope! I hoped for expensive stuff, and I got seven helicopters and some non-Vancouver locations, but basically nothing else. Chris Carter has been promising questions answered, characters developed – but after carefully absorbing the last 3 episodes of the series, nothing from those episodes was even addressed. No Mimi Rogers character, no followup, just some new stuff introduced and left untied, just like an average episode. No sewn-eyed freaky people, no Krychek – what the hell am I sitting here in this theatre, I could be seeing Clockwatchers!

So, I guess if you are a fan, you should go, because I’m sure in the grand scheme of things people who miss this special 2 1/2 hr episode will miss some important information if they miss the movie. The biggest laugh I got was the four of us simultaneously squeaking “I made this” when the Ten Thirteen logo came up, and when my seatmate asked if I would explain the plot as the movie went along. I would also like to (sarcastically) thank Hollywood for again making Texas look like a crappy, flat, vile place where you can see Dallas from Amarillo.

HERE IS THE PART THAT GIVES AWAY PLOT. I am forgoing my rule for this movie – so stop now if you actually expect to be surprised by the film. I am trying to be oblique here, just in case you can’t help it.
OK, an average episode, one hour, crammed with interesting stuff. This movie, not even crammed with an hour’s worth. Realism blown out of the window – why would agents be blamed for a terrorist’s actions? How could all this stuff occur and no one see it – reconnaissance planes, entomologists, seismologists, neighbors? Then the amazing derivativeness of the 3rd reel – after the impressive amount of innovation in the series, how can they rip off so many movies in such a short period of time. The show is not holy to me by any stretch, but I had hoped that the limitations imposed by the small screen would be eliminated by a bigger budget, bigger scope, bigger medium. No such luck.

MPAA Rating PG-13
Release date 6/19/98
Time in minutes 117
Director Rob Bowman
Studio 20th Century Fox

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Six Days, Seven Nights

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Director Ivan Reitman is known for making really great movies (Ghostbusters, Dave) and really dreadful movies (Junior, Father’s Day), but basically he’s as good as his script. With one of Hollywood’s most prominent leading hunks and one of Hollywood’s most prominent leading lesbians, Reitman just needed the palette to paint them with. Fortunately for all of us in the audience, by and large, Michael Browning’s script is old school classic screwball adventure romance.

To dispense with the must-answer question, Anne Heche is a sultry heterosexual character, and her chemistry with Harrison Ford is really great. ‘Nuff said. Ford and Heche have one of those old-school Cary Grant character-driven movie kind of relationships, bickering, witty banter, and finally, a genuine affection born out of more than just sexual tension or trauma. It’s totally refreshing. Much as I have enjoyed some movie couples in the past year or so, these two really built something in the 2 hrs they had me in the theatre.

You’ll notice my compliment to the script was tempered by a “by and large,” and I don’t recommend the movie at full price. The main impediments the movie faces is demanding too much of the world we live in – there are some modern pirates and a MacGyver/A-Team kind of construction sequence that just seems a bit much – but they are enjoyable none the less. Best of all are our leads, though, and the great, snippy dialogue. It’s fun. The age difference is dealt with in the script and it’s OK, really.

Ford is at least 400 years old and he has still got it. I know he wants to get out of leading man into character work, but damn, Harry, you fly your own planes (for real) and you can still pull of fgoing shirtless. Heche has her highbeams on the whole movie (oh! turkey’s ready!) and she is working that sleeveless tropical charm and sexy woman-surviving angle. Yeah, sure, her eyeshadow is perfect at all times, but at least it’s the natural look. Heche grows from whiny helpless tourist into a useful member of a team, and Ford softens into a more sympathetic guy. Back “home” at Macatea, their significant others divert us with their own funny dance. On Gilligan’s Isle, the sexual tension starts and grows, a nice, easy slow burn but it’s palpable and totally viscerally believable.

Reportedly the shoot was a blast for all concerned, and it comes off on the actors – we have a great time because they are. Seems like lately, actors (Demi Moore more than anyone) don’t feel like they are really working unless they are miserable, and we can see it. Ick. But anyway, I dug it. I didn’t even take all that many notes because it was such a fun ride. It stretches plausibility at times, but its OK. It’s the movies. It’s Hollywood back when starlets wore cat-eye glasses and leopard coats, and the men still opened the car door for them. It’s a good date movie.

MPAA Rating PG-13
Release date 6/17/98
Time in minutes 101
Director Ivan Reitman
Studio Buena Vista Pictures

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