On The Screen
Penn Jillette, Lorraine Bracco, and Fisher Stevens fend off a central computer invasion in Hackers.
Mel Gibson's Braveheart is a curious combination of historical legend and modern dramatic techniques woven together into a tapestry of connected stories. With the plot based loosely on Scotland's real-life struggle for independence from England and the screenplay straight from modern Hollywood, the three-hour show reminds one more of Lethal Weapon than Rob Roy. A Scottish commoner, William Wallace (Mel Gibson) returns to his native land after an education in continental Europe with his uncle. His domestic bliss with a childhood sweetheart is shattered when British lords kill his beloved wife; in response, Wallace leads friends and clansmen in an assault on British forts and charges toward the English border. Braveheart increases its appeal by contrasting these highland goings-on with portrayals of British royalty, especially the powerful, evil King Edward I (Patrick McGoohan) The queen-to-be, Princess Isabelle (Sophie Marceau), is bored with her marriage to the king's homosexual son and becomes infatuated with Wallace in a distracting subplot. The battle scenes in Braveheart may be gruesome and a bit extreme, but the film as a whole is immensely satisfying. -Teresa Esser. Sony Copley Place.
The latest Spike Lee film uses the tried-and-true formula of the inner-city police drama, and it pays of nicely. The story, adapted from the novel by Richard Price, revolves around a young man from the housing projects who is charged with a murder and the police officer Rocco (Harvey Keitel) who refuses to believe the man's guilt. Instead, Rocco confronts the man's brother, Strike (Mekhi Phifer) whom he believes to have committed the murder as part of a drug-related matter for his boss (Delroy Lindo). If the movie at first appears to be Lee's defense of a criminal lifestyle, his depth of characterization partially compensates for this weakness. Lee's distinctive cinematography makes the film a visual treat, and that is reason enough to see it in a theater. -David V. Rodriguez. Sony Cinema 57.
Former indie-whiz-kid-turned-Hollywood-darling Robert Rodriguez delivers the goods in this tongue-in-cheek rewrite of Sergio Leone and Sam Peckinpah westerns. Armed with a budget a thousand times greater than his debut feature El Mariachi, Rodriguez casts Antonio Banderas as a brooding man with no name who slays entire bars of hostile characters in search of a Mexican druglord (Joaquim de Almeida) who killed his woman and maimed his hand in the first film. Objectively, the story is weak and offers little pretense for Rodriguez's bloody, over-the-top action scenes. But in spite of the film's loose ends and rough plot edges, the supporting performers (Steve Buscemi, Cheech Marin, and Salma Hayek as Banderas' love interest) are memorable, if not charming. Time will tell if we have another Quentin Tarantino in our midst. -Scott Deskin. Sony Cheri.
HHH Devil in a Blue Dress
Denzel Washington plays Ezekiel "Easy" Rawlins, a man who endeavors into smoky streets of 1940s Los Angeles as a detective. After being set up by bad guys, he must track down a mysterious woman, played by Jennifer Beals. Good performances all around and direction by Carl Franklin (One False Move) highlight the involving, humorous story. Watch for some excellent set production. - John Dunagan. Sony Cheri.
Director Iain Softley hoped to catch the infobahn bandwagon with Hackers, but missed the mark. Anybody familiar with the Internet will recognize all the catchwords in addition to a poor plot. Johnny Lee Miller plays Dade, who must battle a subversive computer virus, created by "The Plague" (Fisher Stevens). In the end, Hackers wrongly portrays the computer underground and turns out be all hype and no substance. -A. Arif Husain. Sony Copley Place.
The latest entry in the genre of psychological thrillers, Seven offers viewers the gimmick of a serial killer who masterminds his murders based on the seven deadly sins. Morgan Freeman is the archetypal police detective on the verge of retiring, and Brad Pitt plays his young, idealistic counterpart. Together, they must join forces to outsmart the criminal. The film is filled with darkness, and it employs this effect to represent the moralistic undercurrents of the movie. However, this theme fades to a mere afterthought in the wake of a murky plot, incomprehensible dialogue, and a predictable conclusion. Director David Fincher (Alien3) does little to distinguish the film from being a clone of films like The Silence of the Lambs. -Benjamin Self. Sony Cheri.
Director Paul Verhoeven's latest exercise in cinematic exploitation turns out to be a real bore, and lacks the wit of Verhoeven's earlier films. Partner-in-crime Joe Eszterhas (who wrote Verhoeven's Basic Instinct) deserves blame for a weak script and laughably bad dialogue. But the acting isn't much better in this story of a young woman whose dream is to make it big as a dancer in a Las Vegas casino. There are plenty of naked bodies (enough to garner an infamous NC-17 rating), but the promise of sex and eroticism is weak, even in the mechanical dance numbers. If overacting and a propensity to prance around naked is all that newcomer Elizabeth Berkley has to offer, she ought to be exiled back to television for the rest of the decade. However, the phony moralism that accompanies the narrative makes the film truly repellent. -SD. Sony Cheri.
HH To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar
This recent film expands the repertoire of Wesley Snipes and Patrick Swayze, who play dragsters stuck in middle America during a cross-country road trip. About the changes the drag queens bring to rural America, the film remains too haphazard to be believable - even among funny slapstick. The film also borrows too often from the better Australian production, The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. -Teresa Esser. Sony Nickelodeon.
In this sentimental, oddball coming-of-age tale, a boy (Nathan Watt) must face the growing complications he faces in junior high, the sudden illness of his mother (Andie MacDowell), and the increasing estrangement he feels from his scientist father (John Turturro). The boy doesn't find his bearings until he moves in with his eccentric uncles: Arthur (Maury Chaikin), a soft-spoken but unkempt soul who wraps gifts in toilet paper and scavenges trash dumps for valuable items; and Danny (Michael Richards, aka Kramer from the TV sitcom Seinfeld), a paranoid communist whose belief in fascist conspiracies is topped by his inclination for physical humor. As in most tearjerkers, we know there isn't a happy ending, but at least director Diane Keaton gives the characters enough wit to deal with the pain. -SD. Sony Nickelodeon.
This documentary traces several months in the life of fashion designer Isaac Mizrahi. Devastated after a disastrous presentation of his spring 1994 collection, he begins anew for the fall. Along the way, he recounts his many inspirations: his mother and Mary Tyler Moore have obviously shaped Mizrahi's sense of fashion as well as his flamboyant personality. But too much of the film seems over-eager - encounters with world-renowned fashion models and a media-blitz surrounding Mizrahi's fall collection seem staged, and the grainy black-and-white photography is an understated, but mixed, visual blessing. Such films play better on PBS than in a movie theater. -Audrey Wu. Sony Copley.