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Review of the day for the week of March 9, 1998.

Monday:
Dark City

Dark City
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Dark City is like LA Confidential with a lot more plot, thrilling special effects, and impressive acting.

So what do the two movies have in common? They both take place in the fifties, and they have that certain cliche quality of fifties-type movies. Except of course that Dark City is exceedingly better and more tastefully done.

The plot is rather difficult to explain. A group of bald, ghastly white men have come from another planet to find out how they can become human, because their race is dying out. They create a sort of virtual reality city - it's real but it's not real - and they kidnap earthlings for its citizens. Then, they switch around the identities of all the people they've kidnapped, so everyone has at least partial amnesia, and they all wind up thinking they're someone they're not. Still with me?

One of the kidnapped citizens, John Murdock (Rufus Sewell), wakes up while having his memory changed by a mad scientist whose talents the aliens have employed for their own evil purposes. According to his new memory, he was seeing the mad doctor - a psychiatrist - because he was terribly upset over his wife's (Jennifer Connelly) infidelity. Now, he has been accused of murdering several prostitutes - that's where the cops come in, another thing that reminded me of LA Confidential - and she is the only one who believes he is innocent. Meanwhile, the aliens are still working their evil magic.

I loved the original premise of this movie, and the fact that for a science fiction movie, it was very realistically done. The scenery and special effects (especially the enlarging buildings!) were as impressive as the actors and the plot.

My Rating = Four Stars

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Tuesday:
Close Encounters

Close Encounters
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Science fiction movies in the late seventies lacked what I think most satisfying sci-fi movies have today: Believable acting, more than basic, cliche plots, and convincing special effects.

Close Encounters is not Richard Dreyfuss's best performance. So far I've only liked two of his movies (Mr. Holland's Opus and Krippendorf's Tribe), and neither one has to do with aliens.

Dreyfuss is Roy Neary, an electrician for a power plant who is called to fix a power outage one night. Becoming lost on a country road, he witnesses a spaceship flying overhead and his experiences turns into an obsession. Before you know it, he's making his children look mature by building mountains out of mashed potatoes at dinner. His wife leaves him, and he takes off for Wyoming, where he expects the aliens to land, teaming up with a woman whose child was abducted by the aliens.

These movies all seem to end the same way. I prefer the more modern sci-fi flicks like Contact and Independence Day.

My Rating = Two Stars

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Wednesday:
Weekend at Bernie's

Weekend at Bernie's
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How stupid can you get? You certainly find out the answer to that question in Weekend at Bernie's, which is probably one of the stupidest movies you can find in video stores.

That's not a bad thing - stupid = funny = good-movie. Weekend at Bernie's is almost as laughable as a Jim Carrey flick (but not quite).

Here's the scenario: Two guys drag a dead body around for the weekend, pretending he's alive. The dead guy would be Bernie, their boss, whom they discover dead upon arriving at his seaside mansion for the weekend. Later, they find out that Bernie wanted them killed, but not while he was around - he wanted an alibi. Apparently the killer turned on him, but is still after them. Therefore if they haul Bernie's body around for the weekend they can stall the killers until they can get off the island, or get help. Naturally this results in some absurd incidents.

Maybe the acting isn't completely sincere, and the plot is unrealistic and ridiculous, but that's part of what makes you laugh. I laughed nonstop throughout this film and definitely recommend it as a brainless comedy.

My Rating = Three Stars

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Thursday:
Kissing a Fool

Kissing a Fool
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David Schwimmer is one of those actors who is amusing in a comedy for, say, twenty minutes, then becomes very tiresome. So is the case with his latest romantic comedy, Kissing a Fool.

It's not that Schwimmer's acting is bad, or that the plot isn't at least temporarily diverting, but Schwimmer always seems to be playing the same character (in all of his movies he's that laughable, lonely guy).

Here again, he plays Max Abbit a lonely sportscaster who's best friend, Jay, an author, sets Max up with his editor, Sam. They fall for each other in record time, and within two weeks they're planning their wedding. Then Max asks Jay to try to get Sam to sleep with him, just to see if she's faithful to him. Meanwhile, he leaves town and cheats on her. And Jay and Sam really do fall for each other.

There are some funny scenes, but the story gets old, and it's all too clear who is going to end up with whom.

My Rating = Two Stars

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Friday:
U.S. Marshals

U.S. Marshals
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Never having seen The Fugitive, the movie that US Marshals is "following up", I can't compare the two, but I will say that this one is unimpressive.

Tommy Lee Jones, whom I enjoyed in Men in Black, is dry and witless as Chief Deputy Sam Gerard, and his new FBI agent partner, John Royce (Robert Downey, Jr.) is even worse. The two are tracking a man (Wesley Snipes) who supposedly killed two FBI agents, but seems to have been set up. Apparently there is supposed to be a comedic element in this film, but it falls flat as well. Jones, wearing a chicken costume while catching a criminal is too half-witted to even register as amusing. Worse yet, it robs the film of any possible credibility it might have had.

As for the action scenes, the best one was a commuter car wreck on a freeway at the beginning of the movie, and that certainly wasn't thrilling. Jones should have stuck with his entertaining brand of acting and made a sequel to Men in Black instead.

My Rating = One Star

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Saturday:
Stakeout

Stakeout
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Richard Dreyfuss stars in "Stakeout", a semi-funny film about - what did you expect? - a stakeout.

Chris (Dreyfuss) and Bill (Emilio Estevez) are two cops staking out the home of an escaped criminal's old girlfriend. (They think he will try to contact her). Five minutes after saying he hates his job, Chris catches a glimpse of the old girlfriend, who happens to be beautiful, and enthusiastically exclaims, "I love my job!"

In what he claims is an attempt to gather evidence, Chris poses as a phone electrician and snoops around her house. And, incidentally, falls for her. She apparently likes him too, and before you know it, he's dating her! Naturally he has to hide this from his police chief boss - and hide his real identity from her. In one scene, he winds up disguising himself and running from the cops!

Stakeout is laughable for a while, but gets tiresome and dopey. Dreyfuss's acting isn't bad, but this certainly isn't his best performance.

My Rating = Two Stars

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Sunday:
Death Becomes Her

Death Becomes Her
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The premise of Death Becomes Her is rather cliche - a magic potion that makes you young and immortal forever? - yet this film doesn't fail to entertain.

Meryl Streep plays Madeleine, a rich and snobby woman who is downright obsessed with looking young and beautiful. Her old nemesis (Goldie Hawn) looks much more so than Madeleine does, until Madeleine finds out her secret: a potion designed to reverse the aging process. Madeleine takes the potion and everything is perfect - or is it? Her husband, a plastic surgeon turned undertaker (Bruce Willis in a surprisingly nerdy getup), who was previously involved with Hawn, is now falling for her again. When Madeleine tells him off, he pushes her down the staircase, a move that should have killed her. But thanks to the potion she's fine - sort of - but furious with Hawn. They wind up in a hopeless battle, because neither one can kill the other.

The acting is very convincing, for a screwy comedy such as this. If you're used to seeing Bruce Willis in action movie roles, you'll be particularly impressed with his acting in Death Becomes Her.

My Rating = Three Stars

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