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Review of the day for the week of April 13, 1998.

Monday:
Powder

Powder
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Powder is a well-written and superbly acted film that should have been highly acclaimed but wasn't. Unfortunately, many such movies are overlooked in favor of more hyped but less captivating films.

Powder (Sean Patrick Flanery) is a very unique young man who earned that nickname because his skin lacks pigment (he is also bald and highly sensitive to the sun). He has amazing powers that enable him to do freaky things in the presence of any kind of electricity. Additionally, he has an off-the-charts high IQ, can read minds, and has remarkable insights about others. Having been literally locked away in a cellar most of his life by his ashamed grandparents, he is now introduced to society by kind social worker Jessie (Mary Steenburgen).

Most of his new classmates shun him, except for one girl, whose father is totally against her relationship with him. There is a subplot about the local sheriff's terminally ill wife, whose mind Powder can see into although she is in a semi-comatose state. Jeff Goldblum has a supporting role as one of Powder's teachers, and also becomes his friend later on.

In one particularly gripping scene, Powder shows a cruel hunter how inhumane hunting is by "connecting" him to the mind of a bullet-ridden deer and allowing the hunter to feel its pain.

This wonderful story was extremely insightful, if a bit too moralistic. Hollywood needs to stop with the alien-sci-fi garbage and make more movies like this.

My Rating = Three Stars

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Tuesday:
Dante's Peak

Dante's Peak
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Erupting in a big display of special effects, Dante's Peak kept me on the edge of my seat - for most of the movie.

Pierce Brosnan (I love those British actors!) plays Harry Dalton, a volcano expert who has come to save the town of Dante's Peak, built on the side of a mountain. Although inactive for thousands of years, the volcano is dangerously close to erupting now. Dalton's colleagues think he's overreacting and don't want to destroy the town's economy or their reputation as second most "livable" place in the United States. Consequently, the town's residents are not put on volcano alert.

Much too late, Dalton's warnings are heeded. While the attractive mayor, Rachel Wendo (Linda Hamilton) is warning the citizens, her young children 'borrow' her car (stick- shift! no less) to rescue Grandma - living on top of the mountain. This is highly unrealistic. The idea that two kids could drive up a steep, twisting mountain in fair weather is ridiculous - and this is during pre-volcanic activity!

Racing up the mountainside after them, Wendo and Dalton - who are most apparently falling in love, (Can't have a movie without a whirlwind romance, can you?) are faced with obstacle after obstacle.

And the mountain hasn't even erupted yet! It's just getting warmed up! In a desperate attempt to make it out in time, they struggle down the mostly blocked mountain, as molten lava and ash quickly transform the town of Dante's Peak into Dante's Inferno. The "special effects" near the end are worth waiting for. It's definitely a disaster film worth viewing.

My Rating = Three Stars

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Wednesday:
Mercury Rising

Mercury Rising
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Bruce Willis stars in Mercury Rising an original if rather obvious thriller.

Willis' character, Art Jeffries is a specially trained F.B. I. agent that got out of line (after a bank robbery where children were shot and he was unable to save them) and later punched his boss. Now he has been demoted to much less exciting work. He is sent to investigate an apparent murder-suicide, which is really an elaborate cover-up by the U.S. government. Apparently Simon (Miko Hughes), an autistic child, cracked a government super code that was inadvertently slipped into a puzzle magazine to test "its inability to be cracked". As Lt. Colonel Nicholas Kudrow (well portrayed by Alec Baldwin) puts it, "So our code is an open book to people of diminished capacity?"

Actually, Simon is highly intelligent - boy genius level - but lacks the ability to relate to other people, even his recently murdered parents. Art is the only one who suspects foul play, and winds up breaking the law to protect Simon, and going out on the line to save Simon.

You see the ending coming, but the action scenes were terrific.

My Rating = Three Stars

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Thursday:
Urban Cowboy

Urban Cowboy
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Urban Cowboy stars a young John Travolta as - you guessed it - an urban cowboy.

Having recently moved to Texas, Bud (Travolta) meets cowgirl Sissy (Debra Winger) at a country disco. (Incidentally, Travolta does have some dancing scenes in the film, but they're nothing like the ones in Grease or Saturday Night Fever.) They have a whirlwind romance and decide to get married almost the same night they meet. As you might suspect, there's trouble in paradise. They haven't been married long when Sissy gets a crush on another "cowboy" named Wes (Scott Glenn), who impresses her by riding a mechanical bull. It's not long before Bud's riding the mechanical bull, and Sissy is dying to ride it too, but he thinks it's too dangerous and forbids it. She ignores him. Wes gives her lessons, and pretty soon she's having an affair with him, and to get even, Bud cheats on her too. What irks me is that both men smack Sissy around, so this stupid girl just leaves one abusive relationship for another!

Urban Cowboy is amusing for a while, but gets rather tiresome after an hour or two. It's also pretty obvious that- don't read any further if you don't want to know the end - Bud and Sissy will get back together so there isn't much suspense.

My Rating = Two Stars

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Friday:
Species II

Species II
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I never saw the first Species movie, but this one looks like a rip-off of the Alien movies. Human blood that sizzles like acid, and alien monsters that look almost identical to the ones in the Alien movies...sound familiar?

Not that it isn't amusing to watch. This certainly isn't the greatest sci-fi movie of the year, and I saw all the "shock" scenes coming a mile away, but there's enough blood and gore to keep you amused for a while.

Patrick Ross (Justin Lazard) is the first man on Mars. Apparently while he was up there he was contaminated with alien DNA. When he and his crew return, they are of course quarantined, and told not to have sex for ten days. Patrick pays no attention, and every woman he sleeps with gives birth to an alien/human child. That idea is so ludicrous, it's laughable.

Patrick's father, Senator Ross (James Cromwell) has some good character development as a cold hearted fellow who almost appears not to love his son at all, but upon learning the government wants to kill Patrick because of the alien DNA, Ross suddenly gets very emotional. When he and Patrick hug tearfully, you just know an alien's going to pop out of Patrick's stomach and gut out dear old dad.

Meanwhile, Eve, a half-human, half-alien woman being studied in a lab, is irradiated to "wake up" some of her alien genes. This enables her to tap into Patrick's mind and give the lab scientists information on where he is.

None of this is particularly original, but it's fast paced and gets to the end pretty quickly so you don't have a chance to get bored. The special effects are commendable, and if you're a die-hard sci-fi fan like me (I even enjoy the terribly cheesy ones) it's worth seeing.

My Rating = Two Stars

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Saturday:
The Money Pit

The Money Pit
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Tom Hanks and Shelley Long star in the marvelously engaging comedy The Money Pit.

Walter Fielding (Hanks) and his live-in girlfriend Anna Crowley (Long) are kicked out of their New York apartment by Anna's ex husband. Walter asks a realtor friend for some help, and winds up buying a mansion for two hundred thousand dollars (supposedly it's worth a million) from a strange old woman. Before they know it, they're sinking money into the house faster than they can make it (both are almost starving musicians). Walter finds what he assumes to be a good carpenter (Joe Mantegna) and is forced to give him a big deposit before he actually does any work. Meanwhile, they have no running water, their staircase crashes and they're forced to get up and down the stairs with a ladder, and flipping just one light switch causes an electrical fire.

This movie is quite comically entertaining. Hanks is, of course, always a great comedic actor, and the scenes are well done, if rather unbelievable.

My Rating = Three Stars

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Sunday:
My Giant

My Giant
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The only thing My Giant Crystal plays Sammy, a down-on-his-luck Hollywood agent who has just been fired by his meal ticket, up and coming young star Jason Allen (whom Sammy just "discovered"). Upset and furious, Sammy is on his way home from Romania and wrecks his car - and is nearly killed. This being a dopey comedy, his life is saved by a giant, Max (played by NBA basketball player Gheorghe Muresan). Suddenly, Sammy has a revelation: God spared his life so he could make a star out of eight foot tall Max (and consequently make himself quite rich and important). Back he goes to the movie set and finagles Max's way into the movie with Jason. When Max accidentally becomes drunk and hurls on Jason during a scene, Sammy calls it genius and everyone believes him!

Crystal can usually turn any movie into a hilarious comedy with his terrific dry wit, and he certainly held this one together, but My Giant is still pretty pathetic. It wasn't difficult to watch, as Crystal created enough laughs, but it was very S-L-O-W getting moving. And just when it was starting to get interesting they threw in a depressing plot twist (turns out Max is dying and only wants to see his childhood sweetheart before he dies), which doesn't mix well with a comedy.

My Rating = Two Stars

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