Film: Video Watch
Thursday 20 August 1998
Available to rent from Monday
In David Mamet's screenplay, a cerebral billionaire (Anthony Hopkins) finds himself stranded in the Alaskan wilderness with an egotistical fashion photographer (Alec Baldwin). Hopkins, pursued by a man-eating bear and harbouring the suspicion that Baldwin has been knocking off his wife, maintains his faultless Richard Burton impression throughout, but even his hammy authority can't disguise the script's shortfalls. And that's where the faults lie - Alaska looks great, the bear chases are well executed and director Lee Tamahori bundles his principals over waterfalls and over mountains at a fair clip. The familiar Mamet themes - the exposure under pressure of men's vanity and self-interest - feel like pastiches of the author, though, a hollowness reflected in the characters Hopkins and Baldwin are asked to play: Baldwin comes on more like a trucker than a photographer and Hopkins's displays of intellectual prowess are worthy of your local pub bore.
Good Will Hunting (15)
Available to rent from Monday
It's difficult to believe that the flamboyant Gus Van Sant was responsible for this assured but rather conservative-looking coming-of-age drama. Matt Damon plays Will, a boozing, brawling Boston 20-year-old who, when he's not mopping the floors at MIT, passes his time solving in minutes the mathematical problems that it takes the academics entire semesters to work out. A maths professor (Stellan Skarsgard) rescues Will from a jail sentence, but the maths prodigy, abused as a child, proves an emotional puzzle beyond the battery of psychiatrists Skarsgard enlists. Enter the spiritual cavalry, in the familiar form of Robin Williams, a failed therapist. Though Damon and Ben Affleck's Oscar-winning screenplay has a lot of fun with Will's self-taught intellectual grandstanding, both at the blackboard and at the bar, the film's apparent respect for erudition is just a feint. Preening and arrogant, the academic community loves Will only for his brain and as Williams, a mouthpiece for the mushy sentiment at the heart of the film, points out, he's got to find himself and a girl before he succumbs to his talent. Uniformly good performances.
In & Out (12)
Available to rent now
When a Hollywood movie brat pointedly thanks his gay English teacher Howard Brackett (Kevin Kline) in an Oscar acceptance speech, no one is more shocked than Brackett, who has yet to confront the full implications of his penchant for the work of Barbra Streisand and his excessively neat appearance.
Perhaps it is a measure of the wholesale assimilation of gay culture that we can now rent a mainstream comedy that sells itself almost wholly on the outing of a model middle- American citizen. Whether screwball-farce- meets-gay-comedy-of-manners is the right treatment or not is another matter. The director, Frank Oz, goes looking for laughs (occasionally successfully) in the discrepancy between Brackett's heterosexual facade - he is due to marry a local wallflower, Emily (Joan Cusack) - and the realisation of his true sexuality with the help of a gay television reporter (Tom Selleck). Oz is helped by a great cast, including Bob Newhart.
Despite the energy of the film, you cannot help thinking that it is not nearly as open-minded as it thinks it is.
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