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DEUCES WILD (*)- going to see "Deuces Wild" was by far the most unpleasant movie going experience I have had this year, if not ever. I suspect that the filmmakers were secretly conducting an experiment to see if they could produce physical pain in their audience. Maybe "Deuces Wild" was meant as some sort of unusual torture device that, through a grave mistake, was unleashed on an unsuspecting public. I have no idea. All I know is that I would rather have spent my eight dollars on a back-alley root canal than go see this movie. Here's the plot: in the 1950's there were two gangs, the Deuces and the Vipers, who lived in Brooklyn. We know it's Brooklyn because they refer to it many times throughout the movie, although it's hard to believe them because all we ever see is the same sets over and over, which look so generic I'm beginning to wonder if the same people who made "The Sandlot" weren't somehow involved. Also, it doesnít help that when they go to the beach, it's clearly the Pacific Ocean in the background. But anyway. The two gangs, in typical gang fashion, hate each other. They aren't the "Greasers" and the "Socs" you may remember from "The Outsiders"... they're just all a bunch of guys who pretty much look and act the same, but inexplicably are doomed to fight whenever they get within one square block of each other (which happens often... I guess Brooklyn was a pretty small place in the 50s). The fighting is about to get a lot worse, though, because the leader of the Vipers is about to be let out of prison after three years of brooding and making knives. This is a character so evil that at one point we actually see him and his cronies pull an old man from his car and beat him with a baseball bat. There's also a "Romeo and Juliet" style love story between the brother of the leader of the Deuces and the sister of one of the Vipers. In case I forgot to mention previously, pretty much everyone in this film is in some was related by blood, although that doesnít stop them from yelling at and occasionally beating on one another. The script is incredibly bad, and employs so many cliches it makes me want to puke(don't even get me started on the "thunder and lightning" sequence when the two gangs fight for the first time). Sadly, many good actors are wasted on it, clearly trying to do the best they can. It must have been difficult, however, when apparently the only direction they were ever given was "Be angry". What's worse, though, is that despite all the potential to be a.) a love story with a message about senseless violence or, b.) an action movie with a message about senseless violence, the only message that the audience walks away with from "Deuces Wild" is that senseless violence is simply the way of the world, and there's nothing that will change that. We are given nothing to think about, nothing to learn, nothing to even be hopeful about learning in the future. When the end credits finally roll on "Deuces Wild" you don't feel like you've seen a movie... you feel like you've been jumped.
DOGMA (***)- this is a Kevin Smith movie, if you didn't already know. He made Clerks, Mallrats, Chasing Amy, and a few others. So, as expected, this movie features Jay and Silent Bob and a lot of swearing. There are more "big name" actors in this movie, though, including Ben Affleck, Selma Hayek, Matt Damon, and Chris Rock. Alanis Morsett plays God. Overall, it's a relatively well written, thoughtful movie, but nothing I would consider astounding. It has a lot of interesting, controversial (remember how upset all those right-wing nuts got when this came out?) views on religion, and it's pretty funny to boot. I just wish it were a little better all around.
DONNIE DARKO (***1/2)- The notes on the back of the box the Donnie Darko video casette comes in likens the movie to Stir of Echos and Final Destination, but in really itís more comprable to Fight Club. Both films are dark and atmospheric, relying heavily on stylish cinematography to set their tones. Both were relative failures at release, but have since gained cult followings. Both have mind bending plot twists and both, to be fully understood and appreciated, should probably be seen more than once. The big difference is that while Fight Club had a real point to it, Donnie Darko does not. Itís an interesting film on the surface, but thereís really not much working underneath. Itís more about itself than anything else.

The plot is too twisted to be summarized here, but let me see if I can give some basic facts: Donnie Darko (Jake Gyllenhaal, who is good for the role, but must have gotten neck cramps from making the same ďhead down eyes upĒ face throughout the entire movie) is a high school student with some rather serious problems. Not only is everyone he knows incredibly cruel and/or insane, but he is plagued by visions of a giant, creepy looking rabbit who tells him that the world is going to end in twenty eight days. The rest youíll have to see for yourself. Itís just too complicated. Sorry.

What I liked about the film were mainly technical points. Itís beautiful to watch, some scenes so darkly saturated that they almost become surreal. The movieís writer/director Richard Kelly has obviously taken some cues from Tim Burton, especially on the look of the rabbitís mask and some of the scenes at the end, but heís also able to use the camera itself to his advantage in ways I havenít seen Burton do. Also, I liked the fact that the film had some real ideas to explore, rather than being another vapid teen thriller. Unfortunatley, these ideas all seemed self-contained. They are interesting, but they donít really say much about anything other than themselves. I donít know. Maybe you just have to see it and decide for yourself.


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