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Assorted Clutterbuck: Scream 3, Magnolia and Mystery Alaska
by Tabitha Clutterbuck

I sympathise with Mark Eggleton. His column last month addressed the near-sadistic new trend of making movies waaay too long. Mark posited one way to rectify this would be to have an interval in the middle. Personally, I'm a big fan of the editing process, but that's by the by. So the first thing I'm going to say about Magnolia is that it's three bloody hours long. Admittedly, it's three hours of dirty, Los Angeles, peeping tom realism that you'd only see through tacky curtains long after cocktail hour has passed. In other words, it's my kind of movie.

There are nine characters in all, and their stories bisect in twisted ways. There's the television producer dying a slow cancerous death (Jason Robards), whose younger wife (Julianne Moore) is pilfering his prescriptions to cope with it all. He's soothed by a well meaning nurse (Philip Seymour Hoffman), who winds up chasing down his long lost son (Tom Cruise), who is a self help guru for blokes who can't get laid. Cruise's character, Frank T.J. Mackie, is hysterical, and the one liners he spouts during his "Seduce and Destroy" conferences are quite fabulous. His by-line - "No Pussy Has Nine Lives" - deserves some sort of one-liner sleaze prize. Speaking of Oscars, this one's up for three. Lay your bets now. Oh, and in one scene, it rains frogs. Like Los Angeles isn't looking weird enough already.

Scream 3 is another film currently riding the Hollywood-is-so-crazy-but-don't-you-just-LOVE-it? wave. It's got all the tender teenage slash-and-pash of the first two, but with tongue firmly in cheek. The story takes place on the set of "Stab 3, Return to Woodsboro", a movie based on Gale Weathers' (Courteney Cox-Arquette) bestselling book. Seems the killer is back and knocking off cast members in order of appearance. Of course with three versions of the script floating around, nobody knows who's going to get diced next, and as you can imagine, everyone's all in a flap. We get a lot of back story, but also a lot of new info about Sidney and her mother, who was the first victim. Cameos abound of course. Look out for everyone from Roger Corman, to Jay and Silent Bob.

Carrie Fisher also turns up as a failed actress, who has failed because she looks so much like Carrie Fisher! No one would cast her, and also, as she says, "...Carrie Fisher slept with a lot of people obviously". Parker Posey stands out, hamming it up at every turn, which is a great contrast to Neve Campbell's concerned and frankly irritating Sidney Prescott. Anyway, I love a good slasher movie. It's cathartic. Of course it's not so cathartic getting busted on the way out of the theatre with a big pee stain on your pants, but hey, I like a good scare as much as the next wuss arse horror movie reviewer.

OK, now I'm going to get mean. I seen The Insider, I seen Romper Stomper, but Russell Crowe, I got two words for you: Mystery, Alaska. I confess, I've never been one for the Small Town Drama (STD). In my opinion, Local Hero should have stayed that way. Ned Devine should not have been roused, and I don't care how much money he stood to win. However, despite the STD element and its traditionally near-evolutionary pace, this film moves along at a cracking one, thanks to around thirty five subplots.

Enter TV writer David E. Kelley. He's responsible for Ally MacBeal, Lake Placid and The Practice. To wit, there is both an Ally lookalike AND two courtroom drama scenes here, but unfortunately no oversized crocodiles. There are some funny lines, and yes, the old hockey-puck-in-the-testicles gag gets a look-in too.

John Biebe (Russell Crowe) is the town sheriff and the longest serving player on Mystery's Saturday Ice Hockey Team. When Charlie (Hank Azaria), ex-resident of the town, and ex-boyfriend of Crowe's wife, returns from New York with an article about the team in Sports Illustrated, the players are catapulted to national stardom. Their newfound fame lands them a show match against the New York Rangers. Throw in a coupla affairs, a gruesome heart attack, an ongoing town war with a grocery conglomerate, some hilarious pre-pubescent sex, and a rectum-tightening ice hockey playoff at the end, and there you have Mystery, Alaska. Like Bombe Alaska, but less tasty, and a lot less complicated to assemble. ---Tabitha Clutterbuck

Tabitha presents arena TV's The Graveyard Shift and ABC TV's 10:30 slot. Just shows where writing for us can take you.

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originally posted: 03/22/00 18:07:06
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