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'8mm' teeters on the edge of unacceptance

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Directed by: Joel Schumacher

Starring: Nicolas Cage, Joaquin Phoenix, Catherine Keener, James Gandolfini

Rated: R

"Little Voice"

Directed by: Mark Herman

Starring: Jane Horrocks, Brenda Blethyn, Michael Caine

Rated: R

Twenty years ago, Paul Schrader wrote and directed a disturbing little film titled "Hardcore." In it, a Calvinist father went searching for his runaway daughter who had fallen into the porno and prostitution industry. It was an unsettling film.

Ah, how things change in 20 years. Compared to Joel Schumacher's latest film, "8mm," "Hardcore" seems like a feel-good family film. This isn't a slam at Schumacher.

In "8mm," Nicolas Cage plays private detective Tom Welles. He's hired by the widow of a mega-millionaire who has discovered what appears to be a snuff film in her late husband's private safe. She wants to be assured the thing is a fake and wants Tom to find the girl in the film and make sure she's OK. With unlimited financial resources from the widow, Welles agrees and the scum diving begins.

After an extensive search of national missing persons files, Welles contacts the mother of the girl in the movie, a woman who still harbors the hope that her runaway daughter will one day return.

It goes without saying that anything involved with sleaze will ultimately lead to Los Angeles, and while there, Welles takes up with a young porno store clerk named Max California, played by a scene-stealing Joaquin Phoenix.

Max takes Welles into the depths of the underground porn industry, and minute by minute, the film gets more uncomfortable and grimy. "8mm" was written by Andrew Kevin Walker, who scored a hit a few years ago with "Seven."

Walker and director Schumacher are walking a dangerous line here. Audiences really seem to like sex, violence and the macabre, but occasionally a sense of "maybe this is going a little too far" takes over and a moralistic backlash (albeit brief) occurs, keeping the box office bare.

It's creepy, it's violent and it will make you uncomfortable, but "8mm" is well-made and -acted.

On a more pleasant note is "Little Voice."

Mark Herman has taken a stage play one with quite an interesting back story expanded it and created a quirky, touching movie.

The play was originally written to showcase the vocal talents of English actress Jane Horrocks, probably best known in the United States for her role as Bubble on "Absolutely Fabulous."

Horrocks has an uncanny ability to mimic female vocalists like Judy Garland, Marilyn Monroe and Shirley Bassey, and the film (and play) features her as a withdrawn girl who barely speaks, nicknamed L.V., or Little Voice.

L.V. sits in her room longing for her deceased dad, all the while listening to his old records.

Her aging party-girl mom has taken up with a small-time talent agent who, upon hearing L.V.'s unique ability as a mimic, thinks he's found his ticket to the big time. Never mind that L.V. doesn't want to go.

At this writing, "Little Voice" is not playing in Springfield. With Oscar looming, though, it may well show up. Brenda Blethyn is up for supporting actress for her role as L.V.'s overbearing, motor-mouthed mother.

(Jim Wunderle works at Associated Video Producers and is a Springfield free-lance writer and musician.)

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