It's that time of year again.
Newport Dunes Resort in Newport Beach is hosting Family Flicks on the beach Fridays and Saturdays through Sept. 4.
That means watching films on a 9-by-12-foot screen from the vantage point of a beach chair on the shore of the 100-acre waterfront resort--not to mention something you can't get at your local Edwards or AMC theater: marshmallows roasting by campfire.
Screening Friday is "Larger Than Life," a 1996 comedy co-starring Bill Murray and a pachyderm named Vera.
Murray plays a third-rate motivational speaker (sample audience: the American Motion Upholstery Assn.) who inherits his late father's circus elephant. (It turns out that Pop, whom he never met and thought was dead, was a small-time circus clown.)
Stuck with a $35,000 bill from a lawyer who's been harboring Vera, Murray is faced with two choices: take Vera to an animal researcher (Janeane Garofalo) to become part of a breeding project, or to an intriguing, whiskey-voiced circus owner (Linda Fiorentino) who apparently can get him out of his financial dilemma.
Look for Matthew McConaughey, then an unknown young character actor from Texas, in a quirky, fast-talking role as a flamboyant, paranoid trucker.
Neither critics nor fans were overwhelmed by this oddball, cross-country buddy movie, which was directed by Howard Franklin with a script by Roy Blount Jr.
Leonard Maltin's "Movie and Video Guide" calls it a "disappointing comedic misfire. . . . One hysterical sequence of Murray's mishandling of a truck is the only real laugh in the film. Promising comedic possibilities fall flat."
Enough said. No, wait: Bring exextra marshmallows.
* "Larger Than Life" screens at dusk Friday at Newport Dunes Resort, 1131 Backbay Drive, Newport Beach. Rated PG. Running time: 93 minutes. Parking is $6 per car. (949) 729-DUNE.
Powerful 'La Promesse' From UCI Film Society
"La Promesse," a powerful, 1997 documentary-style film by Belgian filmmaker-brothers Luc and Jean-Pierre Dardenne, will be presented by the UC Irvine Film Society on Friday.
Voted best foreign film by both the National Society of Film Critics and the Los Angeles Film Critics Assn., "La Promesse" is the story of a 15-year-old boy (Jeremie Renier), who is torn between his devotion to his father and his sense of what is right.
Times critic Kenneth Turan, who ranked the film No. 5 on his Top 10 list for 1997, wrote that "La Promesse" illustrates "the cinema's always-surprising ability to make gripping and unforgettable entertainments out of profound issues. The story of how a 15-year-old liar and sneak thief discovers the existence of morality proves that compelling personal dilemmas make for the most dramatic cinema."
* "La Promesse" screens at 7 and 9 p.m. Friday in the Crystal Cove auditorium in the UCI Student Center, near the corner of West Peltason and Pereira drives. In French with English subtitles. Unrated. Times guidelines: intense adult situations and themes. Running time: 1 hour, 33 minutes. General admission: $4.50. (949) 824-5588.
Strangers Find Solace
in 'Eternity and a Day'
"Eternity and a Day," a Greek film that won the Golden Palm at the 1998 Cannes Film Festival, opens Friday at Edwards Town Center in Costa Mesa.
The film, by writer-director Theo Angelopoulos, is a portrait of a celebrated Greek writer, Alexandre (Bruno Ganz), who has recently learned that he is terminally ill. Closing up his beloved seaside retreat for the last time before entering the hospital, he discovers a packet of letters from his long-dead wife, whose words lead him on a "magical realist voyage" to relive one idyllic, idealized day.
The film shifts between past and present as Alexandre's path is crossed by an 8-year-old Albanian refugee whose plight he cannot ignore. As publicity for the film puts it: "Throughout their day together, these two strangers, the dying man and the lost boy, become unwitting partners in facing despair and death and, ultimately, in bringing each other courage and solace."
* "Eternity and a Day" opens Friday at Edwards Town Center, 3199 Park Center Drive, Costa Mesa. Not rated. Running Time: 2 hours, 12 minutes. In Greek with English subtitles. (714) 751-4184.
Biblical, Modern Meet in 'Sexual Innocence'
"The Loss of Sexual Innocence," a film by writer-director Mike Figgis, opens Friday at Edwards Town Center in Costa Mesa.
Told in a nonlinear fashion with interconnected short stories, the film traces the sometimes touching, sometimes humorous episodes in the life of one man, Nic (Julian Sands). As the film unfolds, the audience learns what makes Nic the man he is. Paralleling Nic's story is the story of the fall from grace of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, the two cross-cutting tales intertwining and serving to illustrate not only Nic's loss of innocence but that of all humanity.
* "The Loss of Sexual Innocence" opens Friday at Edwards Town Center, 3199 Park Center Drive, Costa Mesa. Rated R. Running time: 101 minutes. (714) 751-4184.
Alternate Screen is published on Thursdays. It can be reached by e-mail at OCWeekend@latimes.com.