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Capsule Screen Reviews

****: Excellent

***: Good

**: Mediocre

*: Poor

***1/2 Bob Roberts

Funny and disturbing, this satire of American politics written and directed by its star, Tim Robbins, uses a mock documentary style to chronicle the rise to power of the fictional Bob Roberts. Roberts is a right-wing entertainer, entrepreneur, and political candidate who has adopted folk singing as a medium for his conservative attitudes, and whose only clear beliefs are that individuals should be able to gain as much wealth as they can and that the liberal programs of incumbent Senator Paiste (Gore Vidal) are a waste of money. The film's scathing indictment of candidates and campaigning in the era of entertainment is accurate, hilarious, and troubling. Loews Nickelodeon

*1/2 The Bodyguard

Whitney Houston essentially plays herself, a temperamental pop singer who lacks songwriting ability and good musical taste, and Kevin Costner is a retired Secret Service agent hired to protect her after she begins to receive death threats in this mediocre romantic thriller. The romance in particular is emotionless, thanks to Costner's dry character and Houston's undeveloped acting abilities. Most of The Bodyguard, including the casting of Houston, which seems to have been merely a ploy to cash in on soundtrack sales, is often little more than an unpleasant reminder that Hollywood is an industry more interested in producing money than art. Loews Cheri

*** Bram Stoker's Dracula

Director Francis Ford Coppola has fashioned a film with a frenetic pace and ubiquitous visual tricks in a style that is closer to that of MTV and Batman director Tim Burton than it is to the Victorian gothic horror of Dracula author Bram Stoker. The movie's appearance completely dominates over the disjointed plot and poorly drawn characters, making most of the film an attractive muddled mess. But the effects, sets, and costumes are so vivid and excessive that Dracula manages to be very interesting even as it frustrates with a lack of coherence and drama. Loews Cheri

**** Howards End

The filmmaking trio of James Ivory, Ismail Merchant, and Ruth Prawer Jhabvala have translated E. M. Forster's novel of class struggles in 20th-century England into a brilliant film that is an astonishing achievement. The screen is filled with contrasting elements such as the rich and the poor, the romantic and the pragmatic, and the urban and the pastoral. The alternately funny and moving story considers which group will ultimately inherit the nation. Anthony Hopkins, Helena Bonham Carter, and Samuel West are excellent, and Vanessa Redgrave and Emma Thompson are outstanding. Arlington Capitol Theater

*** Husbands and Wives

Bleak and powerful, Woody Allen's new film examines the state of relationships today and decides that unending love is little more than a myth. Shot as a documentary, it follows the members of two marriages as they grow disillusioned with one another and begin to look for happiness elsewhere. Judy Davis gives a wonderfully neurotic comic performance, Sydney Pollack is amazing as a man full of frustration but still deserving pity, and Allen and Mia Farrow appear to be haunted by pain. The movie is occasionally funny, but it is more convincing when it dramatizes its characters inabilities to find fulfillment. Arlington Capitol Theater

**** School Ties

This is an amazing film dealing with anti-Semitism in the 1950's. Brendan Fraser delivers a powerful performance as David Greene, who is recruited from a poor town to play football for an elite preparatory school. David at first hides the fact that he is Jewish and fits in well with his new group of friends. When they find out that he is Jewish, each reacts differently. The movie examines different forms of prejudice in the actions of David's friends after their discovery. Overall, the acting is convincing, the story is feasible, and the moral well presented. The film properly balances a humorous and serious side, yielding a final product that is as meaningful as it is enjoyable to watch. Loews Copley Place

*** Singles

This light and entertaining film focuses on the struggles of six singles in their 20s as they try to understand love and relationships. Steve Cambell, Kyra Sedgwick, Bridget Fonda, and Matt Dillon are all good, the script by director Cameron Crowe is often extremely funny, and Seattle locations and music provide an interesting backdrop. Although it is not as realistic as Crowe's Say Anything, the movie is filled with wonderful isolated moments that are filled with truthful familiarity. Loews Copley Place

** Under Siege

Under Siege is poorly written film that relies on violence rather than substance to be entertaining. Steven Seagal is Casey Ryback, an ex-Navy SEAL who is masquerading as a cook on the USS Missouri when a gang of hijackers (led by Tommy Lee Jones and Gary Busey) takes over the ship. Ryback must single-handedly eliminate all the bad guys and save the day, which turns into Ryback scouring the ship and coming up with new and creative ways to eliminate the enemy. The martial arts sequences are impressive and Tommy Lee Jones delivers a powerful performance as the mastermind terrorist, but the bad writing evidenced in the incredibly weak female role and the lack of any interesting plot twist ruins everything. Loews Fresh Pond