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On the Screen

****: Excellent

***: Good

**: Average

*: Poor

***1/2 The Age of Innocence

The film version of Edith Wharton's novel homes in on of the conflict felt by Newland Archer (Daniel Day-Lewis), who must balance the rigid social code of 1870s New York and his passion for Ellen Olenska (Michelle Pfeiffer), his fiancee's independent and intellectual sister. Despite the Victorian setting, this is obviously the work of director Martin Scorsese, who specializes in movies about people's struggles to make decisions. The directing is meticulous and the sense of authenticity is impressive. The chemistry between Day-Lewis and Pfeiffer is also powerful, but the camera focuses on the internal struggles of the two and thankfully avoids the torrid sex scene typical of Hollywood movies. --Craig K. Chang. Loews Nickelodeon

*** Cool Running

Based on the true story of 1988 Jamaican Bobsled Team, the film is actually quite enjoyable despite its overused themes. Starring Leon (remember Madonna's "Like a Prayer" video?), Doug E. Doug, and John Candy, the film follows four Jamaican athletes and their coach on an adventure from a sunny island to the Calgary Winter Olympics. The underdog story has its own unique scenario, and manages to pass as a sweet mixture of comedy and heart. --CKC. Loews Copley

***1/2 The Fugitive

The ultimate chase movie begins with the ultimate special effect -- a train and bus wreck staged not with miniatures, but with the real thing. The wreck frees Dr. Richard Kimble (Harrison Ford), wrongfully convicted of murder, from the bus transporting him to prison, setting up a two-hour chase between Ford and his pursuer, the dedicated federal marshal Sam Gerard (Tommy Lee Jones). Ford is the big name star, and though he gives a great performance, Jones gets all the good lines. His single-minded devotion to upholding the law makes him, in a strange way, a more interesting character than intelligent nice guy Kimble. "I didn't kill my wife," insists Kimble, trapped in a drainage pipe; "I don't care," replies Gerard, and attempts to bring in his suspect. The Fugitive is an exciting movie, and a well-paced one, too, as Kimble's escapes grow ever more narrow and improbable, eventually leading up to a taut climax and a satisfying ending. For once, the hype was worth the wait. --Deborah A. Levinson. Loews Cheri

***1/2 In the Line of Fire

Clint Eastwood follows up Unforgiven with this gripping thriller about a Secret Service agent tracking a psycho stalking the president. Eastwood, crusty as ever, plays Frank Horrigan, ostensibly the last active agent present at the Kennedy assassination. John Malkovich brings incredible creepiness to the character of Mitch Leary, an ex-CIA killer obsessed with presidential assassins. Leary torments Horrigan with phone calls mocking Horrigan's inability -- or unwillingness -- to sacrifice himself for Kennedy, and leads the Secret Service on a cross-country chase, always several steps ahead of the game. The script is impressively tight for one not based on a book, and Eastwood and Malkovich both give over-the-top performances. If only Rene Russo's Secret Service agent had more to do than be a foil for Horrigan's sexist remarks and later, be his love interest. --DAL. Loews Copley Place

*** Jurassic Park

Michael Crichton's dinosaur epic translates well to the big screen (not surprising given that the book read like a screenplay), and Steven Spielberg does a good job in metamorphizing the dinosaurs from harmless cutesies to malevolent predators. Despite fine acting from Sam Neill and Laura Dern as an archaeologist and his paleobotanist girlfriend, the dinosaurs, both animatronic and computer-generated, are clearly meant to be the stars of the film. Most realistic of the menagerie is the sick triceratops lolling on her side; least, the herd of grazers that stampede across a field as Neill and two children run for cover. It's good to see Neill, a talented actor and star of many British and Australian films (including My Brilliant Career) and Dern, who finally started to get plum roles after her success in Rambling Rose, get the exposure they so richly deserve. Jurassic Park isn't stellar filmmaking, but its individual elements add up to make it a whirlwind, entertaining ride. --DAL. Loews Charles

*1/2 Malice

A clever, but underdeveloped plot dooms Malice to mediocrity. The movie centers around an egocentric, young doctor with a God complex (Alec Baldwin). The doctor saves the life of a college student who is raped; then he rents a room from one of the college's deans (Bill Pullman) and his wife (Nicole Kidman). But what starts out as a thriller about a killer on a college campus, ends up as a confusing story with a plot line that has more twists than a bag of pretzels. Kidman and Baldwin act well, but Pullman is both dull and boring. Malice also suffers from the Hollywood syndrome of unnecessary violence and pointless sex. Neither help the plot any, and often they are completely out of character. As a thriller, this movie fails miserably. As a mystery, it fails too. I don't think anyone can be expected to come close to figuring this movie out. --Patrick Mahoney. Loews Cheri

*** Manhattan Murder Mystery

Woody Allen's latest tale of angst-ridden New York intellectuals tells the story of a mild-mannered book editor (Allen) and his energetic but bored wife (Diane Keaton) as they become involved in solving an alleged murder case. As in any Allen film, sexual tensions complement the action, with old friend Ted (Alan Alda) coming on to Keaton's character, and sexpot author Marcia (Anjelica Huston) setting her sights on Allen. The result is $6.75 worth of stakeouts, soulful stares, sexual stress, and silliness. Manhattan Murder Mystery may center upon a rather bland murder plot, but it also provides a tight script, savagely spastic Allen performances, and the excellent supporting cast audiences have come to expect from an Allen film. --Matthew H. Hersch. Loews Cheri