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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 Harvard Square

** Demolition Man

Although the advertising for this film has portrayed this film as primarily about a 21st century duel between a cop and a criminal from the 20th century, the actual emphasis of this film lies elsewhere. It is the exploration of the futuristic society that dominates the film's screen time and is one of the film's few success. In 1996, LAPD Sgt. John Spartan (Sylvester Stallone) and psychopathic criminal Simon Phoenix (Wesley Snipes) are both sentenced to a cryopenitentiary. When they resurface in 2032, they resume the battle where they left off. Although this provides the plot for the film, the actual emphasis is in exploring the futuristic, Orwellian society the writers envisage, complete with a big brother figure in Mayor/Govenor Raymond Cocteau (Nigel Hawthorne). Cocteau's society is devoid of social evils like violent crime and foods high in cholesterol. This film features a rather interesting virtual sex scene in place of the standard Hollywood fare, as well. Ultimately, however, Demolition Man is unsatisfying. The lame plot combined with the woefully banal dialogue is only partially salvaged by the clever picture of the 21st century. It is interesting, but not all that exciting. --Joshua Andresen. Loews Cinema 57

*** Cool Runnings

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 Place

1/2 Fatal Instinct

So much potential -- that leads to nothing. Fatal Instinct, stars Armand Assante, Sean Young, Kate Nelligan, and Sherilyn Fenn. The title is a clear spoof on Fatal Attraction and Basic Instinct, as are many other scenes and images in the movie, but overall, these spoofs just aren't funny. This movie could have been a killer. It had all the possibilities of a great satire of one of the easiest movie genre to satirize. But it's problem is that it tries to spoof too many things and it causes the movie to lose a lot of its cohesion. Armand Assante does a good job in this movie, given what he has to work with. The rest of the actors all muddle in a pool of boring mediocrity. Should you have the misfortune to actually see this movie, then I'd suggest ignoring the main characters and looking trying to find the ice cream scooper hidden in the picture. Sort of like a Where's Waldo book. --Patrick Mahoney. Loews Copley Place

*** Fearless

Director Peter Weir (Witness, Dead Poets Society) does a masterful job of capturing the audience in this story about the survivor of a plane crash. All the performances are superb, but Jeff Bridges (as Max, the survivor) turns in a remarkable performance as a man who has been reborn as the master of his fate; Max believes that he has already passed through death and has become invincible. Isabella Rossellini and Rosie Perez also star. Despite a few lapses of emotional restraint, Weir directs with assurance and makes good use of the camera. In short, Fearless is an entertaining and compelling story. --Scott Deskin. Loews Copley Place

* Flesh and Bone

A (Dennis Quaid) boy resents his criminal father (James Caan) forcing him to witness the massacre of an entire family. Forgotten remnants of this act catch up with both of them decades later, as they find themselves tangled in a web of irony linked to their past. Labored, slow, and unrevealing, Flesh and Bone manages to introduce numerous high-brow themes without ever making us give a damn. Truly pitiful. --CKC. Loews Cheri

*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. --PM. Showcase Cleveland Circle

**1/2 Robocop

A police officer dies in a bust, and he is body is used to create a new "super cop" robot. Peter Weller stars as the cyborg Robocop who is programmed to defend the city. Although excessively gory, the movie is good. Weller does an excellent job in playing an emotionless cyborg who upholds the law. Nancy Allen plays his old partner who tries to make him remember his old life. She holds her own, but it's the most believable of characters. The special effects are good for a movie created in 1987, and are still dazzling today. Probably the most unexpected part of this action movie is that it has a creative plot twist, not something that action films are know for. --PM. LSC Sunday

*1/2 Robocop 3

This third installment in the Robocop series typifies the repulsive aspects of Hollywood moviemaking, though it manages some enjoyable stunts and cute scene involving a young girl infiltrating a police armory. Otherwise, it is the same combination of maximum violence on minimum plot. Robert Burke has taken on Peter Weller's title role, and Karen Allen's character dies. --SD. Loews Cinema 57

***1/2 Rudy

Rudy Ruedicker (Sean Austin) plays a poor boy who's only dream is to make it to Notre Dame and play football. Austin's performance is tremendous. From the outset, we see him as a man driven by a single desire in life. Ned Beatty plays the groundskeeper who befriends Rudy. Over time, the friendship between the two of them grows. What adds a lot of clout to this movie is the role of the coach who transfers in from the Green Bay Packers. He's a mean guy and doesn't really care how hard Rudy plays because the fact remains that Rudy has no talent. The movie is inspirational, though; it shows that hard work can make dreams come true. It's an overly sentimental movie, but that's okay. It's a story with a happy ending, and sometimes happy endings are sappy. Much of the sentimentality can be explained because the movie is based on a true story. All of the characters are developed and there is plenty of substance to the film. The music score also succeeds in setting the moments well throughout the film. On the whole, this is an excellent film, right up there with The Natural and Field of Dreams. See it. It will make you happy. --PM. Loews Copley Place

*** The Scarlet Pimpernel

Leslie Howard stars in this 1934 film about a Frenchman, Sir Percy Blakely, who risks his life to save aristocrats from the French Revolution. Howard's performance is supreme, both humorous and convincing. He really plays his role as an overtly ditzy, yet secretly cunning, mastermind of the evacuation to perfection. Definitely a movie to see, if not for Howard's performance, then for the excellent costumes and scenery. --PM. LSC Friday Classic.

** Sleepless in Seattle

Sleepless in Seattle, yet another entry in the harmless romantic comedy genre, stars Meg Ryan as (surprise!) a slightly ditzy blonde and Tom Hanks as the widower she falls for after hearing him on a late-night radio talk show confessing his love for his dead wife. Ryan, realizing how perfectly empty her relationship with her fiance is, embarks on a quest to find Hanks, while Hanks' precocious son Jonah (Ross Malinger) pushes his father to answer the pile of love letters he's received after the talk show stint ... and guess whose letter Jonah most wants his father to answer? The movie is consistently funny in a low-key, inoffensive way, Hanks is adequate, Ryan isn't too annoying -- but Nora Ephron's script ties every loose end so neatly that there's no room for unpredictability. --Deborah A. Levinson. LSC Saturday

*** Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas

The animation of this film is incredible, as are the characters, though sadly this level of excellence is not matched in the writing or the music. Set in a land where each holiday has its own world, Nightmare gives the account of Jack Skellington, the leader of Halloweentown. Tired of exporting Halloween each year to the "real" world, Jack decides instead to bring Christmas to everyone. His plan includes kidnapping "Sandy Claws" so that he himself may deliver all the toys made for him by the ghouls and goblins in Halloweentown. Unfortunately, his good intentions do not translate into a successful Christmas. The most striking feature of the film is the impeccable animation. The movements of the extremely lank Skellington are impossibly smooth as he dances across the screen. Tim Burton's characters are what make this film truly entertaining, from the ebullient Skellington to the nasty Oogie-Boogie (who wants to eat Santa Claus for dinner). Unfortunately, the plot lacks interesting twists, and the songs lack originality. Despite the flaws, this remains a fun film overall. --JA. Loews Harvard Square