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On The Screen

HHHH: Excellent

HHH: Good

HH: Average

H: Poor

HHH Ace Ventura: Pet Detective

Though this silly movie is merely a vehicle for the comedic talent of Jim Carrey, it is genuinely funny. Carrey's facial and vocal caricatures are hilariously fresh, and he shines in this, his first starring role. Playing Ace Ventura, the world's only pet detective, he is hired to track down Snowflake, the Miami Dolphins mascot. The abduction of Dan Marino (as himself) complicates the plot, which is surprisingly interesting, considering the genre of the film. In a cascade of foolhardy blunders and semi-decent detective work, Ace tracks down the perpetrators in his own unique way. Be prepared to laugh a lot at the up-and-coming big-screen comedian. -J. Michael Andresen. Loews Copley Place

HH1/2 Carlito's Way

Ostensibly, this is a comeback for director Brian De Palma that tries to recapture the successful formula of De Palma's hit The Untouchables. But somehow it falls short of that mark. Al Pacino is the title character who, after getting released early from prison by his lawyer (Sean Penn), wants to go straight after years of dealing heroin. His dream of retiring to a car rental service in the Bahamas with his girlfriend (Penelope Ann Miller) is soon shattered by Penn's character, and in no time the sparks fly. Pacino is good (Puerto Rican accent notwithstanding), but is overshadowed by Penn's inspired performance as a dirty-dealing cokehead lawyer. De Palma pulls off an enjoyable, action-filled finale, but overall the movie runs a bit long and rings a bit hollow. -Scott Deskin. LSC Friday

H1/2 China Moon

Ed Harris stars as Kyle Bodine, a Florida homicide detective whose skills and wits are put to the test when he falls for sultry, sexy Rachel Munro (Madeleine Stowe). By the time we get to the main crux of the story, after Rachel dissolves her marriage to an abusive, rich banker (Charles Dance), we don't really care for these heartless, cardboard characters. The performances are partly to blame, with Harris scowling most of the time in an ill-suited lead role and Stowe alternately playing the aggressor and the victim with equal indifference: ultimately, though, this film is done in by its pallid neo-noir stylings and its poor script. From the shallow reference to the movie's title to the coercively downbeat conclusion, this film is dead in the water. -SD. Loews Copley Place

HHHH In the Name of the Father

Daniel Day-Lewis offers a riveting portrayal of a young man named Gerry Conlon who is convicted, along with friends and family, of an IRA bombing of a British pub in 1974. The film addresses the grave injustice that the British government dealt the Conlons, but it uses the relationship in prison between Gerry and his father Giuseppe (an excellent Pete Postlethwaite) to carry the film's message of hope and redemption. Director Jim Sheridan's pro-Irish bias provides an effective retaliation against England's tendency to make Ireland a scapegoat for the IRA's actions. And Emma Thompson gives a solid performance as the lawyer who struggles to bring freedom to the Conlons. Quite simply, it ranks as one of the best films of 1993. -SD. Loews Copley Place

HHH Mrs. Doubtfire

After a messy divorce, Daniel Hillard (Robin Williams) will do anything to see his kids again. His plot involves becoming a woman. As Mrs. Doubtfire, he manages to turn around his life and the lives of others. Williams' hilarious performance and a few touching scenes make up for a dismal beginning and much run-of-the-mill slapstick. -Craig K Chang. Loews Copley Place

HHH Philadelphia

Hollywood's film "about" AIDS is really about discrimination and human dignity. Tom Hanks is the HIV-positive lawyer who alleges he was fired from his prestigious law firm because of AIDS discrimination, and Denzel Washington is the homophobic lawyer that agrees to take his suit to court. The film's power lies in its message, but at times it suffers from Jonathan Demme's heavy-handed direction, mistaking stilted sentiment for raw emotion. Still, the performances of Hanks, Washington, and a fine supporting cast carry the film to a near-triumphant conclusion. -SD. Loews Cheri

HHH1/2 The Princess Bride

Cary Elwes and his merry crew do not fail to entertain in this cult classic. This movie has everything; fencing, fighting, torture, revenge, giants, monsters, chases, escapes, true love, and miracles all highlight the screen, not to mention ROUSs (rodents of unusual size). This is a wonderful spoof of the fantasy genre replete with fast-paced action and a blatant and thoroughly entertaining brand of humor. A must-see for all. -JMA. LSC Sunday

HHH Reality Bites

Finally, here is a twenty-something movie with a message. Winona Ryder stars as a recent college graduate grappling with questions of identity. Following her dream of making documentary films, she interns with a television program and encounters a world of people too self-absorbed to pay her efforts much attention. She meets a nice TV executive named Michael (Ben Stiller), doesn't fall in love, and is forced to choose between having fun with him and having a true connection with her old friend Troy (Ethan Hawke). Through all these trials, the movie still succeeds as a comedy, full of crazy details and witty one-liners. The actors' wonderful performances, as well as insightful writing by Helen Childress and directing by Ben Stiller, make this a very entertaining movie. -Gretchen Koot. Loews Cheri

HHHH Schindler's List

Director Steven Spielberg triumphs in this historical drama about Oskar Schindler (Liam Neeson), who was responsible for saving the lives of more than a thousand Jews during the Holocaust. Shot almost entirely in black and white, the film takes you to the Poland of the late 30s and early 40s. Neeson is great, carefully portraying the slow change from a man who only cares about money to one who cares only about saving lives. Ben Kingsley perfectly plays Itzhak Stern, Schindler's Jewish accountant who cunningly sidesteps Nazi officials. Ralph Fiennes portrays the unswervingly-loyal Amon Goeth, the Commandant of the Nazi labor camp. Through Fiennes the audience is able to witness the hatred, brutality, and widespread death. Overall the movie is incredibly powerful, and brings to light one of the darkest periods of human history. -Patrick Mahoney. Loews Nickelodeon

HHH1/2 Six Degrees of Separation

Will Smith (the Fresh Prince of Bel Air) stars as a young man who cons his way into the ritzy apartment of an upper-class, New York couple (Donald Sutherland and Stockard Channing) by pretending he is the friend of their child's college friend and the son of Sidney Poitier. Not the combination of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels and Different Strokes that the plot suggests, Six Degrees is a witty, sophisticated satire. Adapted from John Guare's hit Broadway play, this movie has been described as "a comedy of manners," "a drama of ideas," and "a rich, funny, and disturbing parable of life in the morally wormy Big Apple." For audiences used to modern movies, which are lucky to have one main message, this film's multiplicity of themes could be overwhelming. But whether you love or hate this ambiguity, you'll find it hard to stop thinking about this film and its haunting, dazzling style. -Robert Marcato. Loews Harvard Square

HHH1/2 The Three Musketeers

Wit and charm abound in The Three Musketeers. The star-studded cast, including Charlie Sheen, Kiefer Sutherland, Chris O'Donnell, Oliver Platt, Tim Curry, and Rebecca DeMornay, bring excitement, action, and humor to the screen. The story is set in France, and begins with D'Artagnan (O'Donnell) setting out for Paristo become a musketeer, as his father had been. Upon arrival he finds that the musketeers have been disbanded by Cardinal Richelieu (Curry) who seeks to steal the throne from the king. D'Artagnan stumbles upon the last three musketeers (Sheen, Sutherland, and Platt), the four of them uncover Richelieu's treasonous plot, and seek to stop him. The movie was filmed in Austria, which lends the film a sense of realism and history. The most enjoyable part of this movie was the balance between comedy, action, and plot. The film was funny, but most of the humor came from casual witty one-liners. I enjoyed the sword-fighting scenes throughout the film. They were well choreographed and exciting to watch. On the whole I found The Three Musketeers very entertaining, so much so that I plan to see it again. -PM. LSC Saturday

HHH1/2 What's Eating Gilbert Grape

Bolstered by excellent performances by Leonardo DiCaprio, who received a Golden Globe nomination for his role, and Johnny Depp, this film may be the most honest and original film of the year. Gilbert Grape (Depp) is plagued through much of the film by a nagging ambivalence to the problems in his life. The ways in which he eventually confronts these problems, however, are so subtlely reached that the story can never be accused of plot manipulation or cliche. -SD. Loews Nickelodeon