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On The Screen

HHHH: Excellent

HHH: Good

HH: Average

H: Poor

HHH Ace Ventura: Pet Detective

Although 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

HHH Angie

This was almost a good movie. Unfortunately, even an admirable performance by Geena Davis couldn't overcome Tood Graff's awkward script. Although the focus of the movie wavers, it is primarily about a woman named Angie and the effects of unplanned motherhood on her life. There are some funny scenes, but they seem be to strung together. The character of Angie felt real, and the events of her life were realistic and interesting. Unfortunately, they were never made into a cohesive whole. --Gretchen Koot. Lowes Cheri

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, 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. --Scott Deskin. Loews Copley Place

H Guarding Tess

It's hard to explain just what this movie is. It's advertised as a comedy. Nearly two-thirds of the movie is a drama with a few comical scenes, and it ends with a mini-mystery. As you might expect, Guarding Tess is a film with a serious identity crisis. Nicholas Cage and Shirley MacLaine perform very poorly in this take-off on Driving Miss Daisy. --Christopher Chiu. Loews Cheri

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 Guiseppe (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

H Lightning Jack

Paul Hogan wrote and starred at "Lightning" Jack Kane -- the fastest gun in the West. The only problem is that no one knows it. Kane and his partner, Ben Doyle (Cuba Gooding Jr), aim to make a name for themselves by robbing a bank. There is nothing new here, the films is lifeless remake of the typical western. In place of a clever plot, Hogan has tried to create a unique partnership between Kane and the mute, yet amiable Doyle. Unfortunately it fails. It's too unbelievable, as neither of them is able to convince the audience they are outlaws. Hogan is funny, and Gooding is cute, but these can't save this film that just another western with an uninteresting plot, and no surprises. --Patrick Mahoney. Loews Copley

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

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. --GK. Loews Cheri

HHH The Ref

It isn't The Fugitive, but The Ref does okay in its own right. Denis Leary plays a man running from the law in this comedy by Ted Demme. After goofing up a burglary, Leary's character takes Caroline and Lloyd Chasseur (Judy Davis and Kevin Spacey) hostage while waiting for his escape. The film covers two hours of Leary's attempts to stay on top of his predicament, despite visits from the couple's son and various in-laws. The film is full of funny scenes, most of which are dominated by Leary, but there are also serious moments. Both sides of the spectrum are acted well by the whole cast. --Kamal Swamidoss. Loews Copley Place

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 carefully portrays 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 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 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 the film and its haunting, dazzling style. --Robert Marcato. Loews Harvard Square

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