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On The Screen

HHHH: Excellent

HHH: Good

HH: Average

H: Poor

HHH Backbeat

As a gratuitous entry for the 30th anniversary of the Beatles' arrival in the United States, this film may seem a little shallow at first. However, director Iain Softley offers a different perspective on the group's history, at a time when the lads from Liverpool were struggling for recognition in sleazy Hamburg nightclubs. The story focuses on the friendship between art school mates John Lennon (Ian Hart) and the original "fifth Beatle," bassist Stu Sutcliffe (Stephen Dorff). Softley uses this as a vehicle to explore Sutcliffe as a tortured artist and Sutcliffe's burgeoning relationship with German existential photographer Astrid Kirchherr (Sheryl Lee). This is not the conventional Beatles biopic that you'd expect, as it casts the other group members in the shadows. This may prove especially distressing for some Beatles fans, but Ian Hart's uncanny emulation of Lennon's ascerbic wit is the film's saving grace. Of course, there's music, and the re-recorded R&B gems provide an infusion of popular flair. --Scott Deskin. Loews Harvard Square

HHH Bad Girls

Though it would seem that this film would be a big departure from a typical western, it has all the rip-roaring excitement typical of the genre with one obvious twist: In this movie, the gunslinging protagonists are women. If anything in the script is very different, it's that more humor than in standard westerns. When a whorehouse brawl leads to the shooting death of a colonel, the bad girls (Madeline Stowe, Mary Stuart Masterton, Andie MacDowell and Drew Barrymore) take off into the wild west to live as outlaws. Don't expect to find themes of women's vicitmization, though. The film is just about women playing cowboys and having good time doing it. --Gretchen Koot. Loews Copley Place

HHH Cops and Robbersons

Chevy Chase plays Norman Robberson, a middle-aged family man who wants to be a cop. Jack Palance plays Jake Stone, a police detective on the trail of a counterfeiter who lives next door to the Robbersons. Norman agrees to let Stone use his house in a stake-out, and the story relates their funny advntures in trying to catch the crook. The Robberson family comes closer together as a result of knowing Jake Stone, and Stone himself gradually leaves his solitude to become a part of their family. Many amusing scenes keep the story moving. --Kamal Swamidoss. Loews Cheri

HHH1/2 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 2-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, as he 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. LSC Saturday

HHH Naked Gun 331/3: The Final Insult

From what is promised to be the final chapter in an unpretentious trilogy, this film was anticipated as a letdown but proved every bit as enjoyable as the first Naked Gun. Leslie Nielsen reprises his role as the inept Lt. Frank Drebin, but he has retired from Police Squad to domestic bliss with his career-minded wife, Jane Spencer-Drebin (Priscilla Presley). The plot, as transparent as ever, centers around a terrorist (Fred Ward), his buxom accomplice (Anna Nicole Smith), and a scheme to neutralize the festivities at the Academy Awards. The film is merely a vehicle for the staggering number of lowbrow references, pratfalls, and sight gags, but nonetheless is a streamlined vehicle which can boast more hits than misses. Sometimes the acting appears more brainless than the plot, but Nielsen's mannerisms and the effective Zucker-Abrams-Zucker production values are appealing and transcendent of the material. For mindless entertainment, it's pretty impressive. --SD. Loews Cheri

HHH The Paper

This day-in-the-life look at a New York newspaper markets itself as a comedy, but credibly mixes elements of drama, mystery, and even romance. It captures the occasional hysteria of the newsroom, and from first sight of The Sun's office, the whole movie rushes forward as if in fear of the ever-present deadline. When Michael Keaton, as the manic metro editor, faces off against managing editor Glenn Close in yet another mega-bitch role, sparks and stinging one-liners fly faster than newsy rumors. Marisa Tomei adds nervous humor as Keaton's very pregnant wife, and Randy Quaid plays paranoia to perfection as The Sun's opinion editor. Under the masterful direction of Ron Howard, the star-studded cast shows us how to laugh and learn about life, just in time to get the news out. --Ann Ames. Loews Cheri

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 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 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 Fresh Pond

H1/2 Threesome

Writer-Director Andrew Fleming tries to create a film about college life but ends up with a weak look at the struggle of one confused student who is trying to determine his sexual orientation. Eddy (Josh Charles) is attracted to Stuart (Stephen Baldwin) who is attracted to Alex (Laura Flynn Boyle) who is attracted to Eddy. The film's premise, which finds Alex mistakenly placed as a roommate to Eddy and Stuart, is overplayed in importance and only distracts from the initial presentation of the three characters. Overall, the film would have been much stronger had Fleming concentrated on either the development and internal conflict of Eddy's character or on the interaction of all three characters, instead of trying to look at both. --PM. Loews Harvard Square