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On The Screen

HHHH: Excellent

HHH: Good

HH: Average

H: Poor

HHHH Blue

The first film in a trilogy by director Krzystof Kieslowski deals with a widow (Juliette Binoche) coming to terms with the death of her composer husband and daughter in a car accident. Her recovery, both physical and emotional, carries added emotional resonance when she deals with the important unfinished symphony that was her husband's work and eventually proves the key to her independence. This film has somber overtones, but Binoche is a gem as the young woman trying to regain control over her life in the face of new relationships and romances. Kieslowski makes a characteristically strong statement here; the two other films in the trilogy are White (reviewed below) and Red. - Scott Deskin. Brattle Theatre; Friday, Sept. 2 through Sunday, Sept. 4.

HHH 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. - Deborah A. Levinson. LSC Monday.

HHHH The Lion King

Disney's newest animated feature is amazing. The story - a lion cub runs away, fearing that he is responsible for his father's death - is simple enough for children to understand, yet still entertaining for adults. The animation is first-rate, including both computer and traditional hand-drawn graphics mixed to perfection. And, in the tradition of Aladdin, Beauty & the Beast, and The Little Mermaid, the music is superb. Finally, the characters of The Lion King are some of the most memorable of all the recent Disney creatures. All-in-all this is one of the best Disney films. - Patrick Mahoney. Loews Copley Place.

HHH Speed

Keanu Reeves stars as Los Angeles SWAT team member Jack Traven, who effectively becomes a hero when he incurs the wrath of Howard Payne (Dennis Hopper), a mad bomber who seeks to extort money from the city. As with every great action vehicle, there has to be a gimmick: Payne has wired a transit bus with explosives that become armed when the bus exceeds 50 miles per hour, and will detonate if the bus dips below that speed. After that, it's up to Jack, along with a perky damsel on the bus (Sandra Bullock) and Jack's expendable partner Harry (Jeff Daniels), to save the day. If all this sounds rather corny, rest assured that director Jan DeBont (former cinematographer who shot Die Hard) knows his action pictures well, and keeps Speed going at a frenetic pace. The dialogue is patchy and the characters are pretty simplistic, but the real drama is carried by the thrilling stuntwork and explosions. Plus, the New Yorker called Speed the "movie of the year." What more could anyone ask of a no-brainer action film? - SD. Loews Cinema 57.

HHHH 32 Short Films About Glenn Gould

This film really is what the title says: a series of 32 films, ranging in length from 45 seconds to between 10 and 15 minutes. A brilliant pianist, the eccentric Gould was known for his insightful interpretations of J.S. Bach's work, and this film is full of Bach-like preludes and fugues, some subtle and some bold, but all fascinating. Styles vary as much as length; there are dramatized scenes from Gould's life, interviews with friends and relatives, and avant-garde selections that explore Gould's music in the cinematic art form. Some of these experimental pieces seem aimless, but the joy of sitting in a darkened theater listening to Gould playing Bach or Hindemith is more than enough to sustain these few moments of visual emptiness. This is as thorough an outline of a man's life as can be presented in two hours, and it is cleverly disguised as total fiction. At the end of the film, you will be surprised to find that in addition to having had a wonderful time, you have learned something. - Ann Ames. Brattle Theatre; Friday, Sept. 2 through Sunday, Sept. 4.

HH1/2 True Lies

Arnold Schwarzenegger's latest action-adventure-comedy casts him as Harry Tasker, a top-secret government agent who hides his real identity from his wife, Helen (Jamie Lee Curtis), who thinks he is a computer salesman. That premise is no less believable than any of the other plot twists, which primarily involve the efforts of Middle Eastern terrorist of the "Crimson Jihad" (Art Malik) to hold America hostage with some nuclear warheads. The special effects are pretty impressive, considering the seamlessness of the final product - including some nifty scenes with Harrier jets and exploding bridges - which seems to be a direct counterpoint to the exotic morphing effects of director James Cameron's last effort, Terminator 2. But most of the movie drags between its main action sequences, especially some dumb plot involving an affair between Helen and Simon (Bill Paxton), a man pretending to be a spy. The film is partially redeemed by the easygoing performance of Tom Arnold as Harry's sidekick, but most of the performances seem forced. - SD. Loews Cheri.

HHH1/2 White

The second film in director Krzystof Kieslowski's trilogy focuses on the exploits of Karol Karol (Zbigniew Zamachowski), a Polish man who is destroyed by the inability to fulfill the love he has for his French wife (Julie Delpy), and must rise from the ashes of his "death" for a chance at spiritual renewal. To do so, he must achieve personal wealth and satisfaction in his homeland before seeking out revenge on his one true love. A comedy that never loses site of its existential ties to the theme of equality, Kieslowski again has directed a winner. White is preceded by Blue (reviewed above) and followed by Red (yet to be released) in the trilogy. - SD. Brattle Theatre; Friday, Sept. 2 through Sunday, Sept. 4.