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On the Screen

HHHH: Excellent

HHH: Good

HH: Average

H: Poor

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. Loews Fresh Pond.

HH1/2 The Mask

In the tradition of other summertime comic-book based films, this one casts the rubber-faced Jim Carrey as Stanley Ipkiss, a "nice guy" who lets other people walk all over him; but, the character is transformed when he finds an ancient Norse mask that grant him powers of invincibility and exaggerated goofiness. One shouldn't expect too much plot or characterization from this genre, and at least the story moves with some witty, cartoon-like special effects and the romantic and criminal adversaries (Cameron Diaz and Peter Greene) give the film some levity. But under the gloss, The Mask is pretty conventional, and dull, summer fare: save for some of Carrey's refreshingly "normal" side, if you've seen the previews, you've pretty much seen it all. - Evelyn Kao. Loews Charles.

HHH Natural Born Killers

Oliver Stone's latest film focuses on a marauding couple (Woody Harrelson and Juliette Lewis) whose sensational mass-killing spree catapults them into the national spotlight. Their lives are consequently exploited by a TV tabloid journalist (Robert Downey Jr.), a sadistic cop (Tom Sizemore), and a somewhat dimwitted prison warden (Tommy Lee Jones). All elements of justice and the media machine are represented as cartoonish caricatures, which degenerate as the film goes on: The main problem is the director's somewhat hypocritical attitude that fails to recognize that he is part of that same machine. The main attractions in the film are the hyperkinetic performances of the cast members, the excessive violence, and the bizarre, rapid-fire editing of picture and sound - all of which Stone executes brilliantly. By the end of the film, audiences will either revel its visual audacity or deplore its apparent lack of message. - Scott Deskin. 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. 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. LSC Saturday.

HHHH 2001: A Space Odyssey

Director Stanley Kubrick's mind-bending science-fiction spectacle stands as one of the defining moments of the late 1960s and of the sci-fi genre itself. Beginning with the physical savagery of proto-humans and climaxing with the cool, intellectual savagery of mankind and computers, the film is rich with social commentary and religious symbolism. The special effects are still amazing, a full 26 years after the film's original release: Kubrick's obsessive attention to detail with the set design and photography laid the groundwork for a new aesthetic in American cinema. The acting has very little depth or expression, especially when compared with Kubrick's comic satire Dr. Strangelove or his exercise in ultraviolence, A Clockwork Orange. But this film bypasses human primitivism almost entirely in order for mankind to achieve spiritual deliverance from self-serving, dehumanizing technology. Based on Arthur C. Clarke's short story The Sentinel, 2001 remains Kubrick's defining masterwork. - SD. Brattle Theatre, Sunday.