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On The Screen

Maj. Casey Shuler (Kevin Spacey), Col. Sam Daniels (Dustin Hoffman), Dr. Roberta "Robby" Keough (Rene Russo), and Maj. Walter Salt (Cuba Gooding Jr.) in the medical thriller Outbreak.

HHHH: Excellent

HHH: Good

HH: Average

H: Poor

HHHH Before the Rain

This movie tries too hard to be everything to everyone. While director Milcho Manchevski scores big by beginning his movie in a Dostoyevski-era Russian Orthodox cathedral, he ultimately teases the audience by beginning an innocent love story and then shooting holes in the leading lady. Because the movie is about war, its violent content is to be expected; but Manchevski's move to switch the emphasis from a mute monk to a Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer without finishing his original story could be construed as sneaky. However, the film is filled with stunning images, with an intricate structure that ties three separate stories together under an artistic exploration of life and death. If you like artsy political statements, this film's for you. -Teresa Esser. Sony Nickelodeon.

HH1/2 Before Sunrise

This movie is for all hopeless romantics who fantasize of acting on a chance encounter with an ideal soulmate. The characters are Jesse (Ethan Hawke), an American, and Celine (Julie Delpy), a French student. Jesse tempts Celine to get off the Eurail and accompany him on an all-night stroll through Vienna before his plane departs for the States the next day. The movie is dominated by conversation, predominantly pop-culture philosophizing, that interrupts the short-term lovers' base flirtations. Director Richard Linklater pares down the cast to the two lovers, which is a novel and impressive contrast to his earlier efforts. But, despite engaging performances by the two leads, the long conversations become tiresome and the film makes you beg for the requisite sexual encounter. It's a good date movie, but it's pure fantasy. -Scott Deskin. Sony Fresh Pond.

HH Boys on the Side

A lesbian woman, played by Whoopi Goldberg, searches for love and instead finds friendship in another woman (Mary Louise Parker) during a cross-country road trip. Drew Barrymore joins the group as a woman trying to escape her past with an abusive husband. It's very confusing until one sifts through the garbage to discover the warmth between two people discovering instead of falling into each other's love. -Craig K. Chang. Sony Copley Place.

HHH The Brady Bunch Movie

The film version of the (in)famous sitcom avoids the mistake of the TV-reunion movie, A Very Brady Christmas, by recasting the entire Brady family and by playing on 70s nostalgia in a 90s setting. Shelley Long is surprisingly convincing as Florence Henderson's concerned, loving mother Carol, and Gary Cole emulates Robert Reed's Mike Brady, often giving confusing lectures that the children accept as gospel. The film is enlivened by several cameo appearances, from Michael McKean as the Bradys' scheming next-door neighbor to RuPaul as Jan's high school counselor; the Monkees (Mickey Dolenz, Peter Tork, and Davy Jones) also turn up. Yet the funniest scenes are either parodies of the source material, to campy send-ups of the Brady mystique, as seen in a singing parade around a Sears store. The film crumbles under any critical analysis, but is an unqualified success, especially when compared to the likes of The Beverly Hillbillies and Coneheads. -Rob Wagner. Sony Copley Place.

H1/2 Just Cause

This recent potboiler combines the stalest elements of those films which it tries to duplicate: In the Heat of the Night, Cape Fear, and The Silence of the Lambs. Sean Connery plays Paul Armstrong, a Harvard law professor whose humanistic stand against capital punishment is put to the test: He's called upon to help a convicted murderer on Death Row (Blair Underwood) who swears he's innocent. Once Armstrong and his wife (Kate Capshaw) are in Florida, they discover that the local townspeople aren't eager for an outsider to re-open an eight-year-old case; Armstrong runs afoul of police detective Tanny Brown (Laurence Fishburne), a cop who swears that he arrested the right man. Once the primary issue of clearing the convict's name is resolved, the formulaic "twists" of the film kick in and stretch any remaining credibility in the audience. Add one overheated performance by Ed Harris as a psychotic convict with evidence relating to the case ( la Hannibal Lechter), and you have a superficially adequate murder-mystery that gives way to crude sensationalism, especially in its final sequences. -SD. Sony Copley Place.

HHH Man of the House

Though this movie was not especially made for a college audience, it certainly can be appreciated by all. Divorced mom Farrah Fawcett wants to marry attorney Chevy Chase, but her son (Jonathan Taylor Thomas) doesn't wanted their life to change. He tries to get Chase out of the picture. The film has the right balance of silliness and seriousness to entertain and educate younger members of the audience. -Kamal Swamidoss. Sony Copley Place.

HHH Muriel's Wedding

This funny but superficial look at life in the small town of Porpoise Spit, Australia nonetheless manages to touch on such heavy issues as grand larceny, paraplegia, adultery, and parental suicide. Unfortunately, P.J. Hogan's first film lacks character development. Muriel's obsession with the rock band ABBA and her wig-and-satin karyoke act are all too reminiscent of the last big film from Down Under: The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, but her antics provide insight into the Australian psyche. In all, Muriel's Wedding is a funny, touching look at one woman's struggle to overcome obesity, poverty, insecurity, and friendlessness to come into her own. Watch it. -TE. Sony Nickelodeon.

HHH1/2 Outbreak

Dustin Hoffman and Rene Russo are government doctors trying to find the antibody for a highly infectious, absolutely fatal disease. Donald Sutherland and Morgan Freeman round out the leads as Army officers working from their own agenda. Their objectives and mutual interactions form the plot to this entertaining suspense-action film. It's mostly a plot movie, but what a plot! If you accept the opening premise, then everything that follows is plausible. As a suspense film, there are lots of crucial moments where Hoffman must "do the right thing;" Sutherland, as the bad guy, pulls off his role quite well. -KS. Sony Cheri.

HHHH Pulp Fiction

Winner of the Palm d'Or at this year's Cannes Film Festival, this movie combines standard plots of hit men, junkies, and criminals, with an amazing facility with storytelling. The plot consists of three principle stories: First, the daily experiences of two hit men (John Travolta and Samuel L. Jackson); second, Travolta's character involved with his gangster boss' wife (Uma Thurman) as an escort; and third, the plans of a boxer, who has been paid off to take a dive in the ring, instead choosing to win the fight and take off with the money and his girlfriend. Although these film noir concepts may seem a bit clichd, writer-director Quentin Tarantino infuses his characters with crackling dialogue and a sense of purpose (e.g., Jackson's hit-man character quoting Bible verses as a prelude to execution). Tarantino's career may still be young, beginning with the cult hit Reservoir Dogs (1992) and recently surfacing in his scripts for True Romance and Natural Born Killers, but his latest film confirms his mission to shake up the current course of cinema. Sony Copley Place.

HHH Shallow Grave

The idea behind this film isn't new: Three friends find their new flatmate dead of a drug overdose with a suitcase of money under his bed. But those expecting a British version of Weekend at Bernie's will be surprised. Once the roommates decide to keep the money and bury the potent-smelling corpse, their friendship is tested by the money itself and the task of dismembering the corpse before burial, which drives one of the roommates toward paranoia and insanity. Throw in a couple of gangsters, searching for the missing cache, and the police, who eventually discover the remains of an apparent homicide, and the plot really begins to thicken. Director Danny Boyle shows a devious knack for dissecting the dark, violent episodes in the film with bold observation and razor-sharp wit. -RW. Sony Nickelodeon.

HHHH The Wild Bunch

Director Sam Peckinpah's ground-breaking western retains much of the visual brilliance that shocked audiences upon its initial release 25 years ago. The film centers around the members of the "wild bunch" (William Holden, Ernest Borgnine, Warren Oates, Ben Johnson, and Jaime Sanchez), a group of thieves whose code of honor is tested by an increasingly hostile environment. The year is 1913, and the bunch is forced into the service of an evil Mexican general (Emilio Fernandez) after they're run out of Texas. Pursuing the men across the border is Deke Thornton (Robert Ryan), a former member of the bunch and an aging, worn-down image of the gang's leader, Pike Bishop (Holden). Their advancing age, the vanishing frontier, and the advent of technology all contributing to their imminent downfall. The bloodshed in the movie's finale, in which the men are forced into a courageous standoff against an army of Mexican soldiers, is visually audacious and inspired: bullets rip through flesh and blood spurts from their wounds as the men confront death. Excellent performances and a poignant story underscore this great tribute to the western tradition that, unlike other recent westerns, doesn't desecrate the genre in pursuit of art. -SD. Sony Harvard Square.