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On The Screen

Jack Foley (Chris O'Donnell) and Bernadette (Minnie Driver) get to know each other better in Circle of Friends.

HHHH: Excellent

HHH: Good

HH: Average

H: Poor

HHH Bad Boys

Miami Narcotics Detectives Mike Lowrey (Will Smith) and Marcus Burnett (Martin Lawrence) are assigned to protect a beautiful material witness (Tia Leoni) from the bad guys. Smith and Lawrence work well together. Bad Boys is a great film with the right qualitative balance of action and comedy. This balance is filmed with skill by director Michael Bay. You get caught up in the action; it's of such quality that you become part of it. The direction adds an altogether new dimension to the pleasant combination of action and comedy. The one thing that takes away from the film is the lousy editing. The scene transitions are sometimes annoyingly noticeable; I got the feeling that a lot of material that aided continuity was cut out. However the interesting story, fast pace, and in-sync comedy make this a great action film which only increases my anticipation for the summer film season. -Kamal Swamidoss. Sony Cheri.

HH Circle of Friends

This romantic trifle from Ireland bears the earmarks of a formulaic lighthearted Hollywood coming-of-age drama. College student Bennie (Minnie Driver) vies for the attention of Jack (Chris O'Donnell), star rugby player and all-around sensitive guy, between her two friends: faithful, trustworthy Eve (Geraldine O'Rawe) and seductive, beautiful Nan (Saffron Burrows). From first glance, we know that Jack and Bennie are made for each other, with sophomoric ideals and hearts of gold, but they are kept apart by the tyranny or jealousy of others, namely Sean (Alan Cumming), a local serpentine villain, and Bennie's own overprotective parents. When tragedy eventually strikes, it comes as no surprise: The plot devices can be seen a mile away. The movie relies on its simple-minded charm and fresh performances to win over audiences, but it comes up short. -Scott Deskin. Sony Cheri.

HHH1/2 A Clockwork Orange

Stanley Kubrick's often-maligned adaptation of Anthony Burgess' futuristic novel looks rather dated today (it was released in 1971). Kubrick's attention to detail, which worked well in his previous feature, 2001: A Space Odyssey, leaves one with a detached view of the violence throughout the film and can't breath much life into the narrative. However, Malcolm McDowell's portrayal of Alex, a young marauding rapist and fan of Beethoven, has inimitable intensity and is already the stuff of screen legend. Although it's not a pleasant film to watch, Kubrick provides enough social satire to make the experience worthwhile. -Scott Deskin. LSC Sunday.

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 karaoke 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. -Teresa Esser. 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 Copley Place.

HHHH Quiz Show

The quiz-show scandals of the 1950s forced America to probe the changing face of morality. Robert Redford directs this fresh look at television and honesty in an age of illusions and image-making. Excellent performances by Ralph Fiennes and John Turturro, as quiz-show contestants Charles Van Doren and Herbert Stempel, make this reality-based drama worth the contemplation and dissection of ethical issues amid the phoniness of television. -Craig K. Chang. LSC Saturday.

HHH Stuart Saves His Family

This film, the latest of the Saturday Night Live cast members' bids for big-screen stardom, is an adaptation of the SNL skit "Daily Affirmation with Stuart Smalley." Stuart (Al Franken), veteran of countless 12-step programs, spouts wisdom on a local cable-TV show while he tries deal with painful memories of his dysfunctional family. Between his overweight, divorced sister Jodie (Leslie Boone), an alcoholic father (Harris Yulin), a co-dependent mother (Shirley Knight), and a loser brother (Vincent D'Onofrio), it's easy to see why Stuart is a bit abnormal. No matter what he tries to do to "save" his family, his efforts always fail so that he is left staring into his trademark mirror: "You're good enough, you're smart enough, and, gosh darn it, people like you." This concept may sound disastrous, but the movie's strength is its ability to walk the fine line between fiction and reality. Although the ad hypes it as "the movie that puts the fun back in dysfunctional," the movie transcends its comic basis by introducting characters that aren't objects of ridicule but real people who crave love and understanding. -TE. Sony Copley Place.

H1/2 Tommy Boy

Another film which includes cast members from SNL (about the fourth this year, so far) features Chris Farley as a bumbling college graduate with a D+ average, poised to take the reins of the family auto parts factory from his father (Brian Dennehy). Meanwhile, his dad's new wife (Bo Derek) and her dark, brooding son (Rob Lowe) have plans to take over the same factory. Conflict ensues, Farley enlists David Spade, a sales representative for the company, to help him, and they both hit the road. Needless to say, Tommy Boy borrows heavily from its much funnier predecessor, Wayne's World. Even if you manage to evaluate both films at the same juvenile level, none of the new film's lip-syncs can match Wayne and Garth's version of Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody." Yet, with the intellectual content of Cheez Whiz, this film is best viewed in the comfort of one's own home, and (probably) beats another episode of SNL. -TE. Sony Cheri.