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On The Screen

HHHH: Excellent

HHH: Good

HH: Average

H: Poor

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 in 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 Nickelodeon.

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 Cheri.

HHH Death and the Maiden

Roman Polanski's recent film is a psychological thriller made all the more frightening by the knowledge that is based upon the political tactics of terror employed under many dictatorships in South America. Sigourney Weaver plays Paulina Escobar, a woman who believes she recognizes, by the sound of his voice, the man who tortured her years before to the tune of Schubert's Death and the Maiden. The accused man is a reputable doctor, played by Ben Kingsley: His performance is fantastic and one cannot decide whether the doctor performed the alleged acts or is an innocent man, wrongly accused. The character is a study in the possibility that the depths of human evil may lie dormant just below the surface. Stuart Wilson, whose position of confusion reflects the feelings of the audience, makes the best of the weakest of the three roles, Paulina's husband. Throughout the film, sincere belief in democracy is juxtaposed with the instinctive emotions which are the motivation behind both torture and revenge. At what point is the need for revenge sated and with how much memory of the past can one bear to live? The film ends in perfect irony as it provides one answer to these questions. -Carrie Perlman. Sony Copley Place.

HHH Little Women

This new adaptation of the Louisa May Alcott classic tells the story of the four March sisters and their struggles against poverty, inequality, and sickness. Jo (Winona Ryder) is the leader of her sisters, Meg (Trini Alvarado), Beth (Clare Danes), and Amy (Kirstin Dunst and Samantha Mathis), and we trace their adventures as they grow older and pursue their interests. This is a feminine movie, and Susan Sarandon superbly plays the family matriarch; director Gillian Armstrong should also be praised for her ability to make 19th-century morals viewable, enjoyable, and lucrative with a 1990s audience. Modern-day viewers may be put off by the lack of sex and violence, but it's comforting to know that the story's message was not compromised. -Evelyn Kao. Sony Copley Place.

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 (i.e., 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. -Rob Marcato. 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. -CKC. Loews Copley Place.