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On the Screen

HHHH:Excellent

HHH:Good

HH:Average

H:Poor

HHHBabe

Babe is about a talking pig. The pig can't talk to humans, mind you: The story is told primarily from the perspective of farm animals who converse in English. The pig is named Babe, and once he begins life on a rural farm, he finds he must overcome human and animal prejudice with his charm and resourcefulness, lest he end up the main course for Christmas dinner. It's a familiar fable, one whose moral could be "Don't judge a book by its cover." The best thing about the film is the impressive use of animatronics for the talking animals: Moreover, the film wins points by recapitulating social themes like communication and prejudice with a facile touch that never gets heavy-handed. Although adults will enjoy the film, Babe is more of a kids' movie. -SD. Sony Fresh Pond.

HHH Braveheart

Mel Gibson's Braveheart is a curious combination of historical legend and modern dramatic techniques woven together into a tapestry of connected stories. With the plot based loosely on Scotland's real-life struggle for independence from England and the screenplay straight from modern Hollywood, the three-hour show reminds one more of Lethal Weapon than Rob Roy. A Scottish commoner, William Wallace (Mel Gibson) returns to his native land after an education in continental Europe with his uncle. His domestic bliss with a childhood sweetheart is shattered when British lords kill his beloved wife; in response, Wallace leads friends and clansmen in an assault on British forts and charges toward the English border. Braveheart increases its appeal by contrasting these highland goings-on with portrayals of British royalty, especially the powerful, evil King Edward I (Patrick McGoohan) The queen-to-be, Princess Isabelle (Sophie Marceau), is bored with her marriage to the king's homosexual son and becomes infatuated with Wallace in a distracting subplot. The battle scenes in Braveheart may be gruesome and a bit extreme, but the film as a whole is immensely satisfying. -Teresa Esser. Sony Cheri.

HHH Crimson Tide

Tony Scott's latest action film (produced by the Simpson-Bruckheimer team behind his earlier Top Gun and Days of Thunder) stars Denzel Washington and Gene Hackman as a pair of feuding commanders on the U.S.S. Alabama, a submarine poised to deliver nuclear warheads to a Russian rebels who seize a missile base and put the world on the brink of World War III. Predictably, in the tradition of submarine films like The Hunt for Red October, the suspense factor is very high: The main characters are positioned for a face-off concerning a order to launch the missiles and an incomplete message which could possibly revoke the order. With Hackman as the hawkish commander and Washington as the idealistic lieutenant, the remainder of the plot details effortlessly fall into place; however, the film is so skillfully done, you don't mind being shown these situations again when you're enjoying the ride. -SD. LSC, Friday.

HHH Desperado

Former indie-whiz-kid-turned-Hollywood-darling Robert Rodriguez delivers the goods in this tongue-in-cheek rewrite of Sergio Leone and Sam Peckinpah westerns. Armed with a budget a thousand times greater than his debut feature El Mariachi, Rodriguez casts Antonio Banderas as a brooding man with no name who slays entire bars of hostile characters in search of a Mexican druglord (Joaquim de Almeida) who killed his woman and maimed his hand in the first film. Objectively, the story is weak and offers little pretense for Rodriguez's bloody, over-the-top action scenes. But in spite of the film's loose ends and rough plot edges, the supporting performers (Steve Buscemi, Cheech Marin, and Salma Hayek as Banderas' love interest) are memorable, if not charming. Time will tell if we have another Quentin Tarantino in our midst. -SD. Sony Cheri.

HHH French Kiss

French Kiss is an very good movie with a strong cast and well-crafted humor. Kate (Meg Ryan) chases her fickle fianc Charlie (Timothy Hutton) to Paris to win him back from a beautiful French woman (Susan Anbeh). On the plane trip, she encounters a mysterious Frenchman named Luc (Kevin Kline), who immediately cures her fear of flying. Luc, however, is not all that he appears to be. He offers to help Kate win back her fianc only so he can recover a necklace which he has hidden in her bag. As Luc challenges Kate to rethink her life, she gradually becomes less fearful and more confident - even the man who abandoned her hardly recognizes her after a reunion. Luc's growth in integrity parallels Kate's growth in capability. Both Kline and Ryan are veteran performers who execute punchlines flawlessly. -Jimmy Wong. LSC, Friday.

HHHHKids

Kids is a blunt, ugly horror film whose most frightening feature is that it is entirely believable. The film is not about Hollywood, or even Beverly Hills 90210; instead it is about unspectacular New York City youths who show less than marginal respect for their parents and want nothing more than to be left to wander the streets and hang out with their friends. Events in Kids do not take place behind screens or under blankets; rather, the camera is placed so close to the actors that it literally invades their personal space. And the viewer winds up squirming in his or her own chair, unwilling to watch the evils perpetrated against innocents, yet driven to watch in the blind hope that somehow the horror will be mitigated. -Teresa Esser. Sony Janus.

HH Under Siege

Under Siege is poorly written film that relies on violence rather than substance to be entertaining. Steven Seagal is Casey Ryback, an ex-Navy SEAL who is masquerading as a cook on the USS Missouri when a gang of hijackers (led by Tommy Lee Jones and Gary Busey) takes over the ship. Ryback must single-handedly eliminate all the bad guys and save the day, which means he scourts the ship, coming up with new and creative ways to eliminate the enemy. The martial arts sequences are impressive and Tommy Lee Jones delivers a powerful performance as the mastermind terrorist, but the bad writing evidenced in the incredibly weak female role and the lack of any interesting plot twists nearly sinks the film. LSC, Sunday.

HHUnzipped

This documentary traces several months in the life of fashion designer Isaac Mizrahi. Devastated after a disastrous presentation of his spring, 1994 collection, he begins anew for his next collection in the fall. Along the way, he recounts his many inspirations: his mother and Mary Tyler Moore have obviously shaped Mizrahi's sense of fashion as well as his flamboyant personality. But too much of the film seems over-eager - encounters with world-renowned fashion models and a media-blitz surrounding Mizrahi's fall collection seem staged, and the grainy black-and-white photography is an understated, but mixed, visual blessing. Such films play better on PBS than in a movie theater. -Audrey Wu. Sony Nickelodeon.