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On the Screen

HHHH:Excellent

HHH:Good

HH:Average

H:Poor

HHH1/2 Cat on a Hot Tin Roof

Tennesee Williams's play about sex, money, pride, death, and fallen expectations is brought to life with performances by Paul Newman, Burl Ives, and Elizabeth Taylor. Paul Newman plays Brick, a man who drinks to escape his self hatred and the death of his best friend. Burl Ives is the big mouthed and big bellied Big Daddy, who is worth more mone than 30 years of tuition and says what he wants when he wants. Elizabeth Taylor gives the performance of a lifetime as Maggie the Cat, a woman trying to hold on to the only man she has ever loved in spite of his attempts to push her away. This film is a classic in the true sense of the word. The acting is superb, the set perfectly southern, the music daunting and the sexual tension comparable to that of AStreetcar Named Desire. But let me just say that, before Tom Cruise, before Brad Pitt, there was Paul Newman. His clear blue eyes can melt a woman's heart faster than a Bunsen burner can melt down ball bearings. -April M. Griffin. LSC Classics, Friday.

HHH Devil in a Blue Dress

Denzel Washington plays Ezekiel "Easy" Rawlins, a man who endeavors into smoky streets of 1940s Los Angeles as a detective. After being set up by bad guys, he must track down a mysterious woman, played by Jennifer Beals. Good performances all around and direction by Carl Franklin (One False Move) highlight the involving, humorous story. Watch for some excellent set production. -John Dunagan. Sony Fresh Pond.

HHH Get Shorty

John Travolta continues his astonishing career comeback, proving that there is life after Pulp Fiction. In this tongue-in-cheek adaptation of an Elmore Leonard novel, Travolta plays Chili Palmer, a Miami loanshark on assignment in Hollywood to track down people who skipped payment of their debts: In particular, he meets Harry Zimm (Gene Hackman), an independent filmmaker who pitches an idea for a screenplay which Chili thinks has some promise - enough for Chili to consider producing Harry's film. In the process, Chili becomes involved with Harry's actress-girlfriend (Rene Russo), fends off the predatory advances of Harry's drug-dealing investor (Delroy Lindo), and woos the elusive, but diminuitive, star for the film (Danny DeVito). The story may be slow compared to the slam-bang approach of Pulp Fiction, but the acting and dialogue are rich in dark, subtle comic undertones. The ending is too neat and the production values are a little too slick, but Travolta's cool on-screen demeanor is a treat to watch. -SD. Sony Cheri.

HHHH Kids

Kids is a blunt, ugly horror film whose most frightening feature is that it is entirely believable. A 1995 version of an ancient Greek tragedy, Kids leaves its viewers shocked and sickened but overall thankful that it was filtered through the lens of a camera. The characters are at once innocent and evil and above all a product of our culture. Kids tackles sex and violence, but without any of the glitz or glamour one normally expects from a feature film.Kids should be required viewing for adolescents at junior high schools and parents at PTA meetings across the country. It does an excellent job at scaring viewers into contemplating their own life choices and re-evaluating their own unsafe practices. -Teresa Esser. LSC, Saturday.

HHH Mallrats

Mallrats is director Kevin Smith's follow-up to Clerks, and although the movies are not related, many of the components that made the first a success are still here. The story is about two guys in their early twenties who have no ambition and no plans for the future. When they both get dumped by their girlfriends they head off for the mall where they hope to find some comfort, or failing that kill some time. This is a not-too-original setup but it is carried out well. The jokes are funny, and although many of them are about sexual subjects they rely more on the humor of the situation than on a vulgar punchline. A re-occurring (and representative) joke is when one of the characters is talking about "sex in a very uncomfortable place," and someone will reply, "Like in the back of a Volkswagon?" -David V. Rodriguez. Sony Copley Place.

H1/2 Powder

Most likely created by some sort of mytic, the film Powder is indeed strange. Powder is the story of the wacky, wild adventures of an albino completely hairless teenager who has the power to use an extraordinary amount of his brain capacity. Title character Powder (Sean Patrick Flannery) scores completely off the scale on a school IQ test and can recite any page of any book he's ever read. Due to his mother's having been struck by lightning during her pregnancy, Powder also has a mysterious biomagnetic ability that affects electronic instruments around him and enables him to manipulate things electrically and magnetically. Of course, he's also telepathic. It is on the whole a poorly constructed and clichéd film that ends up with an awkward message. With cliché after cliché and an abundance of predictable scenes, it's a wonder anyone could think this movie was worth making. -Rob Wagner. Sony Copley Place.

HH Seven

The latest entry in the genre of psychological thrillers, Seven offers viewers the gimmick of a serial killer who masterminds his murders based on the seven deadly sins. Morgan Freeman is the archetypal police detective on the verge of retiring, and Brad Pitt plays his young, idealistic counterpart. Together, they must join forces to outsmart the criminal. The film is filled with darkness, and it employs this effect to represent the moralistic undercurrents of the movie. However, this theme fades to a mere afterthought in the wake of a murky plot, incomprehensible dialogue, and a predictable conclusion. Director David Fincher (Alien3) does little to distinguish the film from being a clone of films like The Silence of the Lambs. -Benjamin Self. Sony Cheri.

HH Strange Days

This futuristic action film tries to address a lot of things: virtual reality technologies, an ominous police state, and an unruly populace on the verge of the new millenium. Lenny Nero (Ralph Fiennes, doing his best to manage an American dialect) peddles virtual reality "clips" to willing customers, while his occasional friend and bodyguard, Mace (Angela Bassett) tries to get him out of the business. In the meantime, tempers flare surrounding the murder of a rap star, and two renegade L.A. cops emerge who each make Mark Fuhrman look like a choirboy. Soon, it's up to Lenny and Mace to solve a mystery surrounding bizzare murders of Lenny's acquaintances - before Lenny gets killed himself. Add Juliette Lewis as Lenny's ex-flame, now turned minor rock star, and you have a jumble of good visual ideas that don't really come together in James Cameron's convoluted story (whose social commentary seems half-assed compared to the simplicity of The Terminator or Aliens). Bassett is striking in her strong, neo-feminine pose, but Fiennes (who saw this film as a legitimate star vehicle) simply doesn't have the star quality that his sleazy, heroic role demands. On top of everything, director Kathryn Bigelow (Point Break) builds everything to a fever pitch at the film's climax, but is finally unable to resolve it with a believable ending. -SD. Sony Cinema 57.

HHHH To Die For

Nicole Kidman stars in the role of her life: a beautiful and ambitious woman who is willing to step over (or on) anyone to reach her dream of getting on television. This includes her husband, who she has killed by a high school student that she is romancing for just this reason. The story is incredibly well told, given in the form of interviews with each of the major characters. This allows us to get into the heads of each of characters, who are all very interesting. One of the year's best films. -Daniel Ramirez. Sony Copley Place.

HH Vampire in Brooklyn

Eddie Murphy's latest vehicle as a ruthless member of the Nosferatu in Coming to America mode mainly falls flat. Once again, the locale is New York City, and Murphy's character, Maximillian, searches for Rita Veder (Angela Bassett), and NYPD detective unaware of the couple's unique blood bond. As part of his quest, he takes on a sidekick (Kadeem Hardison) to be his loyal ghoul. Though the supporting performances are fine, both Murphy and director Wes Craven seem unsure how to deal with the material - as a humorous horror film or a violent comedy. In particular, Murphy's attempt to mimic former cohort Arsenio Hall (as a preacher from Coming to America) is woefully unsuccessful. If Murphy wants to break out of his box office slump, he's got to be more original than this. -DR. Sony Cinema 57.