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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 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 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 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 Cheri.

HH1/2 Forrest Gump

By now, if you haven't seen this film, you've at least been aware of the hype surrounding it and the subsequent backlash against its stealthy conservative agenda. Basically, it tells the story of a Southern simpleton (Tom Hanks) who, through the infinite grace of his mother (Sally Field), the love of a childhood friend (Robin Wright), and and extraordinary pile of luck, becomes happy, wealthy, and wise. The performances are finely crafted (especially Gary Sinise, as Forrest's commanding officer in Vietnam), and the experts at Industrial Light and Magic expertly blended Tom Hanks' character into newsreel footage with four U.S. presidents, John Lennon, and many others. But the whole production reeks of sentimentality, and the continuous flow of pop songs throughout the films has "hit soundtrack album" written all over it. Metaphorically, it's as tender and lightweight as the feather that graces the beginning and end of the film, and not very substantial. -SD. 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 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 Cheri.

HHHH The Lion King

Disney's newest animated feature is amazing. The story - a lion cub runs away, fearing that he is responsible for his father's death - is simple enough for children to understand, yet still entertaining for adults. The animation is first-rate, including both computer and traditional hand-drawn graphics mixed to perfection. And, in the tradition of Aladdin, Beauty & the Beast, and The Little Mermaid, the music is superb. Finally, the characters of The Lion King are some of the most memorable of all the recent Disney creatures. All-in-all this is one of the best Disney films. LSC Saturday.

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 (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. -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.

H1/2 Stargate

This is one of the strangest, most ill-conceived movies in recent memory. The previews for the film suggest the standard ingredients for a science-fiction film of this caliber - a distant planet, lots of good action, good special effects. It sort of plays like a hybrid between Raiders of the Lost Ark and Return of the Jedi: In fact, the movie seems to borrow (or steal) a lot of its source material from other films such that Stargate is less than the sum of its parts. James Spader plays an expert on ancient Egypt and Kurt Russell is the serious army officer who brings his platoon, along with Spader, through an ancient alien space portal. The tyrannical leader of the alien civilization is played by Jaye Davidson, from The Crying Game, who now wears a lot of eye shadow. Even the typical Hollywood fight between good guys and bad guys seems especially canned. This film isn't the worst I've ever seen, just the most disjointed. -Mark P. Hurst. LSC Friday.