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On The Screen

HHHH:Excellent

HHH:Good

HH:Average

H:Poor

HHH Heat

Rarely do Hollywood films play both sides of the fence in a cops-and-robbers saga, but that's exactly what writer-director Michael Mann does in his latest film. Robert De Niro is the robber determined to make one last big score, but complications develop when he falls in love with a young graphic designer won over by his candor; Al Pacino is the cop who doggedly pursues De Niro at the expense of his crumbling third marriage. Although the dialogue is a bit excessive at times -- the film is about three hours long -- Mann's sense of pacing serves him well in setting up the pulse-pounding action sequences. The supporting actors, too, deserve a lot of credit for bringing life and credibility to the scores of characters in the film. --Scott C. Deskin. Sony Cheri.

HHHH Leaving Las Vegas

This sometimes-harrowing, often-redemptive look at a relationship between a destructive alcoholic (Nicholas Cage) and a prostitute (Elisabeth Shue) could be a spiritual antidote to the excesses of Showgirls. Cage is a newly-fired screenwriter whose vices have torn apart his family and led him to Las Vegas, where he resolves to drink himself to death. Shue falls in love with him for his lack of pretense, and both embark on a journey of love and self-revelation. Director Mike Figgis completely redeems himself for the bathetic Mr. Jones; here, he paints the characters with warm, natural emotions and uses the garish backdrop of the Vegas Strip (where even the golden arches of McDonalds are adorned with a multitude of flashing lights). The soundtrack of soulful contemporary songs by Sting, Don Henley, and other performers is hypnotic and artfully used. It's definitely worthwhile and uplifting for those who can take it. --SCD. Sony Nickelodeon.

HHH Nixon

Oliver Stone's most recent flick, Nixon, manages to capture the essential features of Richard Nixon's twisted character. While Anthony Hopkins doesn't exactly resemble Nixon, he does effectively mimic many of the president's nervous mannerisms. Nixon contains a number of fictional scenes created by director Stone -- scenes that blur the already unseemly facts of the Nixon scandal. In spite of the canards, Stone accurately lays out some of the late president's strange psychoses, including phantasms of his saintly mother, dead brothers, and "enemies." The outstanding supporting cast helps weave the entire story into a tapestry of deceit and betrayal that can't fail to impress even true Nixon afficionados. --Anders Hove. Sony Cheri.

HHH Sabrina

Good romance-comedy. Sabrina (Julia Ormond) falls in love with David (Greg Kinnear), but David barely knows she exists. Sabrina's father sends her to Paris to help her forget David. She comes back a new woman and David is attracted to her, but he's now engaged to another woman. Linus (Harrison Ford), David's brother, woos Sabrina in the hope that she'll forget David and fall for him. A lot more complicated than the original one with Humphrey Bogart and Audrey Hepburn Harrison Ford and Julia Ormond make this film very 90s, yet they retain the story's classic charm. Greg Kinnear is much funnier than William Holden, but maybe that's just because of his lines. The direction is magical; for example, it's very easy to see how Sabrina grows up in Paris. --Kamal Swamidoss. Sony Nickelodeon.

HHH1/2 Shanghai Triad

Director Zhang Yimou's (Ju Dou, Raise the Red Lantern) latest film, is absolutely stunning. Set in the westernized Shanghai of 1930, the film deals primarily with the fate of a woman living in a society controlled by the Mafia. The result of this shift of focus is refreshing -- rest assured that there is not a bloody horse head to be found. Although there are impressive performances all around -- most notably Li Baotian in his role as Mr. Tang, the ruthless godfather chief of the Tang family-run underground Green dynasty, and Shun Chun as Song, his backstabbing number two man -- it is the incomparable Gong Li's performance as the conceited, hot-tempered prostitute/singer Xiao Jinbao that grips the audience's attention for almost two hours. --Audrey Wu. Kendall Square Cinema.

HHH Toy Story

Toy Story, Disney's most innovative feature-length film to date, not only is a landmark in computer animation, but also manages to retain the action-packed plot line and light-hearted comedy that have given Disney a virtual stranglehold on children's films. But besides the fact that the film is practically one big special effect, its premise is also a lot of fun: the supporting characters of the film are such familiar toys as Mr. Potato Head, Etch-a-Sketch, Slinky, and those miniature green plastic army men that are packaged in buckets. The film stars a talking cowboy doll named Woody (voice of Tom Hanks) and a "Space Ranger" named Buzz Lightyear (voice of Tim Allen). The villain is the bully who lives next door, a juvenile delinquent named Sid who thoroughly enjoys torturing his toys. Woody and Buzz ultimately become "lost toys" trapped in Sid's house with his hideous toy creations, and have to escape before Andy's family moves away without them. Toy Story is a lot of fun and the computer animation is, for lack of a better phrase, really cool. --AW. Sony Copley Place.

HH1/2 Twelve Monkeys

In this science-fiction offering from director Terry Gilliam (Brazil, The Fisher King) and writer David Peoples (Blade Runner, Unforgiven), Bruce Willis plays Cole, a prisoner in a post-apocalyptic future; scientists hand-pick him as a "volunteer" to go back in time to uncover information regarding a mysterious virus that wiped out most of the earth's population. He runs into problems, however, when he gets thrown in a mental institution and meets a sympathetic doctor (Madeleine Stowe) and a defective inmate (Brad Pitt). Cole trips through time much like Billy Pilgrim in Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse-Five. Unlike Pilgrim, Cole seems trapped in an infinite loop; he's haunted by an image from his childhood, and once we see what this means for his mission, we pity him even more. But what results is an incredibly bleak picture; a romantic development between Stowe and Willis toward the end is a pretentious and unsuccessful attempt to offset the film's inevitable, depressing conclusion. However, Twelve Monkeys is partially redeemed by some comic relief from Pitt's character and Gilliam's distinctive, engaging visuals. --SCD. Sony Cheri.

HH1/2 Waiting to Exhale

Waiting to Exhale, the provocative motion picture based on the bestseller of the same name by Terry McMillan, addresses how four thirty-something women cope with the many losers they stumble over in their search for a decent man. The film should be commended for bringing the vibrant voices of middle-class African-American women to the fore. In addition, the performances by the four heroines are quite good. Although the characters often times act as dumb as dishwater, the actresses manage to shine and the camaraderie among the four women appears heartwarmingly genuine. In addition, the film does make some rather incisive observations of post-relationship-trauma female behavior. The film's weakness, however, lies in its disjointedness and the extreme blindness of the characters. If you are male, I would suggest not choosing this film for your first date. Furthermore, unless you want to watch two hours of male bashing, I wouldn't suggest seeing it at all. --AW. Sony Copley.