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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 about acting on a chance encounter with an ideal soul mate. 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 or 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.

HHH Bullets Over Broadway

Woody Allen's latest film deals with the Mafia, the theater, and trademark comic escapades in Roaring 20s-era New York City. It's a terrific, light-hearted portrait of playwright David Shayne, played by John Cusack, who struggles to resist the commercialism of show business during the film's time frame. His latest theater work, funded by Mafia boss Nick Valenti (Joe Viterelli), proceeds under the condition that the boss' speakeasy-dancer girlfriend (Jennifer Tilly) gets a lead role. Another actress, Helen Sinclair (Dianne Wiest), seduces Shayne into rewriting the script for her and her eccentric, over-the-hill career. The comic entanglements on screen are balanced by the splendid set design of Allen's set designer, Santo Loquasto, and the jazz soundtrack definitely adds to the film's general presence. -Carrie Perlman. Sony Nickelodeon.

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 an 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 film 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.

HHH Interview with the Vampire

At many points, Interview with the Vampire risks drowning in the gloom that pervades it, but just enough comic relief keeps it afloat. Tom Cruise plays Lestat, a vampire who draws his vitality from his way of life, and bestows the gift of immortality on Louis (Brad Pitt), a sorrowful man who can't come out of the depression that he enters when his wife and infant daughter die. This film is basically a variation on the Bram Stoker legend, a cautionary tale about the dangers of our own animal. Director Neil Jordan, best known for his Oscar-winning film The Crying Game, does well to remain faithful to Anne Rice's story and give emotional weight to the gruesome accounts on the screen. -Gretchen Koot. LSC Friday.

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 of the audience. Add one overheated performance by Ed Harris as a psychotic convict with evidence relating to the case (a 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 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. Sony Copley Place.

HHH Shallow Grave

The idea behind this film isn't new: Three friends find their new flatmate dead of a drug overdose with a suitcase of money under his bed. But those expecting a British version of Weekend at Bernies will be surprised. Once the roommates decide to keep the money and bury the potent-smelling corpse, their friendship is tested by the money itself and the task of dismembering the corpse before burial, which drives one of the roommates toward paranoia and insanity. Throw in a couple of gangsters searching for missing cache and the police, who eventually discover the remains of an apparent homicide, and the plot really begins to thicken. Director Danny Boyle shows a devious knack for dissecting the dark, violent episodes in the film with bold observation and razor-sharp wit. -RW. Sony Nickelodeon.

HHHH The Shawshank Redemption

This extraordinary movie about hope, friendship, and renewal in the face of suffering in life is much more heartfelt than its title suggests. Tim Robbins embodies the classic protagonist in Andy Dufresne, a banker who is imprisoned for two murders he swears he did not commit, and he is forced to face the abrasive reality of prison life. He eventually comes out of his shell and cultivates a friendship with Red (Morgan Freeman), whose connections inside the prison provide a neat counterpart to Andy's own talents as a financial planner, which he eventually exploits to get on the good side of the prison guards. Through all of Andy's suffering in prison, he never loses the hope of being free, and this carries both Andy and Red through the tough times. This film transcends its short-story basis (originally written by Stephen King) with excellent performances and artful direction - it has "Oscar" written all over it. -John Jacobs. Sony Copley Place.