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On The Screen

HHHH:Excellent

HHH:Good

HH:Average

H:Poor

H1/2 Before and After

Before and After (starring Meryl Streep and Liam Neeson) is the story of a family dealing with their son being accused of murdering his girlfriend. This includes both the legal issues, (which are interesting) and the emotional issues (which are done to excess). The movie spends so much time trying to tug on our heart-strings that it quickly become ineffective. In a supposedly heart-wrenching scene, when the father started crying and the heavy music started, most of the audience started laughing. -David V. Rodriguez. Sony Copley.

HHH Black Sheep

This film, the latest attempt by Lorne Michaels to milk money out of Saturday Night Live, is truly funny. Chris Farley and David Spade revive their roles as big fat spaz and wimpy sarcastic guy, both the same type of characters they played on SNL. The story is predictable, but the film works because Farley's wild antics make the film fun. The fact that their routine still seems fresh shows that Farley and Spade are a great comedy team. -Rob Wagner. Sony Copley.

HH1/2 Broken Arrow

John Travolta and Christian Slater play Vic Deakins and Riley Hale, two Air Force pilots who fly a Stealth bomber on a predawn run over the Utah desert. Travolta is the older, wiser mercenary who steals the two nuclear warheads from the bomber's cargo bay; Slater is the young, idealistic whipper-snapper who enlists a spunky park ranger (Samantha Mathis) to foil the plan. The action sequences shouldn't disappoint fans of director John Woo - they're all executed with humor and finesse, with people leaping across the screen in slow-motion with both barrels blazing. But the story is trite and predictable in comic-book fashion (it's basically a rewrite by Graham Yost of his own script for Speed), and the pivotal fight scenes feel staged and choreographed. But you don't get to see an exploding nuclear warhead (below-ground) everyday, and more often than not the special effects team delivers the goods. -Scott C. Deskin. Sony Cheri.

HHHH Dead Man Walking

Dead Man Walking, directed by Tim Robbins and starring Sean Penn and Susan Sarandon, addresses the death penalty issue unflinchingly and comprehensively. It follows convicted killer Matthew Poncelet (Penn) from the murders, through his several appeals, and finally to his execution in excruciating detail, escorted by his spiritual adviser, Sister Helen Prejean (Sarandon). Don't look to this movie for much action, adventure, or excitement. This emotionally brutal film challenges you to think about the issues surrounding the death penalty. You'll walk away from the theater with a profound sense of the tragedy that any murder is, whether it is committed by a person or by the government. And you will leave with a bitter sense of pity both for the original victims and the convicts on death row. -Audrey Wu. Sony Nickelodeon.

HHH Georgia

The title character is a popular country-pop singer, played by Mare Winningham (who received an Oscar nomination for best supporting actress). But her little sister Sadie, played with an almost unbearable, naked intensity by Jennifer Jason Leigh, runs away with the show. Leigh documents the dissolution of Sadie, who dreams of topping her sister's success, even as she slides into a self-destructive haze of drugs, alcohol, and abusive sex. Not for the faint-hearted. -Stephen Brophy. Kendall Square.

HHH Goldeneye

Goldeneye, the latest Bond movie, is a return to the old Bond formula. While updated slightly, the movie looks and feels like the classic Bond films, complete with a villain threatening the earth with a satellite weapon. (Compare this to the last two Bond films, where the villains were drug dealers). Overall, Pierce Brosnan does a good job as Bond. He does look a little scrawny, bet we never get the feeling we're looking at Remington Steel. -DVR LSC Saturday.

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 pathetic 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 Richard III

Even when translated to the big screen, many Shakespeare plays can often feel too rote or constrained. Writer-director Richard Loncraine's version of Richard III tries to dispel this feeling of "boredom." As the title character, Ian McKellen (also co-screenwriter) remakes Richard as an Anglicized Hitler in the midst of an updated, 1930s England. Richard's reign of terror doesn't end with the brutal killing of the opposing monarchs at the beginning of the film; he sets his sights on the throne, secretly implicating his younger brother Clarence (Nigel Hawthorne) as traitor to the royal court headed by his older brother King Edward (John Wood). Along the way, Richard must get rid of his brothers, deal with Queen Elizabeth (Annette Bening) and prevent Edward's young sons from reaching the throne. McKellen is the standout, playing his villainous part to gleeful, devilish perfection. This latest Shakespeare adaptation may not be a masterpiece, but it helps revitalize the genre in much the same way Pulp Fiction did for gangster pictures. -SCD. Kendall Square.

HHH1/2 Sense and Sensibility

Director Ang Lee (The Wedding Banquet) and screenwriter-actress Emma Thompson present one of the newest Jane Austen adaptations this year. Despite the similarities to BBC-TV's Pride and Prejudice, the film is a treat to watch. Thompson plays Elinor, the older, more sensible sister of the family, while Kate Winslet plays Marianne, her younger, more passionate sister. When struck by the loss of their father, the family must look to its daughters to seek out prospective husbands; through their trials and misfortunes (including liaisons with prospective suitors Hugh Grant and Alan Rickman), the family stands together and never forsakes its honor. The dialogue and ruminations on sexual impropriety may seem quaint by today's standards, but Thompson's screenplay does justice to 18th-century romance and chivalry. -SCD. Sony Copley.

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; Brad Pitt is the young, idealistic counterpart. Seven was hailed as being powerful and suspenseful film with a stunning surprise ending, but it doesn't follow through with these promises. Although many scenes are filled with tension, other parts lack substance and the conclusion is rather predictable. -Benjamin Self. LSC Friday.