On The Screen
Mel Gibson's Braveheart is a curious combination of historical legend and modern dramatic techniques woven together into a tapestry of connected stories. With the plot based loosely on Scotland's real-life attempt for independence from England and the screenplay straight from modern Hollywood, the three-hour show reminds one more of Lethal Weapon than Rob Roy. Braveheart increases its appeal by contrasting highland goings-on with portrayals of British royalty, especially the powerful King Edward I (Patrick McGoohan). The battle scenes may be gruesome and a bit extreme, but the film as a whole is immensely satisfying. -Teresa Esser. Saturday at LSC.
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 Copley.
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 If Lucy Fell
If Lucy Fell doesn't begin like your typical love story. Lucy (Sarah Jessica Parker) starts off reminding her college friend, Joe, of the death pact they made while in college. If they haven't found their true loves by the age of 30 (which is one month away for Lucy) they are to jump off the Brooklyn Bridge together. The next two hours are spent reaching the expected, but still satisfying, conclusion. -Charlene Chen. Sony Copley.
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 McDonald's 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. Friday at LSC.
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.