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On The Screen

Mystery Science Theather 3000: The Movie is like "watching cheesy movies with your three funniest friends."





HHH1/2 The Birdcage

The American version of the French farce La Cage aux Folles succeeds on many levels, thanks in part to the ebullient performances of Robin Williams and Nathan Lane. Armand (Williams) is the owner and musical director of a nightclub in Miami's South Beach section, while his lover Albert (Lane) is the diva-in-drag who's the star performer at the club. The trouble starts when Armand's son (Dan Futterman) starts courting the daughter of a conservative U.S. Senator (Gene Hackman) whose election platform is steeped in "moral order" and "family values." By the time the film reaches its climactic, comic showdown between the two families, the message of "family" and the characters' foibles are so skillfully exploited that one overlooks the expected degrees of slapstick, even when resorting to gay stereotypes. Director Mike Nichols and screenwriter Elaine May have struck the appropriate comic and social chords for this film to be a witty, beguiling, and relevant film. -Scott C. Deskin. Sony Cheri.

HHHH The Celluloid Closet

The Celluloid Closet unclosets queers in the American cinema, starting with an eerily provocative little clip filmed 100 years ago in the studios of Thomas Edison. To the sound of a silent violin we see two men dancing, very obviously at affectionate ease with each other. Until recently, it's been mostly downhill in film depictions of lesbians and gays. Based on the groundbreaking book of the same name by the late Vito Russo, this documentary features clips from various representative movies, talking head shots with famous actors and directors, and a voice-over narration by Lily Tomlin. The movie relentlessly aims to ingratiate itself and is firmly situated in the assimilationist mainstream of gay politics ("We're just the same as everybody else, except for what we do in bed"). Still, there are many pleasures to be had from watching the clips under discussion, and it's great to hear Harvey Fierstein speak up in defense of "sissies." -Stephen Brophy. Kendall Square.

HH1/2 Executive Decision

Muslim terrorists hijack a passenger plane en route to Washington and demand money and the release of their spiritual leader. But the Pentagon soon learns the real plan: To crash the plane, loaded with a deadly nerve toxin, into the capitol, instantly killing himself and the rest of the passengers and sending a deadly plume of gas over much of the eastern seaboard. Enter Kurt Russell and Steven Segal, who must sneak aboard the plan to defuse the bomb. Although the ending is never in question, Executive Decision keeps us hooked from one climax to the next with surprising efficiency. -Yaron Koren. Sony Cheri.

HHH Fargo

Joel and Ethan Coen revisit familiar territory, both personal and professional, in this tale of crime in the heartland. Set in the wintry Minnesota landscape from which the two brothers escaped a few years ago, this story of a kidnapping plot gone bad retreads the success of the Coens' first movie, Blood Simple. This revisiting is underlined by the casting of Frances McDormand, Blood Simple's femme fatale, but in a very different role - a pregnant police chief with more brains, determination, and grit, not to mention moral sense, than anyone else in the movie. -SB. Sony Nickelodeon.

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 and 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. Sony Copley.

HH1/2 Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Movie

This Island Earth gets the MST3000 treatment in Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Movie, but it really doesn't deserve it. As you surely know, MST3000 is an experiment by the evil Dr. Clayton Forrester who wants to take over the world by forcing its entire population to watch the worst movies ever made, thereby rendering it defenseless. But Mike Nelson, the subject of this experiment, fights back along with his robot pals by talking back at the movies. The only problem with the concept this time out is that This Island Earth is actually a pretty good film trapped within the B-movie conventions of its day. Why couldn't they have picked on The Killer Shrews? -SB. Kendall Square.