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On The Screen





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.

H1/2 Brain Candy

The Kids in the Hall make their disappointing transition to the screen in Brain Candy. Even with the extra effort put into it, the movie isn't as funny as the television show. The humor is tamer and the performances are more restrained - not a style that works well with a group that succeeded by stressing the absurd. The overall stiffness makes for a movie that is funnier explained than seen, so wait for a friend to see it and tell you about it. -David V. Rodriguez. Sony Nickelodeon.

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 Copley.

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.

HH1/2 James and the Giant Peach

For James and the Giant Peach, Disney brings together the team from The Nightmare Before Christmas to create another film that is visually intriguing and virtually oozes with its dark, surreal stop-animation style. The story, adapted from the children's tale by Roald Dahl, is given the full the Disney treatment and is full of characters with exuberant personalities and a plot full of adventure. For the most part, it's an fascinating film, but falls apart after the giant peach crash lands in New York City. Overall, the film is fascinating, visually appealing, and at only eighty minutes long, it certainly won't bore you (until maybe the end). -Audrey Wu. Sony Copley.

HHH The Last Supper

Five liberal graduate students have an unexpected guest who, over dinner, manages to offend everyone at the table. After goading the students with "Hitler had the right idea," he picks a fight and one of the students kills him. Seeing their action as a service to society, they start inviting over other conservatives they don't like - skinheads, anti-gays priests, etc. - to poison and bury in the backyard. -DVR. 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.

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. Saturday at LSC.

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. Friday at LSC.