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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 Copley.

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..

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.

HHH From Dusk Till Dawn

The latest from director Robert Rodriguez and writer Quentin Tarantino is part cops-and-robbers, part vampire flick. In the first half, the Gecko brothers are on the run from police after a jailbreak and a bank robbery. With the help of a failed priest, they manage to sneak across the border into Mexico where they find a seedy bar to pass the time at. As the sun sets, the dancers and bartenders turn into vampires and start feeding on the patrons. The next half hour is spent killing vampires and bikers in colorful ways. -DVR. Saturday at LSC.

HHH Heat

Rarely do Hollywood films play both sides of the fence in a cops-and-robbers saga, but that's exactly what writer-director Michael Mann does in his latest film. Robert De Niro is the robber determined to make one last big score, but complications develop when he falls in love with a young graphic designer won over by his candor. Al Pacino is the cop who doggedly pursues De Niro at the expense of his crumbling third marriage. Although the dialogue is a bit excessive at times - the film is about three hours long - Mann's sense of pacing serves him well in setting up the pulse-pounding action sequences. The supporting actors, too, deserve a lot of credit for bringing life and credibility to the scores of characters in the film. -SCD. Friday at LSC.

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.

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. Sony Nickelodeon.

HH The Truth About Cats and Dogs

This screwball comedy brims over with appeal and execution: Although this works for the actors, they're often drowning in the sappy plot constructs and the ridiculously "cute" situations. Comedienne Janeane Garofalo plays Abby, a successful pet doctor who has a talk-radio show; in one scene, her no-nonsense advice wins over British photographer Brian (Ben Chaplin), whose accent is to die for. Things get complicated, though, when the photographer mistakes Abby for her ditzy (but tall and blonde) next-door neighbor Noelle (Uma Thurman). Aside from a "touching" phone conversation between Abby and Brian, there's not much new in this retread of the old Cyrano de Bergerac premise; meanwhile, director Michael Lehmann (Heathers) seems to have succumbed to the same Hollywood system he subverted in his wickedly funny debut. -SCD. Sony Copley Place.