On The Screen
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 Fresh Pond.
HHH 1/2 Braveheart
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. A Scottish commoner, William Wallace (Mel Gibson), returns to his native land after an education in continental Europe with his uncle. He yearns for an idyllic life on a farm with his childhood sweetheart and new wife, Murron (Catherine McCormack). His domestic bliss is shattered when British lords kill his beloved wife; in response, Wallace assembles his friends and neighboring clansmen into an army, burns the British forts and charges toward the English border. Braveheart increases its appeal by contrasting these highland goings-on with portrayals of British royalty, especially the powerful, evil King Edward I (Patrick McGoohan) The queen-to-be, Princess Isabelle (Sophie Marceau), is bored with her marriage to the king's homosexual son and becomes infatuated with Wallace in a distracting subplot. The battle scenes in Braveheart may be gruesome and a bit extreme, but the film as a whole is immensely satisfying. -Teresa Esser. Sony Fresh Pond.
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.
HHH Captain Blood (1935)
Captain Blood shows some of the strengths, but more of the weaknesses, of classical Hollywood filmmaking. It was a star-making vehicle for all involved, for it includes
actors Errol Flynn and Olivia De Havilland, director Michael Curtiz (Casablanca, Mildred Pierce), and composer Erich Korngold, whose florid style greatly influenced subsequent Hollywood music. The film suffers from the lapse of 60 years between the time of its making and now. If you can stand the first 45 minutes, it picks up some steam when Errol Flynn and friends finally get out to sea and commence their piratical careers. But this will satisfy the little boy in only some of us. -Stephen Brophy. LSC Classics, Friday.
HHH City of Lost Children
This fantastic dystopian-future fable, involves attempts by a family of clones to steal the dreams of kidnapped children. It features a sensitive performance by Ron Perlman (TV's Beauty and the Beast) as a giant carnival strongman searching for his stolen brother. Directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet and Marc Caro, the French team who gave us Delicatessen in 1991, City of Lost Children has the inventive special effects we would expect. But it is a more coherent, and ultimately more affecting, work than their previous comedy. -SB. Kendall Square.
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. Rather, 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.
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. -SB. Kendall Square.
HHHH Last Summer at the Hamptons
Last Summer is a surprisingly effective ensemble production which invites its actors to improvise thinly disguised autobiographical roles. The centerpiece is a powerhouse performance by the late Viveca Lindfors in her last screen appearance. She plays the matriarch of a large family presiding over the final gathering at their summer home, which will have to be sold when the season is over. Written and directed by Henry Jaglom, the film borrows heavily from Anton Chekhov, James Joyce, and Jean Renoir. It not only steals some of their best bits, but also recreates some of their sad and funny contemplation of human comedy. -SB. Kendall Square.
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.
This 17th-century tale focuses on James Merivel (Robert Downey Jr.), a ne'er-do-well English physician who has an amazing stroke of luck and falls into the court of King Charles III (Sam Neill). Merivel lets his healing talents go to waste when he wallows in opulence and pleasures of the flesh. However, Charles soon bestows on him the ultimate reward/temptation: a title, an estate, and a wife (Polly Bergen) - actually one of the king's mistresses with whom he must never fall in love. But Merivel blows it, and is consequently banished from this paradise to the plague and squalor of the real world; there he must learn how to regain his faith in medicine and in himself, aided by fellow doctor John Pearce (David Thewlis) and mental asylum inmate Katherine (Meg Ryan), a woman who isn't really crazy and manages to teach him a few things about love. If you aren't overwhelmed by the decadent set designs, this film can be a very rewarding experience; anchored by Downey's poignant performance, the protagonist's journey in this film is like a more cerebral Forrest Gump. -SCD. Sony Nickelodeon.
HHH1/2 Sense and Sensibility
Director Ang Lee (The Wedding Banquet) and screenwriter-actress Emma Thompson present just one of the newest Jane Austen adaptations this year. Despite the similarities in outcome and narrative structure 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 Nickelodeon.
HHHH To Die For
To Die For is the story of Suzane Stone (Nicole Kidman), a woman willing to do anything to fulfill her dream of being on television. Trouble comes when her husband (Matt Dillion) wants them to start a family, something Suzanne knows she cannot do if she is to be a star. Realizing a divorce will be bad for her nice-girl image, she instead decides to have him killed by a high school student she is romancing. The screenplay, written by Buck Henry, creates many great characters and makes for one of the year's best films. -DVR. LSC, Friday.
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. Sony Harvard Square.
1/2 White Squall
"Dead Sailors Society" is a more apt title for this drivel. Although the plot is a true story and the film arguably contains the best "at sea" action sequence this season, the movie is awful. Seeing half-naked teenage boys prance around a ship, exposing more flesh and buttocks than a Calvin Klein ad, is not what I want out of a movie. The only recognizable star in the movie is Jeff Bridges, who is awful. The boys who makes up his crew are supposedly inspired by his monotone voice - so much so that when the ship goes down and he winds up on trial, all the boys support him. The film in general is unbelievably emetic and completely worthless. -RW. Sony Fresh Pond.