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ON THE SCREEN

The following movies are playing this weekend at local theaters. The Tech suggests using http://www.boston.com for a complete listing of times and locations.

HHHH Excellent

HHH Good

HH Fair

H Poor

Analyze This (HH)

A sorry sit-comish excuse for a comedy, with Billy Crystal engaging in so much tiresome shtick as a burned-out shrink analyzing an overstressed mafia boss played by Robert De Niro. Not enough humor, not enough story, and more than enough gratuitous violence. However, De Niro, in a rare comedic appearance, almost makes this movie worth watching. --Vladimir Zelevinsky

Cookies Fortune (HHH1/2)

Cookies Fortune finds director Robert Altman self-assured, relaxed and having fun, and his customary great ensemble in similar spirits. Catfish enchiladas, Wild Turkey, and gun-cleaning are the bonds between Willis (Charles S. Dutton), an innocent man suspected of murdering Cookie (Patricia Neal), and the sleepy town of Holly Springs, Mississippi. Glenn Close is the mastermind behind the madness, with Julianne Moore, Ned Beatty, Liv Tyler, and Chris O’Donnell holding nothing back in this nutty southern lullaby of a thriller. The little depth here seems forced, but for sheer homey fun, look to the Cookie. -- Roy Rodenstein

The Dreamlife of Angels (HHH)

In his feature film debut, director Erick Zonca’s unadorned direction serves him well. A film about the intersection between selflessness and selfishness, and the real boundaries found even in intimate relationships, Dreamlife rises above typical 90’s apathy. Isa (Elodie Bouchez), a young woman bouncing between odd jobs, befriends Marie (Natacha Regnier) and shares the house she is sitting for a mysterious girl in a coma. Decisions about jobs, boyfriends and truth to oneself are usual fodder, but complex characters and fresh performances all around, particularly from leads Bouchez and Regnier, enliven this fiery slice of life. -- RR

Election (HHH)

A hilarious, penetrating, visually exciting black comedy, dealing its satirical blows as an equal-opportunity offender, and sparing no one. A hotly-contested high school election results in political machinations, lies, intrigues, backbiting, blackmail, and even dirtier tricks, with Reese Witherspoon playing that ambitious, socially active, Voted Most Likely To Succeed person we all have known in high school, and Matthew Broderick as a student adviser plotting her downfall. -- VZ

Entrapment (HH1/2)

Entrapment is exciting, lush, thrilling, and sensuous; unfortunately, it makes no sense whatsoever. The story of a veteran thief (Sean Connery) and a perky insurance investigator (Catherine Zeta-Jones) out to trap him mostly consists of the eminently watchable. However, the impact of the elaborately choreographed action sequences is diluted by tired romance, boring dialogue, and the finale which is a mess of the obvious, meaningless, and unnecessary plot twists. -- VZ

Go (HH1/2)

Pulp Fiction Lite, no fat and no calories. It’s lively, wild, frantic, bright, and thoroughly engaging. It’s also totally inconsequential and largely unmemorable. Following a bunch of young Californians trying to get some cash, do and deal some drugs, score money and sex in Las Vegas, and generally experience the rush of life, Go charts three separate stories. Each of these stories is exciting, clever, and unexpected. But there’s no empathy in them, and the characters don’t seem to have gained anything from their experience. -- VZ

Life is Beautiful (HHH)

Most reviewers praise the second half of this Italian tragicomedy -- the serious half. While it certainly has its merits, it’s the first hour which really makes this film so remarkable. With its gentle whimsy, subtle satire, and unabashed romanticism, this is the stuff of which the best romances are made. There are also classically gorgeous visuals, memorable score, and elaborate visual and verbal gags aplenty. --VZ

Limbo (HHH)

A small fishing town is the nondescript setting for John Sayles’ latest film, the tale of a traveling singer, her grizzled jack-of-all-trades companion, and her troubled teenage daughter. Friend, foe, self, and nature all have their chance to cause havoc in this cautionary tale. Though on the surface the film is blatantly scripted, the plot’s twists and revelations coalesce into a clear picture of everyday life. Can small events really result in lives being placed in limbo? That question is the focus of Sayles’s attention.--RR

Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels (HHH1/2)

If you’re looking for depth and emotional intensity, look further. If you want to watch a downright enjoyable movie, this is it. The story of a group of “honest criminals” and how they get mixed up in the London crime, drug, and gambling underground is a complicated one at best, but its fantastic use of music, dialogue, and cinematography makes this comedy a must-see. -- Francisco Delatorre

The Lovers of the Arctic Circle (HH1/2)

Walking the dangerous line of melodrama, this film has some great ideas but fails to implement them correctly. This is the story about a man and a woman who have been in love since they were children, and their reliance upon circumstance and life coming round full circle to vindicate their questionably incestuous relationship. The Lovers tries very hard to transcend the conventions of melodrama with fresh ideas, but doesn’t quite manage to do so, although it comes very close. -- FD

The Matrix (HHH1/2)

A wildly imaginative ride. The plot is nicely complex, the visuals and the special effects are out of this world. As the computer hacker Neo (Keanu Reeves) dashes through a succession of interlocked dreams in the quest to find true reality, the film launches into a full-throttle mode of inventive action sequences. By combining cyberpunk ethos with anime style, The Matrix breathes new life into the genre of sci-fi action films. -- VZ

A Midsummer Nights Dream (HH1/2)

This Shakespeare adaptation largely wastes the wonderful source play and a star-studded cast, ending up as a pileup of art direction in a vain search for a movie. Out of all the actors playing the lovelorn mortals and the fairies playing with them, only Calista Flockhart and Kevin Kline manage to do some impressive acting. The latter is especially touching, with his part eventually becoming the embodiment of wistful romantic sadness. -- VZ

Notting Hill (HHH)

A rare case of an intelligent romantic comedy, this is a noteworthy--but not exceptional--tale of romance in adversity. Julia Roberts plays the world’s most famous movie star and Hugh Grant is the owner of a small and unprofitable bookstore. The pair’s meeting is followed by a series of wonderfully awkward encounters and the expected budding of a romance. Richard Curtis’s script only occasionally rises above formula, but when it does, the results are astounding and memorable.--Fred Choi and VZ

Rushmore (HHH1/2)

A breath -- or, rather, make it blast -- of fresh air. This is an offbeat comedy, an offbeat buddy film, an offbeat romance, and an offbeat revenge story. Or none of these things. Mix up some wildly varying comic elements, combine them with some of most deliciously deadpan acting in recent memory, add highly imaginative and inventive usage of widescreen format -- and get Rushmore, which is just about the least conventional and yet solidly enjoyable movie to come out recently. --VZ

Star Wars: Episode I--The Phantom Menace (HHH)

This simplistic motion picture with lumpy storytelling, inane dialogue, wooden acting, and poor editing is one of the most exciting experiences to come in quite a while to the movies. By firmly adhering to the world-view created in Episodes 4 through 6, and by utilizing the best special effects and art direction money can buy, writer/director George Lucas succeeds, despite the film’s obvious shortcomings, to take us once again to that galaxy far, far away, and provide an adventure-filled playground for our imagination. -- VZ

Waking Ned Devine (HHH1/2)

A charming comedy about a small town’s quest for wealth. Nearly 7 million pounds is at stake in the Irish national lottery, and the sleepy village of Tully More pulls together to outwit the officials after the winner, one of the town’s inhabitants, dies at the shock of being rich. Standing in their way are individual greed and fear of legal retribution, among other things.

Overall, it is a wholly enjoyable, hilarious, and wonderfully written film. One of the best of 1998. --FD

The Winslow Boy (HH1/2)

For all of its dramatic intensity and clarity, visual elegance and beautiful shot composition, intricate multi-personal conflicts, and stylized dialogue, this David Mamet film doesn’t quite fulfill the promise of its opening half hour. This is probably the fault of the source play, which didn’t age very well and which seems to be content to be merely engaging and entertaining in a low-key way than to go for either shattering drama or penetrating social critique. -- VZ