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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

American Beauty (H1/2)

An extremely annoying movie: this deadpan black tragicomedy is a laughable failure as a work of art, being pretentious, simplistic, and self-important. Excepting a truly remarkable performance by Kevin Spacey (whose part is disappointingly small), there’s nothing to this movie beyond tortured metaphors, caricatures instead of characters, and a messy pile-up of red herrings instead of a plot. -- Vladimir Zelevinsky

Autumn Tale (HHH1/2)

Veteran French filmmaker Eric Rohmer continues his gentle, thoughtful, and detailed studies of romantic confusion in this delightful comedy about a middle-aged woman’s search for love and happiness. A vintage Rohmer film with all the sophistication, depth, and intricacy that makes his films so irresistible. Without doubt one of the best movies of the year. -- Bence Olveczky

Being John Malkovich (HHH1/2)

A film so different, so whacked-out, so original, and totally unlike anything else out there -- like Monty Python at their most deadpan hilarious. An unconventional mixture of comedy, satire, and frighteningly deep ruminations on the nature of personality. -- VZ

Bone Collector (HH)

Good performances by Denzel Washington as a veteran forensics cop and a stunning Angelina Jolie as the rookie he helps fail to save the rehashed script of previous serial killer thrillers, differentiated only by new types of grossness and violence. Rather unthrillingly predictable. -- Zarminae Ansari

Dogma (HHH)

The latest film by Kevin Smith combines the elements of a mystery, suspenseful thriller, surreal fantasy, action movie, and black comedy to produce an engaging examination of religion. Although some may be put off by his irreverent approach, and the topics he brings up are never fully explored, a fairly novel story, excellent cast, and interesting ideas make this a movie that will covertly bring fodder for discussions on religion to the masses. -- Fred Choi

Earth (HHHH)

Based on Bapsi Sidhwa’s novel Cracking India, this film sees the partition of the Indian subcontinent into India and Pakistan through a child’s eyes. Haunting images, great soundtrack by A.R. Rahman, and unforgettable performances. It’s a romance, a tragedy, a history, and a comment on the human heart: its tenderness and the beast that hides within. This movie is not to be missed. -- ZA

Felicia’s Journey (HHH1/2)

In director Atom Egoyan’s long-awaited followup to The Sweet Hereafter we watch the story of Felicia, an Irish girl whose lover has abandoned the isle for England. On his trail, she meets Joseph Hilditch, the contented director of a food manufacturing business. Played by Bob Hoskins in a mesmerizing role, Hilditch evolves in the audience’s view from amusing, to eccentric, and far beyond, as a simple story is revealed to contain deep mysteries. With strong acting and beautiful photography and music, the serene eeriness of Felicia’s Journey lingers on in the mind. -- Roy Rodenstein

Fight Club (HHH)

A complex screenplay, strong performances, and artistic direction make for an enjoyable filmgoing experience. The excessive violence and rhetoric at times cause the pace to drag, but the film’s subtleties will be pondered long after the movie ends. Curiously, while Fight Club is comprised of many strong components, the film as a whole feels slightly lacking. -- Rebecca Loh, VZ

The Insider (HHH)

A great story about a tobacco industry whistleblower benefits from great casting (Russell Crowe and Al Pacino) and an excellent screenplay, making the movie as much about the inner workings of big corporations as about inner character drama. On the other hand, we have overbearing direction, which frequently distracts from the power of the story. -- VZ

The Legend of 1900 (HH1/2)

A visual -- rather than narrative -- film from Giuseppe Tornatore, the writer/director of Cinema Paradiso, about a man who is born on a huge oceanic liner, and never leaves it for his whole life, crossing the ocean voyage after voyage, playing the piano for passengers. When it relies on the visuals, it’s excellent; when it has to rely on clichÉd dialogue and non-existent characters, it’s tedious. The last half hour feels badly chopped by the distributor. -- VZ

Princess Mononoke (HHH)

An epic action adventure, a romance, and a philosophical treatise -- which also happens to be animated. While it suffers from simply having too much stuff in it, and from being frequently messy and self-indulgent, it also provides thrillingly exciting action sequences and visuals you won’t see anywhere else. -- VZ

Run Lola Run (HHH)

Lola’s boyfriend needs $100,000 in twenty minutes, or else he’s dead. Lola’s motorbike was just stolen, so she has to run if she wants to be there on time. A minor plot detail: she doesn’t have the money. So she needs to run really fast. The result is a streamlined movie possessing an unstoppable sense of motion, and giving the visceral pleasure of seeing a tightly-wound plot unfold. -- VZ

The Sixth Sense (HHH1/2)

Cole Sear is a young boy whose special power, “the sixth sense,” enables him to perceive the ghosts which, unbeknownst to the rest of the world, walk among us every day. Bruce Willis plays the psychologist trying to help him. The strength of their performances carries the movie past its slight flaws, making The Sixth Sense one of the best movies of the summer. -- Tzu-Mainn Chen

The Straight Story (HHH1/2)

A great true story: in 1994, seventy-three year-old Alvin Straight rode a 1966 John Deere lawnmower from Laurens, Iowa, all the way to Mount Zion, Wisconsin, to see his ailing brother. Directed by David Lynch (Twin Peaks), this G-rated film is remarkable, assured, and unhurried, yet full of action (internal as well as external), amazingly beautiful to look at, frequently hilarious, and emotionally affecting to the point of being mesmerizing. -- VZ

Three Kings (HHH1/2)

As one of the most creative films of the year, David O. Russell’s third film Three Kings marks his strongest directing effort to date. When American soldiers set out to find Saddam’s stolen gold bullion, they also find Iraqi citizens in need of their help. In their efforts to help, the characters are forced to question the point of America’s involvement in the Persian Gulf. The creative use of the camera makes for powerful images that help drive the film’s message home. -- Michael Frakes