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THOUGHTS COUCHED IN MOVIE TITLES REVERBERATE IN BRAIN

SHARE THOUGHTS COUCHED IN MOVIE TITLES REVERBERATE IN BRAIN

Movies these strange days are enough to make even a jaded critic curse Michael Meyers. Most are not to die for and I don't make enough dead presidents to allow these assassins to steal big, steal little from my rapidly depleting brain cells.

You know you've been seeing too many movies when your thoughts start to sound like titles!And here are some other cinematic musings that have been reverberating upstairs lately:

- Angela Bassett, who was Oscar-nominated for her role as Tina Turner in "What's Love Got to Do With It," is so buffed-up in "Strange Days" - and has to demonstrate her kick-butt expertise and chip-on-the-shoulder attitude so early in the film - that it initially appears she will be nothing more than the movie's female Schwarz-enegger.

Instead, however, she manages to give the character a surprising amount of dimension, so that she becomes quite interesting and sympathetic. She's more than just a tough-gal-with-a-heart-of-gold who yearns for the film's hero . . . though he certainly doesn't earn that yearning.

Bassett deserves better - and maybe she'll get it with two films coming up in the next few weeks: Eddie Murphy's "A Vampire in Brooklyn" and "Waiting to Exhale."

- Have you noticed how many ensemble female movies there are these days? So why is it that Hollywood can't come up with any really good starring roles for its best actresses and instead throws several of them in the same movies?

"Moonlight and Valentino" had Elizabeth Perkins, Kathleen Turner, Whoopi Goldberg and Gwyneth Paltrow. "How to Make an American Quilt" has Winona Ryder, Alfre Woodard, Anne Bancroft, Ellen Burstyn, Kate Nelligan and Kate Capshaw. Next week we get "Now and Then," with Demi Moore, Melanie Griffith, Rosie O'Donnell and Rita Wilson. And then comes "Waiting to Exhale," starring Whitney Houston, Angela Bassett and a pair of lesser-known actresses, Loretta Devine and Lela Rochon.

There's nothing wrong with making ensemble films, of course, but it would seem to emphasize once again that starring roles for women are few and far between.

- If the latter observation seems like a stretch, let's also consider the kinds of lead roles we've seen for women lately, aside from the aforementioned Bassett role in "Strange Days":

Demi Moore takes on the classic role of Hester Prynne in "The Scarlet Letter," but the movie is so bad it will most certainly die a quick box-office death.

Linda Fiorentino, who scored big with "The Last Seduction" last year, despite the film's limited release, is nothing more than a sex object in the lamentable "Jade."

Julianne Moore, who has been excellent in diverse supporting roles in smaller movies ("The Hand that Rocks the Cradle," "Benny & Joon," "Nine Months") and got her first lead in a low-budget effort that received only a minor theatrical release early this year ("Safe") shows up in "Assassins" as a potentially interesting character who merely becomes win-dow-dressing.

Rachel Ticotin, who was terrific as Arnold Schwarzenegger's sidekick in "Total Recall," doesn't have a lot to do in "Steal Big, Steal Little" - though like Bassett in "Strange Days" and Moore in "Assassins," she makes the character much better than it deserves to be.

Jennifer Beals, who wowed us in "Flashdance" but then became relegated to cable and video fodder, is more of a presence than a performer in "Devil In a Blue Dress."

Gwyneth Paltrow is excellent in "Seven" (as she was in "Flesh & Bone"), but has only a small role.

Kathy Bates has been reduced to playing a supporting role as "the mom" in "Angus," though she did have a much better showcase earlier this year with "Dolores Clai-borne."

And one could make a case that 1995's most flamboyant women's roles went to men - Patrick Swayze, Wesley Snipes and John Leguizamo in "To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything, Julie New-mar."

There are really only two knockout female starring roles in local theaters right now - Nicole Kidman in "To Die For," though the movie may be too quirky for mainstream audiences, and Catherine Deneuve in "Belle de Jour," a picture that is nearly 30 years old.

- In "Assassins," how in the world do Sylvester Stallone and Antonio Banderas type so quickly on their laptops using only one hand - and without making a single typo?

Most of us can't do that with two hands on the keys.

- English actor Ralph Fiennes (pronounced "Rafe Fine") manages an unwavering and quite believable American accent in "Strange Days" but Demi Moore (pronounced "De-MEE More") has trouble with the British accent she affects for "The Scarlet Letter."

Worse, however, is David Caruso (pronounced "David Caruso") in "Jade." He seems to be having trouble just speaking. Someone should tell him that when Brando mumbled, the words were still clear to the audience.

- After the scene in "How to Make an American Quilt" that has two older women (Anne Bancroft and Ellen Burstyn) lighting up a marijuana cigarette, I began to wonder what the title would be if the film had been made by B-movie schlockmeister Roger Corman. "Dope-Smokin' Grannies," perhaps?

There are no doubt some older women who reach for a roach clip from time to time, but it's hardly the universally endearing trait purported by this film.

- As twins, one good and one bad, Andy Garcia plays opposite himself in several scenes of "Steal Big, Steal Little." And as we've come to expect these days, the technical effects that put his two characters on the screen at the same time are quite amazing - you would swear it's two different actors.

But without the subtle differences brought to each character by Garcia, they would never be as easily identifiable as they are - especially when the twins start im-per-son-ating each other.

Garcia offers a very nice pair of performances in this sadly misfired film.

- Salt Lake City stood in for fictional Haddonfield, Ill., again in "Halloween: The Curse of Michael Meyers," the sixth film in the slasher series. Salt Lake locales were also used for the fourth and fifth films in the series.

Last year around this time, the production crew tried to create a fall suburban setting - wind-blown leaves on lawns, early-evening darkness and a chill in the air, with jack-o'-lanterns on porches and scarecrows on lawns to signify Halloween.

Why Salt Lake? Because of its "temperate fall climate," according to the film's press kit.

But the filmmakers got a surprise. The press kit explains: "Salt Lake City . . . experienced an early winter in 1994 and the production had to continually fight the elements to create Halloween rather than Christmas Day. Every evening, in addition to regular set duties, someone had to hose down the previous day's snowfall and tempt the actors out of their down jackets."

- QUOTE OF THE WEEK: Catherine Deneuve, whose early success "Belle de Jour" (1967) is in release for the first time in two decades (and is now playing at the Tower Theater):

"I am aware, yes, that my looks have been a major part of my career, but I used it. I used it quite well. It was more a help than a hindrance. Still, we hear about actresses who feel they are not respected because they are attractive. After Sharon Stone, I don't think we can worry anyumore about beautiful actresses not being smart. She is very smart."

QUOTE OF THE WEEK II: Kathryn Bigelow, director of of the very violent "Strange Days":

"I don't love violence. I am, however, very interested in truth. And violence is a fact of our lives. It's unfortunately part of the social construct in which we live."