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On the screen

NEW FILMS FRIDAY

I THINK I DO - Gay-themed comedy from writer/director Brian Sloan (who compiled the "Boys Life" film anthologies) about a soap-opera writer reunited with an unrequited love during the wedding of a former college roommate. Reviewed in this section on Page W4. R (profanity, sex, vulgarity, drug use, violence, partial nudity). (Exclusive, Trolley Square.)

JUNK MAIL - Odd Norwegian dark comedy-thriller (screened at the 1998 Sundance Film Festival), about a conniving postman who becomes entangled in a crime when he begins stalking a hearing-impaired dry-cleaner. In Norwegian, with English subtitles. Reviewed in this section on Page W4. Not rated, probable R (violence, profanity, nudity, vulgarity, sex, drug use). (Exclusive, Tower.)

A PERFECT MURDER - Inspired by the stage play and Hitchcock film "Dial M for Murder," this thriller stars Gwyneth Paltrow as the young wife of a millionaire industrialist (Michael Douglas) who wants to kill her. Reviewed in this section on Page W12. R (violence, gore, profanity, sex, partial nudity). (Broadway, Carmike 12, Century, Gateway, Holladay, Plaza 5400; Redwood, with "Almost Heroes"; Sandy 9.)

THE TRUMAN SHOW - In what is being hailed as his breakthrough role, comic Jim Carrey stars in this unorthodox dark comedy/ suspense-thriller as a man unaware that his "life" is staged as part of a 24-hour-a-day documentary television show. Diirected by Peter Weir ("Witness," "Dead Poets Society"). Jeff Vice interviews the filmmakers on Page W1; reviewed in this section on Page W3. PG (profanity, violence). (Carmike 12, Century, Gateway, Holladay, Plaza 5400; Redwood, with "Neil Simon's The Odd Couple II"; Reel, Sandy 9, Trolley Corners.)

SPECIAL SCREENINGS

THE BIG SLEEP - * * * * - Thrilling and hilarious 1946 Howard Hawks film noir classic, with Humphrey Bogart as Philip Marlowe, trying to solve a string of murders, and Lauren Bacall as an implicated wealthy divorcee. This is the original 1945 version that was never released, with a wraparound documentary showing what scenes were added and deleted. Excellent all the way around. Made before ratings (1945), probable PG (violence). (Brewvies.) (July 11, 1997) - Chris Hicks

THE CHARLIE CHAPLIN COLLECTION - A touring retrospective of some of Chaplin's most enduring feature-length and short film works. This week's selections are 1936's "Modern Times" (June 5-6); "The Chaplin Revue," a compilation of shorts "A Dog's Life," "Shoulder Arms" and "The Pilgrim" (June 7); 1940's "The Great Dictator" (June 8); 1947's "Monsieur Verdoux" (June 9); 1952's "Limelight" (June 10); and 1957's "A King in New York" (June 11). Shown in 35mm. Black and white; made before ratings, with some PG-level material. (Exclusive, Tower.)

CONTINUING FILMS

ALMOST HEROES - turkey - A depressingly sad swansong for late comedian Chris Farley, who stars with Matthew Perry (TV's "Friends") in this awful comedy about two bumbling explorers who try to blaze a new path through the unknown wilds of the Louisiana Purchase. Dumber than the ads make it appear to be, if that's possible. PG-13 (vulgarity, violence, profanity, nudity). (Century, Crossroads, Gateway, Holladay, Plaza 5400; Redwood, with "A Perfect Murder"; Reel, South Towne.) (May 31, 1998)

THE APOSTLE - * * * 1/2 - Robert Duvall's long-overdue third film as a director is this drama about a disgraced preacher (Duvall) who rediscovers his faith when he's forced to flee Texas after viciously beating another man. Religion and faith usually aren't portrayed nearly as sympathetically and intelligently as they are here, and all the performances are very strong. PG-13 (profanity, violence, racial epithets). (Sugar House, Valley Fair.) (Feb. 13, 1998)

AS GOOD AS IT GETS - * * * 1/2 - Alternately dramatic and brutally funny, this comedy from writer/director James Brooks ("I'll Do Anything") wouldn't fly if not for the stellar performance by Oscar winner Jack Nicholson as a tactless romance novelist. Greg Kinnear is surprisingly subtle as a gay artist, but Oscar winner Helen Hunt is miscast as Nicholson's romantic foil. PG-13 (profanity, vulgarity, nudity, violence, racial epithets). (Kaysville, Sugar House.) (Dec. 26, 1997)

BARNEY'S GREAT ADVENTURE: THE MOVIE - * * 1/2 - Childless adults will find many reasons to run and hide and older kids will scoff, but this musical/comedy based on the PBS television show is a charming celebration of imagination. It helps that the movie gives the naysayers a voice. Featuring original songs written by Broadway composer Jerry Herman ("Hello Dolly," "Mame"). G. (Kaysville, Valley Fair.) (April 3, 1998) - Robert Philpot, Fort-Worth Star-Telegram

THE BIG LEBOWSKI - * * - Not exactly a stellar follow-up to "Fargo," this black comedy involving mistaken identities and kidnappings shows the filmmaking Coen brothers at their most unfocused and self-indulgent. Star Jeff Bridges has fun playing an aging stoner, but the payoff isn't worth the wait for most audiences. R (profanity, vulgarity, violence, drug use, nudity, torture, racial epithets). (Valley Fair.) (March 6, 1998)

THE BORROWERS - * * 1/2 - Marred by some tasteless and vulgar jokes, this big-screen version of Mary Norton's beloved children books - about a clan of very, very tiny people trying to thwart an evil developer (John Goodman) - has some dazzling visuals and a brisk pace. But in the process, some of the charm is lost. PG (violence, vulgarity, mild profanity). (Valley Fair.) (Feb. 13, 1998)

BULWORTH - * * - More offensive than it is funny, this extremely inconsistent political parable stars Warren Beatty (who also co-wrote and directed the film) as a depressed U.S. senator who hires a hitman to kill him but who soon rises to prominence because of his truthful stances. A few inspired moments, but Beatty's white-boy rapping is excruciating and the ending is unbelievably tasteless. R (profanity, vulgarity, drug use, violence, gore, racial epithets, nude artwork). (Century, Holladay, Midvalley, South Towne, Trolley Square.) (May 22, 1998)

CITY OF ANGELS - * * 1/2 - Loosely based on the 1987 art-house film "Wings of Desire," this romantic drama/fantasy stars Nicolas Cage as an angel who's torn between duty and the love of a heart surgeon (Meg Ryan). The story's fine until things take a turn towards weepy melodrama. Fine performances from Cage and Ryan, as well as co-stars Dennis Franz and Andre Braugher, though. PG-13 (profanity, violence, sex, nudity, hospital gore, vulgarity). (Carmike 12, Cottonwood, Midvalley; Redwood, with "The Horse Whisperer"; Sandy 9, Trolley North.) (April 10, 1998)

DEEP IMPACT - * * - Possibly the dullest disaster film ever made, this all-talk-and-no-action flick wastes an all-star cast - including Robert Duvall, Tea Leoni, Morgan Freeman and Elijah Wood, who try to survive when scientists discover that a huge comet is on a collision course with the Earth. Not worth sticking around for the 10 minutes worth of destruction, frankly. PG-13 (profanity, violence). (Carmike 12, Century, Cottonwood, Crossroads, Gateway, Plaza 5400; Redwood, with "Titanic"; Reel, Sandy 9.) (May 8, 1998)

FEAR AND LOATHING IN LAS VEGAS - * 1/2 - Imagine trying to spend two hours in Las Vegas with "gonzo" journalist Hunter S. Thompson and you might get an idea of what this drug-culture comedy, based on the infamous novel, is like. Painfully unfunny, though director Terry Gilliam's warped visual style and Johnny Depp's spot-on Thompson impression are momentarily diverting. R (profanity, drug use, vulgarity, violence, nudity, gore, racial epithets). (Crossroads, Holladay, Midvalley, Sandy 9.) (May 22, 1998)

GODZILLA - * * - Despite the awesome computer graphics-created title character, which rampages through Manhattan rather than Tokyo this time, this sci-fi/thriller from the "Independence Day" filmmaking team is a too-transparent ripoff of the "Jurassic Park" movies. Kids will probably love it, but adults may find themselves wanting better-developed characters and situations. A few thrills and a couple of chuckles, but on whole pretty disappointing. PG-13 (violence, profanity). (Century, Cottonwood, Gateway, Midvalley; Redwood, with "Scream 2"; Reel, South Towne, Trolley Corners.) (May 20, 1998)

GOOD WILL HUNTING - * * * 1/2 - Well-acted, though also profane and vulgar, comedy-drama about a troubled 20-something mathematics genius (Matt Damon) who must undergo therapy (from Oscar winner Robin Williams, playing a down-on-his-luck college professor) as part of his parole. Damon and co-star Ben Affleck also wrote the Academy Award-winning screenplay. R (profanity, vulgarity, violence, sex, nude paintings, racial epithets). (Brewvies, Cinemas 5.) (Dec. 26, 1997)

HE GOT GAME - * * * - It wouldn't be a Spike Lee film if it weren't too long and extremely self indulgent, but the writer/director's latest features strong performances from Denzel Washington, as a prisoner who is temporarily paroled, and Ray Allen (from the NBA Milwaukee Bucks), playing his estranged son, a talented high school basketball player. R (profanity, vulgarity, sex, nudity, racial epithets, violence, drug use). (Brewvies, Carmike 12.) (May 1, 1998)

HOPE FLOATS - * * - Not the change of pace Sandra Bullock might have anticipated, this disappointingly downbeat drama stars Bullock as a single mother who discovers love and acceptance when she is forced to move back to her small Texas hometown. Frankly, she tries too hard to charm her way through this uneven mess. PG-13 (violence, vulgarity, profanity) (Broadway, Carmike 12, Century, Creekside, Gateway, Midvalley; Redwood, with "The Newton Boys"; Reel, Sandy 9.) (May 29, 1998)

THE HORSE WHISPERER - * * * * - A case of the movie actually being better than the book, Robert Redford's long-anticipated adaptation of the Nicholas Evans best-seller stars Redford as a horse trainer who helps heal a wounded animal, as well as its young rider and her mother (Kristin Scott Thomas, from "The English Patient"). Wonderfully low-key, with superb photography that makes great use of the beautiful Montana scenery. PG-13 (profanity, violence, gore). (Broadway, Gateway, Plaza 5400; Redwood, with "City of Angels"; Reel, South Towne, Villa.) (May 15, 1998)

HUSH - * - This dull thriller about an evil mother-in-law (Jessica Lange) has more problems than just a bad title (though several others, including "Kilronan," were rejected). Lange and co-star Gwyneth Paltrow are hammy and wooden, respectively, and the script's unintentionally hilarious. PG-13 (profanity, violence, vulgarity, gore, nudity, sex). (Sugar House.) (March 6, 1998)

I GOT THE HOOK-UP - turkey - This lame movie provides an adequate example of attempted comedy. Constructed around a couple of fast-talking hustlers ripping off others (rapper Master P, who also wrote the script, and comic A.J. Johnson), it lacks the essential ingredients, like originality and genuinely funny characters. R (profanity, violence, vulgarity, partial nudity, sex, racial epithets, drug use). (Midvalley, Trolley Square.) (May 29, 1998) - Lawrence Van Gelder, New York Times News Service

LES MISERABLES - * * * - This dramatic, not musical, adaptation of Victor Hugo's classic novel suffers from choppy pacing (due to studio-mandated cuts) and a lack of necessary melodrama. Still, the performances by Liam Neeson and "Shine's" Geoffrey Rush, as longtime antagonists Jean Valjean and Inspector Javert, are superb, as is Uma Thurman, playing the doomed Fantine. PG-13 (violence, gore, partial nudity, profanity, vulgarity). (Carmike 12, Creekside, Midvalley, Trolley North.) (May 1, 1998)

LOST IN SPACE - * * 1/2 - Neither as good nor as bad as you might think, this big-screen version of the cult '60s television series, a science-fiction take on "Swiss Family Robinson," is decent if unexceptional eye-candy. However, things bog down in the second half, with a time-travel storyline that makes no sense. PG-13 (violence, gore, profanity, vulgarity). (Carmike 12.) (April 3, 1998)

THE MAN IN THE IRON MASK - * * - Who says two Leonardo DiCaprios are better than one? The "Titanic" star is downright awful playing twin brothers - one the evil King of France and the other a sweet-natured prisoner - in this dimwitted adaptation of the Alexandre Dumas novel. Still, the dream casting of actors playing the Four Musketeers (Gabriel Byrne, John Malkovich, Gerard Depardieu and Jeremy Irons) almost saves things. PG-13 (violence, vulgarity, sex, nudity, profanity). (Cinemas 5, Sandy Starships.) (March 13, 1998)

MERCURY RISING - * 1/2 - Call this by-the-numbers Bruce Willis thriller "Who's Trying to Kill Gilbert Grape?" In it, he plays an outcast FBI agent hired to protect a 9-year-old autistic savant who's accidentally cracked a top-secret governmental military code. Not nearly exciting enough, and the plot is so ludicrous it's laughable. R (violence, profanity, vulgarity). (Sandy Starships, Sugar House, Valley Fair.) (April 3, 1998)

MR. NICE GUY - * * - Action star Jackie Chan's newest, a martial-arts comedy about a TV chef accidentally dragged into a turf war between a motorcycle gang and a drug lord, almost lives up to its advertised promise of having "more action than the last three Jackie Chan films combined." But its plot is too thin, the acting is abominable and the ending is pretty dull, frankly. PG-13 (violence, vulgarity, profanity, nude artwork). (Sugar House, Valley Fair.) (March 20, 1998)

MY GIANT - * * - There's yet another smug turn by Billy Crystal in this unfunny comedy, which stars Crystal as a third-rate talent agent who accidentally discovers a new star, a 7-foot-plus, Shakespeare-quoting monastery caretaker (Gheorghe Muresan, from the NBA Washington Wizards), while in Europe. Things are also marred by a vulgar vomiting gag. PG (profanity, vulgarity, violence). (Kaysville.) (April 10, 1998)

NEIL SIMON'S THE ODD COUPLE II - * * - Call this badly thought-out sequel, which brings neat freak Felix Ungar (Jack Lemmon) and slob Oscar Madison (Walter Matthau) back together for the wedding of the children, "The Grumpy Old Odd Couple." Matthau actually brings some life to the weak script, but Lemmon is annoying and the duo's road adventures are pretty lame. PG-13 (profanity, vulgarity, violence). (Redwood, with "The Truman Show.") (April 10, 1998)

THE NEWTON BOYS - * * * - Star power helps bail out this uneven but factually based drama from writer/director Richard Linklater ("Before Sunrise") about four brothers (Matthew McConaughey, Ethan Hawke, Skeet Ulrich and Vincent D'Onofrio) who became the most successful bank robbers in U.S. history. Well-placed humor doesn't hurt either. PG-13 (violence, profanity, vulgarity, gore, torture, brief nudity). (Redwood, with "Hope Floats.") (March 27, 1998)

THE OBJECT OF MY AFFECTION - * * 1/2 - Not the romantic comedy the ads make it appear to be, this uneven comedy/drama stars Jennifer Aniston as a pregnant crisis counselor who asks her gay roommate (Paul Rudd) to raise the child with her and winds up falling for him. A stellar supporting cast (including Alan Alda and Nigel Hawthorne) helps elevate the material. R (profanity, vulgarity, violence, drug use). (Carmike 12, Cinemas 5.) (April 17, 1998)

PAULIE - * * * - Here's the year's most pleasant surprise to date: a charming kids comedy about the title character, a parrot who learns to speak and comprehend the human language and who yearns to be reunited with his original owner. A great cast of human co-stars (Tony Shalhoub, Gena Rowlands and Cheech Marin) certainly doesn't hurt. Jay Mohr, from "Jerry Maguire," lends his voice to the character. PG (profanity). (Cinemas 5, Olympus.) (April 17, 1998)

PRIMARY COLORS - * * - Proof that you can't judge a film by its casting, this political satire/drama (based on the best-seller by "Anonymous") suffers because it relies too heavily on John Travolta's unsuccessful Clinton impression and because of some very uneven pacing. It's also far too heavy-handed. The supporting cast (Adrian Lester, Billy Bob Thornton and Kathy Bates) almost makes it work, though. R (profanity, vulgarity, violence, racial epithets, brief partial nudity). (Sugar House.) (March 20, 1998)

QUEST FOR CAMELOT - * * - Flat animation and unmemorable songs are just several of the many problems facing this dull animated musical, a feminist revision of the King Arthur legends that's based on a famous fantasy novel. In it, the daughter of a slain knight and a blind warrior, who try to recover King Arthur's mystical sword, Excalibur. Deadly dull. G (animated violence). (Creekside, Midvalley, South Towne, Trolley North.) (May 15, 1998)

SCREAM 2 - * * - There are some very funny comedic moments in this sequel to 1996's surprise hit slasher/comedy, which picks up the story two years later and brings back surviving stars Neve Campbell, David Arquette and Courteney Cox). But the killings this time around are more gruesome and not nearly as clever as screenwriter Kevin Williamson intended. Still, the film-within-a-film parody of the first movie almost makes things worth it. R (violence, gore, profanity, vulgarity). (Redwood, with "Godzilla"; Sugar House, Valley Fair.) (Dec. 12, 1997)

SLIDING DOORS - * * - A lack of chemistry between the leads seriously hampers this uneven comedy/fantasy, a variation on "It's a Wonderful Life," which follows what happens when a young woman (Gwyneth Paltrow, sporting a bad British accent) misses a London subway train, as well as what happens when she makes it to the train station on time. PG-13 (profanity, vulgarity, sex, brief partial nudity, violence). (Olympus, South Towne, Trolley Square.) (April 24, 1998)

THE SPANISH PRISONER - * * - Proof that playwrights don't necessarily make good filmmakers, this low-key thriller from David Mamet ("Oleanna") features clever plotting and decent pacing, but irritatingly robotic acting that robs it of life. Campbell Scott is at his most wooden, playing a young businessman unsure of whom to trust after he invents a revolutionary business strategy. PG (violence, profanity, gore, racial epithets). (Sandy 9, Trolley Square.) (May 8, 1998)

SPECIES II - Actually worse than the original, 1995' surprise hit, this sickening but at times laughable science-fiction/thriller reunites cast members Michael Madsen, Natasha Henstridge and Marg Helgenberger, as they try to track down a murderous astronaut "infected" with alien DNA. R (gore, violence, sex, nudity, profanity, attempted rape, vulgarity). (Sugar House, Valley Fair.) (April 12, 1998)

SWEPT FROM THE SEA - * 1/2 - Some literary works weren't meant to be made into movies, such as Joseph Conrad's little-known novella "Amy Foster," which has been turned into an overblown love story. Neither of the leads (Vincent Perez and Rachel Weisz) are interesting, and the film feels four hours long. PG-13 (violence, profanity, hospital gore, sex, vulgarity). (Kaysville.) (March 1, 1998)

TITANIC - * * * - Too long by at least 45 minutes, director James Cameron's romance/adventure epic - set aboard the ill-fated passenger ship - is also more passionate and thrilling than most of what we've seen lately. Things are helped enormously by stars Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet, playing doomed lovers, and the fact that almost all of the reported $200 million budget seems to have gone to the dazzling historical recreations. Winner of 11 Academy Awards. PG-13 (profanity, violence, nudity, vulgarity, sex). (Avalon, Carmike 12, Midvalley, Olympus; Redwood, with "Deep Impact"; Trolley North.) (Dec. 19, 1997)

U.S. MARSHALS - * * - There are some exciting stunts in this spinoff of the 1993 hit "The Fugitive," but they're obvious retreads of action sequences from the first film (as well as "Con Air" and others) and the plot's not up to snuff. Also, Tommy Lee Jones does a fine job reprising his role, even though Wesley Snipes isn't nearly interesting enough as the subject of his hunt. PG-13 (violence, profanity, gore, vulgarity). (Kaysville, Sandy Starships, Sugar House, Valley Fair.) (March 6, 1998)

THE WEDDING SINGER - * * 1/2 - Surprising chemistry from stars Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore helps save this silly but sweet romantic comedy, set in the mid-'80s, about a struggling musician and wedding entertainer who falls in love with a waitress who's engaged to be married. PG-13 (profanity, vulgarity, violence, partial nudity). (Kaysville, Sandy Starships, Sugar House, Valley Fair.) (Feb. 13, 1998)

WILD THINGS - * - You can purposely make your movies trashy but you can't make audiences watch them! This blackly comic mystery/thriller about two high school students (Neve Campbell and Denise Richards) who falsely accuse their school counselor (Matt Dillon) of rape, tries to be Grade-A cheese but is spoiled by atrocious acting and lurid plotting. Bill Murray is a hoot as a shyster lawyer, however. R (violence, profanity, vulgarity, nudity, sex, drug use, gore). (Sugar House.) (March 20, 1998)

WOO - * - We've already seen this urban sex comedy, starring Jada Pinkett Smith, before - but it was called "Sprung" and "Booty Call" back then. There's so little in the way of originality and freshness here that the 85-minute running time feels like 85 hours of torture instead. R (sex, vulgarity, violence, profanity, racial epithets). (Cinemas 5.) (May 29, 1998) - Paula Nechak, Seattle Post-Intelligencer

*****

On Line

Past movie reviews and capsules by Jeff Vice and Chris Hicks are available online. Search for MOVIES.