OPENING THIS WEEK

HILARY AND JACKIE -- Already receiving comparisons to "Shine" because of its music-leads-to-tragedy story line, this fact-based British drama stars Emily Watson ("The Boxer") and Rachel Griffiths as sibling musical prodigies whose talents put them at odds with each other. Reviewed in this section. R (profanity, sex, vulgarity, partial nudity). (Exclusive, Broadway.)

SHE'S ALL THAT -- An ugly-duckling comedy starring Freddie Prinze Jr. as a high school heartthrob who takes on a bet to help make over the class oddball (Rachael Leigh Cook, from TV's "Dawson's Creek"). But he finds himself falling in love with her. Matthew Lillard and Paul Walker ("Varsity Blues") co-star. Reviewed in this section. PG-13 (profanity, vulgarity, bikini babes, violence, brief sex). (Carmike 12, Century, Crossroads, Holladay, Midvalley, Reel, Ritz, Sandy 9, Trolley North.)

SNEAK PREVIEWS

MESSAGE IN A BOTTLE -- Based on the best-selling novel by Nicholas Sparks, this romantic drama stars Robin Wright Penn as a journalist who finds a letter in a bottle that has been cast into the ocean and who begins an exhaustive search for the writer (Kevin Costner). Complications ensue when she falls for him. Paul Newman co-stars. To be reviewed when it opens Feb. 12. PG-13 (profanity, violence, sex). (Saturday: Carmike 12, Century.)

SPECIAL SCREENINGS

LET'S SPEND THE NIGHT TOGETHER -- *** -- It's a little too much of a good thing -- some of the songs go on too long, and after awhile the novelty wears off -- but feature film director Hal Ashby's musical documentary about the Rolling Stones nicely captures the legendary British rockers on their 1981 U.S. tour, performing most of their greatest hits. PG (vulgarity, profanity). (Starting Tuesday: Brewvies.)

POINT OF ORDER -- **** -- Late documentary filmmaker Emile De Antonio's 1964 examination of Joseph McCarthy and his anti-Communism campaign, chronicling the former U.S. senator's fall from grace during the 1954 Army-McCarthy hearings. Chilling, with more than a few parallels with the current presidential scandal. In black and white. Not rated, probable PG (profanity). (Starting Sunday: Tower.)

THE 1999 SUNDANCE FILM FESTIVAL -- The 21st annual festival includes a wide selection of feature films, documentaries, foreign cinema, short works and other oddities, which will be screened at the Tower Theatre and the Loews Cineplex Trolley Square Mall Cinemas in Salt Lake City, as well as a variety of sites in Park City, Ogden and the Sundance resort in Provo Canyon. Festival catalogs, which feature movie descriptions and screening times, are available at the Tower, Trolley Square and other venues around town. (Through Sunday: Tower, Trolley Square.)

CONTINUING FILMS

ANTZ -- *** -- Though it's troublingly vulgar and violent (there's a bug battle scene that may terrify young audiences), this computer animated action-comedy set in an ant colony benefits from a very funny vocal performance by Woody Allen, starring as a nebbish insect who unwittingly becomes a hero by starting a revolution. And the animation is dazzling. Other voice talents include Sylvester Stallone and Sharon Stone. PG (violence, profanity, gore, vulgarity, torture). (Kaysville, Sandy Starships, Sugar House, Valley Fair.) (Oct. 2, 1998)

AT FIRST SIGHT -- ** -- This fact-based drama (inspired by a story in Oliver Sacks' book "An Anthropologist on Mars") has a wonderful first hour, in which a blind masseur (Val Kilmer) romances a stressed-out architect (Mira Sorvino). But in the second half, that storyline takes a back seat to a predictable medical science plot (doctors restore his sight), and the melodrama becomes cliched. Not completely unwatchable, but disappointing. PG-13 (profanity, sex, nudity, violence). (Century, Cottonwood, Gateway, Midvalley, Reel, Ritz, South Towne, Trolley Square.) (Jan. 15, 1999)

BABE: PIG IN THE CITY -- ** -- Proving you can't make lightning strike twice, this disappointing sequel to the 1995 hit is surprisingly dark and depressing. This time, everyone's favorite talking pig (now voiced by "Rugrats" performer E.G. Daily) has to save the family farm and ends up making new friends in the big city. Some amusing moments, but the gimmick is old hat now. G (violence, bikini babes, vulgarity). (Kaysville, Valley Fair.) (Nov. 25, 1998)

A BUG'S LIFE -- **** -- Better animated and written than "Antz," this comedy from the "Toy Story" team is a hilarious tale about a klutzy insect (voiced by Dave Foley, from TV's "NewsRadio"), who recruits circus performers to help defend his anthill from an invading grasshopper horde. Don't leave early, or you'll miss a series of hysterically funny bug "outtakes." G (animated violence, vulgarity). (Carmike 12, Gateway, Midvalley, Reel, Ritz, Sandy 9, Villa.) (Nov. 25, 1998)

A CIVIL ACTION -- ** -- Though the acting and direction are adequate, this disappointing legal drama (based on the fact-based best seller) is lacking the needed human element. And John Travolta, starring as a personal-injury attorney who sues two companies accused of contaminating a town's groundwater supply, plays the character in such an enigmatic fashion that it's hard to care about what happens to him. Robert Duvall steals the show as his chief opponent, though. PG-13 (profanity, violence). (Carmike 12, Century, Cottonwood, Gateway, Plaza 5400, Ritz, Sandy 9, Trolley Corners.) (Jan. 8, 1999)

DANCING AT LUGHNASA -- ** -- A too-downbeat adaptation of Brian Friel's Tony Award-winning play, about an family of Irish spinsters (including Meryl Streep, Catherine McCormack, Sophie Thompson and Kathy Burke) struggling to stay together in a time of personal and financial crisis. The talented cast has little to do but act dour, which makes even a 95-minute film feel like torture. PG (profanity). (South Towne.) (Jan. 15, 1999)

ENEMY OF THE STATE -- ** -- A surprising amount of restraint on the part of the filmmakers (director Tony Scott and producer Jerry Bruckheimer, who tone down their usual bombast) doesn't really suit this slow-moving thriller, which stars Will Smith as an innocent man running for his life from rogue government agents. The movie finally comes to life when Gene Hackman comes onscreen, but by then it's too late. R (violence, profanity, gore, partial nudity, racial epithets, sex). (Carmike 12, Midvalley, Villa.) (Nov. 20, 1998)

EVER AFTER -- ** 1/2 -- Drew Barrymore tries to charm her way through this feministic, revisionist retelling of the "Cinderella" fairy tale, but only the star and Anjelica Huston, who nearly steals the picture out from under her as her wicked stepmother, fare all that well. Handsome production values, though. PG-13 (violence, vulgarity, profanity). (Kaysville, Sandy Starships, Sugar House.) (July 31, 1998)

THE FACULTY -- * -- "Scream" scriptwriter Kevin Williamson takes his horror "homages" one step too far with this lame but gory sci-fi/horror flick, which shamelessly rips off "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" and the 1982 remake of "The Thing." In it, misfit high-school students (including Josh Hartnett and Elijah Wood) are forced to fight with their teachers, who have been possessed by alien creatures. R (violence, gore, profanity, drug use, nudity, vulgarity). (Brewvies, Carmike 12, Cinemas 5, Midvalley.) (Dec. 25, 1998)

GLORIA -- * 1/2 -- This remake of John Cassavetes' 1980 mob drama, starring Sharon Stone as the title character, feels like a movie that turned out badly and that someone tried to salvage. There's a ton of re-dubbed dialogue, subplots seem to have been excised and the whole thing has an amateur, slack feeling. R (violence, profanity, brief partial nudity). (Broadway, Carmike 12, Century, Holladay, Plaza 5400, Sandy 9, Trolley North.) (Jan. 23, 1999) -- Chris Hewitt, Knight Ridder

GODS AND MONSTERS -- *** -- An uneven, but well-acted biographical drama about the final days of filmmaker James Whale (the 1931 version of "Frankenstein," "Bride of Frankenstein"). Ian McKellen ("Apt Pupil") is superb as Whale, and Brendan Fraser is surprisingly good as a young groundskeeper who befriends him, despite their greatly differing lifestyles. Not rated, probable R (profanity, vulgarity, nudity, violence, gore, sex). (Exclusive, Tower.) (Dec. 25, 1998)

HOME FRIES -- ** 1/2 -- Not the sweet romantic comedy the ads make it appear to be, this uneven black comedy melds romance with suspense, as two brothers (Jake Busey and Luke Wilson) try to conceal the killing of their father. Complications arise when one of them falls for a fast-food employee (Drew Barrymore) who unwillingly witnessed the crime. Not funny enough, but the cast certainly tries. PG-13 (profanity, violence, vulgarity). (Kaysville, Sugar House.) (Nov. 25, 1998)

I STILL KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER -- * -- This stupid follow-up to 1997's slasher flick hit does nothing to dispel the theory about sequels being inferior to the originals. The performances are as awful as the plot is ludicrous: The "killer with a meat hook" returns to torment the survivors from the first film (including star Jennifer Love Hewitt). R (violence, gore, profanity, drug use, vulgarity). (Sugar House, Valley Fair.) (Nov. 13, 1998)

IN DREAMS -- turkey -- That this gory and pretentious fantasy/horror isn't any good should be no surprise (it's based on the hack novel "Doll Eyes"). But the fact that actors Annette Bening and Robert Downey Jr. and director Neil Jordan ("The Butcher Boy") would choose to be involved is. Bening stars as a woman who shares a mental link with a serial killer (Downey). Sillier and even stupider than it sounds. R (profanity, violence, gore, sex). (Century, Cinemas 5, Creekside, Ritz, South Towne, Trolley Square.) (Jan. 15, 1999)

JACK FROST -- ** -- A sloppily written rehash of just about every other film where a dad disappoints his son due to a career. There isn't one emotion, thought or response that hasn't been lifted from some other source. And Michael Keaton, playing a neglectful father who is transformed into the title character, acts so irresponsibly smug and cool it's hard to believe. PG (profanity, violence, vulgarity). (Cinemas 5.) (Dec. 11, 1998) -- Paula Nechak, Seattle Post-Intelligencer

JOHN CARPENTER'S VAMPIRES -- ** -- A disappointingly messy (both in terms of gore and storytelling) horror-thriller from the veteran filmmaker. James Woods is terrific as a professional monster hunter hired by the Vatican to eliminate a horde of bloodsuckers living in the southwestern United States, but the movie completely misses the point of the novel that inspired it. R (violence, gore, profanity, nudity, vulgarity, sex, torture). (Sugar House, Valley Fair.) (Oct. 30, 1998)

LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL -- *** 1/2 -- The premise for this unconventional comedy-drama from writer/director/actor Roberto Benigni ("The Monster"), which mixes romantic comedy with concentration camp tragedy, is definitely odd. But Benigni manages to pull it off, thanks to his charming performance as an Italian Jew who attempts to conceal death-camp horrors from his infant son. Winner of the Grand Jury Prize from the 1998 Cannes Film Festival. In Italian, with English subtitles. PG-13 (violence, ethnic slurs, brief nudity). (Exclusive, Broadway.) (Nov. 6, 1998)

MEET JOE BLACK -- ** 1/2 -- There's a decent 100-minute movie lurking beneath this clunky, three-hour fantasy/romantic drama that's loosely based on the 1934 film "Death Takes a Holiday." And Anthony Hopkins is superb as a dying millionaire trying to tie up all the loose ends in his life. But Brad Pitt is woefully miscast as Death, who finds love with a mortal woman (Claire Forlani, from "Basquiat") when he assumes the identity of a dead man. PG-13 (profanity, sex, vulgarity). (Kaysville, Sandy Starships, Valley Fair.) (Nov. 13, 1998)

MIGHTY JOE YOUNG -- * 1/2 -- Overly violent and sure to be frightening for the very young, this remake of the 1949 fantasy/adventure film features great special effects (especially the title character, which combines mechanical props and digital effects) but little else. And Charlize Theron is awful as the companion to the great ape, who gets loose in Los Angeles when scientists bring him to the United States. PG (violence, profanity, vulgarity). (Cottonwood, Gateway, Ritz, South Towne.) (Dec. 24, 1998)

ORGAZMO -- turkey -- Idiotic and tasteless comedy from the creators of TV's "South Park," about an LDS Church missionary (Trey Parker), who becomes an adult-film star and a real-life superhero. What Parker doesn't know about the church could fill volumes, and the whole thing is embarrassingly amateurish. Not worth all the hubbub, frankly. NC-17 (vulgarity, violence, nudity, sex, profanity). (Exclusive, Tower.) (Oct. 23, 1998)

PATCH ADAMS -- ** 1/2 -- Too heavy-handed and cliched in places, this fact-based comedy/drama still scores points for its timely messages about health care and a wild-and-wooly performance from Robin Williams, who stars as a student doctor whose unique style of treating patients (with healthy doses of humor) lands him in hot water with his instructors. PG-13 (vulgarity, profanity, nudity). (Century, Crossroads, Holladay, Midvalley, Reel, Ritz, South Towne, Trolley North.) (Dec. 25, 1998)

PECKER -- * -- The newest comedy by filmmaker John Waters has all the trademarks of one of his movies, including inept direction and bad-taste humor. But it seems like a shame to make the talented cast act so amateurishly, and the story -- which follows the title character (Edward Furlong), a photographer whose snapshots bring bad luck to their unfortunate subjects -- isn't particularly funny or insightful. R (vulgarity, nudity, profanity, sex, violence, drug use). (Brewvies.) (Jan. 1, 1999)

PLAYING BY HEART -- *** -- This ambitious comedy-drama, originally known as "Dancing About Architecture," has at least one storyline too many, and meanders in places. But the ensemble cast (which includes Sean Connery, Gena Rowlands, Gillian Anderson, Jon Stewart and Angelina Jolie) makes it work, and the script scores with many points about the consequences of long-term romantic entanglements. R (profanity, vulgarity, violence). (Broadway, Century.) (Jan. 22, 1999)

PRACTICAL MAGIC -- ** -- Dreadfully uneven fantasy/romantic-comedy starring Sandra Bullock and Nicole Kidman as sisters who are extremely unlucky in love. A trio of screenwriters muddles the film's tone (it shifts from drama to horror to comedy at will), and Dianne Wiest and Stockard Channing are criminally underused as their meddling witch aunts. PG-13 (profanity, violence, vulgarity, drug use). (Sugar House, Valley Fair.) (Oct. 16, 1998)

THE PRINCE OF EGYPT -- *** -- Marred by too many musical numbers, as well as the too-swift "Cliff Notes" storytelling, this ambitious, animated retelling of the Book of Exodus is still very powerful. The all-star cast of vocal talents, including Val Kilmer as Moses, and Ralph Fiennes as Rameses, helps, as does some dazzling animation (especially the breathtaking "Parting of the Red Sea" scene). PG (animated violence). (Carmike 12, Century, Midvalley, Olympus, Ritz, Sandy 9.) (Dec. 18, 1998)

PSYCHO -- * 1/2 -- Director Gus Van Sant ("Good Will Hunting") never adequately answers the question as to why he attempted this hackneyed, shot-for-shot remake of Alfred Hitchcock's 1960 classic thriller. And while Anne Heche is surprisingly sympathetic as the first victim, Vince Vaughn plays serial killer Norman Bates as too menacing, even irritating at times. Still, Danny Elfman's re-creation of the Bernard Herrmann score is terrific. R (violence, gore, nudity, sex). (Sugar House, Valley Fair.) (Dec. 9, 1998)

THE RUGRATS MOVIE -- *** -- This animated "adventure for anyone who's ever worn diapers" will probably thrill young fans of the television program. But adults might be bored by this tale about the clever-for-his-age Tommy Pickles, who gets a baby brother and also becomes lost in the woods with his pals Chuckie, Phil and Lil. G (animated violence, vulgarity). (Cinemas 5, Olympus.) (Nov. 20, 1998)

RUSH HOUR -- ** -- Hong Kong action star Jackie Chan is great as a Hong Kong detective who goes to the states to rescue his prize student in this action comedy. Unfortunately, writer/director Brett Ratner ("Money Talks") pairs him with the ultra-annoying Chris Tucker, who spoils the movie with his fast-talking shtick and some nasty racist humor. PG-13 (violence, profanity, racial epithets, vulgarity, drug use, gore). (Sandy Starships, Sugar House, Valley Fair.) (Sept. 18, 1998)

SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE -- **** -- There's finally a film that "does" Shakespeare right -- this subversively clever comedy from director John Madden ("Mrs. Brown"), which follows the the romantic misadventures of history's most famous playwright. Joseph Fiennes stars as the Bard, who is having trouble writing until he meets the right muse (Gwyneth Paltrow). Intelligent writing and a superb supporting cast (which includes Geoffrey Rush and Dame Judi Dench) also helps. R (sex, violence, nudity, vulgarity, profanity, torture). (Broadway, Century, Holladay, Plaza 5400, South Towne.) (Dec. 25, 1998)

A SIMPLE PLAN -- *** 1/2 -- Chilling both in terms of its storyline and its snowy setting, this dramatic thriller from "Darkman" director Sam Raimi nicely reworks Scott Smith's best-selling novel about brothers (Bill Paxton and Billy Bob Thornton) who turn to murder to protect the stash of money they find in a downed plane. Great performances help (especially Thornton), and Raimi is surprisingly restrained here, which just adds to the extreme tension. R (violence, profanity, gore, vulgarity, nudity). (Broadway, Carmike 12, Century, Cottonwood, Plaza 5400, Ritz, Sandy 9.) (Jan. 22, 1999)

STAR TREK: INSURRECTION -- *** -- It's definitely flawed, but the third big-screen adventure for the "Next Generation" Enterprise crew is a surprisingly romantic and musical (!) adventure tale in which Capt. Picard (Patrick Stewart) and his officers defy their superiors to protect a "Fountain of Youth" planet. Some glaring plot holes, but the action moves so quickly you might not even notice. PG (violence, gore, vulgarity). (Brewvies, Carmike 12, Cinemas 5, Olympus, Ritz, Sandy 9, Trolley Square.) (Dec. 11, 1998)

STEPMOM -- ** -- Not the cutesy comedy/drama it appears to be in the ads, this drama from director Chris Columbus ("Mrs. Doubtfire") has two stellar performances from Susan Sarandon and Julia Roberts as, respectively, a fortysomething ex-wife and the thirtysomething title character. But the movie is much too downbeat, especially when it strays into the inevitable fatal illness storyline. PG-13 (profanity, vulgarity, drug use, violence). (Century, Creekside, Gateway, Midvalley, Ritz, South Towne.) (Dec. 24, 1998)

THERE'S SOMETHING ABOUT MARY -- ** -- Nearly as funny as it is disgusting, the newest comedy from the makers of "Dumb & Dumber" and "Kingpin" follows the misadventures of a lovable loser (Ben Stiller) who hires a sleazy P.I. (Matt Dillon) to find the woman he's been in love with since high school (Cameron Diaz). Screamingly funny at times, but the movie runs out of steam in the second half with an irritating stalking subplot. R (vulgarity, profanity, violence, nudity, ethnic slurs). (Sugar House.) (July 15, 1998)

THE TRUMAN SHOW -- **** -- One of those rare instances of the hype being justified, this thoughtful and subtle black comedy/suspense-thriller stars comic actor Jim Carrey (in his Golden Globe Award-winning role) as a man unaware that his "life" is being staged as part of a 24-hour-a-day documentary television show. Kudos also to Peter Weir ("Dead Poets Society"), whose skillful direction forces Carrey to act. PG (profanity, violence). (Sugar House, Valley Fair.) (June 5, 1998)

THE THIN RED LINE -- *** 1/2 -- Director Terrence Malick's examination of the nature of war (based on James Joyce's novel) isn't necessarily better than the excellent "Saving Private Ryan," it's just different. This slowly mesmerizing drama looks at the Battle of Guadalcanal through the eyes of the men in the action (Sean Penn, Nick Nolte, John Cusack, Ben Chaplin, Woody Harrelson and newcomers Jim Caviezel and Adrien Brody). R (violence, profanity, gore, nudity, sex, racial epithets). (Century, Gateway, Holladay, Plaza 5400, Ritz, South Towne, Trolley Corners.) (Jan. 15, 1999)

URBAN LEGEND -- * -- Yet another gory, dumbbell "Scream" wannabe, this one an uninspired thriller about a serial killer who uses folklore for inspiration. But when the filmmakers run out of folk tales, they make up some of their own and the premise is so ludricrous it's laughable. R (violence, gore, profanity, vulgarity, sex, nude drawings). (Valley Fair.) (Sept. 25, 1998)

VARSITY BLUES -- * -- Call this half-baked comedy/drama "North Dallas Forty -- The Early Years." James Van Der Beek (TV's "Dawson's Creek") stars as a Texas high school student who butts heads with the local football coach (Jon Voight) when he becomes the team's starting quarterback. The performances are terrible, and the action turns exploitative in a hurry (such as a strip club scene). R (profanity, sex, nudity, violence, drug use). (Carmike 12, Century, Creekside, Crossroads, Gateway, Midvalley, Reel, Ritz, Sandy 9.) (Jan. 15, 1999)

VIRUS -- turkey -- You have to feel sorry for former special effects wizard John Bruno, who turned down work on "Titanic" to make this disgustingly gory science-fiction/horror flick about a tugboat crew (including Jamie Lee Curtis, Donald Sutherland and William Baldwin) who have to stop a deadly alien life form that regards humanity as a disease to be wiped out. R (violence, gore, profanity). (Carmike 12, Century, Holladay, Midvalley, Ritz, Sandy 9, Trolley North, Trolley Square.) (Jan. 17, 1999)

WAKING NED DEVINE -- *** -- It's a little too dark in places, but this comedy is a low-key delight, thanks to the superb pairing of David Kelly and Ian Bannen, a sort of British "Odd Couple." The two sixtysomethings play Irish villagers who try to conceal the death of another villager . . . so they can claim the rewards of his winning lottery ticket. PG (profanity, nudity, vulgarity). (Century.) (Jan. 8, 1999)

THE WATERBOY -- * 1/2 -- Adam Sandler reverts to his obnoxious one-note shtick in this mean-spirited gridiron comedy, which reunites him with "The Wedding Singer" director Frank Coraci. But there's no Drew Barrymore to offset his irritating, goofy-voiced shenanigans here, and his performance as the title character, a picked-upon thirtysomething who discovers he has a talent for tackling, leaves a lot to be desired. PG-13 (violence, profanity, vulgarity, nudity). (Carmike 12, Midvalley.) (Nov. 6, 1998)

WHAT DREAMS MAY COME -- ** -- Disappointing fantasy/romantic drama based on the Richard Matheson novel and starring Robin Williams as a recently slain physician willing to throw away his chance at the afterlife to rescue his wife (Annabella Sciorra) from eternal damnation. Gorgeous visuals, but the plot is a confusing mess. PG-13 (profanity, violence, nudity, vulgarity). (Kaysville, Sugar House.) (Oct. 2, 1998)

YOU'VE GOT MAIL -- *** 1/2 -- A surprisingly successful reunion for "Sleepless in Seattle" co-stars Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan, as well as director Nora Ephron. This romantic comedy (inspired by the 1939's "The Shop Around the Corner") stars Hanks and Ryan as two bitter enemies who unwittingly romance each other via computer e-mail. Smart and funny, and there's no denying the chemistry between the two leads. PG (profanity, vulgarity). (Carmike 12, Century, Gateway, Holladay, Plaza 5400, Ritz, Sandy 9, Trolley Corners.) (Dec. 18, 1998)