The Spotlight

Boogie Nights
Deep impact
The postman
In & out
The man in the iron mask

Boogie Nights* - The pop 1970s were typified in part by cheesy fashions, ephemeral music and a regular diet of daring, cutting-edge movies that arguably made that decade Hollywood's richest. Blistering Boogie Nights recaptures the spirit of that time on all three counts, devoting its energies to a tackily bedecked disco era when the porno-pic industry briefly and naively harbored mainstream hopes. The movie borders on being X-Rated and if not for Burt Reynolds, who gives the performance of his career as a paternal porno filmmaker, the movie wouldn't be worth stomaching.

Sphere* - The new sci-fi thriller Sphere does a few things remarkably well - and a lot of things wrong. Dustin Hoffman, Sharon Stone and Samuel L. Jackson co-star in the Michael Crichton tale about a mysterious, giant spaceship, discovered in the bottom of the Pacific Ocean. Barry Levinson directs. Despite being bluebloods of film making, Hoffman, Stone and Levinson are relative novices in the special-effects world of science fiction. In Sphere, they stumble on too many of the cliches of the form and sometimes forget the importance of logic in the narrative and the need to wrap up all the loose ends.

Deep impact* - The movie deals with a 500 billion ton comet hurtling to Earth and 250 billion extraneous subplots. Dad-daughter tension and puppy love rate as much screen time as New York City's annihilation by tidal wave, a scene ta-da-ta-da'd in the Impact trailer but shoehorned into the finale here. Tea Leoni plays an NBC minion who breaks the story and then becomes the anchorperson charged with explaining its implications to a surprisingly unfrenzied populace. The actress' comic style translates awkwardly to drama, and her on-air deliveries would have real-life viewers switching over to Dennis Weaver's intros on Encore's Western Channel. Meanwhile, Leoni repeatedly chides her father for dumping her mom, high-schooler Elijah Wood ponders marriage to his astronomy club colleague and Morgan Freeman (as the president) weighs his limited options. Impact's many meaningless story threads leave you praying the Eastern seaboard will finally get smeared.

The postman* - If The Postman were human, it couldn't get elected dog catcher, yet star/ director Kevin Costner's futuristic folly is so loopy that, for a while, one wants to shield it from a critical storm that has already begun. Unfortunately, "a while" is here a wildly subjective term; this silly vanity project runs just under three hours. Oh, Kevin: Only 16 months ago, you were in such splendid career form out on the links, stubbornly taking that mega-bogey during the hilarious climax to Tin Cup. Now, you'll be lucky if you're not passing a tin cup. How does one rationalize an epic set in the year 2013 that trades on the abiding love citizens of late 20th century society had for the U.S. Postal Service and letter writing in general? Wouldn't The E-Mail Man have been more apt? The Postman plays like a muddled Profound Statement that's further done in by too many verbal howlers.

In & out* - No To Wong Foo drag. No Birdcage fustiness. No AIDS-heavy theatrics. Full of topical belly laughs, homosexual-hip humor (Streisand gags galore) and comical cavorting, In is one coming-out party that aims to please nearly everyone. Directed by the hit-and-miss Frank Oz (What About Bob?), the story is inspired by Tom Hanks' Oscar speech for Philadelphia in 1994, when he thanked a gay teacher. A beloved drama coach (the divine Kevin Kline) at a small Midwestern high school is globally "outed" during the Academy Awards telecast by a former student (a blond Matt Dillon in a sly Brad Pitt-ish turn).

The man in the iron mask* - You get double the DiCaprio - one hissable, one kissable - in the hopelessly old-fashioned if richly staged swashbuckler. Leonardo, the Titanic's boy wonder, plays the dual roles of France's cruel King Louis XIV and imprisoned mystery twin Philippe., but is no more real in either guise than his phony flowing locks. For real man power, try Gerard Depardieu as bawdy buffoon Porthos, Jeremy Irons as devout if devious priest Aramis and John Malkovich as paternal Athos. Still serving the king is Gabriel Byrne's D'Artagnan, middle-age dashing enough to grace any cigar box portrait. The multiaccented dialogue sounds like a U.N. debate, but the four never let down their acting guard.

Film Legend: (*) - Original Version (D) - Dubbed (SC) - Slovak/Czech (ET) - English Titles

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