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The Spotlight

The Man Who Knew Too Little
Boogie Nights
The man in the iron mask
In & out
As good as it gets

The Man Who Knew Too Little* - There's a mild moment of mirth at the beginning of the film when Bill Murray, cast as an Iowan, begins heckling a British customs officer in typical Murray what-me-worry fashion. Then comes the dashing of audience goodwill with a letdown of, oh, 90 minutes.

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.

Vertigo* - Widely regarded as Alfred Hitchcock's masterpiece and the definitive film about sexual obsession, Vertigo was reshot by Robert Burks in color and VistaVision, which in its day had unparalleled clarity and depth of field. The restored film ideally captures again the glorious California locales (San Francisco and south) traversed by an acrophobic detective, James Stewart, who falls for his sleuthing target: an ex-school chum's beautiful wife (Kim Novak).

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. A talented Oscar winner, his specialties are dramas and comedies grounded in the real world - like Rain Man, and Diner. With Sphere, he delves into Steven Spielberg - James Cameron territory. 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. With four writers in the mix, you'd think at least one would remember to answer the film's most basic questions: Where is the spaceship from and why does it carry such strange cargo?

The man in the iron mask* - You get double the DiCaprio - one hissable, one kissable - in the hopelessly old-fashioned if richly staged swashbuckler. The sight of Titanic's boy wonder gamely tackling the dual roles of France's cruel King Louis XIV and imprisoned mystery twin Philippe is likely to elicit enough female sighs to create a gale-force windstorm. The arrogant Leonardo sneers, snaps orders and ignores the starving peasants outside the palace walls. The mask-encased Leonardo stares soulfully at the moon outside his metal bars. But the kid 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.

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).

As good as it gets* - It's amazing the power women have over men - do you think they'll ever figure it out? Jack is well...pure Nicholson in this one. He plays a man with an annoyingly modern-sounding problem - "OCD," or Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. The always beautiful Helen Hunt is a waitress at a local coffee shop that Jack frequents, and she is basically the only person in his life who is willing to put up with his lunacy, which given Nicholson's nature, is played to the hilt. Greg Kinnear plays Jack's gay artist neighbour with a sly panache.

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

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