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BEAUTIFUL GIRLS (R)
sss The lives, loves, lingering hopes, and occasionally sour grapes of several young men approaching their 30th birthdays in a small Massachusetts town where aspirations outstrip opportunities. Scott Rosenberg's screenplay is overwritten and Ted Demme's directing doesn't have much dash, but the picture is redeemed by sensitive acting from Timothy Hutton, Mira Sorvino, Michael Rapaport, Natalie Portman, Matt Dillon, Martha Plimpton, Max Perlich, and Rosie O'Donnell; only Uma Thurman and Annabeth Gish disappoint. P V
ppp Moody, self-conscious, funny.
BED OF ROSES
ss This film has all the ingredients for a great romance, but it never quite gels. Even first-rate actors Christian Slater and Mary Stuart Masterson deliver disappointing performances as two emotionally wounded people who find each other. The flowers shown throughout the movie are exquisite; they steal the show. By Melanie Stetson Freeman P S
pp Flat, empty, beautifully filmed.
BEFORE AND AFTER (PG-13)
sss The bonds of a middle-class family are sorely tested when a teenage son is arrested for murder and his father destroys evidence that might be vital to the case. Ted Tally's screenplay is graceless at times, but thoughtful performances and low-key directing by Barbet Schroeder make the picture a vivid exploration of how complex and ambiguous "family values" can be in the real world. Liam Neeson and Meryl Streep are convincing as the parents. Edward Furlong stands out as the teenager and Alfred Molina provides a fine shot of energy as his lawyer. V P S
BLACK SHEEP (PG-13)
s Chris Farley and David Spade once made quite a funny film, "Tommy Boy," but this dopey dud is no "Tommy Boy." While the release of this raucous political spoof coincides nicely with America's presidential primaries, the cliched antics outnumber the effective joke-slinging. Farley plays a kid brother who gets in the way of his sibling's ambitions for the governor's mansion. Spade plays Farley's unsuccessful baby sitter. If this slapstick duo ever campaigns for a third movie together, they need a new speechwriter. By Katherine Dillin P V
BOTTLE ROCKET (R)
sss Three unbelievably boring young men decide to form a gang and enter a life of criminal adventure. This deliciously offbeat comedy gets much of its oomph from a loopy screenplay and lead performances that can only be called hilariously bland, or is it blandly hilarious? Wes Anderson directed the picture and wrote the screenplay with Owen C. Wilson, who stars with Luke Wilson and Robert Musgrave. Kudos to all. P V S
pp Zany, cult wannabe, twentynothing.
BROKEN ARROW (R)
ss Patriotic pilot Christian Slater and treacherous rat John Travolta duel over a pair of stolen nuclear bombs, both equipped with digital timers that start tick-tick-ticking whenever the picture needs a shot of suspense. The screenplay has some amusing punch lines, and Samantha Mathis steals a scene or two as a park ranger who never expected so much excitement on her usually peaceful turf. But don't expect the kind of eye-popping kinetics that director John Woo cooked up before leaving Hong Kong for Hollywood. The great Duane Eddy plays the twangy guitar solos. V P
pp Lightning-paced, crazy, cartoonish.
CITY HALL (R)
ss An ambitious New York City mayor copes with the complexities of urban government, helped by a young deputy who learns that nothing in life is as simple as it once appeared to his idealistic eyes. Al Pacino and John Cusack head a fine cast, but script problems keep the drama from achieving its "Godfather"-inspired goals. Directed by Harold Beckers with less intensity than he brought to earlier films.V P