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COURAGE UNDER FIRE (R)Skip to next paragraph
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*** Ordered by the White House to determine whether a female helicopter pilot should receive a posthumous medal, an army investigator hears a different version of her story from everyone he interviews, raising questions of military honor and the chaotic nature of wartime. Edward Zwick directed this thoughtful drama, helped by Denzel Washington and Meg Ryan in the main roles. Contains a great deal of explicit violence and foul language as well as alcoholism and drug addiction. V P
*** Intense, compelling, well-crafted, violent.
CREMASTER 1/CREMASTER 4 (Not rated)
*** Quirky videos by Matthew Barney, a widely acclaimed artist. The first one is best, playing visual games with a dirigible, a football field, a pile of grapes, and a platoon of dancers who'd feel at home in a Busby Berkeley musical. The other, involving a race car and a satyr played by Barney himself, is less engaging but equally inventive. N
*** Gwyneth Paltrow is enchanting as a self-confident young woman who decides to wile away her time by playing matchmaker for a friend whose romantic life would fare much better without interference. Directed by Douglas McGrath from his own screenplay, based on the same richly ironic Jane Austen novel that inspired "Clueless," the gorgeously filmed comedy features good supporting performances by Greta Scacchi and Juliet Stevenson.
**** Genteel, sprightly, romantic.
* Two convicts, one black and one white, flee a Georgia road gang and enter a complicated mix of action and intrigue centering on a missing computer disk. Kevin Hooks's adventure movie starts like a rehash of the '50s classic "The Defiant Ones," then turns into a hackneyed chase picture full of sickening violence, thudding vulgarity, and silly jokes. Laurence Fishburne and Stephen Baldwin star. V P N S
* Intricate plot, fast-moving, disjointed, bloody.
THE FRIGHTENERS (R)
* A cut-rate ghostbuster, played by Michael J. Fox, feuds with an ectoplasmic bad guy who's continuing a murder spree he started when he was still alive. The special effects are more impressive than in Peter Jackson's earlier horror comedy, "Dead Alive," but the story is mostly an excuse for exaggerated mayhem and violent jokes about unfunny subjects. V P S
** Ghoulish, extremely violent, and idiotic, but has good acting and special effects.
HARRIET THE SPY (PG)
*** A bright sixth-grader keeps tabs on her urban environment and jots her observations in a notebook. But grown-ups gripe when this interferes with school, and kids complain when her writing criticizes them. Spunky acting and bright, color-filled photography make the picture fun to watch even when the story wanders. Directed by Bronwen Hughes and based on Louise Fitzhugh's hugely popular novel. P V
*** Snappy, relevant, funny.
INDEPENDENCE DAY (PG-13)
** A likable scientist, a feisty soldier, a goofy crop-dusting pilot, and the president of the United States are among the heroes who save Earth from an evil intergalactic empire. The action is fast, furious, and loaded with explosive effects, but the theme is a regrettable return to the us-against-them paranoia that dominated much science fiction in the cold-war era. Directed by Roland Emmerich. Jeff Goldblum, Bill Pullman, and Will Smith star. Contains a great deal of violence. V P
*** Explosive, disjointed, spirited.
JOE'S APARTMENT (PG-13)