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Brevitas

NO WRITER ATTRIBUTED

Antz

From the Manhattan skyline to Woody driveling anxiety to his shrink, the first moments of Antz suggest a film destined to become another prototypical Woody Allen movie. Until Woody (now an ant named "Z") gets off the psychoanalyst's couch and walks into "The Colony." The makers of Antz seem particularly interested in demonstrating their ability to depict water and human movement, disregarding the fact that the plot must make some rather forced detours in order to accommodate these animated showpieces. Though the character of Allen as well as those of the other actors (voiced by Dan Akroyd, Anne Bancroft, Sylvester Stalone and Jennifer Lopez among others) take some of the edge of the hackneyed plot, Antz fails to fully engage. --Carla A. Blackmar

Beloved

In Beloved, the highly-anticipated adaptation of Toni Morrison's novel, slavery is explored in a subtle, almost metaphorical fashion. It is an exercise in psychology, exploring the mind of Morrison's steel-willed protagonist Sethe (Oprah Winfrey), a former slave who now lives as a free woman in Ohio in the 1870s. Beloved is a handsome, classy production that is distinguished in every possible way, but it is also a cold film. The screenplay grapples admirably with Morrison's convoluted narrative but can never get to the heart of it. The saving grace of the movie is the renowned cast.   --Bill Gienapp

Lolita

For all the hype that surrounded its 10-month saga to find an American distributor, Lolita is, in the end, surprisingly tame. Overwhelming us with a cascade of lovely images, Lolita succeeds in being tragically moving despite the unsavory plot. Indeed, the reason why Lyne's film works is that it focuses upon the potential of film to beautify even the grotesque. The effect is a little artificial, a spectacle designed to seduce the viewer into turning away from the moral problem of the film. In a time when films often try to say something about life, here is a film about the power of film.   --Irene Hahn

Next Stop Wonderland

Next Stop Wonderland is charming not because it is a groundbreaking movie (it's not), but because it succeeds so refreshingly and so endearingly despite its unoriginal premise. Where other movies would be cranking up bathosfilled love songs, Next Stop Wonderland plays toe-tapping Brazilian music. When other actresses would be weeping over a picture of their ex, our heroine contemplatively stares out at the ocean or reads her late father's poetry. Fate may bring the happy couple together under its wing, but we get the feeling that they would be okay even if they never met. As the Wonderland promo posters say, "Love is the destination." But the journey's pretty wonderful, too.   --Sarah A. Rodriguez

Saving Private Ryan

It seems churlish to take anything away from a film with such a unanimously powerful opening and an attention to history that is emotionally edifying and alive. Still, the connecting material by which Robert Rodat's script moves from the opening battle sequence to the last is less than wholly compelling, and the framing device of the ex-soldier in the cemetery is maudlin and cumbersome. But Spielberg hasn't gotten an ending right in at least ten years. Disputation seems insolent in the case of this film.   --Nicholas K. Davis

There's Something About Mary

Though outrageous and crude, the jokes in the Farrelly Brothers' most recent sideshow attraction are also intensely predictable, which keeps the movie from lifting off. Cameron Diaz, Ben Stiller, and Matt Dillon all give their best shot to keeping the ball in the air, but Mary's humor is all visual and only rarely connected to dialogue; poor Cameron could be reciting Rilke beneath those "hair gel"-enhanced bangs and no one would know the difference. Then again, everyone else seems to have had a ball. Whatever there is about Mary, I didn't really get it.   --Nicholas K. Davis

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