Palo Alto Weekly Movie Listings

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Angels in the Outfield ** (Palo Alto Square, Century 12) This film has forlorn foster kids, a colorful baseball manager (Danny Glover) and a washed-up pitcher (Tony Danza) who gets a second chance with the pennant on the line. It's got those frisky angels, led by the by now expectedly loopy Christopher Lloyd, who swoop down to lend a wing whenever the team needs a two-run homer or an important strikeout. It's even got some of that old Disney magic, which unfortunately gets lost in the sticky sentimentality the movie doles out like Cracker Jacks. Rated PG. --N.M.

Blown Away * 1/2 (UA 6) Cliches compete with implausibilities to destroy this would-be thriller, the story of a mad terrorist/bomber who plays games with the intensely earnest cop who pursues him. Even if you have never seen a movie in which a cop retires for the sake of his sensitive wife and beautiful daughter, but returns to the line of fire for one last assignment when his old partner is brutally murdered; even, in short, if you have never seen a police-action movie, the witless, unimaginative stringing together of these and many more cliches is likely to have you sneaking into another movie long before "Blown Away" ends. As for its engaging stars, Tommy Lee Jones as the terrorist and Jeff Bridges as the cop have never been less fun to watch. Rated R. --L.S.

The Client ** (Century 16, Century 12) "The Client" is more an exercise in sensationalism than suspense. The plot involves a boy (Brad Renfro) whose accidental encounter with a mob lawyer puts him in danger. But in place of drama, author John Grisham and director Joel Schumacher have concocted a string of hyperbolic scenes that simply sensationalizes such current hot buttons as abusive fathers, latchkey kids, morally bankrupt politicians, unscrupulous attorneys, sleazeball journalists and career criminals. (In the film's most cynical moment, a mother, on discovering her child in a coma, bemoans her lack of health insurance.) Tommy Lee Jones, as the prosecuting attorney, and Susan Sarandon, as an attorney who tries to protect the boy, give solid performances. Rated R. --L.S.

Forrest Gump * (Century 16, Century 12) Other fictional protagonists have had odd endowments, living as cockroaches, or with outsized thumbs. But why are we asked to feel for Forrest Gump when his only "sympathetic" trait is his defect? And why are we asked simultaneously to laugh at him for his defect? Is it really funny that Forrest thinks "coon" means raccoon? Or that, while visiting the Oval Office, he has to pee? Through his ineptitude and the magic of digitalization, Forrest is inserted into political upheavals and photo-ops: it was really he who broke Watergate, he who stood behind George Wallace on the Tuscaloosa campus. But it's one thing to refract history through a made-up bit player; it's another to trivialize the civil rights struggle or the Vietnam War, or to remark "simply" of the Kennedy killings, "It must be hard, being brothers." Rated PG-13. --M.V.

Four Weddings and a Funeral *** (Century 16) The beguiling spell of love and hope that British director Mike Newell cast in "Enchanted April" works its magic again in "Four Weddings and a Funeral," a high-spirited romantic comedy of intoxicating fun. Newell repeats his formula of tossing a diverse group of people together in a predictable situation. The film's charm comes through as the characters unexpectedly reveal themselves and get delightfully silly over affairs of the heart. Hugh Grant and his circle of friends boast about being single and proud of it while toasting the "enemy" at the string of weddings they attend. It takes a soft-spoken American (Andie MacDowell) and a funeral to convince the confirmed bachelor that the time has come to stop flirting with commitment. Rated R. --S.T.

Go Fish *** (Aquarius) Although this first feature from Rose Troche is being billed as a "lesbian film," the genuine characters who populate the real-life world of "Go Fish" struggle with the most universal issues: finding true love, figuring out what you want out of life, what to wear on a first date. An arty, black-and-white, way-hip slice of lesbian life and love, "Go Fish" is intelligently written, but amateurishly acted. Troche employs all the ostentatious film-student techniques that are often more distracting than interesting, but in this gently humorous and insightful girl-meets-girl story, the camera work and the imaginative editing enhance the hip mood of the film, and contribute to the creative telling of a dialogue-based story. Getting to know Max, Ely, Kia, Evy and Daria is like being invited into a fun, close-knit circle of friends. Not rated. --M.H.

I Love Trouble * 1/2 (Century 16, UA 6) This truly formulaic stinker pairs Julia Roberts with Nick Nolte as rival reporters hot on the trail of a murder/coverup. The movie tries to play like a '40s romance-thriller, but this is the '90s, folks. The plotting is contrived, the dialogue inane and the romance implausible. Nolte is ridiculously old for Roberts, who plays a cocky neophyte who is transformed into a simpering codependent. Her star will fade fast if she keeps showing up in dreck like this. Rated PG. --N.M.

The Lion King *** 1/2 (Century 16, Century 12) Disney's 32nd animated feature delivers everything you've been expecting: an engaging story, endearing characters, a feast for the senses and a good, strong moral as well. Young lion cub Simba (voice by Jonathan Taylor Thomas) learns a devastating lesson about responsibility and pride when his father (James Earl Jones) is killed. An older Simba (Matthew Broderick) realizes he must face his duties and rightful place in the "circle of life." Simba's villainous uncle, Scar, is played to the hilt by Jeremy Irons. The soundtrack is rhythmic and strong, but the tribal chant-like songs aren't nearly as memorable as those in "Beauty and the Beast" or "Aladdin." Rated G. --S.I.

North *** (Century 16, UA 6) This comedy-fantasy from Rob Reiner takes a wonderfully simple premise--what if kids could choose their own parents?--and gives us a non-stop adventure, chock-full of cameos, in which 11-year-old North (Elijah Wood) travels the world in search of perfect parents. Running against a Labor Day deadline (or he goes into an orphanage), North tries out different sets of oddly intriguing parents. Meanwhile, an ambulance-chasing lawyer (Jon Lovitz) and a fiendish 10-year-old with an appetite for world domination (Mathew McCurley) conspire to use North's "challenge of the entire family concept as we know it" for their own evil ends. Reiner has set the perfect zany tone to support this outlandish, sometimes twisted, plot. Young children won't get some of the Seinfeld-esque jokes, and there are a few instances of mild profanity. Rated PG. --M.H.

The Shadow ** 1/2 (UA 6) Who knows what evil lurks in the minds of men? Let us count the ways in "The Shadow": nuclear annihilation, mind control of the world's population, vengeance, greed. Based on the popular radio character of the '30s, the Shadow (wealthy playboy Lamont Cranston when not in hat and cape) has the power to "cloud men's minds." Indeed, it's his only weapon against the forces of evil, this time led by Shiwan Khan, the last descendent of Ghengis Khan. Set in the "most vile lair of villainy" known to mankind (New York), the movie is a visual knockout, with foggy alleyways, special effects and gorgeous shots of Art Deco buildings. Equally gorgeous are Alec Baldwin in white silk scarves and pleated shirts and Penelope Ann Miller in dresses that look more like negligees. Rated PG for some gory violence. --D.S.

The Slingshot *** 1/2 (Aquarius) Ake Sandgren's "The Slingshot," based on the experiences of inventor Roland Schutt, is a charming and very funny coming-of-age movie. Packaging provocative social issues as lighthearted, accessible entertainment, the Swedish film plays like a cross between "The 400 Blows" and "My Life as a Dog." Humanity and humor combine in an exhilarating examination of identity, political activism and survival. Ten-year-old Rolle is taunted as a "Jew, socialist and criminal" in Stockholm during the 1920s. Born to a Russian-Jewish mother and a father who is a fervent revolutionary, the youngster is perceived as an outsider whose parents preach religious and political blasphemy. But like the slingshot he fashions from scrap metal and condoms (sold illegally by his mother, a birth control advocate), Rolle bounces back with great resilience. Rated R. Subtitled. --S.T.

Speed ** 1/2 (Century 16, UA 6) The first high-profile action film of the summer starts off the season by pushing the needle to the limit. Dennis Hopper portrays a disgruntled ex-cop who employs explosives in the hopes of getting more for his retirement fund than a cheap gold watch. Keanu Reeves is Jack Traven, a young L.A. police officer who feels challenged only by the most extreme dangers. Hopper and Reeves make for a great match-up and the tension never stops. This first, sometimes uneven attempt at directing by former cinematographer Jan de Bont is reminiscent of the other films he has worked on, especially "Die Hard." Big bombs, lots of fire, a witty star. It all worked before, so why not try it again? Rated R. --S.I.

True Lies ** 1/2 (Century 16, Century 12) Three movies in one, "True Lies" opens with 50 minutes of James Bond-like spies, gadgets and chases. Then comes 50 minutes of Lucy-like domestic comedy, followed by 50 minutes of helicopters, harrier jets and non-stop violence. While the spy segment lacks wit and suspense, it contains a wonderful, inventive chase through a hotel. Nothing, however, redeems the film's middle third. Imagine Arnold Schwarzenegger as Ricky Ricardo and Tom Arnold as Fred Mertz, and you get a sense for just how bad it is. Dramatically, the final third is not better. But what delivers is a series of dazzling action sequences and breathtaking images that film students will marvel at for generations to come. While devoid of drama, "True Lies," billed as Hollywood's first $100 million film, sets a new standard for action. Rated R. --L.S.

The Wedding Gift ** (Park) Fine performances by Jim Broadbent and Julie Walters as a couple dealing with her mysterious disease highlight this saccharine British tear-jerker. Director Richard Loncraine tells a predictable tale of love in the face of adversity, complete with the requisite unsympathetic medical establishment and an appropriately weepy denouement. As Diana Longden struggles with her physical deterioration, her doting husband Deric finds himself exhausted by the emotional and physical demands of caring for his wife. When he meets Aileen, a blind novelist, the self-sacrificing Diana steps in to make sure her husband won't be alone when she dies. There's potential for a fine story here, but we're brought in much too late, well into Diana's illness. Rated PG-13. --M.H.

Widows' Peak *** (Guild) Set on the Emerald Isle in 1926, this modest diversion sparkles with gorgeous rolling green vistas, wit as canny as an eye-wink and the Irish love of blather for blather's sake. With its widows "as plentiful as freckles on a redhead," the village is overseen by a "committee" of the black-clad bereaved. Chief among them is Joan Plowright, beady-eyed as a crow. Mysteriously, the committee has taken to its bosom one non-widow (Mia Farrow, who is her usual remote self), and the mystery thickens when a British widow (Natasha Richardson) comes to town to take up residence, part her pouty red lips and sashay around in elegant frocks. Rated PG. --M.V.