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JANUARY 3, 2000: 

BICENTENNIAL MAN. An inhuman, metallic robot slowly acquires humanity and the face of Robin Williams in this tragic yet tender tale of a emotional tyro with a technological ticker. Lots of manipulative music and weak motivation mar what could have been a truly touching movie, which still manages to wrench a few tears loose by using the emotional equivalent of a pair of needle nose pliers. Warning: this film contains the first robot fart joke in cinema history. -- James DiGiovanna

THE CIDER HOUSE RULES. Veteran Michael Caine and relative newcomer Tobey Maguire star in this slow-moving, cinematic take on John Irving's famous novel of the same name. Though it takes its time over the course of two-and-a-half hours, the movie seems to pack in more issues than emotions as it charts the course of the father-son relationship that develops between a country doctor (Caine) and one young, orphaned charge (Maguire). More the story of a young man's search for independence than the love story touted in the movie's trailer (featuring Charlize Theron), this tale centers around the liberal doses of politics and compassion emanating from a rural orphanage in Maine in the 1930s and '40s, and the eponymous cider house where Maguire's character gets his first taste of the bitter and sweet the larger world (a.k.a., the state of Maine) has to offer. An enjoyable film, but not a particularly powerful one. -- Mari Wadsworth

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