Listings begin on Friday and may change after we go to press. For addresses and phone numbers, see the "Metro Chicago Movie Houses" directory. Films are recommended for qualities ranging from perfection to one perfect moment. Reviewers are identified after each review. Film is edited by Ray Pride.

The Big Lebowski
Dangerous Beauty
Nil by Mouth
U. S. Marshals
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*AFTERGLOW Directed by Alan Rudolph. The American cinema's great cracked romantic returns with his first feature since 1994's "Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle," and it's a doozy of digression and tonal shifts, moving from comedy to pathos, from bad puns to terrifying heartbreak. Rudolph likes to jibe that his four characters in "Afterglow"'s roundelay of adultery are "in four different emotional time zones." A fable about two married couples whose lives intersect in contemporary Montreal, "Afterglow" stars Nick Nolte as Lucky Mann, a Mr. Fix-It who knows most of the Mrs. on his side of town. Wife Julie Christie, once a B-movie actress, stews at home, watching tapes of herself and mourning an aching loss in her past. Jonny Lee Miller plays a twentyfiveish corporate shark and control freak who can't control his effervescent wife, Lara Flynn Boyle, who struggles to be a bubbly carbon of Holly Golightly. I think "Afterglow" is a marvel, hitting more notes--admittedly, some sour, but many magnificent--than a half-dozen other movies.;Village Daily 5:50, 7:55, Sat-Sun 3:45

AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN PARIS Directed by Anthony Weller. A long-delayed, multiply-reshot part-Luxembourgese tax-shelter retread of John Landis' long-ago "An American Werewolf in London." The lovely Julie Delpy is on hand as the love interest. With Tom Everett Scott. NR.Fox ValleyDaily 7:30, 9:30, Sat-Sun 1:45, 3:40, 5:35;LoganDaily 2:15, 3:55, 5:40, 7:25, 9:05;Park ForestDaily 7:20, 9:35;Spring HillDaily 9:45;YorkDaily 9:50

AMISTAD Directed by Steven Spielberg. After blowing the lid off the Holocaust, Spielberg applies his Oscar-honed instincts to yet another historical epoch, and the results are painful. With the exception of the terrifically gory opening mutiny, this is resoundingly disappointing work. Expect multiple Oscars. (Nick Digilio)CasinoDaily 2:30, 6:30, 9:30;ChathamDaily 1:40, 5:25, 8:25;River OaksDaily 8:30, Sat-Sun 2, 5:10;Village NorthDaily 6:30, Sat-Sun 1:30

ANASTASIA Directed by Don Bluth. The Romanov princess's discovery of herself--ya, ya, ya!--against the backdrop of the Russian Revolution. Voices include those of Meg Ryan, John Cusack and Angela Lansbury. 96m. NR.;Barrington SquareSat-Sun 1:45, 4:30;LoganDaily 3:50, 7:15;OgdenDaily 1:45, 4:30

*THE APOSTLE Directed and written by Robert Duvall. For a medium ripe with stories of mysticism and redemption and rebirth, it's the rare movie that takes spirituality seriously and at face value. But as writer, director, star and financier, Robert Duvall does so, in the ebullient, exhilarating "The Apostle." Duvall's performance astonishes as well. Rather than depict his Pentecostal preacher character, Sonny Dewey, as an "Elmer Gantry"-type charlatan, Duvall draws a portrait of a flawed man whose belief is unyielding even as his life unravels around him. Duvall's rousing performance, particularly in the scenes where Sonny "exalts the Lord" is easily the best role of the 67-year-old actor's estimable career. 143m.;Bloomingdale CourtDaily 6:30, 9:10, Sat-Sun 12:30, 3:30;ChathamDaily 12:45, 3:40, 6:20, 9:20;Cinema 12Daily 12;25, 3:15, 7, 9:45;CrestwoodDaily 11:40am, 2:30, 5:30, 8:40;LakeDaily 12:45, 3:45, 6:45, 9:45;Old Orchard GardensDaily 12:30, 3:10, 7, 9:30;One Schaumburg PlaceDaily 1, 3:40, 6:30, 9:25;Park Forest ArtDaily 1, 3:50, 6:50, 9:25;Piper's AlleyDaily 4, 7,10, Sat-Sun 1;River RunDaily 8:30;StreamwoodDaily 7:10, 10:15;York ArtDaily 12:45, 3:40, 6:50, 9:35

*AS GOOD AS IT GETS Directed by James L. Brooks. Jack Nicholson plays Melvin Udall, a successful Manhattan writer of romance novels who's afflicted with an unspecified condition, a kind of emotional Tourette's--he'll do anything. Melvin is an obsessive-compulsive, a neat freak who goes so far as to keep different colors of M&Ms in separate glass canisters near his stacks of multiple-colored papers on which he prints his emotionally phony manuscripts. Everything must be on Melvin time: whether it's the gay neighbor Simon (Greg Kinnear, pretty good) or Carol, the waitress at his breakfast haunt (Helen Hunt, at once sturdy and winsome) with the ill son who keeps her up late at night, they reach out to or recoil from Melvin at the risk of his substantial gift for the verbal blitz. Nicholson telegraphs Melvin's discomfort-shy-of-insanity with exquisite body language, at once leonine and nuts. Who else acting today could make something so bitter and hilarious of a line like, "People who are talking metaphors oughta shampoo my crotch!" In its simplest reduction, "As Good As It Gets" is about finding appropriate ways of giving and receiving love, and the tentativeness of Brooks and co-writer Mark Andrus' complications is what makes the movie funny and memorable.Bloomingdale CourtDaily 6:40, 9:20, Sat-Sun 1, 3:50;BroadwayDaily 7, 9:45, Sat-Sun 1:30, 4:15;Chicago RidgeDaily 1, 3:50, 6:50, 9:40;CrestwoodDaily 11:45am, 3:10, 6:10, 9:10;EsquireDaily 2:50, 3:50, 7, 8:50, 10, Fri-Sun 12:10;Golf GlenDaily 6:50, 9:30, Fri-Sun 1, 3:50;LakeDaily 12:30, 3:30, 6:30, 9:30;Lincoln VillageDaily 6:20, 9:20, Fri-Mon 12:35, 3:30;NorridgeDaily 6:20, 9:20, Sat-Sun 11:40am, 2:50;OakbrookDaily 6:30, 9:30, Fri-Sun 12:45, 3:35;Old Orchard GardensDaily 12:10, 2:50, 7:10, 9:40;Orland SquareDaily 6:20, 9:10, Fri-Sun 12:20, 3:05;Rice Lake SquareDaily 12:50, 3:50, 6:50, 9:50;RidgeDaily 6:30, 9:15, Fri-Sun 12:35, 3:30;River RunDaily 6:30, 9:30, Sat-Sun 12:40, 3:30;Rivertree CourtDaily 6:20, 9:20, Sat-Sun 12:20, 3:20;Rolling MeadowsDaily 1, 2:30, 4, 5:30, 7:10, 8:30,10:10;StreamwoodDaily 6:20, 9:20, Sat-Sun 12:10, 3:20;Westridge CourtDaily 6:30, 9:25, Sat-Sun 12:40, 3:35

THE BIG LEBOWSKI Directed by Joel Coen. See Film feature.BiographDaily 7:15,10, Sat-Sun 1:30, 4:15;Cinema 12Daily 1, 3:30, 7, 9:45;The CommonsDaily 7:45, 10:15, Sat-Sun Noon, 2:40, 5:10;CrestwoodDaily 1:40, 4:45, 7:50, 10:30;EsquireDaily 2:30, 3:30, 4:30, 5:30, 6:30, 7:30, 8:30, 9:30, 10:30, Fri-Sun 11:30am, 12:30, 1:30;Fox ValleyDaily 7:30, 9:50;Lincoln VillageDaily 7:50, 10:20, Fri-Sun noon, 2:40, 5:20;NorridgeDaily 4:45, 7:30, 10:10, Sat-Sun 11:15am, 2;OakbrookDaily 7:30, 10, Fri-Sun Noon, 2:30, 5;Old Orchard GardensDaily 11:40am, 2:20, 4:50, 7:20, 9:50;One Schaumburg PlaceDaily 1:10, 1:50, 3:50, 4:40, 6:20, 7:10, 8:55, 9:45;Orland SquareDaily 7:40, 10:10, Fri-Sun 12:10, 2:40, 5:10;RidgeDaily 6:20, 9:35, Fri-Sun 12:10, 3:15;River RunDaily 5, 7:30, 10, Sat-Sun noon, 2:30;Rivertree CourtDaily 7:20, 9:50, Sat-Sun 11:50am, 2:20, 4:50;Stratford SquareDaily 6:45, 9:20, Sat-Sun 1:45, 4:15;StreamwoodDaily 5:10, 7:50, 10:40, Sat-Sun 11:50am, 2:30

BLUES BROTHERS 2000 Directed by John Landis. A sequel that two or three of Landis' fans have been crying out for, starring Dan Aykroyd, John Goodman, Joe Morton and a scrawny little Macauley Culkin-alike. NR. LawndaleDaily 6:30, 9:15, Sat-Sun 12:40, 3:30;River OaksDaily 10, Sat-Sun 7:15;Village NorthDaily 5:45, 9:45, Fri-Sat midnight, Sat-Sun 1:45

*BOOGIE NIGHTS Directed and written by Paul Thomas Anderson. Anderson's epic-length portrait of a surrogate family--damaged souls seeking a little dignity while churning out porno movies in L.A.'s San Fernando Valley in the late 1970s shows a keen intelligence at work in shaping the gaudy set pieces and potentially trashy drama, even without taking Anderson's portrait of the home video industry's baleful impact on the porn business as a metaphor for Hollywood filmmaking as well. The greatest strength of Anderson's work is perhaps the earnestness of his characters, their clueless desire to somehow better themselves. They dream, they scheme, they fail. Panavision. 157m.;Village Daily 6:50, 9:30, Fri-Sat midnight, Sat-Sun 1:30, 4:10

THE BORROWERS Little people live like thieving mice, based on the children's classic. 88m. With John Goodman. NR. Bloomingdale CourtDaily 12:50, 2:50, 4:50;Bricktown SquareDaily 7:20, Sat-Sun 2, 5;ChathamDaily 1:05, 3:20, 5:20, 7:40;Cinema12Daily12:50, 3, 5:10;CrestwoodDaily11:50am, 2:20, 5:10;Evanston Daily 5, Sat-Sun 1:45;Fox Valley Daily 7, Sat-Sun 1:10, 3, 5, 7;HawthornSat-Sun 12:30, 2:50, 5;Hillside SquareDaily 5, 7:20, 9:30, Sat-Sun 12:30, 2:45;One Schaumburg PlaceDaily 1:40, 4, 6:40;Orland SquareDaily 7:30, Fri-Sun 1:30, 3:30, 5:30;Rice Lake SquareDaily 1:10, 3:10, 5:10;River OaksFri, Mon-Thu 7:15, Sat-Sun 1:45, 4:30;River RunDaily 5:40, Sat-Sun 1, 3:10;StreamwoodDaily 6, Sat-Sun 12:40, 2:50

CAUGHT UP Directed and written by Darin Scott. Bokeem Woodbine is a dreamer who meets beautiful Cynda Williams; their passionate affair leads to a job with a friend of hers, but he soon finds himself driving a Cadillac with a body in the trunk and on the lam from the law. 95m. Not available for preview. NR. 62nd & WesternDaily 4:20, 5:15, 6:30, 7:30, 8:45, 9:45, Sat-Mon 12:45, 2, 3;Bricktown SquareDaily 7:50, 10:10, Sat-Sun 12:50, 3:10, 5:30;Burnham PlazaDaily 8, 10:15, Sat-Sun 1:45, 3:45, 5:45;ChathamDaily 12:30, 1:30, 3:10, 3:45, 5:30, 6, 7:45, 8:15, 10;Cinema 12Daily 12:45, 2:55, 5:05, 7:20, 9:35;CrestwoodDaily 11:20am, 1:50, 4:30, 6:50, 9:40;EvergreenDaily 5:15, 7:45, Fri-Sun 10:15, Sat-Sun 2:45;Fox ValleyDaily 7:40, Sat-Sun 1:40, 3:40, 5:40;Hillside MallDaily 7, 9:30, Sat-Sun 4:30;Hyde ParkDaily 5:15, 7:45, 10:15, Sat-Sun 12:30, 3;LawndaleDaily 5, 6:10, 7:20, 8:20, 9:40, Sat-Sun 12:20, 1:40, 2:30, 3:50;One Schaumburg PlaceDaily 9:05;Orland SquareDaily 9:30;River RunDaily 5:10, 7:20, 9:50, Sat-Sun 12:10, 2:40

*DANGEROUS BEAUTY "Soft porn," moaned a woman I met recently, "but I can't wait to see it!" She was talking about "Dangerous Beauty," the true story of Veronica Franco, who, as a poetess and courtesan, was considered a national asset in sixteenth-century Venice. Produced by the same team that brought us "thirtysomething" and "My So-Called Life," the film is conscientious about explaining Veronica's plight: with no dowry or social standing, prostitution was the only viable path to the education and comfort level she desired. This eased some of the guilt I felt while lapping up the requisite scenes of makeovers and sex ed (all presided over by that old hand at whoring, Jacqueline Bisset), but that's really not what makes the film so enjoyable. Nor is it the inclusion of weak references to Veronica's literary skill: the courtly toasts and cunning barbs she shoots off are never as clever as they're intended to be. No, what makes "Dangerous Beauty" such a delightful prostitution fantasy is that it skirts the fundamental ingredient of prostitution altogether: gross, hateful johns. Nearly all of Veronica's men are handsome, clever bucks who cherish her wit and vie for the honor of her sexual mastery over them. When she wakes up that first morning (after a night with a fatherly hunk), the look on her face is sunny, like the look Scarlet had the morning after Rhett carried her up the sprawling staircase, the look that let us know she was not in fact raped, but ravished. There's really not much sex at all, but--like in a soap opera--there's an awful lot of talk about it. With a sex goddess set squarely as the narrative's subject--not object, for once--the real piece of meat becomes her true love Marco, he of the romantic hair and bulging brown eyes. "Rufus Sewell," purred my companion, finding the actor's name in the credits. "There are so few men who justify use of the word 'smoldering.'" (Ellen Fox);900 N. MichiganDaily 1:30, 2:45, 4:15, 5:30, 7, 8:15, 9:40;LakeDaily 1:10, 4:10, 7:10, 9:40;OakbrookDaily 7:45, 10:15, Fri-Sun 12:15, 2:45, 5:15;Old Orchard GardensDaily 11:50am, 2:30, 5, 7:30, 10;Orland SquareDaily 7:20, 9:50, Fri-Sun Noon, 2:20, 4:50;Rolling MeadowsDaily 2, 5, 7:45, 10:20

*DARK CITY Directed by Alex Proyas. Pungent, wildly imaginative filmmaking, one of the smartest artifacts of elemental storytelling craft so far this year. Here's one level: The great American horror film, which everyone has seen and almost no one recognizes, is only about twenty minutes long. It's the world-gone-wrong in "It's a Wonderful Life," when Jimmy Stewart is shown a "reality" in which he had never lived. In "Dark City," a man named Murdoch wakes to such a world, soused with mood, a nightmare where he may be a serial killer, he may be a man who beat his wife, he may be an innocent, but the facts of his life that came before, the particulars of the nameless city he wakes to, a damp and murky Disneyland left to molder, are always shifting. The case against Murdoch (played by unlikely everyhunk Rufus Sewell, quite well) is investigated by a dour police detective (William Hurt); his disappearance and amnesia worry his apparent wife, a nightclub singer played by Jennifer Connelly; he's pursued for unspecific reasons by a pop-eyed, Peter Lorre-like mad-scientist-style psychologist (Kiefer Sutherland). Every minute, Murdoch has to decipher this warehouse of fears and inscrutable knowledge. This nightworld, as jumbled as the mass memories of many strangers jostling in a city street, takes on the quality of lucid dreaming--the sensation of being conscious of the fact that one is dreaming. Murdoch discovers the city is manipulated by a strange clan called "The Strangers" who have mastered the splendid mental landscapes, where reality shifts while you sleep, cityscapes morph and warp from the tops of skyscrapers to the words in your journal. The pronouncements of the Strangers are filled with words that should ring as ripe palaver, but instead chill to the bone--"We built this city on stolen memories," one Stranger pronounces. And what city isn't? The look of this Manhattan-size, Hong Kong-size city, a rock of edifices adrift on the cosmos, first impresses with the seediness of film noir. Yet with its austere detailing, this smudgy, damp place, with just enough detail to register, seems more like last night's dreams, lost as the day's consciousness comes. In Proyas' elaborate tinkertoy nighttown, characters ease in and out of the long shafts of corridors and passways; a subway map is a mass of torturously colored ganglia. Explanations are seldom given and definitions are avoided. The nameless metropolis where the sun never rises is divided into East City, South City, a beach no one remembers how to get to. There are purple neologisms galore--as the city of sleepwalkers nods, there is a wrinkle in time where the Strangers come and fool with things like malevolent leprechauns. (They also can change things by will alone.) It sounds like so much pretentious pulp-novel nonsense, yet rules are set and however strange they turn, Proyas and his co-writers David Goyer and Lem Dobbs abide by them, build on them, anticipate, then build upon your flickers of doubt about plausibility. Time, destiny, memory, guilt--subjects as doomy and oppressive as the look of the movie. "Dark City" is one smart, eerie, joyously thrilling movie.600 N. MichiganDaily 12:40, 2:30, 3, 5:20, 8, 9:40, 10:20, Fri-Mon 4:50, 7:30;62nd & WesternDaily 5, 7:20, 9:35, Sat-Mon 12:15, 2:30;Bricktown SquareDaily 7:40, 10, Sat-Sun 12:40, 3, 5:20;Burnham PlazaDaily 7:25, 9:35, Sat-Sun 12:45, 3, 5:15;ChathamDaily 12:50, 3:05, 5:10, 7:30, 9:40;Cinema 12Daily 12:40, 2:55, 5:10, 7:25, 9:40;The CommonsDaily 7:15, 9:40, Sat-Sun 12:10, 2:30, 5;CrestwoodDaily 11:30am, 2:10, 4:50, 7:40, 10:20;EvanstonDaily 4:30, 7, 9:40, Sat-Sun 2;EvergreenDaily 4:45, 7:15, Fri-Sun 9:45, Sat-Sun 2:15;Fox ValleyDaily 7:50, 10, Sat-Sun 1, 3:10, 5:30;Golf GlenDaily 7:40, 10, Fri-Sun 12:20, 2:40, 5:20;HawthornDaily 7:35, 9:55, Sat-Sun 12:15, 2:40, 5:10;Hillside SquareDaily 5:15, 7:30, 10, Sat-Sun 12:20, 3;Hyde ParkDaily 4:45, 7:15, 9:45, Sat-Sun noon, 2:30;LawndaleDaily 4:30, 5:40, 7:10, 9:10, 9:30, Sat-Sun 12:50, 2:10, 3:15;North RiversideDaily 7:45, 10:10, Fri-Sun 12:50, 3, 5:20;One Schaumburg PlaceDaily 12:50, 3, 5:20, 7:40, 10:05;Orland SquareDaily 6:30, 9, Fri-Sun 1:50, 4:10;Rice Lake SquareDaily 11:30am, 1:50, 4:10, 6:30, 9:20;River RunDaily 5:30, 7:50, 10:10, Sat-Sun 12:20, 2:50;Stratford SquareDaily 6:30, 9, Sat-Sun 1:30, 4;StreamwoodDaily 6, 8:20, 10:50, Sat-Sun 1:40, 3:50;Town & CountryDaily 7:25, 9:45, Sat-Sun 12:30, 2:50, 5:10;Village NorthDaily 6:15, 8:15, 10:15, Fri-Sat midnight, Sat-Sun 2:15, 4:15;Webster PlaceDaily 2:15, 5, 7:30, 9:50, Fri-Sun 11:45am

*EVE'S BAYOU Directed and written by Kasi Lemmons. "Eve's Bayou" is a dark and complicated family drama, set in the Louisiana bayou in the summer of 1962, and told from the perspective of 10-year-old Eve Batiste. With Samuel L. Jackson, Lynn Whitfield, Debbi Morgan. 109m. Village Daily 5:50, 7:55, 10, Sat-Sun 1:40, 3:45

FLUBBER Directed by Les Mayfield. Too bad no one sprayed Flubber on "Flubber." Sagging from beginning to end as if marching in muck, this remake of Disney's 1961 "The Absent-Minded Professor" offers too few laughs and too many schmaltzy subplots. 95m. (Sam Jemielity);Barrington SquareDaily 7:15, Sat-Sun 1:35, 4:20;Fox ValleyDaily 7:15, Sat-Sun 1:30, 3:25, 5:20, 7:15;FoxfieldDaily 7:15, Sat-Sun 1:40, 4:30;LoganDaily 2, 3:40, 5:20, 7, 8:40;OgdenDaily 7:15, Sat-Sun 1:35, 4:20;Park ForestDaily 12:45, 2:40, 4:35;Spring HillDaily 7:20, Sat-Sun 12:45, 2:45, 4:40;TivoliSat-Sun 12:50, 2:50, 4:50;TradewindsDaily 7, Sat-Sun 2:15, 4:40;YorkDaily 12:50, 2:50, 4:50 7:20

FOLLOW ME HOME ChathamDaily 1:20, 4:30, 7:10, 9:30

*THE FULL MONTY Directed by Peter Cattaneo. Local zeroes make good. A hilarious treat, "The Full Monty" is a directorial debut of rare confidence. Cattaneo has turned what sounds like terminally jokey material into something quite wonderful, a deadpan comedy of character that plays like a sparkling successor to the best moments of Bill Forsyth's comic work. ;Three PennyFri-Sun 6:40, 8:35, 10:25, Sat-Sun 1, 2:55, 4:45;Town & CountryDaily 7:35, 10:15, Sat-Sun 12:50, 3:10, 5:20;WoodfieldDaily 1:15, 3:45, 6:05, 8:50

*GATTACA Directed and written by Andrew Niccol. "Gattaca" is a curious hybrid, with a story every movement of which encapsulates its theme, in the densest sense of Hollywood classicism, yet it is captured in the amber of a look as glassy and monumental as contemporary European art movies. With Ethan Hawke, Uma Thurman. Some have rejected "Gattaca" out of hand as ponderous, suffocating artiness, but there are few themes I can think of where this burnished, serenely confident style could be more appropriate. Panavision. 112m.;Barrington SquareDaily 7:10, 9:40;FoxfieldDaily 7:10, 9:35, Sat-Sun 1:30, 4:15;OgdenDaily 7:10, 9:40;Park ForestDaily 1, 3:50, 6:50, 9:30;Spring HillDaily 7:15, Sat-Sun 1:20;Village Daily 10, Sat-Sun 1:40;YorkDaily 7:10, 9:45

THE GINGERBREAD MAN Directed by Robert Altman. For all its drama, "The Gingerbread Man" fails to deliver suspense because it lacks the two fundamentals of any good stalker tale: fear of the hunter and sympathy for the hunted. In this story based on a John Grisham original screenplay, Kenneth Branagh plays Rick Magruder, a dick-swinging Savannah attorney who goes home with a troubled waitress one night and gets involved in fending off her stalker father (Robert Duvall). He and his mysterious band of derelict men are thoroughly un-scary. When we're told--twice--that he landed another character in the hospital for drinking out of his favorite cup, it's just not as chilling as hearing that Hannibal Lecter bit off a nurse's face. Without the threat of any real violence, the film must rely on standard devices like threatening mail and imminent bad weather to drum up suspense. Slightly more engaging is the portrayal of Magruder's emotional undoing. You can even see a bit of Bill Clinton in Magruder--he's not so much slippery as he is pathetic, unaware of how distasteful to others is the libidinous side of his persona. Not that there's anything inherently wrong with a separated lawyer sleeping with a waitress, but, of course, there is: we can see it in the black stockings stretched across her bony knees, and in the way her hand trembles as she brings the cigarette to her lips. She's trash and he'll pay. (Ellen Fox)Fine ArtsDaily 5, 7:30, 10, Sat-Sun 2:30

*GOOD WILL HUNTING Directed by Gus Van Sant. An intensely acted feel-good movie seems an unlikely quantity from van Sant, the career chronicler of sweetly lawless outlaws. Will Hunting (Matt Damon) is a janitor at MIT, an unlikely mathematics genius and autodidact philosopher who's more content to get into dust-ups with his childhood buddies and to drink his life away. Whenever someone gets too close, whether math professor Lambeau (Stellan Skarsgard), or Harvard undergraduate Skyler (Minnie Driver) who falls in love with the pretty-mugged brawler (Driver is a big bonus in this boy's-story-- smart, darling and never subordinate to any other character). On one hand, "Good Will Hunting" could be taken as a modestly more ambitious version of studio high-concept: the therapeutic opening-up of a character's adolescent pain in "Ordinary People" meets the precocious genius of "Searching for Bobby Fischer" or "Amadeus." Yet the pop simplicity of the script--particularly once Lambeau brings Robin Williams' damaged therapist into the picture--is actually a joy. Etched with van Sant's trust of his actors and a textured use of Boston's Irish South End neighborhood, it all comes together to create a charming, affecting fairytale about finding the roles of parents and siblings satisfied in the larger world. 120m. With Ben Affleck. (Ray Pride)600 N. MichiganDaily 11:50am, 1:10, 2:40, 4:10, 5:30, 7, 8:20, 9:50, Fri-Sat 10:20;Bloomingdale CourtDaily 6:50, 9:40, Sat-Sun 12:40, 3:10;Chicago RidgeDaily 12:50, 3:40, 6:30, 9:20;Cinema 12Daily 12:30, 3:25, 6:50, 9:25;CrestwoodDaily 1:10, 3:45, 6:30, 9:25;EvanstonDaily 2:15, 4:45, 7:30, 10:10;Fox LakeFri-Sat 7, 9:35, Sat-Sun, Wed 1:25, Sat 4:10, Sun-Thu 5:10, 7:50;Golf MillDaily 6:30, 9:15, Fri-Sun 1, 3:45;LakeDaily 1, 4, 6:50, 9:40;Lincoln VillageDaily 6:30, 9:30, Fri-Sun 12:45, 3:45;NorridgeDaily 4:20, 7, 9:50, Sat-Sun 1:15;OakbrookDaily 7, 9:45, Fri-Sun 12:45, 3:35;One Schaumburg PlaceDaily 12:30, 1:30, 3:20, 4:20, 6:10, 7, 8:45, 9:35;Rice Lake SquareDaily 11:50am, 2:30, 5:30, 8:50;RidgeDaily 6:10, 9, Fri-Sun 12:25, 3:15;River OaksDaily 6:40, 9:20, Sat-Sun 1:20, 4;Rivertree CourtDaily 6:40, 9:30, Sat-Sun 12:50, 3:50;StreamwoodDaily 4:10, 7:15, 10:10, Sat-Sun 1:10;Webster PlaceDaily 1:30, 4:15, 10:10, Fri-Sun, Tue-Thu 7:10;Westridge CourtDaily 7, 9:55, Sat-Sun 1:20, 4:10

>*GUMMO Directed and written by Harmony Korine. See Tip of the Week. FacetsDaily 7, 9, Sat-Sun 3, 5

HALF BAKED Directed by Tamra Davis. Dave Chappelle and Jim Breuer star in a millennial Cheech & Chong item about the search for perfect pot. NR. Barrington SquareDaily 9:45;OgdenDaily 9:45;Spring HillDaily 9:50, Sat-Sun 4:20;TradewindsDaily 7:15, 9:20

THE HIDDEN DIMENSION Directed by Paul Cox. A film about the invisible world of the microscopic and strange within an ordinary home. IMAX 3-D.;Navy Pier IMAXDaily 11:20am, 2, 4:40

HOME ALONE 3 Directed by Raja Gosnell. "Noooooooooooooooooo!" 104m.LoganDaily 2:05, 5:30, 8:55

>HUSH Shamelessly risible, "Hush" is a husk of a middling Gothic struggling to pass as an upscale thriller. The plot's on the poster: horse-breeding mom Jessica Lange gets perniciously peevish when son Johnathon Schaech returns from Manhattan with nasal, sparkling will o' the wisp girlfriend Gwyneth Paltrow. There's not much more to it than that, if you discount the labor-inducing strawberry shortcake. Variously retitled, its release long-delayed, the film betrays many telltale signs of hopeful tinkering: a great deal of dialogue spoken off-camera, apparently added in several stages of re-editing and dialogue replacement; a whippet-thin running time; agile leaps from one cardboard complication to another, yet retaining a panoply of establishing shots that gratuitously crane-up and capture meaningless vistas or tableaux. Ripe yet overly genteel gyne-guignol, the story's lowlights include cross-cutting a painful birth and a horse race ("I am pushing, you bitch," brays Paltrow); the saucy Nina Foch, as an elder family member in a nursing home, remarking on a framed amniocentesis offered as a gift, "This'll be a big hit around here; nuns love a fetus"; and of course, a ludicrous denouement courtesy of the would-be killer who 'splains it all for you, Lucy. Anyone hoping to take pleasure from the thrills and chills of "Hush" may want to check out here, but for everyone else, be reassured that Paltrow's character, unlike the filmmakers, gives a live birth.;Bloomingdale CourtDaily 7:45, 9:50, Sat-Sun 1:30, 3:35, 5:40;Bricktown SquareDaily 7:10, 9:50, Sat-Sun 1, 3:15, 5:40;ChathamDaily 12:20, 2:40, 4:50, 7:10, 9:25;Cinema 12Daily 12:40, 2:45, 5, 7:15, 9:30;CrestwoodDaily 12:30, 2:45, 5:15, 7:30, 10;Fox ValleyDaily 7:10, 9:30, Fri-Sun 12:45, 2:40, 4:50;Golf GlenDaily 7:50, 10:10, Fri-Sun 1:10, 3:20, 5:30;HawthornDaily 7:25, 9:55, Sat-Sun 1, 3:10, 5:20;Hillside SquareDaily 4:45, 7, 9:45, Sat-Sun 11:45am, 2:30;Lincoln VillageDaily 7, 9:30, Fri-Mon 2, 4:30;Old Orchard GardensDaily 12:50, 3, 5:10, 7:40, 10:10;Orland SquareDaily 7:10, 9:20, Fri-Sun 12:40, 2:50, 5;Rice Lake SquareDaily 12:10, 2:40, 5:40, 7:50, 10:10;River RunDaily 5:20, 7:40, 10:20, Sat-Sun12:30, 3;Rolling MeadowsDaily 2:50, 5:10, 7:20, 9:30, Sat-Sun 12:40;StreamwoodDaily 4:50, 7:20, 9:50, Sat-Sun 12:20, 2:40;Town & CountryDaily 7:55, 10:05, Sat-Sun 1:20, 3:30, 5:40;Water TowerDaily 12:40, 3, 5:40, 7:50, 10;Webster PlaceDaily 1:15, 3:45, 6, 8:15, 10:30

I KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER Directed by Jim Gillespie. A new stalker-shocker from Kevin Williamson, writer of "Scream," starring Jennifer Love Hewitt; the salubriously goofy Sarah Michelle Gellar; Ryan Phillipe and Freddie Prinze, Jr. 100m. Barrington SquareDaily 7:20, 9:45;Fox ValleyDaily 9:10;FoxfieldDaily 9:40;OgdenDaily 7:20, 9:45;Park ForestDaily 4:15, 7:15, 9:45;Spring HillDaily 7:10, 9:40;TradewindsDaily 9:10

*INTO THE DEEP A gripping theatrical experience. I could not fall asleep no matter how hard I tried. Just as my eyes would droop, a crazy lobster would be molting his shell down there in the forest of giant kelp. My breathing would slow--only to be quickened by the marauding attack of the sea star, or the spawning frenzy of the squid, or the teeth-cleaning rituals of the sea lions. By the end, I was tired, but exhilarated. IMAX, 40m. (Frank Sennett) Navy Pier IMAXDaily 12:40, 3:20, 6, 7:20, Fri-Sat, Mon-Thu 10am, Fri-Sat 8:40, 10

*JACKIE BROWN Directed and adapted by Quentin Tarantino. What's new and notable in Tarantino's third feature is the calm and gravity at its center. Working from Elmore Leonard's novel, "Rum Punch," the 33-year-old director, after almost four years away from directing features, still plays with his customary devices: inspired casting, sudden bursts of violence, outrageous and profane comic monologues, non-linearity of time. But the effect is more melancholy than kinetic. At over two-and-a-half hours, this genre riff will wear out most audiences. Still, it's a strong career move from someone who's realized he shouldn't try to top "Pulp Fiction." With Samuel L. Jackson, Robert Forster, Robert De Niro, Michael Keaton and Bridget Fonda.155m. ArcadaDaily 6:40, 9:45, Sat-Sun 3:30;Barrington SquareDaily 6:30, 9:25, Sat-Sun 2;Fox ValleyDaily 8:15, Sat-Sun 2:15, 5:15;OgdenDaily 6:30, 9:25, Sat-Sun 2;Park ForestDaily 2, 6:30, 9:25;Spring HillDaily 6:30, 9:25, Sat-Sun 2;Tivoli SouthDaily 6:40, 9:40, Sat-Sun 3;Village Daily 6:45, 9:30, Sat-Sun 1:20, 4

KISSING A FOOL Directed by Doug Ellin. The fear of commitment among the young, urban and implausibly wealthy is the among the subjects on "Kissing a Fool"'s mind, as well as womanizing sportscasters (in the scrumptious person of David Schwimmer). With Jason Lee, Mili Avital, Vanessa Angel and Bonnie Hunt. NR.Bloomingdale CourtDaily 7:25, 9:30;Bricktown SquareDaily 7, 9:30, Sat-Sun 1:40, 4:45;Cinema 12Daily 7:05, 9:20;The CommonsDaily 6:30;CrestwoodDaily 9:50;Fox LakeDaily 5:15, 7:25, Fri-Sat 9:40, Sat-Sun, Wed 12:45, 3;Fox ValleyDaily 7:20, 9:20, Sat-Sun 1:20, 3:30, 5:20;Golf GlenDaily 7:10, Fri-Sun 12:30, 2:30, 4:50;GroveDaily 7:30, Sat-Sun 12:50, 3:10, 5:20;HawthornDaily 7:05, 9:35;Lincoln VillageDaily 7:40, 9:50, Fri-Sun 1, 3:15, 5:30;North RiversideDaily 7:10, Fri-Sun 1, 3:10, 5:10;Old OrchardDaily 6:45, Sat-Sun noon;Rice Lake SquareDaily 7:10, 9:10;River RunDaily 6:40, Sat-Sun 1:30;Rolling MeadowsDaily 3, 6:30, 9:10, Sat-Sun 12:15;StreamwoodDaily 4:05, 9;Town & CountryDaily 7:10, Sat-Sun 12:20, 2:30, 4:50;Water TowerDaily 12:15, 2:35, 4:50, 7:10, 9:45;Webster PlaceDaily 6:50, Fri-Sun 12:45

Krippendorf's Tribe Directed by Todd Holland. One of the customary directors of "The Larry Sanders Show" makes the leap to the big screen with a Disney comedy about an anthropological fraud exacted by a desperate academic, played by Richard Dreyfuss, and abetted by television sensaysh and newfound twinkly Scientological spokesface Jenna Elfman. NR. Bricktown SquareDaily 6:40, 9, Sat-Mon 2:20, 4:30;Chicago RidgeDaily 12:40, 3, 5:10, 7:20, 9:30;CrestwoodDaily 12:10, 2:40, 5:05, 7:10, 10:10;GroveDaily 7:20, 9:30, Sat-Sun 12:40, 3, 5:10;HawthornDaily 7:15, 9:25, Sat-Mon noon, 2:30, 4:50;OakbrookDaily 7:15, 9:30, Fri-Sun 1, 4:10;Old OrchardDaily 2:45, 5, 7:15, 9:30, Sat-Sun 12:30;One Schaumburg PlaceDaily 12:40, 2:45, 4:50, 6:50, 9:15;PlazaDaily 7:15, 9:15, Sat-Sun 1:15, 3:15, 5:15;Rice Lake SquareDaily 11:40am, 2:20, 4:50, 7:20, 9:30;RidgeDaily 7:40, 10:10, Fri-Sun 12:45, 2:55, 5:05;River RunDaily 4:45, 7:10, 9:40, Sat-Sun 11:50am, 2;Stratford SquareDaily 7, 9:10, Sat-Sun 1:45, 4:15;StreamwoodDaily 4:20, 6:50, 9:10, Sat-Sun 11:40am, 2;Water TowerDaily 12:10, 2:20, 4:40, 7:10, 9:30;Webster PlaceDaily 2:30, 4:45, 7:20, 9:30, Fri-Sun noon;Westridge CourtDaily 6:50, 9:05, Sat-Sun 1:30, 4

KUNDUN Directed by Martin Scorsese. A biopic of the early life of the Dalai Lama, Scorsese's reverential-yet-inert "Kundun" is one of the handsomest movies in ages, with each shot suffused with color and compositional care. The first few shots are riveting--a Werner Herzog mountain swathed in snow, a village of Taviani tumult. At first there's a sense that Scorsese's placid attempt to imagine the childhood of the Tibetan leader is of a piece with his "Last Temptation of Christ," here imagining the missing child-years of Jesus. There's little drama, however, and while watching the exquisitely mounted, daringly banal drama, eventually one gives oneself over to cinematographer Roger Deakin's rich color schemes and waits for the movie to end. There are two moments of blistering concentration breaking the lush, hypnotic torpor--one, where the Dalai Lama dreams himself at the center of a world carpeted with murdered, red-robed monks, another, where a flash of intense empathetic imagination allows him to imagine Tibetan children being forced by Chinese troops to shoot their parents. In virtually every other scene, there is only the basso tootling of Philip Glass' score to nudge one awake and hope for story's end. The eye is filled; the heart wanders.;Fine ArtsDaily 4:15, 9:30

*L.A. CONFIDENTIAL Directed by Curtis Hanson. Hanson's unlikely distillation of James Ellroy's vigorously plotted novel is a slashingly-paced thriller starring Russell Crowe and Guy Pearce, a pair of Australians, as two complex cops in a 1953 Hollywood intrigue. It also stars James Cromwell as the silkily menacing L.A. police chief, Kevin Spacey as a Dean Martin-cool cop who's technical advisor to an early television show much like "Dragnet," Kim Basinger as a Veronica Lake-like siren and Danny DeVito as a gleeful dervish of dirt who collaborates with Spacey in digging out the lowdown among the Hollywood highlife for his Hush-Hush sleaze-rag. Panavision. 140m. (Ray Pride) The CommonsDaily 9:30, Sat-Sun 12:30, 3:30;Three PennyDaily 6:30, 9:15, Sat-Sun 1, 3:45;Town & CountryDaily 6:45, 9:35, Sat-Sun 2:40, 3:45;Water TowerDaily noon, 3:30, 6:30, 9:30;WoodfieldDaily 12:45, 3:30, 6:15, 9

*LIVE FLESH Directed by Pedro Almodovar. Victor Plaza (Liberto Rabal), born on a Madrid city bus stopped on deserted streets during a 1970 crackdown by the Franco regime, is a doe-eyed, lush-lipped innocent who loses his virginity in a club washroom to Elena (Francesca Neri) the strung-out daughter of the Italian consul. Confronting her a week later, a chain of coincidences and a single gunshot eternally entangles Victor's life with that of the two policemen who come to Elena's rescue, as well as both their wives. Part of the great pleasure of "Live Flesh" is the particulars of its plotting, which I'll describe no further. But Almodovar's sexy soap opera of obsession and revenge is luminous in its view of Madrid, taking on the geometry of a specific city, not just in the harsh angles of soulless modern buildings, but also in the odd shapes formed by lights in distance, glowing classical edifices, circling views from buses, a city of floating, circling images. (During the immaculately choreographed face-off between Victor and policemen, there is a post-DePalma slow-motion 360-degree shot that puts the lie to any claim of mastery by that cold clinician of a director.) Almodovar scores the film with mad, unabashed songs of carnal vengeance, yet there is always time for grace notes, in decor, widescreen compositions, and especially in behavior, such as, after a night of unending sex, a woman sniffing her nude skin for the last traces, the last unguents of the other before she showers them away, committing the lover's scent to memory before confronting her husband. The characters growl morose lines like "No one ever owns his youth or the women he loves" but Almodovar amply demonstrates why they feel that way. Piper's AlleyDaily 5, 9:30, Fri-Wed 7:15, Sat-Sun 2:30

*MA VIE EN ROSE Directed by Alain Berliner. Gaudy, rich and sweet like marzipan, a rhapsody in rouge, "Ma vie en rose" ("My Life In Pink") is a complete charmer. Berliner's bubbly, bubblegum-colored Belgian fantasy is designed and directed as if almost always from the point of view of 7-year old Ludovic (Georges DuFresne, a remarkable coup of casting), who doesn't understand why the kids at school or his teachers or his parents' suburban neighbors and co-workers can't accept him for the cheerful cross-dresser that he is. While Ludo decides after a while that he's a "girlboy," an accident caused when God's hand flung the wrong measure x and y chromosomes down the chimney, Berliner leaves ambiguous the question of Ludo's nascent sexuality, presenting him as a force (not freak) of nature, rather than a transvestite or "gayboy" in the making. Along with a zesty contemporary pop soundtrack, and a marvelous, brisk cutting style, Berliner's movie charms for its delicious design, a Baby Gap fever dream, with a toy cul-de-sac filled with hot pink garage doors, minicars painted opalescent blues and greens, and the occasional grandma in a banana-yellow Fiat convertible. A party in the film's opening scene posits an entire neighborhood of summer-color clad neighbors descending on the family home, giddy as a musical comedy. (At times, I thought of "Ma vie en rose" as the musical comedy version of "Crash"-uncommon empathy and tenderness toward a private inner world, private raptures made public.) It's rare to see such a fully imagined world. As a last treat, Berliner finds a logical and poetic culmination that leaves you smiling for days. 88m. ;Music BoxDaily 5:40, 7:40, 9:40, Sat-Sun 1:40, 3:40

MOUSE HUNT Directed by Gore Verbinski. "Mouse Hunt" is "Tom & Jerry" with human actors, an occasionally entertaining hodge-podge of cartoon violence with no soul. With Nathan Lane, Lee Evans. (Sam Jemielity) LakeDaily noon, 2:20, 4:40

*MRS. BROWN Directed by John Madden. In "Mrs. Brown," a bracing and convincing portrait of Britain's Queen Victoria (Judi Dench), director John Madden and writer Jeremy Brock embroider the whispers and rumors that surrounded her friendship with a Scottish servant, John Brown (Billy Connolly). The heart of the movie lies in the lucid performances by Dench and Connolly, yet Madden, a stage veteran with a couple of indifferent movies to his credit, works cleanly and efficiently, finding the means to convincingly portray, through pause and glance, through blocking and motion, the impossible gulf between the pair. 103m. (Ray Pride);Fine ArtsDaily 7, Sat-Sun 2;WoodfieldDaily 1:50, 4:20, 6:50, 9:20

MRS. DALLOWAYDirected by Marleen Gorris. Adaptation of the Virginia Woolf novel, with Vanessa Redgrave, Natascha McElhone and Rupert Graves. 97m. NR. EvanstonDaily 5:15, 7:40, 9:50, Sat-Sun 2:30;Fine ArtsDaily 4:30, 5:30, 6:45, 7:45, 9:15, 10:15, Sat-Sun 2:15, 3:15;WoodfieldDaily 12:10, 2:20, 5:10, 7:40, 10

>*NIL BY MOUTH There is a remarkable book by the young English photographer, Richard Billingham, called "Ray's a Laugh." Billingham takes seemingly unstudied portraits of the squalid home life of his mother and his chronic alcoholic father. The disorder and familial violence both appall and fascinate--binges in progress; one morning, a baleful bruise beneath Mrs. Billingham's tired eyes. Billingham only watches, a family member crouching, not judging, keeping needful distance. Gary Oldman's "Nil by Mouth," a fierce, stylish, even grandiosely dismal paean to sobriety, dedicated to the memory of his father, is as harrowing an account of the effects of alcoholic degeneration as Billingham's startling work. The feeling of no-feeling is all that the battering Raymond (Ray Winstone) seeks. He is a charmer, he is a coward. His abuse of the pregnant mother (Kathy Burke, astonishing) of his daughter escalates from the verbal to the worst kind of battering. Set in an indistinct South London working-class neighborhood, Oldman says, "This film tells the blues of my memory." There are hints of Ken Loach (unflinching directness) and the great Terence Davies (patriarchal terror, public celebrations), but Oldman fuses them into something fresh. The semidocumentary look of "Nil by Mouth" has a questing acuity, the handheld shots as nimble as Hi-8 video. There are zooms within long-lens shots, shimmery motions that flick at the heart, little visual revelations posing as accidents. Colors are sometimes so bright, so saturated, they parch the eye: toxic blues, hot neon oranges, washed by viscous sheets of chill rain. Behaviorally, Oldman's writing is a marvel of diligent observation . There is a keen and moral mind behind the script, the incessant profanity, high-octane dissipation, torrents of verbal abuse, the downward spiral of unwitting self-annihilation, all mask a searing sorrow. Oldman's story is not of the working class, although it is set plausibly in that environment. More importantly, he captures the paranoia, the slow yet inevitable degeneration of the addict, studiously charting the industriousness of the addict's necessary steps, the ritual required, desired, to spasm into that short-lived bliss. Nor are jealousy and possessiveness restricted to any one class, any one family. The poet Philip Larkin's "This Be the Verse" famously suggests the universal pain: "They fuck you up, your mum and dad./They may not mean to, but they do./They fill you with the faults they had/And add some extra, just for you." Watch the small daughter's eyes. They are large, grow larger, as she observes one intimate cataclysm after another. The unaccountable violations pass before her. Perhaps wisdom will come, the next generation. Oldman's film breathes hope. 128m. Music BoxFri-Sun 7, 9:30, Sat-Sun 2, 4:30, Mon-Thu 5, 7:25, 9:50

*THE RAINMAKER Directed by Francis Coppola. While there's little even the most gifted director could do to rise above a John Grisham potboiler, Coppola has confected a high-toned, tender rendition of dreary potboiler material. With Matt Damon, Danny DeVito, Jon Voight. Panavision. 133m.;Barrington SquareDaily 6:40, 9:30, Sat-Sun 1, 3:45;FoxfieldDaily 6:45, 9:25, Sat-Sun 1:10, 3:50;OgdenDaily 6:40, 9:30, Sat-Sun 1, 3:45;Spring HillDaily 6:40, 9:30, Sat-sun 1, 3:45;YorkDaily 12:35, 3:35, 6:45, 9:30

THE REAL BLONDE Directed and written by Tom DiCillo. See Off Camera.EvanstonDaily 4:15, 7:20, 10:20, Sat-Sun 1:30;Water TowerDaily 12:20, 2:40, 5, 7:20, 9:40;WoodfieldDaily Noon, 2:30, 5, 7:30, 9:50

REPLACEMENT KILLERS Directed by Antoine Fuqua. Chow Yun-Fat and Mira Sorvino on the run from bad guys who aren't happy to be going to all the trouble. With Til Schweiger. NR.;62nd & WesternDaily 4, 6:50, 9:30, Sat-Sun 1:15;ChathamDaily 1:50, 4, 6:10, 8:10, 10:20;CrestwoodDaily 2:50, 8:20;NorridgeDaily 4:30, 10:30;Piper's AlleyDaily 5:30, 10:15;PlazaDaily 8, 10, Sat-Sun 2, 4, 6;River OaksDaily 7:50, 10:10, Sat-Sun 1:30, 3:35, 5:40

SENSELESS Directed by Penelope Spheeris. Anyone who names a bad-taste comedy "Senseless" is asking for it. "Senseless" is a ramshackle, scattershot teen comedy, directed with just-do-it awkwardness by "Wayne's World"'s Spheeris. For her labor of love, check out "Decline of Western Civilization Part 3" later this year. But the highlight of lowlights on this particular day-job is the incessant mugging by Marlon Wayans, the youngest of the many-member Wayans performing clan. Wayans plays a college student trying to wangle his way into a white-collar job as an economist. After a dumb series of odd-jobs, he gets work as a guinea pig for an experimental drug that will heighten his senses by a factor of five. Wayans out-Jerry Lewises Jim Carrey at times, with a willingness to perform any gag--low, high-low or middling. 62nd & WesternDaily 4:35, 5:40, 6:40, 7:50, 8:55, 10:10, Sat-Sun 1:30, 2:20, 3:35;Burnham PlazaDaily 7:45, 9:50, Sat-Sun 1:10, 3:15, 5:30;CasinoDaily 2:20, 4:25, 7:10, 9:40;ChathamDaily 1:10, 2:30, 3:30, 4:45, 5:45, 7, 8:05, 9:10, 10:10;CrestwoodDaily 8:10;EvergreenDaily 4:20, 6:50, Fri-Sun 9:30, Sat-Sun1:50;GroveDaily 9:40;Hillside MallDaily 8, 10:15, Sat-Sun 3:30, 5:45;LawndaleDaily 4:50, 5:50, 6:50, 7:50, 9, 10:10, Sat-Sun 1:20, 2:40, 3:40;NorridgeDaily 5:10,10, Fri-Wed 7:20, Sat-Sun 12:50, 3;North RiversideDaily 7:35, 9:40, Fri-Sun 1:20, 3:25, 5:30;River OaksDaily 6:45, 7:45, 9, 10, Sat-Sun 1:15, 2:20, 3:20, 4:40, 5:40;Town & CountryDaily 9:20;Village NorthDaily 8:05, Sat-Sun 4:05;Water TowerDaily noon

SPHERE Directed by Barry Levinson. ... and Loathing. Of the many things that may be said about "Sphere," an adaptation of a Michael Crichton potboiler, the first must be: This is the "Showgirls" of sci-fi. Psychologist Dustin Hoffman prepared a study for the Bush administration of what must be done if aliens were discovered on earth. A few years later, when an apparent alien craft is discovered beneath the Pacific Ocean, his study becomes a textbook for the secret government agency studying the vessel. Bring on a covey of his old friends--mathematician Samuel L. Jackson, astrophysicist Liev Schreiber, biochemist, former patient, secret lover and attempted suicide Sharon Stone--and before you can say, "Who wrote this shit anyway?", a thunderously scored, neurotic-aside-filled technothriller about the fears we all hold inside ourselves veers from bad suspense to not-bad comedy dialogue. If you've seen "Forbidden Planet," you've seen a better version of the same material--ah, monsters from the id! If you've seen "Solaris," you've seen the mystic, art-house edition. There are moments of big, dumb fun, particularly in Hoffman's superb comic lines, but it's mostly a watch-watcher.;600 N. MichiganDaily 12:10, 4;62nd & WesternDaily 6:35, 9:25, Sat-Sun 12:55, 3:45;Bricktown SquareDaily 9:40;ChathamDaily 9:50;CrestwoodDaily 6:20;EvanstonDaily 7:10, 10;Fox ValleyDaily 9:10;Golf GlenDaily 9:10;North RiversideDaily 9:10;Orland SquareDaily 6:40, 9:30, Fri-Sun 1, 3:50;PlazaDaily 7, 9:40, Sat-Sun 1:30, 4:15;River RunDaily 9, Sat-Sun 4;Rolling MeadowsDaily 3:45, 6:45, 10, Sat-Sun 12:50;StreamwoodDaily 6:10, 1

STAR KID Written and directed by Manny Coto. Awkward seventh grader Joseph Mazello investigates "a meteor crash in a nearby junkyard," where he finds and befriends "a friendly, seven-foot tall robotic cybersuit with incredible superpowers and a mind of his own." 101m. NR. ArcadaSat-Sun 1:10;Barrington SquareSat-Sun 1:25, 4:10;OgdenSat-Sun 1:25, 4:10;Park ForestDaily 1:30;Spring HillSat-Sun 1:30, 4:10;TradewindsSat-Sun 2, 4:25;YorkDaily 12:30, 2:40, 4:45

*STARSHIP TROOPERS Directed by Paul Verhoeven. Poker-faced satire, with annihilation to spare. Verhoeven and "Robocop" co-scripter Ed Neumeier take on media manipulation, mass hysteria, war fever, spunky-but-sexless Aaron Spelling-style buff-bodied, fresh-faced casting and pull off one of the year's most sophisticated movies. Some have missed the satire, taking the deadpan as more doofiness from the auteur of "Showgirls." C'mon, Doogie Howser as a Nazi spymaster in swirling trenchcoat? Sexually-driven female warriors who fight better than any guys, even Jake Busey and his big, fancy teeth? Taken at face value as a mad exterminator's wildest wish fulfilment or as a parody of the audience's sickest need to be stroked, "Starship Troopers" is swell work. Panavision. 129m.Navy Pier IMAXFri-Sat 11, Sun-Thu 9

*THE SWEET HEREAFTER Directed and written by Atom Egoyan. The ferociously sorrowful "The Sweet Hereafter," based on Russell Banks' novel, rewards intent contemplation as it evokes a small Canadian mountain town in the winter calm of the weeks after fourteen children have died in a school bus crash. Ian Holm is a city lawyer who comes to the town, trying to lure the survivors into a class-action suit that would allow the mourning parents to attempt to sate their immense loss with the small solace of cash. Instead, he finds himself caught in a hum of what is already lost, of unspeakable fluster, embarrassing grief. (His own daughter is caught in a nightmare of potential sudden death that consumes him as well.) Egoyan's past work has sometimes been regarded as gamesplaying, mechanistic and hermetic, closed worlds populated by neurotic outsiders seeking perverse substitutes for the comforts of family and home. "The Sweet Hereafter" is something fresh, about family and loss, mournful and riven with undercurrents of simmering rage. The film's moments of anguish are all the more powerful for Egoyan's magisterial restraint, thrillingly precise yet seemingly seen through the exacting, unjudging eye of a mute God. To shattering effect, Egoyan parcels out what we already know, moving fluidly back and forth across months of screen time. There is a scene of brute simplicity where a husband and wife, small against mountains of white and sky so clear, bundle their beloved adopted son off to bus, to the foreordained disaster. It is an act of simplest love, of instinctual concern, of unwitting farewell. That parental good-bye along a slushed road in a high, winter heaven is so simple and perfect, that Egoyan's work seems finally ready to move out of arthouses and into the hearts and malls of the world. "The Sweet Hereafter"'s audacious warping of time, far more rewarding than a similar playfulness in "Pulp Fiction," suggests that answers never come, only healing, which we can refuse or embrace. Panavision. 112m.;LakeDaily 7, 9:35;Piper's AlleyDaily 7:30, Sat-Sun 2:15

THRILL RIDE Glimpses of the craft of corporate-financed motion-simulation rides, which give the sensation of actual entertainment, advertised in all the glory of IMAX. 40m. NR.;Museum of Science & IndustryDaily 10:50am, 12:30, 2:10, Sat-Sun 3:50

*TITANIC Directed and written by James Cameron. Time is James Cameron's great hiccup. His worlds warp the future with the past, and several movies he's made, such as "Terminator 2" and "True Lies," have also suffered from breathless hurry to meet studio release dates. While as a driven storyteller, Cameron not only tries to raise the level of commercial moviemaking standards, he also erects dauntingly colossal challenges to himself as a filmmaker. And as with the "Terminator" movies, time and memory remain his fixation. Cameron dares to combine his knack for spectacle with the intimate details of a sweetly corny love story between the privileged, but trapped young socialite, Rose (Kate Winslet) and the dead-broke, spirited artist Jack Dawson (Leonardo DiCaprio). Then he provides a contemporary set of bookends, unfolding the story through a 101-year-old survivor's recounting if the story to a crew of techno-buccaneers who intend to salvage valuables from the long-dead wreck. While Cameron's dialogue never rises to literature, his storytelling verve, in details large and small, again demonstrates his grand range of skills. The deft balance of intense intimacy and immense spectacle is thrilling. 62nd & WesternDaily 8, Sat-Sun 2:15;Burnham PlazaDaily 7:15, Sat-Sun 2:30;ChathamDaily 2:10, 7:55;Chicago RidgeDaily 12:30, 4:30, 8:30;Cinema 12Daily 12:30, 1:30, 4:15, 5:15, 8, 9;CrestwoodDaily 11am, noon, 1,2, 3,4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9;Fox LakeFri-Sat 5:05, 9, Sat-Sun, Wed 1, Sun-Thu 6:45;Golf MillDaily 8, Fri-Sun noon, 4;GroveDaily 8:15, Fri-Sat 9, Sat-Sun 12:15, 1, 4:15, 5, Mon-Thu 6:50;Hillside MallDaily 7:15, Sat-Sun 3;Hillside SquareDaily 4, 8:15, Sat-Sun noon;Hyde ParkDaily 4:15, 8:15, Sat-Sun 12:15;LawndaleDaily 8, Sat-Sun 2;Lincoln VillageDaily 8, Fri-Mon noon, 4;McClurg CourtDaily 6, 8, Fri-Sun 4, 5, 6, 9, Fri-Sat 10, Sat-Sun noon, 1, 2, Mon-Thu 7:15;NorridgeDaily 4, 5, 8, 9, Sat-Sun noon, 1;North RiversideDaily 8:30, Fri-Sun 12:30, 4:30;Old OrchardDaily 4:15, 8:30, Sat-Sun 12:15;Rice Lake SquareDaily noon, 1, 4, 5, 8, 9;RidgeDaily 8, Fri-Sun 12:15, 4;River OaksDaily 7, Fri-Sat 9, Sat-Sun 1, 2:30, 5, Mon-Thu 8:30;Rivertree CourtFri, Mon-Thu 7:15, 8:30, Sat-Sun noon, 1, 4, 5, 8, 9;Stratford SquareFri, Mon-Thu 7:30, 8:30, Sat-Sun 1, 4, 5, 8, 9;StreamwoodDaily 4, 7, 8, Sat-Sun noon, 3;Webster PlaceDaily 4:30, 8:30, Fri-Sun 12:30;Westridge CourtDaily 7:20, 8:30, Sat-Sun 12:30, 2:45, 4:30;WoodfieldDaily 8:15, Fri, Mon-Thu 7, Sat-Sun 12:15, 1:40, 4:15, 5:40, 9:30

*TOMORROW NEVER DIES Directed by Roger Spottiswoode. The gizmos are stupendous. Panavision. 120m. (Frank Sennett)Barrington SquareDaily 7, 9:35, Sat-Sun 1:15, 4;Fox ValleyDaily 7, 9:20, Sat-Sun 2, 4:15;FoxfieldDaily 7, 9:30, Sat-Sun 1:20, 4;LoganDaily 2:10, 4:15, 6:20, 8:25;OgdenDaily 7, 9:35, Sat-Sun 1:15, 4;Spring HillDaily 7, 9:35, Sat-Sun 1:10, 4;TivoliDaily 7, 9:30;YorkDaily 1:10, 4, 7, 9:40

>TWILIGHT Hollywood ages badly and does aging badly. But "Twilight" shows an uncommon, if self-serving, sympathy for an elite labor force loosing its edge. Writer-director Robert Benton observes a seasoned quartet of pros--Paul Newman, Susan Sarandon, Gene Hackman, and James Garner--playing pros no longer in top form. Their respective games, as retired private investigator, a screen star he falls for, her terminally ill husband, and a studio cop who does the couple's dirty chores, unravel engagingly in this tasteful noir. Benton and screenwriter Richard Russo plot a tangle of desire and regret with dialogue that occasionally overplays: "I'm curious: what kind of man fucks his dying best friend's wife?" Cinematographer Piotr Sobocinski, who shot three Kieslowski features, keeps the title in mind with nearly every lucid frame. Especially eloquent is a conversation that starts in a squintingly dark shadow, then resolves the story's only surviving friendship into a blazing California morning stroll. Elmer Bernstein adds an understated jazz score that suits the film's cardigan-and-slippers demographic. (Bill Stamets) 600 N. MichiganDaily Noon, 1:20, 2:10, 3:30, 4:20, 5:40, 6:30, 7:50, 8:40, 10, Fri-Sat 11:20;Bloomingdale CourtDaily 7:35, 10, Sat-Sun 1:20, 3:25, 5:30;Chicago RidgeDaily 1:10, 3:20, 5:30, 7:40, 10;Cinema 12Daily 12:35, 2:50, 5:05, 7:20, 9:35;CrestwoodDaily 12:50, 3:30, 5:45, 8:15, 10:40;Golf GlenDaily 7:20, 9:40, Fri-Sun 12:50, 3, 5:10;LakeDaily noon, 2:30, 4:45, 7:10, 9:35;Lincoln VillageDaily 7:40, 9:50, Fri-Sun 1:10, 3:20, 5:30;OakbrookDaily 7:15, 9:45, Fri-Sun 12:30, 2:45, 5;Old Orchard GardensDaily 12:20, 2:40, 5:20, 7:50, 10:20;River OaksDaily 7:40, 9:50, Sat-Sun 1:10, 3:20, 5:30;Rivertree CourtDaily 7:10, 10:10, Sat-Sun 12:40, 2:50, 5;Rolling MeadowsDaily 1:10, 2:15, 3:30, 4:45, 6, 7, 8:15, 9:20, 10:30, Sat-Sun noon;StreamwoodDaily 5:50, 8:10, 10:20, Sat-Sun 1:20, 3:40;Town & CountryDaily 7:45, 9:55, Sat-Sun 1:10, 3:20, 5:30;Webster PlaceDaily 2:45, 5:15, 7:45, 10:20, Fri-Sun 12:15;Westridge CourtDaily 7:45, 10:05, Sat-Sun 1:10, 3:20, 5:30

>U.S. MARSHALS In "U.S. Marshals," Tommy Lee Jones doggedly backtracks over the ground he covered in "The Fugitive." Jones, a gifted actor of the first rank, can't overcome a leaden script that once again has him calling for "hard-target searches" and barking out speeches eerily similar to the famous one from the first film in which he exhorted his team to check out every "farmhouse, outhouse, hen house," etc. While no one wants a sequel focusing on Deputy U.S. Marshal Sam Girard's home life, the least this movie could have done was fill in a few of the personal blanks about this iron-willed, razor-sharp law-enforcement superhero and his intrepid band of manhunters. As it is, we're left to sift through an overly convoluted plot involving bad-guy-on-the-run-who-may-really-be-a-good-guy Wesley Snipes and a group of shadowy government agents who seem to be operating on both sides of the law. This film leaves one wondering if Girard has ever chased a guilty fugitive. Oh wait, there is that completely meaningless subplot concerning the team's tough take-down of two nasty escaped cons in Chicago (one played convincingly by Tony Fitzpatrick). When a "Con Air"-style plane crash later puts Snipes on the loose, these two tough characters could throw a monkey wrench into the proceedings. But no, the creeps who earlier almost creamed Girard and his crew now roll over and play dead for the guards. Sheesh. And the presumably drug-addled Robert Downey Jr. sleep-runs his way through an empty performance as a sinister Fed. Almost all of these gaffes could have been forgiven in a movie with pacing as crisp and energetic as "The Fugitive"'s. Sadly, though, "U.S. Marshals" is badly outgunned on that score as well. At least the stunts--sandwiched between meaningless scenes featuring minor characters reading in bed and the like--are top-notch. (Frank Sennett);600 N. MichiganDaily 12:30, 1:40, 3:20, 4:30, 6:10, 7:20, 8:10, 9, 10:10, Fri-Sat 11;62nd & WesternDaily 4:10, 6:20, 7:05, 9:15, 10, Sat-Sun 12:30, 1:15, 3:25;Burnham PlazaDaily 7, 10, Sat-Sun 1,4;ChathamDaily Noon, 1, 3, 3:55, 5:55, 7:05, 9, 9:55;Chicago RidgeDaily 1:20, 4, 7, 9:50;Cinema 12Daily 12:30, 3:25, 6:50, 9:40;CrestwoodDaily 12:20, 1:20, 3:20, 4:20, 7:20, 9:15, 10:15;EvergreenDaily 4, 7, Fri-Sun 10, Sat-Sun 1;Fox LakeFri-Sat 6:55, 9:50, Sat 4:05, Sat-Sun 1:15, Sun-Thu 5:05, 7:45;Golf MillDaily 7, 9:40, Fri-Sun 12:30, 3:15;Hillside SquareDaily 4:10, 6:10, 7:10, 9:15,10:15, Sat-Sun 12:10,1:10, 3:10;Hyde ParkDaily 4, 7, 10, Sat-Sun 1;LawndaleDaily 4:10, 6, 7, 9:20, 10, Sat-Sun Noon, 1, 3;Lincoln VillageDaily 7, 10, Fri-Sun 1, 4;NorridgeDaily 6:30, 7:40, 9:30, Sat-Sun 12:30, 1:30, 3:30;North RiversideDaily 7, 10, Fri-Sun 1:10, 4;Old OrchardDaily 2:30, 3:45, 7, 9:15, 10:15, Sat-Sun 12:45;Rice Lake SquareDaily 12:30, 3:20, 6:20, 9:40;RidgeDaily 6, 6:50, 9:25, 9:55, Fri-Sun noon,1:10, 2:45, 3:50;River OaksDaily 7, 8, 10, Fri-Sat 11, Sat-Sun 1, 2, 4, 5;Rivertree CourtDaily 6:50, 9:40, Sat-Sun 12:30, 3:30;Stratford SquareDaily 6:30, 8:30, 9:30, Sat-Sun 12:30, 2:30, 3:30, 5:30;StreamwoodDaily 4:30, 6:30, 7:30, 9:30, 10:30, Sat-Sun 12:30, 1:30, 3:30;Webster PlaceDaily 1, 3, 4, 7, 9, 10;Westridge CourtDaily 6:40, 9:35, Sat-Sun 12:50, 3:45;WoodfieldDaily 8, Fri-Sat 7, 10, 11, Sat-Sun 1, 2, 4, 5, Sun 7, 10, Mon-Thu 6, 9

*WAG THE DOG Directed by Barry Levinson. Wag the Bill? A satire about Hollywood and Washington make-believe, "Wag the Dog" is a hilarious exercise. Made in under a month for a low Hollywood budget (about $15 million), Barry Levinson's direction of David Mamet's script is unusually energetic and lively. When the President is accused of molesting a Girl Scout, what to do? D.C. spin doctor Robert DeNiro calls in Hollywood producer Dustin Hoffman, and together they concoct a blitz against the Albanian Menace to distract the nation before the upcoming election. Hoffman is dazzling throughout, and the rest of the cast seems content to stand back and let him play out one of the most nuanced cartoons ever seen on screen. Wheedling, self-regarding, inspired in the most appalling manner, Hoffman's character is one that both sends up and comforts Hollywood's idea of itself. Still, however jokey and smug, the film kept me grinning throughout, far more than in similar media-politico satires such as "Bob Roberts." 97m. BiographDaily 7, 9:30, Sat-Sun 2, 4:30;CasinoDaily 2, 4:15, 7, 9:35;LakeDaily 1:20, 4:20, 7:20, 9:45;One Schaumburg PlaceDaily 2, 4:30, 7:20, 9:55;Orland SquareDaily 7, 9:10, Fri-Sun 2:40, 4:50;SkokieFri-Sun 7, 9:10, Sat-Sun 2:15, 4:40, Mon-Thu 7:15;Village NorthDaily 6, 8, 10, Sat-Sun 2, 4;Water TowerDaily 12:30, 3, 5:30, 7:45, 10

*THE WEDDING SINGER In "The Wedding Singer," Adam Sandler moves from the pursuit of genial slob comedy to an unlikely, sweet-as-can-be love story co-starring Drew Barrymore. Sandler's a lovelorn wedding singer in 1985, giving him room for multiple song parodies and jabs at the thirty or forty oh-so-new-wave songs in the rummage sale of a soundtrack. When his own wedding goes kaflooey, he meets beatific waitress Barrymore, who twinkles and dimples like no one else this side of Gwyneth Paltrow. The movie's clunky-funny throughout--I probably laughed more than I have in months--and the romance is perky and puppy-dog.;BiographDaily 7:30, 9:45, Sat-Sun 1, 3:10, 5:20;Cinema 12Daily 12:35, 2:45, 5, 7:15, 9:30;The CommonsDaily 7:30, 9:50, Sat-Sun 1, 3:10, 5:20;CrestwoodDaily 11:10am, 12:40, 1:30, 4:10, 5:20, 6:40, 9:35;EsquireDaily 2:10, 5, 6:10, 8, 10:15, Fri-Sun 11:50am, 12:50;Fox LakeDaily 5:25, 7:40, Fri-Sat 9:55, Sat-Sun, Wed 12:50, 3:05;Golf GlenDaily 7:30, 9:50, Fri-Sun 12:40, 2:50, 5;GroveDaily 7:40, 9:50, Sat-Sun 1:10, 3:20, 5:30;Lincoln VillageDaily 7:25, 9:40, Fri-Sun 12:15, 2:25, 4:35;NorridgeDaily 5, 7:10, 9:40, Sat-Sun 12:10, 2:30;North RiversideDaily 7:25, 9:50, Fri-Sun 12:40, 2:50, 5;OakbrookDaily 7:45, 10, Fri-Sun 1, 3:15, 5:30;Old Orchard GardensDaily noon, 2:10, 4:30, 6:40, 9:10;Orland SquareDaily 7:40, 8:50, 9:50, Fri-Sun 1, 2:10, 3:10, 4:20, 5:20, 6:40;Rice Lake SquareDaily 12:20, 2:50, 5:20, 7:40, 10;RidgeDaily 7:30, 9:45, Fri-Sun 12:55, 3:05, 5:15;River OaksDaily 7:30, 9:40, Sat-Sun 1, 3:10, 5:20;Rivertree CourtDaily 7:30, 10, Sat-Sun 12:10, 2:30, 4:40;Rolling MeadowsDaily 3:15, 5:45, 8, 10:40, Sat-Sun 12:30;Stratford SquareDaily 7:15, 9:30, Sat-Sun 1:15, 3:15, 5:15;StreamwoodDaily 5:20, 7:40, 10, Sat-Sun 12:50, 3:10;Westridge CourtDaily 7:30, 9:45, Sat-Sun 1, 3:10, 5:20

WHALESDirected by David Clark, Al Giddings, Roger Payne. Sitting at a 30 degree angle staring at a 75-foot diameter screen, you truly feel like you are splashing around with the big guys. (Kevin L. Campbell) Museum of Science and IndustryDaily 10am, 11:40am, 1:20, 3, Sat-Sun 4:40

*WINGS OF THE DOVE Directed by Iain Softley. While James purists will opt for the fug of their yellowing Penguin paperbacks, Softley and Amini have produced a handsomely appointed romance that rustles with desire, both thwarted and rewarded. And though it's one of the best-looking movies of the past year, there are also performances of note, particularly Helena Bonham Carter. Capturing both her offhand, contemporary vivacity and her "period" looks, Softley allows Carter to smile or glower and all the decor in the world of the frame melts away. (Linus Roache and Alison Elliott are two more corners of the London and Venice-set triangle.) Among the liberties taken is a striking, emotionally painful nude scene near the film's end, as well as transporting James' 1902 novel to 1910. 103m.;Water TowerDaily 2:30, 5:10, 7:30, 9:50

*ZERO EFFECT Directed and written by Jake Kasdan. The chameleonic Bill Pullman gives a wonderfully twisted and funny performance as an agoraphobic private detective in "Zero Effect," embodying the conceits of first-time director Kasdan's script. Daryl Zero is the most detached man on the planet, completely focused when he's on the case, but otherwise unable to fucntion in society. Zero has a Holmes-and-Watson-like frontman, attorney Steve Arlo (Ben Stiller), who transacts his business, and when he's not working, he's hidden away, scarfing snack food and composing the rottenest rock songs you can imagine. There are a lot of incompletely realized ideas in the 22-year-old Kasdan's script, which tries for a "Usual Suspects" level of narrative gamesmanship. But even when Kasdan's inexperience muddies a moment, Pullman's rich, spirited performance embodies the character's all-too-modern emotional ineptitude. Pullman always seems to be having fun.;Piper's AlleyDaily 5:15, 7:50, 10:30, Sat-Sun 2:40;Village NorthDaily 9:20, Fri midnight, Sat-Sun 4:20

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