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JUNE 5, 2000: 

CENTER STAGE. What does it take to be a ballet dancer? Center Stage, a dance flick intended exclusively for starry-eyed young ballerinas, lets us know: good shoes, good feet and good attitude. Three young women deficient in these skills struggle to get them during a year of training at the New York school of the American Ballet Company (read: American Ballet Theatre). Jody, played by lovely real-life dancer Amanda Schull of the San Francisco Ballet, can't seem to get her legs to turn out properly but she absorbs much in her Bildungsroman year. She learns (surprise!) that star danseurs are not necessarily nice men and that a girl with the wrong body type can still become a prima ballerina (this is a surprise). There's a sweetness about this movie's affection for dance, and the dancing is the best thing about it. Ethan Stiefel, one of the world's best male dancers and a real-life principal at ABT, plays the cad who wantonly beds young Jody, but he makes up for it by dancing spectacularly through some Balanchine works and new choreography composed just for the movie. --Margaret Regan


SMALL TIME CROOKS. Woody Allen pretty much gives up on originality in this collection of rejected Catskill comic gags. While there are few laughs, there's an endearing quality to this tale, which focuses on older people taking one more shot at their dreams. Woody even makes the daring move of pairing himself with Tracey Ullman, who's only young enough to be his daughter, not his granddaughter. Older audiences seem to be enjoying this movie, and it's nice to see something aimed at that age bracket, but one wishes there had been a little more ingenuity in the comedy. --James DiGiovanna


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