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DECEMBER 22, 1997: 

THE DELI

John Gallagher's "The Deli," a slice-of-life inna-neighborhood movie with greater intentions than it attains, has a few nice moments. Mike Starr (in need of a more assured directorial hand), is the owner of a Manhattan Italian-American deli who's got a gambling problem. Before things get worse, and comic complications are mostly just complicated, we're introduced to a predictable variety of workers and clientele, with many familiar indiefilm faces doing their shtick-including fresh-faced manager Matt Keeslar, deli matriarch Judith Malina, Debi Mazar, Ice T, Jerry Stiller, Michael Imperioli and Heather Matarazzo. There's some charm in scattered moments, but mostly it's scattershot. 98m. (Ray Pride)


MOUSE HUNT

"Mouse Hunt" is "Tom & Jerry" with human actors, an occasionally entertaining hodge-podge of cartoon violence with no soul. Scroogy chef Nathan Lane and his soft-hearted and -headed brother Lee Evans (hamming up his role like an ersatz Jerry Lewis) inherit an old mansion that turns out to be a missing architectural masterpiece, and all that stands in their way of earning millions at an auction is one wily mouse. This sets the stage for the mouse-hunting brothers to get blown up, crushed, clobbered and covered in sewage, and it's milky amusing to watch the two stooges taking it on the chin. The whiskered hero pulls off some eye-popping feats, the mouse-cam views are inventive and funny, and the ubiquitous Christopher Walken introduces a blackly comedic edge as an exterminator who will go to any lengths to catch his prey (guess what he nibbles on to determine the critter's diet?). But like the "raisins" a guest sups on during the climactic auction scene, the pointless mugging and mauling in "Mouse Trap" ultimately left me with a bad taste in my mouth. (Sam Jemielity)


TOMORROW NEVER DIES

James Bond is the embodiment of chaos theory. That's the heart of his allure to fantasizing fans of all genders. Faced with saving the world, Bond simply gets in the bad guy's face and then reacts to whatever chain of unsavory events his appearance sets off. Early on in "Tomorrow Never Dies," Bond, played to insouciant perfection by Pierce Brosnan, is approached by some thugs who ask him to step into a deserted hallway to take "an important phone call." In response, he simply raises a jaded eyebrow and follows them into a recording studio with soundproof walls and lets them stomp the living daylights out of him. This set-to, of course, gives him just the opening he needs to begin sabotaging the war-mongering plans of evil media baron Elliot Carver (Jonathan Pryce). There's nothing secret about Bond's agenting-he just stirs up a peck of trouble and then counts on his razor-sharp reflexes, rapier wit and array of delicious gadgets to save the day. This time out, he introduces himself to the villain as "Bond, James Bond," a banker who specializes in "hostile takeovers." When a henchman checks out Bond's cover, he finds the record a tad too spotless and surmises he must be a spy. (But all anyone would have to do to confirm this, presumably, is to run an Internet search that would pop up the fact that Bond's a commander in the Royal Navy.) Although the pacing of "Tomorrow Never Dies" flags a bit compared to Brosnan's introductory Bond romp, 1995's "GoldenEye," the opening setpiece and title sequence are among the most stunning in the series (complete with Sheryl Crow's solid title track). Michelle Yeoh, the beautiful, high-spirited chopsocky star of "Supercop"-who's known in Hong Kong as the female Jackie Chan-proves the first truly worthy distaff sidekick for our decadent Western hero. The obligatory business with M, Q and Moneypenny is a bit too jokey and product-placement-heavy, perhaps, but Dame Judi Dench has grown on me in the role of Bond's savvy handler, and the gismos are stupendous. Although Pryce should stick to selling cars and playing mopes like the one he essayed in "Glengarry Glen Ross," this is still a smart, sassy, thoroughly satisfying thriller. (Frank Sennett)


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