NEW FILMS FRIDAY

MR. NICE GUY - Advertised as having "more action than the last three Jackie Chan films combined," this martial-arts comedy stars Chan as a TV chef who winds up being stuck in the middle of a power struggle between an Australian drug lord and gang members. Reviewed on Page W6. PG-13 (violence, vulgarity, profanity, nude artwork). (Carmike 12, Century, Gateway, Holladay, Plaza 5400, Sandy 9, Trolley Square.)

PRIMARY COLORS - Based on the anonymously written best seller, a thinly veiled swipe at the Clinton administration, this comedy-drama stars John Travolta as a Southern governor running for president, while beset by scandals galore. Emma Thompson and Billy Bob Thornton co-star. Reviewed on Page W10. R (profanity, vulgarity, violence, racial epithets, brief partial nudity). (Carmike 12, Century, Holladay, Midvalley, Reel, Sandy 9, Trolley Corners, Trolley North.)

WILD THINGS - Dark comic mystery/thriller set in the Everglades, about two high school students (Neve Campbell and Denise Richards, from "Starship Troopers") who accuse their school counselor (Matt Dillon) of rape. Kevin Bacon, Theresa Russell and Bill Murray co-star. Reviewed on Page W10. R (violence, profanity, vulgarity, nudity, sex, drug use, gore). (Century, Creekside, Crossroads, Midvalley, South Towne, Trolley North.)

SPECIAL SCREENINGS

I AM MY FILMS: A PORTRAIT OF WERNER HERZOG - A 1976 documentary by writer/directors Christian Wiesenborn and Aaron Keusch on the German filmmaker, shown in the process of making a documentary of his own. Also included is footage and discussion of some of Herzog's earlier films, such as "Aguirre, the Wrath of God." This program is not rated but may contain some PG or PG-13 rated material. (Salt Lake Art Center, Friday only, 8 p.m.)

SATYAJIT RAY FILM FESTIVAL - Three later-period movies by the legendary Indian filmmaker, who died in 1992. This week's selections are "Target," a 1995 drama about a hunter caught in a power struggle between his employer and enslaved villagers (March 20-24), and "The Stranger," a 1992 drama about a mysterious man who profoundly changes the family he's visiting (March 25-29). In Hindi, with English subtitles. These films are not rated but may contain some PG or PG-13 rated material. (Tower.)

SOUTH PARK FESTIVAL - A monthlong screening of episodes from the outrageous and controversial Comedy Central cartoon series about potty-mouthed third-graders and other animated weirdness. This week's program includes three more episodes, including "Pink Eye" and the infamous installment about "Mr. Hankey, the Christmas Poo." This program is not rated but contains some very R-rated material. (Tower.)

CONTINUING FILMS

AFTERGLOW - * * - Writer/director Alan Rudolph ("Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle") looks at infidelity and marriage with this at-times interesting but just as often annoying drama involving two Canadian couples (Oscar nominee Julie Christie and Nick Nolte and Lara Flynn Boyle and Jonny Lee Miller) - two of whom are having an affair. R (sex, violence, profanity, vulgarity, nudity). (Exclusive, Broadway.) (Feb. 13, 1998)

AMISTAD - * * 1/2 - Steven Spielberg's new film - a historically based courtroom drama about 53 African captives tried in American court for taking over a slaveship while en route to Cuba in 1839 - is manipulative and heavy-handed and only comes to life in the final third, when Oscar-nominated Anthony Hopkins (playing John Quincy Adams!) is on-screen. It doesn't help that the excellent ensemble cast - which includes Matthew McConaughey, Morgan Freeman and newcomer Djimon Hounsou - isn't given enough to do. R (violence, gore, nudity, torture, mild profanity). (Sugar House, Valley Fair.) (Dec. 12, 1997)

AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN PARIS - * - Awful and awfully derivative remake/sequel to 1981's "An American Werewolf in London," which rips off some of the best bits from the original - but with much less wit and more gore. A huge disappointment coming from director Anthony Waller ("Mute Witness") and star Tom Everett Scott ("That Thing You Do!"). R (violence, gore, sex, nudity, vulgarity, profanity). (Valley Fair.) (Dec. 26, 1997)

ANASTASIA - * * * - Fox Animation Studios' first movie is this funny but at-times inconsistent (in terms of animation) musical-comedy about the sole survivor of Russia's imperial family, based on the 1956 film. Great performances by the "voice" actors - Meg Ryan, John Cusack, Kelsey Grammer, Angela Lansbury and Christopher Lloyd - definitely help. G (animated violence and gore). (Kaysville, Sandy Starships, Sugar House, Valley Fair.) (Nov. 21, 1997)

THE APOSTLE - * * * 1/2 - Robert Duvall's long-overdue third film as a director is this Oscar nominated drama about a disgraced preacher (Duvall, nominated in the Best Actor category) who rediscovers his faith when he's forced to flee Texas after viciously beating another man. Religion and faith usually aren't portrayed nearly as sympathetically and intelligently as they are here, and all the performances are very strong. PG-13 (profanity, violence, racial epithets). (Broadway, Sandy 9.) (Feb. 13, 1998)

AS GOOD AS IT GETS - * * * 1/2 - Alternately dramatic and brutally funny, this comedy from writer/director James Brooks ("I'll Do Anything") wouldn't fly if not for the stellar performance by Jack Nicholson as a tactless romance novelist. Greg Kinnear is surprisingly subtle as a gay artist, but Helen Hunt is miscast as Nicholson's romantic foil. Nominated for seven Academy Awards. PG-13 (profanity, vulgarity, nudity, violence, racial epithets). (Gateway, Holladay, Midvalley, South Towne, Trolley Corners.) (Dec. 26, 1997)

THE BIG LEBOWSKI - * * - Not exactly a stellar follow-up to "Fargo," this black comedy involving mistaken identities and kidnappings shows the filmmaking Coen brothers at their most unfocused and self-indulgent. Star Jeff Bridges has fun playing an aging stoner, but the payoff isn't worth the wait for most audiences. R (profanity, vulgarity, violence, drug use, nudity, torture, racial epithets). (Broadway, Holladay, Plaza 5400, Sandy 9.) (March 6, 1998)

BOOGIE NIGHTS - * * 1/2 - The first half of this controversial drama about the adult entertainment industry during the late 1970s actually lives up to the hype. But when the story moves into the early 1980s, the film turns into yet another "Pulp Fiction" wannabe, with graphic violence and surprisingly bad plotting. Great performances from stars Mark Wahlberg, Julianne Moore and Burt Reynolds, though. Writer/director Paul Thomas Anderson had to make major cuts just to avoid an NC-17 rating. R (violence, sex, nudity, profanity, drug use, gore, vulgarity). (Sugar House.) (Oct. 24, 1997)

THE BORROWERS - * * 1/2 - Marred by some tasteless and vulgar jokes, this big-screen version of Mary Norton's beloved children books - about a clan of very, very tiny people trying to thwart an evil developer (John Goodman) - has some dazzling visuals and a brisk pace. But in the process, some of the charm is lost. PG (violence, vulgarity, mild profanity). (Flick, Gateway, Midvalley, Sandy 9.) (Feb. 13, 1998)

DARK CITY - * * - Technically dazzling but seriously lacking in content, this futuristic thriller from writer/director Alex Proyas ("The Crow") shows what happens when a man discovers his "reality" is part of a bizarre experiment being carried out by hostile aliens. Too cold and sterile to be effective, and co-star Kiefer Sutherland's wheezy performance is a major distraction. R (violence, gore, nudity, sex). (Cinemas 5.) (Feb. 27, 1998)

DESPERATE MEASURES - * 1/2 - Proof that a movie can get dumber by the minute, this awful thriller stars Michael Keaton as a serial killer who gets loose in a hospital when he's freed to be a transplant donor for the son of a police officer (Andy Garcia). Keaton tries, but he's hampered by a witless script. R (violence, profanity). (Sugar House, Valley Fair.) (Jan. 30, 1998)

FALLEN - * * - All the more disappointing because of its quality cast (which includes Denzel Washington, John Goodman and Donald Sutherland), this supernatural thriller stars Washington as a Philadelphia homicide detective trying to stop a murderous fallen angel who can change host bodies at will. Some effective moments, but the premise is too similar to Wes Craven's "Shocker." R (profanity, violence, vulgarity, brief gore, brief nudity, racial epithets.) (Sugar House, Valley Fair.) (Jan. 16, 1998)

FLUBBER - * * - Writer/producer John Hughes again gives a Disney classic the "Home Alone" treatment. This time it's the 1961 comedy "The Absent Minded Professor," as Robin Williams takes over the Fred MacMurray role as a scientist who invents a rubbery substance that seems to defy gravity. Kids may get a kick out of the computer-animated goo, but most of the jokes just aren't funny. PG (violence, vulgarity, profanity). (Kaysville, Sandy Starships, Sugar House, Valley Fair.) (Nov. 26, 1997)

FOR RICHER OR POORER - * - Dull, unfunny and offensive comedy pairing TV stars Tim Allen and Kirstie Alley as unhappily married Manhattan socialites who wind up rediscovering their love while they're hiding from the IRS among the Amish. Also, the saccharine sweet ending can't cover up the otherwise mean-spirited jabs directed at the Amish. PG-13 (profanity, vulgarity, violence, sex). (Sandy Starships, Valley Fair.) (Dec. 12, 1997)

THE FULL MONTY - * * * - Somewhat raunchy, surprisingly touching and always hilarious British comedy about six financially strapped English steelworkers (including "Trainspotting's" Robert Carlyle) who are inspired by a touring Chippendales show to take it all off for a one-night show, in hopes of making a killing at the box office. But they find that their inhibitions get in the way. Strong characterizations and laugh-out-loud visual gags highlight this winner. Nominated for four Academy Awards. R (nudity, profanity, vulgarity). (Brewvies, Kaysville, Sugar House, Valley Fair.) (Sept. 12, 1997) - Chris Hicks

GATTACA - * * * - Sterile (both in theme and treatment) and not as engaging as it could be, this futuristic cautionary tale about genetic engineering is nonetheless fascinating on its own terms as natural-born human Ethan Hawke tries to infiltrate the world of genetically bred "superiors." Reminiscent of dozens of other sci-fi tales, but thoughtful and earnest in a way that has eluded the genre for too many years now. Co-stars include Uma Thurman, Alan Arkin and Ernest Borgnine. PG-13 (violence, sex, nudity, profanity, vulgarity). (Sugar House.) (Oct. 24, 1997) - C.H.

GOOD WILL HUNTING - * * * 1/2 - Well-acted, though also profane and vulgar, comedy-drama about a troubled 20-something mathematics genius (Matt Damon) who must undergo therapy (from Robin Williams, playing a down-on-his-luck college professor) as part of his parole. Damon and co-star Ben Affleck also wrote the touching, funny screenplay. Nominated for nine Academy Awards. R (profanity, vulgarity, violence, sex, nude paintings, racial epithets). (Broadway, Holladay, Midvalley, South Towne.) (Dec. 26, 1997)

GREAT EXPECTATIONS - * * - A glossy buy shallow update of the Charles Dickens novel, starring Ethan Hawke as a naive young artist desperately trying to impress the snooty and manipulative socialite (Gwyneth Paltrow) he's loved for years. The dumbed-down script also seems to indicate that the writers didn't think Dickens knew how to end the story! R (profanity, nudity, sex, violence, brief gore, drug use, vulgarity). (Brewvies, Sugar House, Valley Fair.) (Jan. 30, 1998)

HALF-BAKED - turkey - Extremely unfunny drug-culture comedy about some pals (including comedians Dave Chappelle and Jim Breuer, from TV's "Saturday Night Live") trying to sel pot to bail out a friend (Harland Williams, from "RocketMan") who accidentally poisoned a diabetic horse - the equine partner of a New York City cop! The movie also features embarrassing cameos from Jon Stewart, Janeane Garofalo and Snoop Doggy Dogg. R (drug use, profanity, sex, nudity, vulgarity). (Sugar House.) (Jan. 17, 1998)

HOME ALONE 3 - * 1/2 - Milking his favorite formula for all it's worth, writer/co-producer John Hughes recasts"Home Alone" with Alex D. Linz ("One Fine Day") as yet another Chicago youth setting booby traps for inept bad guys. If your idea of fun is someone being hit on the head with barbells, enjoy. PG (violence, vulgarity, profanity, partially nude poster). (Kaysville.) (Dec. 12, 1997) - C.H.

HUSH - * - This dull thriller about an evil mother-in-law (Jessica Lange) has more problems than just a bad title (though several others, including "Kilronan," were rejected). Lange and co-star Gwyneth Paltrow are hammy and wooden, respectively, and the script's unintentionally hilarious. PG-13 (profanity, violence, vulgarity, gore, nudity, sex). (Broadway, Carmike 12, Gateway, Holladay, Midvalley, Sandy 9.) (March 6, 1998)

I KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER - * 1/2 - Empty-headed thriller from "Scream" scriptwriter Kevin Williamson about four teens (including TV stars Jennifer Love Hewitt and Sarah Michelle Gellar) stalked and killed, one by one, by a murderer. Even less wit than "Scream," and things play out like a standard "slasher" flick. R (violence, profanity, gore, sex, nude silhouettes). (Valley Fair.) (Oct. 17, 1997)

JACKIE BROWN - * * - Quentin Tarantino's long-awaited followup to "Pulp Fiction," an adaptation of the Elmore Leonard novel "Rum Punch," is way too long and lacks energy. However, Oscar nominee Robert Forster steals things as a sympathetic bail bondsman who helps the title character, a flight attendant who doubles as a drug runner (former "blaxploitation" actress Pam Grier), swindle her boss and the cops. R (profanity, racial epithets, violence, drug use, sex, vulgarity, brief partial nudity). (Sugar House.) (Dec. 26, 1998)

JOHN GRISHAM'S THE RAINMAKER - * * * - Since he wrote the screenplay and directed, maybe it should be "Francis Ford Coppola's The Rainmaker." Slick, all-star adaptation is still pulp fiction, but the "Rocky"-like courtroom drama about a young, idealistic lawyer (Matt Damon) taking on an insurance company is compelling. Subplot about an abused woman (Claire Danes) he takes under his wing is less so. Co-stars include Danny DeVito, Jon Voight and unbilled Danny Glover. PG-13 (violence, profanity) (Kaysville.) (Nov. 21, 1997) - C.H.

KISSING A FOOL - * * 1/2 - David Schwimmer goes against his "Friends" typecasting in this at-times charming romantic comedy, playing an insensitive TV sportscaster who uses his novelist friend (Jason Lee, from "Chasing Amy") to test whether his fiancee is being faithful. Schwimmer's foul-mouthed and unconvincing, but Lee and co-star Mili Avital have a lot of chemistry together. (profanity, vulgarity, violence, sex, partial nudity). (Sugar House, Valley Fair.) (Feb. 27, 1998)

KRIPPENDORF'S TRIBE - * 1/2 - A humiliating experience in low-brow humor, as stars Richard Dreyfuss and Jenna Elfman (TV's "Dharma & Greg") try to enliven a dumbbell storyline about an anthropology professor forced to "create" a New Guinea tribe (himself and his children in disguise) to qualify for grant money. Awful, with inappropriate sexual humor and other crass gags. PG-13 (vulgarity, violence, profanity). (Flick, Olympus, Plaza 5400, South Towne.) (Feb. 27, 1998)

L.A. CONFIDENTIAL - * * * - Good-looking and glitzy but sometimes confusing and very violent crime thriller, based on James Ellroy's novel, about detectives in 1950s Los Angeles investigating murders and a conspiracy that involves crooked cops and prostitutes who look like famous starlets. The cast, which includes Kim Basinger, Kevin Spacey and Danny DeVito, certainly helps. Nominated for nine Academy Awards. R (violence, gore, profanity, nudity, sex, drug use, racial epithets). (Broadway, Villa.) (Sept. 19, 1997)

THE MAN IN THE IRON MASK - * * - Who says two Leonardo DiCaprios are better than one? The "Titanic" star is downright awful playing twin brothers - one the evil King of France and the other a sweet-natured prisoner - in this dumb-bell adaptation of the Alexandre Dumas novel. Still, the dream casting of actors playing the Four Musketeers (Gabriel Byrne, John Malkovich, Gerard Depardieu and Jeremy Irons) almost saves things. PG-13 (violence, vulgarity, sex, nudity, profanity). (Century, Creekside, Gateway, Midvalley, Reel, South Towne, Trolley Square.) (March 13, 1998)

MOUSE HUNT - * * - Good-looking but not nearly funny enough, this live-action cartoon pits Nathan Lane and British character actor Lee Evans against a pesky rodent (a real-life mouse, aided by computer-generated effects) for possession of a multimillion-dollar mansion. Too mean-spirited and far too vulgar for a "children's" film. PG (violence, vulgarity, brief partial nudity). (Cinemas 5, Olympus.) (Dec. 19, 1997)

MR. MAGOO - turkey - A dumb and extremely unfunny live-action comedy, based on the now-controversial '60s cartoon, that manages to offend more than just the visually impaired. Leslie Nielsen, who plays the bungling, nearsighted eccentric, has never been so irritating. PG (violence, vulgarity, bikini babes). (Sandy Starships, Sugar House, Valley Fair.) (Dec. 26, 1997)

MRS. BROWN - * * * - Restrained version of one of history's most unusual relationships, between a Scottish horse-riding coach (Billy Connolly) and Queen Victoria (Oscar nominee Dame Judi Dench), who became reacquainted in the years following the death of Prince Albert. At times the action is too subdued and inconsistent, but dazzling performances from the leads help. PG (profanity, violence, brief nudity, vulgarity). (Avalon.) (Aug. 1, 1997)

THE RAINMAKER - See "John Grisham's The Rainmaker."

SENSELESS - * - Star Marlon Wayans, playing a struggling university student who gains super-senses when he volunteers to be a guinea pig for a scientist's experiments, has a lot more charm than you'd think. Unfortunately, the rest of this tasteless, alleged comedy involves flatulence and sex jokes galore. R (vulgarity, profanity, nudity, drug use, violence, sex). (Cinemas 5.) (Feb. 20, 1998)

SPHERE - * 1/2 - Some novels should never be made into movies, including this science-fiction thriller that's based on Michael Crichton's best seller, about a team of scientists (Dustin Hoffman, Sharon Stone and Samuel L. Jackson) investigating a long-submerged space craft resting on the bottom of the Pacific Ocean. Not nearly as cerebral as you'd expect from the cast and director Barry Levinson ("Wag the Dog"). PG-13 (violence, profanity). (Cinemas 5, Olympus.) (Feb. 13, 1998)

SPICE WORLD - turkey - An awful star vehicle for international pop stars the Spice Girls (an extremely unfunny blending of "A Hard Day's Night," "This is Spinal Tap" and "Speed!"), this stupid and tasteless musical comedy is unsuitable for all moviegoers - especially its obvious target audience of 8-year-old girls. PG (vulgarity, violence, brief nudity, profanity). (Cinemas 5.) (Jan. 23, 1998)

TITANIC - * * * - Too long by at least 45 minutes, director James Cameron's romance/adventure epic - set aboard the ill-fated passenger ship - is also more passionate and thrilling than most of what we've seen lately. Things are helped enormously by stars Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet, playing doomed lovers, and the fact that almost all of the reported $200 million budget seems to have gone to the dazzling historical re-creations. Nominated for 14 Academy Awards. PG-13 (profanity, violence, nudity, vulgarity, sex). (Carmike 12, Century, Cottonwood, Crossroads, Gateway, Plaza 5400, Reel, Sandy 9.) (Dec. 19, 1997)

TOMORROW NEVER DIES - * * 1/2 - The plot is thin and the one-liners have never been so lame, but Pierce Brosnan's second outing as James Bond is still exciting in a mindless sort of way - especially because of the presence of Hong Kong action star Michelle Yeoh, who steals the picture as a Chinese spy who becomes Bond's sidekick. Co-stars Jonathan Pryce and Teri Hatcher are pretty much wasted, though. PG-13 (violence, vulgarity, sex, nudity, profanity). (Kaysville, Murray.) (Dec. 19, 1997)

TWILIGHT - * * 1/2 - Even a dream cast of veteran actors (Paul Newman, Susan Sarandon, Gene Hackman and James Garner) can't conceal the obvious flaws of writer/director Robert Benton's latest, a surprisingly crass but still lively mystery-drama set. Newman's terrific as a broken-down private investigator (Newman) trying to solve a murder/blackmail plot, though. R (violence, profanity, vulgarity, nudity, gore, sex). (Carmike 12, Century, Creekside, Flick, Gateway, Plaza 5400, Sandy 9.) (March 6, 1998)

U.S. MARSHALS - * * - There are some exciting stunts in this spinoff of the 1993 hit "The Fugitive," but they're obvious retreads of action sequences from the first film (as well as "Con Air" and others) and the plot's not up to snuff. Also, Tommy Lee Jones does a fine job reprising his role, even though Wesley Snipes isn't nearly interesting enough as the subject of his hunt. PG-13 (violence, profanity, gore, vulgarity). (Century, Cottonwood, Midvalley, Reel, South Towne, Trolley Corners, Trolley North.) (March 6, 1998)

WAG THE DOG - * * * 1/2 - As sharp a political satire as we've seen since "Bob Roberts," this wicked comedy features a dream pairing of Oscar nominee Dustin Hoffman and Robert De Niro as, respectively, a Hollywood producer and a White House "spin doctor" who create a "war" to deflect attention away from a presidential sex scandal just weeks before the election. Great performances all around and the script sparkles. R (profanity, vulgarity, violence). (Brewvies, Olympus.) (Jan. 9, 1998)

THE WEDDING SINGER - * * 1/2 - Surprising chemistry from stars Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore helps save this silly but sweet romantic comedy, set in the mid-'80s, about a struggling musician and wedding entertainer who falls in love with a waitress who's engaged to be married. PG-13 (profanity, vulgarity, violence, partial nudity). (Cottonwood, Gateway, Midvalley, Reel, South Towne, Trolley Square.) (Feb. 13, 1998)

THE WINGS OF THE DOVE - * * * 1/2 - Actresses Helena Bonham Carter and Alison Elliott are equally fabulous in this intelligent but downbeat adaptation of Henry James' novel, about a society woman (Carter) forced to chose between her status and a journalist who is a commoner (Linus Roache), until she strikes on a scheme to have him court and marry a dying rich American (Elliott). Nominated for four Academy Awards. R (nudity, sex). (Broadway.) (Nov. 21, 1997)

*****

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