NEW FILMS FRIDAY

THE BIG HIT - Action director John Woo ("Face/Off") executive produced this black comedy/thriller, directed by his protege Kirk Wong ("Police Story") and starring Mark Wahlberg as a hit man on the run after after being framed from kidnapping his employer's goddaughter. Reviewed in this section on Page W5. R (violence, profanity, vulgarity, gore, nudity, attempted rape). (Century, Creekside, Gateway, Plaza 5400; Redwood, with "Wild Things"; South Towne, Trolley Corners.)

KURT AND COURTNEY - Controversial documentary that was pulled from the 1998 Sundance Film Festival schedule at the last minute, concentrating on the ill-fated relationship between musicians Kurt Cobain and Courtney Love. Jeff Vice interviews writer/director Nick Broomfield on Page W1. Reviewed in this section on Page W3. Not rated, probable R (profanity, nude photos, vulgarity, violence, brief gore) (Exclusive, Tower.)

MEN WITH GUNS - Writer/director John Sayles' followup to the acclaimed "Lone Star" is this drama about a big city doctor who journeys to the dangerous jungles of Latin America to find several of his former students. In Spanish and English, with English subtitles. Reviewed in this section on Page W9. R (violence, profanity, gore, vulgarity). (Exclusive, Broadway.)

SLIDING DOORS - The opening night selection of the 1998 Sundance Film Festival, this variation on "It's a Wonderful Life" follows what happens when a young woman (Gwyneth Paltrow) misses a London subway train, as well as what happens when she makes it to the train station on time. Reviewed in this section on Page W9. R (profanity, vulgarity, sex, brief partial nudity, violence). (Exclusive, Trolley Square.)

TARZAN AND THE LOST CITY - Casper Van Dien ("Starship Troopers") stars as Edgar Rice Burroughs' legendary apeman in this adventure, which pits him against a mysterious tribe with mystical powers. Jane March ("The Color of Night") co-stars as his love interest. Not screened for critics; to be reviewed in Sunday's Arts pages. PG (violence, partial nudity). (Century, Creekside, Crossroads, Gateway, Midvalley; Redwood, with "Major League: Back to the Minors"; Reel, South Towne.)

TWO GIRLS AND A GUY - Love-triangle drama starring Heather Graham ("Boogie Nights") and Natasha Gregson Wagner (daughter of late actress Natalie Wood) as two women who accidentally discover that they're "sharing" the same boyfriend (Robert Downey Jr.). Reviewed in this section on Page W8. R (profanity, sex, vulgarity, violence, gore). (Exclusive, Broadway.)

RE-RELEASES

GREASE - * * * - John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John are a mismatched high school couple in this energetic (and raunchy) 1978 adaptation of the stage hit about life in the '50s, with terrific dance numbers and amusing songs. Stockard Channing steals the show as bad-girl Rizzo. All three leads are far too old to play adolescents, and the ending sends a questionable message, but it's still a lot of fun. This 20th-anniversary reissue features digitally remastered sound. PG (profanity, vulgarity). (Carmike 12, Flick, Olympus, Plaza 5400; Redwood, with "City of Angels"; Sandy 9.) - Chris Hicks

CONTINUING FILMS

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 slave ship 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). (Kaysville.) (Dec. 12, 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.) (Nov. 21, 1997)

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 Oscar winner Jack Nicholson as a tactless romance novelist. Greg Kinnear is surprisingly subtle as a gay artist, but Oscar winner Helen Hunt is miscast as Nicholson's romantic foil. PG-13 (profanity, vulgarity, nudity, violence, racial epithets). (Gateway, Holladay, Midvalley; Redwood, with "Titanic"; South Towne, Trolley Corners.) (Dec. 26, 1997)

BARNEY'S GREAT ADVENTURE: THE MOVIE - * * 1/2 - Childless adults will find many reasons to run and hide and older kids will scoff, but this musical/comedy based on the PBS television show is a charming celebration of imagination. It helps that the movie gives the naysayers a voice. Featuring original songs written by Broadway composer Jerry Herman ("Hello Dolly," "Mame"). G. (Cottonwood, Midvalley, South Towne.) (April 3, 1998) - Robert Philpot, Fort-Worth Star-Telegram

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). (Brewvies.) (March 6, 1998)

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). (Cinemas 5, Kaysville, Olympus.) (Feb. 13, 1998)

CITY OF ANGELS - * * * - Loosely based on the 1987 art-house film "Wings of Desire," this romantic drama/fantasy stars Nicolas Cage as an angel who's torn between duty and the love of a heart surgeon (Meg Ryan). The story's fine until things take a turn towards weepy melodrama. Fine performance from Cage and Ryan, as well as co-stars Dennis Franz and Andre Braugher, though. PG-13 (profanity, violence, sex, nudity, hospital gore, vulgarity). (Broadway, Carmike 12, Century, Gateway, Holladay, Plaza 5400; Redwood, with "Grease"; Reel, Sandy 9.) (April 10, 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). (Valley Fair.) (Nov. 26, 1997)

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 Oscar winner Robin Williams, playing a down-on-his-luck college professor) as part of his parole. Damon and co-star Ben Affleck also wrote the Academy Award-winning screenplay. R (profanity, vulgarity, violence, sex, nude paintings, racial epithets). (Holladay, Midvalley, South Towne, Trolley Square.) (Dec. 26, 1997)

HARD RAIN - * 1/2 - A tense beginning and some decent acting (especially from Morgan Freeman) gets swamped by dumb character and plot developments in this long-delayed action thriller, originally titled "The Flood," about an armored-car guard (Christian Slater) trying to protect a cash shipment from robbers and a crooked sheriff (Randy Quaid) during a disastrous rainstorm. R (violence, profanity, gore, vulgarity, attempted rape). (Sugar House.) (Jan. 16, 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 moneys. Awful, with inappropriate sexual humor and other crass gags. PG-13 (vulgarity, violence, profanity). (Sugar House, Valley Fair.) (Feb. 27, 1998)

KUNDUN - * * - More like a series of beautiful snapshots than a compelling motion picture, director Martin Scorsese's dramatization of the life of the Dalai Lama, from his early childhood to his exile from Tibet, just skims the surface and is never involving enough. Some dazzling cinematography and a great Philip Glass score, though. PG-13 (violence, gore). (Avalon.) (Jan. 16, 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 Oscar winner Kim Basinger, Kevin Spacey and Danny DeVito, certainly helps. R (violence, gore, profanity, nudity, rape, drug use, racial epithets). (Sandy Starships, Sugar House, Valley Fair.) (Sept. 19, 1997)

LOST IN SPACE - * * 1/2 - Neither as good nor as bad as you might think, this big-screen version of the cult '60s television series, a science-fiction take on "Swiss Family Robinson," is decent if unexceptional eye-candy. However, things bog down in the second half, with a time-travel storyline that makes no sense. PG-13 (violence, gore, profanity, vulgarity). (Carmike 12, Century, Cottonwood, Gateway, Midvalley; Redwood, with "The Wedding Singer"; Reel, Sandy 9, Trolley Corners.) (April 3, 1998)

MAJOR LEAGUE: BACK TO THE MINORS - * * - Not as bad as you might think, but certainly not as funny as the original, the third installment of the "Major League" series stars Scott Bakula as a former big leaguer who's given a chance to manage a minor-league team. Watch for authentic Salt Lake Buzz uniforms, even though the movie wasn't filmed or set in Utah. PG-13 (profanity, vulgarity, violence). (Century, Creekside, Crossroads, Midvalley; Redwood, with "Tarzan and the Lost City"; Reel, Sandy 9, Trolley North.) (April 19, 1998)

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). (Creekside, Midvalley, South Towne.) (March 13, 1998)

MERCURY RISING - * 1/2 - Call this by-the-numbers Bruce Willis thriller "Who's Trying to Kill Gilbert Grape?" In it, he plays an outcast FBI agent hired to protect a 9-year-old autistic savant who's accidentally cracked a top-secret governmental military code. Not nearly exciting enough, and the plot is so ludicrous it's laughable. R (violence, profanity, vulgarity). (Crossroads, Holladay, Midvalley; Redwood, with "Species II"; South Towne, Trolley North.) (April 3, 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 multi-million-dollar mansion. Too mean-spirited and far too vulgar for a "children's" film. PG (violence, vulgarity, brief partial nudity). (Kaysville, Sandy Starships, Sugar House, Valley Fair.) (Dec. 19, 1997)

MR. NICE GUY - * * - Action star Jackie Chan's newest, a martial-arts comedy about a TV chef accidentally dragged into a turf war between a motorcycle gang and a drug lord, almost lives up to its advertised promise of having "more action than the last three Jackie Chan films combined." But its plot is too thin, the acting is abominable and the ending is pretty dull, frankly. PG-13 (violence, vulgarity, profanity, nude artwork). (Brewvies, Cinemas 5.) (March 20, 1998)

MRS. BROWN - * * * - Restrained version of one of history's most unusual relationships, between a Scottish horse-riding coach (Billy Connolly) and Queen Victoria (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). (Kaysville.) (Aug. 1, 1997)

MY GIANT - * * - There's yet another smug turn by Billy Crystal in this unfunny comedy, which stars Crystal as a third-rate talent agent who accidentally discovers a new star, a 7-foot-plus, Shakespeare-quoting monastery caretaker (Gheorghe Muresan, from the NBA Washington Wizards), while in Europe. Things are also marred by a vulgar vomiting gag. PG (profanity, vulgarity, violence). (Gateway, Holladay, Midvalley, Sandy 9.) (April 10, 1998)

NEIL SIMON'S THE ODD COUPLE II - * * - Call this badly thought-out sequel, which brings neat freak Felix Ungar (Jack Lemmon) and slob Oscar Madison (Walter Matthau) back together for the wedding of the children, "The Grumpy Old Odd Couple." Matthau actually brings some life to the lame script, but Lemmon is annoying and the duo's road adventures are pretty lame. PG-13 (profanity, vulgarity, violence). (Broadway, Carmike 12, Century, Cottonwood, Gateway, Plaza 5400, Reel, Sandy 9.)(April 10, 1998)

THE NEWTON BOYS - * * * - Star power helps bail out this uneven but factually based drama from writer/director Richard Linklater ("Before Sunrise") about four brothers (Matthew McConaughey, Ethan Hawke, Skeet Ulrich and Vincent D'Onofrio) who became the most successful bank robbers in U.S. history. Well-placed humor doesn't hurt either. PG-13 (violence, profanity, vulgarity, gore, torture, brief nudity). (Cinemas 5.) (March 27, 1998)

NIGHTWATCH - * 1/2 - This long-delayed thriller, a gory, disgusting remake of a low-budget thriller that was originally shown at the 1995 Sundance Film Festival, didn't deserve to see the light of day. A good cast (which includes Ewan McGregor, Patricia Arquette and Josh Brolin) is wasted as the filmmakers emphasize gore over atmosphere. R (violence, gore, profanity, nudity, vulgarity, sex, drug use). (Exclusive, Broadway.) (April 17, 1998)

THE OBJECT OF MY AFFECTION - * * 1/2 - Not the romantic comedy the ads make it appear to be, this uneven comedy/drama stars Jennifer Aniston as a pregnant crisis counselor who asks her gay roommate (Paul Rudd) to raise the child with her and winds up falling for him. A stellar supporting cast (including Alan Alda and Nigel Hawthorne) helps elevate the material. R (profanity, vulgarity, violence, drug use). (Broadway, Carmike 12, Century, Holladay, Midvalley, Sandy 9.) (April 17, 1998)

PAULIE - * * * - Here's the year's most pleasant surprise to date: a charming kids comedy about the title character, a parrot who learns to speak and comprehend the human language and who yearns to be reunited with his original owner. A great cast of human co-stars (Tony Shalhoub, Gena Rowlands and Cheech Marin) certainly doesn't hurt. Jay Mohr, from "Jerry Maguire," lends his voice to the character. PG (profanity). (Gateway, Midvalley, South Towne, Trolley Square, Villa.) (April 17, 1998)

PRIMARY COLORS - * * - Proof that you can't judge a film by its casting, this political satire/drama (based on the best-seller by "Anonymous") suffers because it relies too heavily on John Travolta's unsuccessful Clinton impression and because of some very uneven pacing. It's also far too heavy-handed. The supporting cast (Adrian Lester, Billy Bob Thornton and Kathy Bates) almost makes it work, though. R (profanity, vulgarity, violence, racial epithets, brief partial nudity). (Holladay, Trolley Corners.) (March 20, 1998)

THE REPLACEMENT KILLERS - * * * - It's definitely not brain fodder, but Hong Kong action star Chow Yun-Fat's U.S. feature film debut is a brisk-moving, exciting action-thriller about an assassin who discovers he has a conscience and winds up running from his former employers when he fails to execute a detective's son. And co-star Mira Sorvino has fun as his unwilling sidekick. R (violence, gore, profanity, vulgarity). (Sugar House, Valley Fair.) (Feb. 6, 1998)

SCREAM 2 - * * - There are some very funny comedic moments in this sequel to 1996's surprise hit slasher/comedy, which picks up the story two years later and brings back surviving stars Neve Campbell, David Arquette and Courteney Cox). But the killings this time around are more gruesome and not nearly as clever as screenwriter Kevin Williamson intended. Still, the film-within-a-film parody of the first movie almost makes things worth it. R (violence, gore, profanity, vulgarity). (Holladay, Midvalley, Sandy 9, Trolley North, Trolley Square.) (Dec. 12, 1997)

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). (Sugar House, Valley Fair.) (Feb. 20, 1998)

SPECIES II - Actually worse than the original, 1995' surprise hit, this sickening but at times laughable science-fiction/thriller reunites cast members Michael Madsen, Natasha Henstridge and Marg Helgenberger, as they try to track down a murderous astronaut "infected" with alien DNA. R (gore, violence, sex, nudity, profanity, attempted rape, vulgarity). (Century, Midvalley; Redwood, with "Mercury Rising"; Sandy 9, Trolley Square.) (April 12, 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). (Sugar House, Valley Fair.) (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). (Sugar House, Valley Fair.) (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. Winner of 11 Academy Awards. PG-13 (profanity, violence, nudity, vulgarity, sex). (Carmike 12, Century, Cottonwood, Crossroads, Gateway, Plaza 5400; Redwood, with "As Good as It Gets"; 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). (Sandy Starships, Sugar House, Valley Fair.) (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 in Hollywood. Newman's terrific as a broken-down private investigator trying to solve a murder/blackmail plot, though. R (violence, profanity, vulgarity, nudity, gore, sex). (Sugar House, Valley Fair.) (March 6, 1998)

UNDERGROUND - * * * - Far too long and way too self-indulgent, this 1995 Cannes International Film Festival award-winner is also passionate and extremely entertaining at times. The wartime comedy/drama follows the rise and fall of the former Yugoslavian republic, beginning in the World War II era with the story of some Balkan Communists hiding from the war in a subterranean bunker. In Serbo-Croatian, with English subtitles. Not rated, probable R (profanity, violence, sex, nudity, torture, vulgarity, drug use). (Exclusive, Tower.) (April 17, 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). (Midvalley, Murray, Olympus, South Towne, 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 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). (Kaysville, Sugar House.) (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). (Brewvies, Cinemas 5, Cottonwood; Redwood, with "Lost in Space"; South Towne.) (Feb. 13, 1998)

WILD THINGS - * - You can purposely make your movies trashy but you can't make audiences watch them! This blackly comic mystery/thriller about two high school students (Neve Campbell and Denise Richards) who falsely accuse their school counselor (Matt Dillon) of rape, tries to be Grade-A cheese but is spoiled by atrocious acting and lurid plotting. Bill Murray is a hoot as a shyster lawyer, however. R (violence, profanity, vulgarity, nudity, sex, drug use, gore). (Cinemas 5; Redwood, with "The Big Hit.") (March 20, 1998)

Past movie reviews and capsules by Chris Hicks and Jeff Vice are available online. Search for MOVIES.