NEW FILMS FRIDAY

ALMOST HEROES - Late comedian Chris Farley's final film is this cross-country comedy about two bumbling explorers (Farley and Matthew Perry, from TV's "Friends") who try to blaze a new path through the unknown wilds of the Louisiana Purchase. Not screened for critics; to be reviewed in Sunday's Arts pages. PG-13 (vulgarity, violence, nudity). (Century, Gateway, Holladay, Plaza 5400; Redwood, with "Quest for Camelot"; Reel, South Towne, Trolley Square.)

HOPE FLOATS - A change of pace for Sandra Bullock, who stars in this comedy/drama as a single mother who discovers love and acceptance when she is forced to retreat to her rural Texas hometown and move back in with her mother (Gena Rowlands). Reviewed on Page W12. PG-13 (violence, vulgarity, profanity) (Broadway, Carmike 12, Century, Creekside, Gateway, Midvalley; Redwood, with "The Newton Boys"; Reel, Sandy 9.)

I GOT THE HOOK-UP - An urban comedy starring rapper Master P (who also executive produced the film and co-wrote the script) and comic A.J. Johnson as con artists who make a killing by selling stolen cellular phones out of the back of their van. Reviewed in this page. R (profanity, violence, vulgarity, partial nudity, sex, racial epithets, drug use). (Midvalley, Trolley Square.)

WOO - Jada Pinkett Smith plays the title character, a drop-dead beauty who winds up on a blind date with a straight-laced law clerk (Tommy Davidson, from "Booty Call") in this urban sex comedy, which also features comedian Dave Chappelle and rapper LL Cool J. Reviewed on Page W12. R (sex, vulgarity, violence, profanity, racial epithets). (Exclusive, Midvalley.)

SNEAK PREVIEWS

A PERFECT MURDER - Inspired by the stage play and film "Dial M For Murder," this thriller stars Gwyneth Paltrow as the young wife of a millionaire industrialist (Michael Douglas) who is trying to kill her. To be reviewed when it opens next week. R (violence, sex, nudity, profanity). (Saturday: Broadway, South Towne.)

SPECIAL SCREENINGS

THE CHARLIE CHAPLIN COLLECTION - A touring retrospective of some of Chaplin's most enduring feature-length and short film works, which is playing for the next two weeks at the Tower Theatre in Salt Lake City. This week's selections include 1931's "City Lights" (May 29-31), 1925's "The Gold Rush" (May 29-30), 1928's "The Circus" (June 1-2) and 1923's "A Woman of Paris" (June 2-4) as well as the accompanying shorts "Pay Day" (1922), "The Idle Class" (1921), "A Day's Pleasure" (1919) and "Sunny Side" (1919). (Tower, through June 11.)

RUBIN AND ED - * * - Utah filmmaker Trent Harris ("Plan 10 From Outer Space") wrote and directed this oddball comedy about two dimwits (Crispin Glover, Howard Hesseman) lost in the desert with a frozen, rapidly thawing dead cat. Some funny moments, but very eccentric. Filmed in Salt Lake City and Hanksville. PG-13 (mild violence, profanity). (Tower, May 29-31.) (May 22, 1992) - Chris Hicks

CONTINUING FILMS

THE APOSTLE - * * * 1/2 - Robert Duvall's long-overdue third film as a director is this drama about a disgraced preacher (Duvall) 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). (Carmike 12.) (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 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). (Kaysville, Sandy Starships, Sugar House.) (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. (Kaysville, Sugar House, Valley Fair.) (April 3, 1998) - Robert Philpot, Fort-Worth Star-Telegram

BLACK DOG - * - Try to imagine "Smokey and the Bandit" played for thrills and you might get an impression of what this silly action picture is all about. And pity poor Patrick Swayze, who's out-acted by musician Randy Travis, as the two play truckers duped into becoming illegal gunrunners. PG-13 (violence, profanity, gore, vulgarity). (Cinemas 5.) (May 3, 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). (Valley Fair.) (Feb. 13, 1998)

BULWORTH - * * - More offensive than it is funny, this extremely inconsistent political parable stars Warren Beatty (who also co-wrote and directed the film) as a depressed U.S. senator who hires a hitman to kill him but who soon rises to prominence because of his truthful stances. A few inspired moments, but Beatty's white-boy rapping is excruciating and the ending is unbelievably tasteless. R (profanity, vulgarity, drug use, violence, gore, racial epithets, nude artwork). (Century, Holladay, Midvalley, South Towne, Trolley North, Trolley Square.) (May 22, 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, Gateway, Holladay, Plaza 5400; Redwood, with "Titanic"; Sandy 9.) (April 10, 1998)

DEEP IMPACT - * * - Possibly the dullest disaster film ever made, this all-talk-and-no-action flick wastes an all-star cast - including Robert Duvall, Tea Leoni, Morgan Freeman and Elijah Wood, who try to survive when scientists discover that a huge comet is on a collision course with the Earth. Not worth sticking around for the 10 minutes worth of destruction, frankly. PG-13 (profanity, violence). (Carmike 12, Century, Cottonwood, Crossroads, Gateway, Plaza 5400; Redwood, with "Neil Simon's The Odd Couple II"; Reel, Sandy 9.) (May 8, 1998)

FEAR AND LOATHING IN LAS VEGAS - * 1/2 - Imagine trying to spend two hours in Las Vegas with "gonzo" journalist Hunter S. Thompson and you might get an idea of what this drug-culture comedy, based on the infamous novel, is like. Painfully unfunny, though director Terry Gilliam's warped visual style and Johnny Depp's spot-on Thompson impression are momentarily diverting. R (profanity, drug use, vulgarity, violence, nudity, gore, racial epithets). (Crossroads, Holladay, Midvalley, Sandy 9.) (May 22, 1998)

GODZILLA - * * - Despite the awesome computer graphics-created title character, which rampages through Manhattan rather than Tokyo this time, this sci-fi/thriller from the "Independence Day" filmmaking team is a too-transparent ripoff of the "Jurassic Park" movies. Kids will probably love it, but adults may find themselves wanting better-developed characters and situations. A few thrills and a couple of chuckles, but on whole pretty disappointing. PG-13 (violence, profanity). (Century, Cottonwood, Gateway, Midvalley; Redwood, on two screens with either "Men in Black" or "Scream 2"; Reel, South Towne, Trolley Corners.) (May 20, 1998)

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). (Brewvies, Cinemas 5.) (Dec. 26, 1997)

HE GOT GAME - * * * - It wouldn't be a Spike Lee film if it weren't too long and extremely self indulgent, but the writer/director's latest features strong performances from Denzel Washington, as a prisoner who is temporarily paroled, and Ray Allen (from the NBA Milwaukee Bucks), playing his estranged son, a talented high school basketball player. R (profanity, vulgarity, sex, nudity, racial epithets, violence, drug use). (Carmike 12.) (May 1, 1998)

THE HORSE WHISPERER - * * * * - A case of the movie actually being better than the book, Robert Redford's long-anticipated adaptation of the Nicholas Evans best-seller stars Redford as a horse trainer who helps heal a wounded animal, as well as its young rider and her mother (Kristin Scott Thomas, from "The English Patient"). Wonderfully low-key, with superb photography that makes great use of the beautiful Montana scenery. PG-13 (profanity, violence, gore). (Broadway, Gateway, Plaza 5400, Reel, South Towne, Villa.) (May 15, 1998)

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). (Sugar House, Valley Fair.) (March 6, 1998)

LES MISERABLES - * * * - This dramatic, not musical, adaptation of Victor Hugo's classic novel suffers from choppy pacing (due to studio-mandated cuts) and a lack of necessary melodrama. Still, the performances by Liam Neeson and "Shine's" Geoffrey Rush, as longtime antagonists Jean Valjean and Inspector Javert, are superb, as is Uma Thurman, playing the doomed Fantine. PG-13 (violence, gore, partial nudity, profanity, vulgarity). (Carmike 12, Creekside, Midvalley, Sandy 9, Trolley North.) (May 1, 1998)

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, Olympus.) (April 3, 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 dimwitted 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). (Cinemas 5.) (March 13, 1998)

MEN IN BLACK - * * * - There are a few uneven moments, but this sci-fi/thriller comedy from the director of "The Addams Family" and "Get Shorty" is pretty amusing. In it, two dark-suited security agents (Will Smith and the scene-stealing Tommy Lee Jones) must stop an intergalactic terrorist from stealing a galaxy. Great special effects and audacious sight gags certainly help, but most of them have already been given away by the movie trailers. PG-13 (violence, profanity, gore, vulgarity). (Redwood, with "Godzilla.") (July 3, 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). (Kaysville, Sugar House, Valley Fair.) (April 3, 1998)

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

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). (Kaysville.) (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 weak script, but Lemmon is annoying and the duo's road adventures are pretty lame. PG-13 (profanity, vulgarity, violence). (Redwood, with "Deep Impact.") (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). (Redwood, with "Hope Floats.") (March 27, 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). (Carmike 12, Cinemas 5.) (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). (Carmike 12, Cinemas 5, Olympus.) (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). (Brewvies, Sandy Starships, Sugar House.) (March 20, 1998)

QUEST FOR CAMELOT - * * - Flat animation and unmemorable songs are just several of the many problems facing this dull animated musical, a feminist revision of the King Arthur legends that's based on a famous fantasy novel. In it, the daughter of a slain knight and a blind warrior, who try to recover King Arthur's mystical sword, Excalibur. Deadly dull. G (animated violence). (Broadway, Creekside, Midvalley; Redwood, with "Almost Heroes"; South Towne, Trolley North.) (May 15, 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). (Brewvies, Redwood, with "Godzilla"; Sugar House, Valley Fair.) (Dec. 12, 1997)

SLIDING DOORS - * * - A lack of chemistry between the leads seriously hampers this uneven comedy/fantasy, a variation on "It's a Wonderful Life," which follows what happens when a young woman (Gwyneth Paltrow, sporting a bad British accent) misses a London subway train, as well as what happens when she makes it to the train station on time. PG-13 (profanity, vulgarity, sex, brief partial nudity, violence). (Holladay, South Towne, Trolley Square.) (April 24, 1998)

THE SPANISH PRISONER - * * - Proof that playwrights don't necessarily make good filmmakers, this low-key thriller from David Mamet ("Oleanna") features clever plotting and decent pacing, but irritatingly robotic acting that robs it of life. Campbell Scott is at his most wooden, playing a young businessman unsure of whom to trust after he invents a revolutionary business strategy. PG (violence, profanity, gore, racial epithets). (Broadway, Sandy 9.) (May 8, 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). (Sugar House, Valley Fair.) (April 12, 1998)

TARZAN AND THE LOST CITY - turkey - If not for the 1981 soft-core Bo Derek picture "Tarzan the Ape Man," this laughable adventure film, starring Casper Van Dien ("Starship Troopers") as Edgar Rice Burroughs' most famous character, would probably be the worst Tarzan movie in existence. Poorly acted, with cheesy dialogue and special effects. PG (violence, partial nudity, mild profanity). (Sugar House, Valley Fair.) (April 26, 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, Olympus, Plaza 5400; Redwood, with "City of Angels"; Sandy 9.) (Dec. 19, 1997)

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). (Kaysville, Sandy Starships, Sugar House, Valley Fair.) (March 6, 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). (Kaysville, Sandy Starships, Sugar House, Valley Fair.) (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). (Valley Fair.) (March 20, 1998)

*****

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