THE AGE OF INNOCENCE is Martin Scorsese's...


THE AGE OF INNOCENCE is Martin Scorsese's sumptuous take on the Edith Wharton novel, with a stellar cast including Michelle Pfeiffer, Daniel Day-Lewis and Winona Ryder. All three are excellent in a muted patrician drama about a young man who, engaged to the right woman, falls in love with the wrong woman. Society decides this cannot be, and moves swiftly to end the apostasy. *** 1/2 . PG-13.

THE BEVERLY HILLBILLIES is an amiable tribute to the old '60s TV show, re-creating the spirit of the original with amazing fidelity. Jim Varney makes a surprisingly attractive Jed Clampett, Cloris Leachman is a terrific Granny, but best of all is Lily Tomlin as Nancy Culp's immortally prissy and efficient Miss Hathaway. The story isn't much, but the thing is quite funny all the way through. ***. PG.

A BRONX TALE features Robert De Niro as a good Bronx father trying to woo his own son away from the dark attractions of a charismatic mobster named Sonny, played sleekly by screenwriter-actor Chazz Palminteri. ** 1/2 . R

DEMOLITION MAN uses a familiar formula: iconoclast hero, deranged villain, lots of gunplay, things going boom and acres and acres of well-defined musculature. The crime free America of 2032 is being terrorized by psycho criminal Simon Phoenix (Wesley Snipes) who escaped from a "cryo-prison." Sylvester Stallone is the good cop John Spartan. (Steve McKerrow) **. R.

FATAL INSTINCT is a joke-dense parody of lurid sexual mysteries like "Fatal Attraction" and "Basic Instinct." This kind of thing has already been done, and better; it's also been done worse. ** 1/2 . PG-13.

FEARLESS is about the survivor of a plane crash who may have been helped by more than a seatbelt. Jeff Bridges stars as the hero of the cornfield pancake landing that left hundreds dead, but . . . is he an angel? ** 1/2 . R.

GETTYSBURG, a re-creation of the battle of Gettysburg, is more like the invasion of Grenada: a huge, sprawling mess. But, like Grenada, it is redeemed now and then by grace notes of courage and sacrifice. ** 1/2 . PG.

THE JOY LUCK CLUB is an honorable recapitulation of Amy Tan's novel about four Chinese mothers, immigrants all, and their four American daughters. As it crams in no less than eight life stories, it tends to illustrate rather than dramatize. ***. PG-13.

JUDGMENT NIGHT is generic thriller-making, about suburbanites who tick off the bad city boys and have to flee for their lives across a desolate Chicago nightscape. It's pitifully underimagined, and without a single surprise. * 1/2 . R.

MALICE is a sleek, professional and largely unpredictable thriller about a naive academic, his tough wife and a surgeon who may be a serial rapist -- all living under the same roof in a sleepy New England town. It takes you through some dazzling turns before it lets you go, and the performances by Bill Pullman, Nicole Kidman and Alec Baldwin are first-rate. ***. R.

MR. JONES is another in an endless litany of Hollywood films that hopelessly sentimentalizes the cruel condition known as mental illness and holds that somehow the "touched" are more pure. Richard Gere executive-produces as well as stars, and he gets to paint all the colors of the rainbow. **. R.

MR. WONDERFUL is one of those romantic comedies set in working-class New York in which ex-husband Matt Dillon is trying to find the fellow of the title for Annabella Sciorra so that he can stop paying her alimony and invest in a bowling alley. The milieu is Italian, of "Moonstruck" and such, with a lot of ethnic humor, but neither of the romantic principals is particularly attractive and the whole thing is slow. ** PG-13.

THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS is short and dazzling, a stop-motion cartoon of unbelievable sophistication and refinement. It follows as Jack Skellington, the King of Halloweentown, decides to co-opt Christmas, kidnap Santa and deliver his own -- heh heh heh -- presents to the little darlings. Weird creatures assist him, but an evil scientist turns things nasty and Jack has to become a hero to save the day. ***. PG.

RUDY celebrates a young man who played the position of tackling dummy on the Notre Dame fodder squad for a couple of years, and it views this non-accomplishment as somehow heroic. Sean Astin gives Rudy no inner life or perspective and he doesn't learn a thing through his brutalization. **. PG.

SHORT CUTS is the shortest 3-hour movie on record. Robert Altman adapts a series of Raymond Carver short stories into one seamless tapestry as he takes us into the lives of 22 relatively normal Los Angelenos. And, boy, is "normal" ever a relative term. What he finds is misery and hope, confusion and despair, and sex and death. An amazement. *** 1/2 . R.

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