Film Clips BRASSED OFF! This goofy, affable, golden-retriever of a movie trots along offering modest pleasures and no real surprises. The time is the 1980s; the place a coal-mining town in England where Margaret Thatcher's policies are forcing the closure of the pit that supports an entire community. And with it will go the brass band that's offered a small slice of glory and culture to men who spend most of their lives underground. To top it all off, a girl wants to join the band! Underground heartthrob Ewan McGregor (Trainspotting) portrays an angry young trumpet player with his usual flair, and Pete Postlethwaite does a fine job as the single-minded, ailing band leader; but Tara Fitzgerald is flimsy and annoying as the city-girl horn player Gloria. Plus, you could toss a tuba through the holes in the plot. Why doesn't the band ever turn the pages of the sheet music on the stands in front of them? --Richter

CAREER GIRLS. Mike Leigh's impressionistic portrait of the changes in the lives of two young women is sweet, refreshing, and original. When Annie (Lynda Steadman) comes to London to visit Hannah (Katrin Cartlidge), her former best friend, the two haven't seen each other since graduating from college. Their initial awkwardness fades away as the pair re-visit the site of previous betrayals and adventures; Leigh pops us back and forth in time so we can observe the changes in the character's lives. We see them in college, neurotic, full of ticks (Hannah has the annoying habit of using her hand as a talking puppet) and incessantly listening to The Cure. This alternates with footage of the two in the present, well-dressed and still slightly off-kilter, but with the grace and perspective to finally understand the confusion they'd gone through as undergraduates: Imagine Mary and Rhoda having a reunion, but with thick British accents and adult situations. What's more, the acting in this movie is wonderful--strange and natural at once. --Richter

CONSPIRACY THEORY. Who does Mel Gibson think he's fooling? In his role as a scruffy New York cab driver with an overactive suspicion gland, Gibson constantly stutters, mumbles, and acts like a coked-up manchild. It's ridiculous. Like Gibson, director Richard Donner (Lethal Weapon) can't seem to find an appropriate tone for what, in truth, is a disturbing portrait of an unhinged paranoid. Inevitably Donner gives up and makes the weird choice of directing Conspiracy Theory like just another fun-loving Mel Gibson flick. That would have worked fine for a straightforward mystery/thriller, but the film's plot makes so many sharp right turns, and heads in so many contradictory directions, you end up feeling pretty unhinged yourself. And though it's part of the movie's selling point, the developing romantic tension between Gibson and Julia Roberts (who, as a Federal agent, provides the movie's only unembarrassing performance) just seems inappropriate. --Woodruff

COP LAND. A posse of famous Hollywood actors populate this predictable tale of a small town sheriff fighting corruption in the New York City police force. Sylvester Stallone does a decent job playing Sheriff Freddy Heflin, a beer-gutted, not-so-bright lawman with a heart of gold, but it's certainly not a performance to get hot and bothered about. Ray Liotta, Harvey Keitel and Robert DeNiro all make appearances as either good guys or bad guys--there aren't many shades of gray in Cop Land, and as a consequence, somewhere in the middle all this good cop/bad cop stuff loses momentum. Writer/director James Mangold has a fascination with heroes who are total losers, but alas, he reigns it in and goes with the easy outcome. --Richter

EVENT HORIZON. Whose idea was it to set a haunted-house flick aboard a spaceship at the far reaches of the solar system? It's not a bad concept, really, but the filmmakers don't have a clue where to take it. Despite some of the best futuristic special effects and set design of the year, director Paul Anderson keeps dipping into a tired old bag of horror-movie tricks including gushing blood, scary sequences that turn out to be dreams, and vague discussions of "pure evil" that sound like even more of a cop-out when couched in science-fiction terms. The cast--which includes Laurence Fishburne, Sam Neill, and Kathleen Quinlan--couldn't be better, but you end up wishing the script gave them more to do than run around tortured by their own worst memories. It's like a bad acid-trip combination of 2001: A Space Odyssey, Hellraiser and Flatliners. Some have applauded Event Horizon as an antidote to Contact's corny feel-good view of space, but they can keep their cure--the disease was a lot less depressing. --Woodruff

PICTURE PERFECT. Jennifer Aniston plays a Madison Avenue copywriter whose boss, ludicrously, won't promote her unless he senses she's headed for the stability of marriage. When her friend solves the problem by inventing a fiancee based on a snapshot of a stranger (Jay Mohr), everything works out great--until that stranger becomes famous for saving a kid from a fire. Romantic-comedy situations ensue: Aniston hires Mohr to pretend they're a couple, Mohr falls for her, and the rest of the movie flips by like pages in a photo album full of people you don't

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