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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Summer Films Heading for Moscow VCRs

Living in Moscow may mean missing the latest Hollywood movies, but it doesn't mean you can't be up-to-date on summer's biggest flicks. Here are capsule reviews of recent releases, many of which you can expect to see on video in the near future.


The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. A gaudy and bawdy tale of a trio of drag performers trekking across the Australian outback to perform in the middle of nowhere. At its best when those outrageous performers are either talking trash or dancing up a storm, the Stephan Elliott film is helped by a fine performance by Terence Stamp and hampered by a sizable strain of conventional sentimentality.


Airheads. Director Michael Lehmann shrugs off "Hudson Hawk" and offers up this wacky comedy concerning three metalheads who take a radio station hostage to get their record on the air. Brendan Fraser, Steve Buscemi, Adam Sandler and Chris Farley star.


Angels in the Outfield. This Disney remake of a 1951 MGM baseball fantasia is best when its goofy, worst when it's preachy. The 11-year-old Roger (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) sees angels where nobody else can. They help drive his favorite ball club, the California Angels, to pennant contention. Danny Glover stars as the Angels' gruff but -- natch -- kindly manager who begins to see things Roger's way. Enjoyable but uninspired.


Babyfever. "For those who hear their clock ticking ..." That would be the entire audience after two unrelenting hours of procreation talk. This filmic baby shower from women's best friend Henry Jaglom is so packed with improvising actresses (there are dozens) that it's a remarkably compleatist documentary on infant morality in the '90s. But it's way too formless -- all the way to its diapers-ex-machina ending -- to count much as drama. Jaglom's wife, Victoria Foyt, is good enough in the lead to be the rare "auteur" spouse you actually want to see more of in a movie.


Baby's Day Out. This John Hughes production has some good crude laughs and special-effects inventiveness but the cruelty at its heart -- it's about a kidnapped baby at large in Chicago -- may be hard for some audiences to swallow. Joe Mantegna heads a trio of bumbling abductors.


Belle Epoque. Fernando Trueba's Oscar-winning film captures a sunny yet fleeting moment in 1932 Spain, an interlude of unconscious freedom and joy as the monarchy fades and the republic is born. The setting is a rural community dominated by the open-minded Don Manolo (Fernando Fernan Gomez), whose four attractive daughters beguile a handsome young army deserter (Juan Sanz).


Beverly Hills Cop III. An attempt to cynically recycle the elements of the earlier Beverly Hills Cop movies. It's less funny and far more gratuitously violent than its predecessors. Eddie Murphy is once again Axel Foley; he seems more interested in trying to be a standard-issue action-movie hunk.


Black Beauty. "Edward Scissorhands" scribe Caroline Thompson writes and directs her version of the Anna Sewell classic. Sean Bean and David Thewlis show us a time when horses were an integral part of people's lives.


Blown Away. Much worse than it should have been. Jeff Bridges is a Boston bomb squad expert and Tommy Lee Jones is his old IRA crony who is now trying to explode him. Hyperbolic and unbelievable. See "Speed" instead.


City Slickers II: The Legend of Curly's Gold. Dismal sequel to "City Slickers," with Billy Crystal and Daniel Stern recapping their roles; Jack Palance stars as Curly's twin, and he's once again a joy. The plot has something to do with finding a hidden treasure but it's really about movie actors play-acting cowboys.


Clear and Present Danger. Harrison Ford strikes again as CIA analyst Jack Ryan in the summer's most satisfying movie experience. Easily the best and most tightly wound of the three Tom Clancy novels brought to the screen, notable for the intricacy of its U.S. vs. Colombian drug lords plot and the nuances its actors bring to characterization.


The Client. Not particularly nuanced or finely tuned, this latest John Grisham novel to reach the screen benefits from fine starring performances from Susan Sarandon and Tommy Lee Jones. Though much of what is seen isn't particularly convincing, its story of an 11-year-old boy in mortal danger from the mob does have the trademark Grisham quality of making us care how it all turns out.


Crooklyn. Though the story of an African-American family in 1970s Brooklyn is based in part on director-cowriter Spike Lee's own experience growing up, the film that resulted, despite some moments of emotional connection, is more aimless than involving.


The Crow. The only reason for a grown person to see this hyper-violent doom-and-gloom comic strip adaptation is for the late Brandon Lee's charismatic presence. As the murdered rock guitarist who comes back to life for vengeance, Lee has a kinetic power. Otherwise, this film will probably be a hit with tortured male adolescents.


Forrest Gump. Director Robert Zemeckis uses the story of a holy fool whose IQ of 75 doesn't stop him from succeeding in life as a way to examine the turbulent recent decades of American history through a genially cracked lens. In part a lovely piece of work, with marvelous special effects and a solid performance from Tom Hanks, it stumbles when it forces its charm in search of obvious sentimentality and grand points about society.


Four Weddings and a Funeral. A cheerful and witty bit of business that belies its no-nonsense title, the latest from director Mike Newell ("Enchanted April") provides the kind of sly pleasure typical of British comedy at its best. Hugh Grant stars as a marriage-shy young man who keeps running into the very eligible Andie MacDowell at wedding after wedding.


I Love Trouble. An undistinguished stab at the kind of romantic thriller Alfred Hitchcock used to excel at. Julia Roberts and Nick Nolte star as rascally newspaper reporters with eyes for each other as well as the same big story, but even their star power can't compensate for inept thrills and a lack of panache to the dialogue.


It Could Happen to You. Slight but charming comedy about a cop, played by Nicolas Cage, who gives half his $4 million lottery earnings to a waitress, played by Bridget Fonda because he promised her a tip (sort of). These two New Yorkers are so essentially good that their romance turns the film into a fable -- a lot less sappy than "Sleepless in Seattle." As Cage's wife, Rosie Perez does her chatterbox thing. Andrew Bergman directed with grace, if not much pizzaz.


The Lion King. The sidekicks steal the show in this latest animated extravaganza from Disney. From a trio of laughing hyenas to a hysterical warthog-meerkat combination, they provide the energy and enthusiasm that the film's nominal center, the story of a young cub's growth to adulthood after the (parents take note) on-screen death of his father, cannot manage.


Little Buddha. Director Bernardo Bertolucci's latest combines a modern story about Tibetan monks looking for their reincarnated master with an idealized travelogue on the life of the Buddha and comes up with the most elaborate and expensive After School Special ever.


Maverick. High-priced crowd-pleaser that reaches for Feel Good and settles for Feel OK. Mel Gibson stars as Maverick, the spineless, jaunty gambler first seen in the ABC-TV series, and he's exhaustingly sporty. Jodie Foster and James Garner co-star.


North. Normally a shrewd judge of what audiences like, director Rob Reiner's instincts have led him astray in this feeble fantasy about an 11-year-old boy who decides he's too good for his parents and sets out to look for some new ones. As misbegotten as another project that spent years on a director's back burner, Barry Levinson's "Toys."


The Shadow. Like its crime-fighting namesake, this action adventure film about a battle to save the world from a mad genius has to contend with the evil inside itself. Though blessed with excellent production design and special effects, these virtues are continually squandered and undercut by a feeble script filled with flat witticisms.


Speed. A crackerjack action film with an intriguing premise: SWAT team stalwart Keanu Reeves must keep a Santa Monica bus from slowing down or it will explode. Though the drama is not to brag about, first-time director Jan De Bont displays a true flair for action. Nothing here hasn't been done before, but De Bont and company make it feel fresh and exciting.


True Lies. Writer-director James Cameron certainly knows a lot about action, and the stunts in this Arnold Schwarzenegger epic about a secret agent whose work is a secret to his family are once again state-of-the-art. But even though Cameron and company are also adept at the romantic spoof aspects of the story, the film suffers from a strain of crudeness and mean-spirited humiliation, especially toward women.


Wolf. Having Jack Nicholson and Michelle Pfeiffer in a film about the passions of a werewolf sounds sure-fire, but the result misfires as often as not. At varying times a star vehicle, a satirical look at New York publishing, a meditation on immortality and the nature of disease and a horror thriller, this Mike Nichols-directed effort can't decide what it wants to be.


Wyatt Earp. A three-hour plus Western that is easier to admire from a distance than enjoy close-up, this panorama of the American West has the advantage of a heroic Kevin Costner in the title role and an amusing Dennis Quaid as Doc Holliday. However director and co-writer Lawrence Kasdan is trying too hard to make an instant classic, and the result could use a little more of the sense of life and fun that illuminated an otherwise inferior film, the recent "Tombstone."