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MURDER AT 1600 R, 1997, 106 minutes, Warner.

When a dead woman is found at the most famous address in America (the White House), detective Harlan Regis (Wesley Snipes) knows he's in for a tough case. The nebulous protectors of the chief executive tap his phones, install bugs in his apartment, watch him from parked cars -- you know, the usual business.

But Regis barrels on, with the help of Detective Stengel (the smugly self-congratulatory Dennis Miller) and Secret Service Agent Chance (Diane Lane), who knows a White House conspiracy when she smells one. The movie's a crock, of course, especially when it tries to tie this murder in with a hostage crisis in North Korea.

But Snipes is always exciting to watch, and director Dwight Little (who made Steven Seagal's "Marked for Death") keeps things running fast and smooth. Your suspension of disbelief appreciates the momentum, if nothing else. Contains sexual situations, graphic language, gore and violence.

-- Desson Howe/Washington Post
INVENTING THE ABBOTTS R, 1997, 116 minutes, 20th Century Fox.

Doug Holt (Joaquin Phoenix) and his older brother, Jacey (Billy Crudup), are glassy-eyed about the Abbotts, their affluent neighbors who reside in a mansion, do tent parties and have three gorgeous daughters: Alice (Joanna Going), Eleanor (Jennifer Connelly) and Pamela (Liv Tyler).

The movie, set in the late 1950s, wants to be a precious timepiece that involves lost innocence, songs of the era and a certain wise-after-all-these-years narration. But the story, which depends on dark secrets and misconceptions, is long-winded and dull. Contains sex scenes, nudity and profanity.

-- Desson Howe/Washington Post
WARRIORS OF VIRTUE PG, 1997, 101 minutes, MGM/UA.

Many kids may actually get a charge out of this muddled action flick, which unfolds in a fantasy world filled with animal-like creatures and humanoids. But for adults the warriors of the title are lugubrious, kangaroo-like beings with kung fu skills. They're befriended and joined in battle by a boy (Mario Yedidia) who has been plunged into their realm after a mishap involving a class bully.

There's lots of blather about "energy-producing lifesprings," "the five classic virtues" and the strange powers of a bulky manuscript tucked in the boy's backpack. As with other cruddy kid fare, the yakking scenes serve only as buildups for the whacking scenes. Contains profanity and non-graphic martial arts battles.

-- Kevin McManus/Washington Post
SUBURBIA R, 1997, 120 minutes, Castle Rock/Warner.

In director Richard Linklater's blabby, self-pitying adaptation of the Eric Bogosian play, a group of listless 20-year-olds, including part-time student Jeff (Giovanni Ribisi), cynical dropout Tim (Nicky Katt) and their clownish buddy (Steve Zahn), hang out to booze, smoke and shoot the breeze in front of a convenience store.

They're waiting for a reunion with old classmate Pony (Jayce Bartok), a geek who transformed himself into a rock star. Pony's MTV success, coupled with tensions between the kids and the hard-working Pakistanis who manage the store, causes a multiple blowout. Linklater explored the world of Slackerville with more laughs and greater compassion in "Slacker" and "Dazed and Confused." Despite its attractive young actors and an edgy, alternative soundtrack, the film's cautionary tone comes from somebody who hasn't been dazed or confused for a very long time. Contains profanity, drinking, dope-taking and sexual innuendo.

-- Rita Kempley/Washington Post


(1) Star Wars Trilogy -- Special Edition (Fox). (2) Sleeping Beauty (Disney). (3) The First Wives Club (Paramount). (4) Spawn (HBO). (5) Playboy Celebrity Centerfold: Farrah Fawcett (Playboy). (6) Pooh's Great Adventure (Disney). (7) Casper: A Spirited Beginning (Fox). (8) William Shakespeare's Romeo & Juliet (Fox). (9) Fleetwood Mac: The Dance (Warner Reprise). (10) Mary Poppins (Disney).

(1) The Devil's Own (Columbia TriStar). (2) Donnie Brasco (Columbia TriStar). (3) Sling Blade (Miramax). (4) Murder at 1600 (Warner). (5) The Saint (Paramount). (6) Dante's Peak (Universal). (7) Fathers' Day (Warner). (8) Absolute Power (Warner). (9) Crash (New Line). (10) Scream (Dimension).

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