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IN BRIEF

A PERFECT CANDIDATE Unrated, 1996, 105 minutes, First Run.

This highly watchable documentary, in which candidates Chuck Robb and Oliver North vie for the 1994 Virginia Senate seat, has everything the modern political circus has to offer: negative advertising, demagoguery, flip-flopping on the issues, cynical manipulation of public opinion, shameless lying and an abject refusal to introduce real substance to an election campaign.

Filmmakers R.J. Cutler and David Van Taylor follow this inglorious campaign all the way into election night -- and what satirical fun it is. Here's a choice, after all, between someone who admits to lying to Congress and someone who can't admit to a hotel tryst with a Playboy model. At the risk of appearing to promote a co-worker, one of the movie's greatest personalities is Washington Post reporter Donald Baker, an allegorical Eeyore at the party, who finds both politicians equally bewildering and distasteful. His disgusted reaction to both aspirants provides much-needed comic relief. Contains profanity and American politics.

-- Desson Howe/
Washington Post
AUSTIN POWERS: INTERNATIONAL MAN OF MYSTERY PG-13, 1997, 87 minutes, New Line Home Video.

Mike Myers wrote this hilarious spoof of '60s-era secret agent flicks and stars as Austin Powers, a British operative consigned to cryogenic storage in 1967 when arch-rival Dr. Evil (Myers again) undergoes a similar fate. Thirty years later Evil walks the Earth again, and Austin is thawed out to save the planet.

Sadly, his crushed velvet suit, bad teeth and outdated mind-set (he wants to "shag" every "bird" he meets) make him a swinging anachronism, especially in the eyes of his Emma Peel-ish sidekick, Vanessa Kensington (Elizabeth Hurley). Myers and director Jay Roach brilliantly spoof the conceits of Bond films, from the underground facility crawling with bad guys in matching jump suits to the evil chick with the gynecological name. Just like its hero, this movie is groovy, baby! Contains bawdy jokes, toilet humor and slapstick violence.

-- John F. Kelly/Washington Post
DOUBLE TEAM R, 1997, 93 minutes, Columbia TriStar).

Jean-Claude Van Damme is a counterterrorist in a battle with terrorist Mickey Rourke. When Rourke kidnaps Van Damme's pregnant wife, it's time for the Belgian Sprout to hook up with wacky arms merchant Dennis Rodman (you read that right) and rock this guy's world.

Van Damme still can't act, but he can do things with his body that it hurts even to contemplate. Rodman is the guest fashion plate. His hair covers all the known hues in the spectrum. Director Tsui Hark, who made his name with arthouse films like "Peking Opera Blues," inserts signature artiness into the explosive hyperbole. But otherwise, this is your basic action trash. Contains wall-to-wall violence, minor sexual situations, profanity and several attempts at human conversation.

-- D.H./Washington Post

TOP TENS

SALES
(1) The Lost World: Jurassic Park (Universal). (2) Men in Black (Columbia TriStar). (3) Beauty and the Beast: The Enchanted Christmas (Disney). (4) Star Trek: First Contact (Paramount). (5) Liar, Liar (Universal). (6) Batman & Robin (Warner). (7) Jingle All the Way (Fox). 8) Hanson: Tulsa, Tokyo and the Middle of Nowhere (PolyGram). (9) The Jungle Book: 30th Anniversary (Disney). (10) Beavis & Butt-Head Do America (Paramount).

RENTALS
(1) Face/Off (Paramount). (2) Austin Powers (Warner). (3) The Fifth Element (Columbia TriStar). (4) The Lost World: Jurassic Park (Universal). (5) Grosse Point Blank (Hollywood). (6) Men in Black (Columbia TriStar). (7) Liar, Liar (Universal). (8) Romy & Michele's High School Reunion (Touchstone). (9) Breakdown (Paramount). (10) Batman & Robin (Warner).

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