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IN BRIEF

MIMIC R, 1997, 105 minutes, Dimension.

Mexican director Guillermo Del Toro's "Cronos" was a smartly inventive recasting of vampire legend, but his Hollywood debut is straitjacketed by genre expectations. It's a horror film of depressingly familiar lineage in which genetically altered creations come back to haunt their creators, including Mira Sorvino, F. Murray Abraham, Charles S. Dutton (as a transit cop) and European art-house veteran Giancarlo Giannini (as a shoeshine man).

Dr. Susan Tyler (Sorvino) and her husband Dr. Peter Mann (Jeremy Northam from "Emma") wipe out a kid-threatening epidemic by creating a genetically altered mix-and-match bug species -- the Judas breed -- which will save the world and then die out without reproducing (as if). A few years pass, and shadowy, hungry figures start appearing in darkened alleys and basements, providing plot distractions until the special effects can battle it out with the human cast in an abandoned turn-of-the-century subway station. Contains profanity, violence and bug excrement.

-- Richard Harrington/Washington Post
IN & OUT PG-13, 1997, 92 minutes, Paramount.

Kevin Kline is frequently hilarious as Howard, a Midwest English teacher who finds himself "outed" on national television by one of his former students (Matt Dillon). Howard assures his shocked community and a small invasion of TV journalists, he's not gay, just sort of, well, effeminate. And his engagement to Emily (Joan Cusack) will continue as planned.

But after setting up its rather cheeky premise -- is Howard homosexual or not? -- the movie gradually peters out. And despite its attempts to avoid preachiness, "In & Out" does kind of present us with good, decent folk from Indiana learning that, gosh durn it, gays are human too. Kline displays his best moments when he secretly plugs in an audio cassette that purports to test for homosexuality. It asks revealing questions about the way he walks and dresses. And in the acid test of his life, Howard has to resist dancing to pounding music or forever be termed "homo." Contains minor sexual situations and profanity.

-- Desson Howe/Washington Post
MOST WANTED R, 1997, 99 minutes, New Line.

Keenen Ivory Wayans plays Gulf War hero Sgt. James Dunn, who is sentenced to death for killing a superior officer. Dunn is rescued by Lt. Col. Grant Casey (Jon Voight, the most interesting character by far), who is really Gen. Adam Woodward, and coerced into helping in a covert operation to assassinate biotechnology industrialist Donald Bickhart (Robert Culp).

Problem is, the real target of the hit is the first lady, who is about to expose Bickhart and the general for their involvement in a biological-warfare experiment gone bad. Guess who gets framed? Guess who, with no disguise, parades unrecognized through the city, even though he's in every newspaper and on TV and is being chased by the general and his gang, the CIA and the FBI? (That is until a $10 million reward is offered and a mob of about 100 people chases him down a freeway in a scene so ridiculous I was sure it had to be a dream sequence.) Guess who should stick to comedy? "Most Wanted" is loud, it's violent, but it's too ridiculous to be exciting. Contains violence and profanity.

-- Bruce Walker/Washington Post
SHE'S SO LOVELY R, 1997, 96 minutes, Miramax.

Every scene in this booze-infused, anything-goes romance noir is a binge of exclamation points. Characters punch each other, kiss each other, curse up a storm, pull out guns and use them. Smoldering cigarettes never leave their hands. Bourbon is always in easy reach. And while they live this edgy existence, they talk a muddle of funny stuff, insults, declarations of love and bizarre aphorisms.

As the two main barflies in love, Sean Penn and Robin Wright Penn (as the actor's real wife is now called) are terrific. And John Travolta makes an amusing third party, who marries Robin Wright Penn after her crazy husband is jailed for shooting someone. The late John Cassavetes, who made from-the-hip improvisational films in the 1960s and 1970s, wrote this script 20 years ago. His son, director Nick Cassavetes, finally took it over. There's something weird, unhinged and wonderful about this posthumous collaboration. It's not for everyone, but it's great fun. Contains sexual situations, violence and profanity.

-- Desson Howe/Washington Post

TOP TENS

SALES
(1) Austin Powers (New Line). (2) Hercules (Walt Disney). (3) Peter Pan: 45th Anniversary Limited Edition (Disney). (4) Air Force One (Columbia). (5) Private Parts (Paramount). (6) Playboy's Voluptuous Vixens II (Playboy). (7) Soul Food (Fox). (8) Marilyn Manson: Dead to the World (Interscope). (9) The Saint (Paramount). (10) Spice Girls: One Hour of Girl Power (Warner).

RENTALS
(1) The Devil's Advocate (Warner). (2) The Game (PolyGram). (3) G.I. Jane (Hollywood). (4) Air Force One (Columbia TriStar). (5) The Edge (Fox). (6) Mad City (Warner). (7) Conspiracy Theory (Warner). (8) Eve's Bayou (Trimark). (9) In & Out (Paramount). (10) The Peacemaker (Universal).

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