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STORY GETS LOST IN THE STYLE

"Eye of the Beholder" (R, 1 hour, 50 minutes)

Style clobbers substance in this herky-jerky psychological thriller. Older high-schoolers (it's too sexually explicit and violent for younger teens) will be more impressed with leading lady Ashley Judd's many costume changes than with the story, which exerts little emotional pull. Left in the dust behind all the swish-pans, dissolves and mood lighting are the convoluted plot (from the 1980 novel by Marc Behm), ham-fisted dialogue and sophomoric (Psych. 101) character motivations. The film features bloody murders at gun and knife-point, one sexually explicit scene and others with strong sexual innuendo, partial nudity, drug use, profanity, drinking and smoking.

"Sweet and Lowdown" (PG-13, 1 hour, 35 minutes)

Woody Allen's "Sweet and Lowdown" is a terrific character study -- a portrait of an artist as a 30ish creep, scraping by in the world of jazz during the depth of the Depression. The subject of a jazz artist in the 1930s isn't exactly designed to fascinate teen audiences, except those whose parents have instilled an interest in the music itself and in bygone eras. Mature elements in the film include rare profanity, sexual innuendo, unmarried cohabitation, very understated love scenes, discussion of prostitution, drug use, smoking and drinking.

"The End of the Affair" (R, 1 hour, 42 minutes)

This oh-so-English saga, positively soggy with rainy evenings, cups of tea, whiskey-and-sodas and spots of brandy, could send TV-bred high-schoolers straight to sleep. Those who keep their eyes ajar, however, will witness a fine, subtly acted and directed fable about an adulterous liaison that leads its participants into spiritual turmoil and finally redemption -- a journey of the soul. R-ish elements include explicit sex scenes with some nudity, smoking, drinking and some frightening moments when bombs fall in World War II-era London.

Beyond the ratings game

More for kids 10 and older:

"Galaxy Quest" PG (Has-been stars of "Star Trek"-style 1970s TV show beamed up by real space aliens in brilliant, droll sendup of original "Star Trek" and its cult. Mild profanity; sexual innuendo; battles with space creatures like lizards, pigs, giant squid, rock-monsters, may scare tots.)

PG-13s:

"Supernova" (Space ship in 23rd century picks up destructive force that intends destruction of human race in murky space adventure. Seminudity; steamy but nonexplicit sexual situations; violent fight scenes; severed hand; rare profanity.)

"Snow Falling on Cedars" (Ethan Hawke as love-haunted newspaperman in 1950 Pacific Northwest where prejudice taints murder trial of Japanese-American man in gorgeous, elegiac adaptation of David Guterson's novel. War flashbacks show severed limbs, blood; steamy but not overly graphic sexual situations; racial slurs, profanity; smoking.)

"The Cider House Rules" (Tobey Maguire as orphanage-raised innocent off to see the world, while Michael Caine as his mentor worries, in gentle adaptation of John Irving novel. Strong abortion, incest themes; sick child dies; semigraphic sexual situation; drug use; fighting; drinking; smoking; profanity.)

R's:

"Play It to the Bone" (Woody Harrelson, Antonio Banderas as has-been boxers booked for big Vegas fight in lewd, dull comedy. Explicit sexual situation; profanity, graphic verbal sexual innuendo; sexist, homophobic slurs; boxing mayhem; topless women, men's bare behinds; smoking. 17 and up.)

"Angela's Ashes" (Beautifully shot, vividly acted, but episodic adaptation of Frank McCourt's book about growing up poor in Ireland. Infant deaths; alcoholism; teacher hits students; comic scenes about masturbation; nudity; sexual situation; sexual innuendo; profanity; toilet humor. Mature high-schoolers.)

"Next Friday" (Ice Cube as jobless hero from South Central L.A. who foils bad guys in the burbs in rude, lewd, funny sequel to 1995 urban comedy hit. Nonjudgmental portrayal of marijuana use; verbal, visual sexual innuendo; young woman pregnant out of wedlock; toilet humor; negative Latino stereotypes. High-schoolers 16 and up.)

"Girl, Interrupted" (Winona Ryder as 17-year-old in psychiatric hospital during turbulent 1960s in sometimes overdone, mostly moving film based on Susanna Kaysen memoir; will fascinate some teens, upset others. Suicide theme with graphic incident; drug abuse; strong profanity; mild sexual situations; cigarettes. High-schoolers.)

"Magnolia" (Nine characters face crises dealing with sin, forgiveness, regret, mortality in unusual dramatic comedy with Tom Cruise, Jason Robards et al. Attempted suicides; gun violence; drug abuse; verbal child abuse and talk of child molestation; sexual innuendo, profanity; explicit sexual situations; seminudity; smoking, drinking. Older high-schoolers.)

"The Hurricane" (Denzel Washington as Rubin "Hurricane" Carter in riveting if disjointed docudrama about boxer's wrongful imprisonment and hard-won freedom. Gun violence, bloody corpses; racial slurs, profanity; scene implying secondary character preys sexually on boys. High-schoolers.)

"The Talented Mr. Ripley" (Matt Damon as ambitious nobody who wangles friendship with rich American playboy in 1950s Italy in elegant, subtle tale of love and murder based on Patricia Highsmith novel. Sexual innuendo; sudden violence; rare profanity; drinking, smoking. Mature high-schoolers.)

"Any Given Sunday" (Al Pacino as football coach having hard season, in Oliver Stone's long, loud, bone-crunching, macho, not-quite-profound screed on big-time sports. Profanity; frontal nudity; blood, sweat, vomit; occasional racial, sexist slurs; drugs, liquor, cigarettes. High-schoolers.)

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