There's a revivifying charge of greatness in this movie. And the best part is, you don't anticipate it. From producer Ismail Merchant, director James Ivory and screenwriter Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, the trio behind such book-to-film translations as Henry James's The Bostonians and Jean Rhys's Quartet, you expect a puppy-dog faithfulness to source that often crosses the line from stately to plodding. This time they've blown the dust off the pages. Working from E.M Forster's less than celebrated 1908 novel, written when Forster was 29 (with the triumphs of Howards End and A Passage to India ahead of him), the filmmakers have uncovered a masterful comedy of manners. Oh, the snob appeal is still in evidence, but there's nothing stuffy about this one. Room's structure is deceptively simple. A young Englishwoman, played by Helena (Lady Jane) Bonham Carter, visits Florence, chaperoned by her spinster cousin, acted with anguished grace by Maggie Smith. Disappointed that her pensione is run by a Cockney and that her room is facing a courtyard instead of the Arno, Bonham Carter complains she might as well be in London. Forster's point about the English, of course, is that they are always in England, closed off to any new culture afforded them. Bonham Carter meets handsome, headstrong Julian Sands, a young Britisher traveling with his vulgarian father, Denholm Elliott. Bonham Carter gets more than she bargained for, first witnessing a bloody stabbing in a piazza, and later being passionately kissed by Sands in the erotically lush Italian countryside. Shaken, she returns home, gets engaged to a prig and settles back into conformity until Sands and his father make a last attempt to save her. Director Ivory displays a keen understanding of the hypocrisy festering beneath the elegant surfaces of Edwardian society. The comic highlight is a telling scene in which the rigidly costumed Bonham Carter and her mother come upon Sands, Bonham Carter's brother (Rupert Graves) and a plump minister (well played by Simon Callow) frolicking naked and innocent in a muddy pond. The sterling cast, indeed, could not be bettered. But special praise must go to Smith and Elliott, whose alchemy turns small roles into bold and memorable characterizations. With faultless assurance and ingenuity, the Merchant-Ivory-Jhabvala team has made it all come together this time in one of the best literary adaptations ever filmed. (Not rated)

So how much do you love Goldie Hawn? If it's enough to spend 107 minutes watching her be, by turns, gritty, warm, vulnerable, loving, vulgar, wistful, defiant, grateful, defeated, triumphant and cute, this is your kind of movie. But not much else goes on in this film about a Chicago teacher who decides she wants to become a football coach and ends up with a team at a tough, inner-city school. The plot is tediously predictable and the dialogue, by Ezra (A Small Circle of Friends) Sacks, is banal. Comic Nipsey Russell, as the principal of Hawn's school, has a lively moment or two, and there's a decent bit by college wrestling champion Tab Thacker, who at 400 pounds could play Meat Locker to William Perry's Refrigerator. The movie, though, is almost all Goldie. She was even desperate enough to do a brief nude scene. She's likable but the film is never involving, up to and including the Big Game climax. Since the director was Michael (Fletch) Ritchie, it may not be entirely coincidental that the movie often seems to be a lame descendant of his The Bad News Bears. (R)

This B-grade production is actually two films in one; both are witless and artless. The title refers to a crack American antiterrorist squad. Unfortunately for action lovers, these commandos, led by a long-in-the-tooth Lee Marvin, are pretty much leashed up until the movie has nearly ended. The bulk of The Delta Force is spent detailing events similar to last year's hijacking of a TWA jet to Beirut. Director Menahem Golan's attempt at realism is severely hampered by implausible details and a dim-wattage cast that might have been left over from an Irwin Allen extravaganza—Joey Bishop, Robert Vaughn, George Kennedy and Shelley Winters. There's a docu-pretension in the first reel, but that is dropped for the sake of a blazing-ballistics finale in which the Arab hijackers prove to be craven weaklings. No one will be more disappointed by The Delta Force than the fans of Chuck Norris, who plays Marvin's second in command. The scant moments he spends snuffing Arabs are about as exciting as it would be to watch him toss a salad. (R)

  • Contributors:
  • Peter Travers,
  • Ralph Novak,
  • David Hiltbrand.