The talk about how much better Errol Flynn was as Robin Hood than Kevin Costner suggests a diversion. Think of how actors of past years might do in new films. Little Mickey Rooney, say, in Home Alone. Fred MacMurray and Stan Laurel in What About Bob? Paul Robeson and Ava Gardner in Jungle Fever. Elizabeth Taylor and Montgomery Clift in Dying Young. Judy Holliday and Clark Gable in Pretty Woman. John Wayne in Kindergarten Cop. Barbara Stanwyck and Paul Muni in The Silence of the Lambs. And, of course, Mamie Van Doren and Jayne Mansfield in Thelma & Louise.

Arnold Schwarzenegger, Linda Hamilton

Here's the perfect film for those who can't find enough flies to torture this summer.

Shamefully sadistic, achingly dull and totally predictable, it rehashes the far superior 1984 original. Two robots travel from 2029 to the present to battle over the life of a boy who would grow up to lead human rebels against a computer-controlled society. Only this time Schwarzenegger, no longer consigned to villain duty, plays the good robot. He's trying to protect the boy, Edward Furlong, a 13-year-old in a thankless role that calls on him only to mutter obscenities and look scared.

The only original touches are in special effects. Effectsmeisters Industrial Light & Magic, using a shape-changing gizmo like the one in The Abyss, gives the bad robot the ability to reconfigure himself into his human form, as Robert Patrick, all but instantaneously.

This is a one-trick turkey though. After a couple of Patrick's instant self-repair jobs, the novelty is worn off, and you're left to try and stay awake through one slug-up and shoot-out after another, with loving close-ups of particularly gory injuries. The brainless script was written by director James Cameron and William Wisher. Its peak of wit comes when Furlong teaches Schwarzenegger such slang as "chill out" and "no problemo."

Mostly, Cameron (who directed the original Terminator as well as Aliens) panders to his audience and painfully misuses his cast. This kind of cast-iron performance is a giant stomp backward for Schwarzenegger, and Hamilton, reduced mostly to grunting and swearing, cuts an unhappy figure.

The film isn't even internally consistent. At one point Patrick shows the ability to mimic voices perfectly; at another he wastes time torturing Hamilton to persuade her to call for her son when he could presumably do it himself. Then, too, Schwarzenegger is supposed to be a killing machine, yet it never occurs to him to slow down his relentless enemy by shooting off his legs. (When you watch this movie, you can't help but start thinking like that.)

On and on it drones for two hours and 15 minutes. Call it Interminablator. (R)

Marcello Mastroianni

Little kids still have Home Alone, and older ones have The Rocketeer. Post-yuppies have Dying Young, and the mid-life crisis crowd has City Slickers. As usual, though, it's a lot tougher finding a movie directed at the grandparent generation, which makes this Italian import doubly welcome.

Though it was written and directed by Giuseppe Tornatore, creator of the nostalgic Cinema Paradiso, the movie addresses aging not only with intelligence but tough-mindedness.

The esteemed Mastroianni plays a 74-year-old Sicilian widower who decides to make surprise visits to his five children, who are scattered across the mainland. It soon becomes apparent that the children have been feeding his illusions about them and that they aren't the thriving, happy, model citizens he believes them to be. The daughter he thinks is a serenely married top executive, for instance, is separated and a telegraph-service operator. Four siblings are shielding him from a tragic secret about the fifth.

Mastroianni's widower loves to ask people to ask him questions. In the process of being mugged, he asks the thief if he wouldn't like to inquire what pictures are on the film in the camera he is stealing. But he never asks the right questions himself, at least of his children. "Things that are far away seem better," he notes at one point.

Tornatore never tries to resolve the question of just how blissful ignorance can be. He raises it provocatively, though, despite one or two too many enigmas—such as the moth-eaten (apparently stuffed) elk that causes a huge traffic jam by standing in the middle of a superhighway.

Grandmas and grandpas can contemplate the obvious answer to the rhetorical question Mastroianni asks: "Can parents have any peace?"

Everyone can consider the delicate mechanisms that control even the best relationships between offspring and those who bring them into the world. (In Italian, with subtitles) (Unrated)

Doug E. Doug, Nestor Serrano, John Leguizamo. Mario Joyner

Not that anyone should encourage any trends along these lines, but Joseph B. Vasquez, the writer-director of this back-on-the-block film, seems a lot better oil when he doesn't think about what he's doing.

Some scenes in his tale of a day in the life of four young Bronx friends roll along spontaneously, with a casual feel of camaraderie mixed with rivalry—a kind of black—Puerto Rican variation on Diner. Doug, for instance, as a perpetually out-of-work, out-of-pocket sponger, manages to be ingratiating even as he responds to every criticism—almost every question, for that matter—by saying bitterly, "You're saying that because I'm black, right?"

Serrano is a full-time ladies' man with a refrigerator full of meals home-cooked for him by admiring (and gullible) women. Leguizamo is a supermarket stockboy in constant torment over such problems as whether to apply to college. Joyner, a would-be actor, has a job selling magazine subscriptions by phone.

Although the four don't always fit together convincingly—Vasquez never quite makes the case that these disparate personalities would be so dedicated to hanging out every Friday night—there is an engaging ebb and flow to their relationship. Joyner, plaintively defending his career choice, tells his friends, "I was the best actor in my acting class. They all looked up to me. like I was William Shatner."

Serrano would like his pals to call him not Fernando, his real name, but Vinny, which he thinks sounds Italian and thus by definition more sophisticated.

Vasquez, born in the Bronx of black-Puerto Rican parents, seems to feel the need, however, for big statement scenes. Serrano has to make a painful speech about how having his heart broken by so many women led him to become, in effect, a gigolo. Leguizamo, in the same evening, is horrified to see the girl he admires as a virginal sweetheart appear in a pornographic movie. Then he gets picked up by a smart, gorgeous woman (smartly, gorgeously played by Mary Ward). She has to solemnly tell him how wonderful college is: "It leaches you there's this big beautiful world out there waiting for you to take a bite out of it."

The moments of forced sentimentality ring especially false when so much of the film represents a nondoctrinaire, humanized portrait of urban minority life (urban minority male life, anyway). You don't always like these guys, but you don't want them to go around saying things that are foolishly contrived, either. (R)

>EDWARD SCISSORHNDS: SHEAR EXCESS

Having established commercial credentials in Batman, director Tim Burton seems intent on proving how preciously artsy he can be in this fable about a benevolent monster whose mad-scientist creator gave him scissors instead of hands. Johnny Depp has a Karloffian charm as the well-meaning Ed; Winona Ryder musters a nice mix of insouciance and sweetness as the girl who falls for him. Dianne Wiest is fun as an Avon lady who takes the boy in. Burton, though, can't seem to focus. Is this a wicked satire of suburbia? Frankenstein with a cutting edge? Mindless teen romance? Too vague to be any of those things and too fuzzy as all of them, the film ends up making little impact. (CBS/Fox)