Leonardo DiCaprio, Gabriel Byrne, Jeremy Irons, John Malkovich

The early going is tough in this latest film version of Alexandre Dumas's 1850 novel. The crudest of the Three Musketeers (Gérard Depardieu, who teams with Irons and Malkovich) grabs at women's breasts and breaks wind. A petulant King Louis XIV (DiCaprio) struts about like a heavy metal wannabe in Alice Cooper hair and silk dressing gowns. Jolly hangers-on at his court chase after a prize pig as if auditioning for Hee Haw. But just when you have decided that this Man in the Iron Mask is strictly for teenage girls who can't get enough of their beloved Leonardo, something terrific happens. Iron Mask's plot kicks in and proves Dumas's old warhorse can still run.

Despotic Louis, it turns out, has a saintly twin (also DiCaprio, far more effective as the hero than the bratty villain) whom he has imprisoned, hiding his brother's face behind an iron mask. As the aging musketeers scheme to dump Louis for the good twin, Mask becomes a vigorous and engaging blend of intrigue, sword fights and romantic derring-do. Boisterously directed and written by Randall Wallace (who wrote Braveheart), this is Saturday matinee stuff in which our heroes are forever charging into the fray with swords drawn. Who can resist? "All for one, one for all," may be their battle cry, but a more fitting motto could just as easily be, "All for fun, fun for all." (PG-13)

Jessica Lange, Gwyneth Paltrow

If only this botched mess had heeded its own title. As is, the releasing studio, TriStar Pictures, knew enough not to prescreen for critics this dingbat tale of mother love gone berserk. The studio had good reason. Despite its big-name leading ladies, Hush stinks worse than a hot car trunk filled with aging provolone. Lange, in what can only be called the Faye Dunaway role, plays a widowed mom intent on keeping her adult son (Johnathon Schaech, a dim bulb here) on the family horse farm in Kentucky—even if it means doing away with her daughter-in-law (Paltrow). Cluelessly directed by first-timer Jonathan Darby, Hush wants to be both a psychological thriller and a horror film, though it lacks the smarts for the former and the bloody-ax excesses of the latter. (PG-13)

John Hurt, Jason Priestley

This modest independent movie would scarcely exist without Hurt, but in his hands an offbeat tale of sexual obsession is both lightened into a comedy of manners and deepened into a voyage of personal discovery. Hurt plays a British writer, recently widowed and famously aloof from modern culture. One afternoon he buys a ticket at the cinema, expecting a tasteful little film based on an E.M. Forster novel. Only gradually does it dawn on him that he has stumbled into an American jiggle comedy, Hotpants College II. What keeps him riveted in his seat is the movie's heartthrob star (Priestley). Thinking he recognizes a spark of romantic poetry in this minor talent, Hurt flies to America, convinced he can woo Priestley away from his Long Island, N.Y., home to a career in European "art" films. Of course, Hurt unconsciously has a different sort of wooing in mind.

As the love object, Priestley is likable but opaque and dull, although perhaps this is what writer-director Richard Kwietniowski intended. It's as if Humbert Humbert had fallen for Marcia Brady instead of Lolita. But Hurt's performance—impeccably dry, with pleasure and excitement bubbling just below the surface—is worth seeing. The man is a champagne biscuit. (PG-13)

>Mark Addy

NUDITY LOVES COMPANY

ALL HIS LIFE, MARK ADDY SIMPLY LACKED naked ambition. Growing up in northern England, he never went skinny-dipping or sunbathed in the buff, he says, because "the weather is too cold over here." The actor, who trained at London's Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, built a steady career on the London stage playing portly (and fully clothed) character roles. So he was shocked when his agent called in early 1996 to tell him he was being considered for a role as a stripper in The Full Monty. "I thought they had the wrong guy," he recalls. But after reading the script, "I said, 'I have got to do this.' " He was promptly cast as Dave, one of five unemployed men who raise cash by baring all. The low-budget British film is nominated for four Oscars—including Best Picture and Best Director—and has earned $205 million-plus worldwide.

For Addy, 34, a little indecent exposure has gone a long way. He recently signed to star in an ABC sitcom and is about to begin shooting Frost, a family film with Michael Keaton. Still, he has no intention of leaving his home in York, where he lives with his wife of two years, Kelly, 27, a bar manager. More importantly, he has no intention of taking his clothes off in public again. It was so traumatic the first time that before the final, all-revealing shot (filmgoers get a rear view but the 300 female extras saw the "full monty"), Addy and his costars had to bolster their courage with champagne and brandy. They may be swilling more bubbly at the Oscars, but he's mum on whether they will perform during the show: "You will have to wait and see. You never know."

  • Contributors:
  • Tom Gliatto,
  • Bryan Alexander.