Oprah Winfrey, Danny Glover, Thandie Newton, Kimberly Elise, Beah Richards

Featured attraction

The house is clearly haunted. Tables shimmy, floorboards rattle, mirrors crack, and the very air itself is tinged with a reddish glow. A child died violently here, and she won't rest in peace. Viewing the house's fiery light warily from the front porch, a visitor (Glover) asks, "What kind of evil you got in there?"

"It ain't evil," replies the dead child's mother (Winfrey), an ex-slave who owns the house. "Just sad."

Overwhelmingly sad. Beloved movingly tells the story of the enduring and unendurable grief besetting Winfrey's character, a woman who ran away from slavery but can't outrun its legacy. Also affected by this legacy are her two daughters, one of whom is lost in this world (Elise) and the other in the next. Years earlier, Winfrey had, Medea-like, tried to kill her four children rather than let them be reclaimed as slaves. She succeeded with her baby daughter Beloved, fatally slashing the child's throat. Now, in 1873, a beautiful but seemingly backward young woman (Newton) appears. Winfrey comes to believe Newton is Beloved returned. Mother and daughter are reunited but at a terrible cost.

Based on author Toni Morrison's Pulitzer Prize-winning 1987 novel of the same name, Beloved is as faithful an adaptation as Morrison could have wished for. Directed with understanding and care by Jonathan Demme (Philadelphia), the movie features knockout performances by Winfrey (Is there nothing this woman can't do well?), Elise and Glover. But, as is the case with nearly all movies made from great books, this one never hits the full emotional and metaphorical highs of the novel. At times, Beloved is confusing, and—with a 174-minute running time—its pace often seems self-indulgently stately.

Still, this is a movie that haunts you just as surely as Beloved haunts her mother. Days after seeing the film, you will find yourself going over scenes and characters and making connections you hadn't made while sitting in the theater. A movie that can do that is a movie of rare power. (R)

Bottom Line: Great Oprah; impressive (but not quite beloved) movie

Eddie Murphy, Jeff Goldblum, Kelly Preston

When Eddie Murphy zooms through a movie in high comic gear (the first Beverly Hills Cop and The Nutty Professor), he's hilarious. When he disengages or merely coasts (Metro or BHC III), one leaves his movies muttering, "That's two hours of my life I'm never getting back." Viewers of the moderately amusing Holy Man won't begrudge Murphy the time spent watching his latest movie, but neither should anyone cancel plans to defrost the refrigerator just to catch this one.

Holy Man, directed by Stephen Herek (Mr. Holland's Opus), is a comedy with spiritual pretensions. Murphy plays a caftan-wearing guru—of no specific faith—who spouts inspirational goop ("You need to find ultimate and complete happiness") while gesturing at merchandise on a TV home-shopping channel. Sales skyrocket. If Murphy fails to achieve comic bliss here, it's because Man keeps ditching him to satirize, with intermittent effectiveness, consumerism, and to follow the ho-hum career and romantic travails of TV execs Goldblum and Preston. (PG)

Bottom Line: Murphy is sporadically funny, but we're not converted

Stephen Baldwin, Chris Penn, Mike McGlone, Gina Gershon

One staple of 1930s movies was stories about two pals who grew up together, one becoming a cop (or priest) and the other a hood; yet they remained buddies and even loved the same gal. Sixty years later, One Tough Cop is that same old story but with lots more swearing. Loosely based on the true exploits of ace ex-New York City cop Bo Dietl, Cop shows Dietl (Baldwin, looking and acting like a pit bull) solving a big case with sturdy police work and a tip from an ol' pal (McGlone), now a mob boss. Directed by Bruno Barreto, Cop is solid but has no surprises. Except, that is, for Amy Irving (now Mrs. Barreto), who's nearly unrecognizable as a foulmouthed fed. (R)

Bottom Line: Adequate, but can't hold a handcuff to NYPD Blue or Homicide

Derek Jacobi

If one were to judge from his work, Francis Bacon (1909-1992), generally regarded as the greatest British painter of the century, was less than cuddly. Look at his famous portraits: The faces are typically reduced to a screaming, violent blur of pink and red—something like uncooked bacon streaked with fat. As this cold, sharp biographical study makes clear, the man was not nice.

Love Is the Devil covers the seven years—1964 to 1971—during which Bacon took as a lover (and subject) a petty crook named George Dyer (thuggishly handsome Daniel Craig). According to Love Is the Devil, Dyer was never comfortable with the sadomasochistic sex rituals Bacon preferred, never at home with Bacon's booze-guzzling coterie. Dealing with Bacon drove him to madness.

If Bacon had his own demons to deal with, he at least had his salvation: a genius and a passion for painting. Jacobi, by turns caustically cruel and almost numb with some unfathomable unhappiness, captures the mysterious essence, both light and dark, of this important but difficult figure. (No rating)

Bottom Line: Unflinching rendering of an artist's life, warts—especially warts—and all

Kieran Culkin, Elden Henson, Sharon Stone

Little guys with huge medical problems are big at the movies this fall. First, there was the tiny kid hero of syrupy Simon Birch. Now, in the far better The Mighty, there's a brainiac seventh grader on crutches (Culkin, younger brother of Macaulay) who takes on a murderer.

The Mighty, based on Rodman Philbrick's young adult novel Freak the Mighty, is about the friendship that develops between Culkin, whose character suffers from Morquio's syndrome, a degenerative bone disease, and the hulking, monosyllabic boy next door (Henson).

British director Peter Chesholm (Hear My Song) gets personable performances from his two young stars as well as a nicely understated one from Stone as Culkin's mom. And Gillian Anderson, playing a boozy floozy, shows off more pizzazz in her few scenes here than she did in the entire X-Files movie last summer. (PG-13)

Bottom Line: Mighty decent little movie for older kids

Chris Kattan, Will Ferrell

Back when NBC's Saturday Night Live was young and frisky, Steve Martin and Dan Aykroyd won deserved yuks as the wild and crazy Festrunk brothers, recent immigrants prone to wearing loud shirts, who tried vainly to score with babes. Meet their younger and, if possible, stupider successors, the Butabi brothers (Kattan and Ferrell). These two are second-generation Americans (their grandparents are still in Yemen, we learn) whose main goal in life is to get into the Roxbury, an exclusive L.A. disco. By mid-movie, they do. Big whoop. There are a couple of honest laughs here, the same amount as in the 5-minute SNL sketches from which Night was so painfully stretched. (PG-13)

Bottom Line: Dumb and dumber

  • Contributors:
  • Tom Gliatto.