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The Student

A serious, sharply mounted drama that gets more engrossing as it moves along.

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Free Fire

A "Reservoir Dogs" knockoff 25 years after "Reservoir Dogs."

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Ballad of Narayama

"The Ballad of Narayama" is a Japanese film of great beauty and elegant artifice, telling a story of startling cruelty. What a space it opens…

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Jim Carrey Laughs in Face of Success

LOS ANGELES -- It's a touchy situation. You describe a guy's movie as one of the worst of the year, and then it grosses $200 million and makes him into Hollywood's flavor of the month. You say it wasn't funny, and the audiences can't stop laughing. Now you're supposed to walk into a room and interview the guy. Hey, let's hope he has a sense of humor.

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Tommy Lee Jones: Good at acting bad

LOS ANGELES--Winning an Oscar, it is said, means an actor gets a pass for a year or two. For a brief moment he seems to be the master of his destiny. Tommy Lee Jones won the Oscar in March, for his work in "The Fugitive," but by then his Oscar surge was already well under way, as if Hollywood had anticipated the award. He is one of the busiest actors of 1994.

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It's nearly high noon for Kevin Costner

LOS ANGELES -- Kevin Costner was so quiet and relaxed, so soft-spoken, it took a little while for me to realize how angry he was. Not angry at anyone or anything in particular, but just unhappy about having to get up every morning and deal with things that wear away at him. He didn't come out and say so. It was only later, looking over my notes, that I began to notice the same note being struck in different ways. If I could paraphrase his complaint, it would be that he means well and works hard and keeps plugging away, and the world is too careless with his pains.

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Jennifer Jason Leigh meets 'Mrs. Parker'

CANNES, France -- The table has long since been cleared for the last time, and the wits who surrounded it rest in their graves, but the idea of the Algonquin Round Table lives on. For a decade, from the 1920s through the 1930s, the brightest and the funniest writers in New York gathered every day for lunch around a huge round table at the Algonquin Hotel, and then they went back to their typewriters and made each other famous by quoting what they said there.

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Grant takes place in the sun

America will be having a Hugh Grant festival this spring. The boyish British actor with the apologetic shrug is the star of three films being released almost simultaneously: "Sirens," "Four Weddings And A Funeral" and "Bitter Moon." All three are well-suited to his strengths as a likeable, diffident, chap who backs into situations apologetically, but usually prevails.

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'Dreams' Can Come True For Two Chicago Teens

Two eighth-graders from Chicago's inner-city show talent on their neighborhood basketball courts. A free-lance scout spots them and recruits them for St. Joseph's High School in Westchester, a western suburb. St. Joseph's is known for its powerhouse teams; it was here that another young man from the inner city, Isiah Thomas of the Detroit Pistons, began his climb to fame.

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Joseph Cotten: Master of moods

There was often a sadness about Joseph Cotten, and it was one of his most attractive qualities as an actor. Tall, handsome, usually dressed with quiet style, he was rarely the man of action, and he got the girl only in his forgotten pictures.

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Binoche evokes quality of simply existing

NEW YORK -- What is she thinking? There aren't many actresses who can inspire you to ask that question. Juliette Binoche is one of them. Directors seem drawn to her by a quality of intelligence in her grave, wide-set eyes. They like to use closeups in which she is apparently doing nothing, just looking, and yet volumes of emotion are implied.

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Madeline Stowe, a critic at heart

LOS ANGELES -- Well, of course I like Madeleine Stowe. When she was in college, she wanted to be a film critic. Few actresses have such obvious intelligence. But then she started hanging around with actors. This was at USC, only eight or 10 years ago.

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Grumpy Ol' Walter

LOS ANGELES -- I had been told to look for the groove. Grumpy old Walter Matthau has a groove worn into the end of one thumb, a friend said. It has been created over the years by the opposite thumbnail, during basketball games and horse races and anything else Matthau has money on.

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