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FEBRUARY 8, 1999: 

LITTLE VOICE. Jane Horrocks, probably best known for her role as Bubbles on Absolutely Fabulous, stars in the filmic version of The Rise and Fall of Little Voice, a play written to showcase her talent for imitating the singing voices of such greats as Judy Garland and Shirley Bassey. The character "Little Voice" is a soft-spoken, pastel-wearing introvert who's overshadowed by her tawdry mum Mari (Brenda Blethyn), who shouts some of the best dialog (such as referring to her lover's genitalia as "meat and veg") and wears similarly boisterous outfits. Ray (Michael Caine), Mari's man and a promoter for such class acts as the chubby male strip crew "Take Fat," discovers her musical abilities and attempts to exploit them in a sleazy nightclub. Little Voice resists, supported only by her father's ghost and a pigeon-obsessed telephone repairman (Ewan MacGregor). This simple and satisfying story about discovering the importance of being heard is affectionately directed by Mark Herman, and offers a host of excellent performances.--Higgins

SHE'S ALL THAT. A remake of every '80s teen film, which would compete well with the best of them, if only I hadn't already seen this story so many times. Popular boy loses girlfriend, accepts bet to turn dorky girl into prom queen, falls in love with her. Not a bad effort, but Patrick Dempsey's legacy is safe. --DiGiovanna

A SIMPLE PLAN. Director Sam Raimi takes the campy, violent and juvenile sensibility that he honed to perfection on such films as Evil Dead and Darkman, and such television productions as Hercules: The Legendary Journeys and Xena, Warrior Princess, and chucks it out the window for this subtle and very grown-up film noir piece. An accountant (the omnipresent Bill Paxton), his mentally challenged brother (the also kind of omnipresent Billy Bob Thornton) and his brother's trashy, drunken friend (the largely unknown Brent Briscoe) find four million dollars inside a wrecked plane in a snow covered forest. They decide to hide the money until they know whether the heat is on. In standard noir fashion, double crosses, murders and intrigues ensue. The script is, obviously, not terribly original; but it is perfectly paced and plotted, a flawless rendition of this time-worn story. And Bridget Fonda wears this incredible fake-pregnant-belly prosthesis...probably the finest fake-belly prosthesis since they made the waif-like Marlon Brando look fat in The Island of Dr. Moreau. Although you should probably see it for the disturbing and evocative story of ordinary evil, rather than for the fake-belly prosthesis. But it's a really good fake-belly prosthesis. Really. --DiGiovanna

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