The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen

dir. Stephen Norrington

Opens Fri July 11 at a buttload of theaters. From the looks of the opening scenes, this film should have been called The League of Extraordinarily Old Gentlemen. Sean Connery (as Allan Quartermaine, a role forever imprinted with the unique musk of Richard Chamberlain) looks like he's pushing 90, which makes him the obvious choice to lead a pack of fictitious figures against some kind of technological terrorist who is threatening the peace of 1890s Europe. Among Connery's merry band are Captain Nemo (I didn't know he was Indian), the Invisible Man, Tom Sawyer, Mina Harker (from Dracula), Dorian Gray, Dr. Jekyll, and Mr. Hyde. First of all: DORIAN GRAY? What's he going to do, quip them to death? If only. Instead, we get a lame exercise in myth-historical revisionism in which the action is dull, the dialogue witless, the effects absurd (Mr. Hyde looks like the Hulk; Nemo's Nautilus looks like a binary code ejaculation), and the story about as lucid as Ronald Reagan. While they may never run out of comics to make into would-be summer blockbusters, they certainly appear to have run out of good ones. SEAN NELSON

The Heart of Me

dir. Thaddeus O'Sullivan

Opens Fri July 11 at the Metro. Two immediate questions are posed at the beginning of this melodramatic period piece. Question one: How long until the upright husband (Paul Bettany) and the bohemian sister-in-law (Helena Bonham Carter) break down and betray the prudish wife (Olivia Williams), by giving in to their forbidden passion and getting it on Edwardian-style? The answer is about 13 minutes, leaving another hour and 15 for the viewer to ponder question two: How many of these movies can Helena Bonham Carter possibly hope to star in before she dies? That answer remains elusive, and though Carter is no longer a cherubic ingenue, she manages to turn in yet another fine, if reflexive, performance as a libertine among the eunuchs in between-the-wars Britain.

All in all, The Heart of Me seems like your standard sub-Merchant Ivory exercise, suitable for viewing in PBS purgatory for eons to come. But a funny thing happens about 45 minutes in: The story one expects to see dragged out till the credits roll suddenly exhausts itself, and the film becomes interesting. Or complex, anyway. And Williams' concise, elegant performance stands as a kind of emotional center for the film; as her life unravels, she fights first for order, then for revenge, settling by the end for whatever human closeness the world will afford her. It's not a shining victory, but it is a meaningful one. SEAN NELSON