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"Instinct," "The Love Letter," "The Winslow Boy" and on video "Waking Ned Devine."

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InstinctThe Love LetterThe Winslow BoyNow On Video: Waking Ned Devine

"Instinct" Oscar-winning actors Anthony Hopkins and Cuba Gooding Jr. fill this psychological tale with energy and acting chutzpah. Too bad the contrived plot twists and preachy tone of the movie lessen their effect. Hopkins plays a primatologist who's turned a little too animalistic for his own good. He is imprisoned for a series of brutal murders in Rwanda and is extradited back to America. Which is where Gooding's character gets involved. As ambitious psychiatrist Theo Caulder, Gooding has a keen sense for opportunity. Helping the silent, often violent doctor back from the darkest jungle of his soul into the real world smells like a best-seller to him. Produced by the team behind "Phenomenon," "Instinct" has more than a few thought-provoking and revelatory moments. It's just that they come wrapped in such obvious, prefab Disney pedantics. No matter how intriguing the actors, you can't escape the feeling that you're being instructed. "The Love Letter" Mrs. Steven Spielberg, a.k.a. Kate Capshaw, produces and stars in this lackluster romance, greenlighted and released by hubby's Dreamworks. She plays Helen MacFarquhar, an older single gal in a sleepy ol' New England town who just happens to come upon an unsigned love letter. Who could the author be? Maybe it's longtime friend Tom Selleck or maybe zany college kid Tom Everett Scott who's always hanging around her. But wait, it seems Helen isn't the only one to read the letter. Soon everyone in town has reason to believe they are the muse who inspired such torrid passions. OK, point of clarification. In the world of great love letters, this one is tame, lame and unworthy of such small-town fame. But I digress. The whole town clamors to know who the author is, and as people make wild guesses and act on impulses, this sleepy ol' town ain't so sleepy anymore. But really, who cares? "The Winslow Boy" David Mamet's adaptation of Terence Rattigan's 1946 stage play seems stodgy and cold at first. But then, thanks to the wonderful performances by a stellar cast, you find yourself drawn in. And even more astounding, at the movie's end, you may actually find yourself wanting more. A lightly fictionalized rendering of an actual British legal case, "The Winslow Boy" deals with one family's near ruinous obsession with the truth. Nigel Hawthorne (even better here than in "The Madness of King George") plays the father whose 14-year-old son is expelled from the prestigious Osbourne Academy, a branch of the Royal Navy. It seems he's been accused — and convicted — of stealing a five-shilling postal note. When he says he's innocent, his entire family makes sacrifices to see that justice is done and the family name cleared. With everyone against them, the family catches the eye of barrister-of-the-moment Sir Robert Morton (brilliantly played by Jeremy Northam) to take the case before the House of Lords. Mamet directs his actors with a deft touch, allowing them to fill in their characters with tiny but telling mannerisms. Eschewing modern courtroom traditions, Mamet daringly allows the climatic courtroom moments to happen off-screen. And it works. "The Winslow Boy" is a period piece to savor. Now On Video "Waking Ned Devine" This thoroughly delightful Irish charmer follows the antics of the residents of a small town who conspire to fraud. You see, one of their own — Ned Devine — has won the $7 million national lottery. But he's so old and feeble that news of his windfall sends him over the edge. In order to help themselves — as they know dear ol' Ned would have wanted them to, bless his soul — the townsfolk decide to try and fool the lottery board. They choose one of their own to impersonate the late Mr. Devine and all sorts of Hibernian hijinks ensue.

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