Capsule reviews by Desson Howe unless noted.


ARIEL (Unrated) -- See review on page 52.

FUNNY ABOUT LOVE (PG-13) -- Christine Lahti decides love isn't enough, she wants a baby. She has a baby. Then she decides it's time to have a career, which leaves husband Gene Wilder in the parental drink. This one-man-and-a-baby caper was directed by Leonard Nimoy and also features Mary Stuart Masterson. Area theaters.

GOODFELLAS (R) -- See review on page 52.

NARROW MARGIN (R) -- See review on page 52.

STATE OF GRACE (R) -- A state of grace is what it takes to get through this laughable New York gang picture. On one side, you've got dee Oirish, a gang of imbibing punks featuring Ed Harris, loose cannon Gary Oldman and prodigal son Sean Penn. On the other, you got the Italians -- and they're upset. One of the Irish boys (John C. Reilly) owes them eight grand and he ain't showing no respect. This leads to a lot of bloodshed, a lot of cussing and far too many double negatives ("I don't gotta listen to nobody," that sort of thing). Oldman, as the gang's besotted loose cannon, seethes and twitches in one feature-length fit of overacting. His "New York Irish" accent is atrocious. Sean Penn is not too bad, as a gang member with a torn allegiance between blood and duty. Ed Harris, ah, what's the use. The screenplay by Dennis McIntyre is a dreary, cliche-riddled bore, and director Phil Joanou makes it twice so, with his overbearing, sophomorically rhapsodic approach to everything. This thing lasts more than two hours, by the way, which is either the mark of a great epic, or a director's inability to wrestle his bad project to the ground. In this case, it ain't no epic. Area theaters.

THE TALL GUY (R) -- See review on page 54.

WHITE HUNTER, BLACK HEART (PG) -- Maybe Clint Eastwood has just lost his mind. That would explain everything. In this adaptation of a Peter Viertel novel, he directs himself as John Wilson, a swaggery Hollywood director (loosely based on John Huston) who goes to Africa ostensibly to make a movie (not unlike "The African Queen"), but spends most of his time trying to bag an elephant. Eastwood's chain-smoking, anecdote-spouting performance is essentially a strained, bad imitation of director Huston. A 112-minute bad imitation. There is some relief: Sometimes, when he taps his cigar, he seems to be doing Dirty Harry doing Groucho Marx doing John Huston. The screenplay, which Viertel adapted with James Bridges and Burt Kennedy, moves with glacial, unsubtle deliberation. There is only one slightly riveting scene: In the middle of the movie Eastwood verbally tears apart an antisemitic British lady, then gets physically torn apart when he challenges a burly racist hotelier for roughing up an African waiter. Chipmunk-like sex symbol Jeff Fahey is competent as the screenwriter who must suffer Eastwood's bighearted "bluster," but it's a buffoonish role -- he's merely there to witness The Great Blustery John Wilson. Marisa Berenson and Richard Vanstone, as the actors in Wilson's movie, are made up to resemble Hepburn and Bogart. But like most everyone in this project, they seem vaguely stuffed. One last question: How did all these British and American characters get so tanned before they went to Africa? K-B Janus.