** Al Pacino's inventive movie alternates scenes from Shakespeare's darkly dramatic "Richard III" with amusing real-life material about the challenge of making Shakespeare plays alive and fresh for contemporary audiences. The cast includes Alec Baldwin, Winona Ryder, Kevin Spacey, Aidan Quinn, and Estelle Parsons, and documentary scenes feature James Earl Jones, Vanessa Redgrave, Kevin Kline, and John Gielgud, among others. Contains violence and vulgar language, though. V P
MICHAEL COLLINS (R)
* A bold Irish fighter spearheads rebellion against British rule, and he holds a running argument over the proper form of the struggle with a politician who advocates different means to the same end. Liam Neeson and Alan Rickman give sturdy performances, but Neil Jordan's historically based drama seems oddly cool and distant with regard to its incendiary subject. Contains much foul language and a great deal of killing and other mayhem, some of it extremely graphic. V P
* Three young men plan a robbery that they mistakenly think will revitalize their aimless lives, and they totally botch the job. Alan Taylor's dark comedy is amusing but unmemorable. Vincent Gallo, William Forsythe, and Adam Trese head the cast. V P
* The long, sordid story of four youngsters who get sent to a reform school where they are subjected to terrifying sexual abuse, then grow up and plot a complicated revenge against the guards who were responsible. The excellent cast includes Robert De Niro, Dustin Hoffman, Kevin Bacon, Brad Pitt, Bruno Kirby, and Jason Patric. Barry Levinson's filmmaking style is often imaginative. The story contains horrific scenes of sexual torture as well as sadistic killings and other disturbing material, though. S V P
*** Gripping, emotionally compelling, powerful.