** Bloody, voyeuristic, satirical.
DADETOWN (Not rated)
** A fiction film made to resemble a PBS-type documentary, this timely drama traces the tensions that arise in a small town when a large, impersonal corporation sets up its headquarters just as a decades-old local company faces cutbacks and layoffs. Imitation documentaries are among the hardest of films to pull off, and this is a reasonably well-crafted specimen of the breed. Directed by the late Russ Hexter. P V
*** Gwyneth Paltrow is enchanting as a self-confident young woman who decides to wile away her time by playing matchmaker for a friend whose romantic life would fare much better without interference. Directed by Douglas McGrath from his own screenplay, based on the same richly ironic Jane Austen novel that inspired "Clueless," the gorgeously filmed comedy features good supporting performances by Greta Scacchi and Juliet Stevenson.
**** Genteel, sprightly, romantic.
EXTREME MEASURES (R)
* A young physician stumbles on a conspiracy to conduct dangerous medical research by kidnapping homeless people and subjecting them to damaging experiments. The action is gripping and the story raises important issues about medical ethics in a high-tech society. Gene Hackman is in excellent form, and Hugh Grant does the most finely tuned acting of his career to date. The film contains grisly medical scenes, though. Directed by Michael Apted from Tony Gilroy's screenplay, which loses some plausibility in the last few scenes. V P
THE FIRST WIVES CLUB (PG)
*** Infuriated when their husbands leave them for younger companions, three middle-aged women band together for revenge. The dialogue is often silly but Bette Midler, Diane Keaton, and Goldie Hawn deliver it with enough crackerjack energy to keep audiences laughing. Also features Maggie Smith, Bronson Pinchot, Dan Hedaya, and Marcia Gay Harden. Hugh Wilson directed. P
*** Hilarious, stereotypical, caustic.