MOVIES . . . CONTACT: "The movie 'CONTACT'," says TIME's Richard Schickel, "is something like one of those mysterious asteroids that get the astronomers all worked up: a large body of gaseous matter surrounding a relatively small core of solid substance." The movie, adapted from Carl Sagan's novel, is good -- up to a point -- on the inevitable hubbub that follows. Leading it are a national security adviser (James Woods) going nastily paranoid about space invasion; a presidential science adviser (Tom Skerritt) trying to shunt Ellie out of the loop as the government builds the shuttle (plans kindly provided by the aliens) needed to penetrate our newly defined outer limits; and Palmer Joss (Matthew McConaughey), a sort of New Age Billy Graham who has wormed his way into the high councils of state as spiritual consultant to the President. "Director Robert Zemeckis and his colleagues have been all over the press congratulating themselves on throwing an intellectually challenging movie into the summer maelstrom," says Schickel. "What this tells us about them -- and if Contact is a hit, the rest of us -- is too depressing to contemplate."
MOVIES . . . MRS. BROWN: 'Mrs. Brown' is the true story how of Queen Victoria (Judi Dench), locked in grief after Prince Albert's death, has her death-in-life is changed by a humble horseman named John Brown. He speaks boldly to her and rudely to her children. He takes her on long walks, gives her counsel; most important, he makes her laugh. "Nicely, the movie lets viewers decide whether Brown is a devoted servant or a devious bully and whether the Queen’s long bereavement is partly stubbornness masquerading as principle," says TIME's Richard Corliss. "It also provides a field day for some wonderful actors too little seen on this side of the Atlantic. Sher is a wily, puckish delight; and Dame Judi, her face clamped in anguish, radiates the stern ecstasy of grief. This queen of English understatement embodies Victoria’s belief: that mourning is the only way survivors can consummate their love for the dead."