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Before settling in to watch tonight's game, I went to see The Interpreter, the new Nicole Kidman/Sean Penn thriller.

I'm sure you've seen the reviews, the words like "taut", "classy", "finely tuned"... but although the movie looks great -- it is the first film involving the United Nations to actually get permission to shoot in the UN buildings -- and is well acted by Penn, Kidman and others -- the ending left me kind of flat.

I'm not going to give spoilers here -- I don't do that -- and this movie is by no means a waste of time.

The basic setup is this: there's turmoil in the fictional African country of Matobo, set up by some killings at the beginning of the film. This winds up being confusing, because you're not quite sure of the identity of key characters set up in the beginning, until quite a bit later.

Kidman plays a UN interpreter -- getting to morph her Australian native accent into a vaguely South African one, though it's never made clear exactly where in Africa she's from. By the description of the country (she's supposed to have lived in Matobo), it seems vaguely like Rhodesia/Zimbabwe, and this isn't a key plot point.

She overhears what she thinks is a plot to assassinate the president of Matobo when he comes to speak in front of the UN.

This gets Penn, playing what seems to be almost a typecast for him, a rumpled law enforcement officer (does Penn ever wear a pressed suit or comb his hair in a film any more?), this time a US Secret Service agent.

OK, no more plot points. There are some cool chase scenes, a bit of almost-hidden romance between Penn and Kidman, and a really big explosion.

After that there are the requisite thriller twists, and though they all make sense, I wasn't all that excited about the way it was all wrapped up. I'm not saying it's not worth seeing -- it was fun and interesting -- but it's hardly the best thriller ever made, either.

Sydney Pollack directed and also, rather irrelevantly, played Penn's boss.

AYRating for the movie: 3 stars

Back to baseball: What do Joe Randa and Jeromy Burnitz have in common?

Oh, this one's easy. They are the only players to homer off Roger Clemens so far this season. Randa hit one on Opening Day, and until tonight, that was not only the only homer off Clemens, it was the only run, Clemens coming into tonight with a ridiculous 0.32 ERA, which now sits more than trebled to 1.03.

It's a mark of how bad the Astros have been that Clemens, despite not allowing a run since Randa's homer, won only that game. His other three starts before tonight were all 1-0 Houston losses, though he got a no-decision each time.

And no, that's not even close to a record. In "The Year Of The Pitcher", 1968, Ferguson Jenkins lost six games by 1-0.

Meanwhile, Burnitz' homer, a towering fly ball that landed just inside the RF foul pole, broke a 2-2 tie and was enough for a 3-2 Cub win over the Astros, at last resulting in the first three-game winning streak of the season, and also, for whatever it's worth, the high point of the year at two games over .500.

Hey, you've got to take the positives whenever you can get them, right?

Here's another one: It was Greg Maddux' first win of 2005, and the 306th of his career, one behind 19th Century hurler Mickey Welch, who amassed his win total playing for the New York Giants and their (mostly) predecessor franchise in Troy, NY.

Otherwise -- it was Burnitz' night, as he had a single and double in addition to the homer. To continue the bullpen roller-coaster, Mike Wuertz threw a nice seventh inning. Once again, I hate when managers feel they must pull effective right-handed pitchers when a lefthanded batter comes up, as Dusty did yet again putting Will Ohman in the game, and then yank the lefty one batter later for righty Roberto Novoa. Yes, I know that's why they call them LOOGYs. But not only does it disrupt the rhythm of the game, it many, many times backfires. It didn't tonight, sure. But this only gives Dusty the idea that he can keep doing this sort of thing.

Maddux, who threw an efficient 87 pitches before all these bullpen machinations, was removed after six innings for pinch-hitter Jason Dubois...

See -- look! Dusty Baker CAN pinch-hit with someone other than Jose Macias!

And yes, I would have sent Derrek Lee home after Aramis Ramirez' single in the 8th -- it was a worthwhile chance with only one out, and it took a perfect throw from CF to get Lee out, and they got one.

LaTroy Hawkins managed to finish up for his fourth save, and Len Kasper and Bob Brenly tried to be house men for LaTroy, citing a STATS Inc. survey of all saves since 1995 quoted on the Cubs website yesterday, and while it sounds too much like this survey was tailor-made to absolve Hawkins of his troubles, I suspect that it's the spectacular manner in which Hawkins has blown saves that gets us all remembering them. Look -- we don't want Hawkins to fail.

But hurry back, Joe Borowski.

I'm sure the Cubs were very happy to be playing in the mid-70's temperatures in Houston, despite it being a rather muggy evening, after playing the last homestand in weather more suited to the sport formerly known as hockey. It still hasn't warmed up here -- it was chilly and around 50 all day here in Chicago. It's almost May, for heaven's sake.

Stay warm. Enjoy tonight's win, and tomorrow Kerry Wood attempts to show all of us his shoulder is still in good shape.