Two Bits swindles with syrupy sentimentality; The Convent turns out stone cold

At times Baltar threatens to invigorate the proceedings, but he never quite swings it. He's supposed to be some sort of devil; if only he had that kind of vigor. He laughs a good, diabolical laugh, but when he hits on Helene, his mannered courtliness is silly.

The soundtrack -- mostly screeching violins -- adds insult to injury. It's much more offensive than the dialogue. The characters don't have much to say, but at least they say it softly. The nerve-shattering music, on the other hand, seems intended to keep viewers awake. In that sense it's cruelly indispensable.

Two Bits opens Fri, Jan. 26, at the Embarcadero Center in S.F.

The Convent opens Fri, Jan. 26, at Opera Plazain

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