The Monitor Movie Guide
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uu She's a Transylvanian vampire on the loose in New York, and a dedicated monster-hunter is on her trail. The story has little to offer, but the movie takes on strong visual interest when director Michael Almereyda allows it to get really weird, creating some of his effects with a toy Pixelvision camera. Elina Lowensohn is convincing as the title character, but Galaxy Craze is irritatingly self-absorbed in the other key female role, and it's hard to imagine what Peter Fonda thinks he's doing as the straggly-haired hero. V S PSkip to next paragraph
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THE NET (PG-13)
u Computer hacker-hero vs. high-tech saboteurs. Sandra Bullock is her usual appealing self, but she can't transcend the predictable material she's programmed with here. Directed by Irwin Winkler, a filmmaker with more social awareness than cinematic imagination. V P
uuu Fast-paced, exciting, implausible.
NINE MONTHS (PG-13)
uu The movie isn't quite that long, but it has more than one dull stretch as a man reluctantly accepts the idea of parenthood with his pregnant girlfriend. The story is loaded with cliches and perilously weak on logic. Hugh Grant goes through his usual repertoire of lovable tics, but Robin Williams steals the show as a Russian doctor who says ''Anastasia'' instead of ''anesthesia.'' Directed by Chris Columbus. P
uuu Goofy, sappy, slapstick.
OPERATION DUMBO DROP (PG)
uu Green Beret soldiers transport an elephant to a remote Vietnamese village. Danny Glover and Ray Liotta head a cast of likable actors, and the dialogue provides some hearty laughs. The story has few real surprises, though, and it's disconcerting to see war-torn Vietnam turned into the backdrop for an escapist entertainment in the usual Disney mold. Simon Wincer directed. V P
uuu The adventurous romance between a spunky Indian girl and a hardy English colonialist, retold by the Walt Disney studio with a predictable tilt toward nostalgic myth rather than clear-eyed history. The film is attractively designed and energetically edited, in the usual Disney fashion, and it's interesting to see the Disney folks convey such a hearty endorsement of interracial dating. The drawing, directing, and dialogue all seem a bit mechanical, though, suggesting that the studio's magic formulas are wear thin. Mel Gibson, Irene Bedard, and native-American activist Russell Means head the talented cast. Mike Gabriel and Eric Goldberg directed.
uuu Highly enjoyable, light, earth-friendly.
THE POSTMAN (''IL POSTINO'') (PG)
uuuu Exiled by his 1950s political foes to a fishing village off the Italian coast, Chilean poet Pablo Neruda strikes up an unexpected friendship with a meek postman who's one of the island's few literate inhabitants. Directed with exquisite care by Michael Radford, this loosely fact-based drama is both a touching story of mutual affection and a deeply intelligent essay on the relationship between nature and culture. Philippe Noiret is a fully believable Neruda, even if the screenplay doesn't reflect the rich variety of the actual poet's work, and the late Massimo Troisi is brilliant as his unlikely companion. S P
uuuu Poetic, tender, quietly humorous.
THE PROMISE (Not Rated)
u The story of a love affair that begins around the time the Berlin Wall is constructed, and persists until the momentous changes that mark the end of East Germany's Communist era. German filmmaker Margarethe von Trotta is an experienced director with strong social and political awareness, but she badly weakens the impact of this drama by confining its fascinating issues to the predictable boundaries of a corny soap-opera plot. Its lack of historical depth is almost shocking at times. V P
uuuu A woman develops health problems, decides chemicals in the environment are to blame, and contacts a cultlike self-help organization that leads her to progressive isolation from the everyday world. This thoughtful, chilling film is at once a poignant psychological drama and an incisive study of complex issues. Directed by Todd Haynes with a brilliantly controlled visual style that conveys great emotional power while purposefully avoiding the manipulative cues that conventional Hollywood movies rely on. Julianne Moore heads the superb cast. S P