Family Movie Guide

This guide includes "family films," potential blockbusters, and movies that might interest young people. Only films with G ratings are tagged as all-family fare by Hollywood. Most have stronger MPAA ratings that call for extra alertness from parents. The Family Movie Guide and the Monitor's more-comprehensive Freeze Frames movie guide appear on alternate Fridays.

Our star ratings (see below) indicate the overall quality of movies, not their suitability for children. Stars at the end of each review reflect the opinions of the Monitor staff panel.

o Forget It

* Poor

** Fair

*** Good

**** Excellent

Evita [PG]

** Directed by Alan Parker. With Madonna, Jonathan Pryce, Antonio Banderas. Running time: 130 minutes. ***

PLOT Eva Peron rises from back-country squalor to fame and fortune as the wife of Argentine leader Juan Peron.

MESSAGE Eva Peron was a controversial but basically well-meaning person who lived a dramatic life in a dramatic period of history.

SEX Some implied sex and innuendo.

VIOLENCE Scenes of social and political unrest.

PROFANITY Some vulgarities.

DRUGS/ALCOHOL Drinking.

Michael [PG]

** Directed by Nora Ephron. With John Travolta, William Hurt, Andie MacDowell, Bob Hoskins, Jean Stapleton, Robert Pastorelli. Running time: 105 minutes. ***

PLOT Three tabloid reporters visit a rural town where an angel has taken up residence. Taking him back to Chicago, they quickly discover that he's a down-to-earth fellow with a surprising taste for profane pleasures.

MESSAGE Some of life's greatest gifts are ethereal and refined; others are earthy and even sensual.

SEX Several scenes with implied sexual activity.

VIOLENCE A barroom brawl and a comic fight between the angel and a bull.

PROFANITY Four-letter words and other vulgarities.

DRUGS/ALCOHOL Much drinking.

One Fine Day [PG]

** Directed by Michael Hoffman. With Michelle Pfeiffer, George Clooney, Mae Whitford, Charles Durning. Running time: 105 minutes. ***

PLOT Two single parents juggle each other's kids during a hectic day of schedule changes, cellular-phone mix-ups, and other complications.

MESSAGE Family responsibilities can bring people together even in the frenetic '90s.

SEX Some innuendo and sensuality.

VIOLENCE Scenes of mild danger or injury.

PROFANITY A few vulgarities.

DRUGS/ALCOHOL None.

The Preacher's Wife [PG]

** Directed by Penny Marshall. With Denzel Washington, Whitney Houston, Courtney B. Vance, Gregory Hines, Jenifer Lewis, Loretta Devine. Running time: 124 minutes. ***

PLOT An angel comes to help a minister who's determined to build an imposing new church, and he almost gets sidetracked by his other project of cheering up the clergyman's neglected wife.

MESSAGE People should keep their goals focused on deep-rooted values like compassion, charity, and companionship without getting distracted by more worldly concerns.

SEX, PROFANITY None.

VIOLENCE One scene shows a violent inner-city robbery.

DRUGS/ALCOHOL Drinking.

The Evening Star [PG-13]

** Directed by Robert Harling. With Shirley MacLaine, Juliette Lewis, Miranda Richardson, Jack Nicholson, Donald Moffat, Bill Paxton, Ben Johnson. Running time: 120 minutes.

PLOT An aging but feisty woman strikes up a sexual relationship with a much younger man while trying to keep her wayward granddaughter under control and cope with other household problems.

MESSAGE To engage fully with life is to embrace a wide variety of problems, adventures, and rewards.

SEX Implicit and explicit sexual encounters, including some near nudity.

VIOLENCE Scenes of illness and emotional conflict.

PROFANITY Four-letter words and other vulgarities.

DRUGS/ALCOHOL Drinking.

Ghosts of Mississippi [PG-13]

*** Directed by Rob Reiner. With Alec Baldwin, Whoopi Goldberg, James Woods, Wayne Rogers, Craig T. Nelson, William H. Macy, Virginia Madsen. Running time: 120 minutes. ***

PLOT A young attorney prosecutes an aging racist for the murder of civil rights leader Medgar Evers more than 30 years earlier, with help from the victim's widow.

MESSAGE Courage and determination can prevail even when evil appears to have triumphed.

SEX None.

VIOLENCE Graphic depiction of Evers's murder.

PROFANITY Four-letter words and racist vulgarities.

DRUGS/ALCOHOL Drinking.

Hamlet [PG-13]

*** Directed by Kenneth Branagh. With Kenneth Branagh, Julie Christie, Kate Winslet, Billy Crystal, Robin Williams. Running time: 242 minutes.

PLOT A young prince broods over his father's death, his mother's marriage to the late king's brother, and his own desire for revenge.

MESSAGE A thoughtful young person may find much that is rotten in the existing structure of family, social, and political power.

SEX Fairly explicit views of sexual activity and discussion of what the hero considers an incestuous marriage.

VIOLENCE Sword fighting, poisoning, stabbing.

PROFANITY Some vulgar Shakespearean wordplay.

DRUGS/ALCOHOL Drinking.

Mother [PG-13]

*** Directed by Albert Brooks. With Albert Brooks, Debbie Reynolds, Rob Morrow, Lisa Kudrow. Running time: 104 minutes.

PLOT Wondering where his life took a wrong emotional turn, a twice-divorced writer moves back in with his mother and finds her personality just as inscrutable as his own.

MESSAGE Modern life is emotionally complex. Families may be wonderful, but even good ones are far from perfect.

SEX Some very raunchy dialogue with a joking view of incest.

VIOLENCE None.

PROFANITY Four-letter words and other vulgarities.

DRUGS/ALCOHOL Social drinking.

The Portrait of a Lady [PG-13]

**** Directed by Jane Campion. With Nicole Kidman, John Malkovich, Barbara Hershey, Martin Donovan, Shelley Duvall, Shelley Winters. Running time: 144 minutes. ***

PLOT A young woman jeopardizes her bright future by marrying a self-absorbed man despite signs that he regards her as just one more addition to his collection of beautiful things.

MESSAGE Human nature is so complex that emotional snares may lurk where least expected.

SEX Some innuendo and brief nudity.

VIOLENCE Brief but jarring domestic violence.

PROFANITY None.

DRUGS/ALCOHOL Drinking.

Albino Alligator [R]

* Directed by Kevin Spacey. With Matt Dillon, Faye Dunaway, Gary Sinise. Running time: 105 minutes.

PLOT A burglary goes haywire, stranding the criminals and several hostages in a low-grade saloon surrounded by the police.

MESSAGE People may reveal hidden aspects of their personalities and their pasts when subjected to great and prolonged stress.

SEX None.

VIOLENCE Explicit fighting and killing.

PROFANITY Many harsh four-letter words and other vulgarities.

DRUGS/ALCOHOL Much drinking.

The English Patient [R]

** Directed by Anthony Minghella. With Ralph Fiennes, Juliette Binoche, Willem Dafoe, Kristin Scott Thomas. Running time: 162 minutes. ***

PLOT Badly wounded in World War II, a pilot recovers under the care of a sensitive nurse while remembering his wartime experiences and his earlier involvement with another woman.

MESSAGE Loyalties can be stretched and strained in many directions when personal and patriotic obligations overlap with one another.

SEX Nudity and sexual behavior. The main character has an affair with a married woman.

VIOLENCE Scenes of wartime violence, a graphic torture scene, illness, and severe injury.

PROFANITY Some four-letter words.

DRUGS/ALCOHOL Drinking and drug injections.

Metro [R]

** Directed by Thomas Carter. With Eddie Murphy, Carmen Ejogo, Michael Rapaport, Michael Wincott. Running time: 117 minutes.

PLOT A police-force hostage negotiator trains a new partner, romances his girlfriend, and duels with a psychopath who develops a personal hatred for him, solving the problem with lots of violence and very little negotiation.

MESSAGE Some occupations invite both personal and professional dangers, but a brave and resourceful person can rise to the challenges involved, especially if that person has no hesitations about resorting to violence.

SEX Brief nudity.

VIOLENCE A large amount of explicit killing, fighting, and shooting; hostage situations; and a scene involving dismemberment.

PROFANITY Many four-letter words.

DRUGS/ALCOHOL Drinking.

The People vs. Larry Flynt [R]

*** Directed by Milos Forman. With Woody Harrelson and Courtney Love. Running time: 129 minutes. *

PLOT A pornographer turns a sleazy magazine into a publishing empire and gets into heated controversies, such as a battle with the leader of the Moral Majority organization, who sues the trash peddler over a vicious parody but loses the case in a unanimous Supreme Court opinion written by one of the most conservative justices.

MESSAGE Free expression is protected by the Constitution even when it's lurid, disgusting, hateful, and published for the most obviously venal of reasons.

SEX A large amount of varied and explicit sexual behavior, and also much nudity.

VIOLENCE Fighting, an attempted assassination, and graphic scenes of injury and illness.

PROFANITY Constant four-letter words and harsh vulgarities.

DRUGS/ALCOHOL Hard drinking and drug abuse.

The Relic [R]

* Directed by Peter Hyams. With Penelope Ann Miller, Tom Sizemore, Linda Hunt, James Whitmore. Running time: 105 minutes.

PLOT A monster is terrorizing Chicago's natural-history museum, and an evolutionary biologist tries to save the day without mussing her makeup.

MESSAGE Scientists must grapple with the supernatural to solve some problems.

SEX None.

VIOLENCE Extremely graphic mayhem, including views of dismembered bodies.

PROFANITY Four-letter words and other vulgarities.

DRUGS/ALCOHOL A drug-smoking scene.

Some Mother's Son [R]

*** Directed by Terry George. With Helen Mirren, Fionnula Flanagan, Aiden Gillen, David O'Hara. Running time: 110 minutes.

PLOT The lives of two different Irish women are thrown together when their sons are imprisoned for revolutionary violence and join a hunger strike that gains worldwide attention but threatens to kill them both.

MESSAGE One of the most intense moral challenges a person can face is to be a dedicated pacifist caught between parental love and philosophical convictions.

SEX None.

VIOLENCE Many scenes of terrorism and revolutionary mayhem.

PROFANITY Many four-letter words.

DRUGS/ALCOHOL Drinking.

Turbulence [R]

* Directed by Robert Butler. With Ray Liotta and Lauren Holly. Running time: 107 minutes.

PLOT A flight attendant fends off a serial killer while piloting a disabled airplane through thunderstorms, hoping the military won't gun her down to avoid a disastrous big-city crash.

MESSAGE Violence may erupt despite precautions, but ordinary people can conquer it with enough courage and tenacity.

SEX None.

VIOLENCE Extreme violence and terror.

PROFANITY Many harsh four-letter words.

DRUGS/ALCOHOL Much drinking and intoxication of the villain.

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