Freeze Frames: The Monitor Movie Guide
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*Wildly eccentric comedy about a self-help speechwriter, a dentist who could be his twin, and the woman they both love. Written and directed by Steven Soderbergh of "sex, lies, and videotape" fame. This time he deserves an A for audacity, an F for everything else. S N P VSkip to next paragraph
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ANNA KARENINA (PG-13)
*** The classic tale of two intertwined love affairs: one between a married woman and a handsome military officer, which brings tragedy to all concerned, and another between a ditzy princess and a thoughtful but insecure aristocrat. Much gets eliminated when a 1,000-page epic is squeezed into less than two hours of screen time, but filmmaker Bernard Rose has adapted Leo Tolstoy's timeless masterpiece with skill and understanding, capturing a tumultuous array of human emotions against a backdrop of imperial elegance that recalls the golden age of historical movies. Sophie Marceau is a radiant Anna and Alfred Molina is perfect as Levin, the character closest to Tolstoy himself. V S N
CATS DON'T DANCE (G)
*** Lively animated feature about a cat who leaves the Midwest for Hollywood, dreaming of success in silver-screen musicals. There he runs afoul of a bratty star who doesn't like animals, but learns that while dreams don't come true easily, cleverness and perseverance pay off in the long run. The picture has energy to spare, but children won't get the movie-buff references that provide much of its humor. Mark Dindal directed. Voices include Scott Bakula, Natalie Cole, Jasmine Guy, George Kennedy, Hal Holbrook, Rene Auberjonois, Kathy Najimi, and Don Knotts. V
CHILDHOOD'S END (Not rated)
*** Young and not-so-young adults spin a complex web of relationships as they cope with emotional and sexual tensions in a Midwestern suburb. Jeff Lipsky's first feature is more honest than penetrating, but deserves praise for earnestly exploring a wide range of ideas and feelings. S N P
*A young couple gets involved with a group of bizarre people who find erotic pleasure in automobile crashes. The original novel, written by J.G. Ballard in 1973, is a cautionary tale suggesting that new forms of amorality may flourish in today's highly technologized world. David Cronenberg's movie is a chilly meditation on this theme, carrying some cinematic interest but surprisingly dull given the story's outrageous subject. James Spader and Holly Hunter head the cast. Contains much explicit and perverse sex and violence. S N V P
*Gory, perverted, appalling.
THE DAYTRIPPERS (Not rated)
*** Worried that her husband might be philandering on her, a suburban woman packs her mother, father, sister, and future brother-in-law into the car, and they head for the city to find out what's really going on. The slender story gains humor and warmth from excellent acting by Hope Davis, Anne Meara, Parker Posey, Stanley Tucci, Campbell Scott, Liev Schreiber, and others. Written and directed by first-time filmmaker Greg Mottola. P S V
*** Smart, funny, real.
THE DEVIL'S OWN (R)
** A member of the Irish Republican Army comes to New York and moves into the home of an Irish-American police officer, who doesn't know the guest is planning a deal to buy heavy weaponry for his organization. Brad Pitt and Harrison Ford have good chemistry, and the story takes a few interesting turns. The dramatic situations aren't intense or knotty enough to match the moral issues behind them, however. Treat Williams, Ruben Blades, and Simon Jones head the supporting cast. Directed by Alan J. Pakula. V P S
** Disturbing, fine acting, unrealistic.
DOUBLE TEAM (R)
*Jean Claude Van Damme and Dennis Rodman, the Chicago Bulls player with rainbow-hued hair, make an unlikely team in this frenetic flick. Get ready for non-stop gunfire, karate battles, snarling tigers, impossible derring-do, and more explosions than the Fourth of July. The preposterous plot serves only as a backdrop for Rodman's camera mugging and Van Damme's impressive physical prowess. V P By John Dillin
*Fast-moving, silly, absurdly violent.
THE EIGHTH DAY (Not rated)
** French star Daniel Auteuil plays an uptight executive who embarks on an unlikely journey with a mentally slow man as his companion. The movie deserves credit for its compassionate approach to a subject most filmmakers steer away from, but it eventually cops out with a manipulative ending that's more superficial than insightful. Directed by Belgian filmmaker Jaco Van Dormael, who explored similar terrain in "Toto the Hero," a more exciting and original adventure. S P V N