Freeze Frames: The Monitor Movie Guide
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*** A nonfiction look at the tumultuous life and history-making career of Nelson Mandela, touching on a wide range of issues that have influenced South Africa during the past several decades. Gives a colorful overview of a complex and fascinating subject, although there are many areas where more careful and detailed treatment would have been appropriate. Directed by Jo Menell and Angus Gibson. VSkip to next paragraph
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A MONGOLIAN TALE (Not rated)
*** Set in rural Mongolia, this beautifully filmed drama traces the experiences of a man and woman who grow up in the same household, separate when he travels to the city for his education, then reunite after their lives have moved onto very different pathways. The movie is less profound than director Xie Fei's earlier masterpiece, "The Women From the Lake of Scented Souls," but it glows with the eye-filling images and warm-hearted acting that distinguish Chinese cinema at its best, and shows special sensitivity to the challenges facing women in a tradition-bound land starting to feel the pressures of growth and modernization. P V
PRIVATE PARTS (R)
*The life and times of radio personality Howard Stern, who has turned a flair for vulgarity and sensationalism into superstar status and a zillion-dollar career. Some scenes paint a convincing portrait of Stern as a witty opponent of stuffiness, prudery, and hypocrisy. Others mix gross-out humor with nasty doses of racism, sexism, and homophobia that reveal a dark side to Stern's professional personality. Stern and his co-host, Robin Quivers, play themselves. Directed by Betty Thomas. S V N P
** Hilarious, juvenile, insightful.
THE QUIET ROOM (PG)
*** This sensitive, imaginative drama is told from the perspective of a little girl whose parents' constant arguing has made her decide to stop talking. Few movies have paid more sincere attention to the fact that children are full-fledged human beings with complicated inner lives; and few have depicted childhood with such skillful avoidance of simplistic or sentimental notions. Written and directed by Australia-based filmmaker Rolf de Heer.
RETURN OF THE JEDI (PG)
*** Reissue of the concluding 1983 chapter in George Lucas's celebrated "Star Wars" trilogy, with Han Solo and Princess Leia helping Luke Skywalker reclaim his father from the dark side of the Force. Less original than the first "Star Wars" and less resonant than "The Empire Strikes Back," but packed with fast-paced action and downright cuddly Ewoks. It stars Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, and Harrison Ford plus Billy Dee Williams and the great Alec Guiness. V
*** Futuristic, inventive, fantastic but slow.
THE SAINT (PG-13)
** He's more of a trickster than his nickname would suggest, but he's ultimately on the right side in an action-packed conflict between a nasty Russian schemer and a gifted American scientist who thinks she's discovered a phenomenal new energy source. Val Kilmer is fun as the mercurial hero, and Elisabeth Shue would be great as the physicist if the movie didn't have her waste so much time making googoo-eyes at her handsome new boyfriend. And will someone tell Hollywood the cold war is over? Relations between Russia and the US are confused enough without suspicion-mongering pictures like this. Directed by Phillip Noyce. S V P
** Unoriginal, gripping, suspenseful.
** The life of Selena Quintanilla Perez, the hugely popular Latina singer, from her beginnings in a family pop group to her tragic death at an early age. The dialogue swings between platitudes and clichs, but the acting is lively and the music will set even lazy toes tapping. Directed by Gregory Nava. V P
*** Sweet, inspirational, celebrates innocence.
THE SIXTH MAN (PG-13)
** A simple and humorous film for viewers of all ages. The movie is an amusing tale of how the ghost of a recently deceased college basketball player assists his team in reaching the Final Four. Marlon Wayans heads the cast of this comedy. Contains cameo appearances by college coaches Dean Smith (UNC) and Bruiser Flint (UMass) as well as an appearance by the loquacious basketball announcer Dick Vitale. V P By Tom Balcom
TROMEO & JULIET (Not rated)
*Troma, a low-budget production company specializing in over-the-top sleaze, jumps on the Shakespeare bandwagon with this deliberately brainless update of the classic play about ill-starred lovers. The result is a tragedy in every sense of the term, but it might steer some youngsters toward the original. S V N