Freeze Frames: The Monitor 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 movie guide appear on alternate Fridays.

Our star ratings (end of review) indicate the overall quality of movies, not their suitability for children.

o Forget It

+ Poor

++ Fair

+++ Good

++++ Excellent

Hercules [G]

++ Directed by Ron Clements and John Musker. With James Woods, Danny DeVito, Tate Donovan, Susan Egan, Rip Torn, Paul Shaffer, Lillias White, Charlton Heston, Amanda Plummer. Running time: 87 minutes. +++

PLOT After being stolen from his parents as a baby, the superstrong Greek god battles a villain named Hades, discovers his Olympian origins, and finds time to romance a damsel in distress.

MESSAGE Knowing who you are depends on accomplishing things and building good relationships as well as discovering your family history.

SEX None.

VIOLENCE A large amount of cartoonish fighting and other strong action, much of it involving villains drawn to look as scary and menacing as possible.

PROFANITY None.

drugs/alcohol None.

Contact [PG]

+++ Directed by Robert Zemeckis. With Jodie Foster, Matthew McConaughey, William Fichtner, Angela Bassett, James Woods, Tom Skerritt. Running time: 140 minutes. ++++

PLOT After years of dreaming that humans aren't alone in the universe, an astronomer detects a purposeful signal from outer space and decodes its meaning, which leads to construction of a spaceship. Meanwhile, she conducts an ongoing dialogue about science with her boyfriend, a theologian.

MESSAGE We humans are not alone in the cosmos, but even though some of us are dedicated and conscientious, it will be a very long time before we are ready to join superior beings and understand their ways of life.

SEX Two main characters are seen in bed together.

VIOLENCE A scene in which a huge technological apparatus is destroyed with much loss of life, and a space-travel scene with some harrowing moments.

PROFANITY 10 profanities, mostly mild.

DRUGS/ALCOHOL Three or four instances of people drinking beer and/or wine; at least three instances involving cigarettes or cigars.

Mrs. Brown [PG]

+++ Directed by John Madden. With Judi Dench, Bobby Connolly, Antony Sher, Geoffrey Palmer, David Westhead, Richard Pasco. Running time: 90 minutes.

PLOT After the death of her royal husband, Queen Victoria strikes up a close and controversial friendship with a feisty Scots horseman much lower than she on the social scale.

MESSAGE Even a monarch can suffer from emotional wounds, but true friendship can heal them.

SEX None.

VIOLENCE Some fighting.

PROFANITY A few vulgarities.

DRUGS/ALCOHOL Drinking.

Shall We Dance? [PG]

+++ Directed by Masayuki Suo. With Koji Yakusyo, Tamiyo Kusakari, Naoto Takenaka, Eriko Watanabe, Akira Emoto. Running time: 127 minutes. +++

PLOT A Japanese businessman decides to take a departure from his routine and take ballroom dancing lessons, his interest initially piqued by the attractive instructor. His wife encourages him to pursue a new activity but suspects him of infidelity and hires a detective.

MESSAGE Success is not only in mastering a new hobby; one can meet a number of people along the way and you can learn a lot about yourself in the process.

SEX None.

VIOLENCE None.

PROFANITY Two instances.

DRUGS/ALCOHOL In one scene, there is alcohol served at a restaurant, but no one is shown drinking.

A Simple Wish [PG]

+Directed by Michael Ritchie. With Martin Short, Mara Wilson, Amanda Plummer, Robert Pastorelli, Teri Garr, Kathleen Turner. Running time: 95 minutes. u

PLOT A little girl asks her "male fairy godmother" to help her father win a part in a Broadway play, and finds herself mixed up with wicked witches and other strange folks.

MESSAGE Magic can help in a pinch, but character is what really counts in life.

VIOLENCE Some comic fighting, gunplay, and magic spells.

SEX/PROFANITY/DRUGS/ALCOHOL None.

The Lost World: Jurassic Park [PG-13]

++ Directed by Steven Spielberg. With Jeff Goldblum, Julianne Moore, Richard Attenborough, Pete Postelthwaite, Vince Vaughn. Running time: 128 minutes. +++

PLOT Humans tangle with dinosaurs on a remote island and then in San Diego.

MESSAGE Tampering with nature can bring dangerous results.

VIOLENCE Lots of action-movie violence, enhanced with special effects. For instance, people's bodies are torn apart and eaten by dinosaurs; one person is pulled apart like a wishbone.

PROFANITY A few four-letter words and vulgar expressions.

SEX/DRUGS/ALCOHOL None.

Men in Black [PG-13]

+++ Directed by Barry Sonnenfeld. With Tommy Lee Jones, Will Smith, Linda Fiorentino, Rip Torn. Running time: 98 minutes. +++

PLOT A young man is recruited for a special police force that keeps track of aliens infiltrating Earth by taking over human bodies.

MESSAGE Life in contemporary New York is so chaotic that the most outlandish creatures can blend right in, and only specially equipped experts can ferret them out.

SEX A scene of very strong innuendo.

VIOLENCE A large amount of science-fiction violence including fighting and killing, much of it enhanced with special effects.

PROFANITY 51 vulgarities.

DRUGS/ALCOHOL Drinking.

My Best Friend's Wedding [PG-13]

+++ Directed by P.J. Hogan. With Julia Roberts, Dermot Mulroney, Rupert Everett, Cameron Diaz, Philip Bosco. Running time: 112 minutes. +++

PLOT When her longtime pal decides to marry someone else, a young woman sets out to snag him for herself.

MESSAGE Some may claim that all's fair in love and war, but even a well-meaning person may cross the line into dishonest and immoral behavior when the romantic stakes are high.

SEX Innuendo and some smarmy dialogue.

VIOLENCE None.

PROFANITY A number of vulgarities, and one joke involving a harsh four-letter word.

DRUGS/ALCOHOL Lots of social drinking; main character is constantly smoking cigarettes.

Operation Condor [PG-13]

++ Directed by Jackie Chan. With Jackie Chan, Carol Cheng, Eva Cobo de Garcia, Shoko Ikeda, Alfred Brel Sanchez, Stephen Endelman. Running time: 92 minutes. +++

PLOT An adventurer tracks down a Nazi treasure left over from World War II, dogged by sinister villains and sidetracked by spectacular stunts every step of the way.

MESSAGE Courage and determination can overcome great odds.

SEX Three scenes of mild nudity.

VIOLENCE A large amount of action-movie shooting, fighting, and chasing, much of it treated in an exaggerated or comic way.

PROFANITY One vulgarity.

DRUGS/ALCOHOL None.

Out to Sea [PG-13]

++ Directed by Martha Coolidge. With Jack Lemmon, Walter Matthau, Dyan Cannon, Donald O'Connor, Gloria De Haven. Running time: 106 minutes. +++

PLOT Two grumpy old men masquerade as dance instructors on an ocean cruise, hoping to sweep some rich old dowagers off their feet.

MESSAGE Senior citizens can cook up very harebrained schemes, but if they're basically decent people, no lasting damage will be done.

SEX A great deal of very strong innuendo.

VIOLENCE A little comic scuffling.

PROFANITY A very large number of vulgarities.

DRUGS/ALCOHOL Drinking.

Air Force One [R]

++ Directed by Wolfgang Petersen. With Harrison Ford, Gary Oldman, Glenn Close, Dean Stockwell, William H. Macy, Wendy Crewson, Liesel Matthews, Paul Guilfoyle. Running time: 125 minutes.

PLOT Terrorists hijack the president's plane, threatening to kill hostages until a tyrant is released in the former Soviet Union, and the chief executive has to pitch in against the villains.

MESSAGE Cold-war terrorism is alive and well in the former USSR, but American savvy and determination can still defeat it.

SEX Some implied threats of sexual violence.

VIOLENCE A great deal of killing, shooting, and fighting.

PROFANITY A number of harsh four-letter words.

DRUGS/ALCOHOL Drinking.

Face/Off [R]

++ Directed by John Woo. With Nicolas Cage, John Travolta, Gina Gershon, Joan Allen. Running time: 135 minutes. ++

PLOT A personally troubled FBI agent tries to thwart an evil criminal by assuming his face and identity, and the crook strikes back by assuming the cop's face and identity.

MESSAGE Identity depends less on external appearance than internal worthiness, but in some confused situations a person's inner self may be very difficult to detect.

SEX Some strongly suggested sexual behavior and raunchy dialogue about sex.

VIOLENCE An enormous amount of killing, shooting, and other action-movie violence, some of it quite explicit; also scenes of science-fiction-type medical procedures.

PROFANITY Many harsh four-letter words and other vulgarities.

DRUGS/ALCOHOL Drinking and drug abuse.

Nothing to Lose [R]

++ Directed by Steve Oedekerk. With Tim Robbins, Martin Lawrence, Giancarlo Esposito, Kelly Preston, John C. McGinley. Running time: 97 minutes.

PLOT Convinced that his wife and boss are both cheating on him, a white yuppie burns all his bridges and embarks on a life of crime with a black holdup artist.

MESSAGE Sinking into despair and dishonesty may seem irresistible at times, but a high price may eventually be paid.

SEX An explicit bedroom scene, and a great deal of innuendo.

VIOLENCE Much fighting and a number of crime scenes, usually treated with a comic touch.

PROFANITY Many harsh four-letter words.

DRUGS/ALCOHOL Drinking.

Ulee's Gold [R]

+++ Directed by Victor Nunez. With Peter Fonda, Patricia Richardson, Jessica Biel, J. Kenneth Campbell, Christine Dunford. Running time: 113 minutes. +++

PLOT A reclusive beekeeper must come to terms with the real world when his family is threatened by thugs hunting for money that his misguided son stashed away before going to jail.

MESSAGE Family life can be very difficult, but a family is so valuable that it's worth fighting to protect in any way necessary.

SEX None, although one teenage character conspicuously flaunts her sexuality.

VIOLENCE Several violent scenes including one where sadistic men threaten the hero's family, and violent physical reactions suffered by a drug-addicted woman.

PROFANITY Several harsh four-letter words and moments of very raunchy dialogue.

DRUGS/ALCOHOL Drinking; one character is a drug-dependent woman whose suffering and treatment are explicitly shown.

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