Freeze Frames: The Monitor Movie Guide
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++ A talented young attorney takes a job in a high-powered law firm and gradually learns that it's run by the devil himself. Taylor Hackford's thriller makes a mischievous assault on today's legal system, but its points would be more telling if the story didn't veer so often into needless sensationalism and eye-catching effects. Al Pacino and Keanu Reeves attack their roles with gusto under Hackford's direction, and the screenplay is witty enough to name the villain John Milton, after one of literature's greatest chroniclers of infernal doings. Contains explicit sex and violence. S V N PSkip to next paragraph
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+++ Clever, chilling, intriguing plot.
EYE OF GOD (R)
++ In a small Midwestern town, a waitress marries an ex-convict she corresponded with during his prison term, and she gradually learns that his newfound religious convictions haven't tamed his dangerous temper. The story doesn't quite add up to a well-told drama, but there's rock-solid acting by Martha Plimpton, Kevin Anderson, Hal Holbrook as the local sheriff, and Nick Stahl as a youngster who is tragically affected by the events around him. Written and directed by newcomer Tim Blake Nelson. V P S
FAIRYTALE - A TRUE STORY (PG)
+++ Two girls snap a photo of fairies in their family's English garden, sparking different responses from interested parties, including the author Arthur Conan Doyle, who believes in supernatural beings, and the magician Harry Houdini, who takes a skeptical view of such matters. Charles Sturridge's fantasy is slow and complicated for very young viewers, but others will enjoy its wholesome story and detailed depiction of the World War I era, not to mention the fairyland scenes, which are truly magical. The strong cast includes Peter O'Toole as the celebrated writer and Harvey Keitel as the world's greatest escape artist.
+++ Heartwarming, intricate, marvelous fairy effects.
+++ The time is the 21st century, the setting is a society where biological tests determine everyone's designated role in life, and the hero is a physically imperfect young man who decides to buck the system and cheat his way into an astronaut-training program. Andrew Niccol wrote and directed this intelligent and suspenseful science-fiction drama featuring strong performances by Ethan Hawke, Uma Thurman, Alan Arkin, and Gore Vidal. V P S
u Bleak, uninspired, poor acting.
++ The adventures of two aimless youngsters and their eccentric neighbors, in a Midwestern town recently devastated by a tornado. Written and directed by Harmony Korine, this meandering docudrama blends adventurous filmmaking with the sort of grotesque, sometimes repulsive content found on the sleaziest tabloid-TV shows. Different viewers might find different portions worthy of anything from zero to four stars, but anyone with a faint heart or weak stomach should stay miles away from it. S N V P
THE HOUSE OF YES (R)
++ A young man brings his fiance to visit his family, which includes a mentally unbalanced twin sister involved in an incestuous relationship with him. Written and directed by Mark Waters, who strives for David Mamet-style punchiness but doesn't develop the quirky momentum that would carry the deliberately out-of-kilter story past its implausibilities. Parker Posey is her usual vivacious self as the disturbed young woman. Josh Hamilton and Tori Spelling also star. S V P
I KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER (R)
++ Two couples who just graduated from high school accidentally kill a man in an auto accident and cover up the crime to save their promising futures. A year later a mysterious figure appears in a fisherman's slicker and, wielding an ice hook, begins to stalk them. The screenplay by Kevin Williamson ("Scream") keeps the lighting low and the tension high, though a bit more wit would have helped. The performances by the young actors are engaging. Contains profanity and some scenes of graphic violence. S V P By Greg Lamb
++ Suspenseful, scary, exhilarating.
THE ICE STORM (R)