Freeze Frames: The Monitor Movie Guide
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++ The setting is a well-to-do New England suburb; the time is the Watergate era of 1973; and the main characters are members of various families whose complex relationships become more tangled when an ice storm causes last-minute changes in their social and sexual arrangements. Directed by Ang Lee, whose exposure of middle-class hypocrisy would be more effective if it weren't rigged to provide evidence for the story's take on contemporary values. Contains material that many will find realistic but distasteful, including sex and drug experimentation by youngsters. S N P VSkip to next paragraph
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+++ Compelling, intelligent, disturbing.
IN & OUT (PG-13)
+++ A small-town English teacher takes a new look at his life and self-image after a former student goes on national TV and identifies him as gay. Frank Oz's comedy combines a celebration of tolerance with an affirmation of family and community values, and a surprising amount of laugh-out-loud hilarity. The cast includes Kevin Kline, Joan Cusack, Tom Selleck, and Bob Newhart. Contains dialogue and other material dealing frankly with sexuality. P S V
++ Clever dialogue, mildly embarrassing, politically correct.
KISS THE GIRLS (R)
++ When a young woman is abducted, her uncle - a thoughtful police officer - attempts to track down her psychopathic killer. Sensitive acting by Morgan Freeman and stylish directing by Gary Fleder can't overcome the bottom-line pointlessness of the movie's melodramatic material, which never achieves the dark resonance that helped "The Silence of the Lambs" get under the skin of many moviegoers. Contains harrowing suspense and violence. S P V N
++ Creepy, tense, ominous.
A LIFE LESS ORDINARY (R)
++ Under pressure from higher-up, two hard-working angels engineer an earthly kidnapping to bring a couple together and increase the amount of romantic love in the world. Danny Boyle's dark comedy has stylishly filmed moments, but overall it's a queasy blend of amusing, pointless, and sometimes quite nasty material. Ewan McGregor, Cameron Diaz, Holly Hunter, Delroy Lindo, and Ian Holm head the cast. V P S
+ Strange, lacks a plot, wait for video.
SEVEN YEARS IN TIBET (PG-13)
+++ Brad Pitt plays an Austrian adventurer who climbs the Himalayas during World War II, lands in a British prison camp, then escapes and treks to the Tibetan city of Lhasa, where he and the young Dalai Lama strike up a mutually illuminating friendship. Jean-Jacques Annaud's epic doesn't delve very deeply into the religious and historical subjects it raises, but it's colorfully filmed and takes a commendable interest in serious issues, including China's brutal invasion and occupation of Tibet. V P
++++ Beautiful scenery, thought-provoking, moving.
TELLING LIES IN AMERICA (R)
++ Newly arrived in the United States, a young Hungarian immigrant becomes the protg of a seedy disc jockey, who teaches him that people are rarely as honest as they appear. Joe Eszterhas's screenplay is vastly more thoughtful than his scripts for "Basic Instinct" and its ilk, but the storytelling is too spotty for the movie to become the effective moral tale it might have been. Kevin Bacon and Brad Renfro are excellent as the sleazy mentor and his immature friend. Guy Ferland directed. S V P
WASHINGTON SQUARE (PG)
+++ A plain, sensitive young woman is caught between a handsome but penniless suitor and her father, a cool-minded physician who's determined to prevent their marriage. Jennifer Jason Leigh shows a surprising flair for modest, introspective moods in Agnieszka Holland's deftly directed adaptation of Henry James's quietly compassionate novel. Albert Finney, Ben Chaplin, and Maggie Smith head the fine supporting cast. S
+++ Intelligent, strong acting, provocative.
YEAR OF THE HORSE (Not rated)
++ Jim Jarmusch's offbeat documentary on rock star Neil Young and his Crazy Horse band, much of it filmed in the grainy super-8 format associated with home movies and music videos. Peppering material from a 1996 tour with flashback footage dating back as much as 20 years, the show is loaded with rock 'n' roll energy. It lacks the depth, wit, and originality of Jarmusch masterpieces like "Stranger Than Paradise" and "Dead Man," however. P
++ Informative, grainy, consistent.