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The Monitor Movie Guide

February 6, 1998



February 6, 1998

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Reviews in this weekly guide are written by Monitor critic David Sterritt unless otherwise noted. Ratings and comments by the Monitor staff panel reflect the sometimes diverse views of at least three other viewers. Information on violence, drugs, sex/nudity, and profanity is compiled by the panel.

++++ Excellent

+++1/2 Very Good

+++ Good

++ 1/2 Average

++ Fair

+1/2 Poor

+ Worst

New Releases

ILLTOWN (R)

Director: Nick Gomez. With Lili Taylor, Michael Rapaport, Tony Danza, Isaac Hayes. (103 min.)

++ Florida drug dealers cope with the physical and psychological hazards of their trade. Taylor and Rapaport are among today's most engaging stars, but the movie as a whole is more pretentious than illuminating. A disappointing letdown from filmmaker Gomez, whose "Laws of Gravity" remains a landmark of streetwise independent filmmaking.

LIVE FLESH (R)

Director: Pedro Almodvar. With Liberto Rabal, Angela Molina. (100 min.)

+++ A paralyzed policeman enters a continually shifting relationship with his beautiful wife, his former partner, and the man sent to jail for causing his injury. Some of the action is as lurid as the title, but passionate performances and ingenious visuals make this the most absorbing movie by Spanish director Almodvar since his great comedy "Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown."

MOTHER AND SON (Not rated)

Director: Aleksandr Sokurov. With Gudrun Geyer, Aleksei Ananishnov. (73 min.)

++++ Contemplative study of the profoundly loving relationship between a dying woman and the son who cares for her. Filmed by Russian director Sokurov, widely recognized as one of the world's most gifted and unconventional filmmakers, with a radical stillness that makes this closer to an exquisitely wrought painting than a dramatic movie.

NIL BY MOUTH (R)

Director: Gary Oldman. With Kathy Burke, Charlie Creed-Miles, Ray Winstone, Laila Morse, Edna Dore. (128 min.)

+++ Raw, unsettling account of a working-class London family beset by poverty, drug abuse, and domestic violence. The screenplay by filmmaker Oldman is based on his own youthful experience in similarly distressed circumstances, and his directorial debut has the virtue of authenticity if not of understatement.

THE REPLACEMENT KILLERS (R)

Director: Antoine Fuqua. With Mira Sorvino, Chow Yun-Fat, Michael Rooker, Jurgen Prochnow. (88 min.)

++ Deciding to go straight and emigrate to the United States, a Chinese hit man seeks safety for himself and his family by striking one last deal with dangerous mobsters. The story has more violence than brains, but Hong Kong action star Chow makes an interestingly moody impression in his first Hollywood role.

Currently in Release

AFTERGLOW (R)

Director: Alan Rudolph. With Julie Christie, Nick Nolte, Lara Flynn Boyle, Jonny Lee Miller. (113 minutes.)

+++ Two couples split apart and get involved in each other's lives, while coping with various stresses from the past and present. Less interesting than the adulterous shenanigans are the impulses toward family life that the characters seem unable to resist despite the temptations that assail them.

+++ Well-written, engaging, strong acting.

Sex/Nudity: Numerous scenes of sexual activity; a preoccupation with sex and adultery in the story. Violence: Aggressive behavior and story material about grief and loss. Profanity: Four-letter words and other vulgarities; sex-related dialogue. Drugs: Drinking.

AMISTAD (R)

Director: Steven Spielberg. With Anthony Hopkins, Morgan Freeman, Djimon Hounsou, Matthew McConaughey, Pete Postlethwaite, Nigel Hawthorne. (150 min.)

++ A group of abducted Africans mutiny against the slave traders shipping them into bondage, wind up in a Connecticut jail, and fight for freedom with help from a black abolitionist and a former president. Spielberg's historical drama is more stilted and didactic than its fascinating subject deserves, gathering great emotional force only in a harrowing scene depicting the Holocaust-like suffering of slave-ship captives.

+++ Gripping, moving, powerful.

Sex/Nudity: Some nudity. Violence: Horrific views aboard slave ships; graphic drowning; mutiny scenes with fighting, killing. Profanity: One scene, scatological dialogue. Drugs: Drinking.

THE APOSTLE (Not rated)

Director: Robert Duvall. With Robert Duvall, Billy Bob Thornton, Miranda Richardson, Farrah Fawcett. (133 min.)