The Monitor Movie Guide
Reviews in this weekly guide are written by Monitor critic David Sterritt (the first set of '+' marks in each review) unless otherwise noted. Ratings and comments by the Monitor staff panel (the second set of '+' marks in each review) reflect the sometimes diverse views of at least three other viewers. Information on violence, drugs, sex/nudity, and profanity is compiled by the panel.Skip to next paragraph
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+++1/2 Very Good
++ 1/2 Average
CHARACTER (NOT RATED)
Director: Mike van Diem. With Jan Decleir, Fedja van Hut, Betty Schuurman. (117 min.)
+++ Winner of the Oscar as best foreign-language film, this Dutch drama focuses on a young man struggling for personal and professional success in Rotterdam of the 1920s while waging an emotional war against his distant, domineering father. The movie steers a steady course between realistic drama and Kafkaesque delirium, handling both skillfully.
JAMES ELLROY: DEMON DOG OF AMERICAN CRIME FICTION (NOT RATED)
Director: Reinhard Jud. With James Ellroy, Phil Tintner. (90 min.)
+++ Energetic documentary about the popular author of "L.A. Confidential" and other books. He talks with the pungent, punchy tone that surges through scruffy novels like "Because the Night" and "Killer on the Road," but his monologues reveal much about contemporary American life. Contains explicit views of real-life crime.
GENEALOGIES OF A CRIME (NOT RATED)
Director: Raoul Ruiz. With Catherine Deneuve, Michel Piccoli, Melvil Poupaud. (113 min.)
+++ Fact-based tale of a turn-of-the-century psychologist, her violent young nephew, and a lawyer who defends the boy when he grows up. French superstars Deneuve and Piccoli give delicious performances in this eccentric drama, which regains much of the humor that Ruiz's movies have sidestepped in recent years.
Director: Randal Kleiser. With John Travolta, Olivia Newton-John, Stockard Channing. (110 min)
++ Twentieth-anniversary reissue of the popular but utterly unmemorable musical about teenage life in the '50s era.
MR. NICE GUY (PG-13)
Director: Sammo Hung. With Jackie Chan, Richard Norton, Gabrielle Fitzpatrick, Miki Lee, Karen McLymont (113 min.)
+++ Jackie Chan is more Fred Astaire than Bruce Lee; his dance-like combat and goofy humor make this film entertaining. A minimal plot involving stolen cocaine is the excuse for nonstop chase sequences, paced like a Road Runner cartoon choreographed by Twyla Tharp. An overblown ending is the only real downside. By James Turner
Sex/Nudity: Accidental breast grope. Violence: Long chase and fighting scenes; some cartoon-like violence. Profanity: Minimal Drugs: Social drinking.
THE NEWTON BOYS (PG-13)
Director: Richard Linklater. With Matthew McConaughey, Ethan Hawke, Skeet Ulrich, Julianna Margulies, Vincent D'Onofrio, Dwight Yoakam. (121 min.)
++ Meandering yarn based on the real-life exploits of a gang that robbed an enormous number of banks between 1919 and 1924. The cast is full of likable faces, but the story rings few interesting changes on its familiar genre.
A PRICE ABOVE RUBIES (R)
Director: Boaz Yakin. With Rene Zellweger, Christopher Eccleston, Glenn Fitzgerald, Allen Payne, Julianna Margulies. (120 min.)
++ An orthodox Jewish woman comes into conflict with her devout husband by longing for more independence than their highly traditional community is prepared to allow. The drama etches an intermittently sharp portrait of a subculture caught between a rich religious legacy and a changing contemporary world, but it's marred by digressions and touches of unneeded sensationalism.
THE PROPOSITION (R)
Director: Lesli Linka Glatter. With Kenneth Branagh, Madeleine Stowe, William Hurt. (114 min.)
++ In upper-crust Boston of the 1930s, an infertile husband hires a young man to impregnate his wife, a successful author who's convinced this arrangement will deepen rather than damage their happy marriage. Narrated by a Roman Catholic priest with his own ethical dilemmas to face, the movie treats moral issues with welcome seriousness until it bogs down in melodrama and emotionalism in the second half.
PUBLIC HOUSING (NOT RATED)
Director: Frederick Wiseman. With residents of the Ida B. Wells housing development in Chicago. (195 min.)
++++ One of documentary film's greatest giants turns his lens on the many troubles and occasional triumphs of the poor folks inhabiting a well-known housing project. The results are riveting, startling, compassionate, indelible.