The Monitor's Movie Guide
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ARTEMISIA (NOT RATED)
Director: Agns Merlet. With Valentina Cervi, Michel Serrault, Miki Manojlovic. (96 min.)
+++ Fact-based story of a Renaissance artist who sparked cultural controversy by breaking a taboo against women painting nude figures, and entered a personal scandal when she became the lover of her highly respected mentor. Merlet's lively style blends painterly images with brisk cinematic movement. Contains extensive nudity and sex.
BLACK DOG (PG-13)
Director: Kevin Hooks. With Patrick Swayze, Randy Travis, Meat Loaf, Gabriel Casseus. (99 min.)
DUD Explosions, gunfire, car chases, truck crashes - this movie has it all, but unfortunately, that's about all it has. Billed as an action classic, it's brought down by a plodding script, 100 percent predictability, and total lack of suspense. The talented cast, headed by Swayze and Travis, walk through their stereotyped, good ol' boy roles. By John Dillin
Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: Virtually non-stop car chases, truck crashes, explosions, and automatic weapons fire. Profanity: 4 dozen swear words, some harsh. Drugs: 10 scenes with beer, cigars, cigarettes, and/or chewing tobacco.
DEEP IMPACT (PG-13)
Director: Mimi Leder. With Robert Duvall, Ta Leoni, Elijah Wood, Vanessa Redgrave, Morgan Freeman. (131 min.)
++ We've seen this before - earth's eve of destruction by a well-aimed asteroid. It was terrible some years ago (as "Asteroid"), and it's still lost in space as "Deep Impact." This one has a better story and lots more pathos, but it feels mostly pathetic: contrived acting, 1980s special effects. Director Mimi Leder is the master of suspenseful turns in the script, minus the suspense. Not for grown-ups, but a good yarn for kids. By Lynde McCormick
+++ Moving, hopeful, spectacular.
Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: One explosion, a kidnapping, and natural disasters. Profanity: 34 obscenities - mostly mild. Drugs: 9 scenes of drinking.
A FRIEND OF THE DECEASED (R)
Director: Vyacheslav Krishtofovich. With Alexandre Lazarev, Tatiana Krivitska, Eugen Pachin. (100 min.)
+++ Disillusioned with the coldness of capitalist society, an unemployed Ukranian intellectual begins to think life might not be worth living; but his plan to end it all runs into trouble when the hit man he's hired doesn't pull off the job as scheduled. This sardonic, quietly filmed tale has much to say about human and social issues that know no national boundaries.
THE KINGDOM PART 2 (NOT RATED)
Director: Lars von Trier. With Ernst-Hugo Jaregard, Kirsten Rolffes, Udo Kier. (295 min.)
+++ Another long session of von Trier's inspired lunacy about the surreal goings-on in an ultramodern Danish hospital built on the ruins of an ancient, haunted land. Not for the faint-hearted, although adventurous viewers will find hours of startling surprises.
SHOPPING FOR FANGS (R)
Directors: Quentin Lee and Justin Lin. With Radmar Jao, Jeanne Chin, Clint Jung. (90 min.)
++ Hollywood's classic "The Wolf Man" evidently provided some inspiration for this Asian-American story of an unhappily married woman and a young man who might be turning into a werewolf. The movie is more offbeat than successful, but it certainly provides a new twist on an old legend.
Director: Daisy v.S. Mayer. With Jada Pinkett Smith, Tommy Davidson, LL Cool J. (80 min.)
+ A slightly dazed law clerk has an unexpectedly wild first date with a woman who's as eccentric as she is beautiful. There's energy to spare in this comedy with a mostly African-American cast, but neither the characters nor the story make enough sense to fill out even a scant 80 minutes.
Currently in Release
THE BIG HIT (R)
Director: Che-Kirk Wong. With Mark Wahlberg, Lou Diamond Phillips, Christina Applegate. (93 min.)
++ Wahlberg plays a comically polite hit man who finds trouble when coworkers turn against him. Alternating between comedy and violent action, the movie is senseless and often unbelievable. The choreography and special effects are interesting, though. By Mariah Gardner
+ Vulgar, tasteless, funky.
Sex/Nudity: Sexual innuendo, backside nudity, attempted rape. Violence: About 55 instances, - shootouts, car crashes, assassinations, explosions, heavy on gore. Profanity: 163 vulgarities and profanities, often harsh. Drugs: 10 scenes with drinking or cigar smoking.