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.

++++ Excellent

+++1/2 Very Good

+++ Good

++ 1/2 Average

++ Fair

+1/2 Poor

+ Worst

New Releases

THE BEYOND (NOT RATED)

Director: Lucio Fulci. With Cartriona MacColl, David Warbeck, Sarah Keller. (88 min.)

++ Reissue of a 1981 cult favorite about dark doings in a haunted Louisiana house. There's more than enough gruesomeness to keep hard-core horror fans screaming, but others should stay a million miles away - or 2 million, if spiders make you squirm.

KURT & COURTNEY (NOT RATED)

Director: Nick Broomfield. With Kurt Cobain, Courtney Love. (95 min.)

+++ Documentary about the circumstances of Cobain's untimely death, probing rumors that the rock star's estranged wife may have been more involved in his downfall than her fans want to believe. The subject is relentlessly sleazy, but Broomfield's sharp-eyed scrutiny etches a sharp and cautionary portrait of contemporary pop culture.

THE LAND GIRLS (R)

Director: David Leland. With Catherine McCormack, Rachel Weisz, Anna Friel, Steven Mackintosh, Tom Georgeson. (100 min.)

+++ Three young women seek love, fulfillment, and fun as transplanted farm workers doing their bit in the English countryside during a World War II labor shortage. The story is corny at times, but the movie has a richly romantic spirit to match its lively characters, witty performances, and bittersweet portrait of a bygone time.

SIX DAYS, SEVEN NIGHTS (PG-13)

Director: Ivan Reitman. With Harrison Ford, Anne Heche, David Schwimmer. (106 min.)

+ A lowbrow aviator and a Manhattan sophisticate crash-land on a tropical island where they trade wisecracks, dodge modern-day pirates, and fall battily in love. Reitman makes an earnest stab at old-fashioned romantic comedy, but unfortunately the dialogue isn't snappy, the story isn't surprising, there's little chemistry between the stars, and you can't help wondering whether people undergoing an ordeal like this would really think about sex every single minute.

+++ Romancing the Stone-wannabe, lively, inventive.

Sex/Nudity: Sexual innuendo, one love scene implied. Violence: 6 instances of either hand-to-hand fighting or shooting, only one scene is conveyed in a serious manner. Profanity: 35 instances, mostly mild. Drugs: 11 scenes with liquor or cigarettes.

UN AIR DE FAMILLE (NOT RATED)

Director: Cdric Klapisch. With Jean-Pierre Bacri, Agns Jaoui, Jean-Pierre Darroussin. (107 min.)

+++ "Family Resemblances" is the English-language title of this insightful, often hilarious visit with a group of relatives whose customary Friday get-together turns into an emotional free-for-all. Klapisch, also known for his 1995 comedy "When the Cat's Away," confirms his reputation as one of Europe's most engaging young filmmakers.

Currently in Release

ALMOST HEROES (PG-13)

Director: Christopher Guest. With Chris Farley, Matthew Perry, Eugene Levy, Kevin Dunn, David Packer. (102 min.)

++ A week after Lewis and Clark begin their exploration of the Northwest, a rival team (Farley and Perry) sets out to beat them to the Pacific. The film is inoffensive and friendly, there's a marvelously choreographed brawl near the end, and the scenery and faux Elmer Bernstein score are lovely. You just wish it were half as funny as it tries to be. By M.K. Terrell

Sex/Nudity: Backside nudity in a bathing scene and some sexual innuendo. Violence: A swordfight, a major brawl, and 4 additional scenes of slapstick violence. Profanity: 22 vulgarities. Drugs: 2 instances of drinking to excess played for laughs.

CHARLIE HOBOKEN (NOT RATED)

Director: Thomas Mazziotti. With Austin Pendleton, Ken Garito, Tovah Feldshuh, Anita Gillette. (85 min.)

++ Dark comedy about a youthful hit man who spars with his girlfriend, his mother, and above all his partner, an older assassin who can't understand what's the matter with kids today. Mazziotti's screenplay leans toward the glib side, but Pendleton is always fun to watch.

DEEP IMPACT (PG-13)

Director: Mimi Leder. With Robert Duvall, Ta Leoni, Elijah Wood, Vanessa Redgrave, Morgan Freeman. (123 min.)

++ An enormous comet hurtles toward a collision with Earth, and Americans scramble to preserve their way of life by either diverting it from its course or squirreling away a random sample of the population in giant caves where they'll wait out the disastrous effects of the crash. Some scenes are preachy or predictable, but overall this is a worthy addition to a trusty genre that includes such minor classics as "When Worlds Collide."

+++ Moving, hopeful, spectacular.

Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: One explosion, a kidnapping, and natural disasters. Profanity: 34 obscenities - mostly mild. Drugs: 9 scenes of drinking.

THE DISENCHANTED (NOT RATED)

Director: Benot Jacquot. With Judith Godrche, Marcel Bozonnet, Yvan Desny. (78 min.)

++++ Disillusioned by the insensitivity of her self-centered boyfriend and her jaded mother, a teenager has interactions with three very different men, each posing a different moral or psychological challenge. Godrche's understated acting and Jacquot's precise, expressive filmmaking give exceptional appeal to this elliptical French drama.

FEAR AND LOATHING IN LAS VEGAS (R)

Director: Terry Gilliam. With Johnny Depp, Benicio Del Toro, Ellen Barkin, Cameron Diaz, Penn Jillette. (118 min.)

++ Hyperactive screen version of Hunter S. Thompson's deadpan book about a journalist and an attorney peering through a drug-induced haze at the era of Watergate and the Vietnam War. Gilliam's visual style has never been more energetic or inventive, and nobody could be attracted to dope after this portrait of drug abuse as a hallucinatory quagmire. But many will be grossed out beyond endurance by the picture's nonstop barrage of explosive excesses.

++ Dark, depraved, out of control.

Sex/Nudity:: None. Violence: Some pushing, one man waves a gun, another has a knife; nothing graphic. Profanity: More than 100 vulgarities from mild to harsh. Drugs: More than 100 instances - the entire movie revolves around drug and alcohol use.

GODZILLA (PG-13)

Director: Roland Emmerich. With Matthew Broderick, Maria Pitillo, Jean Reno, Hank Azaria, Michael Lerner. (126 min.)

+ Giant lizard terrorizes city. Some of the special effects are impressive, but such enthusiasm for spectacular destruction could only be whipped up by filmmakers who hold the human values of their audience in very low regard.

++ Inane, teen-pleaser, overhyped.

Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: Godzilla destroys New York amid military assaults, bombings, and several gobbled people. Profanity: 41 obscenities, mostly mild. Drugs: 3 scenes with cigarettes, 1 with liquor.

HOPE FLOATS (PG-13)

Director: Forest Whitaker. With Sandra Bullock, Gena Rowlands, Mae Whitman, Harry Connick, Jr. (112 min.)

++ Jilted by her husband, a young mother takes her little girl from Chicago to the Texas town where she grew up, hoping to rediscover the happiness she had as a prom queen in bygone years. The story is slow and corny, but Whitaker gives commendable dignity to his everyday characters, and the acting is emotionally strong as long as the male romantic interest (Connick) isn't around.

+++ Genuine, touching, well-acted.

Sex/Nudity/Violence: None. Profanity: One mild profanity. Drugs: Some beer drinking, one drunk character.

THE HORSE WHISPERER (PG-13)

Director: Robert Redford. With Robert Redford, Kristin Scott Thomas, Scarlett Johansson, Dianne Wiest, Sam Neill. (164 min.)

++ A sensitive cowboy helps a girl, her mother, and her horse overcome the psychological effects of a terrible riding accident. Redford the director makes sure that Redford the actor is favored by as many adoring close-ups as possible, and even his fans may find this too much of a good thing. But solid acting and gorgeous Montana landscapes lend class to what might have been a garden-variety soap opera.

+++1/2 Stunning scenery, touching, uplifting.

Sex/Nudity: One very sensual dance scene. Violence: 2 scenes: an extremely graphic riding accident and an episode with a crazed horse. Profanity: 11 instances, mostly mild. Drugs: 3 scenes with alcohol.

THE LAST DAYS OF DISCO (R)

Director: Whit Stillman. With Chle Sevigny, Kate Beckinsale, Chris Eigeman, Matt Keeslar, Mackenzie Astin, Robert Sean Leonard, Jennifer Beals, David Thornton, Matthew Ross, Tara Subkoff, Jaid Barrymore. (112 min.)

++++ The time is the early 1980s, and the main characters are several young adults who dimly suspect they may not be as smart, hip, and permanently privileged as their pampered upbringings led them to expect. Stillman brings his usual sharp wit to this exploration of upper-middle-class angst, completing the comic trilogy he began with "Metropolitan" and "Barcelona." Contains material related to drugs and sex.

+++ Witty, stylish, original.

Sex/Nudity: A few scenes of nude dancers, implied sex. Violence: 1 brief scene of physical violence. Profanity: Minimal. Drugs: Many scenes of social drinking in a nightclub.

MR. JEALOUSY (R)

Director: Noah Baumbach. With Eric Stoltz, Annabella Sciorra, Chris Eigeman, Marianne Jean-Baptiste, Peter Bogdanovich, Bridget Fonda. (105 min.)

+++ Comedy about a man who frets so much about his girlfriend's past that his jealousy takes on an irksome life of its own. The cast is appealing and much of the action is wryly amusing, although Baumbach borrows so many moves from Woody Allen and Franois Truffaut that their names should be in the credits.

THE NORTH END (NOT RATED)

Director: Frank Ciota. With Frank Vincent, Tony Darrow, Matt Del Negro, Lina Sivio, Mark Hartmann, Peter Marciano (96 min.)

+++ Dom DiBella (Vincent) is the quintessential small-time godfather upholding honor and protecting his community in Boston's Italian-American enclave. Harvard grad and outsider Mac (Del Negro) tries to fit in as he explores his cultural heritage by shooting a video, subsequently falling for DiBella's godchild. It's a heartfelt debut by director Ciota.

By M.K. Terrell

A PERFECT MURDER (R)

Director: Andrew Davis. With Michael Douglas, Gwyneth Paltrow, Viggo Mortensen, David Suchet. (105 min.)

+++ Twists and turns multiply like mad after a greedy husband decides to kill his wife and hires her deceitful lover to do the job. Inspired by the minor classic "Dial 'M' for Murder," the picture has more than its share of logical gaffes, but there's an amiable hint of old-Hollywood nostalgia in its glossy look and camera-friendly acting. Suspenseful fun if you can handle the occasional violent bits.

++1/2 Intense, stylish, chilling.

Sex/Nudity: 2 scenes of adulterous sex. Violence: 4 scenes of violence involving guns and knives. Profanity: 23 instances, mostly mild. Drugs: 12 scenes with liquor and/or cigarettes.

QUEST FOR CAMELOT (G)

Director: Frederik Du Chau. With voices of Pierce Brosnan, Gabriel Byrne, Cary Elwes, John Gielgud, Eric Idle, Gary Oldman, Bronson Pinchot, Don Rickles. (90 min.)

+++ A feisty girl and her blind companion embark on a quest to rescue King Arthur's legendary sword from a nasty villain. The tale is full of songs and action; still, it would be more exciting if the Warner Bros. animators came up with new storytelling ideas instead of relying on time-tested Disney formulas.

+++ Festive, fast-paced, predictable.

Sex/Nudity: One reference to French kissing. Violence: Swordplay and fighting. Profanity/VDrugs: None.

THE TRUMAN SHOW (PG)

Director: Peter Weir. With Jim Carrey, Laura Linney, Ed Harris, Natasha McElhone, Noah Emmerich, Holland Taylor. (107 min.)

++++ Smart, funny, thought-provoking comedy about a painfully ordinary man who gradually learns he's the unwitting star of a real-life TV show. Weir's offbeat directing makes the most of Andrew Niccol's inventive screenplay, which includes large doses of surprisingly sardonic satire aimed at today's entertainment trends. But the biggest inspiration is having the hero played by Carrey, whose screen image is already so artificial and movie-ish that it makes the story seem doubly uncanny.

+++ Original, bittersweet, clever.

VSex/Nudity: None. VViolence: 1 simulated drowning. VProfanity: 11 obscenities, mostly mild. VDrugs: 15 scenes where alcohol is present, though usually not being consumed.

WILDE (R)

Director: Brian Gilbert. With Stephen Fry, Jude Law, Vanessa Redgrave, Jennifer Ehle, Gemma Jones, Judy Parfitt, Michael Sheen, Ze Wannamaker, Tom Wilkinson. (117 min.)

++ Stephen Fry gives a convincing performance as Oscar Wilde in this biopic based on the 1987 Richard Ellmann biography. But the film focuses less on Wilde's talents as poet and playwright and more on the breakup of his marriage and family as a result of his infatuation with Lord Alfred "Bosie" Douglas. The notorious author of some of Britain's most popular entertainments is eventually jailed by Victorian society. By Leigh Montgomery

OUT ON VIDEO

(In stores June 16)

FALLEN (R)

(Action adventure)

Director: Gregory Hoblit. With Denzel Washington, John Goodman, Donald Sutherland. (124 min.)

++ A detective battles a fallen angel who commits awful crimes while inhabiting the bodies of ordinary people. An energetic but uneven thriller.

++ Too slow, gloomy, morbid.

SPICE WORLD (R)

(Comedy)

Director: Bob Spiers. With the Spice Girls, Richard E. Grant, George Wendt, Roger Moore. (93 min.)

+ A few fictionalized days in the happy-hectic lives of a British singing group. The filmmakers aim for a spoofy tone but fall short.

SWITCHBACK (R)

(Drama)

Director: Jeb Stuart. With Dennis Quaid, Danny Glover, Jared Leto, Ted Levine, William Fichtner. (118 min.)

+ An intense and gripping thriller about a lone FBI agent tracking down a knife-wielding serial killer. The script's penchant for profanity leaves a foul aftertaste.

+++ Exploitative, action-filled, gory.

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