BOSTON — 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.
+++1/2 Very Good
++ 1/2 Average
COUSIN BETTE (R)
Director: Des McAnuff. With Jessica Lange, Elisabeth Shue, Bob Hoskins, Hugh Laurie, Kelly MacDonald, Aden Young. (112 min.)
++ Rivalry, romance, and family intrigue in Paris of 1846. The movie is handsome, but there's little life to the dramatic scenes, and the comic bits are even flatter. Until now McAnuff has been a stage director, and his stagey approach makes this modern-day movie seem less edgy and contemporary than the great 19th-century novel by Honor de Balzac.
HENRY FOOL (R)
Director: Hal Hartley. With Thomas Jay Ryan, James Urbaniak, Parker Posey, Maria Porter. (138 min.)
+++ An unsavory stranger drifts into the life of an unhappy young man, working on a "Confession" he hopes to publish and encouraging his new friend to write a long poem that some find sublime but others find sick and disgusting. Hartley does his finest filmmaking to date in this stylized comedy-drama that suggests the best and worst in human nature may be vexingly intertwined with each other. Contains material about disturbing issues including sexual abuse of children.
MARIE BAIE DES ANGES (R)
Director: Manuel Pradal. With Vahina Giocante, Frdric Malgras. (90 min.)
++ Young wanderers get embroiled in love, hate, and violence against the picture-perfect backdrop of the French Riviera, usually associated with more elegant activities. The picture is imaginatively directed, but the story and characters aren't very memorable.
Directors: Tony Bancroft, Barry Cook. With voices of Ming-Na Wen, Eddie Murphy, Harvey Fierstein, B.D. Wong, Pat Morita, Donny Osmond, Lea Salonga, George Takei. (85 min.)
+++ Helped by her "guardian dragon," a Chinese girl dresses as a man and joins the army to fight off a Hun invasion, fooling just about everyone into thinking she's as much a warrior as the other guys. This high-quality Disney animation combines strong pictorial appeal with amiable voice-performances. Fun for all.
PASSION IN THE DESERT (PG-13)
Director: Lavinia Currier. With Ben Daniels, Michel Piccoli. (93 min.)
+++ Lost in the burning sands of Egypt, a French soldier is adopted by a lonely leopard who becomes his protector, companion, and friend. The story is engrossing, and Piccoli's brief appearance reaffirms his position as one of the world's finest actors.
THE X-FILES (PG-13)
Director: Rob Bowman. With David Duchovny, Gillian Anderson, Martin Landau, Mitch Pileggi, William B. Davis, Blythe Danner, Armin Mueller-Stahl, Jeffrey DeMunn. (105 min.)
+++ Investigating a terrorist bombing, FBI agents Mulder and Scully pursue answers to deeper questions about alien colonizers and governmental schemers; but it's not deep enough to place this action-adventure fantasy into the league of truly imaginative science-fiction classics like "2001: A Space Odyssey" or "Close Encounters of the Third Kind," which it occasionally recalls. Chris Carter wrote the screenplay, mining the same trove of ideas that underpins his hugely popular TV series.
+++ Well-crafted, brutal, some gaps in logic.
Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: About 10 scenes of brutal violence - maulings, explosions and shootings. Multiple scenes involving unsavory aliens. Profanity: 10 profanities, mostly mild. Drugs: 1 scene of drinking, 4 scenes of smoking, and 1 drug injection.
Currently in Release
CAN'T HARDLY WAIT (PG-13)
Director: Harry Elfont, Deborah Kaplan. With Jennifer Love Hewitt, Ethan Embry, Charlie Korsmo, Lauren Ambrose, Peter Facinelli, Seth Green, Jenna Elfman. (98 min.)
+ This formula teen flick has engaging performances and a few laughs as high school seniors sort out their lives at a graduation party-cum- binge. The filmmakers seem well in control of their chaotic material, but what can be said when the movie features wall-to-wall teenage alcohol abuse. It's not suitable for the teenage audience it targets. By M.K. Terrell
Sex/Nudity: Constant innuendo, one couple has sex. Violence: Some pushing and shoving. Profanity: 65 profanities, mostly mild. Drugs: Minors drink alcohol nonstop, some smoking.
DIRTY WORK (PG-13)
Director: Bob Saget With Norm Macdonald, Chevy Chase, Arti Lange, Christopher McDonald, Traylor Howard. (96 min.)
++ "Saturday Night Live" vet Norm McDonald plays a down-on-his-luck schmo who exploits his one skill - getting revenge on people who have wronged him. Rotten fish fly, a bulldozer explodes with popcorn, and yuppie frat boys get what's coming. Note to self: "Dirty Work" is far funnier than SNL's Weekend Update ever was with McDonald at the helm. By John C. Hoyle.
++ Crass, juvenile, ribald.
Sex/Nudity: 2 scenes involving animals. Violence: 10 mostly slapstick scenes. Profanity: More than 20 obscenities. Drugs: 2 scenes with beer.
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.
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.
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.
++ Choppy, tragic, primitive.
Sex/Nudity: Topless dancers in brief video clip. Violence: Occasional reference to violence, one brief instance at a rock concert. Profanity: More than 40 instances, mostly harsh. Drugs: Some smoking and drinking.
THE LAND GIRLS (R)
Director: David Leland. With Catherine McCormack, Rachel Weisz, Anna Friel, Steven Mackintosh. (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.
THE LAST DAYS OF DISCO (R)
Director: Whit Stillman. With Chle Sevigny, Kate Beckinsale, Chris Eigeman, Matt Keeslar, Mackenzie Astin. (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."
+++ 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.
Sex/Nudity: Many scenes suggesting lovemaking, but nothing explicit. Violence: 1 fistfight. Profanity: 21 mild profanities. Drugs: Cigar smoking and social drinking, 1 scene of drinking to excess.
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.
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.
THE TRUMAN SHOW (PG)
Director: Peter Weir. With Jim Carrey, Laura Linney, Ed Harris, Natasha McElhone, Noah Emmerich. (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.
Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: 1 simulated drowning. Profanity: 11 obscenities, mostly mild. Drugs: 15 scenes where alcohol is present, though usually not being consumed.
COUSIN BETTE (R)
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.
Director: Brian Gilbert. With Stephen Fry, Jude Law, Vanessa Redgrave, Jennifer Ehle, Gemma Jones. (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. By Leigh Montgomery
OUT ON VIDEO
(In stores June 23)
Director: Randal Kleiser. With John Travolta, Stockard Channing, Olivia Newton-John, Jeff Conaway. (110 min.) ++ Twentieth-anniversary reissue of the popular musical about 1950s teenagers.
+++ Energetic, fun, lively.
MR. MAGOO (PG)
Director: Stanley Tong. With Leslie Nielsen, Kelly Lynch, Ernie Hudson, Stephen Tobolowsky. (87 min.)
+ Based on the vision-impaired cartoon character, Magoo hunts down a stolen ruby after he becomes a suspect in the theft.
+ Corny, absurd, a Disney disappointment.
THE POSTMAN (R)
Director: Kevin Costner. With Kevin Costner, Will Patton, Larenz Tate, Olivia Williams, James Russo. (177 min.)
+ An overblown action yarn about a drifter-turned-postman who tries to rebuild links between isolated communities in an America ravaged by post-World War III chaos.
THE WINGS OF THE DOVE (R)
Director: Iain Softley. With Helena Bonham Carter, Linus Roache, Alison Elliot, Elizabeth McGovern. (101 min.)
+++ A thoughtfully directed and capably acted adaptation of Henry James's novel about an affair between an upper-class socialite and a middle-class journalist.
+++ Passionate, compelling, not quite Henry James's novel.