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


Director: Maureen Foley. With Stephanie Castellarin, Katharine Ross, Patricia Kalember, Brian Delate, Helen Lloyd Breed. (110 min.)

++ An 11-year-old girl copes with a mentally unstable mother and a dad who's not ready for single parenthood. Foley makes a solid filmmaking debut in this modest but sensitive drama about a Massachusetts family during the JFK era.


Director: Paddy Breathnach. With Brendan Gleeson, Peter Caffrey, Peter McDonald, Rachel Brady. (107 min.)

+++ Irish comedy-drama about an unworldly young man and a thuggish acquaintance who've been ordered to escort a hostage into the hands of a local crime boss. Stories like this have been told many times before, but Breathnach gives it distinctive zest. Contains a few moments of sex, violence, and vulgarity.


Director: Richard Donner. With Mel Gibson, Danny Glover, Joe Pesci, Rene Russo, Chris Rock, Jet Li. (112 min.)

++ A slick, fast-paced cop movie that's long on entertainment and short on brains. It follows a well-oiled formula loaded with action and dialogue that's charming, witty, and capable of getting past gaping holes in the story. But every speaking part also seems to be a swearing part. Only the bad guys escape the stream of profanity. The movie also revels in its extreme violence. Not for the faint of heart or ear. By Lynde McCormick


Director: Daisy von Scherler Mayer. With Hatty Jones, Frances McDormand, Nigel Hawthorne, Stphane Audrane. (90 min.)

+++ Young children will enjoy this colorful tale of a little girl who tries to save her beloved boarding school from being shut down by the wealthy old coot who owns it; there's also a subplot about a naughty neighbor who gets kidnapped by his tutor. Based on the classic children's books by Ludwig Bemelmans.


Director: Federico Fellini. With Giulietta Massina, Franois Prier, Amedeo Nazzari, Dorian Gray. (117 min.)

+++ Reissue of "Le Notti di Cabiria," the internationally popular 1957 comedy-drama about a good-hearted Italian prostitute who faces more than her share of adversity without losing her faith in the essential goodness of the world. The 1998 rerelease features a freshly restored print, newly translated English subtitles, and a brief sequence not included in the movie's original version.


Director: Darren Aronofsky. With Sean Gullette, Mark Margolis, Ben Shenkman, Samia Shoaib, Pamela Hart, Ajay Naidu, Joanne Gordon, Stephen Pearlman. (85 min.)

+++ A computer wizard with emotional problems has an unexpected encounter with a Jewish mystic who's looking for a spiritual formula encrypted in the letters of the Hebrew alphabet. This intellectual allegory would carry more punch if it didn't slip into melodrama so often, but it marks Aronofsky as an exceptionally promising new filmmaker.


Director: George Esguerra. With Cheryl Clifford, Peter Welch, George Esguerra. (87 min.)

++ A lonely woman meets an attractive man through a phone-sex hookup in this mostly lightweight comedy, which eventually acknowledges the real dangers of long-distance sensual relationships. Contains a graphic phone-sex scene.

Currently in Release


Director: Michael Bay. With Bruce Willis, Billy Bob Thornton, Liv Tyler, Will Patton, Ben Affleck, Peter Stormare, Keith David, Steve Buscemi. (144 min.)

+Rowdy astronauts rocket to an asteroid that's speeding toward Earth, hoping they can blow it up before a catastrophic collision. Everything about the first half-hour is so outrageously crude that you may hope the asteroid lands on the theater where you're watching the movie. Things improve once the heroes arrive in outer space, where the special effects are reasonably imaginative, but the story's emotions remain forced and artificial to the unsurprising end.

++ Corny, wild space ride, video-game-ish.

Sex/Nudity: One scene of nearly nude dancing, some sexual innuendo and kissing. Violence: 3 scenes involving guns and/or fistfights, many high-action scenes with explosions, 3 scenes of massive destruction. Profanity: 49, mostly mild, expressions. Drugs: 5 instances of drinking in bars.


Director: Vincent Gallo. With Vincent Gallo, Christina Ricci, Anjelica Huston, Ben Gazzara, Rosanna Arquette, Mickey Rourke, Kevin Corrigan, Jan-Michael Vincent. (106 min.)

++ Affection slowly grows between a loutish ex-convict and a young woman he badgers into masquerading as his wife for the benefit of his uncaring parents. Gallo demonstrates an interesting visual style, especially in the movie's more dreamlike moments, but it would be more effective if he aimed the camera less frequently at himself and more often on Ricci's quietly magnetic performance.

Sex/Nudity: 1 scene of a couple in a bathtub and a scene with nudity in a club. Violence: 2 scenes of either physical violence or contemplation of suicide and murder. Profanity: Heavy dose of offensive expressions. Drugs: Scene of social drinking in a club.


Director: Ken Loach. With Robert Carlyle, Oyanka Cabezas, Scott Glenn. (127 min.)

++ A likable Scottish bus driver befriends a Nicaraguan immigrant and later accompanies her to her native country, where her brother has endured great pain and suffering for his political actions and beliefs. The story is marred by overstatement and emotionalism, but Loach's commitment to socially and politically alert filmmaking is clear in every scene.


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.


Director: Betty Thomas. With Eddie Murphy, Ossie Davis, Oliver Platt, Peter Boyle. (86 min.)

+New version of the old story about a man whose conversations with animals lead to consternation among his human friends. The animals are cute and Murphy gives a lively performance, but as with his remake of "The Nutty Professor," the original is still the best. Contains a great deal of vulgar dialogue and scatological humor.

++1/2 Lighthearted, droll, fun.

Sex/Nudity: One brief scene of backside nudity. Violence: None. Profanity: About 10, mostly mild, expressions. Drugs: A monkey gets drunk.


Director: Victor Fleming. With Clark Gable, Vivien Leigh, Olivia de Havilland, Leslie Howard, Butterfly McQueen, Hattie McDaniel, Thomas Mitchell. (222 min.)

++++ Reissue of the 1939 classic about the troubled romance of a headstrong teenager and a handsome adventurer amid the turmoil of the Civil War and the end of an era in the land of gracious plantations, Southern hospitality, and unrepentant slavery. The 1998 rerelease brings back the movie's original height-to-width ratio and restores its Technicolor hues.

++++ Monumental, romantic, moving.

Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: No graphic violence; some face-slapping and tense moments of conflict. Profanity: 1 expression. Drugs: A few scenes of drinking to excess.


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.


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.

+++1/2 Funny, appealing to all ages, exciting.

Sex/Nudity/Profanity/Drugs: None. Violence: Some mild fight scenes, one character gets stabbed.


Director: Don Roos. With Christina Ricci, Martin Donovan, Lisa Kudrow, Lyle Lovett, Johnny Galecki, (100 min.)

++ The emotional adventures of a teenage runaway, her middle-class gay brother, and an assorted group of friends, relations, and people they wish they'd never seen. Highly uneven but always energetic and sometimes very funny.

Sex/Nudity: About 4 scenes involving sex, considerable innuendo, no nudity. Violence: 2 scenes involving punching, 1 killing in self-defense. Profanity: About 121 expressions. Drugs: 2 scenes in a bar.


Director: Steven Soderbergh. With George Clooney, Jennifer Lopez, Michael Keaton, Samuel L. Jackson. (121 min.)

++ A tough-minded policewoman develops a weak spot for a longtime bank robber on the lam after a jailbreak. The screenplay serves up the quirky dialogue and ironic twists associated with author Elmore Leonard, who wrote the original novel, but much of the action seems more like warmed-over Quentin Tarantino than first-rate Steven Soderbergh.

+++ Amusing, involving, sexy.

Sex/Nudity: Some sexual situations, mostly implied. Violence: About 5 instances. 1 stabbing, 1 implied murder; some shooting. Profanity: Heavy does of obscenities. Drugs: Some social drinking and references to marijuana use.


Director: Chris Eyre. With Adam Beach, Evan Adams, Tantoo Cardinal, Gary Farmer, Irene Bedard. (89 min.)

++ Two young native Americans leave their economically and emotionally depressed reservation in search of heightened awareness regarding their personal and ethnic histories. The movie makes up in sincerity and goodwill what it lacks in originality and style.

+++ Poignant, wry, original.

Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: 5 instances, none graphic. Profanity: 17 expressions, mostly mild. Drugs: One character has a drinking problem.


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.

+++ Original, bittersweet, clever.

Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: 1 simulated drowning. Profanity: 11 obscenities, mostly mild. Drugs: 15 scenes with alcohol not usually being consumed.


Director: Manoel de Oliveira. With Marcello Mastroianni, Jean Yves Gautier, Leonor Silveira. (95 min.)

+++ An aging movie director travels into rural Portugal with friends, including a middle-aged actor who wants to visit an elderly aunt and explore her trove of irreplaceable memories. Mastroianni's final performance is not one of his greatest, nor does this semiautobiographical drama rank with the very best work of de Oliveira's career; but it is worth viewing by anyone with an interest in deeply humanistic cinema.


Director: Rob Bowman. With David Duchovny, Gillian Anderson, Martin Landau, Blythe Danner. (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." Screenwriter Chris Carter mines 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.


(In stores July 14)



Director: Joe Chappelle. With Peter O'Toole, Rose McGowan, Joanna Going, Liev Schreiber. (91 min.)

Adaptation of a Dean Koontz novel about a mysterious subterranean force that wipes out the population of a small town.



Director: Barry Levinson. With Dustin Hoffman, Sharon Stone, Samuel L. Jackson. (120 min.)

++ Deep under the ocean, scientists investigate a mysterious object that manipulates reality according to the mentalities of the people who poke around it.



Director: Jake Kasdan. With Bill Pullman, Ben Stiller, Ryan O'Neal, Kim Dickens. (115 min.)

++1/2 A brilliant yet disturbed private investigator is hired by a guilt-ridden timber baron to reveal the identity of his blackmailer, who is as haunted as they are.

++1/2 Quirky, uneven, disturbing.

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