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 CHAMBERMAID ON THE TITANIC (NOT RATED)

Director: Bigas Luna. With Romane Bohringer, Aitana Sanchz Gijn, Olivier Martinez, Didier Bezace, Aldo Maccione. (96 min.)

+++ Often enchanting, always entertaining comedy-drama about a laborer who has an overnight fling with a mysterious woman, enthralls his working-class buddies with tales about the experience, and becomes a celebrity through the strength of his hitherto unsuspected storytelling skills. Acted with sparkling enthusiasm by an excellent cast, and directed by Luna with more gentleness and understatement than some of his earlier pictures contain. Includes sexual activity and innuendo.

HENRY: PORTRAIT OF A SERIAL KILLER PART 2 (R)

Director: Chuck Parello. With Neil Guintoli, Rich Komenich, Kate Walsh, Carri Levenson, Daniel Allar. (85 min.)

+ This sequel to the notorious 1990 psychodrama finds Henry trying his hand at a steady blue-collar job, only to meet a pack of money-hungry scoundrels who're almost as devious as he is. The original "Henry," directed by John McNaughton, stands with the small handful of horror films that provide real insight into the darkest recesses of the human mind. Grisly though it is, the follow-up seems so determined to draw mainstream audiences that much of it ends up being too cautious and well-mannered for its own good.

HOW STELLA GOT HER GROOVE BACK (R)

Director: Kevin Rodney Sullivan. With Angela Bassett, Taye Diggs, Whoopi Goldberg, Regina King, Michael J. Pagan, Suzzanne Douglas. (125 min.)

++ Vacationing in Jamaica after getting downsized from her executive desk, a 40-year-old woman falls for a 20-year-old man who refuses to be dissuaded by either their age difference or the skepticism of their friends and relatives. Bassett and Diggs are appealing as the slightly odd couple, but the movie rambles on too long and falls back on steamy clichs when the story starts to sag.

Sex/Nudity: 2 scenes of nudity, 2 suggested scenes of sex. Violence: None. Profanity: 21 expressions. Drugs: 1 cigar smoker, 1 scene with alcohol.

THE LADY FROM SHANGHAI (NOT RATED)

Director: Orson Welles. With Orson Welles, Rita Hayworth, Everett Sloane, Erskine Sanford. (87 min.)

++++ Revival of the fabled 1948 thriller about a young Irishman who gets mixed up in a weird plot involving a morbid old codger and his gorgeous wife. The story doesn't make much sense, but Welles's filmmaking stands with his most eye-dazzling achievements - the crazy-mirror climax is a classic in itself - even though the studio tampered with it before the original release to render it more "normal."

REGENERATION (NOT RATED)

Director: Gillies MacKinnon. With Jonathan Pryce, James Wilby, Jonny Lee Miller, Stuart Bunce, John Neville. (98 min.)

+++ Sent to a mental asylum as punishment for writing an antiwar poem during World War I, the great "trench poet" Siegfried Sassoon befriends the even greater poet, Wilfred Owen. Both encounter an innovative psychiatrist whose own sanity is threatened by the horrors that assail him not only from the battlefront but from the insensitive treatments practiced at his own hospital. MacKinnon brings intelligence, compassion, and literacy to this fictional drama set against a real historical background.

RETURN TO PARADISE (R)

Director: Joseph Ruben. With Vince Vaughn, Anne Heche, Joaquin Phoenix, David Conrad, Jada Pinkett Smith. (109 min.)

++ Two years after a vacation in Malaysia, two young Americans learn that a friend was arrested for drug dealing right after their departure and will be executed unless they return to the country for a lengthy prison term. The story raises challenging moral and legal questions but loses energy in a miscalculated romantic subplot, and only Phoenix manages to give a fully persuasive performance.

+++ Captivating, stark, finely crafted.

Sex/Nudity: 7 scenes with sexual situations, often with partial nudity. Violence: 4 scenes. Profanity: 73 swearwords and oaths. Drugs: 4 scenes with alcohol, 3 with drugs, and 8 with cigarettes.

SLUMS OF BEVERLY HILLS (R)

Director: Tamara Jenkins. With Natasha Lyonne, Alan Arkin, Marisa Tomei, David Krumholtz, Kevin Corrigan, Rita Moreno, Carl Reiner. (91 min.)

+++ The tacky side of the 90210 ZIP Code is spotlighted in this sardonic comedy about a teenage girl coping with adolescent uncertainties plus an eccentric family that can't quite hold onto the bottom rung of the bourgeoisie. SaVy performances and an unpredictable story make this a memorable debut for filmmaker Jenkins, a newcomer with a promising future. Contains sex, nudity, and drug use.

THE YOUNG GIRLS OF ROCHEFORT (NOT RATED)

Director: Jacques Demy. With Catherine Deneuve, Franoise Dorleac, Gene Kelly, Danielle Darrieux, Michel Piccoli, George Chakiris, Grover Dale, Jacques Perrin. (124 min.)

+++ Reissue of a brightly produced 1968 tribute from France's most gifted song-and-dance director to the exuberant world of Hollywood musicals, focusing on two attractive sisters, a happy-go-lucky American pianist, and the wide variety of people who cross their paths in the course of everyday life. Not as moving as Demy's previous picture, "The Umbrellas of Cherbourg," but a tasty treat nevertheless, and there's no quarreling with Michel Legrand's sprightly score. The picture has been restored to its original luster by Demy's widow, Agns Varda, a great filmmaker in her own right.

Currently in Release

EVER AFTER (PG-13)

Director: Andy Tennant. With Drew Barrymore, Anjelica Huston, Dougray Scott, Jeanne Moreau. (124 min.)

+++ Prettily filmed retelling of the Cinderella story, complete with mistreated heroine, wicked stepmother, and handsome prince. There's no earthly reason for stretching this often-told tale to more than two hours, but Huston is amusingly tart as the stepmom, and it's hard to resist a movie that substitutes Leonardo da Vinci for the traditional fairy godmother.

+++ Charming, romantic, spunky.

Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: 5 scenes, mostly mild, sometimes cartoonish. Profanity: 2 mild expressions. Drugs: 2 scenes with alcohol.

GADJO DILO (NOT RATED)

Director: Tony Gatlif. With Romain Duris, Rona Hartner, Isidor Serban. (97 min.)

+++ A young Frenchman travels into the Gypsy community of rural Romania, searching for a singer whose voice has captivated him on a recording. The story is slender and Duris's polished acting doesn't always mesh with the nonprofessional cast surrounding him. But the movie draws explosive energy from its celebration of music, dancing, and Gypsy folkways, taking on a vitality and freshness that are downright breathtaking in scene after scene. Contains foul language and brief but very explicit sex.

THE GOVERNESS (R)

Director: Sandra Goldbacher. With Minnie Driver, Tom Wilkinson, Harriet Walter, Florence Hoath, Bruce Myers, Jonathan Rhys Meyers. (110 min.)

+++ Seeking broader horizons for her life, a young Jewish woman leaves her comfortable London home in the 1840s and becomes governess in the Christian household of an inventor who's trying to perfect the newfangled technology called photography. Driver gives a winning performance in a human-scaled story that mostly avoids romantic clichs and gender stereotypes, although a few of both creep in from time to time.

HALLOWEEN: H20 (R)

Director: Steve Miner. With Jamie Lee Curtis, Janet Leigh, Adam Arkin, LL Cool J, Michelle Williams, Josh Hartnett. (86 min.)

++ "Scream" writer Kevin Williamson and director Miner have teamed up to bring you "Halloween: H20" (the subtitle indicates 20 years later and not a chemical formula). Former babysitter Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) is now a headmistress of an isolated boarding school in California who's trying to put serial killer Michael Myers out of her mind. She's divorced, battling a drinking problem, and trying to reconnect with her teenaged son. Meanwhile, the masked maniac is on her trail. It's campy fun, but if you've seen the previous sequels, the plot grows tiresome and lacks shock value. By Lisa Leigh Parney

++ Fun thrill ride, gory, occasionally funny.

Sex/Nudity: None, though some sexual innuendo. Violence: Final segment filled with terror, gore, and violence, including shooting, throat slashing, several knifings with extremely large knife, car crash, and beheading. Profanity: 22 expletives. Drugs: Occasional drinking to relieve stress; cigarettes.

THE PARENT TRAP (PG)

Director: Nancy Meyers. With Lindsay Lohan, Natasha Richardson, Dennis Quaid, Lisa Ann Walter. (128 min.)

+++ Remake of the popular 1961 comedy about long-separated identical twins who learn of each other's existence at summer camp and decide to get their warring parents back together. Lohan is sparklingly good as the look-alike little girls, and the movie as a whole has enough bounce and energy to overcome a few dull spots and a too-long running time.

+++ Delightful, lighthearted, generic.

Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: 1 fencing scene, not violent. Profanity: None. Drugs: 6 scenes with drinking (1 in which adults permit a child to taste wine); 1 scene with a cigarette.

SAVING PRIVATE RYAN (R)

Director: Steven Spielberg. With Tom Hanks, Edward Burns, Matt Damon, Tom Sizemore, Jeremy Davies, Vin Diesel, Barry Pepper, Giovanni Ribisi, Adam Goldberg. (160 min.)

+++ This extremely violent World War II drama focuses on an Army captain ordered to penetrate dangerous territory and rescue a private whose mother has already lost three sons in combat, even though this places the lives of his other soldiers in jeopardy. The story raises hard moral questions relating to the relative value of human lives and the overwhelming debt that may be felt by those who benefit when others sacrifice. But the movie falls short of excellence because it doesn't so much explore these issues as finesse them in an action-filled climax. Contains horrific mayhem.

+++ Masterpiece, grimly realistic, definitely not for kids.

Sex/Nudity: 2 instances of soldiers talking about women and sex. Violence: 5 sweeping scenes of violence, all of them graphic, war-related, and almost continuous. First and last scenes are at least a half-hour long. Profanity: 79 expletives, usually during battle. Drugs: Medicinal use of morphine, 22 instances of smoking.

SNAKE EYES (R)

Director: Brian De Palma. With Nicolas Cage, Gary Sinise, John Heard, Carla Gugino, Stan Shaw. (99 min.)

+++ Cage gives a wildly extroverted performance as an Atlantic City cop who stumbles onto an assassination scheme that forces him to reassess his loyalties even as he chases the villains. The movie is weaker as a suspense yarn than as an exercise in style, filling the screen with intricate camera choreography. But it also ponders the serious theme of modern materialism, represented by everything from excesses of the gambling and prizefighting industries to machinations of the military-industrial complex.

u1/2 Disappointing, hyperactive, uneven.

Sex/Nudity: 3 scenes of attempted seduction. Violence: 8 scenes, plus boxing violence. Profanity: 64 swears and oaths. Drugs: 3 scenes with alcohol, 8 with cigarettes.

THERE'S SOMETHING ABOUT MARY (R)

Directors: Peter Farrelly and Bobby Farrelly. With Ben Stiller, Cameron Diaz, Matt Dillon, Chris Elliott, Lee Evans. (120 min.)

++ Still hopelessly in love with a high school heartthrob he hardly knew, a New England yuppie tracks her down to Miami, then competes for her affection with various new rivals, including the private eye he hired to locate her. This comedy is as down-and-dirty as you'd expect from the Farrelly team, who launched their career with "Dumb and Dumber" and "Kingpin," but more than one sequence manages to be hilarious on its own outrageously crass terms.

++ Crass, irreverent, gross-out comedy.

Sex/Nudity: 1 instance of implied sex, 3 brief instances of nudity. Violence: Mostly slapstick, nothing graphic. Profanity: About 80 crude or harsh expressions. Drugs: 5 scenes of drinking, 3 of smoking.

THE THIEF (R)

Director: Pavel Chukhrai. With Vladimir Mashkov, Ekaterina Rednikova. (97 min.)

+++ The setting is the Soviet Union in the 1950s, and the main character is a little boy facing the difficult task of growing up with an attractive but dependent mother and her emotionally unstable boyfriend, a Stalinist with a tendency toward mean, sometimes violent behavior. The story is bleak, but the acting is strong and the filmmaking is vivid.

++1/2 Stark, hopeless, heart-rending.

Sex/Nudity: 4 sexual situations. Violence: 3 scenes, mostly fighting. Profanity: 11 expressions. Drugs: Frequent cigarette smoking and social drinking.

OUT ON VIDEO

(In stores Aug. 18)

THE APOSTLE (PG-13)

(Drama)

Director: Robert Duvall. With Robert Duvall, Farrah Fawcett, Billy Bob Thornton. (133 min.)

++++ A devout but humanly flawed preacher flees from Texas to Louisiana after a violent incident sparked by his wife's infidelity and another minister's move to oust him from his church.

+++ Compelling, inspiring, provokes thought about religion.

THE BORROWERS (PG)

(Family adventure)

Director: Peter Hewitt. With John Goodman, Jim Broadbent. (83 min.)

A 10-year-old boy discovers a family of miniature people in his house, and when a crooked lawyer wrongly repossesses the place, the tiny "borrowers" fight back.

+++1/2 Magical, wholesome, superb special effects.

KUNDUN (PG-13)

(Drama)

Director: Martin Scorsese. With Tenzin Thuthob Tsarong, Gyurme Tethong, Tencho Gyalpo. (128 min.)

+++ The life of Tibet's spiritual and political leader, the Dalai Lama, from childhood until his flight to India after China's brutal invasion of his country.

+++ Majestic, educational, worthwhile.

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