The Monitor Movie Guide
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CHILDREN OF HEAVEN (PG) Director: Majid Majidi. With Mohammad Amir Naji, Mir Farrokh Hashemian, Bahare Seddiqi. (88 min.) +++ Burdened by the poverty of his family, a young boy in Tehran dreams of winning a prize in a local race so he wont have to share a single pair of shoes with his sister. This modestly produced family drama has all the poignancy and humor associated with todays vibrant Iranian film industry.Skip to next paragraph
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A CIVIL ACTION (PG-13) Director: Steven Zaillian. With John Travolta, Robert Duvall, James Gandolfini, Kathleen Quinlan, William H. Macy, Dan Hadaya, Tony Shalhoub, John Lithgow. (113 min.) +++ A self-centered attorney takes on a case involving claims of illness caused by toxic waste and finds himself making great personal and professional sacrifices as he becomes increasingly committed to righting the insidious wrongs uncovered by his investigations. Splendid acting and a taut screenplay make the fact-based tale highly involving until its abrupt, underdeveloped ending. +++ Compelling, intense, solid acting. Sex/Nudity/Violence: None. Profanity: 8 expressions. Drugs: 11 scenes with alcohol and/or cigarettes.
THE GENERAL (R) Director: John Boorman. With Brendan Gleeson, Jon Voight, Adrian Dunbar, Sean McGinley. (129 min.) +++ Hard-hitting crime drama based on the real-life rivalry between a crafty Irish criminal and a policeman determined to end his crooked career. Gleeson gives a strikingly original performance as the mischievous felon; still, the pictures silky black-and-white cinematography is its most eye-catching asset.
THE HI-LO COUNTRY (R) Director: Stephen Frears. With Woody Harrelson, Billy Crudup, Patricia Arquette, Sam Elliott. (114 min.) ++ The friendship of two rowdy young men turns into rivalry when they both become infatuated with a married woman whose morality is as mercurial as the tumbleweed blowing through their New Mexico town. Strong acting and eye-catching camera work cant outweigh the clichs of the hackneyed love-triangle story.
HILARY AND JACKIE (R) Director: Anand Tucker. With Emily Watson, Rachel Griffiths, Charles Dance, David Morrissey. (121 min.) +++ Handsomely filmed drama based on the real-life relationship between Jacqueline du Pr, a cellist who became one of the worlds most acclaimed musicians, and her sister, who traded in her musical talent for domestic life. The acting is splendid, the family issues are sensitively explored, and the treatment of Jackies illness and untimely death is tactful though explicit. +++1/2 Wonderful music, intense, moving. Sex/Nudity: 5 instances, including one of adultery. Violence: 1 scene. Profanity: 12 expressions. Drugs: 5 scenes with social drinking.
IN DREAMS (R) Director: Neil Jordan. With Annette Bening, Aidan Quinn, Robert Downey Jr., Stephen Rea, Paul Guilfoyle. (112 min.) +++ After her young daughter is murdered by a mysterious madman, a clairvoyant woman realizes hes paying her sinister visits in her sleeping and waking thoughts. This imaginatively directed thriller delivers all the gore a horror fan could want, although others may watch much of it through their fingers. Bening is harrowingly real as the tormented heroine, and the screenplay raises trenchant questions about psychiatric experts who think they know more than their patients. ++ Nightmarish, edgy, forgettable. Sex/Nudity: 1 scene. Violence: 17 scenes of weird, twisted violence. Profanity: 27 expressions, mostly strong. Drugs: 4 scenes with cigarettes.
MY NAME IS JOE (NOT RATED) Director: Ken Loach. With Peter Mullan, Louise Goodall, Davie McKay. (105 min.) +++ A social worker starts a complex romantic relationship with a recovering alcoholic whos eager to start a constructive new life but apprehensive about the challenges he knows hell face. Loach is one of the worlds most deeply humanistic and politically alert filmmakers, and this expertly acted drama finds him close to his top form.
SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE (R) Director: John Madden. With Joseph Fiennes, Gwyneth Paltrow, Ben Affleck, Judi Dench, Geoffrey Rush. (122 min.) ++ The young playwright fights off writers block, scrambles for ideas, and falls in love with a would-be actress who wears mens clothing as readily as a character in one of his cross-dressing comedies. This romantic farce has a talented cast and energy to spare, but somehow the ingredients dont burn as brightly as one would expect from such promising ingredients. ++++ Finally, a literate movie; passionate, abundantly witty. Sex/Nudity: 5 sex scenes, several with waist-up nudity; plus a few references to promiscuity. Violence: 6 instances of violence ranging from comical to an offstage killing. Profanity: 3 expressions. Drugs: 3 instances of drinking.