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The Monitor Movie Guide

By Staff / February 5, 1999


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

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NEW RELEASES DRY CLEANING (NOT RATED) Director: Anne Fontaine. With Miou-Miou, Charles Berling, Stanislas Merhar. (97 min.) ++ French drama about a middle-class couple who meets a young man working as a female impersonator in a nightclub act, offers him a conventional job in their dry-cleaning business, and enters a growing web of tensions and rivalries. Capably acted, sexually candid, ultimately insubstantial. Also known as "Nettoyage sec."

FANTASTIC PLANET (PG) Director: Ren Laloux. With voices of Jennifer Drake, Sylvie Lenoir, Jean Topart, Jean Valmont. (71 min.) +++ Reissue of a 1973 animated feature, presented with its original French soundtrack for the first time in US theaters. Set on an exotic world inhabited by humanoids of wildly different sizes, the fantasy reflects the interest of director Laloux and designer Roland Topor in surrealistic art. It's too strange and disorienting to be appropriate for younger children since it deals with adult themes.

THE LAST DAYS (NOT RATED) Director: James Moll. With Tom Lantos, Irene Zisblatt, Rene Firestone, Alice Lok Cahana, Bill Basch. (86 min.) +++ This first-person account of suffering and survival among Hungarian victims of the Holocaust contains much stirring and revealing material, although the conventionality of its style diminishes the freshness and urgency of its content to a degree. Steven Spielberg is credited as executive producer.

PAYBACK (R) Director: Brian Helgeland. Mel Gibson, Deborah Kara Unger, James Coburn, Kris Kristofferson, William Devane, Bill Duke, Maria Bello, Gregg Henry. (105 min.) + An interesting cast is wasted in this misanthropic thriller about a criminal bent on revenge against his ex-wife and former partner. Mayhem is expected in this sort of story, but the filmmakers add torture and sadomasochism into the bargain, and it's hard to remember a mainstream movie that aims so much gleeful violence at its female characters. It's enough to make viewers rethink Gibson's penchant for suffering in "Braveheart" and other pictures. ++ Lots of 'attitude,' no redeeming qualities, cold-blooded. Sex/Nudity: Four scenes with generally sadistic sexual situations. Violence: 21 scenes involving violence (beatings, torture, gunshots, explosions, kidnapping). Profanity: 81 expressions. Drugs: 34 scenes with cigarettes, cigars, alcohol, and/or hard drugs.

PIZZICATA (NOT RATED) Director: Edoardo Winspeare. With Cosimo Cinieri, Fabio Frascaro, Chiara Torelli, Anna Dimitri, Ines d'Ambrosio, Paolo Massafra, Lamberto Probo. (93 min.) +++ A peasant family shelters an Italian-American pilot shot down near an isolated Italian village during World War II, sparking jealousy and suspicion when he falls in love with a young woman of the household. This quietly realistic drama is spiced with energetic music and moments of expressive camera work, compensating for some unpersuasive acting and dull spots in the story.

RUSHMORE (R) Director: Wes Anderson. With Bill Murray, Jason Schwartzman, Olivia Williams, Mason Gamble, Brian Cox. (95 min.) ++++ A precocious prep-school student juggles a ridiculous number of extracurricular projects while falling in love with an attractive teacher and sparring with his romantic rival, a sleazy businessman. Anderson fulfills the promise of his inventive "Bottle Rocket" with this quirky, often hilarious comedy, and Murray gives his most uproarious performance since the groundbreaking "Groundhog Day." Sex/Nudity: 1 scene of nude women on posters. Violence: 5 scenes that include rock throwing, fistfights, and a BB gun. Profanity: 26 expressions. Drugs: 5 scenes of drinking, 15 of smoking cigarettes.

Currently in Release ANOTHER DAY IN PARADISE (R) Director: Larry Clark. With James Woods, Vincent Kartheiser, Melanie Griffith. (101 min.) ++ An experienced thug invites a drug-abusing teenager to become his protg, leading to a violent crime spree. Clark's first movie since the controversial "Kids" manages to be jarringly naturalistic and flagrantly melodramatic at the same time, bursting with explicit horrors that sound a loud alarm over antisocial elements in America's heartland.