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 Baby Geniuses (PG) Director: Bob Clark. With Kathleen Turner, Christopher Lloyd, Kim Cattrall, Peter MacNicol, Dom DeLuise. (103 min.) DUD Twin toddlers are reunited after being separated at birth to battle an evil corporation that believes that babies understand the mysteries of the universe until they learn to talk. The premise is downright dumb and so is every second of this dreadful gaga, which copies Look Whos Talking in every respect. Whats worse, Baby Geniuses is directed by the same Bob Clark who brilliantly purveyed a kids take on the adult-run world in the 1983 classic A Christmas Story. By John Christian Hoyle DUD Painfully boring, crass, not for children. Sex/Nudity: 1 sexual innuendo. Violence: 29 scenes with mild violence, often nonsensical. Profanity: 5 expressions. Drugs: 4 scenes with tobacco, 3 of them with babies smoking cigars.

The Boys in the Band (R) Director: William Friedkin. With Cliff Gorman, Laurence Luckinbill, Leonard Frey, Ruben Greene, Keith Prentice, Kenneth Nelson, Peter White. (119 min.) ++ Reissue of the 1970 comedy-drama written by Mart Crowley from his scathingly sardonic play about a boisterous birthday party attended by eight gay men and an uninvited straight guest. Friedkins filmmaking is clunky, and only Frey turns in a truly riveting performance, but the screenplay paints a blistering portrait of a subculture beset with social and emotional problems.

Forces of Nature (PG-13) Director: Bronwen Hughes. With Sandra Bullock, Ben Affleck, Maura Tierney, Blythe Danner, Steve Zahn, Ronny Cox, Bert Remsen. (102 min.) +++ Romantic comedy about a bridegroom-to-be who gets sidetracked on the way to his wedding by various small disasters and more to the point, an unexpected traveling companion whos both free-spirited and beautiful. Bullock gives a sweet, breezy performance opposite Afflecks nicely underplayed comic acting, and Hughes gives a gently offbeat look to the less-than-credible plot.

I Stand Alone (Not rated) Director: Gaspar No. With Philippe Nahon, Blandine Lenoir, Frankye Pain, Martine Audrain. (93 min.) ++ The brutally unpleasant story of a misanthropic butcher who despises all humanity, including himself. The movie is a noteworthy addition to the long tradition of against-the-grain French drama that stretches from Sade to Cline, but No told the same tale more effectively and economically in his 1991 short, Carne, and by comparison the new version often seems as monotonous as it is outrageous.

The King and I (G) Director: Richard Rich. With voices of Miranda Richardson, Christiane Noll, Martin Vidnovic, Ian Richardson, Darrell Hammond, Armi Arabe, Tracy Venner Warren. (88 min.) ++ Animated version of the Rogers & Hammerstein musical about a 19th-century English schoolteacher and the king of Siam, who wants to modernize his country while maintaining the powers and privileges to which he and his court are accustomed. Not trusting kids to appreciate a classic show on its own terms, this remake leaves out many of the songs and sensationalizes the story with added ingredients ranging from a palace plot to a sea monster. Since the original 1956 movie is itself superb family entertainment, and readily available on video in its wide-screen CinemaScope format, thats clearly the way to go.

Ravenous (R) Director: Antonia Bird. With Robert Carlyle, Guy Pearce, Jeffrey Jones, David Arquette, Jeremy Davies, Stephen Spinella, Neal McDonough, John Spencer. (105 min.) ++ A horror movie disguised as a western, with cannibals stalking victims in the mountainous terrain of the American frontier. Most of the pictures ideas are drawn from the old vampire-film tradition; viewers with no tolerance for grisly violence should stay far away from it, but Birds keen visual imagination keeps the action grimly watchable for those who can stomach such stuff.

The Rook (Not rated) Director: Eran Palatnik. With Martin Donovan, John A. MacKay, Diane Grotke, Michael Finesilver, Sean Clark, Harrison Baker. (84 min.) +++ At an unspecified time in the future, when humanity appears to have taken more backward steps than forward ones, a detective investigates the murder of a woman who may have been involved in a subversive plot. The story is murky at times, but the pictures highly original screenplay and visual design make it distinctive and absorbing.

True Crime (R) Director: Clint Eastwood. With Clint Eastwood, Isaiah Washington, James Woods, Lisa Gay Hamilton, Denis Leary, Diane Venora. (115 min.) +++ Assigned to interview a condemned prisoner, an aging reporter tries to salvage whats left of his alcohol-ruined career by proving the convicts innocence just hours before his execution. The drama is crisply acted and entertainingly filmed until credibility wanes in the last half hour. It would be even better if Eastwood followed his characters lead and emphasized real issues over human interest in a story that touches on important social problems without doing much to illuminate them. Contains a subplot about sexual exploits and a great deal of foul language.

Wing Commander (PG-13) Director: Chris Roberts. With Freddie Prinze Jr., Matthew Lillard, Saffron Burrows, David Warner. (109 min.) +1/2 It leaves you feeling lighthearted, even plucky. Space battles, adolescent energy levels, macho banter. The sci-fi gibberish is overwhelming at times, so to prepare you for fictional galaxies unexplored: the Kilrathi are the bad guys, the Confederation represents the good, and Pilgrims have the uncanny ability to navigate the stars by gut instinct, a gift only faintly matched by a computerized system called Navcom. On the downside, its a bit amateurish and hyper. Note of interest: The movie was shot in Luxembourg. By Katherine Dillin ++ Non-stop action, comic-book fun, shallow. Sex/Nudity: 1 mild scene of implied sexual activity; 1 instance of innuendo. Violence: 4 scenes including one lengthy battle. Profanity: 25 expressions, mostly mild. Drugs: 3 scenes with alcohol, 1 scene with cigarettes.

Currently in Release Analyze This (R) Director: Harold Ramis. With Robert De Niro, Billy Crystal, Lisa Kudrow, Joe Viterelli, Chazz Palminteri. (105 min.) ++ Bothered by a vulnerable streak in his personality, a New York mobster decides to visit a psychiatrist, and soon the unwilling therapist is up to his ears in revelations, confidences, and confessions hed rather have nothing to do with. Ramis doesnt reach the comic heights of his Groundhog Day or National Lampoons Vacation, but the acting is excellent, and the screenplay offers some hearty laughs if you can stand bursts of violence and language as foul as a Mafiosos business agenda. +++ Hilarious, a bit hammy, great to see De Niro in a comedic role. Sex/Nudity: 2 instances. Violence: 11 mild instances. Profanity: 145 expressions, mostly harsh. Drugs: 13 instances of smoking and drinking.

The Corruptor (R) Director: James Foley. With Mark Wahlberg, Chow Yun-Fat, Brian Cox, Ric Young, Paul Ben-Victor, Tovah Feldshuh, Byron Mann. (111 min.) ++ A young white cop teams with a jaded Asian-American officer for a tough Chinatown assignment, touching off racial and generational tensions along with the usual conflicts between heroes and villains. The trite story has plenty of distasteful moments, but Wahlberg and Yun-Fat justify their growing reputations as capable Hollywood actors. Contains much violence, nudity, and sexploitation. Sex/Nudity: 6 scenes, including several involving frontal or backside nudity and graphic sex. Violence: 14 scenes of gun battles, a car chase, and explosions. Profanity: 61 expressions. Drugs: 23 scenes with cigarettes and alcohol.

Dancemaker (Not rated) Director: Matthew Diamond. With Paul Taylor, members of the Paul Taylor Dance Company. (98 min.) +++ A splendidly entertaining visit with the worlds greatest modern-dance choreographer and members of his brilliant troupe, focusing on the hardships as well as the rewards of their highly exacting profession. Dance lovers will have a ball, and newcomers to this territory will get a revealing and high-spirited look at both its inner workings and its public face.

The Deep End of the Ocean (PG-13) Director: Ulu Grosbard. With Michelle Pfeiffer, Treat Williams, Whoopi Goldberg, Tony Musante, Jonathan Jackson, John Kapelos. (108 min.) ++ After one of her children mysteriously vanishes, a mother swings from acute anguish to chronic sadness, and can scarcely credit her own senses when evidence suggests she might have found him a decade after his disappearance. The subject is poignant and suspenseful, but the treatment is drab and uninvolving despite competent acting and a few well-crafted scenes. ++ Story falls flat on screen, sometimes affecting, dispassionate. Sex/Nudity: 1 mild instance. Violence: None. Profanity: 20 expressions. Drugs: 3 scenes each of drinking and smoking.

Devils Island (Not rated) Director: Fridrik Thor Fridriksson. With Baltasar Kormakur, Gisli Halldorsson, Sigurveig Jonsdottir. (103 min.) ++ This ambitious but uneven Icelandic drama portrays a poor, eccentric family struggling to make a decent life in an abandoned US military base set aside for people with nowhere else to live. The pictures most effective element is its cleareyed look at the influence exerted by American pop culture on undiscriminating consumers in a different part of the world; accordingly, the soundtrack is filled with classic 50s tunes that keep the movie hopping even when the action sags.

The Harmonists (R) Director: Joseph Vilsmaier. With Ben Becker, Heino Ferch, Ulrich Noethen, Heinrich Schafmeister, Max Tidof, Kai Wiesinger, Meret Becker. (114 min.) +++ A tuneful comedy-drama based on the real-life exploits of the Comedian Harmonists, a German vocal group that broke up after the Nazis started harassing its Jewish members on and off the stage. Like the Harmonists in their shows, this neatly assembled German production serves up a beguiling blend of humor, sentiment, and nostalgia.

Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (R) Director: Guy Ritchie. With Nick Moran, Jason Statham, Jason Flemyng, Dexter Fletcher, Vinnie Jones, P.H. Moriarty, Steven Mackintosh, Sting. (107 min.) ++ Boisterous comedy about a young gambler who loses a high-stakes card game, fears for his life if he doesnt pay his debt, and coaxes his motley friends into a robbery that will score them a pile of money if theyre smart enough to pull it off. The humor is as rude and crude as the characters, but the picture certainly isnt lacking in energy.

The Rage: Carrie 2 (R) Director: Katt Shea. With Emily Bergl, Jason London, Dylan Bruno, Amy Irving, Rachel Blanchard. (104 min.) + Rachel is a fragile and unpopular high schooler who possesses the ability to move things with her mind especially when she becomes angry or frightened. As she becomes romantically involved with a popular jock, a web of deceit is being spun to humiliate her at a party. When the cruel pranksters succeed, she unleashes a rage more horrifying than Carrie 1 did at her prom. Flashbacks of the original Carrie are the only worthwhile portions. By John Christian Hoyle

200 Cigarettes (R) Director: Risa Bramon Garcia. With Ben Affleck, Casey Affleck, David Chappelle, Janeane Garofalo. (96 min.) + A cast of oddball New Yorkers celebrate New Years Eve 1981 by complaining about how much their lives stink because they cant find love. They converge at a party to choose whom they should spend the night with. Although David Chappelles performance is amusing, the film should have been packaged with a Surgeon Generals Warning Cigarettes is bad for you. By John Christian Hoyle u1/2 Silly, plotless, slow. Sex/Nudity: Constant instances of sexual innuendo. Violence: None. Profanity: 67 expressions. Drugs: One scene with drug use; incessant cigarette smoking and drinking throughout.

OUT ON VIDEO The Waterboy (PG-13) Director: Frank Coraci. With Adam Sandler, Kathy Bates, Jerry Reed, Henry Winkler. (140 min.) ++ Sandler plays a lovable but dimwitted Louisiana-bayou water boy who is sheltered by his overprotective mama and picked on by the football team that is, until he unleashes his hidden talent for tackling quarterbacks and 300-pound linemen. By John Christian Hoyle ++ Juvenile, absurd, good for a laugh.

Simon Birch (PG) Director: Mark Steven Johnson. With Ian Michael Smith, Joseph Mazzello, Ashley Judd, Oliver Platt, David Strathairn, Dana Ivey, Jan Hooks. (110 min.) +++ The hero is a very small boy whos convinced his abnormal physique is proof of Gods particular interest in him, and feels hell fulfill some special purpose as soon as he can figure out what its supposed to be. +++ Tear-jerker, intriguing, literary.

Coming Soon ... (In stores March 23) Pleasantville (PG-13) Director: Gary Ross. With Tobey Maguire, Reese Witherspoon, William H. Macy, Joan Allen, Don Knotts, Jeff Daniels, J.T. Walsh. (116 min.) +++ Two average 1990s teens find themselves transported to a 1950s-type town right out of a TV sitcom, where values and ideas are as black-and-white as the cinematography. Ross's comedy isn't as inventive as The Truman Show, which it resembles in some ways, but it explores interesting ideas with nimble humor. +++ Refreshingly original, technically inventive, fun but meaningful.

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