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 + WorstSkip to next paragraph
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NEW RELEASES Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me (PG-13) Director: Jay Roach. With Mike Myers, Heather Graham, Michael York, Elizabeth Hurley, Seth Green, Robert Wagner. (100 min.) ++ The silly secret agent returns in his first sequel, wherein the evil Dr. Evil time-travels to the 60s and steals the mojo that powers our heros sex appeal. The satire is crammed with sexual and scatological humor; some may find this Rabelaisian and refreshing, while others will detect the end of civilization as we know it.
Desert Blue (R) Director: Morgan J. Freeman. With John Heard, Casey Affleck, Christina Ricci, Brendan Sexton III, Kate Hudson, Ethan Suplee, Sara Gilbert. (87 min.) ++ A young actress hangs out with like-minded teenagers when she and her professor dad are stranded in a rural California town by a nuclear-hazard scare. Low-key performances and a meandering plot are bolstered by Freemans skill at building a quietly absorbing atmosphere.
The Last Cigarette (Not rated) Directors: Kevin Rafferty, Frank Keraudren. With Henry Waxman, various movie and TV performers, members of the tobacco industry. (82 min.) +++ An engrossing, informative, sometimes hilarious look at the history of tobacco smoking in the mass media, from recent congressional hearings to the kinds of TV ads that arent allowed anymore. Entertainingly assembled, if not very deep or analytical.
The Red Violin (Not rated) Director: Franois Girard. With Samuel L. Jackson, Greta Scacchi, Don McKellar, Jean-Luc Bideau, Carlo Cecchi, Jason Flemyng, Sylvia Chang. (130 min.) +++ This omnibus-style film traces the fictional history of a superbly crafted violin, and the mystery attached to it, as it passes from 17th-century Italy to China during the Cultural Revolution, with stops in Austria and England along the way. Movies in this genre are often made with more attention to international marketing than first-rate storytelling, but Girard invests each episode of this Canadian production with dramatic credibility and emotional strength. In four languages, with English subtitles when appropriate.
Return With Honor (Not rated) Directors: Freida Lee Mock, Terry Sanders. With Everett Alvarez, Jim Stockdale, Jerry Denton, John McCain, Robbie Risner. (102 min.) +++ Gripping, touching, sometimes warmly humorous documentary about American fliers shot down during the Vietnam war and held as prisoners under conditions that were often too horrifying to be imagined. A lovingly filmed tribute to human resilience.
Trekkies (PG-13) Director: Roger Nygard. With Denise Crosby, members of the Star Trek cast, assorted fans. (85 min.) +++ Call them trekkies or trekkers or just dedicated fans, people committed to the Star Trek way of life are the focus of this quirky, often hilarious documentary. Kirk, Spock, Picard, and the Starship Enterprise will never look the same.
Currently in Release American Hollow (Not rated) Director: Rory Kennedy. With Iree Bowling and members of the Bowling family. (90 min.) +++ Thoughtful documentary about a year in the life of an extended family that has lived for years in the same rural Kentucky area, capturing close-up views of everything from an on-and-off engagement to a sons incarceration for a crime he didnt commit. The movie presents much to learn from, although it would be more persuasive if it probed the filmmakers own relationship with the people theyve intruded on.
Besieged (R) Director: Bernardo Bertolucci. With David Thewlis, Thandie Newton. (92 min.) +++ After fleeing her violence-torn homeland, an African woman goes to work for an eccentric English composer in Rome, developing a complex and increasingly affectionate relationship with him. Inventive acting and imaginative filmmaking transform what might have been a minor variation on Bertoluccis notorious Last Tango in Paris into an offbeat fantasia thats romantic, whimsical, and unsettling by turns.