The Monitor Movie Guide

STAR RATINGS

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The Worst DUD

NEW RELEASES

DEEP BLUE SEA (R)

Director: Renny Harlin. With Samuel L. Jackson, Saffron Burrows, LL Cool J, Michael Rapaport, Stellan Skarsgrd, Thomas Jane. (100 min.)

Set in a scientific research facility, the story can be summarized in an equation: 3 very big sharks + 1 biological experiment = 3 eating machines a lot smarter than the humans they're chasing. Much of the story is "Jaws" updated to the '90s, but it's just the thing for moviegoers craving violent adventure, smart-alecky dialogue, and enough water-drenched cinematography to make "Titanic" look parched.

RUNAWAY BRIDE (PG)

Director: Garry Marshall. With Julia Roberts, Richard Gere, Joan Cusack, Paul Dooley, Hector Elizondo, Rita Wilson. (110 min.)

A jaded journalist writes a column about a woman who's ditched three bridegrooms at the altar, then visits her small Southern town to meet her and her latest hopeful fianc. The screenplay provides enough cute one-liners and love-struck speeches to give the comedy intermittent charm. Still, star-power is its main asset as it reunites Gere and Roberts with director Marshall for the first time since their "Pretty Woman" became a runaway hit.

SOME LIKE IT HOT (Not rated)

Director: Billy Wilder. With Jack Lemmon, Tony Curtis, Marilyn Monroe, Joe E. Brown, George Raft, Pat O'Brien. (119 min.)

Revival of the classic 1959 comedy about two male musicians who hide from Prohibition-era thugs by putting on dresses and joining an all-woman jazz band. Amusingly outrageous in the best Wilder tradition.

TWIN FALLS IDAHO (Not rated)

Director: Michael Polish. With Michael Polish, Mark Polish, Michele Hicks, Lesley Ann Warren, Patrick Bauchau, William Katt. (105 min.)

The bittersweet story of 25-year-old conjoined twins, the woman who falls in love with one of them, and the challenges they face when they realize that the other twin is in uncertain health. Made by actual (not conjoined) twins, the emotionally powerful drama unfolds its distinctive tale through understated images that counteract any possibility of exploitation or sensationalism.

CURRENTLY IN RELEASE

AMERICAN PIE (R)

Director: Paul Weitz. With Jason Biggs, Natasha Lyonne, Chris Klein, Shannon Elizabeth, Thomas Ian Nicholas, Alyson Hannigan, Tara Reid, Seann W. Scott, Mena Suvari, Eddie Kaye Thomas, Eugene Levy. (100 min.)

A bunch of high-school boys make a vow to consummate their sex lives before graduation, and pursue various girls with this project in mind. Teenybopper comedies rarely reach heights of inspiration, and this one is mostly unappealing despite a handful of amusing performances. Contains a high degree of gross-out humor.

Vulgar, makes you glad you're out of high school, embarrassingly funny.

Sex/Nudity: 78 instances of graphic sexual innuendo and activity, 11 instances with partial and/or complete nudity. Violence: 2 scenes involving fistfights. Profanity: 62 expressions. Drugs: 29 instances of drinking.

THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT (R)

Directors: Eduardo Sanchez, Daniel Myrick. With Heather Donahue, Michael Williams, Joshua Leonard. (87 min.)

The premise behind this offbeat picture is that three film students disappeared after trekking into a supposedly haunted forest, and we're watching the film and video they shot before meeting their mysterious fate. The concept is clever, suggesting a new way to build horror-movie suspense without much on-camera gore. The movie would be better as a 30-minute short, though, since its shaky camera work and fuzzy images get monotonous after a while, and there's not much room for character development within the very limited plot.

Riveting, scary, realistic, unsettling, eerie.

Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: 3 deaths but not seen taking place. Profanity: 216 expressions, many harsh. Drugs: 2 instances of drinking, 6 of smoking.

CABARET BALKAN (R)

Director: Goran Paskaljevic. With Lazar Ristovski, Miki Manojlovic, Mirjana Jokovic, Sergej Trifunovic. (100 min.)

Personal conflict interacts with political despair to produce an explosive atmosphere in this many-layered Yugoslavian drama, set in Belgrade during the mid-1990s. The multiple story lines often seem more melodramatic than enlightening, but they provide a harrowing look at a country on the brink of tumultuous events. Also known as "The Powder Keg." In Serbo-Croatian with subtitles.

THE DINNER GAME (Not rated)

Director: Francis Veber. With Thierry Lhermitte, Jacques Villeret, Francis Huster, Daniel Prevost, Alexandra Vendernoot, Catherine Frot. (82 min.)

Playing an obnoxious game he enjoys, a publisher invites an eccentric man to dinner so he and his friends can mock him, but the unsuspecting guest proves to be more solid and sensitive than anyone else around. France invented this sort of crackling farce, and the tradition remains alive and well in Veber's able hands. In French with English subtitles.

Clever, blithe, understated, easy-to-love characters, witty.

Sex/Nudity: Some innuendo. Violence: None.Profanity: 26 expressions, some harsh. Drugs: 6 scenes with mostly social drinking.

DROP DEAD GORGEOUS (PG-13)

Director: Michael Patrick Jann. With Kirstie Alley, Ellen Barkin, Kirsten Dunst, Denise Richards. (97 min.)

Beauty pageants take on a whole new meaning in this dark comedy about a small town's obsession with its teenage beauty contest. Told in a mock-documentary style, Kirsten Dunst plays Amber, a trailer-park beauty who is ultimately pitted against the rich and mean-spirited Becky (Denise Richards). The movie has its hilarious moments, but at the end of the film you might be asking, "What was the point?" Barkin plays Amber's unkempt mother, and Alley portrays Becky's conniving mom. By Lisa Leigh Parney

Wickedly funny, spunky, off-the-wall, macabre, creative.

Sex/Nudity: 8 instances with innuendo, 1 fleeting instance of implied sexual activity. Violence: 12 instances involving explosions, fistfights, slaps, shooting. Profanity: 53 expressions, mostly mild. Drugs: 3 instances of drinking, 8 of smoking, 4 with both.

EYES WIDE SHUT (R)

Director: Stanley Kubrick. With Tom Cruise, Nicole Kidman, Sydney Pollack, Marie Richardson, Leelee Sobieski, Rade Sherbedgia. (159 min.)

After his wife confesses to having sexual fantasies, a successful physician drifts into unexpected events that lead him to a mysterious mansion full of illicit activities and what might be deadly dangers. Brilliantly filmed in his usual transfixing style, Kubrick's last movie pleads for alertness to the temptations that assail human nature from within and without. It's weighed down by wordy dialogue and a slowly paced story, though. Written by Kubrick and Frederick Raphael, it's based on an Arthur Schnitzler novella. Contains explicit sex, nudity, and drug use.

Deviant, slow, richly layered, graphic, sensual, exquisite camera work.

Sex/Nudity: 17 instances with 7 scenes of full frontal and/or partial nudity, 1 graphic orgy scene, propositioning, and implied child sex. Violence: 2 instances of mild violence, one implied. Profanity: 35 expressions, mostly harsh. Drugs: 4 scenes with social drinking, 1 with marijuana, 1 death by overdose.

THE HAUNTING (PG-13)

Director: Jan De Bont. With Liam Neeson, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Lili Taylor, Owen Wilson, Marian Seldes. (117 min.)

A psychologist brings three recruits to a spooky old house, where he hopes to study their reactions under fear-inducing conditions. The haunted mansion is more interesting to watch than the Hollywood-style shocks that unfold there. The jolts are inspired less by Shirley Jackson's nuanced 1959 novel than by the high-tech fantasies of the computer-imaging department at DreamWorks, which made the picture.

Laughable, not scary, corny lines, ridiculous, waste of money.

INSPECTOR GADGET (PG)

Director: David Kellogg. With Matthew Broderick, Rupert Everett, Joely Fisher, Dabney Coleman, Cheri Oteri, Michael G. Hagerty. (85 min.)

You'll welcome the daylight after enduring this silly, cartoonish romp. Even juveniles may find it too juvenile. But don't blame the cast for this Disney disappointment. Matthew Broderick, Rupert Everett, Joely Fisher, and the rest of the talented crew give it their all. They're overwhelmed, however, by computer-generated gimmicks and a plot that goes nowhere. By John Dillin

Zany, run-of-the-mill, AAAC! (avoid at all costs), good cast.

Sex/Nudity: 1 instance of innuendo. Violence: 15 scenes, often slapstick. Profanity: None. Drugs: 2 scenes with alcohol, 2 with cigars.

LAKE PLACID (R)

Director: Steve Miner. With Bridget Fonda, Oliver Platt, Bill Pullman, Brendan Gleeson. (88 min.)

Placid lake, giant crocodile, chomp chomp. Stay away unless you enjoy gross-out violence, and stay even farther away if you're an animal lover, since some of the most grisly attacks are aimed at cows who just want to chew their cuds in peace. What's a good cast doing in a clunky horror-spoof like this?

Gory, mediocre, short.

Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: 11 scenes, most with a hungry crocodile. Profanity: 41 expressions, some harsh. Drugs: None.

MUPPETS FROM SPACE (G)

Director: Tim Hill. With Muppet performers and Ray Liotta, David Arquette, Jeffrey Tambor, Andie MacDowell. (82 min.)

Gonzo always knew he was unique, and now he learns why: His family is from outer space, and a reunion is long overdue. Muppet fans will enjoy the antics of Miss Piggy and her friends, but others may find the action less sprightly and funny than it tries to be.

Boisterous, nutty, good clean fun.

Sex/Nudity/Profanity: None. Violence: 9 slapstick scenes, including electrocutions, a Miss Piggy karate fight, and the sound of a lawn mower hitting a cat. Drugs: 1 scene with cigarette smoking.

MY LIFE SO FAR (PG-13)

Director: Hugh Hudson. With Colin Firth, Irene Jacob, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, Malcolm McDowell, Tcheky Karyo, Rosemary Harris, Robert Norman, Kelly MacDonald. (93 min.)

The adventures of a 10-year-old boy growing up on a peaceful Scottish estate surrounded by a not-so-peaceful family, including a matriarchal grandmother, a headstrong uncle, and a father who's half genius and half screwball. The story falls into many familiar formulas, but solid performances keep it reasonably entertaining.

ROSIE (R)

Director: Patrice Toye. With Aranka Coppens, Joost Wijnant, Sara de Roo, Dirk Roofthooft, Frank Vercruyssen. (93 min.)

The title character is a 13-year-old girl whose 27-year-old mother is trying to raise her right, but keeps running into emotional and psychological problems she doesn't know how to solve. Sensitive acting and skillful directing make the drama quietly touching despite some harrowing moments, and it's refreshing to see a movie from the Flemish-speaking part of Belgium, which exports fewer movies to the overseas market than its French-speaking counterpart does. In Flemish with English subtitles.

RUN LOLA RUN (R)

Director: Tom Tykwer. With Franka Potente, Moritz Bleibtreu, Nina Petri, Herbert Knaup, Armin Rohde. (81 min.)

Amazingly creative filmmaking propels this anything-goes tale of a young woman who has just 20 minutes to save her boyfriend's life by raising a huge amount of cash. Tykwer's style gives the movie an explosive energy that never quits, marking him as the most ingenious new talent to hail from Germany in ages. Contains violent action. In German with English subtitles.

Nonstop, full of surprises, fun, philosophical.

Sex/Nudity: 1 very brief scene. Violence: 9 scenes with gunshots, mugging, car crashes followed by threats of violence. Profanity: 18 harsh expressions. Drugs: 1 drug deal, 2 scenes with smoking, 4 with drinking.

OUT ON VIDEO

COMING SOON...

(In stores Aug. 3)

CRUEL INTENTIONS (R)

Director: Roger Kumble. With Sarah Michelle Gellar, Ryan Phillippe, Reese Witherspoon. (90 min.)

Two wealthy New York teenagers, a stepsister and stepbrother, enjoy tormenting their peers and flaunting their sexual conquests. The film is yet another movie version of the 18th-century French novel "Dangerous Liaisons," and easily the worst. By Greg Lamb

Vile, pitiful, trivial.

MESSAGE IN A BOTTLE (PG-13)

Director: Luis Mandoki. With Kevin Costner, Robin Wright Penn, Paul Newman. (130 min.)

A recently divorced woman finds a romantic letter in a bottle washed ashore, tracks down the man who wrote it, and falls hesitantly in love with him. The cast and the scenery are equally attractive, but the story is so sentimental that even soap-opera buffs may feel it eventually outwears its welcome.

Breathtaking scenery, overlong, Paul Newman steals the show.

A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM (PG-13)

Director: Michael Hoffman. With Kevin Kline, Michelle Pfeiffer, Christian Bale, Rupert Everett, Calista Flockhart, Sophie Marceau, Stanley Tucci. (115 min.)

The latest adaptation of Shakespeare's romantic comedy isn't exactly the real thing. It trims the text, shifts the action to turn-of-the-century Italy, and douses the soundtrack with opera music. But it retains the antic plot about lovers and actors discombobulated by magic spells, and serves up some of the Bard's most popular verse.

No sparks, well costumed, good scenery.

(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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