BOSTON — STAR RATINGS
The Worst DUD
NEW RELEASES ALL THE LITTLE ANIMALS (R) Director: Jeremy Thomas. With Christian Bale, John Hurt, Daniel Benzali. (90 min.) ++ A mentally backward young man flees his uncaring stepfather, winding up in the company of an irascible old hermit who stomps about the English countryside in search of animals to rescue from the ravages of the human race, which he heartily despises. This sometimes dreamlike fable has many original touches, although its fantasy-style plot doesn't mesh easily with the unsettling psychological themes woven through it.
THE ASTRONAUTS WIFE (R) Director: Rand Ravich. With Johnny Depp, Charlize Theron, Nick Cassavetes, Blair Brown, Joe Morton, Donna Murphy, Tom Noonan, Clea DuVall. (124 min.) ++1/2 Its a lot spookier than you might expect. Astronaut Spencer Armacost (Johnny Depp) wont discuss the two minutes he lost contact with NASA during his latest mission. His schoolteacher wife, Jillian (Charlize Theron), senses that something is amiss but even she cant get peep one out of her spouse as home life begins to unravel. A unique psychological sci-fi thriller that sometimes drags and gets too weepy, but overall its a good scare. By Katherine Dillin
BEDROOMS AND HALLWAYS (NOT RATED) Director: Rose Troche. With Kevin McKidd, Jennifer Ehle, Simon Callow, Tom Hollander, Hugo Weaving. (96 min.) ++ The lives and loves of two London roommates who find romance in unexpected places. While the gender-bending plot twists are less surprising and involving than they might have been, there are some amusingly satirical scenes focusing on a men's consciousness-raising group that leaves no clich unturned in its search for self-absorbed enlightenment.
THE BICYCLE THIEF (NOT RATED) Director: Vittorio De Sica. With Lamberto Maggiorani, Enzo Staiola. (90 min.) ++++ Revival of a 1948 classic from Italy's inspired "neorealist" movement, centering on a poverty-stricken father and a good-natured little boy who scour the streets of Rome in search of a stolen bicycle that the dad's new job depends on. European cinema has given us few works that are so richly dramatic and profoundly humane. In Italian with English subtitles
CHILL FACTOR (R) Director: Hugh Johnson. With Cuba Gooding Jr., Skeet Ulrich, Peter Firth, David Paymer. (112 min.) ++ Ignore the fact that the storyline is fantastically implausible. And that the bad guy role is loaded with ludicrous antics. Theres something utterly fun about this movie. Goodings enthusiasm is infectious, and Ulrich is a brooding counterweight in this story about two average guys trying to keep a heat- sensitive weapon from a revenge-bent ex-colonel. Look for the recurring moving pictures theme of the 90s a conspiracy-riddled government. Most of all, enjoy. By Katherine Dillin
OUTSIDE PROVIDENCE (R) Director: Michael Corrente. With Shawn Hatosy, Alec Baldwin, Amy Smart, George Wendt. (95 min.) ++ A working-class father packs his trouble-making son off to a prep school, where the well-heeled students show instant contempt for his blue-collar background. The story is lively and energetic, if you can take its raunchy jokes and rowdy behavior, but Corrente's flair for ethnic portraiture fails to raise the movie above a zillion other pictures about high-school high jinks.
THE 13TH WARRIOR (R) Directors: Michael Crichton, John McTiernan. With Antonio Banderas, Diane Venora, Omar Sharif, Vladimir Kulich, Maria Bonnevie. (114 min.) +++ During the Dark Ages, a dozen Viking warriors ride to the rescue of a kingdom under attack from a mysterious "terror that has no name." A visiting diplomat (Antonio Banderas) from the far more advanced Arab world, is forced to join them. During all manner of hacking and slashing, interrupted by a little romance, the diplomat must become a warrior. Based on Michael Crichton's novel, "Eaters of the Dead." By Greg Lamb ++ Action-packed, engrossing, gruesome. Sex/Nudity: 1 scene of implied sex. Violence: 10 scenes with sometimes graphic violence. Profanity: None. Drugs: 2 scenes with alcohol.
UNIVERSAL SOLDIER: THE RETURN (R) Director: Mic Rodgers. With Jean-Claude Van Damme, Michael Jai White, Heidi Schanz, Xander Berkeley. (82 min.) DUD Van Damme is at it again. This time, he jumps into sequel territory. The action movie continues the story of Luc Deveraux (Van Damme), a former Universal Soldier now working as a technical expert on a government project to improve the Universal Soldier training program. But when S.E.T.H., the megacomputer controlling the soldiers, spins out of control and takes over, Luc is the only one who can fight this unstoppable team of superior, deadly warriors. The movie is so overloaded with gunfire, punches, and men getting thrown through windows and glass walls that all viewers are left with is a forgettable and stupid film. By Lisa Leigh Parney Sex/Nudity: 2 scenes with nudity in a strip club. Violence: 33 scenes with nonstop violence. Profanity: 27 expressions, mostly harsh. Drugs: None.
WEST BEIRUT (NOT RATED) Director: Ziad Doueiri. With Rami Doueiri, Mohamad Chamas, Rola Al Amin, Leila Karam. (105 min.) ++++ Three teenagers pursue everyday pleasures in their Lebanese city, usually unfazed and sometimes actually excited by the mid-1970s political tensions that grow around them as the Muslim and Christian sectors move closer to a state of violent hostility. The filmmaking is imaginative, the acting is extraordinarily vivid, and few movies have so powerfully portrayed the struggles of everyday people trying to live their lives amid the chaos of incipient war. In Arabic and French with English subtitles
CURRENTLY IN RELEASE AUTUMN TALE (PG) Director: Eric Rohmer. With Batrice Romand, Marie Rivire, Alain Libolt, Didier Sandre, Alexia Portal. (110 min.) ++++ Two friends decide to fix up a middle-aged widow with a new man but get distracted by romantic agendas of their own. A founding member of French film's revolutionary New Wave movement, Rohmer gives this bittersweet story a truly autumnal mood, tinged with the melancholy of lives that won't see spring again, yet as bracing as the energy of its refreshingly mature main characters. In French with English subtitles +++ 1/2 Nuanced, gentle, charming, too serious. Sex/Nudity: Mild innuendo. Violence: None. Profanity: None. Drugs: 4 scenes with alcohol.
BOWFINGER (PG-13) Director: Frank Oz. With Steve Martin, Eddie Murphy, Heather Graham, Robert Downey Jr. (90 min.) ++ An untalented filmmaker gets turned down by the superstar he wants for his new action fantasy, so he decides to film the celebrity on the sly, using hidden cameras. A cross between Ed Wood and EDtv, the comedy gains its own personality from a subplot about the superstars unique blend of egomania and paranoia. It would be a better entertainment if it separated itself more convincingly from the bad-movie scene it wants to satirize. +++ Lighthearted, funny, clever. Sex/Nudity: Several instances of sexual innuendo. Violence: 2 scenes with gunfire. Profanity: 16 expressions. Drugs: 3 scenes with alcohol.
ILLUMINATA (R) Director: John Turturro. With John Turturro, Susan Sarandon, Christopher Walken, Beverly D'Angelo. (111 min.) ++ An ambitious playwright, an actress he's infatuated with, a self-important critic, and an insecure star are among the many characters of this comedy-drama about a theater troupe peddling its cultural wares in New York a century ago. While the cast and material have promise, Turturro's uneven filmmaking is stronger on superficial energy than deep-seated resonance.
THE IRON GIANT (PG) Director: Brad Bird. With voices of Jennifer Aniston, Harry Connick Jr., Eli Marienthal, Cloris Leachman. (90 min.) +++ A huge robot drops from the sky into the woods near a little Maine village, and a nine-year-old boy becomes its only friend, protecting it from fear-driven officials who think anything they dont understand must come from a communist plot. This remarkably clever, often hilarious animation derives much of its humor from its satirical view of the 1950s, when the story takes place. Theres nothing old-fashioned about its wonderfully vivid characters and nonviolent message, though. Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: 8 scenes including an atomic blast and a battle sequence. Profanity: 6 mild expressions. Drugs: 2 scenes with pipe smoking.
MICKEY BLUE EYES (PG-13) Director: Kelly Makin. With Hugh Grant, Jeanne Tripplehorn, James Caan, Burt Young, James Fox. (102 min.) ++ A mild-mannered English art auctioneer falls in love with a respectable New York woman whose unrespectable relatives are Mafia mobsters, and its far from clear whether the romantic couple will be able to separate their lives from the familys criminal activities. The good cast has fun with the comic material, but its too uneven and heavy-handed to be as memorable as the Godfather saga that inspired this spoof. ++1/2 Stale, unbelievable, not very romantic. Sex/Nudity: Some mild innuendo. Violence: 7 scenes including a gunfight. Profanity: 20 expressions, mostly mild. Drugs: 6 scenes with drinking, smoking, or both.
THE MUSE (PG-13) Director: Albert Brooks. With Albert Brooks, Sharon Stone, Andie MacDowell, Jeff Bridges. (97 min.) +++ Afraid that his career is stalling in midstream, a Hollywood screenwriter seeks assistance from a woman who claims to be an ancient muse in a modern guise, but soon wonders if his newfound inspiration is worth the trouble this unusual friend keeps bringing him. Stone is superb, the movie-business cameo performances are very funny, and Brooks's screenplay is sharp enough to suggest he's found a muse of his own. +++ Entertaining, intelligent comedy, uneven. Sex/Nudity: 1 brief instance of nudity, some innuendo. Violence: None. Profanity: 11 expressions, some harsh. Drugs: 9 scenes with alcohol.
THE SIXTH SENSE (PG-13) Director: M. Night Shyamalan. With Bruce Willis, Haley Joel Osment, Toni Colette, Olivia Williams. (107 min.) ++ A child psychologist treats an eight-year-old boy who has ghostly visions that cant be explained away by the doctor's theories. The thriller's best and worst features all stem from a highly unusual plot structure that builds to a genuinely startling conclusion. Some viewers may feel the ending justifies the means used to achieve it, while others may reject the picture's leisurely pace and literal-minded depiction of supernatural events. In any case, it's always refreshing to find a late-90s horror movie with fairly little on-screen violence and a minimum of special effects. ++1/2 Gloomy, surprising, a little stiff. Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: 9 scenes including bloody ghosts and a shooting. Profanity: 10 harsh or crude expressions. Drugs: 1 scene with wine.
THE THOMAS CROWN AFFAIR (R) Director: John McTiernan. With Pierce Brosnan, Rene Russo, Denis Leary, Faye Dunaway. (114 min.) +++ A suave art thief spars with a gorgeous insurance agent who uncovers his secrets while falling in love with him. An appealing cast, handsome camera work, and snappy music make this updated version of Norman Jewison's popular 1968 thriller an enjoyable if lightweight affair. +++ Intelligent caper, debonair, lively. Sex/Nudity: 5 scenes including 1 graphic sex scene. Violence: 1 mild scene. Profanity: 30 expressions, mostly mild. Drugs: 10 scenes with drinking, 1 with a cigar.
OUT ON VIDEO COMING SOON ... (In stores Sept. 7)
THE OTHER SISTER (PG-13) Director: Garry Marshall. With Juliette Lewis, Diane Keaton, Giovanni Ribisi, Tom Skerritt. (130 min.) ++ After years in a boarding school for the mildly retarded, a twentysomething woman starts to carve out a life of her own, alarming her wealthy parents when she starts falling in love with a young man who shares both her mental condition and her unquenchable high spirits. ++1/2 Skillfully acted, idealized, uneven. Sex/Nudity: 3 scenes of sexual innuendo. Violence: None. Profanity: 3 mild expressions. Drugs: 3 scenes of drinking.
(IN STORES SEPT. 14)
THE CORRUPTOR (R) Director: James Foley. With Mark Wahlberg, Chow Yun-Fat, Brian Cox, Ric Young. (111 min.) ++ A young white cop teams with a jaded Asian-American officer for a tough Chinatown assignment, touching off racial and generational tensions. The trite story has plenty of distasteful moments, but Wahlberg and Yun-Fat justify their growing reputations as capable Hollywood actors. Sex/Nudity: 6 scenes, including several involving nudity and graphic sex. Violence: 14 scenes including gun battles. Profanity: 61 expressions. Drugs: 23 scenes with cigarettes and alcohol.
GOD SAID, HA! (PG-13) Director: Julia Sweeney. With Julia Sweeney. (87 min.) +++ A sometimes hilarious, sometimes harrowing monologue about the joys and trials of ordinary life, centering on Sweeneys experiences with her all-too- typical family, and bouts with serious illness that challenged her and her brother at the same time.
(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society