The Monitor Movie Guide

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STAR RATINGS

Excellent ++++

Good +++

Recommended: Default

Fair ++

Poor +

The Worst DUD

NEW RELEASES BLACK CAT, WHITE CAT (R) Director: Emir Kusturica. With Bajram Severdzan, Srdan Todorovic, Branka Katic, Florijan Ajdini. (129 min.) ++ A gypsy community on the Danube River is the setting of this rowdy comedy involving a bungled train robbery, an arranged marriage, and a tangled web of double-crosses and triple-crosses spanning at least three generations. Kusturica doesn't paint these rogues and rascals as vividly as the characters in his excellent Time of the Gypsies, but their shenanigans rarely run short of explosive energy. In Serbo-Croatian and Romany with English subtitles

A DOG OF FLANDERS (PG) Director: Kevin Brodie. With Jack Warden, Jeremy James Kissner, Jesse James, Jon Voight, Cheryl Ladd. (100 min.) u1/2 This superficial movie based on a childrens classic of the same name about an orphan boy who wants to be a great painter but is weighed down by his poverty is too goody-goody for its own good. No doubt the filmmakers intentions were the right ones to create a wholesome childrens film but the already saccharine tale is bogged down by poor acting, too many long faces, and flat dialogue. By Katherine Dillin ++ Cute kids, beautifully filmed, far-fetched. Sex/Nudity: 1 mildly implied instance of sex. Violence: 2 scenes of fairly graphic violence. Profanity: 3 mild expressions. Drugs: 2 scenes with a pipe, 1 with alcohol, 1 with both a pipe and alcohol.

DUDLEY DO-RIGHT (PG) Director: Hugh Wilson. With Brendan Fraser, Alfred Molina, Sarah Jessica Parker, Robert Prosky, Eric Idle. (93 min.) ++ Wilsons funnier-than-expected comedy based on (yet another) television cartoon stars Fraser as a clumsy but endearingly Boy Scout-good Canadian Mountie, Dudley Do-Right. Dudley must stop his childhood nemesis, Snidely Whiplash, from fulfilling his villainous career goals, and win back his sweetheart, Nell Fenwick. Funny lines (Canadian bacon is actually ordinary ham) and lively hamming by the actors make it an entertaining diversion for a Saturday afternoon. There are some caricatures of American Indians and Japanese tourists that could offend. By Katherine Dillin

EARTH (NOT RATED) Director: Deepa Mehta. With Maia Sethna, Rahul Khanna, Nandita Das, Aamir Khan. (99 min.) +++ Ethnic and religious tensions of northern India in 1947 trouble the life of an eight-year-old girl growing up in a Parsee family, which hopes to remain neutral as the movement to create a separate Pakistan churns up tragic waves of suspicion and violence. Historical resonance and emotional impact keep this drama involving even when the acting and dialogue don't live up to their powerful subject. In Hindi, Urdu, Parsee, and Punjabi with English subtitles

IN TOO DEEP (R) Director: Michael Rymer. With Omar Epps, LL Cool J, Nia Long, Stanley Tucci, Hill Harper, Pam Grier. (95 min.) ++1/2 An undercover cop with a mission (Epps) tries to nail a likably psychopathic drug lord called God (LL Cool J). The filmmakers quest for authenticity and the leads gripping performances produce a suspenseful story, despite lame attempts to make us believe Epps may be too deeply into his alter ego as a drug pusher to get out when the big bust goes down. By M.K. Terrell ++1/2 Taut, suspenseful, unoriginal. Sex/Nudity: 2 sex scenes, 1 of which is graphic; 1 scene with a nude model for a photography class; 2 instances of innuendo. Violence: 11 scenes with harsh violence. Profanity: 234 expressions, mostly harsh. Drugs: 13 scenes total: 8 with alcohol, smoking, or both; 1 with marijuana; 4 involving drug deals.

I WOKE UP EARLY THE DAY I DIED (NOT RATED) Director: Aris Iliopulos. With Billy Zane, Christina Ricci, Will Patton, Sandra Bernhard, Tippi Hedren, Rick Schroder, Eartha Kitt, Max Perlich, John Ritter. (90 min.) + An unproduced screenplay by Edward D. Wood Jr., the legendary master of incompetent filmmaking, inspired this silent-movie tale about a mixed-up thief trying to find a pile of stolen money he's managed to lose. Spotting the celebrities in the cast is more fun than following the pointless story, but at least the movie is different from anything else around.

STIR OF ECHOES (R) Director: David Koepp. With Kevin Bacon, Kathryn Erbe, Illeana Douglas, Kevin Dunn. (99 min.) ++ To his confusion and dismay, an ordinary blue-collar worker finds himself in touch with supernatural forces linked to a sinister event that once happened in his house. Bacon seems oddly self-conscious in his regular-guy role, and director Koepp relies more heavily on editing tricks than old-fashioned atmosphere. Still, the movie provides a few effective thrills.

TEACHING MRS. TINGLE (PG-13) Director: Kevin Williamson. With Helen Mirren, Katie Holmes, Leigh Ann Watson, Jeffrey Tambor, Michael McKean, Molly Ringwald. (96 min.) u1/2 OK, heres the lesson plan for today: Were going to go over to our teachers house, clear up a misunderstanding about almost cheating on a test, and then graduate in a few days. Or so three high school students think. Instead, one of the students shoots a crossbow at their mean-spirited teacher, grazing her forehead and knocking her out. The rest of the movie, Mrs. Tingle is tied to her bed as the students figure out what to do next. Its sometimes fun and campy, but the movie turns out to be a silly mindless tale. Grade: D for dismissed. By Lisa Leigh Parney ++ Tedious, juvenile, hollow but entertaining. Sex/Nudity: No nudity, but two students get frisky on the couch and the students also plot a sex scandal. Violence: A couple of bloody scenes with punches, slaps, and a crossbow. Profanity: 24 expressions, mostly mild. Drugs: Some wine drinking; coach gets drunk; 1 cigarette.

CURRENTLY IN RELEASE THE ASTRONAUTS WIFE (R) Director: Rand Ravich. With Johnny Depp, Charlize Theron, Nick Cassavetes, Blair Brown, Joe Morton. (124 min.) ++1/2 Its a lot spookier than you might expect. Astronaut Spencer Armacost (Depp) wont discuss the two minutes he lost contact with NASA during his latest mission. His schoolteacher wife, Jillian (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 ++1/2 Somber, unusual, not enough tension, creepy. Sex/Nudity: 3 sex scenes, 2 are graphic; 2 scenes with implied nudity. Violence: 7 scenes, some graphic. Profanity: 26 expressions, mostly harsh. Drugs: 2 scenes with smoking, 5 with alcohol.

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

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 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, uneven. Sex/Nudity: 1 brief instance of nudity, some innuendo. Violence: None. Profanity: 11 expressions, some harsh. Drugs: 9 scenes with alcohol.

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. ++ Predictably funny, sometimes entertaining, dazed 1970s atmosphere. Sex/Nudity: 3 scenes with sexual activity; 5 instances of innuendo. Violence: 2 mild scenes plus a couple of car crashes. Profanity: 165 expressions, mostly harsh. Drugs: 21 scenes with alcohol, smoking, marijuana, or some combination of these.

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 13TH WARRIOR (R) Directors: Michael Crichton, John McTiernan. With Antonio Banderas, Diane Venora, Omar Sharif. (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, sometimes graphic. Profanity: 3 mild expressions. Drugs: 3 scenes with alcohol.

UNIVERSAL SOLDIER: THE RETURN (R) Director: Mic Rodgers. With Jean-Claude Van Damme, Michael Jai White, Heidi Schanz. (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.

OUT ON VIDEO (In stores Sept. 14) COOKIES FORTUNE (PG-13) Director: Robert Altman. With Glenn Close, Liv Tyler, Julianne Moore, Charles S. Dutton. (118 min.) +++ Friendships and family ties are tested when the police of a little Mississippi town launch an investigation into the death of a local dowager, not knowing her nieces have tampered with evidence to protect their inheritance from the old lady. As in most of Altmans best pictures, the story is a loosely strung excuse for various digressions and distractions. +++ Southern fried, well-acted, clever. Sex/Nudity: 2 instances of innuendo. Violence: 1 scene of a suicide. Profanity: 29 expressions. Drugs: 5 scenes of smoking and/or drinking.

FORCES OF NATURE (PG-13) Director: Bronwen Hughes. With Sandra Bullock, Ben Affleck, Maura Tierney, Blythe Danner. (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. ++1/2 Quirky, romantic, bumpy. Sex/Nudity: 10 instances of innuendo. Violence: 1 mild instance. Profanity: 61 expressions. Drugs: 17 scenes with cigarettes and/or alcohol.

THE PRINCE OF EGYPT (PG) Directors: Brenda Chapman, Steve Hickner, Simon Wells. With Val Kilmer, Ralph Fiennes, Sandra Bullock, Danny Glover, Michelle Pfeiffer. (93 min.) +++ Animated version of Moses early life, from his arrival in the Egyptian court as a baby to his leadership of the Hebrews out of bondage. The dramatically drawn images and entertaining vocal performances make this a good tool for learning a bit of Old Testament history.

(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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