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The Monitor Movie Guide

By Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor / October 1, 1999


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Excellent ++++

Good +++

Fair ++

Poor +

The Worst DUD

NEW RELEASE DOG PARK (R) Director: Bruce McCulloch. With Luke Wilson, Natasha Henstridge, Kathleen Robertson, Janeane Garofalo, Bruce McCulloch, Kristin Lehman. (103 min.) u1/2 A bachelor is back in the singles scene after his girlfriend moves out. But its not four days before he meets someone new. As he tells a pal, he hasnt been without a girlfriend since eighth grade. The theme here is nicely summed up by a character who says, Isnt being together better than nothing? The actors seem uncomfortable in their roles, the script is clumsy, and the show is saved from a dud rating only by the efforts of the cast. By Katherine Dillin Sex/Nudity: 3 scenes with sex, 1 with backside nudity, and 4 with fairly graphic talk of sex. Violence: 1 mild scene with two men scuffling. Profanity: 14 expressions, mostly harsh. Drugs: 4 scenes with alcohol, 1 with a cigarette, 2 with alcohol and cigarettes.

DOUBLE JEOPARDY (R) Director: Bruce Beresford. With Tommy Lee Jones, Ashley Judd, Bruce Greenwood, Annabeth Gish. (105 min.) + Ashley Judd violates her parole after she is framed for the murder of her husband. Tommy Lee Jones shows up in Act 2 to do some lazy showboating as the officer in pursuit (weve seen this somewhere before). Judd has engaging presence and clearly relishes playing a gutsy heroine, but the featherweight script leaves her looking far too ponderous. Given the obviousness of the material, there ought to be at least some thrill in the chase, but when the audience is laughing by the end, you know the film is in trouble. By Stephen Humphries

JAKOB THE LIAR (PG-13) Director: Peter Kassovitz. With Robin Williams, Alan Arkin, Hannah Taylor- Gordon, Liev Schreiber. (114 min.) u1/2 While some might mistake this story about a simple man (Williams), who cheers his townsmen in a 1944 Jewish ghetto in Poland with tall tales for the typical Hollywood copy of a popular foreign film, it was actually shot the year before Roberto Benignis Oscar-winning Life is Beautiful hit American screens. As hard as Williams tries to inject life into the movie, it vacillates erratically between sentimentality and dreary humor, and it never seems to get off the ground. By Katherine Dillin ++1/2 Grim but hopeful, uninspired, thoughtful. Sex/Nudity: 1 mild scene of implied sex. Violence: 11 scenes of ghetto violence including torture and suicides. Profanity: 4 mild expressions. Drugs: 1 scene with alcohol, 5 with cigarettes, 1 with alcohol and cigarettes.

THE MINUS MAN (R) Director: Hampton Fancher. With Owen Wilson, Janeane Garofalo, Mercedes Ruehl, Brian Cox. (110 min.) +++ Violence is implied rather than exploited in this understated tale of a young man whose utterly innocuous exterior masks an ongoing compulsion to kill random strangers with an exotic poison. Excellent acting and a finely tuned screenplay spark this genuinely offbeat melodrama.

MYSTERY, ALASKA (R) Director: Jay Roach. With Burt Reynolds, Hank Azaria, Russell Crowe, Mary McCormack, Colm Meaney. (118 min.) +++ Mystery, Alaska, population 633, lives for the Saturday game of hockey. Rules are set and players picked by a committee. When a former town member whos now a television producer returns offering to bring the New York Rangers to play a game against the local guys, lives are turned topsy-turvy. Its a sweet and gripping sports drama. It also asks whether the slower pace of small- town life is enough or if its better to leave for different challenges in the big city. By Katherine Dillin

SUGAR TOWN (R) Director: Allison Anders and Kurt Voss. With Jade Gordon, Michael Des Barres, John Taylor, Ally Sheedy, Rosanna Arquette, Larry Klein, Beverly DAngelo. (92 min.) ++1/2 Director Allison Anders (Grace of My Heart) brings us another satisfying music-related movie. A bunch of aging L.A. film and rock n roll types who rode a wave of success in the 80s are having trouble finding work in the youth-and-beauty filled 90s. Theres the neurotic production designer (Sheedy) whos trying to straighten out her dating life; the fiftysomething singer (Des Barres) who must sleep with an heiress (DAngelo) to secure funding for his new record; the fading singer (Taylor) who may be the father of an out- of-control kid named Nerve; and a lead actress who is now being offered parts as Christina Riccis mom. It feels like a rough cut rather than a polished single, but its still fun to watch. By Lisa Leigh Parney ++1/2 Offbeat, wildly entertaining, solid cast, somber. Sex/Nudity: 11 scenes of either implied sex, sexual activity, or nudity; several instances of innuendo. Violence: 2 fairly mild scenes. Profanity: 124 expressions, mostly harsh. Drugs: 6 scenes with smoking, 6 with alcohol, 3 scenes involving drugs.