The Monitor Movie Guide

STAR RATINGS

Excellent ++++

Good +++

Fair ++

Poor +

The Worst DUD

NEW RELEASE THE ADVENTURES OF ELMO IN GROUCHLAND (G) Director: Gary Halvorson. With Kevin Clash, Mandy Patinkin, Vanessa L. Williams, Sonia Manzano. (73 min.) ++1/2 Elmo has lost his blanket, and nothing can deter him from getting it back from a villain named Huxley (Patinkin). A doorway inside Oscar the Grouchs home transports him to Grouchland in a "Wizard of Oz"-type display. The musical numbers are cute and catchy, though they can be a bit rowdy in typical Seasame Street fashion. The characters are endearing. Children will learn lessons in sharing and how to find courage in sometimes scary situations. By Katherine Dillin

BOYS DON'T CRY (R) Director: Kimberly Peirce. With Hilary Swank, Chlo Sevigny, Brendan Sexton III. (114 min.) +++ The fact-based story of a young woman who felt uncomfortable with her gender and passed herself off as a man while drifting through rural Nebraska, eventually meets a tragic death. Swank gives one of the years most complex and hard-hitting performances in the demanding central role. Contains graphic sexual material and disturbing violence.

DRIVE ME CRAZY (PG-13) Director: John Schultz. With Melissa Joan Hart, Adrian Grenier, Stephen Collins. (103 min.) ++ In her big-screen debut, Joan Hart (Sabrina, The Teenage Witch) stars as Nicole, a perky high school overachiever who wants to date the star basketball player; her next door neighbor Chase (Grenier) is a mellow rebel whose girlfriend just broke up with him. Nicole then steps in and changes his appearance and attitude. By pretending theyre dating, both hope to make their dream mates jealous. This movie is cute, lightweight, and will appeal to the teen set. By Lisa Leigh Parney

LENNUI (NOT RATED) Director: Cedric Kahn. With Charles Berning, Sophie Guillemin, Arielle Dombasle. (120 min.) ++ A philosophy professor becomes sexually obsessed with an uneducated young woman, allowing other aspects of his life to fall by the wayside as he furiously pursues their relationship. This drama makes the unusual decision to study two obnoxious characters at considerable length; energetic acting and directing make it a less exasperating experience than it might have been. In French with English subtitles

JULIEN DONKEY-BOY (NOT RATED) Director: Harmony Korine. With Ewen Bremner, Werner Herzog, Chlo Sevigny, Evan Neumann. (94 min.) +++ Style and content have the same fragmented quality in this collage-like tale of a mentally disturbed young man trying to maintain some stability in a household dominated by a bullying father. Korine confirms his reputation as one of todays most experimentally minded filmmakers, helped by an inventive cast including German director Herzog in a surprisingly strong performance as the father.

THE LIMEY (R) Director: Steven Soderbergh. With Terence Stamp, Peter Fonda, Lesley Ann Warren, Amelia Heinle. (100 min.) +++ Stamp gives another bravura performance as an English hit man who visits Los Angeles to wreak vengeance on the criminals he blames for his daughters death. The violent story is standard film noir fare, but Soderbergh treats it with oomph and imagination.

NEW ROSE HOTEL (NOT RATED) Director: Abel Ferrara. With Willem Dafoe, Christopher Walken, Asia Argento, Annabella Sciorra. (93 min.) ++ Two criminals hire a prostitute to seduce and betray a Japanese electronics magnate. Quirky acting combines with Ferraras dark, brooding style to give the throwaway story a noteworthy measure of dramatic and cinematic interest.

RANDOM HEARTS (R) Director: Sydney Pollack. With Harrison Ford, Kristin Scott Thomas, Charles Dutton, Bonnie Hunt. (133 min.) ++ A policeman (Ford) and a congresswoman (Scott Thomas) are brought together in the aftermath of a plane crash by the discovery that their deceased spouses were having an affair. The unexpected shock of learning of the accident is well- observed and tense, but the burgeoning love affair between the stolid lead characters is awkward and makes for soporific viewing. Their respective partners infidelity is never fully explained, while a contrived subplot seems to have wandered in from another movie. A movie as clumsy as its title. By Stephen Humphries

CURRENTLY IN RELEASE AMERICAN BEAUTY (R) Director: Sam Mendes. With Kevin Spacey, Annette Bening, Thora Birch, Wes Bentley, Mena Suvari, Peter Gallagher, Scott Bakul, Allison Janney, Sam Robards. (118 min.) +++ Bored by their increasingly dull marriage, a middle-aged couple are seduced by morally reckless behaviors that bring them into edgy relationships with everyone from their towns real-estate magnate to the local drug dealer. Stay away from this sometimes violent tragicomedy unless youre interested in a ruthless dissection of suburban malaise. +++ Great ensemble cast, disturbing, bleak, thought-provoking. Sex/Nudity: 8 scenes including 4 scenes with sometimes graphic sexual activity, 1 with implied sex, 3 scenes with partial nudity; 5 instances of innuendo. Violence: 8 scenes total from mild to a disturbing beating. Profanity: 55 expressions, mostly harsh. Drugs: 6 scenes with marijuana, 1 drug deal, 5 scenes with alcohol.

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 +++ Over-the-top, dizzying, colorful, grows on you. Sex/Nudity: 1 scene of implied sex. Violence: 5 instances, 2 of them involving shootings, some bullying. Profanity: 42 expressions. Drugs: 23 scenes with alcohol, 9 with cigarettes, 9 with cocaine.

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 ++ Unbelievable, underdeveloped, had potential but came up short. Sex/Nudity: 1 fairly explicit sex scene with nudity. Violence: 6 scenes including shooting. Profanity: 35 expressions, many harsh. Drugs: 6 scenes with alcohol, 1 cigar.

FOR LOVE OF THE GAME (PG-13) Director: Sam Raimi. With Kevin Costner, Kelly Preston, John C. Reilly, Brian Cox. (135 min.) ++ Costner plays a 40-year-old pitcher with a passel of problems: His team is being sold, his throwing hand isnt what it used to be, and his love affair is apparently in its last inning. Like a contest between unequal teams, this sentimental drama is wildly uneven as it switches between ballpark scenes, which are very involving, and romantic episodes, which are badly overplayed. ++1/2 Loved the baseball scenes, romantic, entertaining. Sex/Nudity: 2 scenes with implied sex; 1 sex scene. Violence: 2 mild scenes. Profanity: 40 expressions, many harsh. Drugs: 7 scenes with alcohol, 2 with smoking.

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. Sex/Nudity: 1 sexual situation, some innuendo. Violence: 9 scenes including murders and fighting. Profanity: 26 expressions, mostly harsh. Drugs: 7 scenes with social drinking, 1 with drugs.

MUMFORD (R) Director: Lawrence Kasdan. With Loren Dean, Hope Davis, Alfre Woodard, Ted Danson, Jason Lee. (111 min.) +++ The title character is a psychotherapist who helps his small-town neighbors cope with their problems while guarding a secret about his own checkered past. This good-natured comedy serves up plenty of laughs while suggesting that the best experts in human psychology are plain old humans, with or without fancy credentials and degrees. +++ Quirky, unexpected, mostly genteel, good characters. Sex/Nudity: 6 scenes total: 4 of them suggestive, the other two with nudity. Violence: 3 scenes including 1 suggestion of spousal abuse. Profanity: 34 expressions, many harsh. Drugs: 5 scenes with cigarettes, 5 with alcohol and/or drugs.

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 +++ Sweet, solidly entertaining, formulaic. Sex/Nudity: 5 instances of implied or actual sexual activity. Violence: 13 instances, mostly hockey related violence. Profanity: 67 expressions, mostly harsh. Drugs: 1 scene with alcohol.

THREE KINGS (R) Director: David O. Russell. With George Clooney, Mark Wahlberg, Ice Cube, Spike Jonze, Nora Dunn. (105 min.) ++ At the close of the Persian Gulf War, a small group of American soldiers go on a treasure hunt for piles of gold bullion hidden away by Saddam Hussein, and become involved in more geopolitical intrigue than they know how to handle. Russells stylish and imaginative filmmaking wages its own war against lunkheaded and sometimes offensive material. +++ One of the years best, hard-hitting, intelligent, gritty. Sex/Nudity: 1 sex scene, 1 scene with backside nudity. Violence: 33 scenes of war-related violence, sometimes graphic. Profanity: 103 expressions, many harsh. Drugs: 2 scenes with alcohol.

OUT ON VIDEO COMING SOON ... (In stores Oct. 12)

THE RAGE: CARRIE 2 (R) Director: Katt Shea. With Emily Bergl, Jason London, Dylan Bruno, Amy Irving. (104 min.) + Rachel is an unpopular high schooler who possesses the ability to move things with her mind especially when she becomes angry or frightened. Flashbacks of the original Carrie film are the only worthwhile portions of this otherwise abysmal movie. By John Christian Hoyle

10 THINGS I HATE ABOUT YOU (PG-13) Director: Gil Junger. With Julia Stiles, Heath Ledger, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Larisa Oleynik. (94 min.) ++ Shakespeare strikes again with this teenage comedy based on The Taming of the Shrew, transferred to an American high school where boys launch a complicated scheme to woo a pair of sisters who wont go out with them.

(In stores Oct. 19)

AMONG GIANTS (R) Director: Sam Miller. With Pete Postlethwaite, Rachel Griffiths, James Thornton, Andy Serkis. (100 min.) +++ Love blossoms between an English painting foreman and an Australian rock climber who joins his crew for a job atop high electrical towers in the Yorkshire countryside.

GOODBYE LOVER (R) Director: Roland Joff. With Patricia Arquette, Don Johnson, Dermot Mulroney. (104 min.) ++ Arquette plays a femme fatale who kills her brother-in-law, outfoxes an attractive rival, and spars with a feisty detective in a film-noir plot that pivots on the idea that everyone has a devious streak.

(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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