The Monitor Movie Guide

STAR RATINGS

Excellent ++++ Good +++ Fair ++ Poor + The Worst DUD

NEW RELEASE BATS (PG-13) Director: Louis Morneau. With Lou Diamond Phillips, Dina Meyer, Carlos Jacott, Leon, Bob Gunton. (91 min.) + Handsome lawman and gorgeous zoologist save rural town from smart, murderous bats. The story is violent and vapid, but the visual jolts may please horror buffs.

BEING JOHN MALKOVICH (R) Director: Spike Jonze. With John Cusack, Cameron Diaz, John Malkovich, Catherine Keener, Orson Bean, Mary Kay Place. (112 min.) +++ Hilarious, utterly unpredictable comedy about an out-of-work puppeteer who finds a secret passageway into the famous actors mind and decides to make a few bucks off his discovery. Jonze makes an uproarious feature-film debut, and Charlie Kaufmans screenplay is no less inventive. Contains sex scenes and gender-bending plot twists, however, which some moviegoers will find offensive.

BODY SHOTS (R) Director: Michael Cristofer. With Tara Reid, Sean Patrick Flanery, Jerry O'Connell. (102 min.) + A self-proclaimed definitive look at sex and relationships in the 90s, Body Shots hasnt an iota of profundity. Such plot as there is follows a group of hip twentysomethings going to a nightclub, getting hideously drunk, and having one-night stands. Meanwhile, one of the girls may, or may not, have been date raped. The script seems as if it is assembled from cuttings of a Cosmopolitan magazine and the actors are clearly disciples of the Melrose Place school of acting. This film contains explicit language, sex, and violence. By Stephen Humphries

DREAMING OF JOSEPH LEES (R) Director: Eric Styles. With Rupert Graves, Samantha Morton, Lee Ross, Miriam Margolyes, Frank Finlay, Holly Aird, Nick Woodeson. (90 min.) ++ A young Englishwoman grows ever more infatuated with a man whos fascinated her since childhood, but disability and disillusionment have taken a toll on him, leading her to become involved with a jealous new suitor. Styless bland visual approach doesnt always suit the movies forthrightly emotional story, but sincere acting lends the film a measure of dramatic dignity.

HAPPY, TEXAS (PG-13) Director: Mark Illsley. With Jeremy Northam, Steve Zahn, Illeana Douglas, William H. Macy, Ally Walker. (104 min.) ++1/2 An appealing ensemble cast enlivens this fairly predictable story of two escaped prisoners (Northam and Zahn) who appropriate the identities of two gay men who organize children's beauty pageants. The escapees stumble into a small Texas town and decide that they may as well rob the local bank. Their consciences are tweaked, however, once they meet the local gals (Walker and Douglas), and a likable sheriff (Macy), who decides it is time to come out of the closet. Chucklesome rather than hilarious, this is nonetheless pleasant fare. By Stephen Humphries +++ Good-natured, happy, Zahn steals the show.

MAN OF THE CENTURY (R) Director: Adam Abraham. With Gibson Frazier, Susan Egan, Cara Buono, Bobby Short, Frank Gorshin, Lester Lanin, Anthony Rapp, Brian Davies, Dwight Ewell, David Margulies, Marisa Ryan. (77 min.) ++ True to his name, Johnny Twennies is a 20s kind of guy who lives in the 90s but doesnt let that bother him a bit. Funny dialogue, crisp black-and- white cinematography, and a well-chosen cast of mostly stage-trained actors raise this eccentric fantasy a notch above the ordinary.

MUSIC OF THE HEART (PG) Director: Wes Craven. With Meryl Streep, Angela Bassett, Aidan Quinn, Cloris Leachman, Gloria Estefan, Kieran Culkin, Jay O. Sanders, Jane Leeves. (120 min.) ++ Remaking her life after her husband walks out on her, a middle-aged schoolteacher decides to share the joys of classical music with minority kids in an inner-city neighborhood. The storys can-do attitude and moments of soaring music make it a must-see for moviegoers seeking positive visions on the screen. It would convey its worthwhile themes more effectively, though, if it soft-pedaled its heartwarming sentiments and gave fuller attention to showing us exactly how the devoted teacher accomplishes her educational feats.

PRINCESS MONONOKE (PG-13) Director: Hayao Miyazaki. With voices of Billy Crudup, Gillian Anderson, Billy Bob Thornton, Jada Pinkett Smith, Minnie Driver, Clair Danes. (133 min.) +++ The setting is ancient Japan, and the hero is a young warrior who gets caught up in a struggle between warring communities and powerful forest spirits who want to protect their natural world from the ravages of selfish, insensitive humans. This animated epic combines the storytelling ambition of Japans popular anime tradition with dialogue dubbed into English by a well- chosen cast. Its more thoughtful and varied than the average Hollywood cartoon, and its environmental message is appealing, but moviegoers who prefer live-action features wont find it all that special. Contains violence and innuendo that some parents may find unsuitable for young children.

PUNITIVE DAMAGE (NOT RATED) Director: Annie Goldson. With Helen Todd, Michael Ratner, Beth Stephens, Constancio Pinto, Alan Nairn. (77 min.) +++ Documentary about a New Zealand mothers battle for justice in a United States court after her 20-year-old son was killed by military thugs in an East Timor massacre. A timely, touching, and informative account.

CURRENTLY IN RELEASE THE BEST MAN (R) Director: Malcolm Lee. With Taye Diggs, Nia Long, Morris Chestnut, Harold Perrineau, Terrence Howard. (118 min.) +++ Written and directed by Malcolm Lee (cousin to well-known director Spike Lee), the movie is what some are calling a black The Big Chill, a coming-of- age film about a group of young black professionals who are reunited after college graduation for the wedding of one of the group. When a thinly disguised autobiographical novel written by the best man reveals truths the group cant handle, old and new wounds surface. This is a compelling, well-made story that appeals across age and race lines. By Gloria Goodale +++ Warm, genuine, lots of coarse sex talk, well-woven plot. VSex/Nudity: 6 scenes including an explicit sex scene, 2 flashbacks of the scene, and a bachelor party. VViolence: 5 scenes ranging from a long fist fight to a light slap. VProfanity: 137 expressions, mostly harsh. VDrugs: 3 scenes with alcohol, 1 with a cigarette, 2 with alcohol and cigarettes.

BRINGING OUT THE DEAD (R) Director: Martin Scorsese. With Nicolas Cage, Patricia Arquette, John Goodman, Ving Rhames, Tom Sizemore, Mary Beth Hurt, Marc Anthony. (120 min.) +++ Harrowing portrait of a New York City ambulance driver whos haunted by visions of suffering people hes tried and failed to save. While the story is shaped by Scorseses visual expressionism, its driving force is Paul Schrader's screenplay, which is equally fascinated by the afflictions of life and the usually squandered opportunities these afford for courage and self-sacrifice. Contains graphic depictions of urban misery including violence, illness, drug abuse, and despair. +++1/2 Out of control, stunning, insightful, well-written. VSex/Nudity: A couple of instances of innuendo; prostitutes in street scenes. VViolence: 11 scenes including graphic hospital episodes and fist fights. VProfanity: 56 expressions, mostly harsh. VDrugs: 4 scenes with alcohol, 7 with smoking, 1 with alcohol and smoking, 5 with drugs.

CRAZY IN ALABAMA (PG-13) Director: Antonio Banderas. With Melanie Griffith, David Morse, Lucas Black. (111 min.) ++1/2 In 1965 Alabama, a young woman (Griffith) kills her cruel husband and drives off for Hollywood to try her hand as an actress. Banderas, in his directorial debut, attempts too much when he intercuts her hilarious adventures with a sensitively handled civil rights battle back home. Steigers bit as a Southern judge steals the show, and ex-rocker Meat Loaf is well cast as the bigoted sherriff. Less than the sum of its parts, perhaps, but some of the parts are wonderful. By M.K. Terrell VSex/Nudity: 1 sex scene; mild-to-strong innuendo. VViolence: 4 scenes including police brutality. VProfanity: 24 expressions, some harsh. VDrugs: 2 scenes with alcohol, 1 with alcohol and smoking.

FIGHT CLUB (R) Director: David Fincher. With Brad Pitt, Edward Norton, Helena Bonham Carter, Jared Leto. (135 min.) ++ Bored with the tedium of yuppie life, two young men start a secret society dedicated to the proposition that feeling a punch in the nose is better than feeling nothing at all. Soon their masochistic clique has a widespread membership and its leader is plotting the next logical step, escalating from personal pain to terrorist destruction. Fincher is a gifted filmmaker, but the picture undermines its serious undertones with an avalanche of smirky cynicism designed to flatter the hipper-than-thou fantasies of adolescent moviegoers. Contains a great deal of very explicit violence. + Gritty, gross, angry, sloppy, confused message. VSex/Nudity: Frank sexual talk, frontal nudity, 1 instance of graphic sex, and a couple of implied sex scenes. VViolence: 33 scenes of excessive violence. VProfanity: 140 expressions, most harsh. VDrugs: 31 scenes with smoking, 3 with alcohol, 5 with alcohol and smoking, 1 prescription drug overdose.

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 STRAIGHT STORY (G) Director: David Lynch. With Richard Farnsworth, Sissy Spacek, Harry Dean Stanton. (111 min.) +++ Determined to pay his ailing brother an overdue visit, an elderly man travels from Iowa to Wisconsin on a lawnmower tractor, having low-key adventures with the strangers he meets during his eccentric odyssey. As slow- moving as the voyage it portrays, this warmly human comedy-drama marks a radical departure for Lynch, whos known for violent and surrealistic fare like Blue Velvet and the Twin Peaks series. View it carefully, though, and youll see a surprisingly complex view of contemporary life beneath its good- natured surface. +++ Peaceful, wonderfully slow, down-home, sincere. VSex/Nudity/Violence: None. VProfanity: 3 mild expressions. VDrugs: 10 scenes with cigarettes or cigars, 5 with beer.

THREE KINGS (R) Director: David O. Russell. With George Clooney, Mark Wahlberg, Ice Cube, Spike Jonze. (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. VSex/Nudity: 1 sex scene, 1 scene with backside nudity. VViolence: 33 scenes of war-related violence, sometimes graphic. VProfanity: 103 expressions, many harsh. VDrugs: 2 scenes with alcohol.

THREE TO TANGO (PG-13) Director: Damon Santostefano. With Matthew Perry, Neve Campbell, Dylan McDermott, Oliver Platt. (98 min.) 1/2 Heres one turkey thatll be gone before Thanksgiving. Perry and Platt are partners in an architecture firm bidding for a project from McDermotts tycoon. Perry falls in love with the tycoon's mistress (Campbell), who, through a series of confusions, believes he is gay. Campbell tries to hide her acting limitations behind a goofy grin, while Perrys exuberant energy and comic timing are rendered void by puerile humor. Oh, and some chemistry between the romantic leads wouldve been helpful. Its back to television for these actors. By Stephen Humphries + 1/2 Occasionally cute, disappointing, shallow. VSex/Nudity: 3 instances including implied sex; at least a dozen instances of innuendo. VViolence: 10 scenes, most used for comic effect. VProfanity: 50 expressions, some harsh. VDrugs: 5 scenes of mostly social drinking, 1 with smoking, 2 with alcohol and smoking.

COMING SOON (In stores Nov. 2) BIG DADDY (PG-13) Director: Dennis Dugan. With Adam Sandler, Joey Lauren Adams, Jon Stewart, Rob Schneider, Steve Buscemi, Cole and Dylan Sprouse. (95 min.) ++ Adam Sandler fans ought to be pleased with this latest lighthearted release. The former SNL-er plays Sonny Koufax toll collector with a law degree who suddenly finds himself playing dad to a kindergartner. At times, the movie feels vaguely like Three Men and a Baby. Sophomoric antics abound from the top pop, enough to please high-schoolers on down and gross out the rest of us. By Katherine Dillin ++1/2 Crude, comical, juvenile.

JACK FROST (PG) Director: Troy Miller. With Michael Keaton, Kelly Preston, Joseph Cross, Mark Addy. (96 min.) ++ Killed in a car crash on Christmas Eve, a rock musician returns to life as a snowman to be with his young son again. The story is rarely as touching or funny as it wants to be, but children may enjoy the family and fantasy elements.

(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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