The Monitor Movie Guide

Red stars denote the reviews of Monitor movie critic David Sterritt unless otherwise noted. Ratings and comments by the Monitor panel ( blue stars) reflect the sometimes diverse views of at least three other moviegoers. Information on violence, drugs, sex/nudity, and profanity is compiled by the Monitor panel.

STAR RATINGS

David Sterritt Monitor panel Meaning

Recommended: Could you pass a US citizenship test?

**** **** Excellent

*** *** Good

** ** Fair

* * Poor

DUD DUD The Worst

NEW RELEASES

End of Days (R)

Director: Peter Hyams. With Arnold Schwarzenegger, Gabriel Byrne, Robin Tunney, Rod Steiger, CCH Pounder, Udo Keir, Kevin Pollak. (115 min.)

* The new millennium is approaching, and only Schwarzenegger can save the cosmos from satanic forces. Too bad he can't save the movie from its superstitious claptrap, sadistic violence, and sheer silliness.

Flawless (R)

Director: Joel Schumacher. With Robert De Niro, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Rory Cochrane, Barry Miller, Daphne Rubin-Vega, Chris Bauer. (110 min.)

* Stricken with a disability, a macho cop swallows his distaste and turns to a transvestite neighbor for therapeutic singing lessons. This noisy, disorganized story is riddled with clichs, stereotypes, and self-indulgence from beginning to end.

Ride With the Devil (R)

Director: Ang Lee. With Tobey Maguire, Jeffrey Wright, Jewel, Skeet Ulrich, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Simon Baker, James Caviezel, Jonathan Brandis, Thomas Guiry. (138 min.)

*** The adventures of several young men fighting the Civil War as irregular soldiers near the Kansas-Missouri border. The movie is longer and slower than necessary, but it explores interesting questions of wartime violence, personal integrity, and what it means to come of age in a society ripping apart at the seams. Wright stands out as an African-American man riding with these defenders of the Confederacy out of loyalty to a humane slaveholder.

Toy Story 2 (G)

Director: John Lasseter. With voices of Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Joan Cusack, Kelsey Grammer, Don Rickles, Wallace Shawn, Jim Varney, Annie Potts, Laurie Metcalf, John Ratzenberger, Wayne Knight, Estelle Harris. (92 min.)

**** It's playtime for viewers of all ages as astronaut Buzz Lightyear launches a rescue operation for cowboy Woody after a greedy merchant packs him up for shipment to a faraway museum. The story is surprising, the screenplay is witty, and the animation is wonderfully creative. A super sequel.

Tumbleweeds (PG-13)

Director: Gavin O'Connor. With Janet McTeer, Kimberly J. Brown, Gavin O'Connor, Jay O. Sanders. (100 min.)

** A working-class woman and her adolescent daughter drift to a new town in search of a better life, relying on the power of their mutual affection for support when new problems and temptations arise. The story is as rambling as the characters, but superb acting by McTeer and Brown goes a long way toward

redeeming it.

CURRENTLY IN RELEASE

Anywhere But Here (PG-13)

Director: Wayne Wang. With Susan Sarandon, Natalie Portman, Bonnie Bedelia, Shawn Hatosy. (113 min.)

*** A single mom heads from Wisconsin to Los Angeles with dreams of Hollywood stardom for her teenage daughter, who'd rather be exactly what the title says. The story is a sort of "Stella Dallas Meets Slums of Beverly Hills," helped by heartfelt acting from its talented stars.

*** Touching, sad, edgy, funny lines.

Sex/Nudity: A couple instances of innuendo. Violence: 1 mild scuffle. Profanity: 11 mild expressions. Drugs: 3 scenes with alcohol, 7 with smoking, 3 with alcohol and smoking.

Being John Malkovich (R)

Director: Spike Jonze. With John Cusack, Cameron Diaz, John Malkovich, Catherine Keener, Orson Bean. (112 min.)

*** Hilarious, utterly unpredictable comedy about an out-of-work puppeteer who finds a secret passageway into the famous actor's mind and decides to make a few bucks off his discovery. Jonze makes an uproarious feature-film debut, and Charlie Kaufman's screenplay is no less inventive. Contains sex scenes and gender-bending plot twists, however, which some moviegoers will find offensive.

*** 1/2 Weird, entertaining, boldly creative, comical.

Sex/Nudity: 2 sex scenes with nudity; innuendo. Violence: 2 fistfights. Profanity: 30 expressions, many harsh. Drugs: 6 scenes with alcohol or smoking; 1 with marijuana.

The Bone Collector (R)

Director: Phillip Noyce. With Denzel Washington, Angelina Jolie. (118 min.)

** From his electronically enhanced apartment, a paralyzed policeman guides a talented young colleague through a dangerous hunt for a sadistic serial killer. This variation on the "Rear Window" format works best when director Noyce gives free rein to Washington's thoughtful charm. But the story grows more unpleasant as it goes along, escalating its gory details as it builds toward a standard horror-movie climax.

** 1/2 Explicitly graphic, ruthless, entertaining but nothing spectacular, clich.

Sex/Nudity: 1 implied sex scene. Violence: 14 very graphic scenes (including a less graphic instance of police photos of brutalized victims). Profanity: 27 expressions, some harsh. Drugs: 1 instance of drinking, 2 of smoking.

Dogma (R)

Director: Kevin Smith. With Ben Affleck, Matt Damon, Janeane Garofalo, Chris Rock. (115 min.)

** Wildly irreverent fantasy about two fallen angels who hope to reenter Heaven by exploiting a loophole in a feel-good version of Roman Catholic dogma being promoted by a New Jersey church. The satire contains as much foul language, bathroom humor, and sexual innuendo as other gross-out comedies aimed at primarily young audiences, along with occasional insights into the value of religion as a living force.

** 1/2 Piercing one-liners, ambitious, issue-based, shocking.

The Insider (R)

Director: Michael Mann. With Al Pacino, Russell Crowe, Diane Venora, Philip Baker Hall, Christopher Plummer, Lindsay Crouse, Gina Gershon, Rip Torn. (155 min.)

**** Pacino is in top form as a crusading "60 Minutes" journalist and Crowe is even better as a whistle-blower in the tobacco industry whose life is almost ruined by his decision to take a stand against corporate greed and deceit. Excellent acting, a stirring screenplay, and crisply intelligent directing make this fact-based movie a great human drama as well as a riveting and revealing look at crucially important social issues.

**** Emotionally powerful, gripping story, excellent cinematic style.

Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: 6 instances from minor shoving at an airport to death threats. Profanity: 71 expressions, mostly harsh. Drugs: 8 scenes with alcohol; 3 scenes with cigarettes.

The Legend of 1900 (R)

Director: Giuseppe Tornatore. With Tim Roth, Pruitt Taylor Vince, Clarence Williams III, Mlanie Thierry. (125 min.)

** An aging trumpet player recalls the life and times of his most eccentric friend, a gifted pianist who was born on a steamship in the first year of the 20th century and decided to spend his entire life there, resisting the wiles of fame and romance that might have tempted him ashore. The movie is overacted, overdirected, and overcooked in the usual Tornatore manner, but sheer energy and enthusiasm keep it watchable and listenable most of the way through.

Liberty Heights (R)

Director: Barry Levinson. With Ben Foster, Adrien Brody, Rebekah Johnson, Bebe Neuwirth, Joe Mantegna. (132 min.)

*** Levinson's fourth movie about the Baltimore of his youth focuses on ethnic, religious, and class-based tensions among the high-school set and their parents in the 1950s era. Filmed in a quietly impressionistic style and splendidly acted by a well-chosen cast, the movie would be a top-of-the-line entertainment if its delicately balanced perspective weren't marred by a few moments of racially insensitive excess.

Mansfield Park (PG-13)

Director: Patricia Rozema. With Frances O'Connor, Embeth Davidtz, Alessandro Nivola, Jonny Lee Miller. (98 min.)

*** The adventures of a poor young woman sent to live with a more privileged branch of her class-conscious British family. This pared-down adaptation of Jane Austen's richly textured novel loses much of the book's complexity but gains dramatic power from a cleverly streamlined screenplay (partly based on sources outside the novel) and several persuasive performances. No previous movie has made Austen's vision seem so vivid and alive for contemporary times. Contains a small amount of heavy-breathing sex that seems contrary to her supremely restrained spirit, though.

The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc (R)

Director: Luc Besson. With Milla Jovovich, John Malkovich, Faye Dunaway, Dustin Hoffman, Tchky Karyo. (140 min.)

** Besson's account of the Maid of Orleans presents itself as a celebration of a martyr's faith but shows more interest in the violence and hatred that surrounded her life. It doesn't help that Jovovich plays the young heroine with a bravado resembling movie-star charisma more than saintly fortitude.B

** Mythical, uneven, weird, sweeping.

Sex/Nudity: 1 brief nonsexual instance of nudity. Violence: 19 scenes with bloody battle violence including a burning at the stake, and beheadings. Profanity: 21 expressions, often harsh. Drugs: 2 scenes with alcohol.

Music of the Heart (PG)

Director: Wes Craven. With Meryl Streep, Angela Bassett, Aidan Quinn, Cloris Leachman, Gloria Estefan. (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 story's 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.

*** Meryl Streep dazzles, musically stimulating, sweet, overly emotional.

Sex/Nudity: 1 mild instance of implied sex. Violence: 1 mild scene with kids tussling. Profanity: 9 expressions, mostly mild. Drugs: 2 scenes with alcohol; 1 man drinks on the job.

Pokmon: The First Movie (G)

Director: Kunihiko Yuyama. With voices of Veronica Taylor, Philip Bartlett, Rachael Lillis, Eric Stuart. (75 min.)

* Kids and their "pocket monsters" visit a distant island to fight a cloned creature who rejects human and Pokmon rules. The story is trite and the cartooning is cut-rate, but youngsters will enjoy seeing their TV heroes in a movie-length adventure. Shown with a 20-minute short called "Pikachu's Vacation," so sloppily made that it's barely coherent.

** 1/2 Energized, average, moralistic, fantasy-like.

Sex/Nudity/Profanity/Drugs/: None. Violence: 8 instances including punches and explosions.

Sleepy Hollow (R)

Director: Tim Burton. With Johnny Depp, Christina Ricci, Miranda Richardson, Casper van Dien. (110 min.)

*** There's lots of over-the-top violence in this reshuffled version of "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow," and admirers of Washington Irving's great story will be surprised to find Ichabod Crane turned into a detective investigating a series of gruesome murders in 1799. There's also lots of brilliant filmmaking and high-spirited acting, at least until the story turns repetitious and formulaic in the last 30 minutes.

** Gory, disappointing, effective cinematography, lifeless acting.

The World Is Not Enough (PG-13)

Director: Michael Apted. With Pierce Brosnan, Sophie Marceau, Robert Carlyle, Judi Dench, Denise Richards, John Cleese. (128 min.)

** James Bond battles terrorists, criminals, and a sore shoulder in his 19th adventure, which is both propelled and circumscribed by the well-worn formulas that guide its path. Fans of Agent 007 will get the payoffs they expect, but if moviegoers really thought about the violence, sexism, and materialism at the core of the series, the whole shebang might vanish overnight.

*** Brosnan has presence, adventurous, predictable, voyeuristic.

Sex/Nudity: 7 scenes typical of Bond movies including implied sex and the suggestive filmmaking during opening credits. Violence: 47 acts of violence. Profanity: 6 expressions, mostly mild. Drugs: 10 scenes including smoking or drinking.

OUT ON VIDEO

Entrapment (PG-13)

Director: Jon Amiel. With Sean Connery, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Will Patton, Ving Rhames. (105 min.)

** Romance and intrigue mingle as an insurance-company investigator crosses the path of a master thief who specializes in stealing priceless art.

The Iron Giant (PG)

Director: Brad Bird. With voices of Jennifer Aniston, Harry Connick Jr., Eli Marienthal. (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. A remarkably clever, often hilarious animation.

South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut (R)

Director: Trey Parker. With voices of Trey Parker, Matt Stone, Mary Kay Bergman. (80 min.)

** A bunch of third-graders sneak into an adults-only movie that teaches them even more obscenities than they already know, touching off a visit to Hades and a war with Canada, among other adventures. Based on the TV cartoon series.

COMING SOON...

(In stores Feb. 9)

A Midsummer Night's Dream (PG-13)

Director: Michael Hoffman. With Kevin Kline, Michelle Pfeiffer, Christian Bale. (115 min.) ** The latest adaptation of Shakespeare's romantic comedy. It shifts the action to turn-of-the-century Italy.

Wild Wild West (PG-13)

Director: Barry Sonnenfeld. With Will Smith, Kevin Kline, Salma Hayek. (107 min.)

** Smith and Kline play 19th-century government agents chasing a mad scientist who wants to conquer America.

(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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