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.Skip to next paragraph
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David Sterritt, Monitor panel Meaning **** **** Excellent *** *** Good ** ** Fair * * Poor DUD DUD The Worst
Beyond the Clouds (Not rated)
Director: Michelangelo Antonioni. With John Malkovich, Sophie Marceau, Jean Reno, Irne Jacob. (113 min.)
The gaps between desire and actuality are a recurring theme in several loosely linked stories about an idealistic young lover, a woman with a violent past, a man captivated by a beauty he can never possess, and other characters. Antonioni is one of modern cinema's most towering figures. While this multifaceted film - directed with help from Wim Wenders, the gifted German filmmaker - doesn't equal great classics like "Eclipse" and "Blow-Up," it still reflects Antonioni's unique sensibility. In English, Italian, and French, with English subtitles
The End of the Affair (R)
Director: Neil Jordan. With Ralph Fiennes, Julianne Moore, Stephen Rea, Jason Isaacs, Ian Hart, Samuel Bould. (110 min.)
After hiring a detective to investigate a woman he had an affair with during World War II, an English author learns she ended their relationship for religious reasons that are difficult for his cynical sensibility to understand. Based on Graham Greene's thoughtful novel, this unconventional drama begins as a sexually explicit love-triangle story and ends as a sober reflection on the meaning of faith. Splendid acting helps Jordan achieve most of his goals, although some may find the romantic and religious elements an uneasy mixture.
Genesis (Not rated)
Director Cheick Oumar Sissoko. With Sotigui Kouyat, Salif Keta, Fatoumata Diawara, Balla Moussa Keta, Mamouna Hlne Diarra. (102 min.)
This richly filmed drama from Mali retells the biblical story of Jacob and Esau with an eye toward illuminating today's widespread conflicts between communities holding different ideas of what constitutes a decent way of life. Combining its Old Testament story with vivid African imagery, the film may have confusing moments for moviegoers used to traditional Western treatments of this material. For those willing to meet it on its own terms, however, it offers interesting new perspectives on a timeless subject. In French with English subtitles
Holy Smoke! (R)
Director: Jane Campion. With Kate Winslet, Harvey Keitel, Pam Grier, Sophie Lee, Tim Robertson, Julie Hamilton. (120 min.)
Winslet is rousingly good as a young Australian woman whose parents, alarmed at her devotion to an Indian guru, hire a self-styled deprogrammer (Keitel) to clear her mind of cultish delusions. Campion is an imaginative filmmaker, but here she reduces a fascinating subject to a two-character soap opera that often seems contrived on both spiritual and psychological levels.
A Map of the World (R)
Director: Scott Elliott. With Sigourney Weaver, David Straithairn, Julianne Moore, Chlo Sevigny, Louise Fletcher, Arliss Howard. (127 min.)
Emotionally harrowing drama about a Midwestern mother who's wrongly accused of child abuse by her rural community after a neighbor's young daughter is killed in a tragic accident on her property. Weaver is superb in a movie as scary and provocative as the timely subject it explores.
Sweet and Lowdown (PG-13)
Director: Woody Allen. With Sean Penn, Samantha Morton, Anthony LaPaglia, Gretchen Mol, Uma Thurman, James Urbaniak, Brian Markinson, John Waters, Nat Hentoff, Woody Allen. (95 min.)
Allen combines his filmmaking skills with his love of classic jazz in this regrettably flimsy tale of a '30s guitarist whose fingers make mischief as well as music. Penn's excellent acting doesn't raise his character above the level of familiar clichs about woman-chasing jazzmen.
Wisconsin Death Trip (Not rated)
Director: James Marsh. With Ian Holm, Jo Vukelich, Jeff Golden, Marilyn White, Marcus Monroe, John Schneider. (76 min.)
Drawing on a collection of newspaper accounts, hospital records, and archival photos, this offbeat semidocumentary weaves a real-life tapestry filled with bizarre events that transpired in a Midwestern town about 100 years ago. Should be required viewing for anyone who thinks the modern media created the personal and social ills that accost us so frequently today.