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

The Cider House Rules (PG-13) ** Director: Lasse Hallstrm. With Tobey Maguire, Michael Caine, Charlize Theron, Delroy Lindo, Kate Nelligan, Erykah Badu, Kieran Culkin, Paul Rudd, Heavy D, Jane Alexander, Kathy Baker. (140 min.)

An orphan grows up under the guidance of an eccentric physician, moves to a different sort of life in a community of African-American laborers, and undergoes a series of adventures that test his understanding of life's often conflicting rules and assumptions. The movie leaves out portions of John Irving's novel that would have given it more balance and perspective, but the acting by Maguire and Caine is first-rate by any standard.

Cradle Will Rock (R) *** Director: Tim Robbins. With Emily Watson, John Turturro, John Cusack, Joan Cusack, Susan Sarandon, Bill Murray, Ruben Blades, Vanessa Redgrave, Angus MacFadyen, Cary Elwes, Philip Baker Hall, Hank Azaria, Cherry Jones. (122 min.)

Set in the New York theater scene during the 1930s, this colorful comedy-drama scampers through various plots and subplots about everything from the ambitions of a starving actress to the love-hate relationship of an American millionaire and a Mexican muralist. It culminates in a struggle between boy-wonder Orson Welles and government officials who want to veto his production of a pro-union opera. Some may find the movie too crowded and preachy to serve as a meaningful history lesson, but it will delight anyone who thinks our cynical age could benefit from recalling the vigorous idealism and venturesome artistry of a bygone era.

The Green Mile (R) ** Director: Frank Darabont. With Tom Hanks, David Morse, Michael Clarke Duncan, Bonnie Hunt, James Cromwell, Graham Greene, Michael Jeter, Harry Dean Stanton. (180 min.)

Death-row guards in a Southern penitentiary meet a highly unusual prisoner with a gift for healing that appears incongruous next to the horrific crime he's been convicted of. The movie deals with substantial issues, but it treats capital punishment as a plot device rather than a moral issue, and its view of spiritual healing is closer to Spielberg fantasy than religious insight. Still, its good acting and good intentions will be enough to please many viewers.

Miss Julie (R) *** Director: Mike Figgis. With Saffron Burrows, Peter Mullan, Maria Doyle Kennedy. (100 min.)

Intensely filmed version of August Strindberg's great 19th-century melodrama about the love affair of an aristocratic young woman and an ambitious servant. Stressing fundamental human emotions over historical details and eye-catching effects, Figgis creates a visually claustrophobic yet steadily absorbing atmosphere in which the barely controlled feelings of his characters take on an almost palpable reality.

Wallowitch & Ross: This Moment (Not rated) ** Director: Richard Morris. With John Wallowitch, Bertram Ross, John S. Wilson, Dixie Carter, Lynn Lobban. (77 min.)

Affectionate portrait of a New York cabaret team, giving the history of their earlier careers - Ross was a star of Martha Graham's dance company and Wallowitch was a concert pianist - and stressing the love and loyalty running through their personal and professional partnership. Lightweight but likable.

The War Zone (R) *** Director: Tim Roth. With Ray Winstone, Tilda Swinton, Lara Belmont, Freddie Cunliffe. (99 min.)

Roth makes his directorial debut with this harrowing drama about an English teenager who suspects his father may be sexually abusing his 17-year-old sister. The acting and filmmaking are skillful and sensitive, but be warned that this is a chillingly explicit portrait of family dysfunction at its psychosexual worst.

CURRENTLY IN RELEASE

End of Days (R) * Director: Peter Hyams. With Arnold Schwarzenegger, Gabriel Byrne, Robin Tunney, Rod Steiger, CCH Pounder. (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.

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.

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.

Sex/Nudity: 1 somewhat graphic sex scene. Violence: 29 instances of mostly bloody violence including many beheadings. Profanity: None. Drugs: 1 party scene with alcohol and smoking.

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. (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. **** Clever as the first one, take the kids, a technicolor delight.

Sex / Nudity / Profanity / Drugs: None. Violence: 4 instances of cartoonish violence.

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.

(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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