The 5th annual Mega Movie guide

STAR RATINGS

David Sterritt Monitor panel Meaning

**** **** Excellent

*** *** Good

** ** Fair

* * Poor

DUD DUD The Worst

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.

Motion picture Association of America ratings are as follows:

G General Audiences: All ages admitted.

PG Parental Guidance: Some material may not be suitable for children.

PG-13 Parents Strongly Cautioned: Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.

R Restricted: Children under 17 require accompanying parent or adult guardian.

NC-17 No Children Under 17 Admitted: Age may vary in certain areas.

1999 THEATER RELEASES

The Cider House Rules (PG-13) ** Director: Lasse Hallstrm. With Tobey Maguire, Michael Caine, Charlize Theron, Delroy Lindo. (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.

The City (La Ciudad) (Not rated) *** Director: David Riker. With Jose Rabelo, Stephanie Viruet, Gene Ruffini, Sylvia Goiz, Antonio Peralta. (88 min.)

Four stories of Latin immigrants struggling to build new lives in New York City without forgetting their family roots and responsibilities. Each minidrama is quietly touching and compassionate, and Riker is honest enough to avoid suggesting easy solutions. In Spanish with English subtitles

Coming Apart (Not rated) *** Director: Milton Moses Ginsberg. With Rip Torn, Sally Kirkland, Viveca Lindfors. (110 min.)

Reissue of a unique 1969 melodrama about a manipulative psychotherapist who uses a hidden movie camera to record his interactions with patients, friends, and sex partners. The aptly named film vividly crystallizes the mixture of artistic adventurousness and emotional anarchy that characterized the cultural extremes of the 1960s era. Contains explicit sex.

Conceiving Ada (Not rated) ** Director: Lynn Hershman Leeson. With Tilda Swinton, Francesca Faridany, Karen Black. (85 min.)

Using a computer as a time-travel device, a contemporary woman makes contact with a female mathematician who dreamed up the prototype for computer programming during the Victorian era. The movie's feminist themes are more compelling than its ungainly dialogue, but Swinton's charisma makes its usual strong contribution.

Cookie's Fortune (PG-13) *** Director: Robert Altman. With Glenn Close, Liv Tyler, Julianne Moore, Charles S. Dutton, Chris O'Donnell, Patricia Neal, Lyle Lovett, Ned Beatty. (118 min.)

Friendships and family ties are tested when the police of a little Mississippi town launch an investigation into the death of a local dowager, not knowing her nieces have tampered with evidence to protect their inheritance from the old lady. *** Southern fried, well-acted, clever plot.

Sex/Nudity: 2 instances of innuendo. Violence: 1 scene of a suicide. Profanity: 29 expressions. Drugs: 5 scenes of smoking and/or drinking.

The Corruptor (R) ** Director: James Foley. With Mark Wahlberg, Chow Yun-Fat, Brian Cox, Ric Young, Tovah Feldshuh. (111 min.)

A young white cop teams with a jaded Asian-American officer for a tough Chinatown assignment. The trite story has plenty of distasteful moments, but Wahlberg and Yun-Fat justify their growing reputations as capable Hollywood actors. Contains much violence, nudity, and sexploitation. ** Seamy, implausible, moody, gripping.

Sex/Nudity: 6 scenes, including several involving frontal or backside nudity and graphic sex. Violence: 14 scenes of gun battles, a car chase, and explosions. Profanity: 61 expressions. Drugs: 23 scenes with cigarettes and alcohol.

Cradle Will Rock (R) *** Director: Tim Robbins. With Emily Watson, John Turturro, John Cusack, Joan Cusack, Susan Sarandon, Bill Murray. (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 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.

Crazy in Alabama (PG-13) **1/2 Director: Antonio Banderas. With Melanie Griffith, David Morse, Lucas Black, Meat Loaf, Rod Steiger. (111 min.)

In 1965 Alabama, a young woman kills her cruel husband and drives off for Hollywood to try her hand as an actress. Less than the sum of its parts, perhaps, but some of the parts are wonderful. By M.K. Terrell *** Recommendable, rough around the edges, amusing, compassionate.

Sex/Nudity: 1 sex scene; mild-to-strong innuendo. Violence: 7 scenes including police brutality and graphic talk of killing. Profanity: 24 expressions, some harsh. Drugs: 7 scenes with alcohol and/or smoking.

Cremaster 2 (Not rated) *** Director: Matthew Barney. With Matthew Barney, Norman Mailer, Lauren Pine, Patty Griffin. (79 min.)

A surrealistic excursion into the life of Utah murderer Gary Gilmore as indelibly chronicled in "The Executioner's Song," by Norman Mailer, who appears in the film as escape artist Harry Houdini, a mythical figure for Gilmore and Barney alike. Barney is more a video artist than a theatrical filmmaker, but the next-to-last installment in his five-part "Cremaster" series is the most vivid and imaginative yet. Contains a few moments of violence and explicit sex.

Cruel Intentions (R) 1/2 Director: Roger Kumble. With Sarah Michelle Gellar, Ryan Phillippe, Reese Witherspoon. (90 min.)

Two wealthy New York teenagers, a stepsister and stepbrother, enjoy tormenting their peers and flaunting their sexual conquests. They meet their downfall when they try to debauch the daughter of their school's new headmaster. The film is yet another movie version of the 18th-century French novel "Dangerous Liaisons," and easily the worst. By Greg Lamb 1/2 Crude, soulless, embarrassing, pointless.

Sex/Nudity: 22 instances involving mostly explicit sex-related talk and some sexual situations. Violence: 1 fairly graphic scene. Profanity: 40 expressions, some harsh. Drugs: 8 scenes including alcohol, smoking, and/or hard drugs.

Cruel Story of Youth (Not rated) *** Director: Nagisa Oshima. With Miyuki Kuwano, Yusuke Kuwazu, Fumio Watanabe. (96 min.)

Reissue of a minor classic from 1960, which skewers the moral and ethical hypocrisies of postwar Japanese society through the deliberately lurid tale of two undisciplined young people who cruise through the night in search of easy money and cheap thrills. Oshima's explosive visual style is steadily on display. In Japanese with English subtitles

Days of Heaven (PG) *** Director: Terrence Malick. With Richard Gere, Brooke Adams, Sam Shepard, Linda Manz. (95 min.)

Revival of Terrence Malick's second movie, released in 1978 and celebrated mainly for astonishingly gorgeous camera work by the legendary Nestor Almendros and Haskell Wexler, who shot much of the action during the photographic "magic time" just before sundown. The story about an itinerant woman who falls in love with a wealthy farmer while traveling with her boyfriend doesn't hold together.

Deep Blue Sea (R) ** Director: Renny Harlin. With Samuel L. Jackson, LL Cool J, Michael Rapaport, Stellan Skarsgrd. (100 min.)

Set in a scientific research facility, the story can be summarized in an equation: 3 very big sharks + 1 biological experiment = 3 eating machines a lot smarter than the humans they're chasing. *1/2 Summer screamer, Jaws lite, all wet.

Sex/Nudity: 2 instances of sexual innuendo. Violence: 16 scenes including explosions and shark feeding frenzies. Profanity: 37 mild expressions, 1 profane gesture. Drugs: 8 scenes with alcohol and/or tobacco.

The Deep End of the Ocean (PG-13) ** Director: Ulu Grosbard. With Michelle Pfeiffer, Treat Williams, Whoopi Goldberg. (108 min.)

After one of her children mysteriously vanishes, a mother swings from acute anguish to chronic sadness, and can scarcely credit her own senses when evidence suggests she might have found him a decade after his disappearance. The subject is poignant and suspenseful, but the treatment is drab and uninvolving. ** Affecting, passable, competent.

Sex/Nudity: 1 mild sexual situation, some innuendo. Violence: 2 mild instances. Profanity: 34 expressions, mostly harsh. Drugs: 3 scenes each of drinking and smoking.

Desert Blue (R) ** Director: Morgan J. Freeman. With John Heard, Casey Affleck, Christina Ricci, Brendan Sexton III. (87 min.)

A young actress hangs out with like-minded teenagers when she and her professor dad are stranded in a rural California town by a nuclear-hazard scare. Low-key performances and a meandering plot are bolstered by Freeman's skill at building a quietly absorbing atmosphere.

Sex/Nudity: 4 uses of sexual innuendo. Violence: 7 scenes with guns, explosions, and suicide but none is graphic. Profanity: 73 expressions. Drugs: 13 instances with drinking, smoking, and/or prescription drug abuse.

Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo (R) 1/2 Director: Mike Mitchell. With Rob Schneider, Eddie Griffin, Arija Bareikis. (88 min.)

Schneider, a former "Saturday Night Live" cast member, stars as likable loser Deuce Bigalow, a fish-tank cleaner who must raise quick cash to cover damage done while fish-sitting at a male gigolo's home. What quicker way, he surmises, than become a gigolo himself. By Katherine Dillin *1/2 Raunchy, silly, unoriginal.

Sex/Nudity: 26 instances total with sexual situations, mild nudity, and/or innuendo. Violence: 6 instances of cartoonish violence. Profanity: 76 expressions, mostly harsh. Drugs: 2 scenes with alcohol, 1 with alcohol and smoking.

Devil's Island (Not rated) ** Director: Fridrik Thor Fridriksson. With Baltasar Kormakur, Gisli Halldorsson. (103 min.)

This ambitious but uneven Icelandic drama portrays a poor, eccentric family struggling to make a decent life in an abandoned US military base. The picture's most effective element is its clear-eyed look at the influence exerted by American pop culture on undiscriminating consumers in a different part of the world.

Dial 'M' for Murder (Not rated) *** Director: Alfred Hitchcock. With Grace Kelly, Ray Milland, Robert Cummings, Anthony Dawson. (105 min.)

Revival of the 1954 murder mystery based on Frederick Knott's popular play about a husband's almost-perfect plot to kill his unfaithful wife. Although it's one of Hitchcock's less-imaginative works, this is the only film ever shot by a major director in the 3-D format; it originally went to theaters in a "flat" version because the 3-D craze had ended by the time Hitchcock completed it.

Dick (PG-13) **1/2 Director: Andrew Fleming. With Kirsten Dunst, Michelle Williams, Dan Hedaya, Bruce McCulloch. (110 min.)

Released near the 25th anniversary of President Nixon's resignation, "Dick" is a frolic through Watergate. Two teenage girls become witlessly (oops, unwittingly) embroiled in the scandal. By Katherine Dillin *** Witty, political spoof, good angle on an old story, irreverent.

Sex/Nudity: Some innuendo. Violence: 1 mild scene. Profanity: 23 instances, many harsh. Drugs: 4 scenes with drinking, 4 with marijuana-laced cookies.

The Dinner Game (Not rated) *** Director: Francis Veber. With Thierry Lhermitte, Jacques Villeret, Francis Huster, Daniel Prevost. (82 min.)

Playing an obnoxious game he enjoys, a publisher invites an eccentric man to dinner so he and his friends can mock him, but the unsuspecting guest proves to be more solid and sensitive than anyone else around. France invented this sort of crackling farce. In French with English subtitles *** Clever, blithe, understated, easy-to-love characters, witty.

Sex/Nudity: Some innuendo. Violence: None. Profanity: 26 expressions, some harsh. Drugs: 6 scenes with mostly social drinking.

A Dog of Flanders (PG) *1/2 Director: Kevin Brodie. With Jack Warden, Jeremy James Kissner, Jesse James, Jon Voight, Cheryl Ladd. (100 min.)

This superficial movie based on a children's classic of the same name about an orphan boy who wants to be a great painter but is weighed down by his poverty is too goody-goody for its own good. No doubt the filmmakers' intentions were the right ones - to create a wholesome children's film - but the already saccharine tale is bogged down by poor acting. By Katherine Dillin ** Cute kids, beautifully filmed, far-fetched.

Sex/Nudity: 1 mildly implied instance of sex. Violence: 2 scenes of fairly graphic violence. Profanity: 3 mild expressions. Drugs: 2 scenes with a pipe, 1 with alcohol, 1 with both a pipe and alcohol.

(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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