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

Dog Park (R) *1/2 Director: Bruce McCulloch. With Luke Wilson, Natasha Henstridge, Janeane Garofalo. (103 min.)

A bachelor is back in the singles scene after his girlfriend moves out. But it's not four days before he meets someone new. The theme here is nicely summed up by a character who says, "Isn't being together better than nothing?" By Katherine Dillin

Sex/Nudity: 3 scenes with sex, 1 with backside nudity, and 4 with fairly graphic talk of sex. Violence: 1 mild scene with two men scuffling. Profanity: 14 expressions, mostly harsh. Drugs: 4 scenes with alcohol, 1 with a cigarette, 2 with alcohol and cigarettes.

Dogma (R) ** Director: Kevin Smith. With Ben Affleck, Matt Damon, Linda Fiorentino, 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.

Piercing one-liners, ambitious, issue-based, shocking.

Double Jeopardy (R) * Director: Bruce Beresford. With Tommy Lee Jones, Ashley Judd, Bruce Greenwood, Annabeth Gish. (105 min.)

Ashley Judd violates her parole after she is framed for the murder of her husband. Tommy Lee Jones shows up in Act 2 to do some lazy showboating as the officer in pursuit (we've seen this somewhere before). Judd has engaging presence, but the featherweight script leaves her looking far too ponderous. By Stephen Humphries ** Unbelievable, underdeveloped, had potential but came up short.

Sex/Nudity: 1 fairly explicit sex scene with nudity. Violence: 6 scenes including shooting. Profanity: 35 expressions, many harsh. Drugs: 6 scenes with alcohol, 1 cigar.

Doug's 1st Movie (G) ** Director: Maurice Joyce. With voices of Thomas McHugh, Fred Newman, Chris Phillips, Connie Shulman. (77 min.)

A friendly sea monster and a Valentine's Day dance are among the main ingredients of the first animated feature based on TV's popular "Disney's Doug" series. ** Inoffensive, cute monster, overlong.

Sex/Nudity/Profanity/Drugs: None Violence: Two mild instances.

Dr. Akagi (Not rated) *** Director: Shohei Imamura. With Akira Emoto, Kumiko Aso, Keiko Matsuzaka, Juro Kara. (128 min.)

Set in the last days of World War II, this energetic comedy-drama focuses on the adventures of an aging Japanese physician and the varied string of acquaintances he gathers while pursuing his profession.

Dreaming of Joseph Lees (R) ** Director: Eric Styles. With Rupert Graves, Samantha Morton, Lee Ross, Miriam Margolyes. (90 min.)

A young Englishwoman grows ever more infatuated with a man who's fascinated her since childhood, but disability and disillusionment have taken a toll on him, leading her to become involved with a jealous new suitor.

The Dreamlife of Angels (Not rated) *** Director: Erick Zonca. With Elodie Bouchez, Natacha Regnier, Patrick Mercado, Jo Prestia, Grgoire Colin. (113 min.)

Sharing an apartment in a small French city, two rootless young women develop a complex relationship based on their mutual need for companionship and support. Top honors go to Bouchez and Regnier for their superb performances as the emotionally troubled heroines. Contains sex and nudity. ***1/2 Compassionate, down-to-earth, sincere.

Sex/Nudity: 5 scenes of nudity and innuendo, and 1 graphic sex scene. Violence: 4 instances of slapping, 1 of suicide. Profanity: 29 expressions. Drugs: 20 scenes of smoking, drinking, and marijuana use.

Drive Me Crazy (PG-13) ** Director: John Schultz. With Melissa Joan Hart, Adrian Grenier, Stephen Collins. (103 min.)

In her big-screen debut, Hart ("Sabrina, The Teenage Witch") stars as Nicole, a perky high school overachiever who wants to date the star basketball player; her next-door neighbor Chase (Grenier) is a mellow rebel whose girlfriend just broke up with him. Nicole then steps in and changes his appearance and attitude. By pretending they're dating, both hope to make their dream mates jealous. This movie is cute and will appeal to the teen set. By Lisa Leigh Parney ** Good-natured, fresh performers, somewhat scattered.

Sex/Nudity: Some innuendo. Violence: 1 instance involving sexual assault. Profanity: 23 expressions, many harsh. Drugs: 4 scenes with alcohol, 1 with smoking.

Drop Dead Gorgeous (PG-13) *1/2 Director: Michael Patrick Jann. With Kirstie Alley, Ellen Barkin, Kirsten Dunst, Denise Richards. (97 min.)

Beauty pageants take on a whole new meaning in this dark comedy about a small town's obsession with its teenage beauty contest. Told in a mock-documentary style, Kirsten Dunst plays Amber, a trailer-park beauty who is ultimately pitted against the rich and mean-spirited Becky (Denise Richards). By Lisa Leigh Parney **1/2 Wickedly funny, spunky, off-the-wall.

Sex/Nudity: 8 instances with innuendo, 1 fleeting instance of implied sexual activity. Violence: 12 instances involving explosions, fistfights, slaps, shooting. Profanity: 53 expressions, mostly mild. Drugs: 3 instances of drinking, 8 of smoking, 4 with both.

Dry Cleaning (Not rated) ** Director: Anne Fontaine. With Miou-Miou, Charles Berling, Stanislas Merhar. (97 min.)

French drama about a middle-class couple who meet a young man working as a female impersonator in a nightclub act, offer him a conventional job in their dry-cleaning business, and enter a growing web of tensions and rivalries. Capably acted, sexually candid, ultimately insubstantial. Also known as "Nettoyage sec."

Dudley Do-Right (PG) ** Director: Hugh Wilson. With Brendan Fraser, Alfred Molina, Sarah Jessica Parker, Robert Prosky. (93 min.)

Wilson's funnier-than-expected comedy based on (yet another) television cartoon stars Fraser as a clumsy but endearingly Boy Scout-good Canadian Mountie, Dudley Do-Right. Lively hamming by the actors makes it an entertaining diversion for a Saturday afternoon. There are some caricatures that could offend. By Katherine Dillin

Earth (Not rated) *** Director: Deepa Mehta. With Maia Sethna, Rahul Khanna, Nandita Das, Aamir Khan. (99 min.)

Ethnic and religious tensions of northern India in 1947 trouble the life of an eight-year-old girl growing up in a Parsee family, which hopes to remain neutral as the movement to create a separate Pakistan churns up tragic waves of suspicion and violence. Historical resonance and emotional impact keep this drama involving. In Hindi, Urdu, Parsee, and Punjabi with English subtitles

EDtv (PG-13) ** Director: Ron Howard. With Matthew McConaughey, Jenna Elfman, Woody Harrelson, Ellen DeGeneres, Martin Landau, Elizabeth Hurley, Dennis Hopper. (110 min.)

A hammy video-store clerk volunteers to star in a round-the-clock TV series displaying his everyday life; he enjoys his fame at first but changes his mind when unintended consequences strike his friends, his family, and him. The movie veers toward cheapness and vulgarity on its way to a mean-spirited climax. **1/2 Interesting characters, short on surprises, no "Truman Show."

Sex/Nudity: 2 sex scenes and frequent sexual innuendo. Violence: 1 mild instance. Profanity: 61 expressions. Drugs: 17 scenes with cigarettes and/or alcohol.

8 1/2 (Not rated) **** Director: Federico Fellini. With Marcello Mastroianni, Claudia Cardinale, Anouk Aime, Rossella Falk. (138 min.)

Revival of a modernist classic that shook up the motion-picture world in 1963 with its rollicking story of a movie director who shuttles among memory, fantasy, and reality while trying to get his latest production off the ground. Mastroianni gives what might be the greatest performance of his legendary career.

8MM (R) * Director: Joel Schumacher. With Nicolas Cage, Joaquin Phoenix, Catherine Keener, James Gandolfini. (123 min.)

Hired to discover whether an 8-millimeter "snuff" movie depicts an actual murder, a private eye enters a horrific world of degrading sex and bottom-feeding pornographers. DUD Deeply disturbing, unbearable to watch, laughably bad.

Sex/Nudity: 12 instances - 1 mild sex scene, 1 strip bar scene, 3 instances of innuendo, and 7 scenes from the hard core pornographic trade. Violence: 12 instances, from crossbow killing to rape and murder in a snuff film to suicide. Profanity: 93 expressions, mostly harsh. Drugs: 29 scenes with cigarettes, cigars, and/or alcohol.

Election (R) **** Director: Alexander Payne. With Matthew Broderick, Reese Witherspoon, Chris Klein, Jessica Campbell. (104 min.)

The director of "Citizen Ruth" strikes again with this pitch-dark satire about a high-school election. Many moviegoers will find its rough sexual humor offensive. Others may consider this the perfect teen comedy for the Clinton era. Either way, Broderick and Witherspoon give perfectly matched performances at the head of a first-rate cast. ***1/2 Hilarious, satirical, sharp characters.

Sex/Nudity: 3 scenes of sex (one extramarital), and many instances of innuendo. Violence: Main character gets stung on his eyelid by a bee. Profanity: 35 expressions. Drugs: 6 instances of drinking and/or smoking pot.

The Emperor and the Assassin (R) *** Director: Chen Kaige. With Gong Li, Li Xuejian, Zheng Fengyi, Chen Kaige, Sun Zhou, Lu Xiaohe. (161 min.)

A ruthlessly ambitious king, his disillusioned lover, and a professional assassin who's given up killing are the main characters in this sweeping tale set in China more than 2000 years ago.

The Empty Mirror (Not rated) *** Director: Barry Hershey. With Norman Rodway, Camilla Soeberg, Joel Grey, Glenn Shadix. (119 min.)

An impressionistic visit with the defeated Adolf Hitler as he skulks around his bunker. Parts of the movie threaten to become stagy or pretentious, but it gains power from the ingenious mix of multimedia ingredients woven around Rodway's strong performance.

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

The End of the Affair (R) *** Director: Neil Jordan. With Ralph Fiennes, Julianne Moore, Stephen Rea, Jason Isaacs, Ian Hart. (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.

Endurance (Not rated) * Director: Leslie Woodhead. With Haile Gebrselassie, Ato Bekele, Shawannes Gebrselassie. (85 min.)

Disappointing documentary about the life and career of Haile Gebrselassie, who went from childhood in a rural Ethiopian family to championship as an Olympic runner. The race-track scenes are effective, but the hero's life is recounted in woodenly acted flashbacks.

L'Ennui (Not rated) ** Director: Cedric Kahn. With Charles Berning, Sophie Guillemin, Arielle Dombasle. (120 min.)

A philosophy professor becomes sexually obsessed with an uneducated young woman, allowing other aspects of his life to fall by the wayside as he furiously pursues their relationship. This drama makes the unusual decision to study obnoxious characters at considerable length. In French with English subtitles

Entrapment (PG-13) ** Director: Jon Amiel. With Sean Connery, Catherine Zeta-Jones, 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. As usual in caper movies, the characters are duplicitous, and circumstances are rarely what they seem.

Lacks suspense, weak dialogue, exciting techno-feats.

Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: 3 instances. Profanity: Drugs: 1 instance of drug use, 4 of alcohol.

(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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