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

**** **** Excellent

*** *** Good

** ** Fair

* * Poor

DUD DUD The Worst

NEW RELEASES

Next Friday (R) DUD Director: Steve Carr. With Ice Cube, John Witherspoon, Don "DC" Curry, Tom 'Tiny' Lister Jr., Mike Epps. (92 min.)

Did we really need a sequel to the 1995 sleeper hit "Friday"? Of course not. The pointless story revolves around the aimless and chunky Craig (played by Ice Cube, who also produced), who goes to live with his Uncle Elroy ("DC" Curry) and cousin Day-Day (Epps) in the L.A. suburbs, where they used their lottery winnings to buy a house. Meanwhile, Craig and Day-Day must deal with neighborhood bullies and their attack dog. Expect lame jokes and really bad dialogue. By Lisa Leigh Parney 1/2 Raunchy language, awful, grossly offensive.

Sex/Nudity: 7 scenes, including implied sex and photos with partial nudity; 10 instances of innuendo. Violence: 21 instances of violence, from slapstick to one graphic scene. Profanity: 312 expressions, mostly harsh. Drugs: 4 scenes with alcohol, 1 with smoking, 6 with marijuana, 3 with alcohol and marijuana.

Play It to the Bone (R) * Director: Ron Shelton. With Woody Harrelson, Antonio Banderas, Lolita Davidovich, Tom Sizemore. (124 min.)

Two washed-up boxers head for Las Vegas with a mutual girlfriend, hoping a sudden opportunity there will revive their careers or at least put some cash in their pockets. The movie is as dopey as its heroes, and the cast's admirable energy isn't enough to keep the story punching through the final round.

The Quarry (Not rated) ** Director: Marion Hnsel. With John Lynch, Jonny Phillips, Sylvia Esau, Oscar Petersen, Jody Abrahams. (112 min.)

A drifter kills a clergyman, assumes his identity, and takes over his new job in a rural South African church, where he gets involved in a feud between the local lawman and a couple of petty crooks. The drama's brooding atmosphere outpaces its murky story, but there's a degree of interest in the multicultural credentials of the picture, which was directed in South Africa by a Belgian filmmaker with an Irish star. In English and Afrikaans with English subtitles

Rear Window (PG) **** Director: Alfred Hitchcock. With James Stewart, Grace Kelly, Thelma Ritter, Wendell Corey. (114 min.)

A freshly restored version of the 1954 masterpiece about a wheelchair-bound photographer who discovers a murder while snooping on neighbors across the courtyard from his Greenwich Village apartment. One of Hitchcock's most ingenious movies - many of the suspense scenes take place in long-distance shots with little comprehensible sound - is also one of his most personal, exploring the power of vision in our lives, thoughts, and fantasies. Add superlative acting by Stewart and Kelly, not to mention the superb supporting cast, and you have one of the most memorable entertainments ever made in a Hollywood studio.

Supernova (PG-13) DUD Director: Walter Hill. With James Spader, Angela Bassett, Robert Forster, Lou Diamond Phillips. (101 mins.)

"Supernova" will likely be a staple of Film 101 courses for many years to come as it's a perfect encapsulation of exactly what to avoid when writing, editing, directing, or shooting a feature film. The plot, liberally borrowed from "Alien" and "2001," concerns a deep-space crew who encounter a mysterious alien object and a nasty human killer endowed with superhuman strength. Despite passable effects, the film is so utterly boring that it isn't even worth catching when it comes to television - unless you're a budding film student, of course. By Stephen Humphries * Clichd, so bad it's amusing, good special effects.

Sex/Nudity: 4 scenes with sex and nudity, 4 with just nudity. Violence: 8 scenes, including a brutal fight and a cartoon clip. Profanity: 2 mild expressions. Drugs: 2 scenes with alcohol.

CURRENTLY IN RELEASE

Angela's Ashes (R) ** Director: Alan Parker. With Emily Watson, Robert Carlyle, Michael Legge. (120 min.)

A boy struggles to grow up in an Irish-Catholic household populated by an alcoholic father, his overburdened wife, and more children than they can begin to care for properly. Parker brings a smooth cinematic flow to this adaptation of Frank McCourt's popular memoir, but the end result smacks more of Hollywood melodrama than true compassion for the suffering poor.

The End of the Affair (R) *** Director: Neil Jordan. With Ralph Fiennes, Julianne Moore. (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. ***1/2 Unsettling, literary, passionate.

Sex/Nudity: 7 sex scenes with both male and female nudity. Violence: 3 scenes of the same bomb blast. Profanity: 1 mild expression. Drugs: 14 scenes with alcohol, 2 with smoking.

Galaxy Quest (PG) *** Director: Dean Parisot. With Tim Allen, Sigourney Weaver, Alan Rickman, Tony Shalhoub, Daryl Mitchell. (102 min.)

A delegation from a faraway planet recruits the cast of a "Star Trek"-type TV show to help them win an intergalactic war, not realizing the Earthlings are just actors who've defeated all their "aliens" with plastic rayguns and camera tricks. The story is silly, the acting is campy, the effects are amusingly tacky. A mildly entertaining romp that pokes refreshing fun at its own occasional violence. *** Warp-speed spoof, affectionate "Star Trek" parody, wouldn't change a thing.

Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: 21 scenes with fairly light violence, including spaceship explosions. Profanity: 2 mild expressions. Drugs: 1 scene with alcohol.

Girl, Interrupted (R) * Director: James Mangold. With Winona Ryder, Angelina Jolie, Vanessa Redgrave, Whoopi Goldberg. (125 min.)

A young woman fights mental illness in a well-appointed institution, alternately helped and hindered by the similarly afflicted patients, who become her closest companions. For a movie about people with hugely complicated inner lives, this sadly unconvincing drama stays resolutely on the surface, rarely hinting at anything like an insight or idea. Based on Susanna Kaysen's bestselling memoir.

Sex/Nudity: 2 instances of implied sex, 3 of innuendo. Violence: 10 instances, including threats of suicide and scuffles. Profanity: 89 expressions, mostly harsh. Drugs: 18 scenes with smoking, 1 with marijuana, 1 with marijuana and alcohol.

The Hurricane (R) ** Director: Norman Jewison. With Denzel Washington, Deborah Kara Unger, Liev Schreiber, Dan Hedaya. (140 min.)

Washington gives a sizzling performance as real-life hero Ruben "Hurricane" Carter, an African-American boxer who was arrested and jailed by racist authorities for a grisly crime he had nothing to do with. The story is so important and compelling that you wish Jewison had treated it more as an urgent wake-up call than a by-the-numbers morality play. Still, it's well worth seeing as a poignant reminder of how readily injustice can prevail when racial bigotry runs loose. **1/2 Thoughtful, respectful, inspiring.

Magnolia (R) ** Director: Paul Thomas Anderson. With Tom Cruise, Julianne Moore, John C. Reilly, Melinda Dillon. (185 min.)

The director of "Boogie Nights" makes less impact with this large-scale panorama of life in Los Angeles, focusing on a varied cast of characters - an insecure policeman, a woman-hating sex lecturer, a dying media mogul, his grief-stricken young wife, and others - many of whom are linked to one another by connections with the world of TV quiz shows. The cast is terrific and the multitudinous story lines allow Anderson to cook up an impressive display of moviemaking logistics. But there's precious little to think about despite the screenplay's comic-philosophical musings on fate and coincidence. **1/2 Challenging, grim view of life, in search of an ending, great cast chemistry.

Sex/Nudity: 3 scenes with sex and nudity, 1 of implied sex, 1 with nudity, talk of child molestation, 12 sexual references. Violence: 12 scenes with bizarre-to-bloody violence. Profanity: 281 expressions, mostly harsh. Drugs: 7 scenes with alcohol, 1 with an unlighted cigarette, 6 with alcohol and smoking, 6 with cocaine, 1 with prescription-medicine abuse.

Man on the Moon (R) **** Director: Milos Forman. With Jim Carrey, Danny DeVito, Courtney Love, Paul Giamatti. (118 min.)

Carrey is flat-out brilliant as Andy Kaufman, the maverick entertainer who pushed the limits of comic inventiveness - and the patience of TV and comedy-club audiences - before his untimely death in 1984. Less a biography than an essay on theatrical illusion and the changing nature of comedy, the picture continues Forman's string of movies ("Amadeus," "The People vs. Larry Flynt") about cultural issues as embodied by public figures who're as eccentric as they are creative. Love it or hate it, you've never seen anything quite like it. *** A superb performance by Jim Carrey, disturbing, unsympathetic protagonist.

Sex/Nudity: 2 scenes with partial nudity, 2 scenes of a sexual nature. Violence: 3 scenes with mild violence. Profanity: 27 expressions, mostly harsh. Drugs: 5 scenes with smoking, 7 with alcohol and smoking, 1 with references to marijuana.

Snow Falling on Cedars (PG-13) ** Director: Scott Hicks. With Ethan Hawke, Youki Koudoh. (130 min.)

Covering a murder trial on a Pacific Northwest island, a reporter rekindles an old relationship with the wife of the Japanese-American man who's charged with the crime. The story leaps between the World War II years and the mid-1950s, exploring issues of racism, greed, and injustice along the way. The movie is too chilly and distanced to build the emotional impact it would like to have, but it raises important questions about troubling aspects of recent American history. ***1/2 Powerful, beautiful, slow-paced.

Sex/Nudity: 2 sex scenes and 1 of implied sex. Violence: 4 instances. Profanity: 2 harsh expressions and several racial slurs. Drugs: 7 scenes with smoking.

The Third Miracle (R) ** Director: Agnieszka Holland. With Ed Harris, Anne Heche, Armin Mueller-Stahl, Barbara Sukowa. (119 min.)

Assigned to research the life of a woman who might be a candidate for sainthood, a Roman Catholic priest finds himself in conflict with a senior church authority and in love with the daughter of the woman he's investigating. The film's interest in spiritual experience would be more enriching if it weren't bent into the shape of a basically conventional melodrama complete with gimmicky plot twists. Harris and Heche make an interesting team, though, and the picture reaps the benefit of their creative performances.

Titus (R) *** Director: Julie Taymor. With Anthony Hopkins, Jessica Lange, Angus MacFadyen. (168 min.)

One of William Shakespeare's bloodiest and goofiest plays is now one of Hollywood's bloodiest and goofiest adaptations, from its action-figure prologue to its crazily poetic finale. Hopkins gives a bravura performance as a Roman general caught in a vengeful feud with a seductive queen and an evil emperor, and Taymor's anything-goes directing keeps the spectacle hopping from start to finish, never hesitating to sacrifice dramatic sense for the sake of a splashy effect. Frequently vulgar, sometimes infuriating, rarely boring.

Topsy-Turvy (R) **** Director: Mike Leigh. With Jim Broadbent, Allan Corduner, Timothy Spall, Lesley Manville. (161 min.)

Leigh has earned international applause for hard-edged stories of contemporary life, but here he travels a century into the past for a vivid portrait of the great operetta duo Gilbert and Sullivan as they enjoy public acclaim, wrestle with private doubts, quarrel with one another, and create "The Mikado" despite all these distractions. The movie is brilliantly acted, sumptuously filmed, and overflowing with mellifluous music. It also contains glimpses of sex and drug use that make this drama less light and sanitized than Gilbert and Sullivan's own frolicsome works.

OUT ON VIDEO

COMING SOON...

(In stores Jan. 25)

My Life So Far (PG-13) ** Director: Hugh Hudson. With Colin Firth, Irene Jacob, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio. (93 min.)

The adventures of a 10-year-old boy growing up on a peaceful Scottish estate surrounded by a not-so-peaceful family, including a father who's half genius and half screwball. ***1/2 Nostalgic, idyllic, charming.

My Son the Fanatic (R) *** Director: Udayan Prasad. With Om Puri, Rachel Griffiths, Stellan Skarsgard. (86 min.)

A colorful drama about a hard-working Pakistani immigrant who agonizes over his son's decision to become an Islamic fundamentalist instead of blending into their adopted English culture.

Runaway Bride (PG) ** Director: Garry Marshall. With Julia Roberts, Richard Gere, Joan Cusack. (110 min.)

A jaded journalist writes a column about a woman who's ditched three bridegrooms at the altar, then visits her small Southern town to meet her and her latest hopeful fianc. *** Nice, light, predictable, fun.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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