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: Default

**** **** Excellent

*** *** Good

** ** Fair

* * Poor

DUD DUD The Worst

NEW RELEASES

The Cup (G) **** Director: Khyentse Norbu. With Orgyen Tobgyal, Neten Chokling, Jamyang Lodro, Lama Chonjor. (94 min.)

In an Indian monastery, exiled Tibetan Buddhists practice their religion, dream of returning to their homeland, and cook up a plan to watch the World Cup soccer match if they can only get hold of a TV set in time for the big event. The first feature-length movie from Bhutan tells its lighthearted story through smart performances, appealing images, and unfailing good humor. In Bhutanese with English subtitles

Down to You (PG-13) *1/2 Director: Kris Isacsson. With Freddie Prinze Jr., Julia Stiles, Selma Blair, Shawn Hatosy, Henry Winkler. (100 min.)

Al and Imogen fall in love at first sight in college, then face a little relationship turbulance. No matter what the previews may indicate, not much distracts these two from each other. One of the lines on the movie's soundtrack says, "Life should be fun for everyone," but this teen romance mopes an awful lot. There's too much focus on sex, and the dialogue is bland. Meant to act as a Prinze vehicle, but it's not nearly as much fun as "She's All That." By Katherine Dillin

Sex/Nudity: 4 instances of implied sex, 6 of innuendo. Violence: 3 scenes with mild violence. Profanity: 13 expressions, mostly mild. Drugs: 12 scenes with alcohol, 6 with smoking, 5 with alcohol and smoking, 1 with drugs.

Grizzly Falls (PG) ** Director: Stewart Raffill. With Bryan Brown, Tom Jackson, Oliver Tobias, Daniel Clark, Richard Harris. (94 min.)

Adventurers get distracted from their goal of trapping a grizzly bear when their prey kidnaps a 13-year-old member of the expedition and treats him as her cub, protecting him from harm but preventing his rescue by the others. While the story and acting are the opposite of subtle, young moviegoers may enjoy the action and suspense. Don't go unless you can handle a fair amount of strongly implied violence, though.

Isn't She Great (R) *** Director: Andrew Bergman. With Bette Midler, Nathan Lane, Stockard Channing, John Cleese, David Hyde Pierce, Amanda Peet, John Larroquette, Paul Benedict. (90 min.)

Midler preens, prances, pouts, and generally kicks up a storm as notorious novelist Jacqueline Susann. Paul Rudnick's screenplay keeps feeding her the rude laughs and boisterous situations she needs to sustain the story's precarious balance between comedy and pathos. The results are unexpectedly entertaining, if you're willing to put up with the picture's stagy look, over-the-top moods, and heavy doses of vulgarity.

Kestrel's Eye (Not rated) *** Director: Mikael Kristersson. With a family of Swedish falcons. (86 min.)

Atmospheric documentary about kestrels who nest among the rocks of an old Swedish church. There's no attempt at storytelling, but few movies have plunged their viewers more energetically into the world of nature.

Nightmare Alley (Not rated) **** Director: Edmund Goulding. With Tyrone Power, Joan Blondell, Helen Walker, Colleen Gray. (111 min.)

Reissue of an utterly original "film noir" from 1947, about an ambitious young conniver who starts as a sideshow worker in a small-time carnival, becomes a showbiz star with a knack for manipulating the rich and famous, then reaches too far and precipitates his own wildly ironic downfall. Jules Furthman's screenplay is packed with surprises, Lee Garmes's camera work is subtly expressive, and Power's performance is as persuasive as it is surprising, given his usual persona as a sympathetic leading man. Truly a one-of-a-kind classic.

CURRENTLY IN RELEASE

Angela's Ashes (R) ** Director: Alan Parker. With Emily Watson, Robert Carlyle, Michael Legge, Joe Breen, Ciaran Owens. (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.

Galaxy Quest (PG) *** Director: Dean Parisot. With Tim Allen, Sigourney Weaver. (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.

Sex/Nudity: 1 scene with nudity, 1 scene involving a pedophile. Violence: 8 scenes, including some brutal boxing scenes and shootings. Profanity: 77 expressions, some harsh. Drugs: 8 scenes with alcohol and/or smoking.

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. *1/2 Sluggish, brutal fight scenes, empty-headed, often base.

Sex/Nudity: 13 scenes with sex and/or nudity, 3 sexual situations, 8 instances of innuendo. Violence: 10 instances, including a vivid boxing match. Profanity: 147 expressions, often harsh. Drugs: 4 scenes with alcohol, 7 with tobacco products, 2 with drug overdoses.

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 racism, greed, and injustice. The movie is too chilly and distanced to build emotional impact, 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.

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. * 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.

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.

Sex/Nudity: 1 instance of innuendo. Violence: 2 scenes, including bombing during WWII. Profanity: 15 expressions, many harsh. Drugs: 6 scenes with alcohol, 2 with smoking, 2 with alcohol and smoking, 1 with a cocaine overdose.

Titus (R) *** Director: Julie Taymor. With Anthony Hopkins. (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. (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.

'Topsy-Turvy': Dorothy Atkinson, Shirley Henderson, and Cathy Sara (l. to r.) perform their "three little maids" skit in Mike Leigh's movie about the making of Gilbert & Sullivan's operetta 'The Mikado.'

simon mein/gramercy

OUT ON VIDEO

COMING SOON...

(In stores Feb. 1)

Chill Factor (R) ** Director: Hugh Johnson. With Cuba Gooding Jr., Skeet Ulrich, Peter Firth, David Paymer. (112 min.)

A fun action story about two average guys trying to keep a heat-sensitive weapon from a revenge-bent ex-colonel.

Love Stinks (R) ** Director: Jeff Franklin. With French Stewart, Bridgette Wilson, Bill Bellamy, Tyra Banks. (105 min.)

Stewart plays a writer whose sitcom mirrors his life, which is going downhill because he can't stand up to his matrimony-bent girlfriend. By M.K. Terrell

Stir of Echoes (R) ** Director: David Koepp. With Kevin Bacon, Kathryn Erbe, Illeana Douglas, Kevin Dunn. (99 min.)

To his dismay, an ordinary blue-collar worker finds himself in touch with supernatural forces linked to a sinister event that once happened in his house.

Tarzan (G) *** Directors: Kevin Lima, Chris Buck. With voices of Tony Goldwyn, Minnie Driver, Alex D. Linz. (88 min.)

Animated version of the classic yarn about an orphaned child who grows up with gorillas. From Disney.

The Winslow Boy (G) **** Director: David Mamet. With Nigel Hawthorne, Rebecca Pidgeon, Jeremy Northam. (110 min.)

Superbly acted, elegantly filmed adaptation of Terrence Rattigan's classic 1940s drama about an aging Edwardian father who launches a drawn-out legal fight to clear his son's name after the boy is convicted of a petty crime.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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