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

Gendernauts (Not rated) ** Director: Monika Treut. With Annie Sprinkle, Susan Stryker, Sandy Stone. (86 min.)

Nonfiction study of people who have changed their gender through surgical and other means. While the documentary won't appeal to general audiences, it opens up interesting suggestions that human selfhood isn't a simple matter of biological destiny.

Gun Shy (R) ** Director: Eric Blakeney. With Liam Neeson, Sandra Bullock, Oliver Platt, Mary McCormack, Jose Zuniga, Richard Schiff, Mitch Pileggi. (102 min.) Neeson plays an undercover cop who decides psychotherapy is the answer when his job starts to drive him crazy - and no wonder it does, given his various brushes with death and his current association with a lunatic Mafioso who shoots anyone he finds annoying. The story isn't nearly as funny or suspenseful as it would like to be, although the solid cast gives it occasional dashes of pizazz.

Outlaw! (Not rated) *** Director: Enzo Monteleone. With Stefano Accorsi, Emilio Solfrizzi, Giovanni Esposito, Fabrizia Sacchi. (91 min.)

Italian comedy-drama about a bank robber who sees his mostly nonviolent crimes as a way of emulating his father's anarchist exploits during the fascist era. Focusing primarily on a hostage standoff that develops during one of the outlaw's attempts to break out of jail, the movie has touches of gentle humanity that set it apart from the usual run of prison and caper films. In Italian with English subtitles

Simpatico (R) ** Director: Matthew Warchus. With Nick Nolte, Sharon Stone, Jeff Bridges, Catherine Keener, Albert Finney. (90 min.)

Three young friends plan a criminal escapade involving a race horse named Simpatico, but they stop being so friendly after their scheme falls apart. The story shuttles between the crime itself and a much later time when the reunited trio must come to terms with its past. While the cast is terrific, a forgettable screenplay prevents director Warchus from making the most of the occasion.

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. **1/2 Gray, bittersweet, well-cast, painful.

Sex/Nudity: 7 scenes, including implied sex and nudity; 3 instances of innuendo. Violence: 5 scenes, including a beating. Profanity: 32 expressions, a few harsh. Drugs: 10 scenes with alcohol, 13 with smoking, 2 with both.

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 turbulence. 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.

Eye of the Beholder (R) DUD Director: Stephan Elliott. With Ewan McGregor, Ashley Judd, Patrick Bergin, Jason Priestley, Genevive Bujold. (109 min.)

Finally released after two years, this irritating film promises to leave movie theater managers besieged by mutinous patrons demanding refunds. A British agent falls in love with a serial killer and follows her across America. There is no rhyme, reason, or coherence to this tale about a loss of moral focus and obsession. It even has the audacity to recreate the church tower scene in homage to the definitive film on the subject, Hitchcock's "Vertigo."

By Stephen Humphries * Boring, depressing, plot holes aplenty.

Sex/Nudity: 1 sex scene, 1 sexual situation, 1 instance of nudity. Violence: 8 scenes, mostly graphic, including murders and car accidents. Profanity: 23 expressions, mostly harsh. Drugs: 23 expressions, mostly harsh.

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, Vicellous Reon Shannon, Rod Steiger, David Paymer. (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.

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.

Sex/Nudity: 1 sexual situation, 5 instances of innuendo. Violence: None. Profanity: 40 expressions, some harsh. Drugs: 7 scenes with alcohol, 2 with smoking, 4 with both, 1 with prescription-medicine abuse.

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: 1 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, Peter Facinelli. (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 * So bad it's amusing, good special effects, clichd.

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: 5 expressions, many harsh. Drugs: 6 scenes with alcohol, 2 with smoking, 2 with alcohol and smoking, 1 with a cocaine overdose.

OUT ON VIDEO

COMING SOON...

(In stores Feb. 8)

The Astronaut's Wife (R) **1/2 Director: Rand Ravich. With Johnny Depp, Charlize Theron, Nick Cassavetes, Blair Brown, Joe Morton, Donna Murphy, Tom Noonan, Clea DuVall. (124 min.)

It's a lot spookier than you might expect. Astronaut Spencer Armacost won't discuss the two minutes he lost contact with NASA during his latest mission. His schoolteacher wife, Jillian, senses that something is amiss. A unique psychological sci-fi thriller that sometimes drags and gets too weepy, but overall it's a good scare. By Katherine Dillin **1/2 Somber, unusual, not enough tension, creepy.

Blue Streak (R) * Director: Les Mayfield. With Martin Lawrence, Luke Wilson, Nicole Ari Parker, William Forsythe. (90 min.)

A thief poses as a cop in order to retrieve a stolen jewel he's stupidly stashed in a police station. Lawrence's manic energy and Wilson's laid-back humor are no match for the trite and trivial story, which amounts to a series of excuses for mugging, fighting, and caterwauling. **1/2 Funny, creative, some suspense.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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