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

The Beach (R) ** Director: Danny Boyle. With Leonardo DiCaprio, Tilda Swinton, Robert Carlyle, Virginie Ledoyen, Guillaume Canet. (119 min.)

A young American and two French companions make their way to an exotic Thai island, known only to a feisty group of latter-day hippies, and they find more danger than they ever expected. The scenery is splendid and DiCaprio looks extra-cool with palm trees and waterfalls to set off his sparkling eyes. But the story is less original than its setting - it knocks off everything from "Lord of the Flies" to "The Blair Witch Project" -and its unromantic moods may make DiCaprio's countless "Titanic" fans want to swim in the opposite direction.

Mad Max (R) ** Director: George Miller. With Mel Gibson, Joanne Samuel, Hugh Keays-Byrne, Steve Bisley. (93 min.)

Reissue of the 1979 cult hit, with its original Australian dialogue track replacing the American-dubbed version previously heard in US theaters. Gibson provides the only cuteness in the savage tale of a moody cop chasing down a viciously violent gang, but action fans will find the helter-skelter action as energetic as ever.

Scream 3 (R) **1/2 Director: Wes Craven. With David Arquette, Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox Arquette, Patrick Dempsey, Scott Foley, Jenny McCarthy, Parker Posey, Carrie Fisher. (116 min.)

The final chapter in the "Scream" franchise ends on a highly entertaining and hilarious note. Less gory than the first two and sharply written by Ehren Kruger ("Arlington Road"), the story follows Sidney Prescott (Campbell) out to Hollywood where she's hiding from the killer at her rural abode. But the evil cell phone prankster with the ghost mask manages to shake things up a bit. A string of cameos from McCarthy, Fisher, Lance Henriksen, Patrick Warburton (Puddy on "Seinfeld), and the overly dramatic Posey are all worth the price of admission.

By Lisa Leigh Parney *** Great fun, scary, what a scream!, playful sequel.

Sex/Nudity: 1 scene of nudity through a steamy shower glass. Violence: 29 scenes of horror-related violence. Profanity: 74 expressions, mostly harsh. Drugs: 2 scenes with alcohol, 3 with smoking, 1 with marijuana.

The Tigger Movie (G) *** Director: Jun Falkenstein. With voices of Jim Cummings, John Hurt, Nikita Hopkins, Ken Sansom. (77 min.)

He looks like Tony the Tiger, he sounds like old-time comedian Ed Wynn, and his story - lonely Tigger searches for his family, hoping he's not the only one of his kind - recalls one of the Muppets movies. Yet this lively new take on A.A. Milne's classic characters still manages to seem fresh, funny, and original from start to finish. Fans of Winnie-the-Pooh and his friends will have a ball.

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. (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: 7 scenes with alcohol, 8 with smoking, 1 with heroin.

Holy Smoke! (R) ** Director: Jane Campion. With Kate Winslet, Harvey Keitel, Pam Grier, Sophie Lee, Tim Robertson. (120 min.)

Winslet is rousingly good as a young Australian woman whose parents, alarmed at her devotion to an Indian guru, hire a self-styled deprogrammer (Keitel) to clear her mind of cultish delusions. Campion is an imaginative

filmmaker, but here she reduces a fascinating subject to a two-character soap opera that often seems contrived on both spiritual and psychological levels.

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.

A Map of the World (R) *** Director: Scott Elliott. With Sigourney Weaver, David Straithairn, Julianne Moore, Chlo Sevigny. (127 min.)

Emotionally harrowing drama of a Midwestern mother who's wrongly accused of child abuse by her rural community after a neighbor's young daughter is killed in a tragic accident on her property.

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.

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 min.)

"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.

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.

Titus (R) *** Director: Julie Taymor. With Anthony Hopkins, Jessica Lange, Angus MacFadyen, Colm Feore. (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. ** Grisly, darkly imaginative, sometimes poetic, debauched.

Sex/Nudity: 5 scenes with nudity; 1 orgy with sex and nudity, including homosexual sex; 5 instances of innuendo or sexual situations, including hints of incest. Violence: 24 instances of disturbing violence from implied rapes to loss of limbs. Profanity: 1 obscene expression. Drugs: 2 scenes with alcohol, 3 with smoking and alcohol.

Topsy-Turvy (R) **** Director: Mike Leigh. With Jim Broadbent, Allan Corduner, Wendy Nottingham. (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, and manage to 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. ***1/2 Superb acting, worth the time and money, disturbing.

Sex/Nudity: 1 scene with nudity in a cabaret. Violence: None. Profanity: 8 expressions, most harsh. Drugs: 6 scenes with alcohol, 2 with drugs.

OUT ON VIDEO

COMING SOON...

(In stores Feb. 15)

Brokedown Palace (PG-13) ** Director: Jonathan Kaplan. With Claire Danes, Kate Beckinsale, Bill Pullman. (100 min.)

During a brief vacation in Thailand, two young American women are arrested on a narcotics charge, and a money-minded attorney is the only person standing between them and decades in prison. **1/2 Thought-provoking, flat.

The Muse (PG-13) *** Director: Albert Brooks. With Albert Brooks, Sharon Stone, Andie MacDowell. (97 min.)

Afraid that his career is stalling in midstream, a Hollywood screenwriter seeks assistance from a woman who claims to be an ancient muse in a modern guise, but soon wonders if his newfound inspiration is worth the trouble this unusual friend keeps bringing him. *** Intelligent comedy, uneven.

The Story of Us (R) * Director: Rob Reiner. With Bruce Willis, Michelle Pfeiffer, Rob Reiner, Julie Hagerty. (100 min.)

Dramatic comedy about a couple who realize their marriage is coming apart and wonder if they'd be better off patching things up or calling it quits. ** Disappointing, depressing, sort of sweet, crude.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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