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

Boiler Room (R)

Director: Ben Younger. With Giovanni Ribisi, Vin Diesel, Ben Affleck, Jamie Kennedy, Nia Long, Tom Everett Scott. (110 min.)

** Young execs at a fraudulent brokerage house recruit similarly money-hungry young men who don't care whom they hurt by selling valueless stock as long as they reach their first mil by 30. Ribisi, as a son who always makes the wrong choices all the while trying to gain his hardhearted dad's respect, plays along with the scheme until his conscience gets the better of him. Vulgar language and some shaky logic take away from what could have been a more compelling tale.

By Katherine Dillin

Sex/Nudity: 1 instance of innuendo. Violence: 4 scenes, including shoving and a beating. Profanity: 209 expressions, mostly harsh. Drugs: 9 scenes with alcohol and/or smoking, 2 with alcohol, smoking, and drugs.

Hanging Up (PG-13)

Director: Diane Keaton. With Diane Keaton, Meg Ryan, Lisa Kudrow, Walter Matthau, Adam Arkin, Cloris Leachman, Edie McClurg, Jesse James. (92 min.)

** Three sisters cope with the declining mental state of their elderly father, trying to help him but finding that their own busy lives - and complex relationships with each other - interfere with their good intentions. There's lots of lively acting, but Keaton doesn't have quite enough filmmaking savvy to balance the story's heart-wrenching and smile-coaxing aspects.

Kadosh (Not rated)

Director: Amos Gita. With Yael Abecassis, Yoram Hattab, Meital Barda, Uri Ran Klausner. (110 min.)

**** Personal emotions intersect with religious and political ideas in this pungent, poignant drama about a young Israeli woman whose marriage to an ultra-Orthodox man is endangered by her inability to bear children. Gita reconfirms his reputation as today's most widely respected Israeli filmmaker, helped by an excellent cast. In Hebrew with English subtitles

Kirikou and the Sorceress (Not rated)

Director: Michel Ocelot. With voices of Theo Sebeko, Antoinette Kellermann, Kombisile Sangweni, Mabuto Sithole, Fezele Mpeka. (74 min.)

*** Animated fantasy about a very small but very wise little boy who overcomes a frightening witch by ridding her of the inner pain that's been distorting her life. Based on a West African folk tale, the richly drawn movie employs nudity that suits its African setting without diminishing the dignity or propriety of the characters. It's hard to remember a more highly entertaining and thoroughly original feature-length cartoon.

Not One Less (G)

Director: Zhang Yimou. With Wei Minzhi, Zhang Huike, Tian Zhenda, Gao Enman, Sun Zhimei. (106 min.)

** In a rural Chinese village, a 13-year-old girl becomes the teacher in a school where she's hardly older than the pupils, and faces a crisis when a mischievous 10-year-old abruptly runs away to a nearby city. The theme recalls one of Zhang's greatest films, "The Story of Qiu Ju," but his use of a loosely written screenplay and a nonprofessional cast in this picture weakens its dramatic appeal even as it lends authenticity and local color. In Mandarin with English subtitles

Pitch Black (R)

Director: David Twohy. With Vin Diesel, Rhada Mitchell, Keith David. (107 min.)

**1/2 When a crew's spaceship crashes on a desolate planet, they have to trust a convicted killer to help them escape a plague of nasty nocturnal indigenous creatures. Director David Twohy's second foray into sci-fi, after the underrated "The Arrival," keeps schlock to a minimum, while incisive editing builds suspense via the dictum that "less is more." Of the countless films to plagiarize the template of the "Alien" series, this atmospheric, meager-budgeted Australian film is actually one of the better efforts, though it lacks the requisite grand climax that the genre demands.

By Stephen Humphries

Snow Day (PG)

Director: Chris Koch. With Chevy Chase, Mark Webber, Zena Grey, Schuyler Fisk, Emmanuelle Chriqui, Chris Elliott, Jean Smart. (88 min.)

** Get out your snow boots. Several feet of the white stuff lands in Syracuse, N.Y., closing down everything, including ... school! Siblings Hal and Natalie plan to make this snow day count: Hal wants the popular girl to know he exists and Natalie tries to stop Snowplowman from finishing his route so school closings will be extended for another day. Some thin ice, but a pretty cute family show nonetheless. Stars Chase as the siblings' weatherman dad, and teenager Fisk, who is the real-life daughter of Sissy Spacek.

By Katherine Dillin

**1/2 Better than expected, lighthearted, clean humor, predictable.

Sex/Nudity/Drugs: None. Violence: 3 mild instances, including a tussle. Profanity: 3 mild expressions.

The Whole Nine Yards (R)

Director: Jonathan Lynn. With Bruce Willis, Matthew Perry, Rosanna Arquette, Michael Clarke Duncan, Amanda Peet, Natasha Henstridge, Kevin Pollak. (97 min.)

** Perry plays a mild-mannered dentist whose marriage is so miserable that he welcomes the distraction when a notorious killer (Willis) moves in next door and strikes up a neighborly friendship with him. But things get complicated when various others - murderers, cops, and our hero's ill-tempered wife - barge into their relationship with different agendas. The story is amusing when the stars deadpan their way through the early scenes, and Peet is terrific as a psychopathic dental assistant. But the picture runs out of good ideas long before it's over, falling below "Prizzi's Honor" and "The Freshman" in the dubious genre of contract-killer comedies.

CURRENTLY IN RELEASE

American Beauty (R)

Director: Sam Mendes. With Kevin Spacey, Annette Bening, Thora Birch, Wes Bentley, Mena Suvari, Peter Gallagher, Scott Bakula, Allison Janney, Sam Robards, Chris Cooper. (118 min.)

*** Bored by their increasingly dull marriage, a middle-age couple are seduced by morally reckless behaviors that bring them into edgy relationships with everyone from their town's real-estate magnate to the local drug dealer. Stay away from this sometimes violent tragicomedy unless you're interested in a ruthless dissection of suburban malaise.

*** Great ensemble cast, disturbing, bleak, thought-provoking.

Sex/Nudity: 8 scenes including 4 scenes with sometimes graphic sexual activity, 1 with implied sex, 3 scenes with partial nudity; 5 instances of innuendo. Violence: 8 scenes ranging from mild to a disturbing beating. Profanity: 55 expressions, mostly harsh. Drugs: 6 scenes with marijuana, 1 drug deal, 5 scenes with alcohol.

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.

*1/2 Aimless, idyllic scenery but dull story line, poor character development.

The Cider House Rules (PG-13)

Director: Lasse Hallstrm. With Tobey Maguire, Michael Caine, Charlize Theron, Delroy Lindo. (140 min.)

** An orphan grows up under the guidance of an eccentric physician, moves to a different sort of life in a community of African-American laborers, and undergoes a series of adventures that test his understanding of life's often conflicting rules and assumptions. The movie leaves out portions of John Irving's novel that would have given it more balance and perspective, but the acting by Maguire and Caine is first-rate by any standard.

*** Tender, lovingly photographed, captivating.

Sex/Nudity: 2 scenes with nudity, 1 brief sex scene. Violence: 3 instances from a slap to a knifing. Profanity: 8 expressions, mostly mild. Drugs: 1 scene with alcohol, 7 with smoking, 4 with ether abuse.

The Green Mile (R)

Director: Frank Darabont. With Tom Hanks, David Morse, Michael Clarke Duncan, Bonnie Hunt. (180 min.)

** Death-row guards in a Southern penitentiary meet a highly unusual prisoner with a gift for healing that appears incongruous next to the horrific crime he's been convicted of. The movie deals with substantial issues, but it treats capital punishment as a plot device rather than a moral issue, and its view of spiritual healing is closer to Spielberg fantasy than religious insight. Still, its good acting and good intentions will be enough to please many viewers.

*** 1/2 Never dull, compassionate, transcendent storytelling.

Sex/Nudity: 1 mild scene of implied sex; 5 instances of innuendo. Violence: 22 scenes including disturbing death row electrocutions. Profanity: 36 expressions, some harsh. Drugs: 5 scenes with beer.

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.

Sex/Nudity: 5 sex scenes, including 1 with nudity; 1 lesbian kiss; 4 instances of innuendo. Violence: 3 scenes, including punching. Profanity: 43 expressions, many harsh. Drugs: 8 scenes with alcohol and/or smoking, 3 with alcohol and/or marijuana.

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.

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.

Sex/Nudity: 1 brief sex scene with nudity, 1 with just nudity, 4 instances of innuendo. Violence: 3 scenes, including slapping. Profanity: 21 expressions, many harsh. Drugs: 1 scene with alcohol, 2 with smoking, 1 with alcohol and marijuana.

Scream 3 (R)

Director: Wes Craven. With David Arquette, Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox Arquette, Patrick Dempsey, Scott Foley, Jenny McCarthy, Parker Posey, Carrie Fisher. (116 min.)

** A killer is terrorizing the cast and crew of a Hollywood horror picture called "Stab 3." As usual in the "Scream" movies, the only way to scramble for safety is to remember the rules of the horror-film genre - which isn't as easy as it sounds, since the rules may vary depending on whether the murderer thinks this is a trilogy or an ongoing series! Craven hasn't forgotten how to pile on the shocks and thrills, but the screenplay is more clever than convincing, and it's not clear that "Scream 3" is any better than "Stab 3" would be if it ever reached your local multiplex.

*** 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.

OUT ON VIDEO

COMING SOON...

(In stores Feb. 22) Bats (PG-13)

Director: Louis Morneau. With Lou Diamond Phillips, Dina Meyer, Carlos Jacott. (91 min.)

* Handsome lawman and gorgeous zoologist save rural town from smart, murderous bats. The story is violent and vapid, but the visual jolts may please horror buffs.

* Campy, a good rental, not scary.

Double Jeopardy (R)

Director: Bruce Beresford. With Tommy Lee Jones, Ashley Judd. (105 min.)

* Judd violates her parole after she is framed for the murder of her husband. And 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.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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