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: Could you pass a US citizenship test?

**** **** Excellent

*** *** Good

** ** Fair

* * Poor

DUD DUD The Worst

NEW RELEASES

Claire Dolan (Not rated) ** Director: Lodge Kerrigan. With Katrin Cartlidge, Colm Meaney, Vincent D'Onofrio. (95 min.)

The somber tale of a young woman who turns to prostitution as a way of supporting her fatally ill mother, developing complex relationships with the pimp who exploits her and a working man who may be able to ease her dilemma. Kerrigan's careful, clinical filmmaking lacks the charged-up excitement of his extraordinary "Clean, Shaven," but he remains an insightful stylist with impressively high artistic standards.

Judy Berlin (Not rated) *** Director: Eric Mendelsohn. With Barbara Barry, Bob Dishy, Edie Falco, Aaron Harnick, Madeline Kahn, Julie Kavner, Anne Meara. (97 min.)

The residents of a Long Island town while away the hours during a solar eclipse, and we get revealing glimpses into their lives as discontented spouses, well-meaning schoolteachers, and younger folks including a man who's returned home with broken dreams and a woman who's leaving home with great expectations. The comic and dramatic scenes are consistently low-key, but the strikingly original movie has a dreamlike spell that gets farther under your skin as the eclipse stretches beyond the bounds of astronomical possibility.

Mifune (R) ** Director: Soren Kragh-Jacobsen. With Iben Hjejle, Anders W. Berthelsen, Jesper Asholt. (99 min.)

An ambitious Copenhagen businessman becomes the reluctant guardian of his older brother, a mentally slow fellow whose eccentricities include a huge enthusiasm for Toshiro Mifune, the Japanese movie star. Made in the stripped-down style of Denmark's offbeat Dogma 95 movement, the picture makes up in solid acting what it lacks in Hollywood-type frills, even if it isn't very memorable in the end. In Danish with English subtitles

Not of This World (Not rated) *** Director: Giuseppe Piccioni. With Margherita Buy, Silvio Orlando, Carolina Freschi, Maria Cristina Minerva, Sonia Gessner. (104 min.)

A fledgling nun and a dry-cleaning entrepreneur strike up an unexpected friendship when she asks his assistance in finding the mother of an abandoned infant who's come under her care. Piccioni weaves this unpredictable tale into a personality-filled tapestry, blending vivid Italian settings with emotions that moviegoers anywhere will recognize. In Italian with English subtitles

Reindeer Games (R) ** Director: John Frankenheimer. With Ben Affleck, Charlize Theron, Gary Sinise, Clarence Williams III, James Frain, Dennis Farina, Donal Logue, Isaac Hayes. (104 min.)

Affleck plays a freshly released jailbird who's determined to go straight until he meets the girlfriend of a former cellmate - and her psychopathic brother, who's planning a robbery that won't succeed unless his reluctant new acquaintance gets involved. The wildly implausible story twists every expectation into the shape of a particularly gnarled reindeer horn, but what you'll remember most vividly is the sadistic violence that breaks out almost every time Sinise's evil character enters a scene. A director of Frankenheimer's stature deserves less sensationalistic material, and so does his audience.

Wonder Boys (R) ** Director: Curtis Hanson. With Michael Douglas, Tobey Maguire, Frances McDormand, Rip Torn. (112 min.)

Douglas and Maguire play writers at opposite ends of their careers, and both are apprehensive about what will happen when (and if) they finish the books they're working on. Douglas gives a nicely relaxed performance as the world-weary professor, but Maguire delves into a too-familiar bag of tricks that grows tiring after the first few scenes. While the story takes some clever turns, its psychology is far from convincing and its momentum flags long before the finale.

CURRENTLY IN RELEASE

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

Sex/Nudity: 2 scenes with sex and nudity, 1 is fairly graphic; 1 suggestive scene. Violence: 13 scenes with violence, including fights and a dead body. Profanity: 87 expressions, mostly harsh. Drugs: 4 scenes with alcohol, 10 with smoking, 5 with marijuana.

Boiler Room (R) ** Director: Ben Younger. With Giovanni Ribisi, Vin Diesel, Ben Affleck, Jamie Kennedy, Nia Long. (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 **1/2 Tense, engaging, not totally believable.

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.

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.

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.

Hanging Up (PG-13) ** Director: Diane Keaton. With Diane Keaton, Meg Ryan, Lisa Kudrow, Walter Matthau, Adam Arkin. (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. **1/2 Tiresome, dark comedy, some good laughs, not memorable.

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.

Pitch Black (R) **1/2 Director:David Twohy. With Vin Diesel, Rhada Mitchell, Keith David. (107 min.)

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

Scream 3 (R) ** Director: Wes Craven. With David Arquette, Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox Arquette, Patrick Dempsey, Scott Foley, Parker Posey. (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!

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

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

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. ***1/2 Bouncy, delightful, a good moral.

Sex/Nudity/Profanity/Drugs:: None Violence: 4 mild action sequences, including an avalanche.

The Whole Nine Yards (R) ** Director: Jonathan Lynn. With Bruce Willis, Matthew Perry, Rosanna Arquette, Michael Clarke Duncan, Amanda Peet, Natasha Henstridge, Kevin Pollack. (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. **1/2 Funny tale, unexpected twists, well-done hamming by actors, hollow.

Sex/Nudity: 7 scenes with sex and/or nudity; 1 suggestive scene; 1 instance of innuendo. Violence: 6 scenes with violence, including punching and shooting. Profanity: 27 expressions, mostly mild. Drugs: 9 scenes with alcohol, 5 with smoking, 3 with both.

OUT ON VIDEO

COMING SOON...

(In stores Feb. 29)

The Best Man (R) *** Director: Malcolm Lee. With Taye Diggs, Nia Long, Morris Chestnut. (118 min.)

Written and directed by Malcolm Lee (cousin to well-known director Spike Lee). A coming-of-age film about a group of young black professionals reunited after college graduation for the wedding of one of the group. By Gloria Goodale

Dog Park (R) *1/2 Director: Bruce McCulloch. With Luke Wilson, Natasha Henstridge. (103 min.)

A bachelor is back in the singles scene after his girlfriend moves out. The theme here is nicely summed up by a character who says, "Isn't being together better than nothing?" By Katherine Dillin

Get Bruce! (Not rated) ** Director: Andrew J. Kuehn. With Bruce Vilanch, Whoopi Goldberg, Billy Crystal, Nathan Lane, Robin Williams, Bette Midler. (72 min.)

A documentary visit with Bruce Vilanch, who writes comedy routines for Oscar telecasts, nightclub acts, and everything in between.

Random Hearts (R) ** Director: Sydney Pollack. With Harrison Ford, Kristin Scott Thomas. (133 min.)

A policeman and a congresswoman are brought together in the aftermath of a plane crash by the discovery that their deceased spouses were having an affair.

By Stephen Humphries

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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