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.
David Sterritt, Monitor panel Meaning **** **** Excellent *** *** Good
** ** Fair
* * Poor
DUD DUD The Worst
Barry Lyndon (PG)
Director: Stanley Kubrick. With Ryan O'Neal, Marisa Berenson, Patrick Magee, Hardy Kruger, Stephen Berkoff. (183 min.)
****Revival of Kubrick's ravishingly beautiful historical epic, first released in 1975 and celebrated primarily for John Alcott's unprecedented feats of cinematography. Loving, gambling, spying, and dueling are among the activities of the eponymous 18th-century hero, drawn from the pages of William Makepeace Thackeray's amiably adventurous novel.
Croupier (Not rated)
Director: Mike Hodges. With Clive Owen, Alex Kingston, Gina McKee, Nicholas Ball, Kate Hardie. (89 min.)
*** The lean-and-mean story of a lean-and-mean casino employee who deals the cards and spins the wheel but never places a bet himself. Instead he writes a book about the experiences he observes and thinks about joining a crime scheme targeted at his gambling establishment. Hodges and screenwriter Paul Mayersberg fill the British production with Dostoevskian ironies, and Owen is perfect as the antihero.
Don't Let Me Die on a Sunday (Not rated)
Director: Didier Le Pcheur. With lodie Bouchez, Jean-Marc Barr, Martin Petitguyot, Patrick Catalifo, Jeanne Casilas. (86 min.)
** Restored to health after near-death from a drug overdose, a young woman enters an affair with the hedonistic man who saved her and finds herself drawn into a world of sensory and sexual excesses. The movie wants to appear bold and liberated, but it seems awfully solemn about the subculture it explores. In French with English subtitles
The Last September (R)
Director: Deborah Warner. With Maggie Smith, Michael Gambon, Jane Birkin, Fiona Shaw, Keeley Hawes, David Tennant, Richard Roxburgh, Gary Lydon, Jonathan Slinger. (104 min.)
*** Picturesque adaptation of Elizabeth Bowen's intelligent 1929 novel, centering on a group of Anglo-Irish aristocrats shortsightedly trying to maintain their way of life despite the growing instability of Ireland after the Republican uprising of 1916. The movie doesn't have much more get-up-and-go than the characters, but solid performances and richly textured camera work keep it involving most of the way through.
28 Days (PG-13)
Director: Betty Thomas. With Sandra Bullock, Viggo Mortensen, Dominic West, Diane Ladd, Elizabeth Perkins, Steve Buscemi. (103 min.)
** When alcoholic city girl Gwen Cummings (a luminous Bullock) wrecks her sister's wedding - and a limousine - while inebriated, she is sentenced to a month in rehab. The audience sees the clinic through Gwen's eyes as a nightmarish adult version of a happy summer camp. Given the formulaic story, it's no surprise that Gwen's cynicism diminishes as she learns to bond with fellow addicts and re-evaluate her life. If the recovery seems too easy, at least the sporadic humor works well and Thomas doesn't overload the film with sentiment. By Stephen Humphries
** Bleak yet humorous, predictable, enlightening.
Sex/Nudity: 5 scenes with sex and/or nudity. Violence: 2 scenes, including a self-inflicted wound and a punch. Profanity: 25 mostly mild expressions. Drugs: 22 scenes with alcohol and/or tobacco, 3 with prescription-drug abuse.
Director: Jonathan Mostow. With Matthew McConaughey, Harvey Keitel, Bill Paxton, Jon Bon Jovi, Jake Weber, David Keith. (120 min.)
*** You can't keep a good submarine story down. Our heroes are American sailors ordered to pose as Germans and capture a top-secret encryption device from a Nazi U-boat. Things get interesting when they find themselves stuck on the enemy vessel, unsure how it works and sitting ducks for any genuine Germans who happen to steam their way. The movie is full of old tricks - cuts between worried faces and overheated gauges inching into the red zone - but director Mostow pulls most of them off with conviction and pizazz.
The Virgin Suicides (R)
Director: Sofia Coppola. With Kirsten Dunst, James Woods, Kathleen Turner, Hanna Hall, Chelse Swain, A.J. Cook, Leslie Hayman, Josh Hartnett, Scott Glenn, Danny DeVito. (96 min.)
*** Is suicide the only escape route from an obsessively proper middle-class home? The question arises when an adolescent girl kills herself for no clear reason, and her sisters may be drifting in the same direction as they try to steer a course between their unbending parents and the neighborhood boys who'd like to become part of their lives. An artful blend of '70s detail and dreamlike moodiness makes Coppola's first movie an exceptionally promising directorial debut.
CURRENTLY IN RELEASE
American Psycho (R)
Director: Mary Harron. With Christian Bale, Reese Witherspoon, Willem Dafoe, Chlo Sevigny, Jared Leto, Samantha Mathis, Matt Ross, Guinevere Turner. (100 min.)
** A crazed yuppie divides his time between power lunches on Wall Street and vicious murders in the streets and skyscrapers of a Manhattan suffering its own hyperactive madness in the narcissistic '80s. Bret Easton Ellis's novel is a manic blend of incisive satire and repellent violence. Harron and screenwriter Guinevere Turner reduce it to a standard-issue slasher movie, stylishly shot, but with little to distinguish it from a long line of "Psycho"-spawned gorefests.
Black and White (R)
Director: James Toback. With Brooke Shields, Robert Downey Jr., Mike Tyson, Stacy Edwards. (100 min.)
*** Wishing to explore the influence of black hip-hop culture on white youngsters, a filmmaker and her husband start hanging around the Manhattan youth scene to see what revelations might pop up. The story is a mess, as usual with Toback's movies, but intricacies of contemporary urban culture are vividly illuminated by his insistence on blurring the boundaries between fiction and reality. Contains some very explicit sex.
** Angry, soulless, thought-provoking.
Sex/Nudity: 4 scenes with sex, implied sex, or suggestive content, 3 of them with nudity. Violence: 5 scenes with violence, including gun threats and slaps. Profanity: 358 mostly harsh expressions. Drugs: 12 scenes with alcohol and/or tobacco, 3 with marijuana, 1 with marijuana and alcohol.
Keeping the Faith (PG-13)
Director: Edward Norton. With Edward Norton, Jenna Elfman, Ben Stiller, Eli Wallach, Anne Bancroft. (129 min.)
*** The plot sounds like a joke: A rabbi woos a non-Jewish woman while their best friend, a Roman Catholic priest, juggles his own set of contradictory romantic feelings. Norton gives the comedy unexpected sparkle in his directorial debut, matching the perky performances of his cast (and himself) with smartly timed editing and colorful camera work. But what made the filmmakers think this lightweight fare could chug along for more than two hours without losing steam?
***1/2 Heartwarming, super, romantic, original, witty.
Sex/Nudity: 13 suggestive scenes or implied sex. Violence: 5 instances of mild violence, mostly for comic effect. Profanity: 39 expressions, mostly mild. Drugs: 9 scenes with alcohol and/or tobacco.
Ready to Rumble (PG-13)
Director: Brian Robbins. With David Arquette, Oliver Platt, Scott Caan, Martin Landau. (104 min.)
*1/2 When an ambitionless duo's wrestling hero, Jimmy King, gets the boot from World Championship Wrestling, their mission is clear: They must help King regain his kingdom. Some fun moments with energetic acting and impressive acrobatics by real WCW wrestlers, but many a crude moment.
By Katherine Dillin
Sex/Nudity: 2 scenes of implied sex, 1 with nudity; some innuendo. Violence: 19 scenes of mostly wrestling-related violence. Profanity: 80 expressions, some harsh. Drugs: 6 scenes with alcohol, 2 with smoking.
Return to Me (PG)
Director: Bonnie Hunt. With David Duchovny, Minnie Driver, David Alan Grier, James Belushi, Bonnie Hunt. (116 min.)
* A widower falls in love with a woman he's just met, not realizing she's the recipient of his late wife's transplanted heart. The picture goes for sentimentality rather than substance every chance it gets, and the cast falls right into its syrupy trap.
*** Refreshing, genuine, slow at times, Belushi was great.
Sex/Nudity: Mild innuendo. Violence: 2 instances, including a fairly graphic hospital scene. Profanity: 27 expressions, mostly mild. Drugs: 13 scenes with alcohol, 2 with tobacco, 2 with alcohol and tobacco.
The Road to El Dorado (PG)
Directors: Eric "Bibo" Bergeron, Don Paul. With voices of Kevin Kline, Kenneth Branagh, Rosie Perez. (89 min.)
** Animated tale of two Spanish adventurers who find a mythical land of gold and beauty, pose as gods in order to get their hands on the kingdom's wealth, and run into trouble when their human limitations raise suspicions about their real identities. The cartooning is stylish and the action is spiced with a few good laughs. But the package would be more enticing if it didn't fall so squarely into overused Hollywood formulas, from its standard-issue songs to its simplistic portrait of lovable white rascals surrounded by silly dark-skinned natives. Aren't animation fans ready for something a little more original?
*** Vibrant, fun, some adult themes.
Sex/Nudity: 1 instance of backside nudity, 1 instance of implied sex. Violence: 5 scenes, including a sword fight. Profanity: 3 mild expressions. Drugs: 1 scene with alcohol and smoking, 1 with an unlit cigar.
Romeo Must Die (R
Director: Andrzej Bartkowiak. With Jet Li, Aaliyah. (130 min.)
**1/2 A martial-arts expert, wrongly framed for a crime, breaks out of a Hong Kong prison and comes to the US to find his brother's killer. He lands in the middle of a gangland war between Chinese and black mobsters. Young R&B singer Aaliyah makes a winning film debut as his cross-cultural love interest. The stunts are spectacular, Li is a modest and genial hero, and the gunplay is mostly bloodless. By Gregory M. Lamb
Rules of Engagement (R)
Director: William Friedkin. With Samuel L. Jackson, Tommy Lee Jones, Guy Pearce, Blair Underwood, Ben Kingsley, Philip Baker Hall, Kim Delaney, Anne Archer. (127 min.)
* A military lawyer defends an old friend who's being court-martialed on charges of killing civilians while they demonstrated outside the United States embassy in a Middle Eastern country. The grimly compelling plot builds toward a gripping courtroom climax. But the movie is spoiled by its simplistic portrait of people from the Mideast as incorrigibly violent and untrustworthy, and by its jingoistic suggestion that self-protective ends justify murderous means when American soldiers are at risk.
** Macho, stiff, dry, plot-heavy, sincere.
Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: 11 scenes of violence, including 2 very long scenes and 3 with images of gore. Profanity: 69 expressions, many harsh. Drugs: 1 scene with alcohol, 1 with smoking, 1 with both.
The Skulls (PG-13)
Director: Rob Cohen. With Joshua Jackson, Paul Walker, Leslie Bibb, Craig Nelson, Hill Harper. (107 min.)
* In his feature film debut, Jackson ("Dawson's Creek") stars as Luke McNamara, a student at Yale University who works in the cafeteria and aspires for something better. Then one night, he is invited to join The Skulls, a secret society that "lives by the rules and dies by the rules." It's a silly little thriller that will make you laugh more than it will make you tremble. By Lisa Leigh Parney
Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: 5 scenes, including a hanging. Profanity: 12 expressions, some harsh. Drugs: 7 scenes with alcohol and/or smoking.
Where the Money Is (PG-13)
Director: Marek Kanievska. With Paul Newman, Linda Fiorentino, Dermot Mulroney, Susan Barnes, Anne Pitoniak. (89 min.)
** Where the excitement isn't. A crafty old crook fakes a chronic illness to facilitate a jailbreak, then plans a new crime with his nurse and her suspicious husband. Newman's magnetic face isn't enough to raise this intermittently amusing thriller above the ordinary caper-comedy crowd.
*** Entertaining, some surprises, Newman was terrific.
Sex/Nudity: 3 instances of implied sex; 1 scene with brief nudity; some innuendo. Violence: 6 scenes, including a car crash and an armed robbery. Profanity: 23 mostly mild expressions. Drugs: 11 scenes with alcohol and/or tobacco.
OUT ON VIDEO
(In stores April 18)
Fight Club (R)
Director: David Fincher. With Brad Pitt, Edward Norton, Helena Bonham Carter. (135 min.)
** Bored with the tedium of yuppie life, two young men start a secret society dedicated to the proposition that feeling a punch in the nose is better than feeling nothing at all. Contains a great deal of very explicit violence.
* Gritty, gross, angry, sloppy.
Director: Joel Schumacher. With Robert De Niro, Philip Seymour Hoffman. (110 min.)
* Stricken with a disability, a macho cop swallows his distaste and turns to a transvestite neighbor for therapeutic singing lessons.
Director: John Duigan. With Elisabeth Shue, Aaron Eckhart, Jill Hennessy, Lucy Liu. (91 min.)
* A young man cares for his mentally challenged sister as she undergoes an experimental medical procedure that could increase her intelligence and allow her to live a normal life.
Music of the Heart (PG)
Director: Wes Craven. With Meryl Streep, Angela Bassett, Aidan Quinn. (120 min.)
** Remaking her life after her husband walks out on her, a middle-aged schoolteacher decides to share the joys of classical music with minority kids in an inner city neighborhood.
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