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The Monitor Movie Guide

(Page 3 of 4)

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.

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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.

The Last September (R) *** Director: Deborah Warner. With Maggie Smith, Michael Gambon, Jane Birkin, Fiona Shaw. (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.

Return to Me (PG) * Director: Bonnie Hunt. With David Duchovny, Minnie Driver, David Alan Grier, James Belushi, Bonnie Hunt, Carroll O'Connor, Joely Richardson, Robert Loggia. (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.

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 reevaluate 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.