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: Default

**** **** Excellent

*** *** Good

** ** Fair

* * Poor

DUD DUD The Worst

NEW RELEASES

Adrenaline Drive (Not rated)

Director: Shinobu Yaguchi. With Hikari Ishida, Masanobu Ando, Jovi Jova, Kazue Tsunogae, Yutaka Matushige. (111 min.) *** The heroes are a clerk and a health-care worker, both so bashful that it's hard to imagine them having an adventure, until a minor car accident and a gas-pipe explosion put them on a collision course with gangsters scrambling to recover a bag full of stolen loot. The movie is stronger in its first hour than its second, but its amiable acting and feisty visual humor make it a must for fans of Japanese film. In Japanese with English subtitles

Dream of Light (Not rated)

Director: Victor Erice. With Antonio Lpez Garcia, Maria Moreno, Enrique Gran. (139 min.) **** This visually ravishing study focuses on nothing more adventurous or exotic than an artist painting a portrait of a fruit tree in his backyard. An exquisite movie, directed by one of Spain's most gifted and audacious filmmakers. In Spanish with English subtitles

The Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas (PG)

Director: Brian Levant. With Mark Addy, Stephen Baldwin, Jane Krakowski, Kristen Johnston, Joan Collins, Alan Cumming. (90 min.) ** Fred and Barney, two hopeless Neanderthal bachelors, just want a quiet yabba-dabba-do life with a couple of nice cave girls like Betty and Wilma. But how can a Stoneage fella compete with the likes of Mick Jagged, Chip Rockefeller, and their fleets of Maserockis and Cadirocks disrupting their plans like a T-Rex in a tulip bed? The live-action, pun-loaded comedy based on the 1960s animated series good-naturedly recounts the anxious days of courtship.

By Katherine Dillin

Gladiator (R)

Director: Ridley Scott. With Russell Crowe, Joaquin Phoenix, Oliver Reed, Richard Harris, Connie Nielsen, Derek Jacobi, Djimon Hounsou. (150 min.) ** Sold into slavery by an emperor's jealous son, a Roman general spends his time slaying fellow gladiators before bellowing crowds and dreaming of revenge against you-know-who. Scott's filmmaking is as blunt and bullying as the mayhem it portrays, but Crowe and Reed lend touches of intermittent class to the bone-crunching spectacle.

I Dreamed of Africa (PG-13)

Director: Hugh Hudson. With Kim Basinger, Vincent Perez, Eva Marie Saint, Garrett Strommen, Daniel Craig, Winston Ntshona, Lance Reddick, Liam Aiken. (112 min.) * Fact-based tale of a woman who moves from Italy to Kenya with her husband and young son, and faces more daunting and varied challenges than she ever expected. The story is inspirational in a superficial way, but the filmmakers focus so exclusively on their attractive heroine that the picture loses any real connection with Africa beyond its value as a beautiful background and a source of jolting plot twists. This is Hollywood in full star-centered, tunnel-vision mode.

Into My Heart (Not rated)

Directors: Anthony Stark, Sean Smith. With Jayne Brook, Rob Morrow, Claire Forlani, Jake Weber, Sebastian Roche. (93 min.) *** The story of two young couples whose close friendship - perhaps too close - leads to emotional complications of increasing seriousness. The plot isn't very original, but the acting and dialogue have a low-key realism that packs more emotional punch than a dozen of the standard-issue romantic dramas crowding the independent-film scene.

The New Eve (Not rated)

Director: Catherine Corsini. With Karin Viard, Sergi Lopez, Pierre-Loup Rajot, Catherine Frot, Mireille Roussel, Valentine Vidal, Nozha Khouadra, Laurent Lucas. (94 min.) ** A freethinking Frenchwoman wavers between her love of independence and her hankering for romantic attachment. When she steers toward the latter, she enters a new dilemma involving a married man and a worker seeking a relationship with real commitment. Viard's energetic acting is the French production's most memorable asset. In French with English subtitles

Up at the Villa (Not rated)

Director: Philip Haas. With Kristin Scott Thomas, Sean Penn, Anne Bancroft, James Fox, Derek Jacobi, Jeremy Davies, Massimo Ghini. (120 min.) *** Seeking a last romantic adventure before her marriage to a boring British aristocrat in Italy during the late 1930s, a young woman spends a night with an impoverished Austrian refugee, then faces violent and scandalous consequences. Based on a W. Somerset Maugham novella, the story has old-fashioned characters and situations, and Haas has sensibly filmed it in an old-fashioned way, stressing visual appeal rather than the story's sordid undertones. The acting is excellent, too.

CURRENTLY IN RELEASE

Bossa Nova (R)

Director: Bruno Barreto. With Amy Irving, Antonio Fagundes, Alexandre Borges, Dbora Bloch. (95 min.) *** Romantic comedy about an English teacher and an attorney who enter an unexpected love affair while assorted friends and associates search for their own happiness. The story is slender, but the Brazilian settings are exquisite and lilting tunes by Antonio Carlos Jobim cast a spell over the entire enterprise. In English and Portuguese with English subtitles

Frequency (PG-13)

Director: Gregory Hoblit. With Dennis Quaid, Jim Caviezel, Daniel Henson. (121 min.) ** A young man discovers an old ham-radio hookup that allows him to communicate with his dead father in the past. He uses this miracle - caused by an unusual solar storm - to help his dad avoid the accident that killed him, thereby altering their family's history. This event has negative consequences too, putting another loved relative into the path of a serial killer whom only they can track down. Toby Emmerich's screenplay gains emotional punch from its sincere concern for family values, but science-fiction fans may be disappointed by the limited exploration of its fascinating time-travel premise. *** Intelligent plot, touching, creepy, occasionally very violent.

Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: 12 scenes of fairly graphic violence, including explosions and use of shotguns. Profanity: 37 expressions, mostly mild. Drugs: 18 scenes with alcohol, 25 with tobacco.

Gossip (R)

Director: Davis Guggenheim. With James Marsden, Lena Headey, Norman Reedus, Kate Hudson, Joshua Jackson, Edward James Olmos. (100 min.) *1/2 Have you heard about "Gossip"? Did you know it's about three college friends who start a vicious rumor to study its effects for a class project? Did word arrive that this not-so-innocent idea ends up bringing out the worst in most involved? Did news reach you that it's a creepy, uncomfortable story with unlikable characters, but that the concept and plot twists are rumored to be intriguing enough to keep you in your seat? But, that's just what I heard. By Katherine Dillin

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.

Love and Basketball (PG-13)

Director: Gina Prince-Bythewood. With Sanaa Lathan, Omar Epps, Alfre Woodard, Dennis Haysbert. (124 min.) **1/2 First-time feature writer and director Prince-Bythewood makes an impressive debut with a story about a girl and boy who grow up to pursue their own hoop dreams. Young Monica competes with the boy next door, Quincy, in a nice Los Angeles neighborhood, but when the two enter high school and then college, the tension between them eventually disappears and they fall in love. The story is a bit overlong, but it's refreshing to see a woman portrayed as headstrong and opinionated as Monica is - a great role model for women. By Lisa Leigh Parney *** Refreshing, cute, clich.

Sex/Nudity: 3 scenes with sexual content, including one fairly graphic sex scene; some innuendo. Violence: 1 mild scene with shoving. Profanity: 33 expressions, some harsh. Drugs: 3 scenes with alcohol.

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.

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.

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.

U-571 (PG-13)

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. *** Sheer entertainment, not much sub-text, action-packed.

Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: 9, often prolonged, scenes with violence, including gunfights, fistfights, and torpedo attacks. Profanity: 50 expressions, mostly mild. Drugs: 3 scenes with alcohol, 2 with tobacco.

Where the Heart Is (PG-13)

Director: Matt Williams. With Natalie Portman, Ashley Judd, Stockard Channing, Sally Field, Joan Cusack. (120 min.) ** Alone and penniless, a young woman gives birth to her baby in a shopping mart, then accepts help from an eccentric couple with generous hearts and a slightly older friend with numerous kids of her own. The story shows commendable interest in women's issues and the challenges of single motherhood. But it covers so many events over such a long stretch of time that its meaningful moments fly away from each other when they should be working together for dramatic effect. Ultimately, it's more an emotional hodgepodge than a compassionate look at real human problems. *** Positive, Portman's best, tasteful, fairy-tale like, endearing.

Sex/Nudity: 1 mild sex scene. Violence: 4 scenes, including aftermath of a beating and a prison scuffle. Profanity: 33 expressions, mostly mild. Drugs: 5 scenes with alcohol, 3 with tobacco.

OUT ON VIDEO

American Beauty (R)

Director: Sam Mendes. With Kevin Spacey, Annette Bening, Thora Birch. (118 min.) *** Bored by their increasingly dull marriage, a middle-age couple are seduced by morally reckless behaviors that bring them into edgy relationships. (VHS) *** Great ensemble cast, disturbing, bleak, thought-provoking.

Bringing Out the Dead (R)

Director: Martin Scorsese. With Nicolas Cage, Patricia Arquette, John Goodman. (120 min.) *** Harrowing portrait of a New York City ambulance driver who's haunted by visions of suffering people he's tried and failed to save. (VHS & DVD) ***1/2 Out of control, stunning, insightful, well-written.

Mystery, Alaska (R)

Director: Jay Roach. With Burt Reynolds, Hank Azaria, Russell Crowe, Mary McCormack. (118 min.) *** Mystery, Alaska, population 633, lives for hockey. When the New York Rangers offer to play the local guys for a publicity stunt, lives are turned topsy-turvy. (VHS & DVD) By Katherine Dillin *** Sweet, solidly entertaining, formulaic.

The Straight Story (G)

Director: David Lynch. With Richard Farnsworth, Sissy Spacek, Harry Dean Stanton. (111 min.) *** Determined to pay his ailing brother an overdue visit, an elderly man travels from Iowa to Wisconsin on a lawnmower tractor, having low-key adventures during his eccentric odyssey. (VHS) *** Peaceful, wonderfully slow, down-home, sincere.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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