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

Boys and Girls (PG-13) * Director: Robert Iscove. With Freddie Prinze Jr., Claire Forlani, Jason Biggs, Amanda Detmer. (90 min.)

Once upon a time, boys and girls, there was a meandering, plotless teen romantic comedy with no antagonists to liven things up. A nice boy and a nice girl dislike one another passionately - a sure sign of budding romance - but after several chance encounters, a friendship blossoms anyway. The formula hasn't grown tired (fairy tales never fade in popularity), but, alas, this script is fatiguing. Bland dialogue and visibly frustrated actors turn this love story into a heartbreaking moviegoing experience. By Katherine Dillin

Sex/Nudity: 1 sex scene, 1 of implied sex, and many discussions of sex. Violence: 5 scenes with violence, including slaps and a bar fight. Profanity: 17 expressions, mostly mild. Drugs: 4 scenes with alcohol, 1 with tobacco.

Chicken Run (G) *** Directors: Peter Lord, Nick Park. With voices of Mel Gibson, Miranda Richardson, Jane Horrocks, Timothy Spall, Julia Sawalha, Imelda Staunton. (86 min.)

It's a dark day for the poultry when their owner decides to switch from the egg industry to the chicken-pie business. Can they escape her automated oven with help from a flying rooster who recently landed in their coop? The suspense isn't exactly breathtaking, but there are some mighty fine laughs in this clever Claymation cartoon from the creator of England's hilarious Wallace and Gromit movies. Family fun for all.

Sex/Nudity/Profanity/Drugs:: None Violence: 6 scenes of mild comic violence.

Me, Myself & Irene (R) ** Directors: Bobby Farrelly, Peter Farrelly. With Jim Carrey, Rene Zellweger, Chris Cooper, Robert Forster, Richard Jenkins, Anthony Anderson, Mongo Brownlee. (116 min.)

The protagonist is a policeman with two personalities: One is sweeter than American pie, the other is lecherous enough to make Mr. Hyde look like a gentleman, and both are in love with Irene, a new acquaintance who's never quite sure which one she's dealing with. Carrey gives an awesome comic performance with little help from cinematic trickery, recalling Jerry Lewis's legendary acting in the 1963 version of "The Nutty Professor," which this farce frequently resembles. Look out for huge amounts of deliberately disgusting, gross-out humor, though.

100% Arabica (Not rated) ** Director: Mahmoud Zemmouri. With Khaled, Cheb Mami, Mouss, Majim Laouriga, Farid Fedjer. (86 min.)

Set in an Algerian neighborhood in the Paris suburbs, this lively comedy focuses on a pop-music group that captivates its fans. But it also earns the hostility of a crooked religious leader and a cowardly mayor who hope to win community support with a crackdown on pop culture. The plot isn't always original, but along with its laughs the movie has much to reveal about multicultural tensions in Western Europe today. In French with English subtitles

The Trial (Not rated) **** Director: Orson Welles. With Anthony Perkins, Jeanne Moreau, Orson Welles, Romy Schneider, Akim Tamiroff, Elsa Martinelli, Madeleine Robinson. (119 min.)

Reissue of Welles's controversial 1963 adaptation of Franz Kafka's novel about an ordinary man who's forced to defend himself in a labyrinthine criminal-justice system without being told what he's accused of or why the charges have been brought. Welles puts the tale through an enormous number of changes, some more thought-provoking than others. What he loses in Kafkaesque complexity he gains in dark, visual brilliance, reaching levels of cinematic ingenuity that rank with his finest achievements.

CURRENTLY IN RELEASE

Big Momma's House (PG-13) ** Director: Raja Gosnell. With Martin Lawrence, Nia Long, Paul Giamatti, Terrence Dashon Howard. (105 min.)

Lawrence makes his summer debut playing FBI agent Malcolm Turner. He heads down South to stakeout the house of Big Momma, whose soon-to-visit granddaughter used to date a recently escaped bank robber. When Big Momma has to leave town, Turner goes undercover as Big Momma. Although Lawrence brings his natural humor to the screen, and some moments are laugh-out-loud funny, most of the scenes are predictable, and, even for a wacked-out comedy like this one, a little too unrealistic.

By Christy Ellington ** Funny, predictable, silly.

Sex/Nudity: 1 scene with nudity, 6 sexual situations. Violence: 8 scenes with violence, including shooting and some comic fight sequences. Profanity: 25 expressions. Drugs: 4 scenes with alcohol.

Butterfly (R) ** Director: Jos Luis Cuerda. With Fernando Fernn Gomz. (96 min.)

Friendship blossoms between a little boy and a gentle old schoolteacher whose political views are increasingly suspect as fascism tightens its hold on their Spanish province in the summer of 1936. A powerful ending lends a strong emotional charge to this prettily filmed drama, but too much of the story is taken up with romantic clichs about the everyday challenges of childhood. In Spanish with English subtitles

Dinosaur (PG) **** Directors: Eric Leighton, Ralph Zondag. With voices of D.B. Sweeney, Julianna Margulies, Joan Plowright. (82 min.)

Dinosaurs speak and show human emotion in this story of Aladar, a giant Iguanodon, raised by monkeylike lemurs. Aladar eventually meets up with his own kind when he joins a pack on a life-or-death march across a forbidding landscape where water is scarce and meat-eating Carnotaurs pursue them. Despite a touch of Bambi-style pathos, Disney goes for a ferocious amount of prehistoric realism in this animated tour de force. It combines computer-generated characters with real, digitally enhanced scenery. Visually, it's a treat. By Ross Atkin ***1/2 Classic Disney, predictable, tremendous fun.

Sex/Nudity/Profanity/Drugs: None. Violence: 9 scenes with violence, mostly dinosaurs hunting or battling.

Fantasia/2000 (G) *** Directors: Pixote Hunt, Hendel Butoy, Eric Goldberg, James Algar, Francis Glebas, Gatan Brizzi, Paul Brizzi. With Steve Martin, Bette Midler, James Earl Jones. (75 min.)

This ambitious Disney production opened on giant-size IMAX screens before moving to regular theaters. Although it's less novel and feisty than the original "Fantasia" of 1940, the collection of music-filled animations is highly entertaining at times, especially when Al Hirschfeld's drawing style teams with George Gershwin's music for a jazzy "Rhapsody in Blue," and when Donald and Daisy Duck take a trip on Noah's ark accompanied by Sir Edward Elgar's usually stuffy "Pomp and Circumstance" marches. Best of all, "The Sorcerer's Apprentice" is recycled from the earlier film, and it's still the highlight of the show.

Sex/Nudity/Profanity/Drugs: None. Violence: 8 scenes of mild violence, including a couple of fights and an avalanche.

Gone in 60 Seconds (PG-13) * Director: Dominic Sena. With Nicolas Cage, Angelina Jolie, Robert Duvall, Giovanni Ribisi, Will Patton. (117 min.)

A reformed thief has to steal 50 autos in three days or an evil thug will murder his brother. Car-chase fans may enjoy the story's action-crazy formulas, but there's no excusing its bone-crunching violence, barbaric language, and smirky sexuality. How did a dignified pro like Duvall get stuck in this fender-bender? ** Surfacey, juvenile morality, fast-paced.

Hamlet (R) **** Director: Michael Almereyda. With Ethan Hawke, Julia Stiles, Kyle MacLachlan, Diane Venora. (111 min.)

Updated versions of Shakespeare are common, but there's amazingly sharp creativity in this New York-based interpretation of the timeless tragedy about a young man driven to desperation by his father's murder. The acting is smart and gritty, Almereyda's visual style has a raw immediacy found in few films with Shakespearean pedigrees, and an eclectic music score adds atmosphere and surprise every step of the way. **1/2 Royalty meets a New York minute, innovative, tragic, entertaining.

Sex/Nudity: 2 sexual situations. Violence: 5 scenes with violence, 2 of them somewhat graphic Profanity: 13 expressions from the Bard's script. Drugs: 12 scenes with alcohol or tobacco.

Love's Labour's Lost (PG) ** Director: Kenneth Branagh. With Kenneth Branagh, Alicia Silverstone, Timothy Spall, Carmen Ejogo. (95 min.)

William Shakespeare's comedy about a King and three friends who take a pledge to give up partying for philosophizing, updated to the 1930s era and spiced with musical numbers featuring songs of that period. It's all very colorful, but the movie's diverse elements clash as often as they cooperate. *** Cheery, Bard-lite, intelligent, no Fred Astaires here.

Sex/Nudity: 2 mildly suggestive scenes. Violence: 5 scenes of mostly slapstick violence, except for one series of WWII clips. Profanity: None. Drugs: 11 with alcohol and/or tobacco.

Mission: Impossible 2 (PG-13) ** Director: John Woo. With Tom Cruise, Thandie Newton, Anthony Hopkins, Ving Rhames, Brendan Gleeson. (120 min.)

Our dashing hero enlists a beautiful but devious thief in his assignment to track down the power-mad holders of a deadly new virus and its equally rare antidote. Woo's patented pyrotechnics - intricate editing, acrobatic camera movements, slow-motion mayhem - lend intermittent sparks to the violent action sequences, but the two-dimensional characters have little personality. Robert Towne's screenplay takes the easy route of blending elements from the first "M:I" movie and Woo's own "Face/Off" with Hitchcockian touches (the classic "Notorious" is a major source) as well as every James Bond movie ever made. **1/2 Action-packed, entertaining, unoriginal, impressive stunts.

Sex/Nudity: 1 scene of implied sex, 2 sexually suggestive scenes. Violence: 58 scenes with violence, including shooting and hand-to-hand combat. Profanity: 11 expressions, mostly mild. Drugs: 1 cigar.

Shaft (R) * Director: John Singleton. With Samuel L. Jackson, Jeffrey Wright, Christian Bale, Vanessa Williams. (98 min.)

The original "Shaft," a stylish 1971 crime drama, touched off the craze for "blaxploitation" movies. This follow-up retains little but the name, race, and no-nonsense attitude of the African-American hero, pitted here against crooked cops and a psychotic drug dealer as he tracks down the lone witness to a racially charged murder. Singleton does his best directing since his powerful "Boyz N the Hood," and Wright's brilliant acting almost makes his vicious character worth watching. But the plot is a shameless plea for vigilante violence, and the dignity of the black hero is outweighed by the ethnically marked evil of his Hispanic antagonist. Beneath its crisp veneer, much of the movie is a high-energy hymn to hate. **1/2 Flashy, style conscious, funny, clichd.

Sex/Nudity: 1 sex scene, 1 scene with scanty clothing, some sexual banter. Violence: Many scenes, including gunplay, stabbing, and shooting. Profanity: 90 expressions, mostly harsh. Drugs: 4 scenes with alochol, 1 of a drug lab.

Shanghai Noon (PG-13) *** Director: Tom Dey. With Jackie Chan, Owen Wilson. (110 min.)

Chinese Imperial Guard Chon Wang (Chan) must corral some John Wayne-style savvy to save a kidnapped princess in America's Wild West. He gets help and hindrance from bumbling bandit Roy O'Bannon. While playing off the name of Gary Cooper's classic 'High Noon,' this action-comedy doesn't try to imitate or spoof it. It's just smart and loads of fun. By Katherine Dillin *** A good time, action-packed, comical.

Sex/Nudity: 2 mildly suggestive scenes. Violence: 25 scenes with violence, some long, mostly for comic effect. Profanity: 8 expressions, some harsh. Drugs: 6 scenes with alcohol, tobacco, and/or mild drug use

Small Time Crooks (PG) *** Director: Woody Allen. With Woody Allen, Tracey Ullman, Elaine May, Hugh Grant, Michael Rapaport, Jon Lovitz. (94 min.)

Allen and Ullman play a married couple who fail at crime, bumble into success the honest way, and then quarrel over how they should use their newfound wealth - to live a lowbrow version of the good life, or barge into high society despite their lack of welcome there. The plot is lively and the dialogue packs many good laughs. But the entertainment is marred by a lingering sense that Allen rarely portrays working-class characters except to make fun of them. *** Classic Allen, surprisingly wholesome.

Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: 1 scene with a policeman pointing a gun. Profanity: 13 fairly mild expressions. Drugs: 11 scenes with alcohol, 1 with alcohol and tobacco.

Titan A.E. (PG) ** Directors: Don Bluth, Gary Goldman. With voices of Matt Damon, Drew Barrymore, Bill Pullman. (95 min.)

Animated sci-fi yarn about a fight between evil aliens and Earth's last surviving spaceship 10 centuries from now. Young moviegoers may love the fast-moving action of this unabashed "Star Wars" clone, but their horizons will hardly be broadened by its portrait of a 31st century where people have exactly the same interests, hopes, and slang expressions as teenagers of 2000.

OUT ON VIDEO

(In stores June. 27)

Hanging Up (PG-13) ** Director: Diane Keaton. With Diane Keaton, Meg Ryan, Lisa Kudrow, Walter Matthau. (92 min.)

Three sisters cope with the declining mental state of their elderly father. **1/2 Tiresome, dark comedy, some good laughs, not memorable.

The Talented Mr. Ripley (R) *** Director: Anthony Minghella. With Matt Damon, Gwyneth Paltrow, Jude Law, Cate Blanchett. (130 min.)

A highly neurotic young man decides to impersonate a wealthy acquaintance during a European visit, starting a chain of bizarre and ultimately violent events. *** Suspenseful, highly disturbing, psycho-sexual drama, gruesome at times.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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