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

The Adventures of Rocky & Bullwinkle (PG) *** Director: Des McAnuff. With Robert De Niro, Piper Perabo, Jason Alexander, Rene Russo, Randy Quaid, Kel Mitchell, Kenan Thompson, Janeane Garofalo, Carl Reiner, Whoopi Goldberg, Jonathan Winters, John Goodman, David Alan Grier, James Rebhorn. (90 min.)

Hollywood pokes fun at itself as the animated squirrel and moose battle a trio of live-action villains who want to conquer America by flooding it with ultrarotten TV shows. The comedy is crammed with show-biz jokes that younger kids won't fathom, but the action is so quick and colorful that they probably won't mind. Older folks will find many chuckles, especially if they grew up watching the cartoon heroes' own great '60s series.

Getting To Know You (Not rated) * Director: Lisanne Skyler. With Heather Matarazzo, Zach Braff, Bebe Neuwirth, Chris Noth, Tristine Skyler, Michael Weston, Mary McCormack, Mark Blum, Bo Hopkins. (91 min.)

An inflexible father, a gambler's new girlfriend, a pair of parents who'd rather be professional dancers, and several lonely teenagers are among the characters of this meandering movie based on three stories from "Heat," a collection of Joyce Carol Oates stories. The underlying ideas are promising, but droopy screenwriting drains the passion from Oates's tales, and lackluster acting polishes off what little energy is left. If the filmmakers wanted to tell a set of emotionally wan anecdotes, why did they turn to such relentlessly pungent stories for material?

The Patriot (R) ** Director: Roland Emmerich. With Mel Gibson, Joely Richardson, Chris Cooper, Tcheky Karyo, Heath Ledger, Ren Auberjonois, Tom Wilkinson, Jason Isaacs.

(165 min.)

The hero is a South Carolina farmer who becomes a reluctant fighter in the Revolutionary War after English soldiers kill his little boy. The movie pays lip service to the idea that war breeds violence, but it works more crudely on an emotional level, suggesting that the Colonial lads are basically decent sorts while the Redcoats harbor more than their share of monsters. What might have been a treat for history buffs and a refresher course for the rest of us turns into just another occasion to watch Gibson shoot guns, swing tomahawks, and wreak other kinds of havoc on enemies we've been primed to hate.

Sex/Nudity: 1 instance of mild innuendo. Violence: 15 scenes of war violence, including 6 long scenes. Profanity: 12 mild expressions Drugs: 5 scenes with alcohol and/or tobacco.

The Perfect Storm (PG-13) *** Director: Wolfgang Petersen. With George Clooney, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, Mark Wahlberg, Diane Lane, John C. Reilly, Karen Allen, William Fichtner. (127 min.)

The crew of a New England swordfishing boat battles the Worst Weather Ever while their friends and spouses wait anxiously on shore. Fish elsewhere if you want originality, creativity, or a tale dignified enough to match the real-life tragedy that inspired it; but dive right in if you're looking for an old-fashioned entertainment that delivers corny romance, turbulent action, and enough wave-churning seascapes to make "Titanic" seem landlocked.

Trixie (R) ** Director: Alan Rudolph. With Emily Watson, Nick Nolte, Will Patton, Lesley Ann Warren, Nathan Lane, Brittany Murphy, Matt Dillon, Dermot Mulroney. (117 min.)

Watson plays a security guard whose new job in a gambling casino puts her in contact with a klutzy womanizer, a crooked businessman, and a corrupt politician, among other unsavory sorts. The acting is solid and the heroine's quirky dialogue is amusing for a while. But repetitious writing and a weakly constructed story turn the promising premise into a disappointing mishmash of crime, politics, and show business.

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.

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

Butterfly (R) ** Director: Jos Luis Cuerda. With Fernando Fernn Gomz, Manuel Lozano, Uxa Blanco, Gonzalo Uriarte, Guillermo Toledo. (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 *** Lyrical, unexpected, moving, tragic.

Sex/Nudity: 1 scene with sex and nudity, 2 with nudity only, 3 instances of innuendo. Violence: 4 scenes with violence, including boys scuffling and prisoners showing signs of torture. Profanity: 14 expressions, mostly mild. Drugs: 9 scenes with alcohol and/or 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. *** "Egg-cellent," sweet, top family fare.

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

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.

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.

Sex/Nudity: 1 instance of innuendo. Violence: 7 violent scenes, including car chases and gunplay. Profanity: 25 expressions. Drugs: 3 scenes with alcohol, 1 with smoking.

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.

Me, Myself & Irene (R) ** Directors: Bobby Farrelly, Peter Farrelly. With Jim Carrey, Rene Zellweger, Chris Cooper, Robert Forster. (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. ***1/2 Hilarious, absurd, over-the-top gross-out humor, hollow.

Sex/Nudity: 2 instances of implied sex, 3 suggestive scenes, some innuendo. Violence: 14 scenes of mostly slapstick violence, but includes two gunshot wounds. Profanity: 114 expressions, mostly crude. Drugs: 4 scenes with alcohol, 7 with tobacco.

Mission: Impossible 2 (PG-13) ** Director: John Woo. With Tom Cruise, Thandie Newton, Anthony Hopkins, Ving Rhames. (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 alcohol, 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 (a great comic turn by Wilson). 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.

OUT ON VIDEO

(In stores Jul. 4)

Scream 3 (R) ** Director: Wes Craven. With David Arquette, Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox Arquette. (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. *** Great fun, scary, what a scream!, playful sequel.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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