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

Chuck & Buck (R) *** Director: Miguel Arteta. With Mike White, Chris Weitz, Paul Weitz, Lupe Ontiveros, Beth Colt, Paul Sand. (95 min.)

A successful young man gets a surprise visit from a childhood friend - good fun at first, but less so when he realizes that his old pal has stayed as immature and dependent as he was when they were kids. The psychology of this likable comedy-drama is pretty shallow, especially when it gets into sexual matters. But the acting is excellent and there are amusing views of the independent arts scene when the childlike Buck decides to explore his feelings by writing a play about them.

The Five Senses (R) **** Director: Jeremy Podeswa. With Mary-Louise Parker, Pascale Bussires, Molly Parker, Gabrielle Rose. (105 min.)

The disappearance of a little girl in a Toronto park has an effect on several loosely connected tales - about a lovestruck baker, a music-loving physician, a masseuse with a teenage daughter, and others - organized around the roles our physical senses play in shaping our social and psychological lives. Traveling from the tragic to the comic, this multifaceted film is richly acted and imaginatively directed, reflecting the special interest many Canadian filmmakers have in weaving together lives and experiences as prismatically diverse as the country itself.

It's the Rage (R) ** Director: James D. Stern. With Jeff Daniels, Joan Allen, Robert Forster, Anna Paquin, Gary Sinise, Andre Braugher, Giovanni Ribisi, Bokeem Woodbine, David Schwimmer. (90 min.)

Cops, crooks, and ordinary citizens are among the weapon-toting characters in this ferocious satire of the American love affair with violence, which develops its antigun message through multiple story lines. Its ideas are worth pondering, but as a movie it's less memorable than its interesting cast suggests.

Scary Movie (R) 1/2 Director: Keenen Ivory Wayans. With Jon Abrahams, Carmen Electra, Shannon Elizabeth, Cheri Oteri. (88 min.)

A supposedly comic succotash of the horror-movie genre, this movie pushes beyond the limits of taste. It is extremely vulgar, coarse, crude, crass, gross, graphic, disgusting, odious, reprehensible, nasty, and unnecessary. Many in the media are wondering how it got away with its "R" rating rather than a much-deserved "NC-17" due to its endless sexual innuendo and images of male nudity. The few detergent-clean funny moments are overwhelmed by those that are desperately in need of washing. By Katherine Dillin *1/2 Insult to one's intelligence, disgusting, no sequel please.

Sex/Nudity: 7 graphic sex scenes, 6 scenes with nudity, 14 with sexual references. Violence: 29 scenes with violence, many graphic in the horror-movie style, including stabbings, a broken leg, and a suicide. Profanity: 40 expressions, many harsh. Drugs: 7 scenes with alcohol, 4 with smoking, 2 with drugs.

Water Drops on Burning Rocks (Not rated) *** Director: Franois Ozon. With Bernard Giraudeau, Malik Zidi, Ludivine Sagnier, Anna Thomson. (90 min.)

Based on a play by the great German filmmaker Rainer Werner Fassbinder. This sardonic drama illustrates the destructive nature of superficial sexual gamesmanship through the tale of a young man caught between his beautiful fiance and a self-absorbed male lover. The best scenes capture the blend of irony, melodrama, and real emotion that distinguishes Fassbinder's most memorable pictures. In French with English subtitles

X-Men (PG-13) ** Director: Bryan Singer. With Patrick Stewart, Halle Berry, Ian McKellen, Famke Janssen, Hugh Jackman, Anna Paquin, Bruce Davison. (105 min.)

Based on a popular comic book, this action-packed adventure takes its cue from the idea that people with exotic powers don't always become superheroes, but may turn bitter and hostile when ordinary folks find their special qualities too "weird" and "different" to tolerate. Stewart is solid as the leader of a school for constructive mutants, McKellen is equally strong as his destructive counterpart, and the screenplay takes a commendably dim view of bias and bigotry. The mood is awfully dark for an escapist fantasy, though, and the high-tech mayhem gets repetitious. Singer made a smashing impression with "The Usual Suspects" in 1995 but he has yet to match that triumph.

CURRENTLY IN RELEASE

The Adventures of Rocky & Bullwinkle (PG) *** Director: Des McAnuff. With Robert De Niro, Piper Perabo, Jason Alexander, Rene Russo, Randy Quaid, Janeane Garofalo, Carl Reiner, Whoopi Goldberg. (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. *** Nostalgic, intermittently charming, good-natured.

Sex/Nudity: 1 mildly suggestive scene. Violence: 11 scenes of animated violence, including a brawl and an explosion. Profanity: 3 mild expressions. Drugs: 2 scenes with alcohol, 5 with tobacco.

But I'm a Cheerleader (R) ** Director: Jamie Babbitt. With Natasha Lyonne, Cathy Moriarty, RuPaul, Clea DuVall, Bud Cort, Mink Stole. (84 min.)

A spunky teenager gets sent to a sex-education camp when her parents decide she might be gay. The movie is as featherweight as its title, but Lyonne gives a winning performance, and the mischievous story packs a few good laughs.

Chicken Run (G) *** Directors: Peter Lord, Nick Park. With voices of Mel Gibson, Miranda Richardson, Jane Horrocks. (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.

The Kid (PG) *** Director: Jon Turteltaub. With Bruce Willis, Spencer Breslin, Emily Mortimer, Lily Tomlin, Jean Smart, Chi McBride, Dana Ivey, Susan Dalian, Juanita Moore. (104 min.)

Willis plays an egotistical image consultant who gets a needed dose of self-knowledge from an unexpected visitor: himself as a nine-year-old, equally puzzled by their time-warping encounter but loaded with clues as to how he became the creep he is today. Turteltaub makes the most of a solid screenplay and talented cast, rarely forcing the humor but letting it emerge from situations in its own good time. The result is fine fantasy fun. **1/2 Light summer flick, adorable, artificial.

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, 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.

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. *** Rousing, earnest, brutal, big.

Sex/Nudity: 1 instance of mild innuendo. Violence: 15 scenes of violence, including 6 long battle sequences. Profanity: 12 mild expressions. Drugs: 5 scenes with alcohol, 1 with alcohol and 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. *** An emotional ride, definitely worth seeing, terrifying water scenes.

Sex/Nudity: 2 mildly implied sex scenes. Violence: 6 instances, including a bar fight and a fishing accident. Profanity: 63 expressions, some harsh. Drugs: 4 scenes with alcohol and tobacco, 8 with tobacco.

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: 11 scenes, including gunplay, stabbing, and a car chase. Profanity: 197 expressions, mostly harsh. Drugs: 4 scenes with alcohol, 1 of a drug lab.

OUT ON VIDEO

COMING SOON...

(In Stores July 18)

Angela's Ashes (R) ** Director: Alan Parker. With Emily Watson, Robert Carlyle, Michael Legge, Joe Breen. (120 min.)

A boy struggles to grow up in an Irish-Catholic household. Based on Frank McCourt's popular memoir.

Isn't She Great (R) *** Director: Andrew Bergman. With Bette Midler, Nathan Lane, Stockard Channing. (90 min.)

Midler preens, prances, pouts, and generally kicks up a storm as notorious novelist Jacqueline Susann.

The Ninth Gate (R) *** Director: Roman Polanski. With Johnny Depp, Lena Olin, Frank Langella. (133 min.)

A rare-book expert scavenges Europe for two obscure volumes penned by the devil himself.

Ride With the Devil (R) *** Director: Ang Lee. With Tobey Maguire, Jeffrey Wright, Jewel, Skeet Ulrich. (138 min.)

The adventures of several young men fighting in the Civil War as irregular soldiers.

Rosetta (R) *** Directors: Luc and Jean-Pierre Dardenne. With Emilie Dequenne, Anne Yearnaux. (95 min.)

A Belgian teenager makes a series of desperate efforts to get a regular job, hoping this will ensure a normal life for her and her alcoholic mother. In French with English subtitles

What Planet Are You From? (R) ** Director: Mike Nichols. With Garry Shandling, Annette Bening, John Goodman. (100 min.)

Lightweight farce about an alien who arrives on Earth with orders to get a woman pregnant so his all-male race can spread.

Where's Marlowe? (R) * Director: Daniel Pyne. With Dante Beze, Bok Yun Chon. (90 min.)

Two filmmakers set out to record the life of an L.A. detective. By M.K. Terrell

The Whole Nine Yards (R) ** Director: Jonathan Lynn. With Bruce Willis, Matthew Perry, Rosanna Arquette. (97 min.)

A mild-mannered dentist, in a miserable marriage, welcomes the distraction when a notorious killer moves in next door.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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