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: 'The Godfather': 10 behind-the-scenes stories about the making of the classic films

**** **** Excellent

*** *** Good

** ** Fair

* * Poor

DUD DUD The Worst

NEW RELEASES

Criminal Lovers (Not rated) ** Director: Franois Ozon. With Natacha Rgnier, Jrmie Rnier, Miki Manojlovic, Salim Kechiouche, Yasmine Belmadi. (95 min.)

A teenage girl persuades her boyfriend to kill a man she doesn't like. While disposing of the body, they fall into the clutches of a lascivious old hermit, who takes them both captive. Ozon generates a high charge of suspense at some points in the aggressively grisly story, but its eventual failure to make sense indicates that it's intended more as a surrealistic fable than an ordinary sex-and-violence adventure. The great Luis Buuel, who appears to be a strong influence on Ozon, had a far deeper mastery of sardonic melodrama like this. In French with English subtitles

The Eyes of Tammy Faye (PG-13) *** Directors: Fenton Bailey, Randy Barbato. With Tammy Faye Bakker Messner, Jim Bakker, RuPaul Charles, Pat Boone. (79 min.)

Entertaining documentary about the life and times of Tammy Faye Bakker, who helped her husband Jim Bakker construct a televangelist empire that ultimately crashed amid a storm of corruption, rivalry, and betrayal. Riveting stuff.

Pokmon: The Movie 2000 (G) *** Directors: Kunihiko Yuyama, Michael Haigney. With voices by Eric Stuart, Veronica Taylor, Philip Bartlett, Rachel Lillis, Addie Blaustein. (84 min.)

When the powers of fire, ice, and lightning (represented by three large birds) are captured and earth's harmony is thereby disturbed, Pokmon trainer, Ash, discovers that only he can save the day. The challenge of weaving the gazillion Pokmon characters together in one story is met with ease, including threads of subtle, moral lessons and clean, simple jokes. Where other movies seem bound to treat kids like adults, "Pokmon" allows kids to be kids, and just enjoy a wholesome, entertaining, well thought-out animation. By Christy Ellington

Sex/Nudity/Profanity/Drugs: None. Violence: 13 scenes with mild violence, including lightning bolts and big waves.

Rififi (Not rated) **** Director: Jules Dassin. With Jean Servais, Carl Mhner, Marie Sabouret, Robert Manuel, Perlo Vita. (118 min.)

Reissue of the French thriller that caper films were measured against for years after its 1954 release. The title is street-slang for "rough stuff," and there's plenty of that as a tough-as-leather ex-con puts together a jewel heist with various shady pals, including an Italian safecracker pseudonymously played by director Dassin himself. Among the picture's many surprises is a superb robbery scene filmed in a near-total silence that contrasts exhilaratingly with the noisy flamboyance of more recent films in this venerable genre. In French with English subtitles

Two Women (Not rated) **** Director: Tahmineh Milani. With Niki Karimi, Marila Zare'i, Atila Pesiani, Mohammad Reza Forutan. (96 min.)

A gifted young woman excels in her studies at a Tehran university, but her progress is interrupted when a mentally disturbed man begins stalking her -a difficult situation in any culture, and intensified here by prejudice against women who go into the world instead of remaining cloistered at home. This gripping Iranian production shows unflinching concern for the plight of talented women in a male-dominated society, making serious sociological points through episodes driven by heart-pounding melodrama. In Farsi with English subtitles

What Lies Beneath (PG-13) *** Director: Robert Zemeckis. With Michelle Pfeiffer, Harrison Ford, Diana Scarwid, Joe Morton, Miranda Otto, James Remar, Wendy Crewson, Ray Baker. (130 min.)

Pfeiffer plays a woman who has good reasons for thinking her New England house is haunted, but can't figure out who the ghost might be, or how to persuade her scientist husband that something sinister is in the air. A few scenes indulge in overstated hokum or thriller clichs, but Pfeiffer is first-rate and several sequences are suspenseful enough to deserve that overused adjective, Hitchcockian. **1/2 Bloodcurdling, relentless pace, well done.

Sex/Nudity: 1 scene implied sex, 1 suggestive scene. Violence: 7 scenes with violence, including chilling attempts at murder. Profanity: 2 expressions, 1 mild and 1 harsh. Drugs: 5 scenes with alcohol.

The Wisdom of Crocodiles (R) *** Director: Po Chih Leong. With Jude Law, Elina Lwensohn, Timothy Spall, Kerry Fox, Jack Davenport. (98 min.)

This brooding British drama follows a modern-day vampire who strikes up intense and possibly redemptive relationships with an affectionate girlfriend and a compassionate cop. The picture is a little too pretentious to achieve its artistic and emotional goals, but its ambition and imagination are impressive at times.

CURRENTLY IN RELEASE

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. *** Funny, poignant, nothing new.

Sex/Nudity: 1 sex scene, 1 suggestive scene, 5 scenes with homosexual kissing, 15 instances of sexual innuendo. Violence: None. Profanity: 39 expressions, many harsh or obscene. Drugs: 1 scene with alcohol and tobacco, 3 with tobacco.

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. (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. Fine fantasy fun. **1/2 Light summer flick, adorable, artificial.

Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: 1 mild schoolyard fistfight. Profanity: 5 mild expressions. Drugs: 6 scenes with alcohol.

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. Look out for huge amounts of disgusting humor. ***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. (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. (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.

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. A very few detergent-clean funny moments. 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.

Shaft (R) * Director: John Singleton. With Samuel L. Jackson, Jeffrey Wright, Christian Bale. (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. **1/2 Flashy, style conscious, funny.

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.

X-Men (PG-13) ** Director: Bryan Singer. With Patrick Stewart, Halle Berry, Ian McKellen, Famke Janssen. (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. ** Fun, creative, random, roughdraft quality, aimed at teens.

Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: 12 scenes of violence, including a bar fight and special effects with a bullet. Profanity: 3 mild expressions. Drugs: 2 scenes with alcohol, 2 with tobacco.

OUT ON VIDEO

COMING SOON...

(In Stores July 25)

The Beach (R) ** Director: Danny Boyle. With Leonardo DiCaprio, Tilda Swinton, Robert Carlyle, Virginie Ledoyen. (119 min.)

A young American and two French companions make their way to an exotic Thai island, and they find more danger than they ever expected. *1/2 Aimless, idyllic scenery but dull story line, poor character development.

Drowning Mona (PG-13) *1/2 Director: Nick Gomez. With Danny DeVito, Bette Midler, Neve Campbell, Jamie Lee Curtis. (95 min.)

When Mona's car veers off a cliff and into a river, everyone in a small town is suspected of murder. ** By Stephen Humphries

Strained humor, unappealing characters, depressing at times.

Magnolia (R) ** Director: Paul Thomas Anderson. With Tom Cruise, Julianne Moore, John C. Reilly. (185 min.)

A large-scale panorama of life in Los Angeles, focusing on a varied cast of characters - an insecure policeman, a woman-hating sex lecturer, a dying media mogul, and others - linked by connections with the world of TV quiz shows. **1/2 Challenging, grim view of life, in search of an ending, great cast chemistry.

The War Zone (R) *** Director: Tim Roth. With Ray Winstone, Tilda Swinton, Lara Belmont, Freddie Cunliffe. (99 min.)

A harrowing drama about an English teenager who suspects his father may be sexually abusing his 17-year-old sister. The film is sensitive, but this is an explicit portrait of family dysfunction.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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