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

An Affair of Love (R) *** Director: Frdric Fonteyne. With Nathalie Baye, Sergi Lopez, Paul Pavel, Sylvie Van den Elsen. (80 min.)

The romantic adventure of a couple who begin their relationship on a purely sensual basis but eventually develop some insight into each other as complex human beings. Baye and Lopez are excellent, as always. Also known as "A Pornographic Affair." In French with English subtitles

Aime & Jaguar (Not rated) *** Director: Max Frberbck. With Maria Schrader, Juliane Khler, Johanna Wokalek, Heike Makatsch. (125 min.)

A love affair develops between two German women near the end of the Nazi era, adding to the danger and uncertainty brought into their lives by the social and historical situation around them. Much of the acting is splendid, and Frberbck has directed the story with a canny blend of liveliness and taste. In German with English subtitles

Bless the Child (R) ** Director: Chuck Russell. With Kim Basinger, Jimmy Smits, Holliston Coleman, Rufus Sewell, Christina Ricci, Ian Holm, Dimitra Arlys, Lumi Cavazos, Angela Bettis. (105 min.)

A little girl becomes a pawn in a Manhattan-based battle between forces of heavenly goodness and Satanic evil. This is an old-style supernatural thriller in the vein of "The Omen" and "The Exorcist," often trite and predictable but grudgingly likable in the end. If the eye-jolting shocks don't keep you awake, the patches of howlingly awful dialogue will certainly do the trick.

Cecil B. Demented (R) *** Director: John Waters. With Melanie Griffith, Stephen Dorff, Alicia Witt, Ricki Lake, Patricia Hearst. (88 min.)

A movie actress is kidnapped by a band of guerrilla filmmakers and forced to star in their latest no-budget epic, which they hope will expose Hollywood as a money-driven fraud and enshrine their anti-aesthetic in its place. The comedy is frantic and tasteless in the usual Waters mode, but it takes telling potshots at the Hollywood establishment, which isn't nearly so open about the tackiness of its products.

The Films of Jay Rosenblatt (Not rated) **** Director: Jay Rosenblatt. With clips from pre-existing movies. (80 min.)

Rosenblatt is an avant-garde filmmaker who takes "found footage" from other movies and assembles it into dreamlike collages of his own. His visual style is brilliantly creative, recalling works by Bruce Conner and other masters of this genre. His voice-over narrations often impose an overly literal quality, though, making the movies more accessible but preventing them from reaching full imaginative freedom. Included in this collection are the brief "Restricted," the surreal "Short of Breath," an essay on male childhood called "The Smell of Burning Ants," a memoir about religion and movie mania called "King of the Jews," and the recent "Human Remains," about a gallery of 20th-century dictators.

Gimme Shelter (R) *** Directors: Albert Maysles, David Maysles, Charlotte Zwerin. With the Rolling Stones. (91 min.)

Reissue of the widely viewed 1970 documentary about a free concert given by the Rolling Stones at the Altamont Racetrack in San Francisco, which erupted into violence when fans scuffled with motorcycle-gang members who'd been drafted as security guards. The topic is well-suited to the Maysles brothers, who helped pioneer reality-centered "direct cinema" techniques in their 1968 masterpiece "Salesman" and other documentaries. Here they allow the more sensationalistic aspects of their subject to affect the movie's pace and structure, though, unwittingly demonstrating the impossibility of unadulterated realism in nonfiction film.

The Replacements (PG-13) * Director: Howard Deutsch. With Gene Hackman, Keanu Reeves, Brooke Langton, Jack Warden. (115 min.)

The heroes are a bunch of strike-breaking athletes who agree to replace a picketing football team. The movie is so vulgar and incoherent that even Hackman's gifts can't score a touchdown. Add the grotesque racial stereotypes, the irresponsible gunplay, the treatment of a bitter strike as an occasion for smirks and mockery, and the demeaning depiction of women, and you have a losing package all around.

CURRENTLY IN RELEASE

Alice and Martin (R) *** Director: Andr Tchin. With Juliette Binoche. (123 min.)

The love affair of an attractive musician and a young man with a troubled family history. Tchin's tendency to exert tight control over every aspect of his movies can make them seem chilly, but this drama is richly photographed and enhanced by Binoche's steadily appealing performance. In French with English subtitles *** Well directed, stunning cinematography, a bit stiff, disjointed.

Sex/Nudity: 2 scenes with nudity; 1 with men kissing; 1 instance of innuendo. Violence: 5 scenes with violence, including a scuffle with very serious consequences. Profanity: 30 expressions, some harsh. Drugs: 8 scenes with alcohol, 11 with tobacco, 5 with both.

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.

Coyote Ugly (PG-13) ** Director: David McNally. With Piper Perabo, Adam Garcia, Maria Bello, Melanie Lynskey, John Goodman. (94 min.)

A sweet New Jersey girl prone to stage fright strikes out on her own to break into the songwriting business in New York City. Until she does, she takes a job at a bar named Coyote Ugly where the crowds are wild and the bartenders wear tight clothing and dance raucously on the counter. Won't her dad (Goodman) be proud? No, and neither is her boyfriend, Kevin. No grand opus, but more fun than expected. By Katherine Dillin **1/2 Fairly innocent, sometimes sappy, silly.

Sex/Nudity: 1 instance of implied sex; 3 mildly suggestive scenes, including stages of undress; and lots of suggestive dancing at the bar. Violence: 6 scenes with violence, including bar brawls. Profanity: 22 mostly mild expressions. Drugs: 13 scenes with alcohol, many of them long.

Hollow Man (R) * Director: Paul Verhoeven. With Kevin Bacon, Elisabeth Shue, William Devane, Mary Randle. (114 min.)

A scientist experiments on himself in this violent new version of the old "Invisible Man" formula, overstuffed with high-tech effects that turn Bacon into a living "Gray's Anatomy" illustration. Verhoeven was once an interesting director, but this is fatuous twaddle with a nasty, misogynistic edge.

Loser (PG-13) ** Director: Amy Heckerling. With Jason Biggs, Mena Suvari, Greg Kinnear, Thomas Sadoski, Dan Aykroyd. (100 min.)

College freshman Paul dangles precariously on the losing end of things - he's too nice to be hip, his party-addicted roommates won't let him study, and he's got to woo the girl of his dreams from their snappy-dressing English professor. Can nice guys finish first? A lighthearted winner. By Katherine Dillin ** Sweet, pretty wholesome, spunky.

Sex/Nudity: 4 mildly suggestive scenes, 5 instances of innuendo. Violence: 1 fistfight. Profanity: 15 expressions, some harsh. Drugs: 7 scenes with alcohol, 3 with tobacco, 1 instance of doping fruit juice.

Nutty Professor II: The Klumps (PG-13) * Director: Peter Segal. With Eddie Murphy, Janet Jackson, Larry Miller, Jamal Mixon, John Ales. (105 min.)

Murphy returns as a brilliant but bashful savant whose exotic elixir has created a foul-mouthed alter ego who wants to sabotage his marriage plans. The star's over-the-top energy isn't enough to make this hopelessly vulgar, numbingly repetitious farce worth watching. ** Crass, sloppy, unoriginal, amusing.

Sex/Nudity: 6 scenes either with nudity or of a suggestive nature, rather coarse; 12 instances of innuendo. Violence: 7 scenes of mostly cartoonish violence. Profanity: 83 expressions, some harsh. Drugs: 8 scenes with alcohol and/or tobacco.

Pokmon: The Movie 2000 (G) *** Directors: Kunihiko Yuyama, Michael Haigney. With voices by Eric Stuart, Veronica Taylor, Philip Bartlett. (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. By Christy Ellington

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

Saving Grace (R) ** Director: Nigel Cole. With Brenda Blethyn, Craig Ferguson, Martin Clunes, Tcheky Karyo, Phyllida Law. (93 min.)

Faced with overwhelming debts after her husband's untimely death, a feisty widow puts together her remaining assets -a flair for gardening and a few shady friends - and starts a marijuana farm in her greenhouse, hoping for a quick profit to end her woes. Blethyn's lively acting lends spice to this minor but engaging comedy, which takes several twists on its way to a happy ending that restores the heroine's basic decency.

Sex/Nudity: 1 scene with nudity, 3 instances of innuendo. Violence: 4 scenes with violence, including a threat with a knife. Profanity: 28 expressions, many harsh. Drugs: 9 scenes with alcohol and/or tobacco, 6 with marijuana.

Space Cowboys (PG-13) *** Director: Clint Eastwood. With Clint Eastwood, Donald Sutherland, Tommy Lee Jones, James Garner. (126 min.)

Three aging test pilots undertake a NASA mission to repair a Soviet space satellite in orbit, uncovering a cold-war secret along the way. The story takes a while to get started, but the acting is lively, the special effects are snazzy, and the picture's last couple of minutes pack a bittersweet punch. *** Classy, fun, engaging, intelligent.

Sex/Nudity: 1 instance of mild nudity. Violence: 2 mild fistfights. Profanity: 83 expressions, only 1 of them harsh. Drugs: 4 scenes with alcohol.

Thomas and the Magic Railroad (G) *** Director: Britt Allcroft. With Peter Fonda, Mara Wilson, Alec Baldwin, Didi Conn, Russell Means. (84 min.)

"Thomas and the Magic Railroad" is a delightful way to spend an afternoon with a preschooler. Gently funny and uplifting - but not preachy - the movie chronicles the adventures of Thomas, a very useful engine, and Mr. Conductor (played with genuine enthusiasm and a hint of mischievousness by Alec Baldwin) as they try to prevent the villain, a train called Diesel Ten, from destroying Lady, the special engine that makes Thomas's universe possible. By Tom Regan

Sex/Nudity/Profanity/Drugs: None Violence: 5 scenes of mild violence, including Diesel Ten threatening folks with his mechanical pincer.

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.

OUT ON VIDEO

(In Stores august 15)

The Cider House Rules ** (PG-13)

Director: Lasse Hallstrm. With Tobey Maguire, Michael Caine, Charlize Theron. (140 min.)

An orphan grows up under the guidance of an eccentric physician, moves to a different sort of life in a community of African-American laborers, and undergoes a series of adventures that test his understanding of life's often-conflicting rules and assumptions. *** Tender, lovingly photographed, captivating.

Erin Brockovich (R) *** Director: Steven Soderbergh. With Julia Roberts, Albert Finney, Aaron Eckhart. (131 min.)

Roberts plays a tough-talking but warm-hearted woman who wangles a job in a lawyer's office and becomes fascinated by a real-estate transaction involving a utility company and a family that's been dogged by a surprising amount of illness. **** Gripping, outstanding, explosive.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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