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

Autumn in New York (PG-13)

Director: Joan Chen. With Richard Gere, Winona Ryder, Anthony LaPaglia, Jillian Hennessey. (105 min.) * Richard Gere plays Will, an aging skirt-chaser who falls for Charlotte, a sweet 20-something woman (Ryder) who has a terminal illness. Already, this flat storyline has problems. There's no on-screen chemistry between Gere and Ryder, and the lines are so sappy you'll want to burst out in laughter. Gere's character also fathered a child - whom he abandoned - years ago. She's grown up now and pregnant. Will Charlotte live and will Gere reunite with his daughter? By the time this insipid melodrama ends, you'll either be asleep or you probably won't care. By Lisa Leigh Parney ** Harmless, romantic distraction, no sparks, done before.

Sex/Nudity: 1 suggestive scene and 2 of implied sex. Violence: None. Profanity: 10 expressions, mostly harsh. Drugs: 6 scenes with alcohol and/or tobacco, 2 references to drug use.

The Ballad of Ramblin' Jack (Not rated)

Director: Aiyana Elliott. With Ramblin' Jack Elliott, Pete Seeger, Dave Van Ronk, Arlo Guthrie, Odetta, Kris Kristofferson. (105 min.) *** The life and times of folk singer Ramblin' Jack Elliott, capturing his public persona - part cowboy, part hobo, part folkloric researcher, part barroom raconteur - and glimpses of the private individual who's been playing this self-invented role since the 1950s. Some of the archival and interview footage is priceless, and the documentary gains extra interest from the fact that Elliott's daughter directed it, using it as a way to gain some of the fatherly attention she didn't get while growing up.

The Cell (R)

Director: Tarsem Singh. With Jennifer Lopez, Vince Vaughn, Vincent D'Onofrio, Marianne Jean-Baptiste, Jake Weber, Dylan Baker. (107 min.) *1/2 Watching "The Cell" is like being stuck in a psychedelic-washed nightmare. A comatose serial killer alone knows where his last live victim waits, so the FBI asks a child psychotherapist to enter the murderer's mind using a new technology. The story's not clever or scary so much as it is unpleasant and grisly with scenes of stabbings, an evisceration, and other such lovely excesses. Why is inhabiting the thoughts of a killer supposed to be entertaining? Bottom line: it's not. By Katherine Dillin

Claire Dolan (Not rated)

Director: Lodge Kerrigan. With Katrin Cartlidge, Vincent D'Onofrio. (95 min.) *** The dark-toned tale of a young woman working as a prostitute to help her ailing mother and pay off an old debt. Kerrigan's style is too controlled and chilly to bring across the passion he clearly feels for his subject, which is ironic, since his earlier "Clean, Shaven" is a marvel of imaginative energy. He remains a screen artist of uncommon talent, however.

Godzilla 2000 (PG)

Director: Takao Okawara. With Takehiro Murata, Naomi Nishida, Mayu Suzuki, Hiroshi Abe, Shir Sano. (97 min.) ** You want campy? Look no further than that great beast from Japan, Godzilla. The thick-skinned fella from the Toho film company swats away military missiles and tangles ferociously with an alien spacecraft. Only a scientist and his daughter who make up the Godzilla Prediction Network side with the radioactive lizard. The dubbed dialogue is as off-cue as ever, and the intentionally (we hope) terrible lines and super-fake special effects are side-splittingly funny. Amazingly, this movie stirs up some monster-size fun. By Katherine Dillin

The Opportunists (R)

Director: Myles Connell. With Christopher Walken, Peter McDonald, John Ortiz, Donal Logue, Cyndi Lauper, Tom Noonan. (89 min.) **1/2 A safecracker, who's done jailtime, finds life as a law-abiding car mechanic doesn't pay the bills. When some local dim bulbs equally desperate for cash propose a scheme for unearned dough, the ex-con considers taking another crack at the crooked path. Not a whole lot happens here, but the gentle and humorous story is ultimately about charity. Walken makes this movie's little engine purr. By Katherine Dillin *** Amiable, modest, fun casting.

Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: 3 mild scenes of violence, including 1 scuffle with punches thrown and 2 instances of breaking and entering. Profanity: 22 expressions, some harsh. Drugs: 8 scenes with alcohol.

Place Vendme (Not rated)

Director: Nicole Garcia. With Catherine Deneuve, Jean-Pierre Bacri, Emmanuelle Seigner, Jacques Dutronc, Franois Berleand, Laszlo Szabo. (105 min.) ** The emotionally troubled widow of a shady jewel dealer gets involved with a motley group of wheeler-dealers after an unexpected discovery reawakens her interest in gems and the human interactions that take place around them. The story is slow but the atmosphere is convincing, Richard Robbins's music is haunting, and Deneuve doesn't get older, she just gets better. In French with English subtitles

Ran (Not rated)

Director: Akira Kurosawa. With Tatsuya Nakadai, Satoshi Terao, Jinpachi Nezu, Daisuke Ryu. (160 min.) **** Reissue of Kurosawa's hugely respected 1985 epic, which blends a lot of "King Lear" and a little of "Macbeth" into the story of a 16th-century lord who divides his territory among three sons with disastrous results. This isn't Kurosawa's most memorable film, but it stands with the most colorful and action-packed achievements of his extraordinary career. In Japanese with English subtitles

Steal This Movie (R)

Director: Robert Greenwald. With Vincent D'Onofrio, Janeane Garofalo, Donal Logue, Jeanne Tripplehorn, Kevin Pollak, Kevin Corrigan, Troy Garrity. (108 min.) * D'Onofrio plays 1960s radical Abbie Hoffman, whose talent for guerrilla theater and love of left-wing causes made him one of the most colorful and influential members of the countercultural scene. Hoffman's ideas and exploits are certainly important enough to merit Hollywood's attention, but this superficial treatment makes so many dubious decisions - oversimplifying issues, for instance, so there'll be more time for high-flying emotion - that '60s veterans may be moved to protest rather than praise.

CURRENTLY IN RELEASE

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.

Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: 20 scenes of horror-movie style violence, including use of knives, guns, and explosions. Profanity: 8 expressions, some harsh. Drugs: 2 scenes with alcohol, 1 with tobacco, 3 with drug use or implied drug use.

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.

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.

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.

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 that will end her woes. Blethyn's lively acting and some visually amusing moments lend 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 and provides a last-minute endorsement of traditional values.

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. It's not "Grumpy Old Astronauts," and that alone is cause for gratitude! *** 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. Only one warning - very young children might be a bit scared by Diesel Ten's fumbling attempts to capture Thomas and Lady. 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 22

Beyond the Mat (R)

Director: Barry Blaustein. With Mick Foley, Terry Funk, Jack Roberts. (102 min.) **** Riveting, rambunctious documentary about the professional-wrestling scene, focusing on the personal experiences of the "athletes."

Simpatico (R)

Director: Matthew Warchus. With Nick Nolte, Sharon Stone, Jeff Bridges. (90 min.) ** Three young friends plan a criminal escapade involving a racehorse named Simpatico, but they stop being so friendly after their scheme falls apart.

Supernova (PG-13)

Director: Walter Hill. With James Spader, Angela Bassett, Robert Forster, Lou Diamond Phillips. (101 min.) DUD The utterly boring "Supernova," which liberally borrows from "Alien" and "2001," concerns a deep-space crew who encounter a nasty human killer endowed with superhuman strength.

By Stephen Humphries * Clichd, so bad it's amusing, good special effects.

The Tigger Movie (G)

Director: Jun Falkenstein. With voices of Jim Cummings, John Hurt, Nikita Hopkins. (77 min.) *** Lonely Tigger searches for his family, hoping he's not the only one of his kind. Fans of Winnie-the-Pooh and his friends will have a ball. ***1/2 Bouncy, delightful, a good moral.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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