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The Monitor Movie Guide

August 25, 2000

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.

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David Sterritt Monitor panel Meaning

**** **** Excellent

*** *** Good

** ** Fair

* * Poor

DUD DUD The Worst


Bittersweet Motel (Not rated)

Director: Todd Phillips. With the rock band Phish. (84 min.) *** On tour with Phish, which prides itself on improvisational music that's unpredictable enough to satisfy the loyal fans who follow the group from gig to gig. The movie is as loose and lanky as the band's style, which should please groupies and newcomers alike.

The Cell (R)

Director: Tarsem Singh. With Jennifer Lopez, Vincent D'Onofrio, Marianne Jean-Baptiste, Vince Vaughn, Dylan Baker, Jake Weber. (115 min.) ** Lopez plays a psychotherapist who makes a high-tech journey into the mind of a demented serial killer in a desperate effort to help the police figure out where he's stashed his latest victim. The action is as grisly as it is surrealistic, which is what you'd expect from a cinematic visit to a particularly loathsome subconscious. But the film's patches of lurid sensationalism are partly offset by the director's explosive visual imagination, which keeps the screen jumping when the plot and dialogue sag. Howard Shore's music adds a dose of pounding energy.

Sex/Nudity: 5 scenes with nudity, mostly autopsied bodies. Violence: 24 scenes of gruesome violence, ranging from a child beating to a man being gutted. Profanity: 31 expressions, mostly mild. Drugs: 1 scene with alcohol, 5 with tobacco.

God's Army (PG)

Director: Richard Dutcher. With Richard Dutcher, Matthew Brown, Jacque Gray. (108 min.) ** The adventures of a young Mormon who signs up for two years of door-to-door missionary work in Los Angeles, guided by a mentor whose life turns out to be unexpectedly complex. At heart, this is more a Mormon recruiting film than a three-dimensional drama, but it provides fascinating glimpses of a subject that Hollywood hardly ever touches.

Orfeu (Not rated)

Director: Carlos Diegues. With Toni Garrido, Patricia Frana, Murilo Bencio, Zez Motta, Milton Gonalves. (110 min.) ** This modern-day telling of the ancient Orpheus myth, set in Rio de Janeiro during the carnival season, chronicles the ill-starred love of a gifted pop singer and a woman whisked away from him by death. There's more seductive acting and streetwise grittiness here than in the 1959 musical "Black Orpheus," which this version responds to with a comparatively high measure of social and political consciousness; but Diegues's approach doesn't escape its own lapses into artificiality and clich. Caetano Veloso's music is mighty pleasant, though. In Portuguese with English subtitles

The Original Kings of Comedy (R)

Director: Spike Lee, With Steve Harvey, D.L. Hughley, Cedric the Entertainer, Bernie Mac. (117 min.) ** A session with four popular African-American comedians, filmed during the North Carolina portion of an enormously well-attended tour. Sometimes they're truly hilarious; sometimes they're lazy enough to milk laughs from scattershot vulgarity; and sometimes they try to pummel the audience into submission with humor so belligerent you don't know whether to give a nervous laugh or hide under your seat. It's hard to say which moments the on-screen spectators love most, since they appear to be howling with amusement from beginning to end.

Sex/Nudity: 10 instances of innuendo and descriptions of sexual activity. Violence: Some talk of violence. Profanity: 504 expressions, mostly harsh. Drugs: One instance of smoking and drinking offstage.

Smiling Fish and Goat on Fire (R)

Director: Kevin Jordan. With Derick Martini, Steven Martini, Christa Miller, Bill Henderson. (90 min.) *** A small-scale comedy about two Los Angeles brothers with different personalities - the title comes from nicknames their grandmother gave them - and varying solutions to the challenges they face when new girlfriends enter their lives. Henderson steals the show as an elderly African-American man befriended by one of the main characters.

Solomon and Gaenor (R)