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

Bring It On (PG-13)

Peyton Reed. With Kirsten Dunst, Jesse Bradford, Eliza Dushku, Gabrielle Union, Clare Kramer. (100 min.) ** Ready? OK! The Toro cheerleading squad from Rancho Carne High School in San Diego has enough spunk and spirit to win their sixth national championship trophy. Only there's one problem: the new team captain, Torrance (Dunst), discovers that their routine was stolen from a hip-hop high school squad in inner-city Los Angeles. The movie is funny and can at times be overly silly, but it sheds light on the whole subculture of cheerleading and its competitive nature. So hey, bring it on! By Lisa Leigh Parney ** Fresh-faced, predictable, harmless, upbeat.

Sex/Nudity: 6 instances of sexual innuendo. Violence: 3 mild instances of violence, including slapping, a hard-hitting football sequence, and a bloody nose. Profanity: 62 expressions, mostly mild. Drugs: 1 instance of prescription-drug abuse.

The Bulls' Night Out (Not rated)

Lindley Farley. With Jack Marnell, Steve Kasprzak, A.J. Johnson, J.J. Flash, Russ Romano. (90 min.) ** Hanging out in their favorite saloon, a group of retired cops decide to shake up the local drug scene with some vigilante action of their own. The movie has a sense of streetwise immediacy that works in its favor, but its effort to match the emotional urgency of John Cassavetes's great films quickly falls short of the mark.

The Crew (PG-13)

Michael Dinner. With Burt Reynolds, Richard Dreyfuss, Dan Hedaya, Seymour Cassel, Carrie-Anne Moss, Jennifer Tilly, Jeremy Piven. (88 min.) * Facing a rent increase, four retired thugs in Miami concoct a shady scheme to combat the hike. But watching this cast of middle-aged actors pretending to be nearly on their deathbeds (and working with a script riddled with old-folk jokes from 5 o'clock dinners to bodily functions) is just plain old depressing. A criminal use of some good actors.

By Katherine Dillin

Sex/Nudity: 2 scenes with sex, 2 with nudity; 6 suggestive scenes, including innuendo and a strip club. Violence: 15 scenes with violence, including baseball-bat beatings as well as more comic moments. Profanity: 50 expressions, mostly mild. Drugs: 5 scenes with alcohol, 8 with tobacco, 4 with both.

Madadayo (Not rated)

Akira Kurosawa. With Tatsuo Matsumura, Kyko Kagawa, Hisashi Igawa, Jji Kokoro. (134 min.) ** Completed in 1993, this is the final work of a towering Japanese director whose later films unfortunately didn't equal his early masterpieces. The title means "not yet," reflecting the spirited attitude of the main character, an elderly teacher who uses those words to refute any suggestion that his life is drawing to a close. In the story, former students organize a tribute to their beloved mentor, but director Kurosawa's warm humanism isn't strong enough to generate a similar degree of affection in the audience watching this wordy, wearying drama.

Sex/Nudity: None Violence: None Profanity: 3 mild expressions. Drugs: 5 scenes with alcohol, 5 with tobacco, 2 with both.

Titanic Town (Not rated)

Roger Michell. With Julie Walters, Ciaran Hinds, Nuala O'Neill, James Loughran, Barry Loughran. (96 min.) *** Outraged by the sectarian violence that's disrupting her neighborhood, a middle-aged Irish mother decides to take matters into her own hands and wage a war for peace, even as she copes with domestic challenges, including her teenage daughter's first love affair. Michell treats the Irish troubles of the 1970s with clear-eyed compassion, and Walters's performance ranks with her best.

CURRENTLY IN RELEASE

Autumn in New York (PG-13)

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. 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. Drugs: 6 scenes with alcohol and/or tobacco, 2 references to drug use.

The Ballad of Ramblin' Jack (Not Rated)

Aiyana Elliott. With Ramblin' Jack Elliott, Pete Seeger, 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 '50s. 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 fatherly attention she didn't get as a child.

Sex/Nudity: Some innuendo. Violence: None. Profanity: 19 expressions, a few harsh. Drugs: 3 scenes with alcohol, 6 with tobacco, 1 with marijuana.

Bless the Child (R)

Chuck Russell. With Kim Basinger, Jimmy Smits, Holliston Coleman, Christina Ricci, Ian Holm. (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. * Worthless, scary, vivid, nicely cast.

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.

The Cell (R)

Tarsem Singh. With Jennifer Lopez, Vincent D'Onofrio, Vince Vaughn, Dylan Baker. (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.

Godzilla 2000 (PG)

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. 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 *1/2 Vintage Godzilla, hokey, better on TV.

Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: 24 scenes of campy, bloodless violence. Profanity: 8 instances, mostly mild. Drugs: 2 scenes with alcohol and tobacco.

The Opportunists (R)

Myles Connell. With Christopher Walken, Peter McDonald, John Ortiz, Cyndi Lauper. (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.

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.

The Original Kings of Comedy (R)

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.

The Replacements (PG-13)

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.

Sex/Nudity: 3 instances of innuendo. Violence: 14 scenes with roughhousing, punches, and bar fights. Profanity: 88, mostly harsh. Drugs: 6 instances of drinking, 8 with smoking.

Saving Grace (R)

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. *** Likable characters, unexpected, chuckle-filled.

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.

Smiling Fish and Goat on Fire (R)

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.

Space Cowboys (PG-13)

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.

Steal This Movie (R)

Robert Greenwald. With Vincent D'Onofrio, Janeane Garofalo, Jeanne Tripplehorn. (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 1960s veterans may be moved to protest rather than praise. ** Sympathetic, shallow, sensationalized.

Sex/Nudity: 4 scenes of implied sex, 3 scenes with nudity. Violence: 13 scenes with violence, many of police aggression during protests. Profanity: 112 expressions, many harsh. Drugs: 3 scenes with alcohol, 7 with tobacco, 4 with both, 5 with marijuana.

OUT ON VIDEO

Any Given Sunday (R)

Oliver Stone. With Al Pacino, Cameron Diaz, Jamie Foxx, James Woods, Dennis Quaid. (130 min.) *** Pacino plays the aging coach of a football team that's seen better days, and Foxx is excellent as a stylish new player who revitalizes the franchise. **1/2 Most machismo in a movie ever, vulgar, jerky camera movements.

COMING SOON...

In stores Sept. 5

American Psycho (R)

Mary Harron. With Christian Bale, Reese Witherspoon, Willem Dafoe. (100 min.) ** A crazed yuppie divides his time between power lunches on Wall Street and vicious murders in the streets and skyscrapers of a Manhattan suffering from its own hyperactive madness in the narcissistic '80s. **1/2 Grotesque, dark satire, eerily humorous.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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