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

Dancer in the Dark (R)

Director: Lars von Trier. With Bjrk, David Morse, Catherine Deneuve, Peter Stormare, Cara Seymour, Udo Kier, Joel Grey, Jean-Marc Barr, Siobhan Fallon. (140 min.)

***Bjrk is riveting as a single mother who labors in a factory even though she's gradually losing her sight, saves for a surgical procedure that might save her little boy from a similar future, and gets into a deadly dispute when a neighbor threatens to ruin her plans. The other stars are von Trier's highly imaginative directing and Robby Mller's explosive cinematography, using 100 cameras to shoot the song-and-dance numbers that make this musical tragedy a celebration of life despite its awfully grim climax.

Double Parked (Not rated)

Director: Stephen Kinsella. With Callie Thorne, Noah Fleiss, William Sage, Rufus Read, Cassandra Morris. (97 min.)

** A single mother decides to become a meter maid just as her young son is learning how to break into parking meters for spare change. The plot of this dramatic comedy has a lot of other things going on as well, from the mom's romance with a local schoolteacher to the violent outbursts of her former husband, but too many clichs and too much uneven acting dilute its impact.

The Exorcist (R)

Director: William Friedkin. With Linda Blair, Max von Sydow, Ellen Burstyn, Jason Miller, Kitty Winn, Lee J. Cobb, Jack MacGowran. (130 min.)

** In both its original 1973 version and its expanded 2000 edition, this hugely popular horror yarn is less a cleverly spun story than a disjointed collection of shockeroos, surrounding a few ghoulishly effective moments with overcooked plot twists and in-your-face vulgarity. More impressive than the narrative logic are the impressively earnest performances from Burstyn as the mother of a little girl possessed by an evil spirit, Cobb as a friendly cop investigating the situation, and Von Sydow, perfectly cast as the title character, a Roman Catholic priest called in to cast the demon out.

Goya in Bordeaux (Not rated)

Director: Carlos Saura. With Francisco Rabal, Jose Coronado, Dafne Fernndez, Maribel Verd. (100 min.)

** The aging painter spends his final days remembering his youth and pining for long-ago romance. Saura evokes the chilling power of Goya's own artistry at times, but the meandering story doesn't gather much momentum and Vittorio Storaro's camera work is less awesome than usual.

House of Wax (Not rated)

Director: Andr de Toth. With Vincent Price, Carolyn Jones, Phyllis Kirk, Frank Lovejoy. Paul Picerni. (88 min.)

*** Price launched his illustrious career as a horror-movie icon with this 1953 chiller about a deranged artist who uses unfortunate victims to make attractions for his wax museum. The plot is corny, but the acting is fun and the visual effects are uproarious when the movie is shown in its original 3-D format.

Left Luggage (Not rated)

Director: Jeroen Krabb. With Laura Fraser, Maximilian Schell, Isabella Rossellini, Jeroen Krabbe, Marianne Saegebrecht, Chaim Topol, Adam Monty. (99 min.)

** A young Jewish woman who's never cared about her religion learns to broaden her horizons when she takes a nanny job in a strict Hasidic household. The drama has compelling moments and touches of imagination, but it relies more on sentiment than sense in conveying its messages about faith, family, and tradition.

30 Days (Not rated)

Director: Aaron Harnick. With Ben Shenkman, Arija Bareikis, Alexander Chaplin, Jerry Adler, Barbara Barrie, Bradley White, Thomas McCarthy. (88 min.)

** After a blind date that works out surprisingly well, a young man finds himself juggling a new romance, his best friend's wedding, and family complications. Shenkman is a likable lead and Harnick makes a competent directing debut. The comedy as a whole is very slight, though.

Under Suspicion (R)

Director: Stephen Hopkins. With Gene Hackman, Morgan Freeman, Monica Bellucci, Thomas Jane. (110 min.)

** A conscientious police officer (Freeman) interrogates a wealthy and powerful friend (Hackman) who might be involved with a series of brutal, sordid crimes. Good acting and an effectively claustrophobic mood compensate for a story that doesn't add up to much in the long run.

Currently iN RELEASE

Almost Famous (R)

Director: Cameron Crowe. With Billy Crudup, Kate Hudson, Patrick Fugit, Frances McDormand, Jason Lee. (122 min.)

*** The adventures of a very young rock-music journalist who accompanies a second-rate band on tour in the early '70s. Crowe's screenplay is loosely based on his past experiences, and a sense of authenticity and sincerity shines through the movie's Hollywood veneer. Fugit gives a starmaking performance as the teenage reporter, and Crudup and Lee are excellent as the band's lead guitarist and singer, respectively. Best of all is Hoffman as Lester Bangs, the legendary rock critic who sees gloomy prospects for a pop scene that's getting too grown-up for its own good.

*** 1/2 A valentine to '70s rock, poignant, funny.

Bait (R)

Director: Antoine Fuqua. With Jamie Foxx, David Morse, Kimberly Elise, Doug Hutchison, David Paymer. (120 min.)

** Feds use a petty thief to lure a killer into the open, manipulating the psychopath into thinking his small-time colleague knows the whereabouts of a hidden treasure trove. The comically tinged action is as lively as it is brainless, and it revels in violence a bit less eagerly than many thrillers of its ilk.

Duets (R)

Director: Bruce Paltrow. With Paul Giamatti, Gwyneth Paltrow, Andre Braugher, Maria Bello, Huey Lewis. (113 min.)

** A burned-out businessman, a gun-toting crook, an idealistic cab driver, and a hooker-turned-chanteuse are among the denizens of this meandering comedy-drama, which uses karaoke singing as a ready-made metaphor for the notion that life's true pleasures may have little to do with professional ambition. The movie is too crisp and calculated, and its interwoven subplots lead to predictable outcomes. It has some lively performances and sprightly songs, though.

** Comical, surfacey, lacks character development.

Highlander: Endgame (R)

Director: Douglas Aarniokoski. With Christopher Lambert, Adrian Paul, Bruce Payne, Ian Paul Cassidy. (100 min.)

* This is the 4th (and last?) movie in the Highlander series that also included a successful syndicated television program. Unfortunately, it is also an obvious attempt to wring the last drop of revenue from fans of what was originally a very entertaining concept. The plot is nothing new: a dangerously strong nemesis of the MacLeod clan has surfaced, intent on exacting revenge for some centuries-old offense, and the two MacLeod immortals must combine strengths to defeat him. For Highlander fans only. By Phelippe Salazar

*1/2 Confusing narrative, ultra-violent, preposterous.

VSex/Nudity: 1 explicit sex scene, 2 scenes with nudity. VViolence: 9 scenes with violence, including decapitations and bloody sword fights. VProfanity: 7 fairly mild expressions. VDrugs: 3 scenes with alcohol, 1 with tobacco.

Human Resources (Not rated)

Director: Laurent Cantet. With Jalil Lespert, Jean-Claude Vallod, Chantal Barr. (100 min.)

**** A young man becomes a front-office intern at a factory in provincial France where his father and sister work, sparking a series of events that lead to family strife and serious moral dilemmas. This superbly acted, expressively filmed story offers a rare blend of compelling drama, ethical awareness, and sheer human emotion. In French with English subtitles

*** Convincingly acted, wrenching, low-key.

VSex/Nudity: None. VViolence: 3 minor shoving incidents, 1 scene with a window being broken. VProfanity: 22 expressions, many harsh. VDrugs: 6 scenes with alcohol, 1 with tobacco.

Nurse Betty (R)

Director: Neil LaBute. With Rene Zellweger, Morgan Freeman, Chris Rock, Greg Kinnear, Aaron Eckhart. (112 min.)

** Traumatized by a horrific event she's witnessed, a woman gets the deluded idea that her favorite soap opera is real and she's the main character in it; others on hand include a loathsome husband and a pair of hitmen. Zellweger is as charming as ever, and it's good to find LaBute working with a script by writers who don't fully share his crabbed, cramped view of human nature. His directorial personality still shows through in the story's wide-eyed fascination with confusion and humiliation.

*** Enchanting whimsy, shocking torture scene, fresh.

VSex/Nudity: 1 sex scene. VViolence: 8 scenes with violence, more graphic than expected, including shooting. VProfanity: 114 expressions, mostly harsh. VDrugs: 8 scenes with alcohol, 2 with tobacco.

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.

**1/2 Profane, a scream, in-your-face.

VSex/Nudity: 10 instances of innuendo and descriptions of sexual activity. VViolence: Some talk of violence. VProfanity: 504 expressions, mostly harsh. VDrugs: One instance of smoking and drinking offstage.

The Watcher (R)

Director: Joe Charbanic. With James Spader, Marisa Tomei, Keanu Reeves, Ernie Hudson. (93 min.)

* A cop plagued by unhappy memories plays cat-and-mouse with a serial killer who torments him with hints about his future victims. The story builds occasional suspense and Michael Chapman's gritty-glossy cinematography gives it a certain oomph. The picture's real interest lies in detailing the villain's sadistic crimes, though.

The Way of the Gun (R)

Director: Christopher McQuarrie. With Benicio Del Toro, Ryan Phillippe, James Caan, Juliette Lewis. (118 min.)

**1/2 Parker and Longbaugh don't feel the 9-to-5 world is their destiny. So the two drifters try the nontraditional route to building their nest egg - kidnap a surrogate mother from a wealthy couple for a hefty ransom. Packaged with solid acting, an edgy western setting, and a complex yet intriguing weave of stories, this movie ends up being pretty entertaining. It's worth noting that there's some disturbing gore. By Katherine Dillin

** Neo-noir, dysfunctional relationships, tries to out-Coen the Coen brothers.

VSex/Nudity: 1 instance of nudity on magazine covers, 3 mild instances of innuendo. VViolence: 21 scenes with violence, including 2 very lengthy shootouts and some gruesome birth scenes. VProfanity: 98 expressions, mostly harsh. VDrugs: 4 scenes with alcohol, 12 with tobacco.

Whipped (R)

Director: Peter M. Cohen. With Amanda Peet. (85 min.)

* Three buddies meet Sunday mornings to report on the week's victories in their favorite sport: scamming women into having sex with them. Things disintegrate when they all fall in love with the same woman (Peet). New York settings, Peet's lively performance, and a cute twist at the end can't save this one from ineptitude and lack of originality. Non-stop profanity and obscene sexual talk don't help either. By M.K. Terrell

VSex/Nudity: 2 sex scenes, 2 of implied sex, 41 instances of innuendo and frank descriptions of sexual situations. VViolence: 2 scuffles. VProfanity: 257 expressions, mostly harsh. VDrugs: 6 scenes with alcohol, 2 with tobacco, 4 with both.

In stores Sept. 26

The Cup (G)

Director: Khyentse Norbu. With Orgyen Tobgyal, Neten Chokling, Jamyang Lodro. (94 min.)

**** Exiled Tibetan Buddhists practice their religion, while cooking up a plan to watch the World Cup soccer match if they can only get hold of a TV set. In Bhutanese with English subtitles

*** Innocent, beautifully filmed.

Final Destination (R)

Director: James Wong. With Devon Sawa, Kerr Smith, Tony Todd, Ali Larter, Amanda Detmer. (105 min.)

* A teen has a premonition that a plane he has boarded will explode. Pursuit by a Grim Reaper ensues in this gratuitously violent film. By Stephen Humphries

Joe Gould's Secret (R)

Director: Stanley Tucci. With Ian Holm, Stanley Tucci, Hope Davis, Susan Sarandon. (104 min.)

*** Bittersweet drama based on journalist Joseph Mitchell's real-life friendship with an eccentric writer.

The Last September (R)

Director: Deborah Warner. With Maggie Smith, Michael Gambon, Jane Birkin, Fiona Shaw. (104 min.)

*** Anglo-Irish aristocrats try to maintain their way of life despite the growing instability of Ireland after the Republican uprising of 1916.

Waking the Dead (R)

Director: Keith Gordon. With Billy Crudup, Jennifer Connelly, Janet McTeer, Hal Holbrook. (103 min.)

*** A bright young man pursues a political career in the 1980s, but is haunted by visions of a former girlfriend killed in a terrorist bombing.

Where the Heart Is (PG-13)

Director: Matt Williams. With Natalie Portman, Ashley Judd, Stockard Channing, Sally Field. (120 min.)

** Alone and penniless, a young woman gives birth in a Wal-Mart, then accepts help from an eccentric couple with generous hearts.

*** Positive, Portman's best.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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