Monitor Movie Guide

Best in Show (PG-13)

Director: Christopher Guest. With Christoph≈er Guest, Parker Posey, Michael Hitchcock, Jennifer Coolidge, Eugene Levy, Catherine O'Hara. (89 min.)

Steritt *** A visit with the dog-show set as they prepare their pooches for competition, steeling themselves for the wagging tail of victory or the droopy eyes of defeat. There's no great cinema in this mock documentary, but there are so many uproarious laughs you'll hardly notice.

The Broken Hearts Club: A Romantic Comedy (R)

Director: Greg Berlanti. With Zach Braff, Dean Cain, Andrew Keegan, John Mahoney, Matt McGrath, Timothy Olyphant, Nia Long, Mary McCormack. (105 min.)

Steritt ** The romantic adventures of several gay friends in the Los Angeles area. Berlanti's filmmaking offers little that's fresh or original, and the story seems recycled from decades of heterosexual sitcoms that play with the same type of material. The performances are perky, though.

Girlfight (R)

Director: Karyn Kusama. With Michelle Rodriguez, Jaime Tirelli, Paul Calderon, Santiago Douglas. (110 min.)

Steritt ** A teenage girl uses prizefighting as an escape route from her domineering dad and oppressive working-class home. Rodriguez's acting almost scores a knockout even though the movie's directing and dialogue are fairly routine.

The Great Dance: A Hunter's Story (Not rated)

Directors: Craig Foster, Damon Foster. With !Nqate Xqamxebe, Xlhoase Xlhokhne. (75 min.)

Steritt ** Picturesquely filmed documentary about hunters in the Kalahari region of Africa, focusing on the amazing skill and endurance they bring to the demanding task of providing food for their community. The film also suggests that their way of life is endangered and may even be dying out, although the reasons for this are left regrettably vague.

Remember the Titans (PG)

Director: Boaz Yakin. With Denzel Washington, Will Patton, Donald Faison, Nicole Ari Parker, Wood Harris, Kate Bosworth, Ryan Hurst, Ethan Suplee. (113 min.)

Steritt *** Washington is excellent as an African-American coach hired to train a high-school football team in Virginia as part of a 1971 integration effort. He turns his racially divided players into champions on and off the gridiron. The story is based on real events, but it's been Hollywoodized so completely - the coach is a saint, the victories don't stop coming, the music swells with schmaltz every chance it gets - that it can hardly be called a real-world history lesson. It has a good heart, though, and makes an amiable introduction to the integration battles of the '60s and '70s.

VSex/Nudity: None. VViolence: 9 scenes with violence, including football injuries and a shocking car crash, but nothing excessive. VProfanity: 1 mild expression. VDrugs: 1 scene in a bar, but no alcohol consumed.

Twilight: Los Angeles (Not rated)

Director: Marc Levin. With Anna Deveare Smith. (85 min.)

Steritt **** Smith recorded interviews with a wide variety of Los Angeles residents after the riots ignited by the Rodney King trial in 1992, and based this one-woman performance piece on words taken directly from these conversations. The film version is relentlessly vivid, intense, and poignant, brilliantly performed and shot through with insights into the current status of American race relations. A must-see for anyone who cares about the ability of serious art to explore complex and urgent social issues.

Two-Lane Blacktop (R)

Director: Monte Hellman. With James Taylor, Dennis Wilson, Warren Oates. (101 min.)

Steritt *** Two men race souped-up cars across the Southwestern landscape in this 1971 drama, which tries so hard for existential profundity that it almost forgets to be entertaining. The movie's reputation would certainly be less lofty if not for the visceral impact of its final moments, and Taylor is so icily hip you expect him to freeze up altogether. It crisply sums up an influential brand of ultracool '70s cinema, though.

Almost Famous (R)

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

Steritt *** The adventures of a very young rock-music journalist who accompanies a second-rate band on tour in the early '70s, chasing his story through a maze of distractions ranging from groupies and parties to the group's insecurity about its future. 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.

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

VSex/Nudity: 1 sex scene, 2 with implied sex, 3 scenes with nudity. VViolence: 1 scuffle and 1 instance of a girl getting her stomach pumped for overdose. VProfanity: 37 expressions, mostly harsh. VDrugs: 18 scenes with alcohol, 12 with tobacco, 5 with drugs.

Bait (R)

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

Steritt ** 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.

Bring It On (PG-13)

Director: Peyton Reed. With Kirsten Dunst, Jesse Bradford, Eliza Dushku, Gabrielle Union, Clare Kramer. (100 min.)

Steritt ** High-schoolers hop and holler as they vie for the cheerleading championship and workout their rivalry with a competing inner-city team. The story is as simple as the average football cheer, but the dialogue has amusing echoes of "Clueless," and Dunst and Bradford make a mighty cute couple.

Staff ** Fresh-faced, predictable, harmless, upbeat.

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

Dancer in the Dark (R)

Director: Lars von Trier. With Bjrk, David Morse, Catherine Deneuve, Peter Stormare, Cara Seymour. (140 min.)

Steritt *** 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.

Duets (R)

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

Steritt **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 to match the moods of its wild and woolly characters, and its interwoven subplots lead to predictable outcomes. It has some lively performances and sprightly songs, though.

Staff ** Comical, surfacey, lacks character development.

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.)

Steritt **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.

Human Resources (Not rated)

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

Steritt **** 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

Bossa Nova (R)

Director: Bruno Barreto. With Amy Irving, Antonio Fagundes, Alexandre Borges, Dbora Bloch. (95 min.)

Steritt *** Romantic comedy about an English teacher and an attorney who enter an unexpected love affair while assorted friends and associates search for their own happiness. In English and Portuguese with English subtitles

Staff ***1/2 Lush, romantic, witty.

Snow Day (PG)

Director: Chris Koch. With Chevy Chase, Mark Webber, Zena Grey, Schuyler Fisk, Chris Elliott. (88 min.)

Steritt ** Siblings Hal and Natalie plan to make this snow day count: Hal wants the popular girl to know he exists, and Natalie tries to stop Snowplowman from finishing his route so school closings will be extended for another day.

By Katherine Dillin

Staff **1/2 Better than expected, lighthearted, clean humor, predictable.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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