Monitor Movie Guide

Stars denote the reviews of Monitor movie critic David Sterritt unless otherwise noted. Ratings and comments by the Monitor panel (Staff) 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

**** Excellent

*** Good

** Fair

* Poor

DUD The Worst

All About Eve (Not rated)

Director: Joseph L. Manciewicz. With Bette Davis, George Sanders, Anne Baxter, Celeste Holm, Hugh Marlowe, Thelma Ritter, Marilyn Monroe. (138 min.)

Sterritt **** Heaped with Oscars in 1950, this classic show-business drama continues to hold up splendidly thanks to its savvy dialogue, indelible performances, and sardonic story about a clever young actress (Baxter) who worms her way into the life of a glamorous Broadway star (Davis) who's beginning to show her age. They don't make 'em like this anymore!

Bamboozled (R)

Director: Spike Lee. With Damon Wayans, Jada Pinkett-Smith, Savion Glover, Michael Rapaport, Tommy Davidson, Susan Batson. Mos Def. (135 min.)

Sterritt *** Spurred by a mixture of personal and professional motives, an African-American writer dreams up an outrageous TV concept - a modern-day minstrel show - and contrary to his expectations it becomes a smash, making blatant racism the hottest thing in entertainment. The movie mixes in-your-face comedy with over-the-top plot twists and outspoken social commentary. It's a unique blend of history and hysteria, and there's no escaping the dead-serious ideas that run beneath its flamboyant surface.

Meet the Parents (PG-13)

Director: Jay Roach. With Ben Stiller, Robert De Niro, Nicole DeHuff, Blythe Danner, Owen Wilson. (108 min.)

Staff ***1/2 Pam's dad: ex-CIA, a character somewhat reminiscent of the cat-loving James Bond nemesis Ernst Blofeld, absolutely paranoid, not likely to smile or chuckle. Try asking his permission for his daughter's hand in marriage. Scary. But brave Greg tries when he realizes his beloved prefers the traditional route to the altar. Many belly laughs and sweet moments. By Katherine Dillin

Requiem for a Dream (R)

Director Darren Aronofsky. With Ellen Burstyn, Marlon Wayans, Jennifer Connelly, Jared Leto. (102 min.)

Sterritt ** This deliberately disturbing melodrama focuses on New Yorkers with different kinds of addictions: an aging woman hooked on fantasies of being thin and famous, and two young men hooked on drug dealing. Solid acting helps the story stay earthbound when Aronofsky's filmmaking gets addicted to its own flashy cynicism, but the picture sometimes seems as dazed and confused as the situations it wants to criticize. Based on Hubert Selby Jr.'s fierce novel "Last Exit to Brooklyn."

Taboo (Gohatto) (Not rated)

Director: Nagisa Oshima. With Beat Takeshi, Ryuhei Matsuda, Shinji Takeda, Tadanobu Asano. (100 min.)

Sterritt *** The irony-tinged tale of a 19th-century warrior whose entrance into a samurai legion sparks multiple rivalries among colleagues who court his affections. The movie's most striking assets are its lyrical visual style, which forms a silky counterpoint to the plot's turbulent emotions, and Beat Takeshi's smooth and expressive performance as a senior warrior. What dominates the picture, though, is its surprising and revealing look at gay impulses in the ferocious samurai world. In Japanese with English subtitles

Two Family House (R)

Director: Frank De Felitta. With Michael Rispoli, Katherine Narducci, Kelly MacDonald, Kevin Conway. (104 min.)

Sterritt *** Longing for a more exciting life, a would-be singer buys a run-down house big enough to set up his own neighborhood saloon where his friends can congregate, his income can swell, and he can provide the entertainment. But he and his wife have to deal with the couple who already live there, one of whom is an abused (white) woman who gives birth to an adorable (black) baby, sparking eruptions of bigotry in almost everyone they know. De Felitta dodges the temptations of sentiment and preachiness.

Urban Legends: Final Cut (R)

Director: John Ottman. With Jennifer Morrison, Matthew Davis, Hart Bochner, Loretta Devine. (98 min.)

Staff * Morrison is a film student at a school that pays lip service to the "master of suspense" ("What would Hitchcock do?") but practices the art of making bad pictures (like this one). As Morrison directs her thesis film, someone keeps bumping off her cast and crew. This mess of a movie occasionally works as a satire of film schools and moviemaking, but someone should have pushed "delete" before it got out of the word processor.

By M.K. Terrell

VSex/Nudity: 2 sex scenes. VViolence: 13 scenes with violence, including clubbing and stabbing. VProfanity: 52 expressions, some harsh. VDrugs: 5 scenes with alcohol and/or tobacco, 1 with alcohol and drugs.

Yi Yi (A One and a Two) (Not rated)

Director: Edward Yang. With Wu Nienjen, Issey Ogata, Elaine Jin, Kelly Lee, Chen Xisheng. (173 min.)

Sterritt **** The insightful story of a Taiwanese family facing various challenges: a grandmother is seriously ill, a granddaughter fears she contributed to this crisis, her father's computer company is considering a risky venture, and touches of jealousy are affecting the household's moods. These ingredients could have added up to a heated domestic melodrama, but Yang favors a gentle and introspective style that shows how deep and strong everyday emotions can run. A memorable treat. In Taiwanese, Mandarin, Japanese, and English with English subtitles

Almost Famous (R)

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

Sterritt *** 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.

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.

Duets (R)

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

Sterritt ** 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. (130 min.)

Sterritt ** 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.

Girlfight (R)

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

Sterritt ** 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.

Staff *** Great story, powerful, impressive directorial debut.

VSex/Nudity: 1 mildly suggestive scene. VViolence: 11 scenes with violence, including 1 domestic incident, the rest of boxing but nothing graphic. VProfanity: 66 expressions, many harsh. VDrugs: 2 scenes with alcohol and tobacco.

Nurse Betty (R)

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

Sterritt ** 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.

Staff *** 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.)

Sterritt ** 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 nonstop 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.

Staff **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.

Remember the Titans (PG)

Director: Boaz Yakin. With Denzel Washington, Will Patton, Donald Faison, Nicole Ari Parker, Wood Harris. (113 min.)

Sterritt *** 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 - 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.

Sterritt *** Feel-good, inspiring, keeps moving.

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

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

Sterritt * 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.

U-571 (PG-13)

Director: Jonathan Mostow. With Matthew McConaughey, Harvey Keitel, Bill Paxton. (120 min.)

Sterritt ***American sailors are ordered to pose as Germans and capture an encryption device from a Nazi U-boat.

The Skulls (PG-13)

Director: Rob Cohen. With Joshua Jackson, Paul Walker, Leslie Bibb, Craig Nelson. (107 min.)

Staff *A poor student at Yale University is invited to join a secret society. A silly little thriller. By Lisa Leigh Parney

in stores oct. 10

Committed (R)

Director: Lisa Krueger. With Heather Graham, Casey Affleck, Luke Wilson, Patricia Velazquez. (98 min.)

Staff *1/2 A young wife heads west to bring home her deserting husband in this fluffy comedy. By Katherine Dillin

Love and Basketball (PG-13)

Director: Gina Prince-Bythewood. With Sanaa Lathan, Omar Epps, Alfre Woodard. (124 min.)

Sterritt **1/2 A story about a girl and boy who grow up to pursue their hoop dreams. By Lisa Leigh Parney

Staff *** Refreshing, cute, clichd.

Pitch Black (R)

Director: David Twohy. With Vin Diesel, Rhada Mitchell, Keith David. (107 min.)

Sterritt **1/2 When a crew's spaceship crashes on a desolate planet, they must escape a plague of nasty, nocturnal, indigenous creatures. By Stephen Humphries

Staff **Good sci-fi concept, low-budget style, preposterous.

Rules of Engagement (R)

Director: William Friedkin. With Samuel L. Jackson, Tommy Lee Jones, Guy Pearce. (127 min.)

Sterritt * A military lawyer defends an old friend court-martialed on charges of killing civilians while they demonstrated outside the US embassy in a Middle Eastern country.

Staff ** Macho, stiff, dry, plot-heavy, sincere.

Shanghai Noon (PG-13)

Director: Tom Dey. With Jackie Chan, Owen Wilson, Lucy Alexis Liu, Brandon Merrill. (110 min.)

Sterritt *** Chinese Imperial Guard Chon Wang must save a kidnapped princess in America's Wild West. By Katherine Dillin

Staff ***A good time, action-packed.

Time Code (R)

Director: Mike Figgis. With Salma Hayek, Jeanne Tripplehorn, Kyle MacLachlan. (93 min.)

Sterritt *** The plot focuses on the film industry, but the different aspects of the story unfold at the same time on four adjacent portions of the screen.

Staff **1/2 Avant-garde, pointless, one big clich, too much for one viewing.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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