Movie Guide

Ratings and comments by David Sterritt and Monitor staff Staff comments 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 MEANING

**** Excellent *** Good ** Fair * Poor DUD The Worst

Boesman & Lena (Not rated)

Director: John Berry. With Danny Glover, Angela Bassett, Willie Jonah. (88 min.)

Sterritt **

An emotionally turbulent visit with a mixed-race couple wandering the roads outside Capetown during the bad old days of South Africa's reprehensible apartheid system. Glover and Bassett play the title characters with great energy, and Berry has invested the movie with the moral conscience that underpinned his entire career. Athol Fugard's dialogue seems written for the stage rather than the screen, though, and the stars are so eager to be interesting that they don't always manage to be convincing as well.

Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2 (R)

Director: Joe Berlinger. With Kim Director, Jeffrey Donovan, Erica Leerhsen, Stephen Baker Turner, Tristine Skyler. (90 min.)

Sterritt * This sequel to the hugely popular "Blair Witch Project" peeps at a group of adventurous young folks exploring the spooky woods where their ill-starred predecessors met a mysterious doom. The original was overrated but this follow-up is downright awful, acted and directed with a pumped-up clunkiness that makes the first film's deliberately amateurish air seem positively professional by comparison. Berlinger should stick with the moody documentaries that made him an important player on the independent-film scene.

DUD Wake me when it's over, nightmarish, head for the exits!

Sex/Nudity: 6 scenes of nudity and 1 shot of nude male backside. Violence: 28 scenes, including lots of gory stabbings, a miscarriage, a hanging, and a girl eating a dead owl with dripping blood. Profanity: 106 expressions. Drugs: 9 scenes with cigarettes, 3 scenes with marijuana, and 8 instances of alcohol.

Charlie's Angels (PG-13)

Director: McG. With Drew Barrymore, Cameron Diaz, Lucy Liu, Bill Murray, Tim Curry, Sam Rockwell, Kelly Lynch, LL Cool J, Crispin Glover, John Forsythe. (98 min.)

Sterritt ** The popular '70s television series inspired this campy romp, which has enough sassy lines - and enough of Diaz's radiant smile - to outclass most parodies of its ilk. Too bad the action scenes rarely rise above standard kung-fu comedy, diluting the film's otherwise considerable entertainment value.

The Freelancers (Not rated)

Director: Denis Dercourt. With Pierre Lacan, Marc Citti, Marie-Christine Laurent, Serge Renko. (91 min.)

Sterritt **

An amiable visit with a group of French musicians who ply their tuneful trade any way they can, happy to earn a no-frills living through an art they dearly love. The comedy is more likable than memorable, but it makes for pleasant viewing most of the way. The original title is "Les Cachetonneurs." In French with English subtitles

Kippur (Not rated)

Director: Amos Gitai, With Liron Levo, Tomer Ruso, Uri Ran Klauzner, Yoram Hattab, Guy Amir, Juliano Merr. (123 min.)

Sterritt ***

A meticulously directed look at the Yom Kippur war of 1973, focusing on the fictionalized exploits of a small military unit assigned to remove the wounded from Golan Heights combat areas. This ingeniously directed drama is both a blood-churning war movie and a mind-stirring antiwar movie, focusing not on guts and glory but on the stark realities of real battlefield experience. It confirms Gitai as the finest filmmaker Israel has ever produced. In Hebrew with English subtitles

The Legend of Bagger Vance (PG-13)

Director: Robert Redford. With Matt Damon, Will Smith, Charlize Theron, Jack Lemmon, Bruce McGill, Joel Gretsch, J. Michael Moncrief, Lane Smith, Harve Presnell. (127 min.)

Sterritt **

Traumatized by World War I, a young Southern golfer travels a downward path until he meets a mysterious black caddy who cloaks wise words in a humble disposition. Few would argue with the film's message about being true to your own best instincts. The trouble lies in its stereotypical style, its schmaltzy emotionalism, and its romanticized view of a white man's world in which it's taken for granted that even the most enlightened African-American must be a servant as well as a sage. The movie aims only at our heartstrings and tear ducts, when it could have touched our minds and consciences as well.

The Nightmare Before Christmas (PG)

Director: Tim Burton. With voices of Danny Elfman, Chris Sarandon, Catherine O'Hara, Paul Reubens, William Hickey. (75 min.)

Sterritt **

Not content to reign over Halloween, a domineering Pumpkin King tries to make Christmastime part of his domain. The visual effects of this quirky 1993 animation are sometimes stunning, but you may head for the exit if the nonstop pop-music score isn't your cup of witch's brew.

Venus Beauty Institute (Not rated)

Director: Tonie Marshall. With Nathalie Baye, Bulle Ogier, Audrey Tautou, Micheline Presle, Emmanuelle Riva. (105 min.)

Sterritt ***

The romantic adventures of several very different women who work at a Paris beauty parlor. Baye gives a stunning performance in the central role, backed by a first-rate supporting cast. The movie waits until its sublime finale before achieving greatness, though. In French with English subtitles

CURRENTLY IN RELEASE

Animal Factory (R)

Director: Steve Buscemi. With Willem Dafoe, Edward Furlong, Mickey Rourke, John Heard, Seymour Cassel, Steve Buscemi, Tom Arnold, Danny Trejo. (94 min.)

Sterritt ***

Sent to prison by a politically ambitious DA who wants to make an example of him, a first-time felon tries to serve his time quietly with the help of a thick-skinned inmate who befriends him, but one misstep after another gets him entangled with the jail's worst elements. Buscemi's directing blends hard-hitting visual qualities with great emotional energy and a refusal to let the story's message - that potentially valuable lives can be lost rather than redeemed in the brutal penitentiary system - get lost in the gut-wrenching violence that runs through it.

Bedazzled (PG-13)

Director: Harold Ramis. With Brendan Fraser, Elizabeth Hurley, Frances O'Connor (93 min.)

Sterritt **

Be careful what you wish for. Computer geek Elliot (Fraser) is granted seven wishes when he runs into a beautiful woman named the Devil (Hurley). This remake of the 1967 movie starring Peter Cook and Dudley Moore is quite funny and eye-catching. By Lisa Leigh Parney

Staff ** Stylishly produced, lightweight, very funny.

Sex/Nudity: 12 instances of innuendo. Violence: 5 mild instances, all played for laughs. Profanity: 12 mild expressions. Drugs: 4 scenes with drinking, 3 with smoking, and 1 scene in a cocaine factory.

George Washington (Not rated)

Director: David Gordon Green. With Donald Holden, Candace Evanofski, Curtis Cotton III, Eddie Rouse, Paul Schneider. (89 min.)

Sterritt ****

Set in a rural corner of the American South, this utterly original comedy-drama spins the meandering story of several poor kids going through familiar routines of growing up: exploring their interests, falling in love, and figuring out the adult world they're about to enter. Among them is the title character, an African-American boy with a physical handicap and a gallant spirit that makes him a hero in ways he never expected. Green tells the tale through leisurely, eye-catching shots that allow the young cast members to imbue their characters with striking credibility and intensity.

Lucky Numbers (R)

Director: Nora Ephron. With John Travolta, Lisa Kudrow, Tim Roth, Michael Moore, Michael Rapaport, Ed O'Neill, Bill Pullman. (105 min.)

Sterritt *

A debt-ridden meteorologist cooks up a scheme to rig a state lottery drawing in cahoots with the oversexed TV personality who pulls the numbers out of the lottery machine. A few mildly amusing gags don't outweigh the trite situations and mean-spirited attitude of this comedy, which relies too often on condescending jokes aimed at unattractive characters.

Meet the Parents (PG-13)

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

Sterritt ***1/2

Pam's dad (De Niro): 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. But smitten Greg (Stiller) tries when he realizes his beloved prefers the traditional route to the altar. Many belly laughs. By Katherine Dillin

Staff ***

Well cast, nonstop laughs, Stiller rules as the underdog.

Sex/Nudity: 1 mildly suggestive scene, 4 instances of innuendo. Violence: 3 scenes with mostly cartoonish violence. Profanity: 15 expressions, mostly mild. Drugs: 3 scenes with alcohol, 2 with tobacco, 1 scene with implied use of marijuana.

Pay It Forward (PG-13)

Director: Mimi Leder. With Kevin Spacey, Helen Hunt, Haley Joel Osment, James Caviezel, Jon Bon Jovi, Jay Mohr, Angie Dickinson. (115 min.)

Sterritt **

Challenged by an innovative schoolteacher who wants his pupils to stretch their minds in new directions, a bright 11-year-old devises a scheme to encourage kindness among strangers, and it spreads by leaps and bounds even as his own hopes run into various obstacles. You'll enjoy this sentimental drama if you feel good intentions are their own reward, at least where movies are concerned; but it'll exasperate you if you want your entertainment to have some connection with the world we actually live in.

Staff **1/2

Emotionally manipulative, excellent message, Spacey rules.

Sex/Nudity: 1 sex scene, no nudity. Violence: 5 instances, including a fatal knifing, a robbery, and a hostage situation. Profanity: 33 expressions, mostly mild. Drugs: 19 scenes, including homeless people drinking excessively, some smoking, and the main character is an alcoholic.

Sound and Fury (Not rated)

Director: Josh Aronson. With Heather Artinian, Peter Artinian, Nita Artinian. (112 min.)

Sterritt ****

Riveting documentary about two Long Island families debating the best way to raise their deaf children. One considers a surgical procedure that promises to provide normal hearing and facilitate a normal life, while the other contends that deafness is neither a handicap nor a limitation. Rarely does a movie combine so much genuine human drama with such vivid exemplifications of "identity politics" and other sociocultural issues. In English with English subtitles

A Time for Drunken Horses (Not rated)

Director: Bahman Ghobadi. With Ayoub Ahmadi, Rojin Younessi, Ameneh Ekhtiar-Dini, Mehdi Ekhtiar-Dini. (77 min.)

Sterritt ****

The poignant story of a poverty-stricken family's quest to find medical attention for a child during a harsh winter on the Iran-Iraq border. The tale is simply told but stunningly photographed and superbly acted in the best tradition of modern Iranian cinema. In Kurdish and Farsi with English subtitles

Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: 5 instances, including a brief scuffle and men fighting. Profanity: None. Drugs: 2 instances of smoking and 2 instances of pouring liquor into mules' water to serve as antifreeze.

The Yards (R)

Director: James Gray. With Mark Wahlberg, Joaquin Phoenix, Ellen Burstyn, Charlize Theron, James Caan, Faye Dunaway. (115 min.)

Sterritt ***

Determined to live an honest life after serving a prison sentence for a crime he didn't commit, a young man finds himself drawn into a network of criminal activity that grows more dangerous and violent. The cast is just right for this mini-"Godfather" yarn, and Gray's filmmaking is generally on target even if it does tend to dawdle along the way.

Sex/Nudity: 3 instances of innuendo and brief toplessness. Violence: 6 instances, including a stabbing murder and men fighting violently in street. Profanity: 63 expressions, mostly harsh. Drugs: 10 instances of drinking and smoking.

Out on video... In Stores Nov. 7

Titan A.E. (PG)

Directors: Don Bluth, Gary Goldman. With voices of Matt Damon, Drew Barrymore. (95 min.)

Sterritt ** Animated science-fiction yarn about a fight between evil aliens and Earth's last surviving spaceship 10 centuries from now.

Staff **1/2 Stunningly animated, lackluster story, diverting.

Mission: Impossible 2 (PG-13)

Director: John Woo. With Tom Cruise, Thandie Newton, Anthony Hopkins, Ving Rhames. (120 min.)

Sterritt ** Our dashing hero enlists a beautiful but devious thief in his assignment to track down the power-mad holders of a deadly new virus and its rare antidote.

Staff **1/2 Action-packed, entertaining, unoriginal, impressive stunts.

Winter Sleepers (Not rated)

Director: Tom Tykwer. With Ulrich Matthes, Marie-Lou Sellem, Heino Ferch, Floriane Daniel. (124 min.)

Sterritt *** A road accident near a small German village changes the lives of several loosely connected people including an apathetic ski instructor, a nurse who'd rather be an actress, and a movie projectionist with a passion for photography. In German with English subtitles

Coming Nov. 14

The Perfect Storm (PG-13)

Director: Wolfgang Petersen. With George Clooney, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio. (127 min.)

Sterritt *** The crew of a New England swordfishing boat battles the Worst Weather Ever while their friends and spouses wait anxiously on shore.

Staff *** An emotional ride, definitely worth seeing, terrifying water scenes.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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