Movie guide

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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

Recommended: 'Tootsie': 5 stories from the set

The Bridge (Not rated)

Directors: Gerard Depardieu, Fred Auburtin. With Gerard Depardieu, Carole Bouquet, Charles Berling. (92 min.)

Sterritt *** The gently told story of a married woman whose love affair with her husband's employer has considerable consequences for herself and her family. Sensitive acting and a detailed sense of location help distinguish this commendably modest production. The original French title is "Un Pont entre deux rives." In French with English subtitles

Men of Honor (R)

Director: George Tillman Jr. With Cuba Gooding Jr., Robert De Niro, Charlize Theron, Michael Rapaport. (127 min.)

Sterritt ** An old-fashioned melodrama inspired by the life of an African-American man who rose from a sharecropper's family in the segregated South to become a master Navy diver despite the bigotry he encountered in the newly integrated military. Gooding and De Niro bring their characters to vivid life despite the unsubtle screenplay and hyperactive music score.

Non-Stop (Not rated)

Director: Sabu. With Diamond Yukai, Tomoro Taguchi, Shinichi Tsutsumi. (82 min.)

Sterritt ** Three low-life men - a gangster, a bank robber, and a drug-abusing clerk - pursue one another down Tokyo streets until their brains are so scrambled they can hardly remember who's chasing whom and for what. This tragicomic tale doesn't have the supercharged brilliance of "Run Lola Run," which it occasionally resembles, but it's certainly fast-moving and action fans should enjoy it. In Japanese with English subtitles

Red Planet (PG-13)

Director: Antony Hoffman. With Tom Sizemore, Val Kilmer, Carrie Anne Moss, Terence Stamp. (110 min.)

Sterritt * Astronauts visit Mars in 2050 to find out why Earth's preparations for colonizing the planet have mysteriously failed, but an emergency landing wrecks their plans, deluging them with deadly threats. The screenplay spices its science-fiction cliches with occasional pop-theology cliches, but what the filmmakers really care about is creepy-crawly aliens and a runaway robot that looks like a dog and acts like a ninja warrior. In short, the picture crash-lands as disastrously as the heroes and never quite recovers its wits.

Restless (Not rated)

Director: Jule Gilfillan. With Catherine Kellner, David Wu, Sarita Choudhury, Geng Le, Josh Lucas. (98 min.)

Sterritt ** A young American woman seeks adventure and romance in China, where her acquaintances include a Chinese-American man who's scarcely more at home in Beijing than she is. The story is likable if not memorable, and the Chinese settings lend the basically ordinary plot a touch of novelty. In English and Mandarin with English subtitles

Suzhou River (Not rated)

Director: Lou Ye. With Zhou Xun, Jia Hongsheng, Nai An, Yao Anlian, Hua Zhongkai. (83 min.)

Sterritt *** A young man finds himself in mysterious waters when he enters a kidnapping scheme, falls in love with the victim, loses her in a moment of violence, and becomes fixated on a young woman who may or not be not be his vanished lover. Adding more layers to the story is the fact that it's narrated by a videomaker who might have lived these events, or might be spinning them from his imagination even as we watch them. Clearly influenced by Alfred Hitchcock's masterpiece "Vertigo," this offbeat Chinese production is at once an innovative art film, a traditional suspense yarn, and a moody voyage through Shanghai's gritty back roads. In Mandarin with English subtitles

Urbania (Not rated)

Director: Jon Shear. With Dan Futterman, Alan Cumming, Matt Keeslar, Barbara Sukowa, Lothaire Bluteau, Josh Hamilton, Gerry Bamman. (105 min.)

Sterritt ** City life and urban legends as seen through the eyes of a gay man wandering the streets of New York, where he encounters an assortment of friends and foes. The story evokes a lot of varied emotions, but none runs more than an inch below skin deep.

You Can Count on Me (R)

Director: Kenneth Lonergan. With Laura Linney, Mark Ruffalo, Matthew Broderick, Rory Culkin. (109 min.)

Sterritt *** This deftly directed comedy-drama focuses on the infrequently examined subject of emotional relations between a grown-up brother and sister - in this case, a successful businesswoman and an immature drifter whose lives take on new complexity when he wanders back to the town where they grew up. Wittily written and deliciously acted, Lonergan's debut film is a clear cut above the average.

The Little Vampire (PG)

Director: Ulrich Edel. With Jonathan Lipnicki, Richard E. Grant, and Jim Carter, Alice Krige. (95 min.)

Staff **1/2 We humans have gotten it all wrong lo these many centuries. Vampires just want to be like us. The movie's eight-year-old hero, Tony (Lipnicki) and his friendship with a vampire his own age, make this all apparent. The first Harry Potter knock-off is a mixed bag of great special effects, endearing innocence, and some realistic vampire scenes (albeit cows replace humans as the object of the blood-suckers) and the usual Hollywood backhand at Christianity. Do you bring your eight-year- old to this movie? Only if you already let him or her watch the full melange of horror flicks on late night TV. Be ready for nightmares if you do. By Jim Bencivenga

Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: 16 instances, including vampire attacks, bad dreams, bullying, and 2 implied murders. Profanity: None. Drugs: 4 instances of cigar smoking and 1 scene of drinking.

Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2 (R)

Director: Joe Berlinger. With Kim Director, Jeffrey Donovan, Erica Leerhsen, Stephen Baker Turner. (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.

Staff 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.

Staff **1/2 Lively, humorous, kitsch fun, actresses let their hair down.

Sex/Nudity: 1 implied sex scene. 1 scene with brief nudity and numerous scenes with scanty clothing. Violence: 3 scenes with violence, including a gun threat. Profanity: 4 expressions, mostly mild. Drugs: 16 scenes with drinking and smoking.

George Washington (Not rated)

Director: David Gordon Green. With Donald Holden, Candace Evanofski, Curtis Cotton III, 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.

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. (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.

Requiem for a Dream (Not rated)

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 novel "Last Exit to Brooklyn."

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 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.

Venus Beauty Institute (Not rated)

Director: Tonie Marshall. With Nathalie Baye, Bulle Ogier, Audrey Tautou, Micheline Presle. (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

Wonder Boys (R)

Director: Curtis Hanson. With Michael Douglas, Tobey Maguire, Frances McDormand, Rip Torn. (112 min.)

Sterritt ** The "Wonder Boys" returns to theaters this weekend. In the movie, Douglas and Maguire play writers at opposite ends of their careers, and both are apprehensive about what will happen when (and if) they finish the books they're working on. Douglas gives a nicely relaxed performance as the world-weary professor, but Maguire delves into an all too-familiar bag of tricks that grows tiring. While the story takes some clever turns, its momentum flags long before the finale.

Staff **1/2 Drug-hazed, wicked and wacky, good acting, somewhat a downer.

Sex/Nudity: Implied adultery, 2 instances of implied sex. Violence: 3 scenes with violence, including a gun threat. Profanity: 31 expressions, mostly mild. Drugs: 17 scenes with alcohol, smoking, and/or marijuana.

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

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

Sterritt **** The insightful story of a Taiwanese family facing various challenges: a grandmother is ill, a granddaughter fears she contributed to this crisis; her father's 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

In Stores Nov. 14

Fantasia/2000 (G)

Directors: Pixote Hunt, Hendel Butoy, Eric Goldberg, James Algar, Francis Glebas, Gatan Brizzi, Paul Brizzi. With Steve Martin, Bette Midler. (75 min.)

Sterritt *** This ambitious Disney production opened on giant-size IMAX screens before moving to regular theaters. Although it's less novel and feisty than the original "Fantasia" of 1940, the collection of music-filled animations is highly entertaining at times.

Big Momma's House (PG-13)

Director: Raja Gosnell. With Martin Lawrence, Nia Long, Paul Giamatti. (105 min.)

Staff ** Lawrence makes his summer debut playing FBI agent Malcolm Turner. He heads down South to stakeout the house of Big Momma, whose soon-to-visit granddaughter used to date a recently escaped bank robber. When Big Momma has to leave town, Turner goes undercover as Big Momma. By Christy Ellington

Staff ** Funny, predictable, silly.

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. Fish elsewhere if you want originality; but dive right in if you're looking for an old-fashioned entertainment that delivers corny romance, turbulent action, and enough wave-churning seascapes to make "Titanic" seem landlocked.

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

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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