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

Billy Liar (Not rated)

Director: John Schlesinger. With Tom Courtenay, Julie Christie, Wilfred Pickles, Mona Washbourne, Finlay Currie, Ethel Griffies, Leonard Rossiter, Rodney Bewes. (98 min.)

Sterritt **** Courtenay and Christie headed toward international stardom on the strength of this marvelous 1963 comedy about a young man whose fantasy life far outstrips his regrettably drab life as an English undertaker's assistant. A pungent pleasure from start to finish.

Bounce (PG-13)

Director: Don Roose. With Ben Affleck, Gwyneth Paltrow, Natasha Henstridge, Jennifer Grey, Tony Goldwyn, David Paymer (105 min.)

Parney *** Paltrow stars as Abby, a real estate agent who tries to "bounce back" after her husband dies in a plane crash. As it turns out, Buddy (Affleck), a self-absorbed advertising agent, switched his ticket with a stranger he met in Chicago (Abby's husband) at the last minute. Riddled with guilt, Buddy shows up on her Los Angeles doorstep a year later to see if she's all right. Buddy then falls for her, but his "secret" creates problems. The movie is well acted, deeply moving, and unlike some love stories, it doesn't feel forced or contrived.

Sex/Nudity: 2 bedroom scenes with no nudity, and 1 instance of innuendo. Violence: aftermath of a plane crash. Clothing is ripped in a dog attack. Profanity: 24 expressions, some harsh. Drugs: 13 scenes with alcohol. 3 scenes with cigarettes.

By Lisa Leigh Parney How the Grinch Stole Christmas (PG)

Director: Ron Howard. With Jim Carrey, Molly Shannon, Jeffrey Tambor, Christine Baranski, Bill Irwin. (105 min.)

Sterritt *** A lavishly produced adaptation of Dr. Seuss' classic children's book about a mountain-dwelling monster who decides to make the residents of nearby Whoville as grouchy as he is in the Yuletide season. Carrey is excellent, making the most of his comic gifts even in a cumbersome Grinch outfit, and the eye-spinning color scheme is dazzling to behold. The movie ultimately seems more entranced by its own effects than by the Christmas spirit itself, though.

Lies (Not rated)

Sterritt * Director: Jang Sun Woo. With Lee Sang Hyun, Kim Tae Yeon. (105 min.)

Sterritt * A married artist embarks on a kinky love affair with a younger woman. This sexually explicit South Korean drama aims more to jolt than to illuminate, but it illustrates an aspect of Asian cinema that globally minded moviegoers should know about as films from that region take on more international prominence. In Korean with English subtitles

What's Cooking? (PG-13)

Director: Gurinder Chadha. With Alfre Woodard, Dennis Haysbert, Lainie Kazan, Maury Chaykin, Kyra Sedgwick, Julianna Margulies, Mercedes Ruehl, Isidra Vega, Douglas Spain, Joan Chen, Will Yun Lee, Kristy Wu, Estelle Harris, Victor Rivers. (106 min.)

Sterritt *** A warm and winning Thanksgiving visit with several families in an American neighborhood as they celebrate the holiday in the spirit of their diverse ethnic backgrounds. Splendid acting, a screenplay as likable as it is unpredictable, and an undercurrent of deep human generosity make this a particularly engaging comic-dramatic experience.

The Sixth Day (PG-13)

Director: Roger Spottiswoode. With Arnold Schwarzenneger, Robert Duvall, Michael Rapaport, Tony Goldwyn (125 min.)

** Arnie's got his groove back in this sci-fi thriller, his best movie since "True Lies" in 1994. The Austrian hero plays an average suburbanite (try to suppress your laughter) who discovers he's been cloned by an evil corporation. There's a tad more discussion of the pros and cons of cloning than you'd expect from a shoot'em-up like this one, and the movie has a lot of fun designing plausible technology of the near future. In just five scenes Duvall steals the show as a genetic scientist, but with two Arnies causing mayhem, you get more bang for your buck.

By Stephen Humphries Currently iN RELEASE The Bridge (Not rated)

Directors: Gerard Depardieu, Fred Auburtin. With Gerard Depardieu, Carole Bouquet. (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

Charlie's Angels (PG-13)

Director: McG. With Drew Barrymore, Cameron Diaz, Lucy Liu, Bill Murray, Tim Curry, 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.

**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.

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.

** Sappy, good-natured, philosophically empty, shallow attempt at "Field of Dreams"

Sex/Nudity: 3 suggestive scenes. Violence: 1 war scene. Profanity: 21 mostly mild. Drugs: 8 instances of smoking. 5 scenes with alcohol.

Little Nicky (PG-13)

Director: Steven Brill. With Adam Sandler, Harvey Keitel, Patricia Arquette, Rhys Ifans, Kevin Nealon, Dana Carvey, Ozzy Osbourne. (84 min.)

* Adam Sandler plays Nicky, the soft-hearted son of Satan who is forced to save the world from evil. Sandler's humor has worked well before in "Happy Gilmore" and "The Waterboy," but his schtick is tiresome. Throughout the entire movie, he uses his well-known cajun accent and contorts his face into one of pain (the movie explains that he got hit in the face with a shovel as a child). Stoner jokes, awful gags, and just stupid stuff equate to one bad movie.

By Lisa Leigh Parney 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.

*** Hollywoodized story, impassioned storytelling, lots of male bonding, inspiring tale.

Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: 8 scenes, including graphic accident. Profanity: 75 expressions, a mix of harsh and mild. Drugs: 13 scenes with tobacco and smoking; 3 scenes of alcohol.

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. 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 acts like a ninja warrior. In short, the picture crash-lands as disastrously as the heroes.

* Stale, undeveloped, worst Mars movie yet.

Sex/Nudity: 1 scene with partial nudity. Violence: 5 instances of violence including 2 with gory special effects. Profanity: 22, mostly mild expressions. Drugs: 2 scenes with Alcohol.

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 and a traditional suspense yarn. In Mandarin with English subtitles

A Time for Drunken Horses (Not rated)

Director: Bahman Ghobadi. With Ayoub Ahmadi, Rojin Younessi, Ameneh 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

***1/2 Unaffected docudrama, heartrending, both tender and harsh

Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: 5 instances, including a brief scuffle and men fighting. Profanity: None. Drugs: 2 instances of smoking and 2 scenes with alcohol.

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

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. Yang favors a gentle and introspective style that shows how deep everyday emotions can run. A memorable treat. In Taiwanese, Mandarin, Japanese, and English with English subtitles

You Can Count on Me (R)

Director: Kenneth Lonergan. With Laura Linney, Mark Ruffalo, Matthew Broderick. (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 where they grew up. Wittily written and deliciously acted, Lonergan’s debut film is a cut above the average.

In Stores Nov. 21

Chicken Run (G)

Directors: Peter Lord, Nick Park. With voices of Mel Gibson, Miranda Richardson, Julia Sawalha, Imelda Staunton. (86 min.)

Sterritt *** It’s a dark day for the poultry when their owner decides to switch from the egg industry to the chicken-pie business. There are some fine laughs in this clever Claymation cartoon from the creator of England’s “Wallace and Gromit” movies.

*** “Egg-cellent,” top family fare.

Gladiator (R)

Director: Ridley Scott. With Russell Crowe, Joaquin Phoenix, Oliver Reed, Richard Harris. (150 min.)

Sterritt ** Sold into slavery by an emperor’s jealous son, a Roman general spends his time slaying fellow gladiators before bellowing crowds and dreaming of revenge against you-know-who.

*** Ambitious, bloody, grand.

Price of Glory (PG-13)

Director: Carlos vila. With Jimmy Smits, Jon Seda, Clifton Gonzlez Gonzlez, Maria del Mar. (118 min.)

Sterritt ** A father tries to manage his sons’ boxing careers, hoping to spare them the exploitation that cheated him out of success. The filmmakers go for realism and a positive message, but some audiences may wish they had picked a sport with less physical damage. By M.K. Terrell

X-Men (PG-13)

Director: Bryan Singer. With Patrick Stewart, Halle Berry, Ian McKellen, Famke Janssen. (105 min.)

Sterritt ** Based on a popular comic book, this action-packed adventure takes its cue from the idea that people with exotic powers don’t always become superheroes, but may turn bitter and hostile when ordinary folks find their special qualities too “weird” to tolerate.

** Fun, creative, roughdraft quality.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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