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
A Good Baby (Not rated)
Director: Katherine Dieckmann. With Henry Thomas, Cara Seymour, David Strathairn. (89 min.)
Sterritt *** In a rural Southern community, an abandoned baby becomes a pawn in complicated relationships involving the melancholy young man who finds her, a thick-skinned woman who takes a liking to him, and a sinister traveling salesman who's deeply involved in the mystery. Dieckmann's debut film is skillfully acted, and builds a sense of true menace when Strathairn's salesman drifts onto the screen.
A Hard Day's Night (G)
Director: Richard Lester. With John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Ringo Starr, Wilfred Brambell, Victor Spinetti, Anna Quayle. (94 min.)
Sterritt **** Wit, joy, imagination, and sensational mid-'60s music spark this 1964 classic, starring the Beatles and providing a slyly fictionalized look at the skyrocketing fame that discombobulated their hitherto normal lives. Lester's filmmaking was never more inventive, and the fabulous foursome never made another movie that so perfectly suited their extraordinary talents.
Paragraph 175 (Not rated)
Directors: Rob Epstein, Jeffrey Friedman. With Rupert Everett, Klaus Muller, Annette Eick, Heinz Dormer, Pierre Seel, Gad Beck, Albrecht Becker. (81 min.)
Sterritt *** An informative documentary about how the Nazi regime used a 19th-century German law to initiate persecution of homosexuals in the Third Reich. Victimization of homosexuals during the Holocaust era has often been overlooked. Epstein and Friedman lucidly recount this woeful history, with help from Everett's articulate narration.
Director: Don Roose. With Ben Affleck, Gwyneth Paltrow, Natasha Henstridge, Jennifer Grey, Tony Goldwyn, David Paymer. (105 min.)
Staff *** 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. By Lisa Leigh Parney
Staff *** Naturalistic, Paltrow shows versatility, heartfelt, moral tale, slow-moving.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Staff *** A holiday classic, Jim Carrey's perfect, great for kids, fantastic visuals.
Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: 11 extended scenes of comic mischief. Profanity: 75 expressions, a mix of harsh and mild. Drugs: 1 mild instance.
The Sixth Day (PG-13)
Director: Roger Spottiswoode. With Arnold Schwarzenneger, Robert Duvall, Michael Rapaport. (125 min.)
Staff ** 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. Duvall steals the show as a genetic scientist, but with two Arnies causing mayhem, you get more bang for your buck. By Stephen Humphries
La Buche (Not rated)
Director: Daniele Thompson. With Emmanuelle Beart, Sabine Azema, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Claude Rich. (105 min.)
Sterritt *** The place is Paris, the time is Christmas season in high gear, and the main characters are members of a family coping as well as they can with issues of love, loss, parenthood, and infidelity. The fine cast helps an old-fashioned screenplay seem reasonably fresh most of the time. 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.
Staff *** Hollywoodized story, impassioned storytelling, lots of male bonding, inspiring tale.
Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: 8 scenes, including a graphic accident. Profanity: 75 expressions, a mix of harsh and mild. Drugs: 13 scenes with tobacco and smoking; 3 scenes of alcohol.
102 Dalmatians (G)
Director: Daniele Thompson. With Glenn Close, Ioan Gruffudd, Alice Evans, Gerard Depardieu. (94 min.)
Staff *** "Ella De Vil (Close) is unleashed from prison and instead of stealing cute canines, she helps a rundown animal shelter - simply because she absolutely loves dogs! OK, let's get real. Ella's perfectly coiffed black and white bun soon pings out of control and she returns to her former self as Cruella. She teams up with furrier Jean Pierre Le Pelt (Depardieu) and tries to steal 102 "poopies" for her dreamcoat. Close is perfectly cast as the overly dramatic and evil Cruella and the dalamatian puppies are just doggone cute.
By Lisa Leigh Parney
Staff *** Some hilarious moments, Glenn Close is marvelous, predictable, romantic.
Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: 8 scenes with comic violence, including slapping and fighting. Profanity: None. Drugs: 2 scenes with cigarettes.
Director: Philip Kaufman. With Geoffrey Rush, Kate Winslet, Michael Caine, Joaquin Phoenix, Billie Whitelaw, Patrick Malahide. (120 min.)
Sterritt ** A melodramatic visit with the infamous Marquis de Sade, set in the Charenton asylum where he was imprisoned in the later part of his life. In many respects the movie is an exercise in Grand Guignol grotesquerie, presenting de Sade in the sort of self-consciously lurid manner associated with horror and exploitation pictures. At the same time it's a deliberately toned-down account of his outrageous ideas. The acting is passionate, but the film would be more effective if it presented a more thoroughgoing lesson in the raging horrors that swept through European culture during the era of the French Revolution.
Staff **1/2 Not for the timid, Stunningly performed, intelligent.
Sex/Nudity: 23 instances, often very graphic, including nudity. Violence: 12 intensely violent scenes ranging from suicide to beheadings. Profanity: 14 expressions, mostly pornographic descriptons. Drugs: 5 scenes with alcohol.
Rugrats in Paris: The Movie (G)
Directors: Stig Bergqvist and Paul Demeyer. With John Lithgow, Debbie Reynolds, Susan Sarandon. (105 min.)
Staff ** The Rugrats are back, this time traveling to a Japanese theme park in Paris to repair (and hijack) a mechanical Godzilla - and to find a new mom for Chuckie. Potty jokes will amuse small children and dismay some parents. But some gags are for the grown ups: a karaoke chorus line of sumo wrestlers singing "Who Let the Dogs Out?" and takeoffs on other films, most notably "The Godfather." The animation is good, but the movie isn't terribly original. By M.K Terrell
Sex/Nudity: none. Violence: 9 scenes of cartoonish violence. Profanity: 1 mild expression. Drugs: none.
Sasayaki (Moonlight Whispers) (Not rated)
Director: Akihiko Shiota. With Kenji Mizuhashi, Tsugumi, Kota Kusano, Harumi Inoue. (100 min.)
Sterritt ** A teenage boy develops an obsessive crush on a girl who's not very interested in him, and her scorn has the perverse effect of increasing his infatuation all the more. Good acting and understated filmmaking turn off-putting material into a mildly engrossing drama, if not a particularly compelling one.
In Japanese with English subtitles
The Trench (Not rated)
Director: William Boyd. With Paul Nicholls, Daniel Craig, Julian Rhind-Tutt, James D'Arcy, Tam Williams. (98 min.)
Sterritt ** A company of young British soldiers wait to play their parts in the bloody Battle of the Somme in this compassionate yet rather uninvolving World War I drama. The acting is solid, but Tony Pierce-Roberts's unimaginative camera work falls short of his highest standard.
Director: M. Night Shyamalan. With Bruce Willis, Samuel L. Jackson, Robin Wright Penn. (110 min.)
Sterritt ** How did an ordinary man survive a train crash that killed everyone around him? Why does another man suffer from an illness that makes his bones as breakable as glass? Do they occupy different positions on the same physiological spectrum, and is there a supernatural purpose to their increasingly complex relationship? The plot has a fascinating premise, and Shyamalan's visual style is even more insinuating than in "The Sixth Sense," his previous picture. But the story grows sillier as it goes along, culminating in a final switcheroo that's about as deep as the comic-book ideas that inspired the plot.
Staff **1/2 Unpredictable ending, half-baked, off-beat humor, slow but interesting.
Sex/Nudity: 1 implied date rape offscreen. Violence: 3 scenes with violence, including a gun threat. Profanity: 4 mild expressions. Drugs: 2 scenes with alcohol.
What's Cooking? (PG-13)
Director: Gurinder Chadha. With Alfre Woodard, Kyra Sedgwick, Julianna Margulies. (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.
Sex/Nudity: 2 sex scenes. 1 scene of innuendo. Violence: 1 scene. A man is daubed with paint. Profanity: 23 instances, mostly mild. Drugs: 7 instances of drinking.
Director: Kenneth Lonergan. With Laura Linney, Mark Ruffalo, Matthew Broderick, Rory Culkin. (109 min.)
Sterritt *** This deftly directed comedy-drama focuses on the infrequently examin.ed 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.
Sex/Nudity: 5 nongraphic scenes. Violence: 2 scenes including a bloody fistfight. Profanity: 49 instances, both harsh and mild. Drugs: 12 instances of smokin; 11 scenes with alcohol; 3 scenes with marijuana.
IN STORES DEC. 5
Nutty Professor II: The Klumps (PG-13)
Director: Peter Segal. With Eddie Murphy, Janet Jackson, Larry Miller, Jamal Mixon, John Ales. (105 min.)
Sterritt * Murphy returns as a brilliant but bashful savant whose exotic elixir has created a foul-mouthed alter ego who wants to sabotage his marriage plans. The star's over-the-top energy isn't enough to make this hopelessly vulgar, numbingly repetitious farce worth watching.
Staff ** Crass, sloppy, unoriginal, amusing.
Director: Alan Rudolph. With Emily Watson, Nick Nolte, Will Patton, Nathan Lane. (117 min.)
Sterritt ** Watson plays a security guard whose new job in a gambling casino puts her in contact with a klutzy womanizer, a crooked businessman, and a corrupt politician, among other unsavory sorts. The acting is solid and the heroine's quirky dialogue is amusing for a while. But repetitious writing and a weakly constructed story turn the promising premise into a disappointing mishmash.
Gone in 60 Seconds (PG-13)
Director: Dominic Sena. With Nicolas Cage, Angelina Jolie. (117 min.)
Sterritt * A reformed thief has to steal 50 autos in three days or an evil thug will murder his brother. Car-chase fans may enjoy the story's action-crazy formulas, but there's no excusing its bone-crunching violence, barbaric language, and smirky sexuality.
Staff ** Surfacey, juvenile morality, fast-paced.
(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society