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

David Sterritt Monitorpanel Meaning **** **** Excellent *** *** Good ** ** Fair * * Poor DUD DUD The Worst

* Red stars denote the reviews of Monitor movie critic David Sterritt unless otherwise noted. Ratings and comments by the Monitor panel (* blue stars) 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.

The Art of Amalia (Not rated)

Director: Bruno de Almeida. With Amalia Rodrigues, David Byrne. (90 min.)

Sterritt*** Rock star Byrne introduces this tuneful look at the life of singer Rodrigues, an internationally renowned interpreter of Portugal's impassioned "fado" songs, so called because of their preoccupation with melancholy turns of fate. A wide range of concert and media clips lend vigor and variety to the documentary. In English and Portuguese with English subtitles

Hamlet (R)

Director: Michael Almereyda. With Ethan Hawke, Julia Stiles, Kyle MacLachlan, Diane Venora, Bill Murray, Liev Schreiber, Sam Shepard. (112 min.)

Sterritt **** Updated versions of Shakespeare are common, but there's amazingly sharp creativity in this New York-based interpretation of the timeless tragedy about a young man driven to desperation by his father's murder. The acting is smart and gritty, Almereyda's visual style has a raw immediacy found in few films with Shakespearean pedigrees, and an eclectic music score adds atmosphere and surprise every step of the way.

Keep Up Your Right (Not rated)

Director: Jean-Luc Godard. With Jean-Luc Godard, Jane Birkin, Jacques Villeret. (82 min.)

Sterritt *** This minor work by a major filmmaker tells three intertwined stories about a rock-music band, an eccentric worker, and a suicidal airplane pilot with a group of very worried passengers. Godard lends the comedy-drama an extra measure of offbeat charm with his own appearance as a sort of cinematic court jester, and the film's images grow more radiantly beautiful as it goes along. Everyday moviegoers may find its complicated structure more impenetrable than enticing, though. Made in 1987 and originally called "Soigne ta droite." In French with English subtitles

The Visit (Not rated)

Director: Jordan Walker-Pearlman. With Hill Harper, Rae Dawn Chong, Obba Babatunde, Marla Gibbs, Billy Dee Williams, Phylicia Rashad. (107 min.)

Sterritt ** Diagnosed with illness and imprisoned for a crime he swears he didn't commit, an African-American man copes with visits from ambivalent relatives, an old friend with her own problems to conquer, and a psychiatrist who wants to help him come to terms with his difficult life. The film's touches of unconventional style interfere with its emotional effectiveness at times, and some of the eclectic music score is downright distracting. The drama has a welcome air of seriousness and sincerity, though.

All the Pretty Horses (PG-13)

Director: Billy Bob Thornton. With Matt Damon, Henry Thomas, Penelope Cruz, Ruben Blades, Robert Patrick, Sam Shepherd, Lucas Black. (116 min.)

Staff **1/2 An all-but-orphaned Texan (Damon) who hungers for horses and a land without borders, flees to Mexico with his childhood pal where he finds lessons in love, death, and revenge. Or perhaps they find him, in this morally wrought drama. At times, the themes loom like Plato's absolutes, larger than the vast expanses. Occasional surprises in the camerawork and direction barely keep the adventure from slipping into tiresome epic formula. Lucas Black shines in his role as the young and pesty tagalong. By Samar Farah

VS/N: 3 scenes, no nudity. VV: 10 scenes, including torture, stabbing, fights. VP: 42 expressions, mostly mild. VD: 3 scenes with drinking, 12 scenes with smoking.

Cast Away (PG-13)

Director: Robert Zemeckis. With Tom Hanks, Helen Hunt, Nick Searcy, Chris Noth, Lari White. (143 min.)

Sterritt *** Marooned on an island in the middle of nowhere, a workaholic FedEx engineer looks within himself for the resources he needs to survive his physical, psychological, and spiritual ordeal. Hanks's extraordinary acting keeps the adventure involving even though the beginning is predictable, the middle is uneven, and the finale slips into Zemeckis's patented brand of "Forrest Gump" fuzziness.

Staff ***1/2 Best screenplay material, never a dull moment, one-man tour de force.

VS/N: 2 incidences of innuendo. VV: 5 scenes, including a plane crash, shots of a corpse, gashes and cuts and dental surgery. VP: 7 mild expressions. VD: 2 instances of drinking.

Chunhyang (Not rated)

Director: Im Kwon Taek. With Lee Hyo Jung, Cho Seung Woo, Kim Sung Nyu. (120 min.)

Sterritt **** The mythic tale of a courtesan's daughter who falls in love with a ruler's son, then suffers a thousand torments when a selfish governor decides he wants her for himself. Told through an imaginative blend of ravishing camera work and chanted "pansori" storytelling, this astoundingly beautiful Korean production is poignant, original, and engrossing. In Korean with English subtitles

The Claim (R)

Director: Michael Winterbottom. With Peter Mullan, Sarah Polley, Wes Bentley, Nastassja Kinski. (120 min.)

Sterritt ** An offbeat adaptation of Thomas Hardy's great novel, "The Mayor of Casterbridge," about a self-made man whose privileged existence masks two secrets: a sordid episode in his past, and an unstable personality that threatens to reemerge when his protege turns into a rival. It's not clear why Winterbottom has moved the story to California in 1869. In any case, his version seems more clever than heartfelt, and whether you enjoy it may depend on how much you like Robert Altman's eccentric western "McCabe and Mrs. Miller," which it uncannily resembles.

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (PG-13)

Director: Ang Lee. With Chow Yun Fat, Michelle Yeoh, Chang Chen, Zhang Ziyi, Lung Sihung. (119 min.)

Sterritt *** A war-weary warrior, a legendary sword, a restless and romantic young girl, and a rascally bandit are among the main characters of this ambitious epic. But the movie's real interest lies in a series of fighting scenes that veer between comic-book violence and cinematic ballet. The film may be too talky for action-minded viewers and too fantastic for more-serious spectators, but it brings appealing twists to the venerable martial-arts genre. In Mandarin with English subtitles

Staff **** More than a martial arts movie, transcendent, subtle acting.

VS/N: 2 scenes, no nudity. VV: 11 scenes, 2 with minor blood. VP/D: None.

Finding Forrester (PG-13)

Director: Gus Van Sant. With Sean Connery, Rob Brown, Anna Paquin, F. Murray Abraham. (136 min.)

Sterritt ** Unlikely friendship develops between a gifted black high school student and a curmudgeonly old author who won a youthful Pulitzer Prize and then slipped into sullen seclusion. The premise is more interesting than the movie, which takes several wrong turns on its way to an unconvincing conclusion. Brown gives a smartly understated performance, though, and Paquin's talent continues to blossom.

Staff *** Gentle, predictable, inspiring.

VS/N: 5 incidences of innuendo. VV: 2 scenes with youths tussling. VP: 54 expressions, both mild and harsh. VD: 8 scenes with drinking, 3 scenes with smoking.

The Gift (R)

Director: Sam Raimi. With Cate Blanchett, Keanu Reeves, Hilary Swank, Giovanni Ribisi, Greg Kinnear. (120 min.)

Sterritt ** A clairvoyant woman gives information and advice to neighbors in her rural Southern community, but danger looms when an enraged husband threatens her family and one of her clients mysteriously disappears. Blanchett leads a solid cast and Raimi gives the story a fair amount of atmosphere. Still, there's too much hokum and too little suspense in the screenplay by Billy Bob Thornton and Tom Epperson.

The House of Mirth (PG)

Director: Terence Davies. With Gillian Anderson, Dan Aykroyd, Laura Linney, Eric Stoltz. (124 min.)

Sterritt *** Anderson shines with dark beauty and somber intelligence in this sensitive adaptation of Edith Wharton's riveting novel about a socially ambitious young woman who falls prey to her own miscalculations and the unforgiving nature of foes and friends alike. Wharton's old-school compassion and Davies's taste for artfully wrought melodrama make an unusual but ultimately successful combination.

Malena (R)

Director: Giuseppe Tornatore. With Monica Bellucci, Luciano Federico, Giuseppe Sulfaro (94 min.)

Sterritt **1/2 A love-struck teenager (Sulfaro) in 1940s Sicily watches in horror as his town, lacking Jews or any other convenient scapegoats, turns against the object of his obsession, a pretty but chaste war widow (Bellucci). Prevented from earning a decent living by jealousy and cowardice of the villagers, she becomes a prostitute. Striking photography, period detail, screen-filling crowd scenes, and veteran composer Morricone's score make this one worth seeing, but the sheer nastiness of the town's people drags it down.

O Brother, Where Art Thou? (PG-13)

Director: Joel Coen. With George Clooney, John Turturro, Tim Blake Nelson, Holly Hunter, John Goodman.

(143 min.)

Sterritt ** Three small-time crooks escape from a Southern chain gang and embark on a quest for adventure, romance, and buried treasure. The screenplay by director Coen and producer Ethan Coen borrows from sources as varied as "The Odyssey" and Preston Sturges's brilliant 1941 comedy "Sullivan's Travels," about a movie director who longs to make a picture called "O Brother, Where Art Thou?" to prove what a serious guy he is. For all its ambitions, though, the Coens' odyssey is a scattershot affair with too many tricks and twists for its own good.

Shadow of the Vampire (R)

Director: E. Elias Merhige. With Willem Dafoe, John Malkovich, Catherine McCormack, Udo Keir. (91 min.)

Sterritt *** This inventive comic nightmare looks at the making of the 1921 horror classic "Nosferatu," but instead of taking a straightforward historical approach, it posits the whimsical idea that the Dracula character was portrayed by a real vampire whose price for taking the part was a bite of the leading lady's neck. Malkovich is wryly amusing as German director F.W. Murnau, and Dafoe steals the show as a vampire playing an actor playing a vampire.

State and Main (R)

Director: David Mamet. With William H. Macy, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Rebecca Pidgeon, David Paymer, Julia Stiles, Alec Baldwin, Sarah Jessica Parker. (102 min.)

Sterritt *** A movie crew barges into a New England village with a lot of problems to solve before their production can take wing: How do you make a picture called "The Old Mill" in a town with no old mill? Will the lecherous leading man keep a respectful distance from the local schoolgirls? And what will become of the nude scene now that the star refuses to get nude? Mamet's screenplay is full of savvy satire and the cast couldn't be better.

Staff *** Thoroughly entertaining, it's like "Day for Night" but with the love, scattered.

VS/N: 8 incidences of innuendo and drawings of nudes. VV: 2 scenes, fish hook caught in finger and a car crash. VP: 33 expressions, both mild and harsh. VD: 7 scenes with drinking, 6 scenes with smoking.

Sterritt *** This impeccably produced docudrama revisits the Cuban missile crisis of 1962, with Costner as a White House aide who coaches the Kennedy brothers through the worst of it. The subject is so gripping that you almost forgive the filmmakers for skewing their material in order to keep Costner's pretty face at the center of everything that happens. Greenwood and Culp are excellent as the president and his brother.

Traffic (R)

Director: Steven Soderbergh. With Michael Douglas, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Benicio Del Toro, Amy Irving, Don Cheadle, Luis Guzman, Dennis Quaid, Miguel Ferrer. (140 min.)

Sterritt *** Although its screenplay is based on a British television series, this multifaceted drama amounts to a commentary on the American war against illicit drugs, with characters ranging from Mexican and American cops to a federal drug czar whose daughter has a weakness for the very narcotics he's pledged to eradicate. Some of the action seems a bit confused, as if necessary story material were left on the cutting-room floor, and sentimentality creeps in at times. Still, the picture's thoughtfulness and ambition make it unusually suspenseful, gripping, and disturbing.

(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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