Movie guide

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 (v), drugs (d), sex/nudity (s/n), and profanity (p) is compiled by the Monitor panel.

STAR RATINGS

David Sterritt Monitor panel Meaning **** **** xcellent *** *** Good ** ** Fair * * Poor DUD DUD The Worst

New Releases Nowhere To Hide (Not rated)

Director: Lee Myung-Se. With Park Joong-Hoon, Ahn Sung-Ki, Jang Dong-Kun, Choi Ji-Woo. (100 min.)

** A crafty policeman chases a shifty drug merchant through a fast-moving series of encounters and evasions. The action of this South Korean melodrama is fast and furious, but its emotions and ideas don't manage to keep up. In Korean with English subtitles

The Personals (Not rated)

Director: Chen Kuo-fu. With Rene Liu, Chin Shih-chieh, Chen Chao-jung, Wu Bai, Gu Bao-ming. (104 min.)

*** Looking for a suitable husband, a young physician places a personal ad in the newspaper and sets about interviewing a wide assortment of mostly unsuitable men for the position. Liu is dazzling as the heroine, and the movie as a whole strikes a lovely balance between comedy and compassion.

Save the Last Dance (PG-13)

Director: Thomas Carter. With Julia Stiles, Sean Patrick Thomas, Vince Green, Terry Kinney. (110 min.)

** For Sara Johnson (Stiles), ballet is her life. But when her mom dies in a car accident, her life pirouettes out of control. Sara must move in with her estranged father in a rough neighborhood of Chicago and attend a mostly black high school. There, she meets a handsome black teen who inspires her to step back into the groove and put some hip-hop in her moves. It's a decent enough movie, but it tries to incorporate too many ideas at once - overcoming adversity, succeeding in ballet, an interracial relationship, life on the street. It would have been stronger had it zeroed in on one theme. By Lisa Leigh Parney

VS/N: Some suggestive dancing; implied sex. VV: 5 scenes, including a car accident, fistfights, and gunfire. VP: 111 harsh expressions. VD: 3 with smoking, 1 with drinking.

Currently in Release

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.)

**1/2 An all-but-orphaned Texan (Damon) who hungers for horses and a land without borders, flees with his childhood pal to Mexico, 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 tag-along. 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.

An Everlasting Piece (R)

Director: Barry Levinson. With Barry McEvoy, Brian O'Byrne, Anna Friel, Billy Connolly, Ruth McCabe, Pauline McLynn. (103 min.)

*** Two barbers (McEvoy and O'Byrne) meet while cutting hair in an asylum and hatch a plan to sell hairpieces. Before they can get the exclusive franchise for Northern Ireland, however, they must get past their religious differences, a rival outfit (Toupee or Not Toupee), the Royal Constabulary, the IRA, a wig-hungry rottweiler, and a spunky girlfriend (Friel). McEvoy's understated screenplay is full of wit and subtle surprises. By M.K Terrell

VS/N: 2 scenes, including male backside nudity. VV: 6 scenes including man biting an ear. VP: 126 mostly harsh expressions. VD: 4 scenes with drinking, 9 scenes with smoking.

The Art of Amalia (Not rated)

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

*** 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

Cast Away (PG-13)

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

*** 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.

STERRITT***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.

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (PG-13)

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

*** 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

STERRITT**** 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.)

** 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.

STERRITT*** Gentle, predictable, inspiring.

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

The House of Mirth (PG)

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

*** 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, Matilde Piana, Pietro Notarianni. (94 min.)

**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. By M.K Terrell

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

Director: Joel Coen. With George Clooney, John Turturro, Tim Blake Nelson, Holly Hunter, John Goodman. (143 min.)

** 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.

VS/N: 2 scenes of implied sex. VV: 11 scenes, including beating a man. VP: 57 mostly mild expressions. VD: 3 scenes with alcohol, 2 instances of smoking.

Thirteen Days (PG-13)

Director: Roger Donaldson. With Kevin Costner, Bruce Greenwood, Steven Culp, Dylan Baker, Henry Strozier, Len Cariou, Frank Wood. (120 min.)

*** This impeccably produced docu-drama 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. 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. (140 min.)

*** 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.

***1/2 Richly layered, both compelling and sad, innovative, ambitious.

VS/N: 4 scenes of implied sex; 2 incidences of innuendo. VV: 8 scenes, including torture. VP: 104 mostly harsh expressions. VD: 11 scenes with drugs and drug taking. 7 instances of alcohol; 7 scenes with smoking.

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.)

** 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.

(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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