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

New releases

If... (Not rated)

Director: Lindsay Anderson. With Malcolm McDowell, Richard Warwick, Christine Noonan. (111 min.)

Sterritt**** Revolution strikes a repressive school for boys in this 1968 classic, which both embodies and critiques the rebellious atmosphere of the '60s era. At once comic, surrealistic, and outrageous, the movie marks a high point in Anderson's filmmaking career.

Mr. Rice's Secret (Not rated)

Director: Nicholas Kendall. With David Bowie, Bill Switzer, Teryl Rothery, Garwin Sanford, Richard de Klerk. (93 min.)

Sterritt ** A mysterious ring plays a pivotal role in this youth-centered tale about a boy who's helped by an enigmatic man as he copes with challenges of illness and growing up. The drama is likably low-key but builds little excitement, and Bowie's star billing says more about the power of his agent than the number of scenes he appears in.

Panic (R)

Director: Henry Bromell. With William H. Macy, Neve Campbell, Donald Sutherland, Tracey Ullman, John Ritter. (88 min.)

Sterritt ** A professional killer worries about his little boy, converses with his father and his psychiatrist, and starts an affair with a younger woman in this brooding, understated thriller. The atmosphere is more compelling than the plot, but the story does pack a surprise or two.

Persona (Not rated)

Director: Ingmar Bergman. With Liv Ullmann, Bibi Andersson, Margaretha Krook, Gunnar Bjornstrand. (81 min.)

Sterritt **** This great Swedish masterpiece from 1966 explores the mysteries of identity and personality through the story of a psychologically afflicted actress and a well-meaning nurse who develop an intricate relationship while sojourning together in an isolated house. The radically unusual style Bergman employs here suggests fascinating new ideas about the mysteries of cinema, as well.

In Swedish with English subtitles

Currently in Release

Antitrust (PG-13)

Director: Peter Howitt. With Tim Robbins, Ryanne Phillippe, Claire Forlani, Rachael Leigh Cook. (120 min.)

Staff **1/2Robbins (the man you love to mistrust) plays a Bill Gates-type computer magnate fending off the Federal Trade Commission while creating a new system to monopolize global communications. When his newly recruited programming whiz (Phillippe) realizes his boss is more sinister than even the government suspects, he sets out to expose him. Flashy editing and visuals make this a fun ride, but can't overcome the sheer unbelievability of it all. Still, it's refreshing to see young computer geniuses portrayed as something resembling normal people. By M.K. Terrell

Cast Away (PG-13)

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

Sex/Nudity: 2 incidences of innuendo. Violence: 5 scenes, including a plane crash, shots of a corpse, gashes and cuts and dental surgery. Profanity: 7 mild expressions. Drugs: 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.)

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.

Sex/Nudity: 2 scenes, no nudity. Violence: 11 scenes, 2 with minor blood. Profanity: None. Drugs: None.

Double Take (PG-13)

Director: George Gallo. With Orlando Jones, Eddie Griffin, Gary Grubbs, Daniel Roebuck. (88 min.)

Staff **1/2 Hardly anybody is what they seem in this Hitchcock spoof (call it "South by Southwest"). A New York banker (Jones) wrongly suspected of murder, trades identities with a crazy con artist from the streets (Griffin) and flees the city for Mexico, pursued by drug dealers, police, FBI, and a little dog with sharp teeth. Not a good picture, but the two leads often rise above the convoluted plot, sloppy continuity, ethnic stereotyping, and excessive violence to provide some genuinely funny moments. By M.K. Terrell

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.

Sex/Nudity: 5 instances of innuendo. Violence: 2 scenes with youths tussling. Profanity: 54 often harsh expressions. Drugs: 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, Katie Holmes, Michael Jeter, J.K. Simmons, Gary Cole, Chelcie Ross, Kim Dickens, Lynnsee Provence, Hunter McGilvray, David Brannen. (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 acquaintances 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.)

Staff **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

Save the Last Dance (PG-13)

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

Staff ** 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

Sex/Nudity: Some suggestive dancing; implied sex. Violence: 5 scenes, including a car accident, fistfights, and gunfire. Profanity: 111 harsh expressions. Drugs: 3 with smoking, 1 with drinking.

Snatch (R)

Director: Guy Ritchie. With Brad Pitt, Benicio Del Toro, Dennis Farina, Vinnie Jones, Jason Statham. (104 min.)

uu1/2 He's known as "the husband of Madonna," but can Guy Ritchie direct? Yes! Ritchie's flashy command of the film medium is used to quite audacious effect in this gangster comedy which centers around attempts to snatch a 65-carat diamond. If the film is too similar to Ritchie's first movie, "Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels" with its multiple story lines, complex plotting, and double-crossing antics, it's at least colorfully told with dialogue that shines with the inventive slang of Ritchie's screenplay. Violent, but the Tarantino fan will enjoy it. By Stephen Humphries

Thirteen Days (PG-13)

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

uuu 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.

uuu Awful Boston accent by Costner, Greenwood is phenomenal as JFK, gripping.

Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: 3 war scenes including plane being shot down. Drugs: 15 scenes with cigarettes. 5 scenes with alcohol.

Traffic (R)

Director: Steven Soderbergh. With Michael Douglas, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Benicio Del Toro, Dennis Quaid. (140 min.)

uuu 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.

uuu1/2 Richly layered, both compelling and sad, innovative, ambitious.

Sex/Nudity: 4 scenes of implied sex; 2 incidences of innuendo. Violence: 8 scenes, including torture. Profanity: 104 mostly harsh expressions. Drugs: 11 scenes with drugs and drug taking. 7 instances of alcohol; 7 scenes with smoking.

IN STORES JAN. 23

Alice and Martin (R)

Director: Andre Techine. With Juliette Binoche, Alexis Loret, Carmen Maura, Pierre Maguelon, Marthe Villalonga, Jeremy Kreikenmayer, Eric Kreikenmayer, Jean-Pierre Lorit, Mathieu Amalric. (123 min.)

Sterritt *** The love affair of an attractive musician and a young man with a troubled family history. Techine's tendency to exert tight control over every aspect of his movies can make them seem chilly, but this drama is richly photographed and enhanced by Binoche's steadily appealing performance. In French with English subtitles

Bait (R)

Director: Antoine Fuqua. With Jamie Foxx, David Morse, Kimberly Elise, Doug Hutchison, David Paymer, Mike Epps, Jamie Kennedy, Robert Pastorelli, Nestor Serrano. (120 min.)

Sterritt ** Feds use a petty thief to lure a killer into the open, manipulating the psychopath into thinking his small-time colleague knows the whereabouts of a hidden treasure trove. The comically tinged action is as lively as it is brainless, and it revels in violence a bit less eagerly than many thrillers of its ilk.

Cecil B. Demented (R)

Director: John Waters. With Melanie Griffith, Stephen Dorff, Alicia Witt, Ricki Lake, Patricia Hearst. (88 min.)

Sterritt *** A movie actress is kidnapped by a band of guerrilla filmmakers and forced to star in their latest no-budget epic, which they hope will expose Hollywood as a money-driven fraud and enshrine their anti-aesthetic in its place. The comedy is frantic and tasteless in the usual Waters mode, but it takes telling potshots at the Hollywood establishment, which isn't nearly so open about the tackiness of its products.

(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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