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

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

Sterritt **** Staff **** Excellent

Sterritt *** Staff *** Good

Sterritt ** Staff ** Fair

Sterritt * Staff * Poor

DUD DUD The Worst

New Releases

Fallen Angels Paradise (Not rated)

Director: Ossama Fawzi. With Mahmoud Hemida, Lebleba, Caroline Khalil, Safwa. (79 min.)

Sterritt ** The death of a low-life drug dealer sets his accomplices scheming to profit from his demise, but then his family gets into the act, sparking unexpected revelations about his surprisingly respectable early life. It's rare for an Egyptian movie to look so closely and unflinchingly at class conflict and other forms of social disarray, but lively acting keeps the story engaging even when it wanders and meanders. In Arabic with English subtitles

Head Over Heels (PG-13)

Director: Mark Waters. With Monica Potter, Freddie Prinze Jr., Brendan Beiser, Sarah O'Hare, China Chow. (127 min.)

Staff DUD An art-restoration expert (Potter), moves into an apartment with "the last four models in New York who don't smoke." She soon develops a crush on Jim (Prinze) who lives in an adjacent building across the way, until, in a "Rear Window"-ish twist, she thinks she sees him commit a murder. This romantic comedy is so awfully misjudged and ineptly executed in every department that, while it isn't quite a contender for the "so bad it's good" category, this critic was nonetheless dabbing tears of laughter from his eyes.

By Stephen Humphries

Sex/Nudity: 3 scenes of implied sex; 5 incidences of innuendo. Violence: 6 scenes, including fistfights. Profanity: 15 harsh expressions, 14 mild expressions. Drugs: 6 scenes with alcohol.

In the Mood for Love (PG)

Director: Wong Kar-wai. With Maggie Cheung, Tony Leung-Chiu-wai, Rebecca Pan, Lai Chin, Siu Ping-lam, Chin Tsi-ang. (97 min.)

Sterritt *** A journalist and a receptionist spend inordinate amounts of time in their lonely apartments, maintaining a polite distance between themselves until the man begins to suspect their spouses are having an affair with each other. The story gains most of its dramatic impact from superbly understated acting and Christopher Doyle's atmospheric camera work. Kudos also go to Nat King Cole's haunting renditions of Spanish-language songs on the proudly multicultural soundtrack. In Cantonese and Shanghainese with English subtitles

Nico and Dani (Krampack) (Not rated)

Director: Cesc Gay. With Fernando Ramallo, Jordi Vilches, Marieta Orozco, Esther Nubiola, Chisco Amado. (90 min.)

Sterritt ** Two teenage boys, one straight and one gay, come of age during a romantic Spanish summer. The acting is amiable but the story isn't much deeper than the callow main characters. In Spanish with English subtitles

Voyages (Not rated)

Director: Abraham Finkiel. With Shulamit Adar, Liliane Rovere, Esther Gorintin, Natan Cogan. (111 min.)

Sterritt *** Three aging women in three different countries come to grips with their heritage as Jews from Eastern Europe, where the Holocaust decimated their early lives. Finkiel's filmmaking is so careful and cautious that it becomes plodding at times. The theme is powerful, though, and the movie's sincerity overrides its heavy-handed tendencies. In Yiddish and French with English subtitles

Currently in Release

Faithless (R)

Director: Liv Ullmann. With Erland Josephson, Lena Endre, Krister Henriksson, Thomas Hanzon, Michelle Gylemo, Johan Rabaeus, Stina Ekblad, Juni Dahr, Philip Zanden, Marie Richardson. (155 min.)

Sterritt *** An intense, claustrophobic drama of love and infidelity, as seen through the eyes of an actress whose seemingly contented life as a wife and mother is tragically tested by romantic temptations touched off by her husband's closest friend. The film's tone is so intimate that one of the characters is screenwriter Ingmar Bergman himself, who sets the story in motion by having a conversation with the female protagonist he's conceived in his imagination. On one level, "Faithless" is a probing look at love, marriage, loyalty, and other emotional issues. On other levels, it's about the complex relationships between bedrock human feelings and the process of exploring these through art.

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 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.

Staff ***1/2 Cross between "Sixth Sense" and "What Lies Beneath;" Blanchett shines; stylish, 'jump-out-from-behind-the-door' scary.

Sex/Nudity: 2 scenes of nudity; 1 sex scene; 4 incidents of innuendo. Violence: 19 scenes, including brutal murder, suicide, and spousal abuse. Profanity: 37 mainly harsh expressions. Drugs: 5 with smoking, 3 with drinking.

The House of Mirth (PG)

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

Staff ***1/2 Remarkably detailed, elegant, overblown.

Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: None. Profanity: None. Drugs: 9 scenes with smoking, 2 scenes with drinking.

The Pledge (R)

Director: Sean Penn. With Jack Nicholson, Helen Mirren, Benicio Del Toro, Robin Wright Penn, Tom Noonan, Vanessa Redgrave, Sam Shepard, Lois Smith, Harry Dean Stanton, Aaron Eckhart, Mickey Rourke. (123 min.)

Sterritt *** An aging cop postpones his retirement to find the murderer of a little girl, fighting the odds against tracking down the killer and facing skeptical colleagues who think the psychopath has already been caught and killed. The acting is excellent and Penn reconfirms his remarkable talent for muted, understated filmmaking that focuses on character and dialogue rather than spectacle and sensationalism. The film's weak point is the screenplay by Jerzy Kromolowski and Mary Olson-Kromolowski, which lapses into cliches far more often than Penn's visual style does.

Staff ***1/2 Existential, slow-paced, taut, sometimes difficult to watch, haven't stopped thinking about it.

Sex/Nudity: 1 sex scene, no nudity, 5 verbal references. Violence: 6 extremely gory scenes including murder and suicide. Profanity: 23 mainly harsh expressions. Drugs: 17 scenes with smoking, 5 with drinking

Restless (Not rated)

Director: Jule Gilfillan. With Catherine Kellner, David Wu. (98 min.) Sterritt ** An unusual relationship develops between an American woman visiting Beijing in search of adventure and a Chinese-American man who doesn't feel much more at home there than she does. The movie is likable and well acted, but it doesn't make a very strong or lasting impression.

Shadow of the Vampire (R)

Director: E. Elias Merhige. With Willem Dafoe, John Malkovich, Catherine McCormack, Udo Keir, Eddie Izzard, Cary Elwes. (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.

Staff *** Dark, witty, nostalgic, Dafoe is best Dracula in decades.

Sex/Nudity: 3 scenes, including nudity. Violence: 5 scenes, not terribly graphic. Profanity: 13 expressions both harsh and mild. Drugs: 9 scenes with smoking, 3 with drinking, and 4 scenes with drugs.

Snatch (R)

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

Staff **1/2 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 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 Quentin Tarantino fans will enjoy it. By Stephen Humphries

Staff *** A motley crew of characters, fast-paced, great cinematography, dizzying.

Sex/Nudity: 2 scenes with nudity. 1 incident of innuendo. Violence: 23 brutal scenes including amputation and boxing matches. Profanity: 171 mostly harsh expressions. Drugs: 5 scenes with smoking, 3 with drinking.

Sugar and Spice (PG-13)

Director: Francine McDougall. With Mena Suvari, Sean Young, James Marsden, Marla Sokoloff, Rachel Blanchard. (76 min.)

Staff *1/2 When head cheerleader Diane (Shelton) meets the new quarterback, it's love at first sight. Soon they find themselves in a family way, and their parents disown them. To help their now-impoverished captain, the pep squad agrees to a "crafts project," robbing Diane's after-school employer, a bank. Spirited performances move the plot along briskly. But it's disappointing to see a movie written, produced, and directed by women who give only farcical treatment to teen pregnancy and crime. Also, the all-white casting displays an amazing lack of social awareness. By M.K. Terrell

Sex/Nudity: 6 incidents of innuendo. Violence: 4 scenes including a tussle and gunfire. Profanity: 67 expressions, both harsh and mild. Drugs: 3 scenes with smoking, 1 with drinking.

The Wedding Planner (PG-13)

Director: Adam Schankman. With Jennifer Lopez, Matthew McConaughey, Bridgette Wilson-Sampras, Kevin Pollack. (102 min.)

Staff DUD A professional wedding planner (Lopez) despairs that she will never find the right man, until, that is, she finds herself drawn to the groom (McConaughey) of a nuptial celebration that she is organizing. Does the girl get the guy? Well, of course. But the truly dreadful dialogue, absurd plot contrivances, heavy-handed direction, and a score that sounds like an amateur high school pep band stifle any potential that this courtship might have had of succeeding. As long as audiences settle for sloppy and substandard fare like this, Hollywood will keep spoon-feeding them more pap like it. Vote with your wallet.

By Stephen Humphries

Staff ** Romance-lite, predictable but romantic, mildly diverting.

Sex/Nudity: 3 scenes of innuendo, one of them fairly graphic. Violence: None. Profanity: 27 expressions, a few of them harsh. Drugs: 1 scene with smoking, 8 with drinking.

In stores Feb. 6

Dr. T & the Women (R)

Director: Robert Altman. With Richard Gere, Shelley Long, Farrah Fawcett, Laura Dern, Kate Hudson, Liv Tyler, Helen Hunt, Matt Malloy, Tara Reid. (122 min.)

Sterritt *** Gere plays a doctor surrounded by women who seem determined to raise new challenges for him every time he thinks he's figured them out. The movie gets much of its emotional interest from Gere's fine performance. It derives much of its personality from Altman's improvisational atmosphere and technically astute style.

Coming Soon ... (In stores Feb. 13)

Get Carter (R)

Director: Stephen T. Kay. With Sylvester Stallone, Rachael Leigh Cook, Michael Caine. (104 min.)

Sterritt ** Carter's a thug who drives from sunny Las Vegas to drizzly Seattle to uncover the truth about his brother's untimely end and make amends with his estranged family. The movie's production is as slick as Carter's Regis suits, but the final answer is that "Get Carter" won't get any Oscars. By Stuart S. Cox Jr.

Staff *1/2 An empty shell, overstylized, violent.

Bless the Child (R)

Director: Chuck Russell. With Kim Basinger, Jimmy Smits, Rufus Sewell, Christina Ricci. (105 min.)

Sterritt ** A little girl becomes a pawn in a Manhattan-based battle between forces of heavenly goodness and Satanic evil. This is an old-style supernatural thriller in the vein of "The Omen" and "The Exorcist," often trite and predictable but grudgingly likable in the end. If the shocks don't keep you awake, the patches of howlingly awful dialogue will certainly do the trick.

Staff * Worthless, scary, vivid, nicely cast.

(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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