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

Recommended: Default

Fever (Not rated)

Director: Alex Winter. With Henry Thomas, David O'Hara, Bill Duke, Teri Hatcher, John Tracy. (93 min.)

Sterritt ** A murder in a rundown apartment building sparks a series of strange events in the life of a psychologically unsteady man. This offbeat drama has more atmosphere than logic, but a few sequences are strikingly well acted and filmed.

Hannibal (R)

Director: Ridley Scott. With Anthony Hopkins, Julianne Moore, Ray Liotta, Giancarlo Giannini, Frankie R. Faison, Francesca Neri. (131 min.)

Sterritt *** Hopkins returns as Hannibal Lector, the brilliant psychiatrist with a sadistic personality, a weakness for cannibalism, and an odd affection for FBI agent Clarice Starling, this time played by Moore in a performance as inventive as Jodie Foster's in "The Silence of the Lambs" a decade earlier. Scott has directed the picture with his usual heavy touch - even the boisterous "Lambs" seems subtle by comparison - and much of the action is as ponderous as it is predictable. Lector fans will get their fill, but be warned that the menu contains at least two scenes with over-the-top excesses that Hannibal himself might not want to swallow.

The Taste of Others (Not rated)

Director: Agnes Jaoui. With Agnes Jaoui, Alain Chabat, Anne Alvaro, Gerard Lanvin, Jean-Pierre Bacri. (112 min.)

Steritt *** Why does affection sometimes grow between people who seem to have little or nothing in common? That's the tantalizing question running through this capably acted comedy-drama about a jaded businessman who falls in love with an actress the first time he sees her onstage. The movie doesn't reach any startling conclusions, but it takes an entertaining look at the social and romantic issues its story brings up. In French with English subtitles

CURRENTLY IN RELEASE

Before Night Falls (R)

Director: Julian Schnabel. With Javier Bardem, Olivier Martinez, Andrea Di Stefano, Johnny Depp, Michael Wincott, Sean Penn. (125 min.)

Sterritt *** Politics and humanism find an engrossing balance in this ambitious drama based on the life of Reinaldo Arenas, a gay Cuban poet who was persecuted by the homophobic Castro regime. Bardem gives a star-making performance, but Schnabel's filmmaking doesn't have quite as much visual imagination as his previous bio-pic, the excellent "Basquiat."

Staff *** Ambitious, harrowing, awakens a social consciousness, lyrical.

Sex/Nudity: 13 scenes with sex, many of them with male nudity and intercourse. Violence: 11 scenes including suicide and fighting. Profanity: 9 expressions, mostly mild. Drugs: 18 scenes with smoking; 7 scenes with drinking; 2 scenes with drug overdoses.

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.

Head Over Heels (PG-13)

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

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

Staff * Juvenile, a bit crass, unlikely to help any of these actresses become stars, cutesy.

Sex/Nudity: 3 scenes of implied sex; 5 incidents 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.

Invisible Circus (R)

Director: Adam Brooks. With Cameron Diaz, Jordana Brewster, Christopher Eccleston, Blythe Danner, Patrik Bergin. (112 min.)

** This lightweight look at '70's activism has 18-year old Phoebe (Brewster) traveling across Europe in 1976 trying to unravel the mystery of the suicide of older sister Faith (Diaz) 6 years earlier. In flashback we see Faith's progress from non-violent protest to terrorism to guilt, as Phoebe has a gratuitous affair with Faith's ex-boyfriend. Blythe Danner shines in a small part as the young women's widowed mother, but the postcard pretty settings and an earnest young cast fail to overcome the detached storytelling - we just don't care about these people. La guerre est l'ennui. (After the film, the woman behind this reviewer woke her companion out of a deep sleep. When he came to, he said, "that was good." He must have meant his nap.)

By M.K. Terrell

Sex/Nudity: 6 instances including 4 brief scenes of sex, 2 of them with nudity. Violence: 6 scenes including a suicide. Profanity: 20 mostly harsh expressions. Drugs: 9 scenes with smoking, 6 scenes with drinking and 2 scenes with drugs.

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.)

** 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.)

* 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.)

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.

Valentine (R)

Director: Jamie Blanks. With Denise Richards, David Boreanaz. Jessica Capshaw, Marley Shelton, Katherine Heigl. (96 min.)

Sterritt * A masked murderer stalks a series of women, and if you can't figure out the killer's identity at least 20 minutes before the end, pay more attention to "Scream" the next time you see it. The slasher-movie genre may never die, but can't its perpetrators think up variations more clever than this by-the-numbers rehash?

Staff 1/2 The victims refuse to follow common sense in these movies, gruesome, no-brainer

Sex/Nudity: 4 scenes with nudity on a TV screen, partial nudity through a shower curtain and 2 scenes with innuendo. Violence: 14 scenes including multiple gory murders by a serial killer. Profanity: 41 expressions, mostly harsh. Drugs: 10 scenes with alcohol.

In stores Feb. 13

Bring It On (PG-13)

Director: Peyton Reed. With Kirsten Dunst, Jesse Bradford, Eliza Dushku, Gabrielle Union. (100 min.)

Sterritt ** High-schoolers hop and holler as they vie for the cheerleading championship with a competing inner-city team. The story is as simple as the average football cheer, but the dialogue has amusing echoes of "Clueless," and Dunst and Bradford make a mighty cute couple.

Staff ** Fresh-faced, predictable, harmless, upbeat.

Urban Legends: Final Cut (R)

Director: John Ottman. With Jennifer Morrison, Matthew Davis, Hart Bochner. (98 min.)

* Morrison is a film student at a school that pays lip service to the "master of suspense" ("What would Hitchcock do?") but practices the art of making bad pictures (like this one). As Morrison directs her thesis film, someone keeps bumping off her cast and crew. This mess of a movie occasionally works as a satire of film schools and moviemaking, but someone should have pushed "delete" before it got out of the word processor.

By M.K. Terrell

Woman on Top (R)

Director: Fina Torres. With Penelope Cruz, Murilo Benicio, Harold Perrineau Jr., Mark Feuerstein. (91 min.)

** Cruz stars as a chef who flees marital slavery in Brazil to become a TV personality in San Francisco. Husband Benicio follows her to the US and will do anything to get her back. Director Torres, seeking the magic of "Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands," loses it by trying to be too magical - and why do these Brazillians sing in Portuguese but talk to each other in English? By M.K. Terrell

Staff ** Weak writing, frothy, nice bossa nova.

(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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