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

New Releases

The Caveman's Valentine (R)

Director: Kasi Lemmons. With Samuel L. Jackson, Aunjanue Ellis, Colm Feore, Ann Magnuson, Sean MacMahon, Tamara Tunie, Anthony Michael Hall. (103 min.)

Sterritt ** Jackson gives a lively and generally credible performance as the unlikely hero: a homeless man with a deranged mind, a talent for music, and enough clues to solve a murder if the world would just pay attention to him. More psychological realism and less showy cinema would have made this offbeat melodrama more memorable, though.

The Mexican (R)

Director: Gore Verbinski. With Julia Roberts, Brad Pitt, James Gandolfini, Bob Balaban, J.K. Simmons, David Krumholtz, Gene Hackman. (123 min.)

Sterritt *** Pressured by mobsters, a small-time crook takes on one last job - retrieving an exotic pistol from a Mexican village - which places him in very hot water and lands his estranged girlfriend in the hands of an eccentric kidnapper. Lively acting and stylish directing make this an engaging comedy-drama, although its attitude toward guns and violence is disconcertingly romantic.

Series 7 (R)

Director: Daniel Minahan. With Brooke Smith, Mark Woodbury, Michael Kaycheck, Marylouise Burke, Richard Venture, Donna Hanover. (85 min.)

Sterritt *** This ferocious satire of "reality television" presents a marathon of episodes from a (bogus) show that arms ordinary people with deadly weapons and then videotapes them as they hunt and kill one another. Too cynical and savage to believe? Have another look at the TV listings in your local

newspaper, project your imagination into the future, and ponder the possibilities.

The Widow of Saint-Pierre (Not rated)

Director: Patrice Leconte. With Juliette Binoche, Daniel Auteuil, Emir Kusturica, Philippe Magnan. (108 min.)

Sterritt *** A condemned man develops a complex relationship with a mid-18th-century military commander and his wife as they wait for a guillotine to arrive on their tiny French-controlled island, so that his death sentence can be carried out. Leconte reconfirms his growing importance to French cinema with this precisely crafted, marvelously acted drama, which makes a powerful statement on capital punishment.

Tigerland (R)

Director: Joel Schumacher. With Colin Farrell, Matthew Davis, Clifton Collins Jr., Tom Guiry. (100 min.)

Staff *** "Tigerland," the nickname of a harrowing training ground in Louisiana, is an unconventional war movie. It takes place late in the Vietnam War (1971) and never even leaves the United States. The story revolves around rebel soldier Bozz - played by dazzling newcomer Colin Farrell - who helps a few troubled souls get discharged from the military. Director Schumacher, known for slick Hollywood flicks like "Batman and Robin," employs a handheld camera technique which creates a memorable, involving, and in-your-face movie. By Lisa Leigh Parney

Currently in Release

Chocolat (PG-13)

Director: Lasse Hallstrom. With Juliette Binoche, Alfred Molina, Lena Olin, Judi Dench, Johnny Depp. (121 min.)

Sterritt ** A peaceful French village gets more excitement than it bargained for when a feisty newcomer sets up a shop devoted to chocolate, and a local curmudgeon decides to combat her immoral influence at any cost. Binoche and Molina are as magnetic as usual, but the unsubtle story is full of simplistic divisions between right and wrong, and the filmmaking is pretty but predictable.

Staff ***1/2 Quirky, sweet, engaging, "Babette's Feast" redux, a visual banquet.

Sex/Nudity: 3 scenes of implied sex; 1 incident of innuendo. Violence: 3 scenes, including insinuations of wife-beating. Profanity: 9 mild expressions. Drugs: 5 scenes with alcohol; 1 scene with smoking.

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. 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, but it brings appealing twists to the martial-arts genre. In Mandarin with English subtitles

Staff **** Transcendent, subtle acting.

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

Down to Earth (PG-13)

Directors: Chris Weitz, Paul Weitz. With Chris Rock, Chazz Palminteri, Greg Germann, Regina King. (95 min.)

Staff ** Lance (Rock), a bike messenger and aspiring comedian, is hit and killed by a truck. When the angels in heaven discover that it wasn't "his time" yet, they offer him a temporary body (that of an old, wealthy white man), until they can find a more appropriate one for him. There is a good moral message to this movie, but it's too crude for younger viewers and Rock's comedy is a little on the weak side. By Heidi Wilson

Sex/Nudity: 4 scenes with innuendo. Violence: 8 instances, including a suicide. Profanity: 75 expressions, mostly mild. Drugs: 7 scenes with alcohol, 1 scene with smoking.

Hannibal (R)

Director: Ridley Scott. With Anthony Hopkins, Julianne Moore, Ray Liotta, Giancarlo Giannini. (131 min.)

Sterritt *** Hopkins returns as Hannibal Lector, the brilliant psychiatrist with a weakness for cannibalism, and an odd affection for FBI agent Clarice Starling. Scott has directed the picture with his usual heavy touch 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.

Staff **1/2 Extremely gory, good sequel, intelligent dialogue, opulent sets.

Sex/Nudity: 15 scenes with innuendo. Violence: 15 exceptionally violent scenes including cannibalism. Profanity: 5 expressions, mostly mild. Drugs: 9 scenes with smoking; 8 scenes with alcohol.

Monkeybone (PG-13)

Director: Henry Selick. With Brendan Fraser, Brigette Fonda, Rose McGowan, Whoopi Goldberg. (87 min.)

Staff * Stu (Fraser) is a meek cartoonist whose saucy comic strip has just been picked up as a TV series. But when he smashes his Karmann-Ghia into a building and falls into a deep coma, he finds himself in a kind of purgatory filled with not-so-scary monsters. What's scary is that Monkeybone, his sex-crazed cartoon character, takes over Stu's body when he wakes up. An enormous cadre of animators, puppeteers, and technicians try for all they're worth but can't get this unfunny flick to wake up. By M.K. Terrell

Pollock (R)

Director: Ed Harris. With Ed Harris, Marcia Gay Harden, Jeffrey Tambor, Jennifer Connelly, Bud Cort. (117 min.)

Sterritt *** Harris is close to perfect as Jackson Pollock, the legendary artist who revolutionized modern painting in the 1940s before losing his life in a tragic accident brought about by his own weaknesses. The filmmaking sinks into cliches at times, the movie is enriched by its fine acting, though, and by its creative respect for an innovator whose influence still permeates contemporary art.

Recess: School's Out (G)

Director: Chuck Sheetz. With voices of Dabney Coleman, Melissa Joan Hart, Peter MacNichol. (84 min.)

Staff **1/2 Another brats-to-the-rescue fable. This time the TV gang from Disney's "Recess" must stop a renegade school principal who kidnaps the real principal, and makes a school his lab for turning Earth into a snowball. Eliminate summer, he reasons, and kids will study all year round. Good fun for the K-5 set with some good chuckles for parents. The story is lively enough to overcome its TV-style animation, but the final battle (water balloons, condiment squirting, cafeteria soup) may be a bit too much for some preschoolers. By M.K. Terrell

Sweet November (PG-13)

Director: Pat O'Connor. With Charlize Theron, Keanu Reeves, Greg Germann. (120 min.)

Sterritt ** The sweetest thing about "Sweet November" is the on-screen magic between Charlize Theron and Keanu Reeves. But that's pretty much where the magic ends. The actress portrays the role of charming Sara Deever who is dying of a diagnosed disease. Committed to an alternative lifestyle, she convinces emotionally void Nelson (Reeves) to live with her for 30 days, and the agreement quickly progresses into an unlikely romance. By Steven Savides

Staff ** Charming performers, anti-climactic, banal, sappy, uninvolving.

Sex/Nudity: 3 scenes of innuendo, 3 scenes of implied sex, no nudity. Violence: None. Profanity: 36 expressions, mostly mild. Drugs: 7 scenes with alcohol.

Traffic (R)

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

Sterritt *** This multifaceted drama amounts to a commentary on the American war against drugs. Some of the action seems a bit confused, as if story material were left on the cutting-room floor, and sentimentality creeps in at times. Still, the picture's thoughtfulness and ambition make it suspenseful, gripping, and disturbing.

Staff ***1/2 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, a few of them harsh. Drugs: 11 scenes with drugs and drug taking. 7 instances of alcohol; 7 scenes with smoking.

3000 Miles to Graceland (R)

Director: Demian Lichtenstein. With Kevin Costner, Kurt Russell, Christian Slater, Courtney Cox-Arquette, Howie Long, David Kaye. (121 min.)

Staff * Kevin Costner trades in his good-guy image to play an evil-minded criminal who's obsessed with Elvis. During a national Elvis convention in Las Vegas, ex-cons Costner and Kurt Russell (and a few thugs) dress up as the King, pull guns from their bag, and shoot everyone in sight. They get the loot, but it's a bloody mess. And the movie's twists and turns are nonsensical and mindless. If you make it to the end, you'll laugh at how bad it is. By Lisa Leigh Parney

The Wedding Planner (PG-13)

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

Staff DUD A professional wedding planner (Lopez) finds herself drawn to a groom of a nuptial celebration that she is organizing. Does the girl get the guy? Well, of course. But the dreadful dialogue, plot contrivances, heavy-handed direction, and a score that sounds like an amateur high school pep band stifle any potential this courtship might have had of succeeding. By Stephen Humphries

Staff ** Romance-lite, predictable but romantic, uninvolving.

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.

Out on video: In stores Mar. 6

The Broken Hearts Club: A Romantic Comedy (R)

Director: Greg Berlanti. With Zach Braff, Dean Cain, Andrew Keegan, John Mahoney, Matt McGrath, Timothy Olyphant, Nia Long, Mary McCormack. (105 min.)

Sterritt ** The romantic adventures of several gay friends in the Los Angeles area. Berlanti's filmmaking offers little that's fresh or original, and the story seems recycled from decades of heterosexual sitcoms that play with the same type of material. The performances are perky, though.

The Little Vampire (PG)

Director: Ulrich Edel. With Jonathan Lipnicki, Richard E. Grant, and Jim Carter, Alice Krige. (95 min.)

Staff **1/2 We humans have gotten it all wrong all these many centuries. Vampires just want to be like us. The movie's eight-year-old hero, Tony (Lipnicki), and his friendship with a vampire his own age, make this all apparent. The first Harry Potter knock-off is a mixed bag of great special effects, endearing innocence, and some realistic vampire scenes. Do you bring your 8-year-old to this movie? Be ready for nightmares if you do. By Jim Bencivenga

Meet the Parents (PG-13)

Director: Jay Roach. With Ben Stiller, Robert De Niro, Blythe Danner, Owen Wilson. (108 min.)

Staff ***1/2 Pam's dad (De Niro): ex-CIA, a character somewhat reminiscent of the cat-loving James Bond nemesis Ernst Blofeld, absolutely paranoid, not likely to smile or chuckle. Try asking his permission for his daughter's hand in marriage. But smitten Greg (Stiller) tries when he realizes his beloved prefers the traditional route to the altar. Many belly laughs and sweet moments. By Katherine Dillin

Staff *** Well cast, nonstop laughs, Stiller rules as the underdog.

(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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