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

American Desi (Not rated)

Director: Piyush Dinker Pandya. With Deep Katdare, Purva Bedi, Ronobir Lahiri, Anil Kumar, Kal Penn. (100 min.)

Sterritt ** A loosely knit group of Indian-American students pursue learning, chase romance, and come to terms with their Indian heritage in this boisterous comedy set in an American university. The subject is likable and the story has possibilities, but why does every single performance sink into a self-indulgent mess of hammy overacting?

Enemy at the Gates (R)

Director: Jean-Jacques Annaud. With Ed Harris, Rachel Weisz, Jude Law, Eva Mattes, Joseph Fiennes, Bob Hoskins. (133 min.)

Sterritt * Rivalry flares between a Soviet sniper and his Nazi counterpart as they hone their skills, stalk their prey, and ultimately turn their sights on each other during World War II's cataclysmic Battle of Stalingrad. Annaud seems more interested in epic visual sweep than deep-rooted human emotion, though, and interesting troupers like Harris and Law just go through the motions. Add a megadose of bombastic James Horner music and a perfunctory love-affair subplot and you have a movie that's its own worst enemy.

Memento (R)

Director: Christopher Nolan, With Guy Pearce, Carrie-Ann Moss, Joe Pantoliano. (118 min.)

Sterritt *** A young man hunts the criminal who murdered his wife, hampered by a physical condition that obliterates his short-term memory on a day-by-day basis. How do you conduct a life-or-death quest under such circumstances? You write yourself endless notes, tattoo crucial information on your skin, and hope your cause is just enough to succeed. This unconventionally structured thriller moves at an energetic pace, spurred by a string of clever variations on conventional film narrative.

A Summer's Tale (Not rated)

Director: Eric Rohmer. With Melvil Poupaud, Amanda Langlet, Aurelia Nolin, Aime Lefevre. (114 min.)

Sterritt *** A young musician and three enticing romantic opportunities are at the center of this amiable comedy about love and youth. Rohmer's screenplay is on the slender side, but the seaside settings and summer-struck cinematography are ravishing, and the director shows his usual blend of affection and compassion for his footloose characters. In French with English subtitles

Currently in Release

Blow Dry (R)

Directed by Paddy Breathnack. With Alan Rickman, Natasha Richardson, Rachael Leigh Cook. (105 min.)

Staff **1/2 In the quirky style of "Strictly Ballroom," Simon Beaufoy, writer of "The Full Monty," brings us "Blow Dry." When the National Hairdressing Competition comes to a small town in England, a hair-styling family, long ago broken by a 'mom-gone-lesbian' relationship, must decide to come together to win back the championship. It's bizarre, but the use of odd-shock humor keeps it fun. By Christy Ellington

Sex/Nudity: 4 scenes of implied sex; including 1 scene with nudity. Violence: None. Profanity: 22 harsh and mild expressions. Drugs: 5 instances of alcohol; 5 scenes with smoking.

The Caveman's Valentine (R)

Director: Kasi Lemmons. With Samuel L. Jackson, Aunjanue Ellis, Colm Feore, Ann Magnuson. (103 min.)

uu 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.

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 at any cost. The story is full of simplistic divisions between right and wrong, and the filmmaking is pretty but predictable.

Staff ***1/2 Quirky, "Babette's Feast" redux.

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. It's too crude for younger viewers and Rock's comedy is a little weak. 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.

15 Minutes (R)

Director: John Herzfeld. With Robert De Niro, Edward Burns, Kelsey Grammer, Avery Brooks. (120 min.)

Sterritt ** A homicide cop and an arson investigator get into a New York tussle with two thugs who think their violent schemes will bring fame and fortune as long as the media play into their hands. The premise is promising, but Herzfeld cares more about sensationalism than substance, and portions of the picture are far nastier than they had to be.

Staff ** Poorly thought through, uneven tone, expertly edited, Burns deserves better.

Sex/Nudity: 1 scene of implied sex with nudity. Violence: 17 often gruesome scenes. Profanity: 90 mostly harsh expressions. Drugs: 10 instances of alcohol; 14 scenes with smoking.

Get Over It (PG-13)

Director: Tommy O'Haver. With Kirsten Dunst, Ed Begley Jr., Sisqo, Martin Short, Swoosie Kurtz. (90 min.)

Staff *1/2 Berke tries out for the school play, "A Midsummer Night's Dream," hoping to win his ex-girlfriend back from her new boyfriend/costar. His best friend's little sister (Dunst), also in the play, helps him with his acting, but secretly loves him too. Thus their on-stage roles oddly mirror their off-stage lives. Short's over the top drama teacher, Sisqo's stagehand dancing, and Begley and Kurtz as ultra-'70's parents lend their support, but this grab bag of dreams, fantasies, and musical numbers, though amusing at times, never really falls together. By M.K. Terrell

Sex/Nudity: 7 scenes of innuendo. Violence: 8 scenes, including car accident. Profanity: 46 expressions, mostly mild. Drugs: 4 instances of drinking; 1 scene with marijuana.

The Gleaners and I (Not rated)

Director: Agnes Varda. With Agnes Varda. (82 min.)

Sterritt **** A fascinating nonfiction voyage focusing on idiosyncratic individuals who live off things the rest of us throw away, from food to furniture. Varda carries this concept a step further by recognizing that she herself has been a gleaner during her long filmmaking career, capturing images and situations that usually go unnoticed. Originally called "Les Glaneurs et la glaneuse." In French with English subtitles

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.

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.

The Mexican (R)

Director: Gore Verbinski. With Julia Roberts, Brad Pitt, James Gandolfini, 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.

Staff **1/2 Edgy, disappointing, quirky, Gandolfini shines.

Sex/Nudity: 3 scenes of innuendo. Violence: 14 scenes, including suicide and gunshots wounds. Profanity: 15 harsh expressions. Drugs: 4 scenes with smoking.

Recess: School's Out (G)

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

Sterritt **1/2 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. By M.K. Terrell

Staff **1/2 Spunky, punchy, chuckle-worthy.

Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: 6 scenes of comic violence. Profanity: None. Drugs: None.

See Spot Run (PG)

Director: John Whitesell. With David Arquette, Michael Clarke Duncan, Leslie Bibb, Paul Sorvino. (93 min.)

Staff * Arquette plays Gordon, a letter carrier who has a problem with dogs and is clueless when it comes to kids. Suddenly he finds himself in charge of a beautiful neighbor's little boy and an FBI dog that a drug lord wants to bump off. Sadly, the director's uneveness of tone and poor sense of comic timing thwart the cast's efforts. By M.K. Terrell

Sex/Nudity: 1 incident with innuendo. Violence: 12 scenes of comic violence. Profanity: 10 mild expressions. Drugs: None.

Traffic (R)

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

Sterritt *** This multifaceted drama amounts to a commentary on the American war against drugs. Some of the action seems as if story material were left on the cutting-room floor, still, the picture's thoughtfulness and ambition make it suspenseful 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. Drugs: 11 scenes with drugs and drug taking; 7 instances of alcohol; 7 scenes with smoking.

'MEMENTO': Joe Pantoliano (l.) and Guy Pearce star in the thriller about a man who tries to hunt down the criminal who murdered his wife.

Danny rothenburg/newmarket Out on video in stores March 20

Dancer in the Dark (R)

Director: Lars von Trier. With Bjork, David Morse, Catherine Deneuve, Peter Stormare. (140 min.)

Sterritt *** Bjork is riveting as a single mother who labors in a factory even though she's gradually losing her sight and saves for a surgical procedure that might save her little boy from a similar future. The other stars are von Trier's imaginative directing and explosive cinematography, using 100 cameras to shoot the song-and-dance numbers that make this musical tragedy a celebration of life despite its grim climax.

Staff *** Groundbreaking, bleak, captivating, martyrdom for its own sake.

Lucky Numbers (R)

Director: Nora Ephron. With John Travolta, Lisa Kudrow, Tim Roth, Michael Moore, Bill Pullman. (105 min.)

Sterritt * A debt-ridden meteorologist cooks up a scheme to rig a state lottery drawing in cahoots with the oversexed TV personality who pulls the numbers out of the lottery machine. A few mildly amusing gags don't outweigh the trite situations and mean-spirited attitude of this comedy.

Remember the Titans (PG)

Director: Boaz Yakin. With Denzel Washington, Will Patton, Donald Faison, Nicole Ari Parker. (113 min.)

Sterritt *** Washington is excellent as an African-American coach hired to train a high school football team in Virginia as part of a 1971 integration effort. He turns his racially divided players into champions on and off the gridiron. The story is based on real events, but it's been Hollywoodized so completely - the coach is a saint, the victories don't stop coming, the music swells with schmaltz every chance it gets - that it can hardly be called a real-world history lesson. It has a good heart, though.

Staff *** Feel-good, inspiring, keeps moving.

(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Monitor

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