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

MOVIE GUIDE

New Releases

The Dish (PG-13)

Director: Rob Sitch. With Sam Neill, Tom Long, Kevin Harrington, Patrick Warburton, Genevieve Mooy. (104 min.)

Sterritt ***

Fact-based comedy about the triumphs and tribulations of the men who ran the enormous Australian broadcast receiver that transmitted live pictures around the world when American astronaut Neil Armstrong became the first human being to set foot on the moon. The acting and screenplay are amusing, but director Sitch might have taken a more adventurous approach to a tale with such an adventurous subject.

The Gospel According to Philip K. Dick (Not rated)

Director: Mark Steensland. With Robert Anton Wilson, Paul Williams, Miriam Lloyd, Ray Nelson. (80 min.)

Sterritt ***

Admirers of "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?" and other Dick literature will enjoy this nonfiction look at the writer, his career, and his eccentricities, some of which were as bizarre as his fiction. Don't expect much depth in this brief portrait, though.

No Sex Last Night (Double Bind) (Not rated)

Directors: Sophie Calle, Greg Shephard. With Sophie Calle, Greg Shephard. (65 min.)

Sterritt ***

American photographer Shephard and French artist Calle made a video and photographic record of a drive they took across the United States, starting in New York and ending in Las Vegas at a drive-through wedding chapel. With its skillful blend of documentary, confessional, and comic moods, this is one of the infrequent avant-garde movies that's as amusing and entertaining as it is artful and sophisticated.

Too Much Sleep (Not rated)

Director: David Maquiling. With Marc Palmieri, Nicol Zanzarella, Pasquale Gaeta. (88 min.)

Sterritt **

A highly embarrassed security guard mounts a furtive search for his stolen gun, and learns more than he wanted to know about the sleaze and silliness lurking within his outwardly bland New Jersey town. The movie's concept is amusing, but much of the acting and dialogue is as uninspired as the story's deliberately bland suburban setting.

Currently in Release

Before Night Falls (R)

Director: Julian Schnabel. With Javier Bardem, Olivier Martinez, Johnny Depp, 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: 7 scenes with drinking; 18 scenes with smoking; 2 scenes with drug overdoses.

The Caveman's Valentine (R)

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

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.

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.

Staff **

Shallow, authentic-feeling, suspenseful.

Sex/Nudity: 1 scenes with partial nudity. Violence: 15 instances, including gory war scenes. Profanity: 6 mild expressions. Drugs: 11 scenes with smoking. 4 scenes with alcohol.

Exit Wounds (R)

Director: Andrzej Bartkowiak. With Steven Seagal, DMX, Anthony Anderson, Jill Hennessey. (117 min.)

Staff **

Pandemonium reigns in Seagal movies. Here he's a Detroit detective who saves the US vice president from a kidnapping plot. His extreme tactics don't amuse the department's top brass, however, and they reduce him to daytime traffic details and nighttime rage-management classes. But when he sniffs out a drug ring on his beat, he's right back to his old tricks. Plot twists (when plot intrudes on anarchy) and unusual casting (rapper DMX's compassionate drug dealer) keep this one from being a total cliche. Occasional flashes of humor offer respite from the havoc. By M.K. Terrell

Sex/Nudity: 3 scenes of innuendo; 2 scenes with nudity. Violence: 12 scenes. Profanity: 136 mostly harsh expressions. Drugs: 5 instances of drinking; 1 scene with smoking; 4 scenes with drug deals.

15 Minutes (R)

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

uu 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.

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.)

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.

Hannibal (R)

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

uuu 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.

uu1/2 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.

Memento (R)

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

uuu 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.

The Mexican (R)

Director: Gore Verbinski. With Julia Roberts, Brad Pitt, James Gandolfini, Gene Hackman. (123 min.)

uuu 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.

uu1/2 Edgy, 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.

Pollock (R)

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

uuu 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. Though the filmmaking sinks into cliches at times, it is enriched by its fine acting,.

Traffic (R)

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

uuu 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.

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.

Out on video in Stores mar. 27

Charlie's Angels (PG-13)

Director: McG. With Drew Barrymore, Cameron Diaz, Lucy Liu, Bill Murray, Tim Curry, Sam Rockwell, LL Cool J, Crispin Glover, John Forsythe. (98 min.)

Sterritt **

The popular '70s television series inspired this campy romp, which has enough sassy lines - and enough of Diaz's radiant smile - to outclass most parodies of its ilk. Too bad the action scenes rarely rise above standard kung-fu comedy, diluting the film's otherwise considerable entertainment value.

Staff **1/2

Lively, humorous, kitsch fun.

Girlfight (R)

Director: Karyn Kusama. With Michelle Rodriguez, Jaime Tirelli, Paul Calderon. (110 min.)

Sterritt **

A teenage girl uses prizefighting as an escape route from her domineering dad and oppressive working-class home. Rodriguez's acting almost scores a knockout even though the movie's directing and dialogue are fairly routine.

Staff ***

Great story, powerful, impressive directorial debut.

Red Planet (PG-13)

Director: Antony Hoffman. With Tom Sizemore, Val Kilmer, Carrie Anne Moss, Terence Stamp. (110 min.)

Sterritt *

Astronauts visit Mars in 2050 to find out why Earth's preparations for colonizing the planet have mysteriously failed, but an emergency landing wrecks their plans, deluging them with deadly threats. The screenplay spices its science-fiction cliches with occasional pop-theology cliches, but what the filmmakers really care about is creepy-crawly aliens and a runaway robot that looks like a dog and acts like a ninja warrior. In short, the picture crash-lands as disastrously as the heroes and never quite recovers its wits.

Staff *

Stale, undeveloped, worst Mars movie yet.

(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Monitor

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