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

Butterfly (Not Rated)

Director: Doug Wolens. With Julia Hill, Peter Yarrow, Sen. Tom Hayden, Brian Rooney. (80 min.)

Sterritt **

A likable though slender documentary about Julia Hill's successful effort to save a mighty northern California redwood tree from loggers who wanted to cut it down, which she accomplished by living in its branches for about two years. The movie is less an objective news report than a commercial for environmentalism, and that appears to be just what the filmmakers intended.

Keep the River on Your Right: A Modern Cannibal Tale (R)

Directors: David Shapiro, Laurie Gwen Shapiro. With Tobias Schneebaum. (110 min.)

Sterritt ***

Schneebaum is a New York artist and ethnologist who lived in a little-known Peruvian community during the 1950s. One night he marched out with his neighbors for what he thought was an exploratory expedition, and found himself present for an explosion of killing and cannibalism that changed his life - and other people's perceptions of him - in ways he couldn't have imagined when he left his Greenwich Village home. Covering a wide range of matters from his homosexuality to his gifts for painting and music, this documentary is sometimes disturbing but consistently fascinating.

Say It Isn't So (R)

Director: J.B. Rodgers. With Heather Graham, Chris Klein, Richard Jenkins, Sally Field. (93 min.)

Staff DUD

Gilly, an orphan in a small town (Klein), falls in love with Jo, the new girl in town (Graham), and they're due to be wed until their relationship hits a small snag. New information comes to light suggesting that the lovers are, in fact, siblings separated at birth. Of course, Gilly discovers that the information is inaccurate, but can he convince anyone else? The gags, many of which are surprisingly violent and in the poorest of taste, fail to work. The joke's on the audience, and you won't be amused. By Stephen Humphries

Simon Magus (Not rated)

Director: Ben Hopkins. With Noah Taylor, Embeth Davidtz, Rutger Hauer, Sean McGinley, Stuart Townsend. (106 min.)

Sterritt **

The title character is a young misfit who lives in a 19th-century village being sorely challenged by class conflict, clashes between Jews and gentiles, and socioeconomic changes sparked by the arrival of a modern invention called the railroad. Blending suspense and romance with evocations of madness and the supernatural, this historical fantasy is too ambitious for its own good, but contains some striking imagery and likable performances.

Someone Like You (PG-13)

Director: Tony Goldwyn. With Ashley Judd, Greg Kinnear, Hugh Jackman, Marisa Tomei, Ellen Barkin. (93 min.)

Staff *1/2

Any attempt to reinvent the romantic comedy is welcome, but this Ashley Judd vehicle can't quite wrest itself from the genre's conventions. Judd plays a single woman who gets dumped by a Lothario in sheep's clothing (Kinnear). Stung, she adopts a pseudonym for a woman's magazine and begins to serialize her theories about why men can't commit by observing her roommate (Jackman), a king of one-night stands. Judd is winsome, but wearisome ruminations about relationships are no substitute for plot and it drains this overlong movie of all dramatic tension.By Stephen Humphries

Spy Kids (PG)

Director: Robert Rodriguez. With Antonio Banderas, George Clooney, Alan Cumming, Carla Gugino, Teri Hatcher, Cheech Marin, Robert Patrick, Tony Shaloub (93 min.)

Staff **

Billed as a spy caper for all ages, "Spy Kids," is indeed that. Carmen and Juni Cortez are two ordinary kids who must save their parents - and the world - from the evil techno-wizard, Floop. They are thrust into a high-tech world of spies and skullduggery, complete with a movie full of goofy but imaginative hardware, including cars that can both float and fly and the niftiest jetpack of any recent spy flick. With bright colors and child-friendly names and settings, the movie definitely skews toward the under-10 set. By Gloria Goodale.

The Tailor of Panama (R)

Director: John Boorman. With Geoffrey Rush, Pierce Brosnan, Jamie Lee Curtis, Brendon Gleeson. (110 min.)

Sterritt **

Brosnan plays a spy who's sent to Panama as a punishment, since it's considered a dull outpost, and Rush plays a con artist who uses his profession - tailor to the rich and famous - as a front for more slippery activities. The movie strains too hard to seem smart and savvy, though, with touches of offbeat filmmaking that suggest a mood of unpredictable fun but prove to be a momentary sideshow. In the end it seems less like an unpredictable thrill ride than a warmed-over rehash of old James Bond adventures, and Brosnan's monotonously urbane performance hardly helps.

Tomcats (R)

Director: Gregory Poirer. With Jerry O'Connell, Shannon Elizabeth, Jake Busey, Horation Sanz. (92 min.)

Staff DUD

If you dig deep through the garbage of sexist jokes and other forms of movie 'ick' that you'll find in the dumpster called "Tomcats," you may smell the excuse for fitting so much nastiness into 90 minutes. In the story, seven simple-minded friends set aside prize money for the last man to resist marriage. When Michael (O'Connell) needs to pay off a debt, he tries to get his pig of a friend to commit first. Given the standards of his friend, you can imagine those of the movie. By Christy Ellington

Currently in Release

The Brothers (R)

Director: Gary Hardwick. With Bill Bellamy, Morris Chestnut, D.L. Hughley, Shemar Moore. (103 min.)

Staff **

Commitment suddenly becomes an issue in the lives of four 30-ish African-American buddies when it dawns on them that they could be taking a more mature approach to relationships with women. The results for them and their loved ones are dramatic and sometimes hilarious. Despite predictable plotting, uneven acting and direction, and sexual banter more raunchy than necessary, positive values shine through in this satire of male attitudes and posturing. Some men could profit from seeing such a picture, but the audience at the show I attended was nearly all women. By M.K. Terrell

Sex/Nudity: 11 scenes of innuendo and frank talk; 4 scenes of implied sex. Violence: 5 scenes including a fight and shooting. Profanity: 146 mostly harsh expressions. Drugs: 10 instances of drinking; 2 scenes 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. 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, Joseph Fiennes. (133 min.)

Staff *

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. Add 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.

Out on Video in Stores Apr. 3

The Legend of Bagger Vance (PG-13)

Director: Robert Redford. With Matt Damon, Will Smith, Charlize Theron, Jack Lemmon. (127 min.)

Sterritt **

Traumatized by World War I, a young Southern golfer travels a downward path until he meets a mysterious black caddy who cloaks wise words in a humble disposition. The movie aims only at our heartstrings and tear ducts, when it could have touched our minds and consciences.

Staff **

Sappy, good-natured, shallow attempt at "Field of Dreams."

102 Dalmatians (G)

Director: Daniele Thompson. With Glenn Close, Ioan Gruffudd, Alice Evans, Gerard Depardieu. (94 min.)

Sterritt ***

"Ella" De Vil (Close) is unleashed from prison and teams up with furrier Jean Pierre Le Pelt (Depardieu) and tries to steal 102 "poopies" for her dreamcoat. Close is perfectly cast as the overly dramatic and evil Cruella and the dalmatian puppies are just doggone cute. By Lisa Leigh Parney

Staff ***

Some hilarious moments, Glenn Close is marvelous, predictable, romantic.

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 whose extreme tactics don't amuse the department's top brass, and they reduce him to daytime traffic details. 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 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.)

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.

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.

Heartbreakers (R)

Director: David Mirkin. With Sigourney Weaver, Jennifer Love Hewitt, Gene Hackman, Ray Liotta, Jason Lee, Anne Bancroft. (124 min.)

Staff ** A mother (Weaver) and daughter (Hewitt) use their looks and low-cut dresses to scam their way through life. The senior partner marries millionaires and then, before the marriage can be consummated, gets the daughter to tempt the groom to ensure a speedy divorce with a big payoff. The cast is better than the material, especially Gene Hackman as a chain-smoking tobacco company executive in constant self-denial about the dangers of cigarettes. There are plenty of chuckles, but no major laughs and, at over two hours long, you may be left feeling a little bit conned by the end. By Stephen Humphries

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.

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, 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.

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, 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.

(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Monitor

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