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

Sterritt * Red stars denote the reviews of Monitor movie critic David Sterritt unless otherwise noted. Ratings and comments by the Monitor panel (Staff * blue stars) reflect the sometimes diverse views of at least three other moviegoers. Information on violence(v), drugs (d), sex/nudity (s/n), and profanity (p) is compiled by the Monitor panel.

STAR RATINGS

David Sterritt Monitor panel Meaning

Sterritt **** Staff **** Excellent

Sterritt *** Staff *** Good

Sterritt ** Staff ** Fair

Sterritt * Staff * Poor

Sterritt DUD Staff DUD The Worst

New Releases

Along Came A Spider (R)

Director: Lee Tamahori. With Morgan Freeman, Monica Potter, Michael Wincott, Jay O. Sanders, Dylan Baker, Raoul Ganeev. (104 min.)

Staff **1/2 Morgan Freeman is back as Washington detective Dr. Alex Cross in this well-paced thriller, which is technically the prequel to "Kiss the Girls." He's on the trail of an intelligent and cunning villain - Gary Soneji (Michael Wincott) - who has kidnapped the daughter of a US senator. "Along Came a Spider" is filled with surprising twists, which often evoke a smile. It contain scenes of fairly graphic violence, including one car crash and several shootings. By Steven Savides

Staff * Stale dialogue, ridiculous twists, Morgan Freeman is about the only redeeming aspect of this film.

Sex/Nudity: 1 reference to sex. Violence: 9 instances, with mostly brief gun shots. Profanity: 9 harsh expressions. Drugs: 1 cigarette.

Amores Perros (Not rated)

Director: Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu. With Gael Garcia Bernal, Goya Toledo. (153 min.)

Sterritt *** Dogs and a cataclysmic car accident play key roles in this sometimes enticing, frequently savage Mexican drama, which weaves three stories into a sustained look at the complicated lives of a canine named Cofi and his human companions. Gonzalez Inarritu is a highly promising new talent, although his depictions of animal travails will put this movie way off-limits for many viewers. In Spanish with English subtitles

Blow (R)

Director: Ted Demme. With Johnny Depp, Penelope Cruz, Ray Liotta, Paul Reubens, Rachel Griffiths, Franka Potente. (119 min.)

Sterritt ** The fact-based story of George Jung, a small-time California crook who became a big-time associate of Pablo Escobar's notorious Colombia drug cartel. The story is inherently stale, especially since Martin Scorsese did it better in the 1990 hit "GoodFellas," but Depp evokes surprising emotional depth with a characteristically subtle performance, and Demme elicits fine acting from the strong supporting cast.

The Day I Became a Woman (Not rated)

Director: Marziyeh Meshkini. With Fatemeh Cheragh, Shabnam Toloui, Azizeh Seddighi. (75 min.)

Sterritt **** This exquisitely filmed Iranian drama tells three separate stories focusing on women's lives. One heroine is a nine-year-old girl deciding how to spend the last remaining hour before she officially becomes a woman by the standards of her culture; another is a wife who decides to assert her independence despite opposition from her husband, and the third is an elderly woman trying for a different kind of independence by making whimsical use of money that's fallen into her hands. Every episode is charged with humanity and compassion.

In Farsi with English subtitles

Faat Kine (Not rated)

Director: Ousmane Sembene. With Venus Seye, Mame Ndumbe Diop, Ndiagne Dia, Mariame Balde. (118 min.)

Sterritt **** This gently told Senegalese comedy-drama centers on an ordinary woman who works in a service station and devotes her spare time to her college-age children and aging mother. The story touches on an enormously wide range of subjects - some personal, like the challenges of marriage in a society where men often have multiple wives, and others cultural or political, like the influence of Islamic traditions and the social uncertainties of a postcolonial African country. Sembene has opened up a whole new world of African cinema during his illustrious career, and this intelligent yet easy-going masterpiece ranks close to his best work. In French and Wolof with English subtitles

Just Visiting (PG-13)

Director: Jean Marie-Poire. With Jean Reno, Christian Clavier, Christina Applegate, Malcolm McDowell. (93 min.)

Staff **1/2 A faulty potion sends a 13th-century French knight and his valet down "the tunnels of time" to wake up in a Chicago museum, touching off a romp through the city. The wizard (McDowell), realizing his mistake, comes after them, adding to the confusion. Director Poire's English-language remake of his 1993 French hit brings back original stars Reno and Clavier. Not a great film, but high energy, good clean fun, and dumb humor keeps you laughing. By M.K. Terrell

Mau Mau Sex Sex (Not rated)

Director: Ted Bonnitt. With David Friedman, Dan Sonney. (80 min.)

Sterritt ** A wry documentary visit with two showmen who devoted their careers to developing, expanding, and profiting from the exotic world of exploitation movies. The title comes from their realization that a movie called "Mau Mau" will sell a lot more tickets if you add "Sex Sex" to the poster. Bonnitt provides some insights into issues of censorship and mass-culture morality, but the picture would have benefited from more flamboyant film clips and fewer folksy conversations with the garrulous old-timers it focuses on.

On Hostile Ground (Not rated)

Directors: Liz Mermin, Jenny Raskin. With Richard Stuntz, Susan Cahill, Morris Wortman. (73 min.)

Sterritt *** A nonfiction study of abortion practices and politics in the United States today, stressing the personal and professional dangers faced by abortion providers who draw the attention and anger of sometimes fanatical opponents. The film doesn't dig very deep into the social or moral history of its subject, but it contains much instructive and eye-opening material.

Smell of Camphor, Fragrance of Jasmine (Not rated)

Director: Bahman Farmanara. With Bahman Farmanara, Roya Nonahali, Reza Kianian, Valiyollah Shirandami, Hossien Kasbian (93 min.)

Sterritt *** Farmanara plays the hero of this semiautiobiographical drama about a filmmaker who's gloomy because censorship pressures are preventing him from making a new film. So he embarks on a documentary about funeral customs, which makes him gloomier than ever until the satisfaction of energizing his imagination brings rewards that renew his affection for the world. Like the experiences of its hero, this understated Iranian drama affirms life as vigorously as it provokes thought. In Farsi with English subtitles

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. 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.

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. At over two hours long, you may be left feeling a little bit conned by the end. By Stephen Humphries

Staff ** Predictable, not funny, unoriginal, vapid

Sex/Nudity: 11 scenes of mostly innuendo and frank talk. Violence: 11 scenes of slapstick violence. Profanity: 53 expressions, some harsh. Drugs: 6 instances of drinking; 25 scenes with smoking.

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.

Staff *** A reel-ful of Polaroid moments, fresh, intricate, long.

Sex/Nudity: None. V: 9 scenes of violence, including a rape. Profanity: 143 harsh expressions. Drugs: 6 instances of drinking; 1 scene with smoking.

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.

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.

By Stephen Humphries

Staff ** Sweet, singles-esqe, refreshing, believable, never quite jells, lacks chemistry

Sex/Nudity: 4 sex scenes of mostly innuendo and frank talk. Violence: None. Profanity: 23 expressions, mostly harsh. Drugs: 7 instances of drinking.

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 Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: 12 scenes of comic violence. Profanity: None. Drugs: 2 instances with drinking.

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 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.

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

Sex/Nudity: 32 scenes of very graphic innuendo and sex scenes. Violence: 6 scenes. Profanity: 77 expressions, many harsh. Drugs: 10 instances of drinking.

Out on Video in stores April 10

Bounce (PG-13)

Director: Don Roose. With Ben Affleck, Gwyneth Paltrow, Natasha Henstridge, David Paymer. (105 min.)

Staff *** Paltrow stars as Abby, who tries to "bounce back" after her husband dies in a plane crash. As it turns out, Buddy (Affleck), switched his ticket with Abby's husband at the last minute. Riddled with guilt, Buddy shows up on her doorstep a year later. The movie is well acted, and unlike some love stories, it doesn't feel forced or contrived. By Lisa Leigh Parney

Staff *** Naturalistic, heartfelt, moral tale.

Men of Honor (R)

Director: George Tillman Jr. With Cuba Gooding Jr., Robert De Niro, Charlize Theron. (127 min.)

Steritt ** An old-fashioned melodrama inspired by the life of an African-American man who rose to become a master Navy diver despite the bigotry he encountered in the newly integrated military. Gooding and De Niro bring their characters to vivid life despite the unsubtle screenplay and hyperactive music score.

Staff *** Hollywoodized story, impassioned storytelling, lots of male bonding.

(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Monitor

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