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 David Sterrit Monitor panel MEANING

**** **** Excellent *** *** Good ** ** Fair * * Poor DUD DUD The Worst

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Movie Guide

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Capsule reviews of new and current releases.

The King Is Alive (R)

Director: Kristian Levring. With Jennifer Jason Leigh, Bruce Davison, Janet McTeer, Miles Anderson. (118 min.)

Sterritt ***

Struggling with loneliness and anxiety while waiting to be rescued from the African desert where their bus has broken down, a group of very different people decide to while away the time with a bare-bones staging of "King Lear," which stirs up more passions and apprehensions than expected. Levring was a founder of Denmark's innovative Dogma 95 movement, which tries to bring filmmaking back to its roots by forbidding artificial or extraneous effects. This unconventional character study is distinguished less by its elements of melodrama and psychodrama than by its intense acting and the vivid immediacy of Levring's powerful imagery.

A Knight's Tale (PG-13)

Director: Brian Helgeland. With Heath Ledger, Mark Addy, Alan Tudyk, Paul Bettany. (132 min.)

Staff **1/2

"A Knight's Tale" is a familiar story in which a kid from the wrong side of town (Ledger) makes his dream of becoming a knight a reality by posing as royalty. Trained as a child by the best knight in England, the only thing holding him back from rivaling the best competitors from Europe - and winning the heart of a beautiful princess - is his status in society. This quest for personal triumph is accompanied by a surprising array of classic rock-music favorites and other light-hearted comic relief. It's good family entertainment, but the jousting is bloody and violent.

By Heidi Wilson

Performance (Not rated)

Directors: Nicolas Roeg, Donald Cammell. With Mick Jagger, James Fox, Anita Pallenberg. (105 min.)

Sterritt ****

The personalities of a psychopathic gangster and a faded rock musician appear to mingle and fuse after unplanned events bring the unlikely pair together. This unorthodox 1970 psychological thriller from England includes one of Jagger's few successful appearances in a fiction film, and it remains the best-known effort completed by Cammell before his death. More importantly, it put Roeg's powerful cinematic style on the cultural map for the first time.

Time and Tide (R)

Director: Tsui Hark. With Nicholas Tse, Wu Bai, Anthony Wong, Candy Lo, Joventino Couto Remotigue. (111 min.)

Sterritt **

A young bodyguard and a former mercenary soldier cope with challenges of marriage and impending parenthood, as well as a murder plot that ensnares them in complicated ways. Tsui is a legendary leader of Hong Kong's internationally popular action-movie scene, which thrives more on visual pyrotechnics than on the depth of its stories. Its visual strengths and dramatic weaknesses are on clear display in this flashy but uninvolving crime thriller. In Cantonese and Mandarin with English subtitles

Trumpet of the Swan (Not Rated)

Directed by Richard Smith. With the voices of Jason Alexander, Mary Steenburgen, Seth Green. (75 min.)

Staff ***

In a newly animated version of the E.B. White children's classic, an all-star cast of voices, including the legendary Little Richard, brings jazzy new life to the story of a mute swan who finds his voice through music. For those whose memory of the book renders the story in gentle hues and tones, the animation may be a bit bouncy. But the jazz soundtrack by well-known jazz producer Marcus Miller will appeal to the next generation, who deserves to become familiar with this story of adolescent triumph over adversity.

By Gloria Goodale

Under the Sand (Not rated)

Director: Francois Ozon. With Charlotte Rampling, Bruno Cremer, Alexandra Stewart, Jacques Nolot. (95 min.)

Sterritt ***

After her husband tragically vanishes during a vacation trip, a middle-aged woman sustains her loss by imagining him as an ongoing presence in her everyday life. Rampling's superb performance and Ozon's unexpectedly subtle cinematic style lend emotional power and psychological depth to this gently filmed French drama. In French with English subtitles

Currently in Release Along Came A Spider (R)

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

Staff **1/2

Morgan Freeman is back as detective Dr. Alex Cross in this well-paced thriller, which is technically the prequel to "Kiss the Girls." He's on the trail of a villain who has kidnapped the daughter of a US senator. "Along Came a Spider" is filled with surprising twists, which often evoke a smile.

By Steven Savides

Staff *

Stale dialogue, ridiculous twists, Morgan Freeman is the only redeeming aspect.

Sex/Nudity: 1 reference to sex. Violence: 9 instances of fairly graphic violence, including one car crash and several shootings. Profanity: 9 harsh expressions. Drugs: 1 cigarette.

Blow (R)

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

Sterritt***

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

Staff ***

Realistic, thought-provoking.

Sex/Nudity: Brief nude shots in a photo collage, topless women in a pool, and backside shots of nude women. Violence: Graphic fighting scenes with guns and 1 slap to a woman. Profanity: 134 harsh expressions. Drugs: 31 scenes with alcohol and 39 with drugs.

Bridget Jones's Diary (R)

Director: Sharon Maguire. With Renee Zellweger, Hugh Grant, Colin Firth, Jim Broadbent. (94 min.)

Sterritt **

A romantic Englishwoman searches for a man who won't mind her slightly bulky figure and slightly dissolute habits, and finds herself dallying with her cocky boss while dodging the company of a lawyer who'd be a duller but more dignified partner. This lightweight comedy evidently sees itself as a Jane Austen spinoff in the "Clueless" vein, and fans of the genre will enjoy it if they're not distracted by trite plot twists, Firth's one-note formality, or Zellweger's on-and-off English accent.

Staff ***

1/2 Exaggerated, v.g. (very good), very British.

Sex/Nudity: 3 sex scenes, no nudity. 3 instances of innuendo and several sexual references. Violence: 1 scene with a fistfight. Profanity: 35 including many harsh expressions. Drugs: 15 scenes of smoking and drinking.

Crocodile Dundee in Los Angeles (PG)

Director: Simon Wincer. With Paul Hogan, Linda Kozlowski. (92 min.)

Staff *

You'll sooner find snow on Ayers Rock than you will laughs in this third outing of the Crocodile Dundee series. The flimsiest plot device sends Dundee, his girlfriend, and child from the Australian outback to Los Angeles where they wander from one flat episode to another. Stay home and watch the real crocodile hunter, Steve Irwin, on the cable's "Animal Planet" instead.

By Stephen Humphries

Driven (PG-13)

Director: Renny Harlin. With Sylvester Stallone, Burt Reynolds, Estelle Warren, Gina Gershon. (120 min.)

Staff **1/2

Actor, writer, and producer Sylvester Stallone and director Renny Harlin hope to re-create the success they had with "Cliffhanger" in this well-done, but flat, action-drama. The story of this racing-car tale is pure formula: A young rookie beats all odds to come out on top, and finds out what he's made of. But it's the racing scenes that take center stage, and the crashes are among the most realistic ever put on film. By Alex Kaloostian

Staff **1/2

IN STORES MAY 15

Pay It Forward (PG-13)

Director: Mimi Leder. With Kevin Spacey, Helen Hunt, Haley Joel Osment, James Caviezel. (115 min.)

Sterritt **

Challenged by an innovative schoolteacher, a bright 11-year-old devises a scheme to encourage kindness among strangers, and it spreads by leaps and bounds. This sentimental drama will exasperate you if you want your entertainment to have some connection with the world we actually live in.

Staff **1/2

Manipulative, excellent message.

Requiem for a Dream (R)

Director Darren Aronofsky. With Ellen Burstyn, Marlon Wayans, Jennifer Connelly, Jared Leto. (102 min.)

Sterritt **

This deliberately disturbing melodrama focuses on New Yorkers with different kinds of addictions: an aging woman hooked on fantasies of being thin and famous, and two young men hooked on drug dealing. Solid acting helps the story stay earthbound when Aronofsky's filmmaking gets addicted to its own flashy cynicism.

Vertical Limit (PG-13)

Director: Martin Campbell. With Chris O'Donnell, Robin Tunney, Bill Paxton, Scott Glenn. (123 min.)

Sterritt **

A team of mountaineers scales impossible heights to rescue a trio of trapped colleagues after an accident just below the world's second-highest peak. The movie has moments of breathtaking suspense, but lapses into cartoonish implausibility.

Best in Show (PG-13)

Director: Christopher Guest. With Christopher Guest, Parker Posey, Michael Hitchcock. (89 min.)

Sterritt ***

A visit with the dog-show set as they prepare their pooches for competition. There's no great cinema in this mock documentary, but there are so many uproarious laughs you'll hardly notice.

Staff **

Doggone funny, hysterical, buoyant.

(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Monitor

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