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Movie Guide

May 25, 2001

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.

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

New Releases

The Road Home (Not rated)

Director: Zhang Yimou. With Zhang Ziyi, Honglei Sun, Hao Zheng, Yuelin Zhao. (89 min.)

Sterritt ***

As he prepares for his father's funeral, a man recalls the stories he's heard about the long-ago love affair between his parents, a young peasant woman and a village schoolmaster, during the 1950s - a time of transition in China between ancient folkways and new-fangled ideas like romantic love. Zhang Yimou has directed much greater films, like "Ju Dou" and "The Story of Qiu Ju," but this effort has a graceful simplicity that many will find hard to resist. Ditto for the starring performance by Zhang Ziyi, who earned fame in "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon."

Pearl Harbor (PG-13)

Director: Michael Bay. With Ben Affleck, Kate Beckinsale, Josh Hartnett, Cuba Gooding Jr. (178 min.)

Staff *

The friendship of two pilots is threatened when they both fall for the same woman on the eve of America's defeat at Pearl Harbor. The script of this self-important epic is about as well-structured as a scrambled egg, and the acting is cartoonish. Even the much-vaunted depiction of the Japanese attack, while often visually arresting, still suffers from over-frenetic editing and more emphasis on adventure thrills than befits the tragedy of Pearl Harbor. By Stephen Humphries

Sex/Nudity: 1 sex scene, 11 scenes with partial nudity. Violence: 274 scenes. Profanity: 40 harsh expressions. Drugs: 5 scenes with cigarettes, 3 scenes with alcohol.

Strange Fits of Passion (Not rated)

Director: Elise McCredie. With Michela Noonan, Mitchell Butel, Samuel Johnson. (80 min.)

Staff **

The title comes from an 18th-century poem by William Wordsworth, which is fitting, since the main character is a literature fan who works in a bookstore while plotting ways to bring some romance into her life. This modest comedy-drama relies too much on stereotypes, from the self-absorbed modern poet to the gay best friend, but Noonan's earnest performance makes much of it worth watching.

Currently in Release

Along Came A Spider (R)

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

Sterritt **1/2

Morgan Freeman is back as detective Dr. Alex Cross in this well-paced thriller. 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. 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. 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).

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.