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

Cats & Dogs (PG)

Director: Lawrence Guterman. With Jeff Goldblum, Elizabeth Perkins, Alexander Pollock, voices of Tobey Maguire, Susan Sarandon, Alec Baldwin. (87 min.)

Sterritt * Goldblum plays a scientist working on an anti-allergy medicine, but the real action centers on wicked cats who want to take over the world and resourceful dogs who want to save us all. The plot pants so hard to please all conceivable tastes - touching every base from "Babe: Pig in the City" and "101 Dalmatians" to "Chicken Run" and the "Austin Powers" pictures - that it makes less sense than the average pet-food commercial.

The Man Who Bought Mustique (Not rated)

Director: Joseph Bullman. With Colin Tennant, Nicholas Courtney, Princess Margaret. (78 min.)

Sterritt *** This hugely entertaining documentary etches a lively portrait of the elderly Lord Glenconner, a Scottish aristocrat who purchased a Caribbean island in the 1950s, touted it as a resort for the rich and famous, then sold it in the '70s when the investment went sour for him. The movie accompanies him on a rare visit to his former domain, where he prepares a luncheon for a royal friend while sparring with neighbors and servants over their occasional reluctance to let him have absolutely everything his own way. Must-see viewing if you're not quite sure the sun really set over the British Empire.

Scary Movie 2 (R)

Director: Damon Wayans. With Carmen Electra, Shannon Elisabeth, Hector Elizondo, Tim Curry. (88 min.)

Staff 1/2 The original Scary movie was a rather smart, funny riff on horror movies, in the "Naked Gun" vein. Well that vein has apparently run dry, for all this sequel can offer is lots of cliches and bathroom humor. You won't laugh and you won't be scared, but you may be embarrassed for the group of teenagers trapped in an archetypical haunted house for a weekend with Tim Curry. They're forced to deliver such terrible one-liners rather than simply get killed off one by one. By Alex Kaloostian

The Vertical Ray of the Sun (PG-13)

Director: Tran Anh Hung. With Tran Nu Yen-Khe, Nguyen Nhu Quynh, Le Khanh, Ngo Quang Hai. (112 min.)

Sterritt *** The emotional dynamics of a Vietnamese family are the focus of this exquisitely filmed drama about two married women, their unsettled young sister, and the challenges of living an individualistic life in a closely intertwined clan. Tran is Vietnam's most internationally respected filmmaker, and here he taps once more into a long tradition of richly understated Asian cinema stretching from Yasujiro Ozu to Hou Hsiao-hsien and beyond. The cinematography is gorgeous from first frame to last, but the story occasionally rings false, and Tran repeats the tendency he showed in "Cyclo" and "The Scent of Green Papayas" to favor artful images over dramatic momentum. In Vietnamese with English subtitles

Currently in Release

A.I. (PG-13)

Director: Steven Spielberg. With Haley Joel Osment, Frances O'Connor, Jude Law, William Hurt. (140 min.)

Sterritt *** The time is the distant future, and 11-year-old David (Osment) is a new kind of android whose "artificial" intelligence is programmed with "authentic" emotions. But what if David's human love proves incompatible with his robotic nature? Spielberg took over this fantasy from the late Stanley Kubrick, but his own approach favors the pure fantasy styles of "E.T." and "Pinocchio," bringing the results closer to a high-tech joyride than a thought-provoking parable. Be warned that the violence-prone Spielberg of "Saving Private Ryan" is also on display.

Staff ** Pointless, shallow characters, stale.

Sex/Nudity: 1 scene of implied sex. Violence: 20 scenes, one quite violent torture scene. Profanity: 1 expression, mild. Drugs: None.

The Anniversary Party (R)

Directors: Alan Cumming and Jennifer Jason-Leigh. With Alan Cumming, Jennifer Jason-Leigh, Jennifer Beals, Kevin Kline, Phoebe Cates. (115 min.)

Staff ** A successful young novelist (Cummings) and his actress wife (Jason-Leigh) celebrate their sixth wedding anniversary by inviting a few select guests, welcome and unwelcome, to their home. Prodded by alcohol and drug-taking, they all reveal their hidden hopes and fears. Contains brutally frank and sexually explicit talk, but also some worthwhile insights into the contemporary male-female dynamic. By Gregory M. Lamb

Staff ** Drags a bit, baroque, actor's picnic.

Sex/Nudity: 3 scenes of innuendo, 4 scenes with female nudity, 2 nongraphic sex scenes. Violence: 2 scenes. Profanity: 85 mostly harsh expressions. Drugs: 1 scene with marijuana, multiple scenes with ecstasy, 8 with drinking.

Atlantis: The Lost Empire (PG)

Directors: Gary Trousdale and Kirk Wise. With the voices of Michael J. Fox, James Garner. (96 min.)

Staff ** "Atlantis" is an attempt at an action-adventure tale set in the early 1900s - part "Indiana Jones" and part Jules Verne. Milo Thatch is a nerdish academic invited to join a submarine mission to find the lost city of Atlantis, but unforeseen dangers lurk. The underwater hijinks are fairly entertaining, but this is hardly a classic Disney cartoon. By Stephen Humphries

Staff **1/2 Exciting, heartening, energetic.

Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: 7 scenes. Profanity: None. Drugs: 6 scenes with smoking.

Baby Boy (R)

Director: John Singleton. With Tyrese Gibson, Ving Rhames, Taraji P. Henson, Snoop Dogg. (132 min.)

Sterritt *** This melodrama centers on a young African-American named Jody who lives with his 36-year-old mother and her new boyfriend. The movie begins on an intellectual note, stating a psychologist's theory that years of racism have made many black men see themselves as overgrown children. This gives us a clue to Jody's way of life and kicks off the Oedipus theme that gallops through the story. Singleton still has a keen eye for harrowing details of urban life.

crazy/beautiful (PG-13)

Director: John Stockwell. With Kirsten Dunst, Jay Hernandez, Bruce Davison. (95 min.)

Staff ** Here's an antidote to the Freddie Prinze Jr. teen films. This tale is about a love affair between a rebellious rich girl and a Hispanic boy who travels four hours a day to attend her school. The film avoids overplaying their cultural differences, and there's a pleasing naturalistic feel throughout. Dunst also impresses with the energy and the nuances she brings to a surprisingly sexually explicit role. Sadly, there isn't enough of a compelling plot. By Stephen Humphries

Divided We Fall (PG)

Director: Jan Hrebejk. With Bolek Polivka, Csongor Kassai, Jaroslav Duslek, Anna Siskova. (123 min.)

Staff *** "You wouldn't believe what abnormal times can do to normal people," says one character in this film. Well maybe you can. There's no time for heroes in this small Czech town torn apart by Nazi occupation. This is a tale of a couple, risking their lives for the Jew hiding out in the basement. With a tasteless combination of horror and humor, "Divided We Fall" is a semi-successful, but unoriginal, portrayal of the strength of human character. By Deborah Henderson

Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: 8 scenes, extremely violent. Profanity: 11 expressions. Drugs: None.

Dr. Dolittle 2 (PG)

Director: Steve Carr. With Eddie Murphy, Kristen Wilson, and voices of Steve Zahn, Lisa Kudrow. (90 min.)

Staff *1/2 The writers must have thought, "Hey, if we can feature a mafia-type raccoon, a drinking monkey, and a Latino chameleon that can talk, this movie will write itself!" They were so wrong. Murphy reprises his 1998 role as Dr. Dolittle who must help save a forest from money-hungry loggers. It delivers a few laughs with contemporary phrases such as "whaazzzuuuup," "Hasta la vista, baby," and "Hello, Clarice," but that's about it. The film relies on crude humor for cheap laughs. By Lisa Leigh Parney

Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: None. Profanity: 10 mild expressions. Drugs: 2 with alcohol.

The Fast and the Furious (PG-13)

Director: Rob Cohen. With Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Jordanna Brewster, Michelle Rodriguez. (140 min.)

Staff **1/2 Brian (Walker), a not-so-hot rookie detective goes undercover to get to the bottom of a rash of truck hijackings. But will Brian learn how to double-pump the clutch before he blows out another set of piston rings? And did I mention there are lots of neat car chases? By Alex Kaloostian

Moulin Rouge (PG-13)

Director: Baz Luhrmann. With Nicole Kidman, Ewan McGregor, Jim Broadbent. (120 min.)

Sterritt *** The setting is Paris a century ago. The heroine is a can-can dancer caught between the love of a poor poet and the lust of a wealthy count who could help her career. Some will find it exhilarating fun. Others will pine for the days when musicals cared more about singing and dancing than cinematic shenanigans for their own sake.

Staff **1/2 Visual delight, uneven, good songs.

Sex/Nudity: Several scenes of innuendo. Violence: 2 scenes, one with attempted rape. Profanity: None. Drugs: 8 scenes of smoking, 11 with alcohol.

Sexy Beast (R)

Directors: Jonathan Glazer. With Ben Kingsley, Ray Winstone, Ian McShane, Amanda Redman. (88 min.)

Staff *** In this smart, funny British caper, Gal (Ray Winstone) is an ex-mobster enjoying a quiet retirement in Spain. Until, that is, his ex-boss Don Logan (Ben Kingsley) arrives on the scene. Against his will, Gal gets sucked back into another heist. It's hardly a new premise, but Glazer's snappy direction and fine acting by all the cast (particularly Kingsley, in the most un-Ghandi-like role imaginable) put this film at the top of its genre. By Amanda Paulson

Staff *** Brutal, funny, Kingsley shines.

Sex/Nudity: 1 sex scene with nudity. Violence: 8 scenes, extremely violent. Profanity: 138 harsh expressions. Drugs: 17 scenes with smoking, 12 scenes with drinking.

Shrek (PG-13)

Directors: Andrew Adamson, Vicky Jenson. With voices of Mike Myers, Cameron Diaz, Eddie Murphy. (90 min.)

Sterritt *** An amiable ogre, a talkative donkey, and a domineering princess set off on a fairy-tale quest that brings out the hidden decency of the monster. The story has rollicking moments and animation fans will find a generous amount of fun.

Staff *** Irreverent, fairy tale turned inside out.

Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: None. Profanity: 4 mild. Drugs: None.

Swordfish (R)

Director: Dominic Sena. With John Travolta. Hugh Jackman, Halle Berry, Don Cheadle. (97 min.)

Staff * "Swordfish" is an action-thriller of the car-chase/gunplay/misogynistic variety. Travolta plays the head of an organization of ruthless terrorists trying to rob a bank. Hackman plays a computer hacker who can stop them. It all ends with a bus dangling precariously from a helicopter. (Don't ask!) By Stephen Humphries

Staff * Mindless, ridiculous plot, weak dialogue.

Sex/Nudity: 2 scenes with nudity, 1 with sex, 4 with innuendo. Violence: 14 scenes, including bullet wounds. Profanity: 61 harsh expressions. Drugs: 11 scenes with smoking, 5 scenes with drinking.

Tomb Raider (PG-13)

Director: Simon West. With Angelina Jolie, Jon Voight, Daniel Craig, Iain Glenn. (80 min.)

Sterritt DUD The plotline has young archaeologist Lara Croft (Jolie) traversing the planet's ancient temples in search of keys that control time and space. Jolie is well cast, but does little more than fight robots and mummies that come to life. "Tomb Raider" isn't a story as much as it is a show reel of circus stunts inside elaborate sets. By Stephen Humphries

Sex/Nudity: 2 scenes of partial nudity - male and female. Violence: 11 scenes. Profanity: 10 mostly mild expressions. Drugs: 1 scene with smoking.

Out on Video In Stores july 12

Down to Earth (PG-13)

Directors: Chris Weitz, Paul Weitz. With Chris Rock, Chazz Palminteri, Greg Germann. (95 min.)

Staff ** Lance (Rock), a bike messenger and aspiring comedian, is hit and killed by a truck. When the angels in heaven discover that it wasn't "his time" yet, they offer him a temporary body (that of an old, wealthy white man). There is a good moral message to this movie, but it's too crude for younger viewers. By Heidi Wilson

In the Mood for Love (PG)

Director: Wong Kar-wai. With Maggie Cheung, Tony Leung-Chiu-wai, Rebecca Pan, Lai Chin. (97 min.)

Sterritt *** A journalist and a receptionist spend inordinate amounts of time in their lonely apartments, maintaining a polite distance between them until the man begins to suspect their spouses are having an affair with each other. The story gains most of its dramatic impact from superbly understated acting and Christopher Doyle's atmospheric camera work. In Cantonese and Shanghainese with English subtitles

Thirteen Days (PG-13)

Director: Roger Donaldson. With Kevin Costner, Bruce Greenwood, Steven Culp, Dylan Baker. (120 min.)

Sterritt *** This impeccably produced docu- drama revisits the Cuban missile crisis of 1962. The subject is so gripping that you almost forgive the filmmakers for skewing their material in order to keep Costner's pretty face at the center of everything.

Staff *** Awful Boston accent by Costner, Greenwood is great as JFK, gripping.

(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Monitor

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