The Monitor Movie Guide
MARCH 17, 1995
Movies that contain violence, sexual situations, nudity, and profanity are denoted V, S, N, and P respectively. Evaluations do not constitute a Monitor endorsement. Further guidance is supplied by full reviews on the Arts pages.
David Sterritt Staff Panel Meaning
O O Don't bother
* o Poor
** oo Fair
*** ooo Good
**** oooo Excellent
1/2 1/2 Half rating point
BEFORE THE RAIN
* Three related tales rooted in Macedonia's current political strife. The first deals with a young monk and an Albanian runaway; the second with a Macedonian photojournalist and his British lover in London; the third follows the photojournalist back to his native village. The subjects are interesting, but Milcho Manchevski's filmmaking is too disjointed to build much intellectual or emotional energy. (NR) S V P
BYE BYE LOVE
*** Three divorced men juggle relationships with their angry ex-wives, their frustrated kids, and each other. Sam Weisman's comedy has a couple of touching moments and several hilarious ones, although it's a little too polite to become the biting satire it might have been. Randy Quaid and Janeane Garofalo are priceless as a newly acquainted couple having the world's worst date. (PG-13) P S
CIRCLE OF FRIENDS
** The place is an Irish village in 1957, and the heroines are three young women negotiating the twists and turns of love, friendship, and family relations. Pat O'Connor directed this likable but unmemorable comedy-drama, which creates some vivid moments without quite managing to flesh out its commonplace characters. (PG-13) S P V
INTO THE DEEP
** A documentary on undersea life. The movie is just a collection of pretty shots with nothing in particular to say, but the combination of 3-D photography and the huge Imax screen gives it plenty of visual punch, and it's all over in a snappy 35 minutes. (NR)
FARINELLI: IL CASTRATO
** The life and loves of Europe's most renowned 18th-century castrato singer, focusing on his often peculiar relationships with composers, women, and his demanding brother. The subject has historical and musical interest, and the film's technicians have done an impressive job of reproducing the hero's androgynous vocal quality on the soundtrack. Unfortunately, director Gerard Corbiau shows more interest in sensational details than aesthetic insights, and the performances are very uneven. (R) S N V P
Currently in Release
*** Romantic comedy about a young American and a French student who meet on a European train and decide to spend a spontaneous day together. Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy are attractive stars, but what's most appealing about the picture is the value it puts on sharing ideas and feelings through language. Directed by Richard Linklater. (R) P
ooo1/2 Engaging, talky, believable.
BOYS ON THE SIDE
** Three women start on a cross-country trip, hoping for a better life: a gay singer, a businesswoman with AIDS, and a hustler who's just killed her abusive boyfriend. The movie tries to outdo ''Thelma and Louise'' by upping the number of heroines, but it lacks the moral seriousness to tackle its sensitive material. Herbert Ross directed. Whoopi Goldberg, Mary-Louise Parker, and Drew Barrymore star. (R) N P V S
ooo Hilarious, heavy on social issues, tragic.
The Brady bunch movie
Those groovy Bradys are now living in the '90s, and they must raise $20,000 or else their house will be auctioned off. Based on the '70s TV show, the plot works well compared with most sitcom movies. The cast is a close match to the original. Avid ''Bunch'' fans will ''dig it,'' while others may find it hokey. Directed by Betty Thomas. (PG-13) By Shelley Coolidge.
ooo1/2 Nostalgic, campy; Marcia steals the show.
BULLETS OVER BROADWAY
** A young playwright juggles art, romance, and gangsters while preparing his first big production. Woody Allen's comedy is rarely inspired, but provides some good laughs and an energetic depiction of the Roaring '20s. (R) V P S
ooo1/2 Snappy, original; Dianne Wiest heads remarkable cast.
*** A man struggles to save his career after being sexually harassed by his new boss, who happens to be an old girlfriend. The movie's social attitudes are ridiculous, suggesting that powerful women pose dangers their male counterparts wouldn't dream of. The story is told with great gusto by director Barry Levinson, though, making it fun to sit through despite its many failings. (R) S N P
ooo Intriguing, suspenseful, topical.
*** A man tries to assuage family-related grief through an oblique relationship with a nightclub dancer. Atom Egoyan, perhaps the most imaginative filmmaker in Canada today, wrote and directed this explicit but serious-minded study of sexual obsessiveness. (R) P S N V
*An ordinary man becomes clairvoyant after a near-death experience, and finds himself on the trail of a serial killer. This new ripoff of ''The Silence of the Lambs'' is scuttled by dopey dialogue and silly situations, although there are a couple of snappy suspense scenes. Brett Leonard directed. (R) P S V
*** A look at college race relations, focusing on three students: a white woman whose social awareness is raised after a date-rape incident; a black man who resents unspoken racism; and a white man who's recruited by a skinhead gang. The film treats realistic subjects in a stylized way, putting its main energy into exploring ideas rather than building emotional power. Written and directed by John Singleton. (R) V S N P
oo1/2 Sobering, realistic, disturbing.
*** A team of documentary filmmakers spent years tracking two young basketball players who hoped sports careers might be their ticket out of Chicago's inner city. The movie is a provocative commentary, but the material could have been shaped into a tighter, more cohesive structure. (PG-13) P
ooo Insightful, sensitive, but a tad slow.
** A white law professor defends a young black man sentenced to death for a horrible crime, and encounters jarring surprises. Although the first hour builds effective suspense, the story sags into a warmed-over combination of ''The Silence of the Lambs'' and both versions of ''Cape Fear,'' and the violent climax looks like it was shot in an Everglades theme park. Sean Connery is smooth as the lawyer, but Ed Harris steals the show as a Hannibal Lecter wannabe. Arne Glimcher directed. (R) V P
o Brutal, unoriginal; waste of fine cast.
LEGENDS OF THE FALL
* The story begins as a family saga in old Montana, but turns into a hackneyed tale of rivalry between two brothers who love a beautiful widow. The scenery is pretty, in a calendar-art sort of way, but nothing else is worth the price of admission, including Anthony Hopkins's weak acting. Directed by Edward Zwick. (R) V S N P
oo1/2 Tear-jerker, melodramatic, beautiful scenery.
*** Sweetly filmed, sensitively acted retelling of Louisa May Alcott's classic novel, plunging us into an idealized American past that's as seductive as it is mythical. Directed by Gillian Armstrong. (PG)
ooo1/2 Poignant, wholesome, charming.
THE MADNESS OF KING GEORGE
*** Maybe it's family problems, or the stress of losing the American colonies; but whatever the cause, the monarch's mental health has become shaky, and this is of enormous interest to friends and enemies alike. Excellent acting undergirds this historical comedy-drama, directed by Nicholas Hytner, who also supervised the well-received stage production of Alan Bennett's play. (Not Rated) P
oooo Droll, powerful; fine acting by Nigel Hawthorne.
** The adventures of a Miami family, focusing mainly on sex, romance, and marriage. Sarah Jessica Parker and Mia Farrow are ideally matched as a daughter and mother who fall for the same guy, and Paul Mazursky and Antonio Banderas stand out as two of the men in their lives. Written and directed by David Frankel, whose attempt at following in Woody Allen's footsteps would have been more productive if it weren't so slavish. (PG-13) S N P
o Vapid, self-indulgent characters; zzzzzzz.
** The lives and loves of two Jewish women in Paris between the late 1960s and early '90s. Romane Bohringer and Elsa Zylberstein are nicely unassuming as the heroines. The plot doesn't quite hang together, though, and the dramatic climax seems more arbitrary than affecting. Written and directed by Martine Dugowson. (Not Rated) P S V
*** Muriel is a misfit who's desperate to get married, but has everything from overbearing parents to nasty friends standing in her way. Australian newcomer P. J. Hogan wrote and directed this high-energy comedy, which earned several of this year's Australian Academy Awards. (NR) S N V P
*** Paul Newman does his best acting in years as Sully, a likable loser juggling relationships with friends and relatives who can't figure out why he's still drifting aimlessly through life after passing his 60th birthday. Melanie Griffith and Bruce Willis head the strong supporting cast. Directed by Robert Benton. (R) V S N P
ooo Sad, honest, well-acted.
ONCE WERE WARRIORS
*** A harrowing visit to the New Zealand household of an ethnic Maori woman whose white husband has scarred their 18-year marriage with bouts of drunken violence. The drama is not so much artful as powerful, in the way a locomotive or a sledgehammer is powerful; but its cry against domestic abuse is strong and unflinching. Lee Tamahori directed. (R) S V P
* A virus developed for biological warfare breaks loose in a California town, and military brass debate the issue while Dustin Hoffman tries to save the day. It's sad to see such an empty-headed movie on such an attention-worthy subject. Clunkily directed by Wolfgang Petersen. Morgan Freeman and Rene Russo head the hard-working but ill-fated supporting cast. (R) P V
*** Four interlocking stories about sex, drugs, violence, and other sensational stuff, tempered with an interest in redemption that suggests filmmaker Quentin Tarantino might be growing up a little. John Travolta and Samuel L. Jackson are terrific as talkative hit men, and Bruce Willis is equally good as a boxer who refuses to throw a fight. Look out for over-the-top scenes of mayhem and brutality, though. (R) V S N P
ooo Surprising, wry, gory.
THE QUICK AND THE DEAD
*** A vengeful woman takes on a sadistic sheriff who keeps order by staging shootouts in the town square. Sam Raimi's western parodies the western genre with energy and affection. Contains lots of violence, but done in a cartoonish way that diminishes its impact. (R) V P N
ooo Suspenseful, violent, Sharon Stone's best film.
** The up-and-down friendship of a hard-working young physician and his crotchety old grandpa. The story never gets beyond stereotypes and cliches, although Peter Falk manages to build some touching moments. Peter Yates directed. (PG) P S V
THE SECRET OF ROAN INISH
** Living on the Irish coast with her grandparents, a little girl hears local legends that take on vivid meaning in her life. John Sayles normally steers toward social realism in his movies, and while this fairy tale has many ingredients for effective family entertainment, he's not a graceful enough filmmaker to create the mystical mood he seeks. (PG) P V S
oo1/2 Enchanting, slow; trained seals are the stars.
THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION
*** Morgan Freeman gives a superb performance and Tim Robbins isn't far behind in Frank Darabont's intelligent drama about hope, loyalty, and friendship in a top-security prison. (R) S V P N
oooo Uplifting, powerful, distinct and believable characters.
SON OF THE SHARK
*** Rejecting society, which has given them no sense of belonging, two young French brothers struggle to survive in increasingly hostile urban surroundings. Agnes Merlet's debut film is admirably direct and unsentimental, and acted with stunning forcefulness. It's so derivative of ''The 400 Blows,'' though, that fans of French cinema will have attacks of deja vu. (NR) S N V P