Reviews in this weekly guide are written by Monitor critic David Sterritt unless otherwise noted. Ratings and comments by the Monitor staff panel reflect the sometimes diverse views of at least three other viewers. Information on violence, drugs, sex/nudity, and profanity is compiled by the panel.
+++1/2 Very Good
AYN RAND: A SENSE OF LIFE (Not rated)
Director: Michael Paxton. With Ayn Rand, Mike Wallace, Sharon Gless, Leonard Peikoff. (141 min.)
+ Documentary about the Russian-born writer who emigrated to the United States, wrote provocative novels like "The Fountainhead" and "Atlas Shrugged," and developed her Objectivist philosophy based on capitalism, atheism, and selfishness as the highest moral good. The subject is fascinating, but the movie is less a thoughtful exploration than an uncritical commercial for Rand's notions.
BLUES BROTHERS 2000 (PG-13)
Director: John Landis. With Dan Aykroyd, John Goodman, Joe Morton, J. Evan Bonifant, Aretha Franklin. (123 min.)
++ Eighteen years after their first film, the Blues Brothers are back, complete with sunglasses, car chases ... and a kid? This time they're running from the law, a right-wing militia group, and the Russian mafia. Landmark musical performances from countless stars draw attention from a mediocre plot. Don't miss the end credits, with R&B legends singing a catchy tune and an amusing bit from James Brown. By Mariah Gardner
++1/2 Toe-tapping, innocuous, overlong.
Sex/Nudity: Scantily clad dancers at a strip club. Profanity: Minimal. Violence: Numerous car chases and a huge car-crash scene. Drugs: None.
MA VIE EN ROSE (R)
Director: Alain Berliner. With Michle Laroque, Jean-Philippe coffey, Hlne Vincent, Georges Du Fresne. (88 min.)
+++ "My Life in Pink" is the English-language title of this good-humored tale about a French schoolboy who's convinced he'd be much happier if he were a girl. Alain Berliner's brightly colored comedy treats a sensitive subject with unfailing taste, tact, and high spirits.
++++ Fresh, original, reflects today's society.
Sex/Nudity, Violence: None. Profanity: Minimal. Drugs: Drinking champagne as a family.
SHOCK CORRIDOR (Not rated)
Director: Samuel Fuller. With Peter Breck, Constance Towers, Gene Evans. (101 min.)
++++ First released in 1963, this high-intensity thriller focuses on a reporter who gets himself committed to a mental hospital in order to solve a murder case. The movie combines a delirious portrait of the post-World War II era with images of astonishing intensity.
Director: Barry Levinson. With Dustin Hoffman, Sharon Stone, Samual L. Jackson, Liev Schreiber. (120 min.)
++ Deep under the ocean, scientists investigate a mysterious object that manipulates reality according to the mentalities of the people who poke around it. Michael Crichton's novel had some amusing takes on the way technological paradoxes can flummox educated minds, but the movie version emphasizes special effects over ironies and ideas.
ZERO EFFECT (R)
Director: Jake Kasdan. With Bill Pullman, Ben Stiller, Ryan O'Neal, Kim Dickens. (115 min.)
++1/2 A brilliant yet disturbed private investigator is hired by a guilt-ridden timber baron to reveal the identity of his blackmailer, who is as haunted as they are. This story takes a dark look at wrongdoing, guilt, hurt, and growth under the weight of enough emotional baggage to fill a boxcar. The result is uneven and sometimes just too much to watch. By Phelippe Salazar
++1/2 Quirky, uneven, disturbing.
Sex/Nudity: One sexual encounter; no nudity. Profanity: Extremely foul language. Violence: One murder scene, shown in a flashback. Drugs: The lead character has a drug problem; social drinking.
Currently in Release
Director: Alan Rudolph. With Julie Christie, Nick Nolte, Lara Flynn Boyle, Jonny Lee Miller. (113 minutes.)
+++ Two couples split apart and get involved in each other's lives, while coping with various stresses from the past and present. Less interesting than the adulterous shenanigans are the impulses toward family life that the characters seem unable to resist despite the temptations that assail them.
+++ Well-written, engaging, strong acting.
Sex/Nudity: Numerous scenes of sexual activity; a preoccupation with sex and adultery in the story. Violence: Aggressive behavior and story material about grief and loss. Profanity: Four-letter words and other vulgarities. Drugs: Drinking.
THE APOSTLE (Not rated)
Director: Robert Duvall. With Robert Duvall, Billy Bob Thornton, Miranda Richardson, Farrah Fawcett. (133 min.)
++++ Robert Duvall wrote, directed, and stars in this riveting tale of a religiously devout but humanly flawed preacher, who flees from Texas to Louisiana after a violent incident sparked by his wife's infidelity and another minister's move to oust him from his church. Avoiding the clichs and condescension that characterize many films on religious figures, the movie is at once a compelling drama and a thoughtful look at faith-related issues on personal, social, and cultural levels.
+++ Compelling, inspiring, provokes thought about religion.
Sex/Nudity, Drugs: None. Violence: One brief outburst. Profanity: One vulgarity.
Directors: Josh and Jonas Pate. With Tim Roth, Chris Penn, Michael Rooker, Renee Zellweger, Rosanna Arquette, Ellen Burstyn. (102 min.)
+++ Two cops and a lie-detector machine square off against a brilliant but deranged man who may have horrifically murdered a prostitute. The story has extremely lurid aspects but the acting and storytelling are strong.
++ Spooky, dark, weird.
Sex/Nudity: 4 scenes of fairly graphic sex. Violence: 10 scenes, very vivid and horrifying. Profanity: 63 expletives. Drugs: A dozen scenes showing tobacco use, another dozen with alcohol.
DEEP RISING (R)
Director: Stephen Sommers. With Treat Williams, Famke Janssen, Anthony Heald, Kevin J. O'Connor, Wes Studi. (110 min.)
+ Assorted adventurers battle sea monsters in the briny deep. The movie has energy to spare, but its over-the-top mayhem adds nothing new or worthwhile to the horror genre.
++ Alien-esque, scary, good sense of humor.
Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: About 20 scenes of fistfights, automatic machine guns, and beasts eating people alive. Profanity: 105 expletives. Drugs: 6 scenes involving social drinking, 4 involving cigarettes.
DESPERATE MEASURES (R)
Director: Barbet Schroeder. With Michael Keaton, Andy Garcia, Marcia Gay Harden, Brian Cox. (105 min.)
+ A policeman persuades a psychotic killer to provide a bone-marrow transplant for his gravely ill son, but the criminal launches an escape plan as soon as he enters the hospital. The beginning of the story raises important questions about some aspects of high-tech medical care, but the movie soon degenerates into a series of mindless chase sequences.
Director: Gregory Hoblit. With Denzel Washington, John Goodman, Donald Sutherland. (124 min.)
++ A detective battles a fallen angel who commits awful crimes while inhabiting the bodies of ordinary people. An energetic but uneven thriller.
++ Too slow, gloomy, morbid.
Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: Several killings, much fighting, graphic depiction of a gas-chamber execution. Profanity: 55 instances of four-letter words. Drugs: 2 scenes of liquor use; 8 scenes involving cigars or cigarettes.
THE GINGERBREAD MAN (R)
Director: Robert Altman. With Kenneth Branagh, Embeth Davitz, Robert Duvall, Daryl Hannah. (115 min.)
+++ A lawyer lands in dangerous trouble with an unhappy young woman, her eccentric father, and a cultlike group to which the old man belongs. Popular novelist John Grisham cooked up the story for Robert Altman's engrossing thriller, which gains additional power from moody camera work and more atmospheric rainfall than any movie in ages.
GREAT EXPECTATIONS (R)
Director: Alfonso Cuarn. With Gwyneth Paltrow, Ethan Hawke, Robert De Niro, Anne Bancroft. (115 min.)
+ Updated version of Charles Dickens's great novel, changing the Pip character from an English marsh-dweller to a Florida artist named Finn who moves to New York after an unknown benefactor takes an interest in his welfare. The stars are appealing and the filmmaking is imaginative at times, but the picture never builds much dramatic momentum.
++1/2 Visually powerful, lightweight, creative interpretation.
Sex/Nudity: A few scenes - one with nudity and two erotic. Violence: One scene of a subway stabbing. Profanity: Minimal. Drugs: Several scenes with cigarette smoking and social drinking.
HARD RAIN (R)
Director: Mikael Salomon. With Morgan Freeman, Christian Slater, Randy Quaid, Minnie Driver. (96 min.)
++ Bank robbers chase an armored-car guard who's made off with their loot during a flood emergency in a Midwestern town. Salomon directed the silly but diverting action yarn, which benefits from the talents of Morgan Freeman, Randy Quaid, Minnie Driver, and Betty White.
Director: Nick Gomez. With Lili Taylor, Michael Rapaport, Tony Danza, Isaac Hayes. (103 min.)
++ Florida drug dealers cope with the physical and psychological hazards of their trade. Taylor and Rapaport are among today's most engaging stars, but the movie as a whole is more pretentious than illuminating. A disappointing letdown from filmmaker Gomez, whose "Laws of Gravity" remains a landmark of streetwise independent filmmaking.
LIVE FLESH (R)
Director: Pedro Almodvar. With Liberto Rabal, Angela Molina. (100 min.)
+++ A paralyzed policeman enters a continually shifting relationship with his beautiful wife, his former partner, and the man sent to jail for causing his injury. Some of the action is as lurid as the title, but passionate performances and ingenious visuals make this the most absorbing movie by Spanish director Almodvar since his great comedy "Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown."
MOTHER AND SON (Not rated)
Director: Aleksandr Sokurov. With Gudrun Geyer, Aleksei Ananishnov. (73 min.)
++++ Contemplative study of the profoundly loving relationship between a dying woman and the son who cares for her. Filmed by Russian director Sokurov, widely recognized as one of the world's most gifted and unconventional filmmakers, with a radical stillness that makes this closer to an exquisitely wrought painting than a dramatic movie.
NIL BY MOUTH (R)
Director: Gary Oldman. With Kathy Burke, Charlie Creed-Miles, Ray Winstone, Laila Morse, Edna Dore. (128 min.)
+++ Raw, unsettling account of a working-class London family beset by poverty, drug abuse, and domestic violence. The screenplay by filmmaker Oldman is based on his own youthful experience in similarly distressed circumstances, and his directorial debut has the virtue of authenticity if not of understatement.
THE REPLACEMENT KILLERS (R)
Director: Antoine Fuqua. With Mira Sorvino, Chow Yun-Fat, Michael Rooker, Jurgen Prochnow. (88 min.)
++ Deciding to go straight and emigrate to the United States, a Chinese hit man seeks safety for himself and his family by striking one last deal with dangerous mobsters. The story has more violence than brains, but Hong Kong action star Chow makes an interestingly moody impression in his first Hollywood role.
+1/2 Pulsating, sleek cinematography, thin storyline.
Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: At least 14 instances, almost all with guns. Profanity: Mostly mild, about two dozen. Drugs: A few incidental uses of alcohol and cigarettes; two with cocaine.
SPICE WORLD (PG)
Directed by Bob Spiers. With the Spice Girls, Richard E. Grant, George Wendt, Roger Moore, Meat Loaf. (93 min.)
+ A few fictionalized days in the happy-hectic lives of a British singing group. The filmmakers aim at a spoofy tone somewhere between "A Hard Day's Night" and "This Is Spinal Tap," but the results are closer to the Village People's bland "Can't Stop the Music" than to the brash breeziness of pop culture at its best.
Sex: A comic pregnancy scene. Violence/profanity/nudity/drugs: None.
Director: James Cameron. With Leonardo DiCaprio, Kate Winslet, Billy Zane, Bill Paxton, Kathy Bates. (197 min.)
+++ The great ship's legendary voyage, as recalled by an elderly woman who fell in love with a young scamp and rejected her pompous fianc in the hours before the awful iceberg struck. The first half drags a bit, but the adventure scenes are exciting and the visual effects are as dazzling as Hollywood's most advanced technology can make them.
++++ Awesome epic, riveting, tragic.
Sex/Nudity: Brief, fairly explicit sex. Violence: One suicide; much suffering as ship sinks; some gunfire. Profanity: Several dozen four-letter words. Drugs: Drinking, smoking.
Out on Video
(In stores on Feb. 17)
THE DEVIL'S ADVOCATE (R)
++ Director: Taylor Hackford. With Al Pacino, Keanu Reeves. (144 min.)
+++ Clever, chilling, intriguing plot.
GOOD BURGER (PG)
Director: Brian Robbins. With Kel Mitchell, Kenan Thompson. (93 min.)
THE EDGE (R)
+++ Director: Lee Tamahori. With Anthony Hopkins, Alec Baldwin, Elle Macpherson. (117 min.)
+++ Powerfully acted, gripping, unreal-istic.
MAD CITY (PG-13)
+++ Director: Costa-Gavras. With John Travolta, Dustin Hoffman. (114 min.)
++ Timely, thought-provoking, simplistic.