The Monitor Movie Guide

Reviews in this weekly guide are written by Monitor critic David Sterritt (the first set of '+' marks in each review) unless otherwise noted. Ratings and comments by the Monitor staff panel (the second set of '+' marks in each review) reflect the sometimes diverse views of at least three other viewers. Information on violence, drugs, sex/nudity, and profanity is compiled by the panel.

++++ Excellent

+++1/2 Very Good

+++ Good

++ 1/2 Average

++ Fair

+1/2 Poor

+ Worst

New Releases


Director: Alan Smithee. With Ryan O'Neal, Eric Idle, Whoopi Goldberg, Sylvester Stallone, Jackie Chan, Harvey Weinstein, Joe Eszterhas. (83 min.)

DUD "An Alan Smithee Film" is how Hollywood labels a movie that's been disowned by its real director. This satire tells the allegedly comic tale of a filmmaker who burns his latest epic after the studio reedits it. The idea has potential, but Eszterhas's screenplay smothers it with ham-fisted vulgarity and unamusing in jokes. The picture was reportedly directed and then disowned by Hollywood veteran Arthur Hiller, incidentally, making this "Alan Smithee Film" an Alan Smithee film!


Director: Alex Proyas. With Rufus Sewell, William Hurt, Kiefer Sutherland, Jennifer Connelly, Richard O'Brien. (103 min.)

+++ A man finds himself accused of awful crimes he can't recall, struggles to regain his memory and solve the puzzle, and enters a conflict with aliens who can change reality with their thoughts. The story is dark and often violent, but it's told with a remarkable sense of visual energy and imagination.


Director: Morgan J. Freeman. With Brendan Sexton Jr., Shawn Elliot, Jos Zuniga, David Roland Frank. (86 min.)

++1/2 Nicely shot film and touching story about tough-city kids on the fast track to becoming tough adults. The story is about a young teenager whose mother is in prison for killing his abusive father, and his life of petty street crime. His "gang" of friends drifts toward harder crimes, but our hero dreams tenaciously about becoming good. By Lynde McCormick

++1/2 Gritty, cohesive story, well-acted.

Sex/Nudity: None.Violence: Graphic scene of a man getting shot; fighting among teenagers.Profanity: Large amount of expletives.Drugs: Teenagers on drugs; several scenes take place in a bar.


Director: Todd Holland. With Richard Dreyfuss, Jenna Elfman, Lily Tomlin, Tom Poston, Elaine Stritch. (98 min.)

DUD After spending a research grant without doing the research, an anthropologist gets his children to pose as New Guinea natives so he can impress his colleagues with video footage of a "lost tribe." This is a celebration of a freewheeling fraud, hardly edifying for young or old. You don't have to be a multiculturalist to find the picture's blackface comedy and stereotyped "savages" a regrettable throwback to a less-civilized Hollywood era.


Directors: Chris Hegedus and D.A. Pennebaker. With Carol Burnett, Philip Bosco, Ken Ludwig, Tom Moore. (98 min.)

+++ Lively, funny documentary about a cast and crew bringing a musical comedy from the drawing board to the Broadway stage, with previews in Boston and plenty of suspense along the way. An entertaining eyeful from two of the finest nonfiction filmmakers around.

RASHOMON (Not rated)

Director: Akira Kurosawa. With Toshiro Mifune, Machiko Kyo, Masayuki Mori. (88 min.)

++++ Reissue of the 1950 masterpiece that put Japanese film on the international map with its story of four people giving four different versions of a grisly crime, ultimately calling into question the very nature of truth in human experience. Not the greatest film Kurosawa ever made, but surely the most popular and influential.

Currently in Release

THE APOSTLE (Not rated)

Director: Robert Duvall. With Robert Duvall, Billy Bob Thornton, 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: One scene of a couple in bed together. Violence: One outburst. Profanity: One vulgarity. Drugs: None.


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.


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.


Director: Peter Hewitt. With John Goodman, Jim Broadbent. (83 min.)

+ A 10-year-old boy discovers a family of miniature people in his house, and when crooked lawyer Ocious P. Potter wrongly repossesses the place, the tiny "borrowers" fight to get it back. While the special effects are admirable and children may be amused, there's no enduring lesson or moral impact in the poorly developed plot. By Mariah Gardner

Sex/Nudity, Profanity: None. Violence: A few instances, but very mild. Drugs: One instance with a cigar.

+++1/2 Magical, wholesome, superb special effects.


Director: Marshall Herskovitz. With Catherine McCormack, Rufus Sewell, Jacqueline Bisset, Oliver Platt, Moira Kelly, Jeroen Krabb, Joanna Cassidy, Fred Ward. (114 min.)

+ The setting is Venice in the 16th century; the heroine is a young woman who becomes a courtesan on the advice of her mother, gets involved in high-level political intrigue, and lands in perilous trouble when a would-be lover wields the power of the Inquisition against her. The camera work is pretty, but the drama is flat and lifeless, more concerned with titillating its audience than illuminating its historical background.

++1/2 Sensual, historical, melodramatic.

Sex/Nudity: Sex and nudity is central to the plot - very graphic. Violence: Some sword fighting. Drugs: Fair amount of wine drinking. OTHER: For mature audiences only.


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.


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.


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."

+++ Unique plot, unpredictable, well acted.

VSex/Nudity: About six scenes of graphic sex and nudity, including full-frontal male nudity. VProfanity: About 60 instances, but the language all seems in character. VViolence: About 10 scenes of domestic violence, gunfights, and fistfights. VDrugs: About five instances. References are made to cocaine, marijuana, and alcohol. A couple of scenes show marijuana and alcohol use.


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.


Director: Marleen Gorris. With Vanessa Redgrave, Rupert Graves, Michael Kitchen, Alan Cox. (97 min.)

+++ A few years after World War I, a well-heeled London woman prepares for a party she's giving, encounters a long-ago suitor who's returned from India, and hears of a tragedy affecting a shellshocked veteran whose image has been haunting her. Vanessa Redgrave is almost too radiant as the title character of Virginia Woolf's virtuosically written novel, intelligently adapted by screenwriter Eileen Atkins.


Director: Volker Schlondorff. With Woody Harrelson, Elisabeth Shue, Gina Gershon, Chloe Sevigny. (114 min.)

+++ Just out of jail on a trumped-up charge, a Florida reporter gets involved in a phony kidnapping cooked up by a millionaire's greedy wife. Harrelson hits just the right sardonic note in this self-mocking crime drama, but look out for grisly touches along the way.

++ Senseless, weak, missed its potential.

Sex/Nudity: No nudity, but scantily clad women and implied sex. Violence: 8 violent acts ranging in severity from a simple slap to murder. Profanity: 35 expletives. Drugs: Mild drinking.


Director: Barry Levinson. With Dustin Hoffman, Sharon Stone, Samuel 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.

++1/2 Imaginative, not very scary, disjointed.

Sex/Nudity, Drugs: None. Violence: Frequent scenes of violence or threats of violence, including fatal jellyfish and sea-snake attacks. Profanity: 39 mild profanities.


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. Nude woman sketched by artist. Violence: One suicide. Suffering, fighting as ship sinks; gunfire wounds two people. Profanity: Several dozen four-letter words. Drugs: Frequent scenes (27) of drinking and/or smoking.


Director: Frank Coraci. With Adam Sandler, Drew Barrymore. (95 min.)

+++ Entertaining comedy about a wedding singer whose career flops after he's abandoned at the altar; a waitress who's about to marry an unfaithful man; and how they complicate their lives by falling in love. The movie is surprisingly strong despite its potentially flaky plot, combining '80s-style humor with a sincere romantic story. By Mariah Gardner

++1/2 Nostalgic, hilarious, silly but sweet.

Sex/Nudity: No sex or nudity, but many jokes are mildly sexual in nature. Profanity: 33 mild expletives. Violence: One punch to the nose; one mini-brawl. Drugs: Seven scenes with alcohol, often with drunkenness used as humor; 3 scenes involving tobacco use.

Out on Video

(In stores now)


(Drama/social satire)

+++ Director: Sidney Lumet. With James Spader, Helen Mirren, Albert Brooks, Kyra Sedgwick, Wallace Shawn, Anne Bancroft.

(105 min.).


(Romantic comedy)

Director: Mark Joffe. With Janeane Garofalo, Jay O. Sanders, Denis Leary. (93 min.)



+++ Director: Bart Freundlich. With Arija Bareikis, Blythe Danner, Hope Davis, Julianne Moore. (93 min.)

++ Dark, confused, probing.



+ Director: Keith Samples. With Greg Kinnear, Lauren Holly, Joan Cusack, Jilian Hennessy. (98 min.)

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