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: Murray Lerner. With Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Donovan, Judy Collins, Buffy Sainte Marie, Johnny Cash, Peter, Paul, and Mary. (95 min.)

+++ Revival of a lively, entertaining 1967 documentary about the legendary Newport Folk Festival, filmed from 1963 to 1966 in a no-frills style that perfectly suits the tone of the urban American folk movement during some of its most glorious and productive days.


Director: Tony Gatlif. With Romain Duris, Rona Hartner, Isidor Serban. (97 min.)

+++ A young Frenchman travels into the Gypsy community of rural Romania, searching for a singer whose voice has captivated him on a recording. The story is slender and Duris's polished acting doesn't always mesh with the nonprofessional cast surrounding him. But the movie draws explosive energy from its celebration of music, dancing, and Gypsy folkways, taking on a vitality and freshness that are downright breathtaking in scene after scene. Contains foul language and brief but very explicit sex.


Director: Steve Miner. With Jamie Lee Curtis, Janet Leigh, Adam Arkin, LL Cool J, Michelle Williams, Josh Hartnett. (86 min.)

++ "Scream" writer Kevin Williamson and director Miner have teamed up to bring you "Halloween: H20" (the subtitle indicates 20 years later and not a chemical formula). Former babysitter Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) is now a headmistress of an isolated boarding school in California who's trying to put serial killer Michael Myers out of her mind. She's divorced, battling a drinking problem, and trying to reconnect with her teenaged son. Meanwhile, the masked maniac is on her trail. It's campy fun, but if you've seen the previous sequels, the plot grows tiresome and lacks shock value. By Lisa Leigh Parney

++ Fun thrill ride, gory, occasionally funny.

Sex/Nudity: None, though some sexual innuendo. Violence: Final segment filled with terror, gore, and violence, including shooting, throat slashing, several knifings with extremely large knife, car crash, and beheading. Profanity: 22 expletives. Drugs: Occasional drinking to relieve stress; cigarettes.


Director: Brian De Palma. With Nicolas Cage, Gary Sinise, John Heard, Carla Gugino, Stan Shaw. (99 min.)

+++ Cage gives a wildly extroverted performance as an Atlantic City cop who stumbles onto an assassination scheme that forces him to reassess his loyalties even as he chases the villains. The movie is weaker as a suspense yarn than as an exercise in style, filling the screen with intricate camera choreography. But it also ponders the serious theme of modern materialism, represented by everything from excesses of the gambling and prizefighting industries to machinations of the military-industrial complex.

+1/2 Disappointing, hyperactive, uneven.

Sex/Nudity: 3 scenes of attempted seduction. Violence: 8 scenes, plus boxing violence. Profanity: 64 swears and oaths. Drugs: 3 scenes with alcohol, 8 with cigarettes.

Currently in Release


Director: Zhang Yuan. With Si Han, Hu Jun. (90 min.)

+++ A police officer confronts unexamined aspects of contemporary China and his own sensibility while interrogating a gay man he's arrested in a public park. This capably filmed drama combines earnest performances with an informed interest in psychological and sociological issues.


Director: Andy Tennant. With Drew Barrymore, Anjelica Huston, Dougray Scott, Jeanne Moreau. (124 min.)

+++ Prettily filmed retelling of the Cinderella story, complete with mistreated heroine, wicked stepmother, and handsome prince. There's no earthly reason for stretching this often-told tale to more than two hours, but Huston is amusingly tart as the stepmom, and it's hard to resist a movie that substitutes Leonardo da Vinci for the traditional fairy godmother.

+++ Charming, romantic, spunky.

Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: 5 scenes, mostly mild, sometimes cartoonish. Profanity: 2 mild expressions. Drugs: 2 scenes with alcohol.


Director: Sandra Goldbacher. With Minnie Driver, Tom Wilkinson, Harriet Walter, Florence Hoath, Bruce Myers, Jonathan Rhys Meyers. (110 min.)

+++ Seeking broader horizons for her life, a young Jewish woman leaves her comfortable London home in the 1840s and becomes governess in the Christian household of an inventor who's trying to perfect the newfangled technology called photography. Driver gives a winning performance in a human-scaled story that mostly avoids romantic clichs and gender stereotypes, although a few of both creep in from time to time.


Director: Daisy von Scherler Mayer. With Hatty Jones, Frances McDormand, Nigel Hawthorne, Stphane Audrane. (90 min.)

+++ Young children will enjoy this colorful tale of a little girl who tries to save her beloved boarding school from being shut down by the wealthy old coot who owns it; there's also a subplot about a naughty neighbor who gets kidnapped by his tutor. Based on the classic children's books by Ludwig Bemelmans.

++++ Witty, sweet, charming.

Sex/Nudity/Violence/Drugs: None. Profanity: One French swearword.

MAFIA! (PG-13)

Director: Jim Abrahams. With Lloyd Bridges, Christina Applegate, Jay Mohr, Billy Burke, Olympia Dukakis, Jason Fuchs. (86 min.)

++ Over-the-top parody of the "Godfather" saga with Bridges as a klutzy patriarch, Mohr as his basically decent son, and Burke as his basically indecent son. The movie pitches so many gags that the quantity will impress you even if the quality doesn't. Some are hilarious but others are silly, stupid, vulgar, pointless, old, borrowed, or blue.

+ Crude, mindless, overextended parody.

Sex/Nudity: 1 instance of sex; no nudity. Violence: 17 instances of cartoonish violence. Profanity: 21 vulgar or profane expressions. Drugs: 5 instances of drug use, 4 instances of drinking.


Director: Martin Campbell. With Anthony Hopkins, Antonio Banderas, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Maury Chaykin Stuart Wilson, Matt Letscher. (136 min.)

++ The legendary freedom-fighter of 19th-century California trains a young bandit to carry on his struggle against a former Spanish governor who has already wrecked Zorro's family and now wants to create an independent nation on the backs of its ruthlessly exploited people. This is proudly old-fashioned entertainment in every respect except its often excessive violence. The heroes are as dashing as can be, and Zeta-Jones definitely has a promising Hollywood future.

++1/2 Spirited, classic hero-villain tale, fun.

Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: Several dozen scenes of high-intensity sword-fighting and brawls resulting in deaths, some explosions. Profanity: One mild expression. Drugs: 11 scenes of social drinking and smoking, 2 scenes of drunkenness.


Director: F. Gary Gray. With Samuel L. Jackson, Kevin Spacey, David Morse, Ron Rifkin, J.T. Walsh. (139 min.)

+ Accused of murdering an informer to cover up a financial scam, a police-force hostage negotiator takes several prisoners of his own, then refuses to speak with anyone except another hostage expert he's never met. The concept of dueling negotiators has strong dramatic potential, but the filmmakers are more interested in gimmicks and gunshots than in the psychological face-off between sharp-witted criminologists. Jackson and Spacey deserve much better material.

++ Obvious, gritty, intense.

Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: Numerous scenes of violence and threats of violence. Profanity: 138 expletives, often harsh. Drugs: 2 scenes involving alcohol, 6 scenes with tobacco.


Director: Nancy Meyers. With Lindsay Lohan, Natasha Richardson, Dennis Quaid, Lisa Ann Walter. (128 min.)

+++ Remake of the popular 1961 comedy about long-separated identical twins who learn of each other's existence at summer camp and decide to get their warring parents back together. Lohan is sparklingly good as the look-alike little girls, and the movie as a whole has enough bounce and energy to overcome a few dull spots and a too-long running time.

+++ Delightful, lighthearted, generic.

Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: 1 fencing scene, not violent. Profanity: None. Drugs: 6 scenes with drinking (1 in which adults permit a child to taste wine); 1 scene with a cigarette.


Director: Theresa Connelly. With Lena Olin, Gabriel Byrne, Claire Danes, Mili Avatal, Adam Trese, Rade Serbedzija. (111 min.)

+++ The lives and loves of a working-class family in Detroit, centering on the emotional adventures of a teenage daughter whose place in a church pageant is threatened by her high-spirited nature and pregnancy. The appealing honesty of this modest comedy-drama is supplemented with beautifully filmed touches of atmospheric detail, although the story takes some regrettably unconvincing turns during its last half-hour.


Director: Steven Spielberg. With Tom Hanks, Edward Burns, Matt Damon, Tom Sizemore, Jeremy Davies, Vin Diesel, Barry Pepper, Giovanni Ribisi, Adam Goldberg. (160 min.)

+++ This extremely violent World War II drama focuses on an Army captain ordered to penetrate dangerous territory and rescue a private whose mother has already lost three sons in combat, even though this places the lives of his other soldiers in jeopardy. The story raises hard moral questions relating to the relative value of human lives and the overwhelming debt that may be felt by those who benefit when others sacrifice. But the movie falls short of excellence because it doesn't so much explore these issues as finesse them in an action-filled climax. Contains horrific mayhem.

+++ Masterpiece, grimly realistic, definitely not for kids.

Sex/Nudity: 2 instances of soldiers talking about women and sex. Violence: 5 sweeping scenes of violence, all of them graphic, war-related, and almost continuous. First and last scenes are at least a half-hour long. Profanity: 79 expletives, usually during battle. Drugs: Medicinal use of morphine, 22 instances of smoking.


Director: Benoit Jacquot. With Sandrine Kiberlain, Vincent Lindon, Franois Berland. (88 min.)

+++ During a time of mounting confusion in her life, a young woman meets an eccentric psychotherapist who claims to have a cure for her ills, and their relationship leads to new problems with her professionally successful but emotionally insecure husband. Jacquot makes good use of his filmmaking skills and shows his usual concern for problems faced by contemporary women, although this drama would be stronger if the male characters were fleshed out more convincingly.


Directors: Peter Farrelly and Bobby Farrelly. With Ben Stiller, Cameron Diaz, Matt Dillon, Chris Elliott, Lee Evans. (120 min.)

++ Still hopelessly in love with a high school heartthrob he hardly knew, a New England yuppie tracks her down to Miami, then competes for her affection with various new rivals, including the private eye he hired to locate her. This comedy is as down-and-dirty as you'd expect from the Farrelly team, who launched their career with "Dumb and Dumber" and "Kingpin," but more than one sequence manages to be hilarious on its own outrageously crass terms.

++ Crass, irreverent, gross-out comedy.

Sex/Nudity: 1 instance of implied sex, 3 brief instances of nudity. Violence: Mostly slapstick, nothing graphic. Profanity: About 80 crude or harsh expressions. Drugs: 5 scenes of drinking, 3 of smoking.


Director: Pavel Chukhrai. With Vladimir Mashkov, Ekaterina Rednikova. (97 min.)

+++ The setting is the Soviet Union in the 1950s, and the main character is a little boy facing the difficult task of growing up with an attractive but dependent mother and her emotionally unstable boyfriend, a Stalinist with a tendency toward mean, sometimes violent behavior. The story is bleak, but the acting is strong and the filmmaking is vivid.

Out On Video

(In stores Aug. 11)



Director: Joel Coen. With Jeff Bridges, John Goodman, Julianne Moore, Steve Buscemi. (113 min.)

+++ Hired to deliver a ransom in a kidnapping scheme, two bowling-league buddies decide to abscond with the money themselves, landing in a heap of trouble.

+++1/2 Hilarious, quirky, colorful.



Director: Randall Wallace. With Leonardo DiCaprio, Jeremy Irons, John Malkovich, Gabriel Byrne. (132 min.)

+++1/2 Musketeer revolutionaries in 1662 Paris plot to replace an arrogant king with his forgotten twin brother, who was condemned to life in an iron mask.

+++ Lively, stylish, great story line.



Director: Leonard Ho. With Jackie Chan, Richard Norton, Miki Lee, Karen McLymont. (87 min.)

+++ Jackie Chan is a TV chef called upon to save a reporter from a drug ring she captured on film.

+++ Creative, humorous, well-crafted.

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