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: Thomas Vinterberg. With Henning Moritzen, Ulrich Thomsen, Thomas Bo Larsen, Paprika Steen, Birthe Neumann. (100 min.)

+++ A wealthy patriarch throws a party to celebrate his 60th birthday, but things go sour when long-submerged rivalries, jealousies, and hostilities surface among guests. This pitch-dark comedy has much to say about the seamy underside of human relationships, showing that family values are more complex than pop-culture slogans would have us believe.

DETROIT 9000 (R)

Director: Arthur Marks. With Alex Rocco, Hari Rhodes, Rudy Challenger. (106 min.)

++ Reissue of a 1973 entry in the "blaxploitation" craze, centering on two cops - one black, one white - investigating a bold robbery at the behest of a black politician who suspects the crime was meant to derail his political ambitions. The movie is no classic, and Rocco's performance is more mannered than memorable, but the tale effectively captures some aspects of the racially troubled period when it was filmed.


Director: Stefan Ruzowitsky. With Simon Schwarz, Sophie Rois, Lars Rudolph, Julia Geschnitzer. (95 min.)

++ Peasants inherit a farm from the sour old man who owned it, and surprise their neighbors by deciding to work the place themselves instead of selling it for ready cash. This sardonic comedy-drama isn't very original, but it has a clear-headed view of human foibles, never sentimentalizing or idealizing the working people at the heart of its story.


Director: John Maybury. With Derek Jacobi, Daniel Craig, Tilda Swinton, Anne Lambton. (91 min.)

+++ A brutally frank portrait of the great English painter Francis Bacon, focusing on the relationship he developed with a culturally deprived male lover as his success skyrocketed in the international art world. Maybury's screenplay recalls the respected movie "Prick Up Your Ears," which tackled a somewhat similar subject, but his visual style is very fresh, underscoring the pungency of Jacobi's brilliant acting. Be warned that the picture is heavy on sex and violence, and Bacon's admirers will be disappointed that his actual art work is almost entirely absent from the screen.


Director: Peter Chelsom. With Sharon Stone, Gena Rowlands, Harry Dean Stanton, Gillian Anderson, James Ganolfini, Kieran Culkin, Meat Loaf. (107 min.)

+++ Friendship blooms between two kids - one big and slow, the other tiny and smart - who pool their talents in an effort to better their lives and make the real world a little closer to the fantasy realm that occupies their dreams. Likable performances and a good-hearted attitude help the movie dodge the simplistic sentimentality that occasionally threatens to drag it down.


Director: John Fortenberry and Peter Markle. With Will Ferrell, Chris Kattan, Dan Hedaya, Molly Shannon. (93 min.)

u1/2 Chris Kattan and Will Ferrell live out a feature-length version of their "Saturday Night Live" skit about two club-hopping brothers. This time around, though, the head-jiving boys have more ambition; they want to start their own club. If you like SNL and the tune "What is Love," you'll get a few chuckles and may be tempted to bob your mop. Other SNLers making appearances are Molly Shannon and Colin Quinn. By Katherine Dillin

+ Great skit/lame movie, mindless, slow.

Sex/Nudity: Some talk about sex. Violence: None. Profanity: 30 mild expressions. Drugs: 7 drinking scenes.


Director: Bruno Barreto. With Stephen Baldwin, Chris Penn, Gina Gershon, Mike McGlone, Amy Irving. (90 min.)

++ The life and times of a New York City cop whose professional integrity is questioned because of his personal friendship with a mobster. The plot is no more original than Baldwin's acting, which takes all its cues from the Pacino-De Niro school of streetwise intensity. Still, it's filmed with a down-and-dirty naturalism that partly compensates for its predictable twists and lazy use of demeaning stereotypes.


Director: Vincent Ward. With Robin Williams, Annabella Sciorra, Cuba Gooding Jr., Max von Sydow, Jessica Brooks Grant. (106 min.)

++ After perishing in a road accident, a physician journeys to the afterlife, searching for his deceased children and worrying about his widow back home, who's dangerously depressed at the misfortunes that have befallen her loved ones. This visually inventive fantasy paints the wide screen with colorful effects, but its psychological and spiritual ideas rarely rise above "new age" fuzziness.

++1/2 Visually stunning, thought-provoking, depressing.

Sex/Nudity/Drugs: None. Violence: Car crash, but not graphic; scenes of hell are visually horrifying. Profanity: 5 expressions.


Amazon (Not Rated)

Director: Kieth Merrill. With Linda Hunt as narrator, Mark Plotkin, Sydney Possuelo, Adrian Villanueva. (40 min.)

+++ This Academy Award nominated IMAX film beautifully captures the Amazon - from the lush rain forests to the basin's mixture of exotic wildlife (jaguars, pink dolphins, monkeys, and alligators). Dr. Mark Plotkin, an American ethnobotonist who is trying to make science more accessible, brings viewers along on his journey to the Amazon river basin as he meets up with Indian shamans - medicine men who use Amazon plant life for healing. Although visually beautiful, you might leave the theater with more questions than answers about Plotkin's discoveries. The movie recently opened in Boston and is playing at select cities around the US. By Lisa Leigh Parney


Directors: Eric Darnell, Tim Johnson. With voices of Woody Allen, Sharon Stone, Danny Glover, Gene Hackman, Dan Aykroyd, Sylvestor Stallone, Jane Curtin. (83 min.)

+++ Depressed by the monotony of his ant-colony life, a worker ant trades places with a soldier ant so he can see a princess he's fallen in love with, and finds himself battling a military insect with evil plans. There's plenty of action in this computer-animated comedy, but it's no match for "Toy Story" in humor and originality.

++1/2 Clever, amusing, overambitious.

Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: A few battle scenes and a bar brawl. Profanity: 3 very mild expressions. Drugs: 1 bar scene/ants drinking "beer."


Director: Vittorio De Sica. With Lamberto Maggiorani, Lianella Carell, Enzo Staiola, Gino Saltamarenda. (90 min.)

++++ Revival of the brilliant 1948 drama about a poor man whose livelihood is threatened when someone steals his bicycle, sending him and his little son on a desperate and heartrending search. This classic of Italian neorealism won an Oscar in 1948, and age hasn't dimmed its international appeal.


Director: Stanley Tucci. With Stanley Tucci, Oliver Platt, Lili Taylor, Campbell Scott, Isabella Rossellini, Steve Buscemi, Alfred Molina, Billy Connelly, Allison Janney, Tony Shahloub, Hope Davis, Teagle Bougere, Dana Ivey. (102 min.)

++ A pair of down-and-out actors become stowaways on a 1930s ocean liner, where they meet a gallery of mismatched characters ranging from a theatrical rival and a macho sportsman to a friendly ship attendant and a melancholy entertainer. Tucci strives for the knockabout hilarity of a Laurel and Hardy comedy, but rarely hits that ambitious mark.

Sex/Nudity: Mostly innuendo. Violence: 9 instances, mostly played for laughs. Profanity: 23 expressions, some strong. Drugs: Some drinking and smoking; one character has a serious drinking problem.


Director: Adrian Lyne. With Jeremy Irons, Dominique Swain, Melanie Griffith, Frank Langella. (137 min.)

+++ The melancholy tale of a middle-aged European man enmeshed in a love affair with an underage American girl. Vladimir Nabokov's novel helped open society's eyes to the evils of pedophilia in the 1950s, and this pensive adaptation renews the warning for a later generation.

++1/2 Well-acted, lurid, disturbing.

Sex/Nudity: 3 scenes of nudity and sex; a half-dozen suggestive scenes of legs rubbing up against each other. Violence: 8 scenes of violence including harsh face-slapping, rough sex, bloody shooting, shoving, and a violent shake on the floor. Profanity: 3 expressions. Drugs: 2 scenes of drinking, several scenes of cigarette smoking, 1 scene with a pipe; main character gives wife sleeping pills.


Director: Ted Demme. With Billy Crudup, Denis Leary, Colm Meany, Martin Sheen, Jeanne Tripplehorn. (90 min.)

++ Returning to his closely knit Irish-American neighborhood after a jail term, a young man touches off a series of violent incidents that test the loyalty of his companions to a local crime boss and one another. The story has some chillingly suspenseful episodes, although it's marred by overfamiliar themes and a weakness for dialogue scenes that resemble acting exercises more than real life.

Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: None shown; implied. Profanity: More than 400 expressions. Drugs: Nonstop alcohol and tobacco use.


Director: John Frankenheimer. With Robert De Niro, Jean Reno, Natascha McElhone, Stellan Skarsgrd, Jonathan Pryce, Michael Lonsdale, Sean Bean. (121 min.)

+++ A group of outlaws tries to intercept a mysterious package with various combinations of guile and violence. Stories don't get more international than this one, which uses competition between Irish and Russian conspirators to rework a Japanese legend in French Riviera settings. Frankenheimer doesn't recapture the magic he once created in movies like "The Manchurian Candidate," but he does cook up an effective thriller in the "French Connection" vein.

u1/2 Thin plot, overly dramatic, ludicrous.

Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: 15 bloody scenes of killings and cars wrecked. Profanity: 15 instances. Drugs: Social drinking and smoking.


Director: Brett Ratner. With Jackie Chan, Chris Tucker, Tom Wilkinson, Elizabeth Pea, Julie Hsu. (108 min.)

+++ Action-packed comedy about the kidnapping of a young Chinese girl from her politically influential father. Chan and Tucker pair up in Los Angeles to save the girl from death and an incompetent FBI investigative team. The fast-talking Tucker and quick-kicking Chan are a surprisingly good team that manages to deliver a stylish and fun combination of highly choreographed action and comedy. By Ari Denison

++1/2 Witty, clunky, action-packed.

Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: Several scenes of choreographed kung fu and cartoonish violence. Profanity: Some harsh profanity. Drugs: One scene of marijuana; social drinking.


Director: Christian Vincent. With Isabelle Huppert, Daniel Auteuil, Jrme Deschamps, Karin Viard. (88 min.)

++++ Sensitively filmed drama about a marriage that's slowly and sadly coming apart, superbly acted by two of France's most luminous stars. Thoughtful and compassionate from beginning to end.


Director: James Ivory. With Kris Kristofferson, Leelee Sobieski, Barbara Hershey, Jesse Bradford, Anthony Roth Costanzo, Virginie Ledoyen, Jane Birkin. (120 min.)

++++ Three episodes in the life of a novelist's family as seen through the eyes of his young daughter, first in Paris and then in a New England town where the household moves as a result of the father's declining health. No recent movie is more creatively directed, paints a more deeply felt portrait of family feelings, or handles such emotionally complex issues as friendship and adoption with more insight. The very loose plot has been adapted by Merchant Ivory from an autobiographical novel by the daughter of novelist James Jones, who apparently indulged in more drinking, four-letter language, and frank sexual discussions than some moviegoers will approve.

+++ Muddled morality, compassionate, touching.

Sex/Nudity: 2 frank parent-daughter talks about sex. Violence: 1 brief fist fight. Profanity: 44 strong expressions. Drugs: Teenagers smoking; social drinking.


Director: Robert Towne. With Billy Crudup, Donald Sutherland, Monica Potter, Judith Ivey, Dean Norris. (116 min.)

+++ The story of Olympic runner Steve Prefontaine, focusing on his feisty individuality and his relationship with a crusty old coach. The athletic scenes are so lively and the main performances are so magnetic that even moviegoers who resist sports-centered pictures may be won over. But while Towne's screenplay carries the worthwhile message that competition is better than conquest, it fails to teach that cooperation is best of all.


(In stores Oct. 13)



Director: Kevin Hooks. With Patrick Swayze, Randy Travis, Meat Loaf. (99 min.)

DUD An ex-con takes a job driving a truck across the country without knowing it is filled with illegal weapons.



Director: Frederick Du Chau. With voices of Pierce Brosnan, Gabriel Byrne, Cary Elwes, Jane Seymour, John Gielgud, Eric Idle. (90 min.)

+++ A feisty girl and her blind companion embark on a quest to rescue King Arthur's legendary sword from a nasty villain.

+++ Festive, fast-paced, predictable.



Director: Peter O'Fallon. With Christopher Walken, Jay Mohr, Henry Thomas. (106 min.)

+ Thriller-comedy about a group of young wiseacres who kidnap a crime boss in order to solve the kidnapping of a friend.


(Science fiction)

Director: Rob Bowman. With David Duchovny, Gillian Anderson, Martin Landau. (105 min.)

+++ Investigating a terrorist bombing, FBI agents Mulder and Scully pursue answers to deeper questions about alien colonizers and governmental schemers.

+++ Well-crafted, brutal, some gaps in logic.

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