The Monitor Movie Guide

NEW RELEASES THE CORRUPTOR (R) Director: James Foley. With Mark Wahlberg, Chow Yun-Fat, Brian Cox, Ric Young, Paul Ben-Victor, Tovah Feldshuh, Byron Mann. (111 min.) ++ A young white cop teams with a jaded Asian-American officer for a tough Chinatown assignment, touching off racial and generational tensions along with the usual conflicts between heroes and villains. The trite story has plenty of distasteful moments, but Wahlberg and Yun-Fat justify their growing reputations as capable Hollywood actors. Contains much violence, nudity, and sexploitation.

THE DEEP END OF THE OCEAN (PG-13) Director: Ulu Grosbard. With Michelle Pfeiffer, Treat Williams, Whoopi Goldberg, Tony Musante, Jonathan Jackson, John Kapelos. (108 min.) ++ After one of her children mysteriously vanishes, a mother swings from acute anguish to chronic sadness, and can scarcely credit her own senses when evidence suggests she might have found him a decade after his disappearance. The subject is poignant and suspenseful, but the treatment is drab and uninvolving despite competent acting and a few well-crafted scenes. Sex/Nudity: 1 mild instance. Violence: 2 mild instances. Profanity: 20 expressions. Drugs: 3 scenes each of drinking and smoking.

DEVIL'S ISLAND (NOT RATED) Director: Fridrik Thor Fridriksson. With Baltasar Kormakur, Gisli Halldorsson, Sigurveig Jonsdottir, Halldora Geirhardsdottir. (103 min.) ++ This ambitious but uneven Icelandic drama portrays a poor, eccentric family struggling to make a decent life in an abandoned US military base set aside for people with nowhere else to live. The picture's most effective element is its cleareyed look at the influence exerted by American pop culture on undiscriminating consumers in a different part of the world; accordingly, the soundtrack is filled with classic '50s tunes that keep the movie hopping even when the action sags.

THE HARMONISTS (R) Director: Joseph Vilsmaier. With Ben Becker, Heino Ferch, Ulrich Noethen, Heinrich Schafmeister, Max Tidof, Kai Wiesinger, Meret Becker. (114 min.) +++ A tuneful comedy-drama based on the real-life exploits of the Comedian Harmonists, a German vocal group that broke up after the Nazis started harassing its Jewish members on and off the stage. Like the Harmonists in their shows, this neatly assembled German production serves up a beguiling blend of humor, sentiment, and nostalgia.

THE RAGE: CARRIE 2 (R) Director: Katt Shea. With Emily Bergl, Jason London, Dylan Bruno, Amy Irving, Rachel Blanchard, Zachery Ty Bryan. (104 min.) + Rachel is a fragile and unpopular high schooler who possesses the ability to move things with her mind - especially when she becomes angry or frightened. As she becomes romantically involved with a popular jock, a web of deceit is being spun to humiliate her at a party. When the cruel pranksters succeed, she unleashes a rage more horrifying than Carrie 1 did at her prom. Flashbacks of the original Carrie are the only worthwhile portions of this otherwise abysmal movie. By John Christian Hoyle

THE SCHOOL OF FLESH (NOT RATED) Director: Benoit Jacquot. With Isabelle Huppert, Vincent Martinez, Marthe Keller, Vincent Lindon. (105 min.) ++ A savy businesswoman gets a crush on a man who's wildly different in age and social status, with emotionally complicated results. Huppert remains an exceptionally gifted actress, and few directors surpass Jacquot's deep interest in exploring female characters. But this rather perfunctory French drama never quite catches fire, and the idea of "amour fou" has been handled more imaginatively in a long list of movies. Based on a Yukio Mishima novel; the French title is "L'cole de la chair." In French with subtitles.

OSCAR NOMINEES IN RELEASE CHILDREN OF HEAVEN (PG) Director: Majid Majidi. With Mohammad Amir Naji, Mir Farrokh Hashemian, Bahare Seddiqi. (88 min.) +++ Burdened by the poverty of his family, a young boy in Tehran dreams of winning a prize in a local race so he won't have to share a pair of shoes with his sister. This modestly produced family drama has all the poignancy and humor associated with today's vibrant Iranian film industry. In Farsi with subtitles. ++++ Exquisite, stereotype-shattering, adorable children. Sex/Nudity/Violence/Profanity/Drugs: None.

DANCEMAKER (NOT RATED) Director: Matthew Diamond. With Paul Taylor, members of the Paul Taylor Dance Company. (98 min.) +++ A splendidly entertaining visit with the world's greatest modern-dance choreographer and members of his brilliant troupe, focusing on the hardships as well as the rewards of their highly exacting profession. Dance lovers will have a ball, and newcomers to this territory will get a revealing and high-spirited look at both its inner workings and its public face.

ELIZABETH (R) Director: Shekhar Kapur. With Cate Blanchett, Geoffrey Rush, Joseph Fiennes, Richard Attenborough, Christopher Eccleston, Kathy Burke, John Gielgud. (124 min.) +++ Pungent biopic about the famous queen and the tumultuous times in which she lived. Acted and directed with great energy and imagination, it may be too explicit in its depictions of sex and mayhem for moviegoers accustomed to old-fashioned historical epics. +++ Majestic, complex, bloody. Sex/Nudity: 8 instances. Violence: 19 graphic instances. Profanity: 3 mild expressions. Drugs: 1 instance of drinking.

LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL (PG-13) Director: Roberto Benigni. With Roberto Benigni, Nicoletta Braschi, Giorgio Cantarini. (122 min.) ++ In the late 1930s, an Italian man finds his household in peril because of his Jewish background. He determines to protect his little boy from physical and psychological harm, even when they're sent to a brutal concentration camp. This prizewinning Italian comedy has good intentions, but its exaggerated celebration of quick-witted improvisation ultimately trivializes the human and historical horrors evoked by the story. In Italian with subtitles. ++++ Exceptional, well-crafted, uplifting. Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: Some slapstick. Profanity: Mild. Drugs: Smoking and drinking.

SAVING PRIVATE RYAN (R) 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 an ordinary 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. +++ 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. Profanity: 79 expletives. Drugs: Medicinal use of morphine, 22 instances of smoking.

SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE (R) Director: John Madden. With Joseph Fiennes, Gwyneth Paltrow, Ben Affleck, Judi Dench, Geoffrey Rush, Rupert Everett. (122 min.) ++ The young playwright fights off writer's block, scrambles for ideas, and falls in love with a would-be actress who wears men's clothing as readily as a character in one of his cross-dressing comedies. This romantic farce has a talented cast and energy to spare, but somehow the ingredients don't burn as brightly as one would expect. ++++ Finally, a literate movie; passionate, abundantly witty. Sex/Nudity: 5 sex scenes, several with waist-up nudity; plus a few references to promiscuity. Violence: 6 instances of violence ranging from comical to an off-screen killing. Profanity: 3 expressions. Drugs: 3 instances of drinking.

TANGO (PG-13) Director: Carlos Saura. With Miguel Angel Sol, Elena Flores. (100 min.) +++ A filmmaker works on a movie about his favorite dance, bringing his personal loves and longings into the picture. The plot and dialogue are far less engaging than in Saura's best work, but the dance sequences are exuberantly performed and radiantly filmed.

CURRENTLY IN RELEASE ALASKA: SPIRIT OF THE WILD (IMAX, NOT RATED) Director: Harold Ramis. Narrated by Charlton Heston. (40 min.) +++ Glacial avalanches, aurora borealis, baby bears and thousands of seabirds are but a few of the visual thrills of Alaska. Rodney Taylor, director of photography, spent several years and shot 66 miles of footage to bring the most recent great Ice Age to IMAX theaters. By Leigh Montgomery

ANALYZE THIS (R) Director: Harold Ramis. With Robert De Niro, Billy Crystal, Lisa Kudrow, Joe Viterelli, Chazz Palminteri. (105 min.) ++ Bothered by a vulnerable streak in his personality, a New York mobster decides to visit a psychiatrist, and soon the unwilling therapist is up to his ears in revelations, confidences, and confessions he'd rather have nothing to do with. Ramis doesn't reach the comic heights of his "Groundhog Day" or "National Lampoon's Vacation," but the acting is excellent, and the screenplay offers some hearty laughs if you can stand bursts of violence and language as foul as a Mafioso's business agenda. +++ Hilarious, a bit hammy, great to see De Niro in a comedic role. Sex/Nudity: 2 instances. Violence: 11 mild instances. Profanity: 145 expressions, mostly harsh. Drugs: 13 instances of smoking and drinking.

CRUEL INTENTIONS (R) Director: Roger Kumble. With Sarah Michelle Gellar, Ryan Phillippe, Reese Witherspoon, Selma Blair. (90 min.) 1/2 Two wealthy New York teenagers, a stepsister and stepbrother, enjoy tormenting their peers and flaunting their sexual conquests. They meet their downfall when they try to debauch the daughter of their school's new headmaster. The film is yet another movie version of the 18th-century French novel "Dangerous Liaisons," and easily the worst. The cruelest intentions of this film are aimed at its audience, who gets only lame comedy and unconvincing drama as it wallows in its sordid subject matter. By Greg Lamb DUD Vile, pitiful, trivial. Sex/Nudity: 22 scenes of touching, rubbing, and sexual innuendo. Violence: A few scenes including a face slap, a fistfight, and a hit-and-run. Profanity: 36 expressions. Drugs: A few snorts of cocaine; some drinking and smoking.

LOCK, STOCK AND TWO SMOKING BARRELS (R) Director: Guy Ritchie. With Nick Moran, Jason Statham, Jason Flemyng, Dexter Fletcher, Vinnie Jones, P.H. Moriarty, Steven Mackintosh, Sting. (107 min.) ++ Boisterous comedy about a young gambler who loses a high-stakes card game, fears for his life if he doesn't pay his debt, and coaxes his motley friends into a robbery that will score them a pile of money if they're smart enough to pull it off. The humor is as rude and crude as the characters, but the picture certainly isn't lacking in energy.

200 CIGARETTES (R) Director: Risa Bramon Garcia. With Ben Affleck, Casey Affleck, David Chappelle, Janeane Garofalo, Courtney Love, Jay Mohr, Gaby Hoffman. (96 min.) + A cast of oddball New Yorkers celebrate New Year's Eve 1981 by complaining about how much their lives stink because they can't find love. They converge at a party simply to choose whom they should spend the night with. Although David Chappelle's performance as a cabbie is amusing, the film should have been packaged with a Surgeon General's Warning - " 'Cigarettes' is bad for you." By John Christian Hoyle u1/2 Silly, plotless, slow. Sex/Nudity: Constant instances of sexual innuendo. Violence: None. Profanity: 67 expressions. Drugs: One scene with drug use; incessant cigarette smoking and drinking throughout.

OUT ON VIDEO WHAT DREAMS MAY COME (PG-13) Director: Vincent Ward. With Robin Williams, Annabella Sciorra, Cuba Gooding Jr., Max von Sydow. (106 min.) ++ After perishing in a road accident, a physician journeys to the afterlife. 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.

Coming Soon ... (In stores March 16)

THE WATERBOY (PG-13) Director: Frank Coraci. With Adam Sandler, Kathy Bates, Jerry Reed, Henry Winkler (140 min.) ++ Sandler plays a lovable but dimwitted Louisiana-bayou water boy who is sheltered by his overprotective mama and picked on by the football team - that is, until he unleashes his hidden talent for tackling quarterbacks and 300-pound linemen. By John Christian Hoyle ++ Juvenile, absurd, good for a laugh.

SIMON BIRCH (PG) Director: Mark Steven Johnson. With Ian Michael Smith, Joseph Mazzello, Ashley Judd, Oliver Platt, David Strathairn, Dana Ivey, Jan Hooks. (110 min.) +++ The hero is a very small boy who's convinced his "abnormal" physique is proof of God's particular interest in him, and feels he'll fulfill some special purpose as soon as he can figure out what it's supposed to be. +++ Tear-jerker, intriguing, literary.

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