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

ENTRAPMENT (PG-13) Director: Jon Amiel. With Sean Connery, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Will Patton, Ving Rhames. (105 min.) ++ Romance and intrigue mingle as an insurance-company investigator crosses the path of a master thief who specializes in stealing priceless art. As usual in caper movies, the characters are duplicitous, and circumstances are rarely what they seem. The movies main charm comes from Connerys smooth acting, but Zeta- Jones also makes an appealing impression as the woman who could be his nemesis, his partner, or both.

GET REAL (R) Director: Simon Shore. With Ben Silverstone, Brad Gorton, Charlotte Brittain, Louise J. Taylor. (110 min.) ++ Shores debut movie is a nicely understated comedy about the challenges of growing up gay in a suburban English town. Silverstone and Brittain stand out in a mostly young cast that includes some promising newcomers.

THE HOLE (NOT RATED) Director: Tsai Ming-liang. With Yang Kuei-mei, Lee Kang-sheng, Miao Tien, Tong Hsiang-chu. (95 min.) +++ A few days before the millennium, a lonely man and woman are drawn into an arms-length relationship by a gaping hole in the floor of their desperately decayed apartment building. The minimalist plot is interrupted by perky musical numbers that lend extra surprise to this oddly engaging experiment in avant- garde tragicomedy.

THE KING OF MASKS (NOT RATED) Director: Wu Tianming. With Zhu Xu, Zhou Ren-Ying, Zhang Riuyang, Zhao Zhigang. (101 min.) +++ Dwelling in a rigidly traditional society that values youth over age and males over females, an old Chinese entertainer and a homeless little girl become unlikely partners in the quest for a reasonably contented life. The story becomes slow and repetitive during its long middle section, but the acting is expressive, and some of the cinematography is dazzling.

THREE SEASONS (PG-13) Director: Tony Bui. With Harvey Keitel, Zo Bui, Don Duog, Gnoc Hiep, Manh Cuong. (110 min.) +++ Set in present-day Vietnam, this gently filmed drama tells alternating tales about several characters including a lovestruck worker, a good-hearted prostitute, a little boy whos lost his livelihood, and a former US soldier hunting for a daughter hes never met. Although the movie is stronger on atmosphere than suspense or psychology, its Vietnamese-American director paints a frequently vivid portrait of life in a rapidly changing nation caught between a troubled past and an uncertain future.

WINDHORSE (NOT RATED) Director: Paul Wagner. With Richard Chang, Taije Silverman, Dadon, Jampa Kolsang. (97 min.) ++ The intermingled stories of three Tibetan cousins an entertainer, an alcoholic, and a nun suffering in different ways from the Chinese occupation of their country. Wagner has little new to say about Tibets ongoing tragedy, but his low-key directing enhances the films commendable humanism and sincerity.

THE WINSLOW BOY (G) Director: David Mamet. With Nigel Hawthorne, Rebecca Pidgeon, Jeremy Northam, Gemma Jones, Matthew Pidgeon. (110 min.) ++++ Superbly acted, elegantly filmed adaptation of Terrence Rattigans classic 1940s drama about an aging Edwardian father who launches a drawn-out legal fight to clear his sons name after the boy is convicted of a petty crime, with repercussions that affect his entire family. The subject remains as relevant as ever, touching on still-timely issues like feminist activism and media madness. Mamet uses it to explore a wide range of moral complexities, imbuing the story with his own pungent rhythms while preserving the best elements of Rattigans play and the stately film version produced in 1948. This is the kind of movie that literate viewers pine for, laced with gracefulness and wit from first scene to last.

CURRENTLY IN RELEASE THE DREAMLIFE OF ANGELS (NOT RATED) Director: Erick Zonca. With Elodie Bouchez, Natacha Rgnier, Patrick Mercado, Jo Prestia, Grgoire Colin. (113 min.) +++ Sharing an apartment in a small French city, two rootless young women develop a complex relationship based on their mutual need for companionship and support. Zoncas filmmaking is smooth and assured, but top honors go to Bouchez and Rgnier for their superb performances as the emotionally troubled heroines. Contains sex and nudity. +++1/2 Compassionate, down-to-earth, sincere. Sex/Nudity: 5 scenes of nudity and innuendo, and 1 graphic sex scene. Violence: 4 instances of slapping, 1 of suicide. Profanity: 29 expressions. Drugs: 20 scenes of smoking, drinking, and marijuana use.

ELECTION (R) Director: Alexander Payne. With Matthew Broderick, Reese Witherspoon, Chris Klein, Jessica Campbell. (104 min.) ++ The director of Citizen Ruth strikes again with this pitch-dark satire about a high-school election, three contrasting candidates, and a teacher with very divided loyalties. Many moviegoers will find its rough sexual humor unnecessary, unjustified, and offensive. Others may consider this the perfect teen comedy for the Clinton era, saVy and cynical about the adolescent version of modern politics. Either way, Broderick and Witherspoon give perfectly matched performances at the head of a first-rate cast.

EXISTENZ (R) Director: David Cronenberg. With Jennifer Jason Leigh, Jude Law, Willem Dafoe, Ian Holm, Sarah Polley, Christopher Eccleston, Don McKellar. (90 min.) ++ Fantastic experiences zap a young man who meets a computer-game designer and agrees to test her most ambitious creation, which generates a more-than-virtual reality by plugging directly into the senses of its participants. Cronenberg reaches tantalizing new heights in his longtime project of blurring the boundaries between human and machine, organic and inorganic, fantasy and actuality. But viewers should stay far away unless they have a strong stomach for disorienting, sometimes deliberately disgusting effects.

FRIENDS & LOVERS (NOT RATED) Director: George Haas. With Robert Downey Jr., Claudia Schiffer, Stephen Baldwin, Alison Eastwood. (98 min.) + A close-knit group of young adults goes to Utah for skiing, romantic adventures, and an emotional encounter with one mans neglectful father. The screenplay is an uneasy mixture of sex comedy and family drama; at least Downey shows up periodically to show how awful dialogue can almost work if enough propulsive energy is thrown into it.

GOODBYE LOVER (R) Director: Roland Joff. With Patricia Arquette, Don Johnson, Dermot Mulroney, Ellen DeGeneres, Mary-Louise Parker. (104 min.) ++ Arquette plays a femme fatale who kills her brother-in-law, outfoxes an attractive rival, and spars with a feisty detective in a film-noir plot that pivots on the idea that everyone has a devious streak. Joff gives the action a certain amount of flair, but the story is instantly forgettable. + Vulgar, unoriginal, darkly predictable. Sex/Nudity: 5 scenes of graphic sex. Violence: 8 instances. Profanity: 105 expressions. Drugs: 10 scenes of drinking and smoking.

HIDEOUS KINKY (R) Director: Gillies Mackinnon. With Kate Winslet, Sad Taghmaoui, Bella Riza, Carrie Mullan. (99 min.) +++ After moving to North Africa in search of 60s-style adventure and enlightenment, a young Englishwoman raises her little girls and plans a visit to an Algerian guru for an encounter with Sufi wisdom. Winslet gives a very creative performance, and Mackinnon sketches a bemused yet sympathetic portrait of the cultural clash between the idealistic heroine and the ancient, intricate society that she embraces but scarcely understands. +++ Colorful travelogue, luminous, delightful performances by the two young girls. Sex/Nudity: 2 scenes of nudity. Violence: None. Profanity: 10 expressions. Drugs: 12 scenes with smoking.

LIFE (R) Director: Ted Demme. With Eddie Murphy, Martin Lawrence, Ned Beatty, Obba Babatund, Clarence Williams 3rd, Bernie Mac, Cicely Tyson. (118 min.) +++ Two small-time criminals are sentenced to life on a Mississippi prison farm for a murder they didnt commit, and sway between hope and despair as the decades roll by. The humor doesnt have much subtlety and the atmosphere doesnt have much authenticity, but Murphy and Lawrence are a natural-born comedy team, and the supporting cast is fine. ++ Incongruous, difficult subject, endearing crooks. Sex/Nudity: 2 instances of implied sex. Violence: 10 instances. Profanity: 214 expressions. Drugs: 18 instances.

LOST & FOUND (PG-13) Director: Jeff Pollack. With David Spade, Sophie Marceau, Martin Sheen, Patrick Bruel, Artie Lange. (105 min.) + A lovestruck Californian kidnaps a neighbors dog as a way of getting her attention. Marceaus charm keeps this dopey, demeaning comedy from being a total loss, but it comes perilously close.

THE MATRIX (R) Directors: The Wachowski Brothers. With Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, Carrie-Anne Moss, Hugo Weaving, Joe Pantoliano. (132 min.) +++ Juiced up with nonstop action and a megadose of special effects, this science-fiction thrill ride begins with the paranoid premise that evil conspirators have all humanity trapped in a web of illusion that perpetuates their control by blinding us to reality. The plot switches gears every time it threatens to run out of energy, which keeps the show as lively as it is preposterous. +++ Original, clever, solid sci-fi. Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: 11 scenes, some lengthy. Profanity: 48 expressions. Drugs: 4 scenes of smoking and/or drinking.

NEVER BEEN KISSED (PG-13) Director: Raja Gosnell. With Drew Barrymore, Leelee Sobieski, David Arquette, Molly Shannon. (108 min.) ++ Colorful comedy about a 25-year-old journalist assigned to relive her senior year in high school, this time as an undercover reporter getting the scoop on todays kids. Barrymore continues to grow as a comic actress, with solid support from Sobieski and Arquette. Much of the humor is so youth-centered that older moviegoers wont always get the point, though, and some scenes trivialize sensitive sex-related issues. +++ Hilarious, trendy, crowd-pleaser. Sex/Nudity: 4 instances of innuendo. Violence: None. Profanity: 9 expressions. Drugs: 3 scenes of smoking and drinking; main character eats a hash brownie.

N (NOT RATED) Director: Robert Lepage. With Anne-Marie Cadieux, Alexis Martin, Marie Brassard, Richard Frechette. (83 min.) ++ A pregnant actress, a French-Canadian terrorist, a Worlds Fair in Japan, and a heady dose of theatricality are among the main ingredients of this unconventional melodrama, which often seems self-consciously exotic when its trying to be crisp, and creative.

OPEN YOUR EYES (R) Director: Alejandro Amenbar. With Eduardo Noriega, Penlope Cruz, Najwa Nimri, Chete Lera. (110 min.) +++ This extremely clever Spanish thriller starts as the romantic story of a young man and his jealous lover, then becomes a tale of physical and emotional trauma, and finally plunges into surreal mystery and science-fiction pyrotechnics. That may sound like a hodgepodge, but Amenbar weaves a smooth-ly flowing tale thats as gripping as it is unpredictable. Sex/Nudity: 3 instances of sex and/or innuendo. Violence: 6 instances. Profanity: 67 expressions. Drugs: 7 scenes with smoking and/ or drinking, 2 with drugs.

PUSHING TIN (R) Director: Mike Newell. With John Cusack, Billy Bob Thornton, Cate Blanchett, Angelina Jolie. (120 min.) ++ Romance and rivalry among a group of air-traffic controllers, portrayed as suburban roughnecks with a penchant for rowdy behavior. The movie bids for novelty by focusing on a profession that Hollywood rarely notices, but theres nothing fresh about the smart-alecky characters or love-triangle plot. Such an appealing cast deserves more appealing material to work with.

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