The Monitor Movie Guide


++++ Excellent +++ Very Good ++ Fair + Poor DUD The Worst

NEW RELEASES BIG DADDY (PG-13) Director: Dennis Dugan. With Adam Sandler, Joey Lauren Adams, Jon Stewart, Rob Schneider, Steve Buscemi, Cole and Dylan Sprouse. (95 min.) ++ Adam Sandler fans ought to be pleased with this latest lighthearted release. The former SNL-er plays Sonny Koufax toll collector with a law degree who suddenly finds himself playing dad to a kindergartner. At times, the movie feels vaguely like Three Men and a Baby. Sophomoric antics abound from the top pop, enough to please high-schoolers on down and gross out the rest of us. By Katherine Dillin ++1/2 Crude, comical, juvenile. Sex/Nudity: 1 morning-after scene; 1 homosexual kiss. Violence: 4 slapstick scenes. Profanity: 13 mild expressions. Drugs: 4 mild party/bar scenes with alcohol.

LOVE, ETC. (NOT RATED) Director: Marion Vernoux. With Charlotte Gainsbourg, Charles Berling, Yves Attal. (105 min.) ++ A love triangle develops when a mans best friend gets a crush on his attractive new wife. Although theres nothing particularly memorable about the story, its stylishly shot and has appealing echoes of Franois Truffauts classic Jules and Jim. French with English subtitles.

THE LOVERS ON THE BRIDGE (NOT RATED) Director: Los Carax. With Juliette Binoche, Denis Lavant, Klaus-Michael Grber. (125 min.) ++++ Controversy swirled around the 1991 premire of this unique French production, which expends lavish resources on a tale of romance between two homeless misfits whore very hard to like. What makes it worthwhile are its hugely energetic performances, its utterly unpredictable story, and the explosive visual ideas of director Carax, a wildly inventive filmmaker who refuses to play by any rules but his own. Originally called Les Amants de Pont- Neuf. French with English subtitles.

SOUTH PARK: BIGGER, LONGER & UNCUT (R) Director: Trey Parker. With voices of Trey Parker, Matt Stone, Mary Kay Bergman, Isaac Hayes, George Clooney, Brent Spiner, Minnie Driver, Eric Idle. (80 min.) ++ A bunch of third-graders sneak into an adults-only movie that teaches them even more obscenities than they already know, touching off a visit to Hades and a war with Canada, among other adventures. Based on the TV cartoon series with a knack for titillating youngsters and irritating parents, the comedy labors mightily to be as offensive and obnoxious as possible. Its inventive in an idiotic sort of way, though, and pauses occasionally to make serious points about movie violence and censorship. Contains extremely foul sexual and scatological humor.

SUMMER OF SAM (R) Director: Spike Lee. With John Leguizamo, Mira Sorvino, Anthony LaPaglia, Jennifer Esposito, Adrien Brody, Bebe Neuwirth, Jimmy Breslin. (145 min.) +++ The real-life crimes of the Son of Sam killer, who terrorized parts of New York City in 1977, inspired this boisterous melodrama about hot-headed vigilantes who think the psychopath may be huddled in their own Bronx neighborhood. Lee focuses less on the murders than on the social hysteria they generate, the mass media that capitalize on them, and the shaky moral climate that allows such decadence to develop. The movie is so ambitious and rambunctious that it tends to drown out its own cautionary messages, but theres no mistaking its outrage over the ethical decay in contemporary urban life. Contains foul language, sex, and violence.

WILD WILD WEST (PG-13) Director: Barry Sonnenfeld. With Will Smith, Kevin Kline, Kenneth Branagh, Salma Hayek, Ted Levine. (107 min.) ++ Smith and Kline play 19th-century government agents chasing a mad scientist (Branagh) who wants to conquer America with weapons as surrealistic as they are scary. Their energy cant outweigh the trite action scenes havent we seen enough fiery explosions and head-butting fistfights by now? The flat dialogue sinks into racial slurs and disability jokes whenever it runs out of ideas. That happens constantly, even though no fewer than six writers cooked up the screenplay. Sex/Nudity: 2 light scenes and some innuendo. Violence: 17 scenes involving cannons, gunfire, knives, and fistfights. Profanity: 16 mild expressions. Drugs: 14 scenes with alcohol and/or cigars.

CURRENTLY IN RELEASE AN IDEAL HUSBAND (PG-13) Director: Oliver Parker. With Jeremy Northam, Julianne Moore, Rupert Everett, Cate Blanchett, John Wood, Minnie Driver, Peter Vaughan, Jeroen Krabb. (97 min.) +++ Oscar Wildes play inspired this supple comedy, centering on a well- starched British gentleman whos hiding a secret that could touch off a political scandal if a beautiful blackmailer doesnt get what she wants. The dialogue is witty, the cast is appealing, and modern-day moviegoers will spot more than a few parallels between their morally checkered age and London of a century ago. Sex/Nudity: Fleeting nudity and mild innuendo. Violence: None. Profanity: 7 mild expressions. Drugs: 6 scenes with drinking and/or smoking.

AND BABY MAKES TWO (Not rated) Directors: Judy Katz, Oren RudaSky. With Jan, Debbie, and other New York women. (60 min.) +++ Skillfully made documentary about several women who, for a wide variety of reasons, have decided to become single mothers. Absorbing and enlightening. Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me (PG-13) Director: Jay Roach. With Mike Myers, Heather Graham, Seth Green, Robert Wagner. (100 min.) ++ The silly secret agent returns in his first sequel, wherein the evil Dr. Evil time-travels to the 60s and steals the mojo that powers our heros sex appeal. The satire is crammed with sexual and scatological humor; some may find this Rabelaisian and refreshing others, the end of civilization as we know it. +++ Dr. Evil steals the show, shagadelic, witty. Sex/Nudity: 12 references to sexual activity. Violence: 4 slapstick scenes. Profanity: 35 expressions. Drugs: 12 scenes with drinking and/or smoking.

DESERT BLUE (R) Director: Morgan J. Freeman. With John Heard, Casey Affleck, Christina Ricci, Brendan Sexton III (87 min.) ++ A young actress hangs out with like-minded teenagers when she and her professor dad are stranded in a rural California town by a nuclear-hazard scare. Low-key performances and a meandering plot are bolstered by Freemans skill at building a quietly absorbing atmosphere. Sex/Nudity: 4 uses of sexual innuendo. Violence: 7 scenes with guns, explosions, and suicide but none is graphic. Profanity: 73 expressions. Drugs: 13 instances with drinking, smoking, and/or prescription drug abuse.

THE GENERALS DAUGHTER (R) Director: Simon West. With John Travolta, Madeleine Stowe, James Woods, Leslie Stefanson, James Cromwell, Clarence Williams III, Timothy Hutton. (116 min.) ++ A military cop and a rape investigator make disturbing discoveries as they probe the bizarre murder of a female officer whose father, a top-ranking commander, is about to enter politics. The capably filmed story builds effective suspense at times, and scores telling points against military machismo. But its impact is weakened by clunky dialogue, too many plot twists, and a weakness for pop psychologizing. Contains explicit sexual violence. +++ Dark, clever, disturbing flashbacks.

MY SON THE FANATIC (R) Director: Udayan Prasad. With Om Puri, Rachel Griffiths, Stellan Skarsgard, Akbar Kurtha, Gopi Desai. (86 min.) +++ The venturesome Hanif Kureishi wrote this colorful drama about a hard- working Pakistani immigrant who agonizes over his sons decision to become an Islamic fundamentalist instead of blending into their adopted English culture. The story loses momentum when it wanders into the fathers friendships with a businessman and a prostitute, but overall its intelligently written and appealingly acted.

NOTTING HILL (PG-13) Director: Roger Michell. With Julia Roberts, Hugh Grant, Emma Chambers. (124 min.) +++ A world-famous Hollywood star falls inexplicably in love with a bookstore owner in a modest London neighborhood, sparking ups and downs involving a prior boyfriend and a pornography scandal. Theres some funny dialogue, but the picture falls apart when it tries to think real thoughts about celebrity, publicity, and the media. Worst weakness: too many love-conquers-all clichs. Strongest asset: Grants dewy eyes and Robertss voluptuous mouth are a romantic-comedy dream team. +++ Charming, refreshing, good date flick. Sex/Nudity: 1 morning-after scene. Violence: None. Profanity: 18 expressions. Drugs: 11 instances of smoking and/or social drinking.

THE RED VIOLIN (NOT RATED) Director: Franois Girard. With Samuel L. Jackson, Greta Scacchi, Don McKellar, Jean-Luc Bideau. (130 min.) +++ This omnibus-style film traces the fictional history of a superbly crafted violin, and the mystery attached to it, as it passes from 17th-century Italy to China during the Cultural Revolution, with stops in Austria and England along the way. Movies in this genre are often made with more attention to international marketing than first-rate storytelling, but Girard invests each episode of this Canadian production with dramatic credibility and emotional strength. In four languages, with English subtitles when appropriate. Sex/Nudity: 3 instances of nudity, 1 explicit sex scene. Violence: 1 mild scene. Profanity: 6 expressions. Drugs: 3 scenes with smoking.

RUN LOLA RUN (R) Director: Tom Tykwer. With Franka Potente, Moritz Bleibtreu, Nina Petri, Herbert Knaup, Armin Rohde. (81 min.) ++++ Amazingly creative filmmaking propels this anything-goes tale of a young woman who has just 20 minutes to save her boyfriends life by raising a huge amount of cash. Tykwers style gives the movie an explosive energy that never quits, marking him as the most ingenious new talent to hail from Germany in ages. Contains violent action. In German with English subtitles.

STAR WARS: EPISODE I THE PHANTOM MENACE (PG) Director: George Lucas. With Liam Neeson, Ewan McGregor, Samuel L. Jackson, Pernilla August, Natalie Portman, Jake Lloyd, Terence Stamp. (132 min.) +++ The series heads into its second trilogy as Jedi knight Qui-Gon Jinn and apprentice Obi-Wan Kenobi meet a boy named Anakin Skywalker on the desert world Tatooine during a dispute between the minor planet Naboo and a powerful trade federation. The computer-driven effects are impressive, but the adventure is hampered by a flat screenplay, dull acting, and just a hint as to why the dark side of the Force will eventually transform cute little Anakin into the evil Darth Vader. +++ Thrilling visuals, earnest, action-packed. Sex/Nudity/Profanity/Drugs: None. Violence: 27 scenes of bloodless combat.

TARZAN (G) Directors: Kevin Lima, Chris Buck. With voices of Tony Goldwyn, Minnie Driver, Glenn Close, Wayne Knight. (88 min.) +++ Animated version of the classic yarn about an orphaned child who grows up with gorillas, enjoys a contented life in the African jungle, and faces eye- opening new experiences when humans barge into his domain. The cartooning is lively and funny, and the voice-only cast brings the characters to vivid life. Theres no over-the-top music or comedy sequence to place this with the very best Disney animations, though, and Phil Collinss songs wont be to everyones taste. +++1/2 Exhilarating, may be too intense for the under-six crowd, fast-paced. Sex/Nudity/Profanity: None. Violence: 9 scenes, including the implied killing of Tarzans parents and a baby gorilla by a leopard. Drugs: 1 scene of a hunter drinking wine and Tarzan making fun of cigar smoker.

OUT ON VIDEO THE THIN RED LINE (R) Director: Terrence Malick. With Sean Penn, John Travolta, Nick Nolte, Woody Harrelson, Gary Oldman. +++ American soldiers battle elusive enemies in this sweeping adaptation of James Joness thoughtful World War II novel about the Guadalcanal campaign. Although the story seems disjointed at times, no other war movie has tried so valiantly to convey not only the suffering of combat but the awful fissures it rips through humanitys ideal oneness with itself and the world we live in. +++ Intense, violent, poetic.

RUSHMORE (R) Director: Wes Anderson. With Bill Murray, Jason Schwartman, Olivia Williams. (95 min.) ++++ A precocious prep-school student juggles a ridiculous number of extracurricular projects while falling in love with an attractive teacher. Murray gives his most uproarious performance since Groundhog Day in this quirky, often hilarious comedy. +++1/2 Wildly original, funny, irreverent.

COMING SOON ... (In stores July 6) HILARY AND JACKIE (R) Director: Anand Tucker. With Emily Watson, Rachel Griffiths, Charles Dance, David Morrissey. (121 min.) +++ Handsomely filmed drama based on the real-life relationship between Jacqueline du Pr, a cellist who became one of the worlds most acclaimed musicians, and her sister, who traded in her musical talent for domestic life. The acting is splendid, the family issues are sensitively explored, and the treatment of Jackies illness and untimely death is tactful though explicit. +++1/2 Wonderful music, intense, moving.

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