The Monitor Movie Guide
BOSTON — STAR RATINGS
The Worst DUD
CABARET BALKAN (R) Director: Goran Paskaljevic. With Lazar RistoSki, Miki Manojlovic, Mirjana Jokovic, Sergej Trifunovic. (100 min.) +++ Personal conflict interacts with political despair to produce an explosive atmosphere in this many-layered Yugoslavian drama, set in Belgrade during the mid-1990s. The multiple story lines often seem more melodramatic than enlightening, but they provide a harrowing look at a country on the brink of tumultuous events. Also known as "The Powder Keg." In Serbo-Croatian with subtitles.
DROP DEAD GORGEOUS (PG-13) Director: Michael Patrick Jann. With Kirstie Alley, Ellen Barkin, Kirsten Dunst, Denise Richards. (97 min.) + 1/2 Beauty pagents take on a whole new meaning in this dark comedy about a small town&#8217;s obsession with its teenage beauty contest. Told in a mock- documentary style, Kirsten Dunst plays Amber, a trailor-park beauty who is ultimately pitted against the rich and mean-spirited Becky (Denise Richards). The movie has its hilarious moments, but at the end of the film you might be asking, &#8220;What was the point?&#8221; Barkin plays Amber&#8217;s unkempt mother, and Alley portrays Becky&#8217;s conniving mom. By Lisa Leigh Parney
HAROLD AND MAUDE (Not rated) Director: Hal Ashby. With Bud Cort, Ruth Gordon, Vivian Pickles, Cyril Cusack. (90 min.) +++ Reissue of the 1972 cult favorite about a suicidal young man who falls madly in love with an elderly woman. The comedy's reputation is greater than its achievements, but it provides a pungent example of the do-your-own-thing philosophy that motivated movies like this in the adventurous era of the late &#8217;60s and early &#8217;70s.
THE HAUNTING (PG-13) Director: Jan De Bont. With Liam Neeson, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Lili Taylor, Owen Wilson, Marian Seldes. (117 min.) ++ A psychologist brings three recruits to a spooky old house, where he hopes to study their reactions under fear-inducing conditions. The haunted mansion is more interesting to watch than the Hollywood-style shocks that unfold there. The jolts are inspired less by Shirley Jackson's nuanced 1959 novel than by the high-tech fantasies of the computer-imaging department at DreamWorks, which made the picture.
MY LIFE SO FAR (PG-13) Director: Hugh Hudson. With Colin Firth, Irene Jacob, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, Malcolm McDowell, Tcheky Karyo, Rosemary Harris, Robert Norman, Kelly MacDonald. (93 min.) ++ The adventures of a 10-year-old boy growing up on a peaceful Scottish estate surrounded by a not-so-peaceful family, including a matriarchal grandmother, a headstrong uncle, and a father who's half genius and half screwball. The story falls into many familiar formulas, but solid performances keep it reasonably entertaining.
ROSIE (R) Director: Patrice Toye. With Aranka Coppens, Joost Wijnant, Sara de Roo, Dirk Roofthooft, Frank Vercruyssen. (93 min.) +++ The title character is a 13-year-old girl whose 27-year-old mother is trying to raise her right, but keeps running into emotional and psychological problems she doesn't know how to solve. Sensitive acting and skillful directing make the drama quietly touching despite some harrowing moments, and it's refreshing to see a movie from the Flemish-speaking part of Belgium, which exports fewer movies to the overseas market than its French-speaking counterpart does. In Flemish with English subtitles.
CURRENTLY IN RELEASE
AMERICAN PIE (R) Director: Paul Weitz. With Jason Biggs, Natasha Lyonne, Chris Klein, Shannon Elizabeth, Thomas Ian Nicholas, Alyson Hannigan, Tara Reid, Seann W. Scott, Mena Suvari, Eddie Kaye Thomas, Eugene Levy. (100 min.) + A bunch of high-school boys make a vow to consummate their sex lives before graduation, and pursue various girls with this project in mind. Teenybopper comedies rarely reach heights of inspiration, and this one is mostly unappealing despite a handful of amusing performances. Contains a high degree of gross-out humor. Sex/Nudity: 78 instances of graphic sexual innuendo and activity, 11 instances with partial and/or complete nudity. Violence: 2 scenes involving fistfights. Profanity: 62 expressions. Drugs: 29 instances of drinking.
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 Wilde&#8217;s play inspired this supple comedy, centering on a well- starched British gentleman who&#8217;s hiding a secret that could touch off a political scandal if a beautiful blackmailer doesn&#8217;t 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. +++1/2 Sparkling comedy, fun plot twists, intelligent, charming, witty. Sex/Nudity: Fleeting nudity, mild innuendo, 1 instance of implied sex. Violence: None. Profanity: 7 mild expressions. Drugs: 9 scenes with drinking and/or smoking.
ARLINGTON ROAD (R) Director: Mark Pellington. With Jeff Bridges, Tim Robbins, Joan Cusack, Hope Davis. (117 min.) +++ A widowed college teacher gets the idea that his clean-living suburban neighbors may be involved in a terrorist plot. The story is vivid, involving, and thought-provoking, and Pellington keeps it moving at such a steady clip that you almost don't notice when Ehren Kruger's screenplay makes an occasional lapse into far-fetched coincidence. Be warned that this Hitchcockian thriller pursues its ideas to grim and unsettling conclusions. ++ Forgettable, painfully slow-paced, edgy, implausible. Sex/Nudity: 1 mildly compromising scene. Violence: 5 scenes including kidnapping, a fistfight, and guns. Profanity: 19 expressions, mostly mild. Drugs: 6 scenes with alcohol, 2 with cigarettes.
THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT (R) Directors: Eduardo Sanchez, Daniel Myrick. With Heather Donahue, Michael Williams, Joshua Leonard. (87 min.) ++ The premise behind this offbeat picture is that three film students disappeared after trekking into a supposedly haunted forest, and we&#8217;re watching the film and video they shot before meeting their mysterious fate. The concept is clever, suggesting a new way to build horror-movie suspense without much on- camera gore. The movie would be better as a 30-minute short, though, since its shaky camera work and fuzzy images get monotonous after a while, and there's not much room for character development within the very limited plot.
THE DINNER GAME (Not rated) Director: Francis Veber. With Thierry Lhermitte, Jacques Villeret, Francis Huster, Daniel Prevost, Alexandra Vendernoot, Catherine Frot. (82 min.) +++ Playing an obnoxious game he enjoys, a publisher invites an eccentric man to dinner so he and his friends can mock him, but the unsuspecting guest proves to be more solid and sensitive than anyone else around. France invented this sort of crackling farce, and the tradition remains alive and well in Veber's able hands. In French with English subtitles.
EYES WIDE SHUT (R) Director: Stanley Kubrick. With Tom Cruise, Nicole Kidman, Sydney Pollack, Marie Richardson, Leelee Sobieski, Rade Sherbedgia. (159 min.) +++ After his wife confesses to having sexual fantasies, a successful physician drifts into unexpected events that lead him to a mysterious mansion full of illicit activities and what might be deadly dangers. Brilliantly filmed in his usual transfixing style, Kubrick&#8217;s last movie pleads for alertness to the temptations that assail human nature from within and without. It&#8217;s weighed down by wordy dialogue and a slowly paced story, though. Written by Kubrick and Frederick Raphael, it&#8217;s based on an Arthur Schnitzler novella. Contains explicit sex, nudity, and drug use. +++ Deviant, slow, richly layered, graphic, sensual, exquisite camera work. Sex/Nudity: 17 instances with 7 scenes of full frontal and/or partial nudity, 1 graphic orgy scene, propositioning, and implied child sex. Violence: 2 instances of mild violence, one implied. Profanity: 35 expressions, mostly harsh. Drugs: 4 scenes with social drinking, 1 with marijuana, 1 death by overdose.
LAKE PLACID (R) Director: Steve Miner. With Bridget Fonda, Oliver Platt, Bill Pullman, Brendan Gleeson. (88 min.) + Placid lake, giant crocodile, chomp chomp. Stay away unless you enjoy gross- out violence, and stay even farther away if you're an animal lover, since some of the most grisly attacks are aimed at cows who just want to chew their cuds in peace. What&#8217;s a good cast doing in a clunky horror-spoof like this? u1/2 Gory, mediocre, short. Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: 11 scenes, most with a hungry crocodile. Profanity: 41 expressions, some harsh. Drugs: None.
MUPPETS FROM SPACE (G) Director: Tim Hill. With Muppet performers and Ray Liotta, David Arquette, Jeffrey Tambor, Andie MacDowell, F. Murray Abraham, Pat Hingle. (82 min.) ++ Gonzo always knew he was unique, and now he learns why: His family is from outer space, and a reunion is long overdue. Muppet fans will enjoy the antics of Miss Piggy and her friends, but others may find the action less sprightly and funny than it tries to be. +++ Boisterous, nutty, good clean fun. Sex/Nudity/Profanity: None. Violence: 9 slapstick scenes, including electrocutions, a Miss Piggy karate fight, and the sound of a lawn mower hitting a cat. Drugs: 1 scene with cigarette 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 boyfriend&#8217;s life by raising a huge amount of cash. Tykwer&#8217;s 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. ++++ Nonstop, full of surprises, fun, philosophical. Sex/Nudity: 1 very brief scene. Violence: 9 scenes with gunshots, mugging, car crashes followed by threats of violence. Profanity: 18 harsh expressions. Drugs: 1 drug deal, 2 scenes with smoking, 4 with drinking.
SOUTH PARK: BIGGER, LONGER & UNCUT (R) Director: Trey Parker. With voices of Trey Parker, Matt Stone, George Clooney, Brent Spiner, Minnie Driver. (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. It&#8217;s 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. + Offensive, vulgar, pointless, irreverent. Sex/Nudity: 1 scene with nudity, and 17 instances of innuendo. Violence: 3 scenes with blood including gory cartoon violence in a war. Profanity: At least 300 expressions, often harsh. Drugs: 3 scenes with smoking.
DOWN IN THE DELTA (PG-13) Director: Maya Angelou. With Alfre Woodard, Mary Alice, Wesley Snipes, Esther Rolle. (110 min.) +++ Long celebrated as a poet, Angelou makes her movie-directing debut with this engaging story of an African-American woman who takes her drug-abusing daughter and endangered grandchildren from Chicago to Mississippi. +++ Uplifting, raw, life-affirming.
COMING SOON ... (In stores July 27)
BLAST FROM THE PAST (PG-13) Director: Hugh Wilson. With Brendan Fraser, Alicia Silverstone, Christoher Walken. (115 min.) +++ After 30 years in his parents&#8217; homemade bomb shelter, a man emerges from the &#8220;time capsule&#8221; into the present day, looking for supplies and a wife. This fresh idea delivers some scintillating humor, but it doesn&#8217;t live up to its potential. By Laura Danese
OCTOBER SKY (PG) Director: Joe Johnston. With Jake Gyllenhaal, Chris Cooper, Chris Owen, Laura Dern. (105 min.) +++ The real-life career of scientist Homer Hickam inspired this good-natured tale of a 1950s teenager who resists the destiny his West Virginia family has mapped out for him. The movie is more likable than believable, but it recaptures the mystique of rocket science. +++1/2 Family fare, good message, sappy.
PAYBACK (R) Director: Brian Helgeland. With Mel Gibson, Deborah Kara Unger, James Coburn. (105 min.) + An interesting cast is wasted in this misanthropic thriller about a criminal bent on revenge against his ex-wife and former partner. Mayhem is expected, but the filmmakers add torture into the bargain, and it&#8217;s hard to remember a mainstream movie that aims so much violence at female characters. ++ Lots of attitude, energetic, cold-blooded.
(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society