The Monitor Movie Guide


Excellent ++++

Good +++

Fair ++

Poor +

The Worst DUD

NEW RELEASES AMERICAN BEAUTY (R) Director: Sam Mendes. With Kevin Spacey, Annette Bening, Thora Birch, Wes Bentley, Mena Suvari, Peter Gallagher, Scott Bakul, Allison Janney, Sam Robards, Chris Cooper. (118 min.) +++ Bored by their increasingly dull marriage, a middle-aged couple are seduced by morally reckless behaviors that bring them into edgy relationships with everyone from their towns real-estate magnate to the local drug dealer. Stay away from this sometimes violent tragicomedy unless youre interested in a ruthless dissection of suburban malaise.

FOR LOVE OF THE GAME (PG-13) Director: Sam Raimi. With Kevin Costner, Kelly Preston, John C. Reilly, Brian Cox, J.K. Simmons, Jena Malone. (135 min.) ++ Costner plays a 40-year-old pitcher with a passel of problems: His team is being sold, his throwing hand isnt what it used to be, and his love affair is apparently in its last inning. Like a contest between unequal teams, this sentimental drama is wildly uneven as it switches between ballpark scenes, which are very involving, and romantic episodes, which are badly overplayed. Sex/Nudity: 2 scenes with implied sex; 1 sex scene. Violence: 2 mild scenes. Profanity: 40 expressions, many harsh. Drugs: 7 scenes with alcohol, 2 with smoking.

GET BRUCE! (NOT RATED) Director: Andrew J. Kuehn. With Bruce Vilanch, Whoopi Goldberg, Billy Crystal, Nathan Lane, Robin Williams, Bette Midler. (72 min.) ++ A documentary visit with Bruce Vilanch, who writes comedy routines for Oscar telecasts, nightclub acts, and everything in between. Although testimonials by celebrities provide the movies star power, Vilanch himself is the main attraction, as flashy and flamboyant as the sometimes raunchy material he dreams up for his clients. The movie is closer to an infomercial than a serious study, but it serves up plenty of rowdy humor.

A HARD DAYS NIGHT (NOT RATED) Director: Richard Lester. With John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Ringo Starr, Wilfred Brambell. (85 min.) ++++ Reissue of the hugely imaginative 1964 comedy that launched the Beatles movie career, with fictionalized versions of the fabulous foursome looking for fun and fulfillment in the uproarious world of rock n roll during the British Invasion years. Yeah, yeah, yeah!

LOVE STINKS (R) Director: Jeff Franklin. With French Stewart, Bridgette Wilson, Bill Bellamy, Tyra Banks. (105 min.) ++ Stewart (Harry from TVs 3rd Rock From the Sun) plays a writer whose sitcom mirrors his life, which is going downhill because he cant stand up to his manipulative, matrimony-bent girlfriend. The cast and crew of his show complain that they arent having fun anymore, calling our attention to the fact that neither are we. Backstage views of TV production and everyones earnestness make you want to like this one, but its hard. By M.K. Terrell

ROMANCE (NOT RATED) Director: Catherine Breillat. With Caroline Ducey, Franois Berland, Sagamore Stvenin, Rocco Siffredi. (93 min.) ++ The main character of this French drama is a young woman who has far more interest in sex than her celibate boyfriend does. More cautionary than titillating, the movie appears to be strongly influenced by the work of Luis Buuel, whose Belle de Jour explores similar territory with a higher degree of moral and cinematic finesse. Contains extremely graphic sexual activity, some of it deliberately disturbing. In French with English subtitles

SPLENDOR (NOT RATED) Director: Gregg Araki. With Kathleen Robertson, Matt Keeslar, Johnathon Schaech, Kelly MacDonald, Eric Mabius. (93 min.) ++ A young woman cant decide which boyfriend she likes best, the punk rocker or the small-time music critic, so she decides they should all move in together. Araki graduates from his usual obsession with teenage angst in this neon-lighted comedy, but fails to hit the visual and verbal high notes he strains so hard to reach.

STOP MAKING SENSE (NOT RATED) Director: Jonathan Demme. With David Byrne, Chris Frantz, Jerry Harrison, Tina Weymouth. (88 min.) +++ Reissue of the classic 1984 Talking Heads concert film. It uses a show by the band for an elegantly filmed excursion into the New Wave branch of rock n roll aesthetics. Fans will have a ball with the freshly restored visuals and near-legendary soundtrack, and newcomers will find this an engaging introduction to one of the most ambitious groups in modern pop music.

CURRENTLY IN RELEASE CHILL FACTOR (R) Director: Hugh Johnson. With Cuba Gooding Jr., Skeet Ulrich. (112 min.) ++ Ignore the fact that the story line is fantastically implausible. And that the bad guy role is loaded with ludicrous antics. Theres something utterly fun about this movie. Goodings enthusiasm is infectious, and Ulrich is a brooding counterweight in this story about two average guys trying to keep a heat- sensitive weapon from a revenge-bent ex-colonel. By Katherine Dillin

DUDLEY DO-RIGHT (PG) Director: Hugh Wilson. With Brendan Fraser, Alfred Molina, Sarah Jessica Parker, Robert Prosky, Eric Idle. (93 min.) ++ Wilsons funnier-than-expected comedy based on (yet another) television cartoon stars Fraser as a clumsy but endearingly Boy Scout-good Canadian Mountie, Dudley Do-Right. Dudley must stop his childhood nemesis, Snidely Whiplash, from fulfilling his villainous career goals, and win back his sweetheart, Nell Fenwick. Funny lines (Canadian bacon is actually ordinary ham) and lively hamming by the actors make it an entertaining diversion for a Saturday afternoon. There are some caricatures of American Indians and Japanese tourists that could offend. By Katherine Dillin

ILLUMINATA (R) Director: John Turturro. With John Turturro, Susan Sarandon, Christopher Walken, Beverly DAngelo. (111 min.) ++ An ambitious playwright, an actress he's infatuated with, a self-important critic, and an insecure star are among the many characters of this comedy-drama about a theater troupe peddling its cultural wares in New York a century ago. While the cast and material have promise, Turturro's uneven filmmaking is stronger on superficial energy than deep-seated resonance. Sex/Nudity: 5 scenes with nudity and/or sex, some fairly graphic. Violence: 1 scene with a serious consequence. Profanity: 28 expressions, many harsh. Drugs: 2 scenes with social drinking, 2 with smoking.

IN TOO DEEP (R) Director: Michael Rymer. With Omar Epps, LL Cool J, Nia Long, Stanley Tucci, Hill Harper, Pam Grier. (95 min.) ++1/2 An undercover cop with a mission (Epps) tries to nail a likably psychopathic drug lord called God (LL Cool J). The filmmakers quest for authenticity and the leads gripping performances produce a suspenseful story, despite lame attempts to make us believe Epps may be too deeply into his alter ego as a drug pusher to get out when the big bust goes down. By M.K. Terrell ++1/2 Taut, suspenseful, unoriginal. Sex/Nudity: 2 sex scenes, 1 is graphic; 1 scene with a nude model. Violence: 11 scenes with harsh violence. Profanity: 234 expressions, mostly harsh. Drugs: 13 scenes total: 8 with alcohol, smoking, or both; 1 with marijuana; 4 involving drug deals.

THE MUSE (PG-13) Director: Albert Brooks. With Albert Brooks, Sharon Stone, Andie MacDowell, Jeff Bridges. (97 min.) +++ Afraid that his career is stalling in midstream, a Hollywood screenwriter seeks assistance from a woman who claims to be an ancient muse in a modern guise, but soon wonders if his newfound inspiration is worth the trouble this unusual friend keeps bringing him. Stone is superb, the movie-business cameo performances are very funny, and Brooks's screenplay is sharp enough to suggest he's found a muse of his own. +++ Entertaining, intelligent, uneven. Sex/Nudity: 1 brief instance of nudity, some innuendo. Violence: None. Profanity: 11 expressions, some harsh. Drugs: 9 scenes with alcohol.

OUTSIDE PROVIDENCE (R) Director: Michael Corrente. With Shawn Hatosy, Alec Baldwin, Amy Smart, George Wendt. (95 min.) ++ A working-class father packs his trouble-making son off to a prep school, where the well-heeled students show instant contempt for his blue-collar background. The story is lively and energetic, if you can take its raunchy jokes and rowdy behavior, but Corrente's flair for ethnic portraiture fails to raise the movie above a zillion other pictures about high-school high jinks. ++ Predictably funny, sometimes entertaining, dazed 1970s atmosphere. Sex/Nudity: 3 scenes with sexual activity; 5 instances of innuendo. Violence: 2 mild scenes plus a couple of car crashes. Profanity: 165 expressions, mostly harsh. Drugs: 21 scenes with alcohol, smoking, marijuana, or some combination of these.

THE SIXTH SENSE (PG-13) Director: M. Night Shyamalan. With Bruce Willis, Haley Joel Osment, Toni Colette, Olivia Williams. (107 min.) ++ A child psychologist treats an eight-year-old boy who has ghostly visions that cant be explained away by the doctor's theories. The thriller's best and worst features all stem from a highly unusual plot structure that builds to a genuinely startling conclusion. Some viewers may feel the ending justifies the means used to achieve it, while others may reject the picture's leisurely pace and literal-minded depiction of supernatural events. ++1/2 Gloomy, surprising, a little stiff. Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: 9 scenes including bloody ghosts and a shooting. Profanity: 10 harsh or crude expressions. Drugs: 1 scene with wine.

STIR OF ECHOES (R) Director: David Koepp. With Kevin Bacon, Kathryn Erbe, Illeana Douglas, Kevin Dunn. (99 min.) ++ To his confusion and dismay, an ordinary blue-collar worker finds himself in touch with supernatural forces linked to a sinister event that once happened in his house. Bacon seems oddly self-conscious in his regular-guy role, and director Koepp relies more heavily on editing tricks than old-fashioned atmosphere. Still, the movie provides a few effective thrills. Sex/Nudity: 1 sex scene; 1 instance of nudity; some innuendo. Violence: 11 instances, several disturbing. Profanity: 29 expressions, mostly harsh. Drugs: 2 scenes with alcohol and smoking.

TEACHING MRS. TINGLE (PG-13) Director: Kevin Williamson. With Helen Mirren, Katie Holmes, Leigh Ann Watson, Molly Ringwald. (96 min.) u1/2 OK, heres the lesson plan for today: Were going to go over to our teachers house, clear up a misunderstanding about almost cheating on a test, and then graduate in a few days. Or so three high school students think. Instead, one of the students shoots a crossbow at their mean-spirited teacher, grazing her forehead and knocking her out. The rest of the movie, Mrs. Tingle is tied to her bed as the students figure out what to do next. Its sometimes fun and campy, but the movie turns out to be a silly mindless tale. Grade: D for dismissed. By Lisa Leigh Parney ++ Tedious, juvenile. Sex/Nudity: No nudity, but two students get frisky on a couch; students plot a sex scandal. Violence: A couple of bloody scenes including slaps and a crossbow. Profanity: 24 expressions, mostly mild. Drugs: Some wine drinking; coach gets drunk; 1 cigarette.

THE 13TH WARRIOR (R) Directors: Michael Crichton, John McTiernan. With Antonio Banderas, Omar Sharif. (114 min.) +++ During the Dark Ages, a dozen Viking warriors ride to the rescue of a kingdom under attack from a mysterious terror that has no name. A visiting diplomat (Antonio Banderas) from the far more advanced Arab world, is forced to join them. During all manner of hacking and slashing, interrupted by a little romance, the diplomat must become a warrior. Based on Michael Crichton's novel, Eaters of the Dead. By Greg Lamb ++ Action-packed, engrossing, gruesome. Sex/Nudity: 1 scene of implied sex. Violence: 10 scenes, sometimes graphic. Profanity: 3 mild expressions. Drugs: 3 scenes with alcohol.

OUT ON VIDEO COMING SOON ... (In stores Sept. 21)

DOUGS 1ST MOVIE (G) Director: Maurice Joyce. With voices of Thomas McHugh, Becca Lish, Fred Newman. (77 min.) ++ A friendly sea monster and a Valentines Day dance are among the ingredi- ents of the first animated feature based on TVs popular Disneys Doug series.

FOOLISH (R) Director: Dave Meyers. With Master P, Eddie Griffin, John Marlo, Andrew Dice Clay, Bill Duke. (110 min.) + A stand-up comic is struggling to maintain a career thats being exploited by the entertainment industry and his gangster brother. Theres nothing funny about the movies discriminatory material. By Laura Danese

THE MATRIX (R) Directors: The Wachowski Brothers. With Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne. (132 min.) +++ 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. +++ Original, clever, solid sci-fi.

MY FAVORITE MARTIAN (PG) Director: Donald Petrie. With Jeff Daniels, Christopher Lloyd, Daryl Hannah, Elizabeth Hurley. (93 min.) + A visitor from Mars becomes the unwanted houseguest of a TV producer with romantic problems. +1/2 Unnecessary crudeness, obvious.

THE OUT-OF-TOWNERS (PG-13) Director: Sam Weisman. With Steve Martin, Goldie Hawn, Mark McKinney, John Cleese. (91 min.) + An updated version of the Neil Simon comedy about a Midwestern couple who travels to New York for a job interview. + Boring, formulaic, pointless.

(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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