The Monitor Movie Guide

Red stars denote the reviews of Monitor movie critic David Sterritt unless otherwise noted. Ratings and comments by the Monitor panel ( blue stars) reflect the sometimes diverse views of at least three other moviegoers. Information on violence, drugs, sex/nudity, and profanity is compiled by the Monitor panel.


David Sterritt, Monitor panel Meaning

**** **** Excellent

*** *** Good

** ** Fair

* * Poor

DUD DUD\ The Worst


Anywhere But Here (PG-13)

Director: Wayne Wang. With Susan Sarandon, Natalie Portman, Bonnie Bedelia, Shawn Hatosy. (113 min.)

*** A single mom heads from Wisconsin to Los Angeles with dreams of Hollywood stardom for her teenage daughter, who'd rather be exactly what the title says. The story is a sort of "Stella Dallas Meets Slums of Beverly Hills," helped by heartfelt acting from its talented stars.

Sex/Nudity: A couple instances of innuendo. Violence: 1 mild scuffle. Profanity: 11 mild expressions. Drugs: 3 scenes with alcohol, 7 with smoking, 3 with alcohol and smoking.

The Bachelor (PG-13)

Director: Gary Sinyor. With Chris O'Donnell, Rene Zellweger, Hal Holbrook, Artie Lange, Peter Ustinov. (103 min.)

**1/4 Based on the 1925 Buster Keaton classic "Seven Chances," bachelor Jimmie Shannon (O'Donnell) must work up his nerve to tie the knot before his 30th birthday which falls on the very next day or risk losing his $100 million inheritance left by his grandfather. A surprisingly energetic comedy that starts off fairly strong (due in part to a funny cameo by Ustinov as the grandpa), even if it does peter out in the middle. For better or for worse, a cute effort. By Katherine Dillin

** Predictable, totally ordinary, a few good moments.

Sex/Nudity: None Violence: 2 scenes with slapstick violence. Profanity: 21 expressions, mostly mild. Drugs: 3 scenes with alcohol, 9 with smoking, 1 with alcohol and smoking.

Dogma (R)

Director: Kevin Smith. With Ben Affleck, Matt Damon, Linda Fiorentino, Janeane Garofalo, Chris Rock. (115 min.)

** Wildly irreverent fantasy about two fallen angels who hope to reenter Heaven by exploiting a loophole in a feel-good version of Roman Catholic dogma being promoted by a New Jersey church. The satire contains as much foul language, bathroom humor, and sexual innuendo as other gross-out comedies aimed at primarily young audiences, along with occasional insights into the value of religion as a living force.

Felicia's Journey (Not rated)

Director: Atom Egoyan. With Bob Hoskins, Elaine Cassidy, Arsine Khanjian, Peter McDonald. (116 min.)

** Searching for her boyfriend in an English city, a pregnant runaway is befriended by a middle-aged man with a sinister agenda. Egoyan's cinematic brilliance shows up intermittently in this atmospheric thriller, which gains most of its punch from Hoskins's surprisingly subtle performance.

Light It Up (R)

Director: Craig Bolotin. With Forest Whitaker, Usher Raymond, Vanessa L. Williams, Sara Gilbert, Judd Nelson. (98 min.)

* Teenagers commandeer their high school and take a policeman hostage as a protest against their community's lack of commitment to their education. The story is irresponsible and the filmmaking is awful. How did a fine actor like Whitaker get involved with this mess?

Macbeth (Not rated)

Director: Roman Polanski. With Jon Finch, Francesca Annis, Martin Shaw, John Stride. (139 min.)

*** Revival of Polanski's violent 1972 rendition of William Shakespeare's towering tragedy about a Scottish plotter who murders his way to the throne. Vividly acted and directed, if not on a par with Polanski's greatest work.

The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc (R)

Director: Luc Besson. With Milla Jovovich, John Malkovich, Faye Dunaway, Dustin Hoffman, Tchky Karyo, Pascal Greggory, Vincent Cassel, Richard Ridings. (140 min.)

** Besson's account of the Maid of Orleans presents itself as a celebration of a martyr's faith but shows more interest in the violence and hatred that surrounded her life. It doesn't help that Jovovich plays the young heroine with a bravado resembling movie-star charisma more than saintly fortitude.

Sex/Nudity: 1 brief nonsexual instance of nudity. Violence: 19 scenes with bloody battle violence including a burning at the stake, rape, and beheadings. Profanity: 20 expressions, often harsh. Drugs: 2 scenes with alcohol.

A Moment of Innocence (Not rated)

Director: Mohsen Makhmalbaf. With Mohsen Makhmalbaf, Ammar Tafti, Marjam Mohamadamini. (75 min.)

**** One of the most creative filmmakers in Iran tells the story of his effort to direct a film about a true event from his own past, when he physically attacked a political enemy who's now forgiven him and wants to star in the movie! Touching, funny, and totally original. In Farsi with English subtitles

Secret Dfense (PG)

Director: Jacques Rivette. With Sandrine Bonnaire, Jerzy Radziwilowicz, Laure Marsac, Grgoire Colin, Franoise Fabian. (170 min.)

**** A young biologist investigates the enigmatic death of her father and uncovers a complex web of family intrigue. Rivette's supremely elegant style lends unique appeal to this briskly acted, immaculately filmed mystery. In French with English subtitles


American Movie: The Making of Northwestern (R)

Director: Chris Smith. With Mark Borchardt, Bill Borchardt, Mike Schank, Robert Richard Jorge. (104 min.)

*** Documentary about a young Wisconsin man trying to make a low-budget horror movie despite limitations of money, resources, and probably talent. Smith's study is loaded with hilarious and revealing moments. It has an undertone of condescension toward its unsophisticated "characters," though, and at times this spills over into implicit ridicule that spoils the film's enjoyable tone.

Bats (PG-13)

Director: Louis Morneau. With Lou Diamond Phillips, Dina Meyer, Carlos Jacott, Leon, Bob Gunton. (91 min.)

* Handsome lawman and gorgeous zoologist save rural town from smart, murderous bats. The story is violent and vapid, but the visual jolts may please horror buffs.

* Campy, a good rental, not scary.

Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: 23 instances of fake-looking violence including bat attacks. Profanity: 60 expressions, some harsh. Drugs: 2 scenes with alcohol, 2 with smoking.

Being John Malkovich (R)

Director: Spike Jonze. With John Cusack, Cameron Diaz, John Malkovich, Catherine Keener. (112 min.)

*** Hilarious, utterly unpredictable comedy about an out-of-work puppeteer who finds a secret passageway into the famous actor's mind and decides to make a few bucks off his discovery. Jonze makes an uproarious feature-film debut, and Charlie Kaufman's screenplay is no less inventive. Contains sex scenes and gender-bending plot twists, which some moviegoers will find offensive.

** Weird, entertaining, boldly creative, comical.

Sex/Nudity: 2 sex scenes with nudity; innuendo. Violence: 2 fistfights. Profanity: 30 expressions, many harsh. Drugs: 6 scenes with alcohol or smoking; 1 with marijuana.

The Best Man (R)

Director: Malcolm Lee. With Taye Diggs, Nia Long, Morris Chestnut, Harold Perrineau, Terrence Howard. (118 min.)

*** Written and directed by Malcolm Lee (cousin to well-known director Spike Lee), the movie is what some are calling a black "The Big Chill," a coming-of-age film about a group of young black professionals who are reunited after college graduation for the wedding of one of the group. When a thinly disguised autobiographical novel written by the best man reveals truths the group can't handle, old and new wounds surface. A compelling, well-made story. By Gloria Goodale

*** Warm, genuine, lots of coarse sex talk, well-woven plot.

Sex/Nudity: 6 scenes including an explicit sex scene, 2 flashbacks of the scene, and a bachelor party. Violence: 5 scenes ranging from a long fistfight to a light slap. Profanity: 137 expressions, mostly harsh. Drugs: 3 scenes with alcohol, 1 with a cigarette, 2 with alcohol and cigarettes.

The Bone Collector (R)

Director: Phillip Noyce. With Denzel Washington, Angelina Jolie, Queen Latifah, Michael Rooker. (118 min.)

** From his electronically enhanced apartment, a paralyzed policeman guides a talented young colleague through a dangerous hunt for a sadistic serial killer. This variation on the "Rear Window" format works best when director Noyce gives free rein to Washington's thoughtful charm. But the story grows more unpleasant as it goes along, escalating its gory details as it builds toward a standard horror-movie climax.

The House on Haunted Hill (R)

Director: William Malone. With Geoffrey Rush, Famke Janssen, Taye Diggs, Peter Gallagher. (115 min.)

DUD In this remake of the 1958 classic, the film revolves around four people who are offered $1 million if they spend the night in a haunted mansion. There are loaded guns as party favors, flashes of insane people from years past, and really no coherent plot. This remake is more laughable than scary and has lame effects. It's an insult to horror-movie fans. By Lisa Leigh Parney

DUD. Unoriginal, not interesting, predictable.

The Insider (R)

Director: Michael Mann. With Al Pacino, Russell Crowe, Diane Venora, Christopher Plummer. (155 min.)

**** Pacino is in top form as a crusading "60 Minutes" journalist and Crowe is even better as a whistle-blower in the tobacco industry whose life is almost ruined by his decision to take a stand against corporate greed and deceit. Excellent acting, a stirring screenplay, and crisply intelligent directing make this fact-based movie a great human drama as well as a riveting and revealing look at crucially important social issues.

**** Emotionally powerful, gripping story, excellent cinematic style.

Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: 6 instances from minor shoving at an airport to death threats. Profanity: 71 expressions, mostly harsh. Drugs: 8 scenes with alcohol; 3 scenes with cigarettes.

Music of the Heart (PG)

Director: Wes Craven. With Meryl Streep, Angela Bassett, Aidan Quinn, Cloris Leachman, Gloria Estefan. (120 min.)

** Remaking her life after her husband walks out on her, a middle-aged schoolteacher decides to share the joys of classical music with minority kids in an inner-city neighborhood. The story's can-do attitude and moments of soaring music make it a must-see for moviegoers seeking positive visions. It would convey its worthwhile themes more effectively, though, if it soft-pedaled its heartwarming sentiments and gave fuller attention to showing us exactly how the devoted teacher accomplishes her educational feats.

Princess Mononoke (PG-13)

Director: Hayao Miyazaki. With voices of Billy Crudup, Gillian Anderson, Billy Bob Thornton. (133 min.)

*** The setting is ancient Japan, and the hero is a young warrior who gets caught up in a struggle between warring communities and powerful forest spirits who want to protect their natural world from the ravages of selfish, insensitive humans. This animated epic combines the storytelling ambition of Japan's popular anime tradition with dialogue dubbed into English by a well-chosen cast. Contains violence and innuendo that some parents may find unsuitable for young children.

Breathtaking epic, ambitious, innovative animation, repetitive.

Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: 26 instances of violence, many from battle scenes. Profanity: 4 mild expressions. Drugs: 1 banquet scene with alcohol.

The Straight Story (G)

Director: David Lynch. With Richard Farnsworth, Sissy Spacek. (111 min.)

*** Determined to pay his ailing brother an overdue visit, an elderly man travels from Iowa to Wisconsin on a lawnmower tractor, having low-key adventures with the strangers he meets during his eccentric odyssey. As slow-moving as the voyage it portrays, this warmly human comedy-drama marks a radical departure for Lynch, who's known for violent and surrealistic fare like "Blue Velvet." View it carefully, though, and you'll see a surprisingly complex view of contemporary life beneath its good-natured surface.

Peaceful, wonderfully slow, sincere.

Sex/Nudity/Violence: None. Profanity: 3 mild expressions. Drugs: 10 scenes with cigarettes or cigars, 5 with beer.



(In stores Nov. 16)

Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me (PG-13)

Director: Jay Roach. With Mike Myers, Heather Graham, Michael York, Elizabeth Hurley. (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 hero's sex appeal.

The Castle (R)

Director: Rob Sitch. With Michael Caton, Anne Tenney, Stephen Curry, Sophie Lee. (85 min.)

*** An ordinary man who loves his home refuses to budge when a government-run airport decides to expand onto his property. An often hilarious Australian comedy.

Instinct (R)

Director: Jon Turteltaub. With Anthony Hopkins, Cuba Gooding, Jr., Donald Sutherland. (126 min.)

** Hopkins plays a primate researcher who's killed some African park rangers; Gooding plays a psychiatrist who wants to learn why.

The Loss of Sexual Innocence (R)

Director: Mike Figgis. With Julian Sands, Saffron Burrows, Jonathan Rhys-Meyers. (101 min.)

*** A modern retelling of the Adam and Eve story. Contains explicit sexual and scatological material.

Tea With Mussolini (PG)

Director: Franco Zeffirelli. With Cher, Judi Dench, Joan Plowright, Maggie Smith, Lily Tomlin. (116 min.)

** A group of colorful English women known in Florence, Italy, as the "Scorpioni" for their biting wit, guide a young boy born out of wedlock into manhood and a life of art. By Lisa Leigh Parney

(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society

of stories this month > Get unlimited stories
You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Unlimited digital access $11/month.

Get unlimited Monitor journalism.