The 5th annual Mega 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

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.

Motion picture Association of America ratings are as follows:

G General Audiences: All ages admitted.

PG Parental Guidance: Some material may not be suitable for children.

PG-13 Parents Strongly Cautioned: Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.

R Restricted: Children under 17 require accompanying parent or adult guardian.

NC-17 No Children Under 17 Admitted: Age may vary in certain areas.


The Bicycle Thief (Not rated) **** Director: Vittorio De Sica. With Lamberto Maggiorani, Enzo Staiola. (90 min.)

Revival of a 1948 classic from Italy's inspired "neo-realist" movement, centering on a poverty-stricken father and a good-natured little boy who scour the streets of Rome in search of a stolen bicycle that the dad's new job depends on. European cinema has given us few works so richly dramatic and profoundly humane. In Italian with English subtitles

Big Daddy (PG-13) ** Director: Dennis Dugan. With Adam Sandler, Joey Lauren Adams, Jon Stewart. (95 min.)

The former SNL-er (Sandler) plays Sonny Koufax - toll collector with a law degree - who suddenly finds himself playing dad to a kindergartner. Sophomoric antics abound from the top pop. 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.

Black Cat, White Cat (R) ** Director: Emir Kusturica. With Bajram Severdzan, Srdan Todorovic, Branka Katic, Florijan Ajdini. (129 min.)

A gypsy community on the Danube River is the setting of this rowdy comedy involving a bungled train robbery, an arranged marriage, and a tangled web of double-crosses and triple-crosses spanning at least three generations. In Serbo-Croatian and Romany with English subtitles *** Dizzying, colorful, grows on you.

Sex/Nudity: 1 scene of implied sex. Violence: 5 instances, 2 of them involving shootings, some bullying. Profanity: 42 expressions. Drugs: 23 scenes with alcohol, 9 with cigarettes, 9 with cocaine.

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'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. *** Riveting, scary, realistic, unsettling.

Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: 3 deaths but not seen taking place. Profanity: 216 expressions, many harsh. Drugs: 2 instances of drinking, 6 of smoking.

Blast From the Past (PG-13) *** Director: Hugh Wilson. With Brendan Fraser, Alicia Silverstone, Christopher Walken, Sissy Spacek. (115 min.)

After 30 years in his parents' homemade bomb shelter, a man emerges from the "time capsule" into the present day, looking for supplies and a wife. This fresh idea delivers some scintillating humor. Still, the depiction of the young man's wonderment in a strange new world doesn't live up to its potential, and the supporting cast outshines Fraser and Silverstone. By Laura Danese *** Sweet, innocent, laugh-out-loud funny.

Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: 1 instance. Profanity: 35 mild expressions. Drugs: A couple scenes of social drinking and 1 instance of cigarette smoking; one character smokes a pipe.

Blue Streak (R) * Director: Les Mayfield. With Martin Lawrence, Luke Wilson, Nicole Ari Parker, William Forsythe. (90 min.)

A thief poses as a cop in order to retrieve a stolen jewel he's stupidly stashed in a police station. Lawrence's manic energy and Wilson's laid-back humor are no match for the trite and trivial story, which amounts to a series of excuses for mugging, fighting, and caterwauling. **1/2 Funny, creative, some suspense.

Sex/Nudity: A little innuendo. Violence: 12 scenes ranging from comic bits to lengthy shoot-outs. Profanity: 114 expressions, many harsh. Drugs: 2 scenes with smoking; 1 lengthy sequence involving a drug-ring bust.

Body Shots (R) * Director: Michael Cristofer. With Tara Reid, Sean Patrick Flanery, Jerry O'Connell. (102 min.)

A self-proclaimed definitive look at sex and relationships in the '90s, "Body Shots" hasn't an iota of profundity. Such plot as there is follows a group of 'hip' twentysomethings going to a nightclub, getting hideously drunk, and having one-night stands. This film contains explicit language, sex, and violence. By Stephen Humphries

The Bone Collector (R) ** Director: Phillip Noyce. With Denzel Washington, Angelina Jolie, Queen Latifah, Michael Rooker, Ed O'Neill. (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 progressively more unpleasant as it goes along, escalating its gory details as it builds toward a standard horror-movie climax. **1/2 Explicitly graphic, ruthless, entertaining but nothing spectacular, clich.

Sex/Nudity: 1 implied sex scene. Violence: 14 very graphic scenes (including a less graphic instance of police photos of brutalized victims). Profanity: 27 expressions, some harsh. Drugs: 1 instance of drinking, 2 of smoking.

Book of Life (Not rated) ** Director: Hal Hartley. With Martin Donovan, Thomas Jay Ryan, P.J. Harvey, Dave Simonds, Miho Nikaido. (70 min.)

Wry parable about two men who represent the forces of good and evil, confronting each other in New York City just before the new millennium.

Bowfinger (PG-13) ** Bowfinger (PG-13)

Director: Frank Oz. With Steve Martin, Eddie Murphy, Heather Graham, Robert Downey Jr. (90 min.)

An untalented filmmaker gets turned down by the superstar he wants for his new action fantasy, so he decides to film the celebrity on the sly, using hidden cameras. This comedy is a cross between "Ed Wood" and "EDtv," although it gains its own personality from a subplot about the superstar's unique blend of egomania and paranoia. *** Lighthearted, funny, clever.

Sex/Nudity: Several instances of sexual innuendo. Violence: 2 scenes with gunfire. Profanity: 16 expressions. Drugs: 3 scenes with alcohol.

Boys Don't Cry (R) *** Director: Kimberly Peirce. With Hilary Swank, Chlo Sevigny, Brendan Sexton III. (114 min.)

The fact-based story of a young woman who felt uncomfortable with her gender, and passed herself off as a man while drifting through rural Nebraska, eventually meets a tragic death. Swank gives one of the year's most complex and hard-hitting performances in the demanding central role. Contains graphic sexual material and disturbing violence.

Sex/Nudity: 4 scenes with lesbian sex or implied sex, 2 scenes with nudity, some innuendo. Violence: 5 scenes with violence including a rape and shooting. Profanity: 118 expressions, mostly harsh. Drugs: 5 scenes with alcohol, 4 with smoking, 5 with alcohol and smoking, 2 with drugs.

The Boys in the Band (R) ** Director: William Friedkin. With Cliff Gorman, Laurence Luckinbill, Ruben Greene, Keith Prentice, Peter White. (119 min.)

Reissue of the 1970 comedy-drama written by Mart Crowley from his scathingly sardonic play about a boisterous birthday party attended by eight gay men and an uninvited straight guest.

Breakfast of Champions (R) ** Director: Alan Rudolph. With Bruce Willis, Nick Nolte, Albert Finney, Barbara Hershey, Lukas Haas. (110 min.)

The lives of several people - including a car dealer who might be losing his mind, a salesman with a secret sex life, and a wildly eccentric science-fiction writer - come together in unexpected ways as a Midwestern town prepares for an arts festival. This manic adaptation of Kurt Vonnegut Jr.'s smart, sensitive novel is too frantic and furious for its own good, but the acting and screenwriting have flashes of interest along the way.

Bringing Out the Dead (R) *** Director: Martin Scorsese. With Nicolas Cage, Patricia Arquette, John Goodman, Ving Rhames. (120 min.)

Harrowing portrait of a New York City ambulance driver who's haunted by visions of suffering people he's tried and failed to save. While the story is shaped by Scorsese's visual expressionism, its driving force is Paul Schrader's screenplay, which is equally fascinated by the afflictions of life and the usually squandered opportunities these afford for courage and self-sacrifice. Contains graphic depictions of urban misery including violence, illness, drug abuse, and despair. ***1/2 Out of control, stunning, insightful.

Sex/Nudity: A couple of instances of innuendo; prostitutes in street scenes. Violence: 11 scenes including graphic hospital episodes and fist fights. Profanity: 56 expressions, mostly harsh. Drugs: 4 scenes with alcohol, 7 with smoking, 1 with alcohol and smoking, 5 with drugs.

Brokedown Palace (PG-13) ** Director: Jonathan Kaplan. With Claire Danes, Kate Beckinsale, Bill Pullman, Lou Diamond Phillips. (100 min.)

During a brief vacation in Thailand, two young American women are arrested on a narcotics charge, and a money-minded attorney is the only person standing between them and decades in prison. Variations on this tale had a little more oomph in "Midnight Express" and the recent "Return to Paradise." **1/2 Thought-provoking, suspenseful, flat.

Sex/Nudity: Mild nudity in prison shower. Violence: 1 scene with beating. Profanity: 28 expressions, many harsh. Drugs: 11 scenes with drinking, smoking, or drugs.

Buena Vista Social Club (Not rated) *** Director: Wim Wenders. With Ry Cooder, Ibrahim Ferrer, Eliades Ochoa, Rubn Gonzlez, Compay Segundo. (106 min.)

This excursion into Cuba's traditional pop-music scene had its start when Cooder decided to record an album in Havana, and one of Germany's most expressive filmmakers decided to make a record of the experience, spotlighting a number of old-time musicians who were rediscovered in the course of this project. Not great cinema, but lots of toe-tapping fun. ***1/2 Colorful, invigorating, authentic.

Sex/Nudity: A few instances of sexual innuendo in song lyrics and in 1 conversation. Violence: None. Profanity: 2 mild expressions. Drugs: 6 scenes with smoking, 2 with alcohol.

Cabaret Balkan (R) *** Director: Goran Paskaljevic. With Lazar Ristovski, 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 seem more melodramatic than enlightening, but they provide a harrowing look at a country on the brink of tumultuous events. In Serbo-Croatian with subtitles

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. This often hilarious Australian comedy is smart, touching, and brimming with genuine family values. **1/2 A modest delight, not enough happens, quirky.

Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: 3 mild scenes including vandilism. Profanity: 43 expressions, many harsh. Drugs: 3 scenes with alcohol, 1 with smoking, 1 with both.

Chill Factor (R) ** Director: Hugh Johnson. With Cuba Gooding Jr., Skeet Ulrich, Peter Firth, David Paymer. (112 min.)

There's something utterly fun about this movie. Two average guys are trying to keep a heat-sensitive weapon from a revenge-bent ex-colonel. By Katherine Dillin **1/2 Buddy flick, humorous, unlikely, grisly.

Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: 18 total including a variety of slapstick and more graphic scenes. Profanity: 99 expressions, mostly harsh. Drugs: 1 cigarette smoked.

(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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