The 5th annual Mega Movie guide


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.


Julien Donkey-Boy (Not rated) *** Director: Harmony Korine. With Ewen Bremner, Werner Herzog, Chlo Sevigny, Evan Neumann. (94 min.) Style and content have the same fragmented quality in this collage-like tale of a mentally disturbed young man trying to maintain some stability in a household dominated by a bullying father.

The King and I (G) ** Director: Richard Rich. With voices of Miranda Richardson, Christiane Noll, Martin Vidnovic. (88 min.) Animated version of the Rogers & Hammerstein musical about a 19th-century English schoolteacher and the king of Siam, who wants to modernize his country while maintaining the powers and privileges to which he and his court are accustomed. VSex/Nudity/Profanity/Drugs:: None. Violence: 26 mild instances.

The King of Masks (Not rated) *** Director: Wu Tianming. With Zhu Xu, Zhou Ren-Ying, Zhang Riuyang, Zhao Zhigang. (101 min.) Dwelling in a rigidly traditional society that values youth over age and males over females, an old Chinese entertainer and a homeless little girl become unlikely partners in the quest for a reasonably contented life. **** Uplifting, gentle, heart-wrenching. Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: 4 instances including a man beaten off-camera, a child bruised from a beating, and a man shooting a slingshot. Profanity: 7 expressions in subtitles. Drugs: 2 scenes of pipe smoking and a sip of wine.

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. *1/2 Gory, mediocre, short. Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: 11 scenes, most with a hungry crocodile. Profanity: 41 expressions, some harsh. Drugs: None.

The Last Cigarette (Not rated) *** Directors: Kevin Rafferty, Frank Keraudren. With Henry Waxman, various movie and TV performers, members of the tobacco industry. (82 min.) An engrossing, informative, sometimes hilarious look at the history of tobacco smoking in the mass media, from recent congressional hearings to the kinds of TV ads that aren't allowed anymore. Entertainingly assembled, if not very deep.

The Last Days (Not rated) *** Director: James Moll. With Tom Lantos, Irene Zisblatt, Rene Firestone, Alice Lok Cahana. (86 min.) This first-person account of suffering and survival among Hungarian victims of the Holocaust contains much stirring and revealing material. Steven Spielberg is credited as executive producer.

Last Night (R) *** Director: Don McKellar. With Don McKellar, Sandra Oh, Sarah Polley, David Cronenberg. (93 min.)

The setting of this quirky comedy-drama is a Canadian city a few hours before the end of the world. The main characters are ordinary people who cling to habit as the most reliable defense against despair. A gifted cast and a surprisingly delicate ending are the movie's best assets, but look out for some vulgar touches in McKellar's inventive screenplay.

Late August, Early September (Not rated) ** Director: Olivier Assayas. With Mathieu Amalric, Virginie Ledoyen, Franois Cluzet. (112 min.) This multilayered drama sketches the lives of Parisians juggling personal and professional challenges, ranging from romance to serious illness. Assayas reconfirms his ability to ferret out hidden facets of the personalities he explores. In French with English subtitles *** Philosophical, adult, talky. Sex/Nudity: 3 scenes with nudity or implied sex; mild innuendo. Violence: 2 brief scuffles. Profanity: 14 expressions, many harsh. Drugs: 12 scenes with alcohol, 20 with smoking, 3 with alcohol and smoking, 1 with marijuana.

The Legend of 1900 (R) ** Director: Giuseppe Tornatore. With Tim Roth, Pruitt Taylor Vince, Clarence Williams III. (125 min.) An aging trumpet player recalls the life and times of his most eccentric friend, a gifted pianist who was born on a steamship in the first year of the 20th century and decided to spend his entire life there, resisting the wiles of fame and romance that might have tempted him ashore. Sex/Nudity/Violence: None. Profanity: 35 expressions. Drugs: 12 scenes involving smoking and/or social drinking.

Les Bonnes Femmes (Not rated) *** Director: Claude Chabrol. With Stphane Audran, Bernadette Lafont, Clotilde Joano. (102 min.) Revival of a 1960 drama focusing on four young women who dream of escaping their dreary shop-clerk routines. Worth a visit by fans of European film and anyone curious about the New Wave's huge influence on Hollywood cinema. In French with English subtitles

Liberty Heights (R) *** Director: Barry Levinson. With Ben Foster, Adrien Brody, Bebe Neuwirth, Joe Mantegna. (132 min.) Levinson's fourth movie about the Baltimore of his youth focuses on ethnic, religious, and class-based tensions among the high-school set and their parents in the 1950s era. The movie would be a top-of-the-line entertainment if it weren't marred by a few moments of racially insensitive excess. ***1/2 Thoughtful, unpredictable, polished. Sex/Nudity: 6 instances of innuendo, 1 instance of nudity in a burlesque scene, 1 sexual situation. Violence: 2 scenes including 1 with a fistfight. Profanity: 62 expressions, some harsh. Drugs: 1 scene with alcohol, 5 with smoking, 4 with alcohol and smoking.

Life (R) *** Director: Ted Demme. With Eddie Murphy, Martin Lawrence, Ned Beatty, R. Lee Ermey. (118 min.) Two small-time criminals are sentenced to life on a Mississippi prison farm for a murder they didn't commit, and sway between hope and despair as the decades roll by. The humor doesn't have much subtlety, but Murphy and Lawrence are a natural-born comedy team. ** Incongruous, difficult subject, endearing crooks. Sex/Nudity: 2 instances of implied sex. Violence: 10 instances. Profanity: 214 expressions. Drugs: 18 instances.

Life on Earth (Not rated) *** Director: Abderrahmane Sissako. With Abderrahmane Sissako, Nana Baby, Mahamadou Dram. (61 min.) A village in Mali is the subject and setting of this leisurely look at life in the third world as the second millennium draws to a close. An absorbing experience.

Light It Up (R) * Director: Craig Bolotin. With Forest Whitaker, Usher Raymond, Vanessa L. Williams, 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, the filmmaking is awful. Sex/Nudity: A couple instances of mild innuendo. Violence: 10 scenes including fistfights, guns, and threats. Profanity: 108 expressions, mostly harsh. Drugs: 4 scenes with smoking, and 1 of them includes marijuana.

Limbo (R) *** Director: John Sayles. With Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, David Strathairn, Kris Kristofferson. (126 min.) Working to support her alienated teenage daughter through a small-time singing career, a woman meets a new boyfriend with a troubled past, and the three of them enter an unexpected adventure that could have deadly consequences. The movie is less about plot twists than about the struggles of decent people. **1/2 Somewhat unrealistic, severe, depressing. Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: Nothing graphic, but a dead body is found in the woods and a young girl struggles with suicidal ideas. Profanity: 30 expressions. Drugs: 11 scenes with drinking and/or smoking.

The Limey (R) *** Director: Steven Soderbergh. With Terence Stamp, Peter Fonda, Lesley Ann Warren. (100 min.) Stamp gives another bravura performance as an English hit man who visits Los Angeles to wreak vengeance on the criminals he blames for his daughter's death. The violent story is standard film noir fare, but Soderbergh treats it with oomph and imagination.

A Little Bit of Soul (R) ** Director: Peter Duncan. With Geoffrey Rush, Frances O'Connor, David Wenham, Heather Mitchell. (83 min.) Two rival scientists carry their romantic and professional feud into the country home of a high government official, who could help their research if he weren't so caught up in some kind of weird, possibly devilish cult. A dark Australian comedy.

Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (R) ** Director: Guy Ritchie. With Nick Moran, Jason Statham, Vinnie Jones, Sting. (107 min.) Boisterous comedy about a young gambler who loses a high-stakes card game, fears for his life if he doesn't pay his debt, and coaxes his motley friends into a robbery that will score them a pile of money. The humor is as crude as the characters, but the picture has energy. *** Energetic, tongue-in-cheek, unique. Sex/Nudity: 3 instances of innuendo; 1 scene of a topless dancer in background. Violence: 17 scenes ranging from slapping and beatings to shootouts. Profanity: 180 expressions, mostly harsh. Drugs: 4 scenes with drug dealing; smoking and drinking throughout.

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 frames this extremely offbeat study of the relationships among sexuality, love, possessiveness, hostility, and guilt. Contains explicit sexual and scatological material. Sex/Nudity: 11 instances such as Adam and Eve emerging nude from the lake, sexual situations, and implied sex. Violence: 4 scenes including a couple of stabbings and still photos of dead bodies. Profanity: 15 expressions. Drugs: 7 instances of smoking and/or drinking.

Lost & Found (PG-13) * Director: Jeff Pollack. With David Spade, Sophie Marceau, Martin Sheen, Patrick Bruel. (105 min.) A lovestruck Californian kidnaps a neighbor's dog as a way of getting her attention. *1/2 Flat humor, trite, slow. Sex/Nudity: 2 instances of nudity, 9 with innuendo. Violence: 1 scene from Disney's "Old Yeller." Profanity: 31 expressions. Drugs: 9 scenes with alcohol including one long party scene.

Love, Etc. (Not rated) ** Director: Marion Vernoux. With Charlotte Gainsbourg, Charles Berling, Yves Attal. (105 min.) A love triangle develops when a man's best friend gets a crush on his attractive new wife. In French with English subtitles

The Love Letter (R) ** Director: Peter Chan. With Kate Capshaw, Blythe Danner, Ellen DeGeneres, Tom Everett Scott. (90 min.)

Capshaw stars as a bookstore owner who discovers an anonymous love letter and suddenly finds herself entangled in a love triangle with a college boy and a lifelong admirer. The story suffers from a weak screenplay. By Lisa Leigh Parney ** Shallow, slightly amusing, fizzles at the end. Sex/Nudity: A couple of romps in bed, but no nudity. Violence: None. Profanity: 10 expressions. Drugs: 16 instances of drinking and smoking.

Love Stinks (R) ** Director: Jeff Franklin. With French Stewart, Bridgette Wilson, Bill Bellamy, Tyra Banks. (105 min.) Stewart (Harry from TV's "3rd Rock From the Sun") plays a writer whose sitcom mirrors his life, which is going downhill because he can't stand up to his manipulative, matrimony-bent girlfriend. By M.K. Terrell

Lovers of the Arctic Circle (R) *** Director: Julio Medem. With Najwa Nimri, Fele Mart'nez, Maru Valdivielso, Nancho Novo. (112 min.) Inventive filmmaking and passionate performances enrich a slim story in this stylized romance about a boy and girl who fall deeply in love and stay that way as they grow into adults, when new challenges interfere with their relationship.

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 who're very hard to like. French with English subtitles

Lucie Aubrac (Not rated) ** Director: Claude Berri. With Daniel Auteuil, Carole Bouquet, Patrice Chereau. (115 min.) A member of the French Resistance is captured by Nazi authorities, and his resourceful wife vows to secure his release at any price. This remarkable fact- based story is regrettably bland. In French with English subtitles

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.

Magnolia (R) ** Director: Paul Thomas Anderson. With Tom Cruise, Julianne Moore, John C. Reilly. (185 min.) The director of "Boogie Nights" makes less impact with this large-scale panorama of life in Los Angeles, focusing on a varied cast of characters, many of whom are linked by the world of TV quiz shows. The cast is terrific, but there's precious little to think about despite the screenplay's comic- philosophical musings on fate and coincidence.

Man of the Century (R) ** Director: Adam Abraham. With Gibson Frazier, Susan Egan, Cara Buono, Bobby Short. (77 min.) True to his name, Johnny Twennies is a '20s kind of guy who lives in the '90s. Funny dialogue, crisp black-and-white cinematography, and a well-chosen cast of mostly stage-trained actors raise this eccentric fantasy a notch above the ordinary.

Man on the Moon (R) **** Director: Milos Forman. With Jim Carrey, Danny DeVito, Courtney Love, Paul Giamatti. (118 min.) Carrey is flat-out brilliant as Andy Kaufman, the maverick entertainer who pushed the limits of comic inventiveness and the patience of TV and comedy- club audiences before his untimely death in 1984. Less a biography than an essay on theatrical illusion and the changing nature of comedy, the picture continues Forman's string of movies ("Amadeus," "The People vs. Larry Flynt") about cultural issues as embodied by public figures who're as eccentric as they are creative. Love it or hate it, you've never seen anything quite like it.

Mansfield Park (PG-13) *** Director: Patricia Rozema. With Frances O'Connor, Embeth Davidtz, Jonny Lee Miller, Harold Pinter. (98 min.)

The adventures of a poor young woman sent to live with a more privileged branch of her class-conscious British family. A pared-down adaptation of Jane Austen's richly textured novel. A small amount of heavy-breathing sex seems contrary to her restrained spirit, though. *** Delicious, terrific heroine, entirely engaging. Sex/Nudity: 2 sex scenes. Violence: 1 mild dispute with pushing. Profanity: None. Drugs: 1 scene with alcohol, 3 with opium.

A Map of the World (R) *** Director: Scott Elliott. With Sigourney Weaver, David Straithairn, Julianne Moore, Chlo Sevigny. (127 min.) Emotionally harrowing drama of a Midwestern mother who's wrongly accused of child abuse by her rural community after a neighbor's young daughter is killed in a tragic accident on her property.

Marcello Mastroianni: I Remember (Not rated) *** Director: Anna Maria Tat. With Marcello Mastroianni; film clips with Sophia Loren, Federico Fellini, Claudia Cardinale, and others. (199 min.) The celebrated Italian star reminisces about his life and career with candor, intimacy, and charm. Film clips gleaned from his many movies illustrate his recollections. A delicious treat. In Italian with English subtitles

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. The show is as lively as it is preposterous. *** Original, clever, solid sci-fi. Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: 11 scenes, some lengthy. Profanity: 48 expressions. Drugs: 4 scenes of smoking and/or drinking.

Men Cry Bullets (Not rated) * Director: Tamara Hernandez. With Steven Nelson, Jeri Ryan, Honey Lauren, Harry Ralston. (106 min.) Pitch-dark comedy about a young man distracted from his career as a drag performer when he's seduced by an older woman and then lured by a beautiful debutante.

Message in a Bottle (PG-13) ** Director: Luis Mandoki. With Kevin Costner, Robin Wright Penn, Paul Newman. (130 min.) A recently divorced woman finds a romantic letter in a bottle washed ashore, tracks down the man who wrote it, and falls hesitantly in love with him. The story is so sentimental that even soap-opera buffs may feel it outwears its welcome. ** Breathtaking scenery, overlong, Paul Newman steals the show. Sex/Nudity: One bedroom scene. Violence: 1 bar brawl. Profanity: 13 expressions. Drugs: 4 scenes of drinking, 1 with cigar smoking.

The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc (R) ** Director: Luc Besson. With Milla Jovovich, John Malkovich, Faye Dunaway, Dustin Hoffman. (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 that surrounded her life. ** Mythical, uneven, weird, sweeping. 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.

Mickey Blue Eyes (PG-13) ** Director: Kelly Makin. With Hugh Grant, Jeanne Tripplehorn, James Caan, Burt Young. (102 min.) A mild-mannered English art auctioneer falls in love with a respectable New York woman whose unrespectable relatives are Mafia mobsters. **1/2 Stale, unbelievable, not very romantic. Sex/Nudity: Some mild innuendo. Violence: 7 scenes including a gunfight. Profanity: 20 expressions, mostly mild. Drugs: 6 scenes with alcohol, smoking, or both.

A Midsummer Night's Dream (PG-13) ** Director: Michael Hoffman. With Kevin Kline, Michelle Pfeiffer, Christian Bale, Rupert Everett. (115min.) The latest adaptation of Shakespeare's romantic comedy isn't exactly the real thing. It trims the text and shifts the action to turn-of-the-century Italy. It's often less than spellbinding. ** Good scenery, no sparks. Sex/Nudity: 5 brief instances. Violence: None. Profanity: 3 expressions. Drugs: 5 scenes of drinking.

The Minus Man (R) *** Director: Hampton Fancher. With Owen Wilson, Janeane Garofalo, Mercedes Ruehl. (110 min.) Violence is implied rather than exploited in this understated tale of a young man whose utterly innocuous exterior masks an ongoing compulsion to kill random strangers with an exotic poison. Sex/Nudity: 1 sexual situation, some innuendo. Violence: 9 scenes including murders and fighting. Profanity: 26 expressions, mostly harsh. Drugs: 7 scenes with social drinking, 1 with drugs.

Miss Julie (R) *** Director: Mike Figgis. With Saffron Burrows, Peter Mullan, Maria Doyle Kennedy. (100 min.) Intensely filmed version of August Strindberg's great 19th-century melodrama about the love affair of an aristocratic young woman and an ambitious servant. Stressing fundamental human emotions over historical details and eye-catching effects, Figgis creates a visually claustrophobic yet absorbing atmosphere.

(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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