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.


Teaching Mrs. Tingle (PG-13) *1/2 Director: Kevin Williamson. With Helen Mirren, Katie Holmes, Michael McKean, Molly Ringwald. (96 min.)

A student shoots a crossbow at a 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. It's sometimes fun and campy, but the movie turns out to be a silly, mindless tale. By Lisa Leigh Parney ** Tedious, juvenile, hollow but entertaining.

Sex/Nudity: No nudity, but two students get frisky on the couch and the students also plot a sex scandal. Violence: A couple of bloody scenes with punches, slaps, and a crossbow. Profanity: 24 expressions, mostly mild. Drugs: Some wine drinking; coach gets drunk; 1 cigarette.

10 Things I Hate About You (PG-13) ** Director: Gil Junger. With Julia Stiles, Heath Ledger, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Larisa Oleynik, David Krumholtz. (94 min.)

Shakespeare strikes again with this teenage comedy based on "The Taming of the Shrew," where boys launch a complicated scheme to woo a pair of sisters who won't go out with them. Junger spins hilariously written scenes with split-second timing, although the story sags during its long middle portion. Contains a lot of explicit sexual humor. **1/2 Good take on adolescent angst, juvenile-humor, music-driven.

Sex/Nudity: Continuous talk of sex. Violence: A few teenage fistfights. Profanity: 43 expressions. Drugs: 8 scenes of high-school parties with smoking and drinking.

The Third Man (Not rated) **** Director: Carol Reed. With Joseph Cotten, Orson Welles, Wilfrid Hyde-White, Bernard Lee, Ernst Deutsch. (100 min.)

An American writer who visits Vienna to join an old friend and gets caught up in a mystery as perplexing as the social transformations of postwar Europe itself. Welles gives one of his greatest performances and his presence in the picture clearly influenced Reed's directing style, which also benefits from Graham Greene's literate screenplay. ***1/2 Dark, labyrinthine, intriguing.

Sex/Nudity: 1 scene with a topless dancer. Violence: 3 scenes with fistfights and gunshots. Profanity: None Drugs: 14 scenes with cigarette smoking, 3 bar/nightclub scenes with alcohol.

The Thirteenth Floor (R) ** Director: Josef Rusnak. With Craig Bierko, Gretchen Mol, Vincent D'Onofrio, Armin Mueller-Stahl. (105 min.)

Advanced research into virtual reality leads to intrigue and danger with a time-travel twist. Darkly elegant cinematography helps compensate for awful dialogue and lackluster acting. While the story's themes are interesting, they're explored more dynamically in "The Matrix" and "eXistenZ." **1/2 Thought-provoking, well-maintained sense of mystery, slow start.

Sex/Nudity: 1 scene of implied sex, 2 with mild innuendo. Violence: 13 scenes, some harsh, including a stabbing and police photos of a crime scene. Profanity: 22 expressions. Drugs: 3 scenes with alcohol, 10 with cigarettes, 2 with alcohol and smoking.

The 13th Warrior (R) *** Directors: Michael Crichton, John McTiernan. With Antonio Banderas, Diane Venora, 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 must become a warrior. 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.

This Is My Father (R) ** Director: Paul Quinn. With Aidan Quinn, James Caan, John Cusack, Stephen Rea, Donal Donnelly. (120 min.)

An impressive cast lends intermittent appeal to the story of an American teacher who visits Ireland to explore his family's troubled emotional roots. The tale is powerful in its understated US scenes, but rambles a bit when it switches to the Irish countryside. Caan does memorable acting, and Quinn is also strong. ** Gentle, poignant, touching.

Sex/Nudity: 1 sex scene, a couple instances of innuendo. Violence: 5 mild scenes. Profanity: 26 expressions. Drugs: 9 instances of smoking and/or drinking.

The Thomas Crown Affair (R) *** Director: John McTiernan. With Pierce Brosnan, Rene Russo, Denis Leary, Faye Dunaway, Ben Gazzara. (114 min.)

A suave art thief spars with a gorgeous insurance agent who uncovers his secrets while falling in love with him. An appealing cast, handsome camera work, and snappy music make this updated version of Norman Jewison's popular 1968 thriller an enjoyable if lightweight affair. *** Intelligent caper, debonair, inspired remake, lively.

Sex/Nudity: 5 scenes including 1 graphic sex scene. Violence: 1 mild scene. Profanity: 30 expressions, mostly mild. Drugs: 10 scenes with drinking, 1 with a cigar.

Those Who Love Me Can Take the Train (Not rated) ** Director: Patrice Chreau. With Jean-Louis Trintignant, Vincent Perez, Sylvain Jacques, Pascal Greggory. (122 min.)

An assorted group of friends, rivals, lovers, and strangers travel to the funeral of a noted painter whose stormy emotional life affected them all. Chreau weaves a wide range of feelings into a complex dramatic tapestry. The overall effect is less involving than its varied cast of characters would lead one to expect, however. In French with English subtitles

Three Kings (R) ** Director: David O. Russell. With George Clooney, Mark Wahlberg, Ice Cube, Spike Jonze, Nora Dunn. (105 min.)

At the close of the Persian Gulf War, a small group of American soldiers go on a treasure hunt for piles of gold bullion hidden away by Saddam Hussein, and become involved in more geopolitical intrigue than they know how to handle. Russell's stylish and imaginative filmmaking wages its own war against lunkheaded and sometimes offensive material. *** One of the year's best, hard-hitting, intelligent, gritty.

Sex/Nudity: 1 sex scene, 1 scene with backside nudity. Violence: 33 scenes of war-related violence, sometimes graphic. Profanity: 103 expressions, many harsh. Drugs: 2 scenes with alcohol.

Three Seasons (PG-13) *** Director: Tony Bui. With Harvey Keitel, Zo Bui, Don Duog, Gnoc Hiep, Manh Cuong. (110 min.)

Set in present-day Vietnam, this gently filmed drama tells alternating tales about several characters. Although the movie is stronger on atmosphere than suspense or psychology, its Vietnamese-American director paints a frequently vivid portrait of life in a rapidly changing nation caught between a troubled past and an uncertain future.

Three to Tango (PG-13) 1/2 Director: Damon Santostefano. With Matthew Perry, Neve Campbell, Dylan McDermott, Oliver Platt. (98 min.)

Perry and Platt are partners in an architecture firm when Perry falls in love with a tycoon's mistress (Campbell), who believes he is gay. Campbell tries to hide her acting limitations behind a goofy grin, while Perry's exuberant energy and comic timing are rendered void by puerile humor. Oh, and some chemistry between the romantic leads would've been helpful. By Stephen Humphries *1/2 Occasionally cute, disappointing, shallow.

Sex/Nudity: 3 instances including implied sex; at least a dozen instances of innuendo. Violence: 10 scenes, most used for comic effect. Profanity: 50 expressions, some harsh. Drugs: 5 scenes of mostly social drinking, 1 with smoking, 2 with alcohol and smoking.

Titus (R) *** Director: Julie Taymor. With Anthony Hopkins, Jessica Lange, Angus MacFadyen, Colm Feore. (168 min.)

One of William Shakespeare's bloodiest and goofiest plays is now one of Hollywood's bloodiest and goofiest adaptations, from its action-figure prologue to its crazily poetic finale. Hopkins gives a bravura performance as a Roman general caught in a vengeful feud with a seductive queen and an evil emperor, and Taymor's anything-goes directing keeps the spectacle hopping from start to finish, never hesitating to sacrifice dramatic sense for the sake of a splashy effect. Frequently vulgar, sometimes infuriating, rarely boring.

Topsy-Turvy (R) **** Director: Mike Leigh. With Jim Broadbent, Allan Corduner, Timothy Spall, Lesley Manville, Kevin McKidd. (161 min.)

Leigh has earned international applause for hard-edged stories of contemporary life, but here he travels a century into the past for a vivid portrait of the great operetta duo Gilbert and Sullivan as they enjoy public acclaim, wrestle with private doubts, quarrel with one another, and manage to create "The Mikado" despite all these distractions. The movie is brilliantly acted, sumptuously filmed, and overflowing with mellifluous music. It also contains glimpses of sex and drug use that make this drama less light and sanitized than Gilbert and Sullivan's own frolicsome works.

Toy Story 2 (G) *** Director: John Lasseter. With voices of Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Joan Cusack, Kelsey Grammer, Wayne Knight. (92 min.)

It's playtime for viewers of all ages as astronaut Buzz Lightyear launches a rescue operation for cowboy Woody after a greedy merchant packs him up for shipment to a faraway museum. The story is surprising, the screenplay is witty, and the animation is wonderfully creative. A super sequel. **** Clever as the first one, take the kids, a technicolor delight.

Sex/Nudity/Profanity/Drugs: None. Violence: 4 instances of cartoonish violence.

Train of Life (R) *** Director: Radu Mihaileanu. With Lionel Abelasnski, Rufus, Agathe de la Fontaine, Clement Harari. (103 min.)

As the Holocaust spreads its tentacles far and wide, a group of Jewish villagers decide to save their community by purchasing a railroad train, putting Nazi uniforms on their most military-looking menfolk, and deporting themselves to Palestine. More imaginative and responsible than the somewhat similar "Life Is Beautiful," this bittersweet comedy recalls the long tradition of Eastern European tale-telling as a way of confronting severe hardships. In French with English subtitles

Trekkies (PG-13) *** Director: Roger Nygard. With Denise Crosby, members of the "Star Trek" cast, assorted fans. (85 min.)

Call them "trekkies" or "trekkers" or just dedicated fans, people committed to the "Star Trek" way of life are the focus of this quirky, often hilarious documentary. Kirk, Spock, Picard, and the Starship Enterprise will never look the same.

Sex/Nudity: 4 fairly mild instances including sexual fan drawings; some innuendo. Violence: None. Profanity: 2 harsh profanities bleeped out. Drugs: 1 scene with social drinking.

True Crime (R) *** Director: Clint Eastwood. With Clint Eastwood, Isaiah Washington, James Woods, Denis Leary. (115 min.)

Assigned to interview a condemned prisoner, an aging reporter tries to prove the convict's innocence just hours before his execution. The drama is crisply acted and entertainingly filmed until credibility wanes in the last half hour. It would be even better if Eastwood followed his character's lead and emphasized "real issues" over "human interest" in a story that touches on important social problems without doing much to illuminate them. Contains a subplot about sexual exploits and a great deal of foul language. ***1/2 Sharp dialogue, grown-up, Eastwood-esque.

Sex/Nudity: 1 scene of adultery. Violence: 3 scenes. Profanity: 98 expressions. Drugs: 15 scenes of cigarettes and/or alcohol.

Tumbleweeds (PG-13) ** Director: Gavin O'Connor. With Janet McTeer, Kimberly J. Brown, Gavin O'Connor, Jay O. Sanders. (100 min.)

A working-class woman and her adolescent daughter drift to a new town in search of a better life, relying on the power of their mutual affection for support when new problems arise. The story is as rambling as the characters, but superb acting by McTeer and Brown goes a long way toward redeeming it.

Sex/Nudity: 1 instance of implied sex; 4 instances of innuendo. Violence: 2 mild scenes. Profanity: 42 expressions, some harsh. Drugs: 6 scenes with alcohol or smoking.

20 Dates (R) ** Director: Myles Berkowitz, With Myles Berkowitz, Robert McKee, Tia Carrere, Richard Arlook. (88 min.)

Berkowitz plays himself in this offbeat documentary that involves videotaping his dates with 20 different women, hoping to capture on screen the magical moment when two people fall in love. Like its candid-camera premise, the picture is intriguing and obnoxious in equal measure; even Berkowitz gets tired of the game before it's over, but there are some laughs and surprises along the way.

The 24 Hour Woman (R) *** Director: Nancy Savoca. With Rosie Perez, Marianne Jean-Baptiste, Patti LuPone, Aida Turturro. (95 min.)

A TV producer combines the personal with the professional by making her pregnancy a part of her show, then runs into increasing difficulty juggling her many responsibilities. The movie is often rough around the edges, and the ending doesn't resolve the questions raised by the story. But it's bursting with energy and commitment, reflecting Savoca's longtime dedication to exploring women's lives.

Sex/Nudity: Some innuendo. Violence: 3 mild scenes. Profanity: 121 expressions, mostly harsh. Drugs: 3 scenes with alcohol, 2 with smoking.

Twin Falls Idaho (Not rated) *** Director: Michael Polish. With Michael Polish, Mark Polish, Michele Hicks, Lesley Ann Warren. (105 min.)

The bittersweet story of 25-year-old conjoined twins, the woman who falls in love with one of them, and the challenges they face when they realize that the other twin is in uncertain health. Made by actual (not conjoined) twins, the emotionally powerful drama unfolds through understated images that counteract any possibility of sensationalism. ***1/2 Strikingly original love story, captivating, bizarre.

Sex/Nudity: Some sexual innuendo. Violence: None. Profanity: 23 expressions, many harsh. Drugs: 1 bar scene.

200 Cigarettes (R) * Director: Risa Bramon Garcia. With Ben Affleck, Casey Affleck, Janeane Garofalo, Courtney Love, Jay Mohr. (96 min.)

A cast of oddball New Yorkers celebrate New Year's Eve 1981 by complaining about how much their lives stink because they can't find love. They converge at a party to choose whom they should spend the night with. David Chappelle's performance as a cabbie is amusing, but the film should have been packaged with a Surgeon General's Warning - " 'Cigarettes' is bad for you." By John Christian Hoyle *1/2 Silly, plotless, slow.

Sex/Nudity: Constant instances of sexual innuendo Violence: None. Profanity: 67 expressions. Drugs: One scene with drug use; incessant cigarette smoking and drinking throughout.

(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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