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.


Uncommon Friends of the 20th Century (Not rated) * Director: John Biffar. With Walter Cronkite, Jim Newton, Ellie Newton. (63 min.)

Documentary about businessman Jim Newton's friendships with Thomas Edison and Charles Lindbergh, among other famous figures of the past 100 years. The movie delivers its inspirational messages in ringing tones, but a trusted journalist like Walter Cronkite should have seen through the simplistic and incorrect history that undermines the credibility of his narration.

Universal Soldier: The Return (R) DUD Director: Mic Rodgers. With Jean-Claude Van Damme, Michael Jai White. (82 min.)

Van Damme jumps into sequel territory. The action movie continues the story of Luc Deveraux (Van Damme), a former Universal Soldier now working as a technical expert on a government project. The movie is so overloaded with gunfire and punches that all viewers are left with is a forgettable and stupid film. By Lisa Parney

Sex/Nudity: 2 scenes with nudity in a strip club. Violence: 33 scenes with nonstop violence. Profanity: 27 expressions, mostly harsh. Drugs: None.

Varsity Blues (R) * Director: Brian Robbins. With James Van Der Beek, Jon Voight, Scott Caan. (106 min.)

High school football players hustle for good times on the athletic field and in the local saloon, dogged by parental pressures and the fanaticism of their win-at-any-cost coach. The story is mildly entertaining in its hackneyed way, but there's no excusing the picture's exploitative treatment of almost all the female characters. ** Predictable, crass, teen flick.

Sex/Nudity: 9 scenes of nudity or sex, including mooning, strip bar featuring female biology teacher, and students riding around town naked in a police car. Violence: 2 mild instances. Profanity: 112 expressions, often harsh. Drugs: 11 scenes involving alcohol and drunkenness; 2 scenes with cigarettes.

A Walk on the Moon (R) ** Director: Tony Goldwyn. With Diane Lane, Liev Schreiber, Anna Paquin, Viggo Mortensen, Tovah Feldshuh. (107 min.)

The first lunar landing and the Woodstock music festival are the historical backdrops of this mostly well-acted drama about a married woman who has an affair with a traveling salesman while tending her kids at a Jewish bungalow colony in the summer of 1969. The movie doesn't quite manage to weave its lonely-wife story and summer-of-love setting into a satisfying whole, but Lane is touching as a woman who fears she missed the fun of life by marrying too young. **1/2 Strong performances, sentimental, very '60s, flimsy plot.

Sex/Nudity: 4 scenes of sex and/or nudity. Violence: 1 scene. Profanity: 20 expressions. Drugs: 6 scenes with smoking, 1 with alcohol, 1 with alcohol and smoking, and 2 with marijuana use.

Wallowitch & Ross: This Moment (Not rated) ** Director: Richard Morris. With John Wallowitch, Bertram Ross, John S. Wilson, Dixie Carter, Lynn Lobban. (77 min.)

Affectionate portrait of a New York cabaret team, giving the history of their earlier careers - Ross was a star of Martha Graham's dance company and Wallowitch was a concert pianist - and stressing the love and loyalty running through their personal and professional partnership. Lightweight but likable.

The War Zone (R) *** Director: Tim Roth. With Ray Winstone, Tilda Swinton, Lara Belmont, Freddie Cunliffe. (99 min.)

Roth makes his directorial debut with this harrowing drama about an English teenager who suspects his father may be sexually abusing his 17-year-old sister. The acting and filmmaking are skillful and sensitive, but be warned that this is a chillingly explicit portrait of family dysfunction at its psychosexual worst.

The Wedding March (Not rated) **** Director: Erich von Stroheim. With Erich von Stroheim, Fay Wray, Zasu Pitts, Matthew Betz, George Fawcett. (112 min.)

Revival of a 1928 masterpiece by one of silent film's most legendary and extravagant artists, who also plays the central role of a pampered Austrian prince caught between the poor girl he loves and the aristocrat his mother wants him to marry. Assets include a major performance by Wray five years before "King Kong" made her a full-fledged Hollywood star, Stroheim's outsized portrayal of the hero, and the zealous attention to detail that was both the glory and the curse of his directorial career.

West Beirut (Not rated) **** Director: Ziad Doueiri. With Rami Doueiri, Mohamad Chamas, Rola Al Amin, Leila Karam. (105 min.)

Three teenagers pursue everyday pleasures in their Lebanese city, usually unfazed and sometimes actually excited by the mid-1970s political tensions that grow around them as the Muslim and Christian sectors move closer to a state of violent hostility. The filmmaking is imaginative, the acting is extraordinarily vivid, and few movies have so powerfully portrayed the struggles of everyday people trying to live their lives amid the chaos of incipient war. In Arabic and French with English subtitles

Sex/Nudity: 2 mild scenes in a brothel. Violence: 8 scenes including machine gun fire and 2 of documentary battle footage. Profanity: 73 expressions, many harsh. Drugs: 2 scenes with alcohol, 10 with smoking, 1 with alcohol and smoking.

Wild Wild West (PG-13) ** Director: Barry Sonnenfeld. With Will Smith, Kevin Kline, Kenneth Branagh, Salma Hayek, Ted Levine. (107 min.)

Smith and Kline play 19th-century government agents chasing a mad scientist (Branagh) who wants to conquer America with weapons as surrealistic as they are scary. Their energy can't outweigh the trite action scenes - haven't we seen enough fiery explosions and head-butting fistfights by now? The flat dialogue sinks into racial slurs and disability jokes whenever it runs out of ideas. That happens constantly, even though no fewer than six writers cooked up the screenplay. *1/2 Silly, idiotic plot, vacuous.

Sex/Nudity: 2 light scenes and some innuendo. Violence: 17 scenes involving cannons, gunfire, knives, and fistfights. Profanity: 16 mild expressions. Drugs: 14 scenes with alcohol and/or cigars.

Windhorse (Not rated) ** Director: Paul Wagner. With Richard Chang, Taije Silverman, Dadon, Jampa Kolsang. (97 min.)

The intermingled stories of three Tibetan cousins - an entertainer, an alcoholic, and a nun - suffering in different ways from the Chinese occupation of their country. Wagner has little new to say about Tibet's ongoing tragedy, but his low-key directing enhances the film's commendable humanism and sincerity.

Wing Commander (PG-13) *1/2 Director: Chris Roberts. With Freddie Prinze Jr., Matthew Lillard, Saffron Burrows, David Warner. (109 min.)

The sci-fi gibberish is overwhelming at times, so to prepare you for fictional galaxies unexplored: the Kilrathi are the bad guys, the Confederation represents the good, and Pilgrims have the uncanny ability to navigate the stars by gut instinct. On the downside, it's a bit amateurish and hyper. By Katherine Dillin ** Non-stop action, comic-book fun, shallow.

Sex/Nudity: 1 mild scene of implied sexual activity; 1 instance of innuendo. Violence: 4 scenes including one lengthy battle. Profanity: 25 expressions, mostly mild. Drugs: 3 scenes with alcohol, 1 scene with cigarettes.

The Winslow Boy (G) **** Director: David Mamet. With Nigel Hawthorne, Rebecca Pidgeon, Jeremy Northam, Matthew Pidgeon. (110 min.)

Superbly acted, elegantly filmed adaptation of Terrence Rattigan's classic 1940s drama about an aging Edwardian father who launches a drawn-out legal fight to clear his son's name after the boy is convicted of a petty crime. The subject remains as relevant as ever, touching on still-timely issues like feminist activism and media madness. Mamet uses it to explore a wide range of moral complexities. This is the kind of movie that literate viewers pine for, laced with gracefulness and wit. **** Inspiring, compelling, touches the heart.

Sex/Nudity/Violence/Profanity: None. Drugs: Several scenes with smoking and social drinking.

Winstanley (Not rated) *** Directors: Kevin Brownlow, Andrew Mollo. With Miles Halliwell, David Bramley, Phil Oliver, Alison Halliwell. (95 min.)

Historical drama about 17th-century religious activist Gerrard Winstanley and his group of nonviolent share-the-land radicals, known as the Diggers, who drew renewed interest from adventurous social and political thinkers around 1975, when this low-budget production was made. Cinematically uneven but consistently fascinating in its ideas.

Wisconsin Death Trip (Not rated) *** Director: James Marsh. With Ian Holm, Jo Vukelich, Jeff Golden, Marilyn White, John Schneider. (76 min.)

Drawing on a collection of newspaper accounts, hospital records, and archival photos, this offbeat semidocumentary weaves a real-life tapestry filled with bizarre events that transpired in a Midwestern town about 100 years ago. Required viewing for anyone who thinks the modern media created the social ills that accost us so frequently today.

The Wood (R) **1/2 Directed by Rick Famuyiwa. With Omar Epps, Taye Diggs, Richard T. Jones, Sean Nelson, Trent Cameron. (106 min.)

As two buddies try to get a runaway bridegroom to his wedding, the three of them recall how they became friends. Some viewers may be put off by a preoccupation with sex in some segments and the street talk, but it's really about friendship and commitment. By M. K. Terrell ** Nostalgic, amusing, long.

Sex/Nudity: 2 scenes including an explicit teenage sex scene; mild innuendo. Violence: 4 scenes including a fist fight and a robbery. Profanity: 217 expressions, many harsh. Drugs: 1 scene with marijuana, 1 with champagne.

The World Is Not Enough (PG-13) ** Director: Michael Apted. With Pierce Brosnan, Sophie Marceau, Judi Dench, Desmond Llewelyn. (128 min.)

James Bond battles terrorists, criminals, and a sore shoulder in his 19th adventure, which is both propelled and circumscribed by the well-worn formulas that guide its path. Fans of 007 will get the payoffs they expect, but if moviegoers really thought about the violence, sexism, and materialism of the series, the whole shebang might vanish overnight. *** Brosnan has presence, adventurous, predictable, voyeuristic.

Sex/Nudity: 7 scenes typical of Bond movies including implied sex and the suggestive filmmaking during opening credits. Violence: 47 acts of violence. Profanity: 6 expressions, mostly mild. Drugs: 10 scenes including smoking or drinking.

The Wounds (Not rated) ** Director: Srdjan Drogojevic. With Predrag Miki Manojlovic, Dragan Bjelogrlic, Nikola Katic. (103 min.)

This harrowing drama uses a cynical TV talk show and the criminal careers of two drugged-up teenagers as metaphors for the disarray of everyday life in current Serbian society. The film has few specific messages about politics in former Yugoslavia, but its portrait of personal and cultural chaos is sadly illuminating. In Serbo-Croatian with English subtitles

Sex/Nudity: 8 instances of sex or nudity including teen sex with an adult; innuendo. Violence: 21 sometimes graphic scenes, including numerous shootings and a suicide. Profanity: 152 expressions, most harsh. Drugs: 5 scenes with drugs, 18 with smoking, drinking, or both.

Xiu Xiu: The Sent-down Girl (R) *** Director: Joan Chen. With Lu Lu, Lopsang, Gao Jie, Li Qianqian. (99 min.)

During the Cultural Revolution about three decades ago, a Chinese teenager leaves home for an educational experience in the countryside, where she is brutally exploited by men holding power in the region. Chinese authorities have censored this movie, apparently upset at its negative treatment of a disturbing subject, but audiences are likely to find its candor as honest as it is unsettling. In Mandarin, with subtitles *** Provocative, tragic, colorfully filmed.

Sex/Nudity: 1 scene with nudity, 4 with increasingly explicit sex. Violence: 3 scenes including shooting. Profanity: 18 expressions, mostly mild. Drugs: 6 scenes with smoking.

*This section was compiled, edited and designed by Kirsten Conover, Katherine Dillin, Stephen Humphries, John Kehe, Peter King, Gregory M. Lamb, John Nordell, Lisa Leigh Parney, and Deb Purington.

(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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