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
The Edge of the World (Not rated) **** Director: Michael Powell. With John Laurie, Finlay Currie, Belle Chrystall, Eric Berry, Grant Sutherland. (81 min.)
Reissue of an exquisite 1937 drama by one of the greatest filmmakers England has produced. The story is set on a small British island whose inhabitants are fighting a doomed battle to sustain their traditional way of life despite increasingly hard times and the reluctance of young folks to remain in such a remote and difficult place. Powell achieves a finely tuned balance of melancholy and nostalgia without injecting a hint of sentimentality. As a bonus, the cliff-climbing scenes provide as much spectacle and suspense as you'll find in Hollywood epics with many times the budget.
Highway/Paradise (Not rated) *** Director: Sergey Dvortsevoy. With members of two Kazakhstani families. (82 min.)
"Highway" is a visually striking nonfiction portrait of a family circus traveling along a rural highway between Russia and Central Asia, performing their ragtag tricks for small amounts of money. "Paradise" is an equally imaginative 25-minute documentary by Dvortsevoy about the daily life of a nomadic family. In Kazakh with English subtitles
The Life and Times of Hank Greenberg (Not rated) *** Director: Aviva Kempner. With Hank Greenberg, Walter Matthau, Alan Dershowitz, Ira Berkow. (95 min.)
A highly entertaining look at the career of major-league baseball's first Jewish star, tracing the ways anti-Semitism attacked him inside and outside the ballpark but never losing sight of baseball's sheer fun or Greenberg's warm humanity. You don't have to be a sports fan to enjoy this finely crafted documentary.
The Terrorist (Not rated) *** Director: Santosh Sivan. With Ayesha Dharkar. (95 min.)
After her brother is killed in a revolutionary uprising, a young woman agrees to carry out a suicide mission, but then discovers that she's pregnant and will be sacrificing the life of her unborn child as well as her own. This lushly filmed drama looks sensitively at a wrenching conflict between personal and political impulses, raising philosophical questions in a poignantly human way. In Tamil with English subtitles
CURRENTLY IN RELEASE
Anna and the King (PG-13) ** Director: Andy Tennant. With Jodie Foster, Chow Yun-Fat, Bai Ling, Tom Felton, Syed Alwi, Keith Chin. (146 min.)
An English schoolteacher tutors a Siamese prince and enters a deliciously complex relationship with the boy's regal father. Based on the memoir that inspired "The King and I," this colorfully filmed drama makes changes in the classic 1956 version of the tale - most important, the music numbers are gone - but doesn't develop enough momentum to justify its too-long running time. ***1/2 Chow Yun-Fat is great, lush landscapes, tender.
Sex/Nudity: 1 very mild scene of implied sex. Violence: 12 scenes from shooting to children tussling. Profanity: None. Drugs: 1 scene with alcohol, 6 with smoking, 1 with alcohol and smoking.
Any Given Sunday (R) *** Director: Oliver Stone. With Al Pacino, Cameron Diaz, Jamie Foxx, James Woods, Dennis Quaid. (162 min.)
Pacino plays the aging coach of a football team that's seen better days, and Foxx is excellent as a stylish new player who revitalizes the franchise while breaking many rules along the way. The characters are hardly original - the cynical owner, the hard-working quarterback, the stony-faced commissioner, the sportscaster with an attitude - but Stone puts them into play with his usual fever-pitch gusto, producing what's probably the most heart-pounding gridiron movie ever made. **1/2 Most machismo in a movie ever, compelling portrait of American football, vulgar.
Sex/Nudity: 5 fairly graphic scenes with nudity, including 2 with full frontal male nudity; 1 sex scene with nudity. Violence: 13 scenes of off-field violence, mostly shoving; 22 instances of especially rough on-field play. Profanity: 288 expressions, mostly harsh. Drugs: 11 scenes with alcohol, 6 with cigarettes, 14 with cigars, 1 with cocaine.
The End of the Affair (R) *** Director: Neil Jordan. With Ralph Fiennes, Julianne Moore. (110 min.)
After hiring a detective to investigate a woman he had an affair with during World War II, an English author learns she ended their relationship for religious reasons that are difficult for his cynical sensibility to understand. Based on Graham Greene's thoughtful novel, this unconventional drama begins as a sexually explicit love-triangle story and ends as a sober reflection on the meaning of faith.
Unsettling, literary, passionate. ***1/2 Sex/Nudity: 7 sex scenes with both male and female nudity. Violence: 3 scenes of the same bomb blast. Profanity: 1 mild expression. Drugs: 14 scenes with alcohol, 2 with smoking.
Galaxy Quest (PG) *** Director: Dean Parisot. With Tim Allen, Sigourney Weaver, Alan Rickman, Tony Shalhoub, Daryl Mitchell. (102 min.)
A delegation from a faraway planet recruits the cast of a "Star Trek"-type TV show to help them win an intergalactic war, not realizing the Earthlings are just actors who've defeated all their "aliens" with plastic rayguns and camera tricks. The story is silly, the acting is campy, the effects are amusingly tacky. A mildly entertaining romp that pokes refreshing fun at its own occasional violence. *** Warp-speed spoof, affectionate "Star Trek" parody, wouldn't change a thing.
Sex/Nudity: None. VViolence: 21 scenes with fairly light violence, including spaceship explosions. Profanity: 2 mild expressions. Drugs: 1 scene with alcohol.
Girl, Interrupted (R) * Director: James Mangold. With Winona Ryder, Angelina Jolie, Vanessa Redgrave, Whoopi Goldberg. (125 min.)
A young woman fights mental illness in a well-appointed institution, alternately helped and hindered by the similarly afflicted patients, who become her closest companions. For a movie about people with hugely complicated inner lives, this sadly unconvincing drama stays resolutely on the surface, rarely hinting at anything like an insight or idea. Based on Susanna Kaysen's bestselling memoir.
The Green Mile (R) ** Director: Frank Darabont. With Tom Hanks, David Morse, Michael Clarke Duncan, Bonnie Hunt. (180 min.)
Death-row guards in a Southern penitentiary meet a highly unusual prisoner with a gift for healing that appears incongruous next to the horrific crime he's been convicted of. The movie deals with substantial issues, but it treats capital punishment as a plot device rather than a moral issue, and its view of spiritual healing is closer to Spielberg fantasy than religious insight. Still, its good acting and good intentions will be enough to please many viewers. ***1/2 Never dull, compassionate, transcendent storytelling.
Sex/Nudity: 1 mild scene of implied sex; 5 instances of innuendo. Violence: 22 scenes including disturbing death row electrocutions. Profanity: 36 expressions, some harsh. Drugs: 5 scenes with beer.
The Hurricane (R) ** Director: Norman Jewison. With Denzel Washington, Deborah Kara Unger, Liev Schreiber, Dan Hedaya. (140 min.)
Washington gives a sizzling performance as real-life hero Ruben "Hurricane" Carter, an African-American boxer who was arrested and jailed by racist authorities for a grisly crime he had nothing to do with. The story is so important and compelling that you wish Jewison had treated it more as an urgent wake-up call than a by-the-numbers morality play. Still, it's well worth seeing as a poignant reminder of how readily injustice can prevail when racial bigotry runs loose. **1/2 Thoughtful, respectful, inspiring.
Magnolia (R) ** Director: Paul Thomas Anderson. With Tom Cruise, Julianne Moore, John C. Reilly, Melinda Dillon. (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 - an insecure policeman, a woman-hating sex lecturer, a dying media mogul, his grief-stricken young wife, and others - many of whom are linked to one another by connections with the world of TV quiz shows. The cast is terrific and the multitudinous story lines allow Anderson to cook up an impressive display of moviemaking logistics. But there's precious little to think about despite the screenplay's comic-philosophical musings on fate and coincidence. **1/2 Challenging, grim view of life, in search of an ending, great cast chemistry.
Sex/Nudity: 3 scenes with sex and nudity, 1 of implied sex, 1 with nudity, talk of child molestation, 12 sexual references. Violence: 12 scenes with bizarre to bloody violence. Profanity: 281 expressions, mostly harsh Drugs: 7 scenes with alcohol, 1 with an unlighted cigarette, 6 with alcohol and smoking, 6 with cocaine, 1 with prescription medicine abuse.
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. *** A superb performance by Jim Carrey, disturbing, unsympathetic protagonist.
Sex/Nudity: 2 scenes with partial nudity, 2 scenes of a sexual nature. Violence: 3 scenes with mild violence. Profanity: 27 expressions, mostly harsh. Drugs: 5 scenes with smoking, 7 with alcohol and smoking, 1 with references to marijuana.
Snow Falling on Cedars (PG-13) ** Director: Scott Hicks. With Ethan Hawke, Youki Koudoh. (130 min.)
Covering a murder trial on a Pacific Northwest island, a reporter rekindles an old relationship with the wife of the Japanese-American man who's charged with the crime. The story leaps between the World War II years and the mid-1950s, exploring issues of racism, greed, and injustice along the way. The movie is too chilly and distanced to build the emotional impact it would like to have, but it raises important questions about troubling aspects of recent American history. ***1/2 Powerful, beautiful, slow-paced.
Sex/Nudity: 2 sex scenes and 1 of implied sex. Violence: 4 instances. Profanity: 2 harsh expressions and several racial slurs. Drugs: 7 scenes with smoking.
The Talented Mr. Ripley (R) *** Director: Anthony Minghella. With Matt Damon, Gwyneth Paltrow, Jude Law. (130 min.)
A highly neurotic young man decides to impersonate a wealthy acquaintance during a European visit, starting a chain of bizarre and ultimately violent events. Based on Patricia Highsmith's ingenious novel, which also inspired the superior European thriller "Purple Noon" in 1960, the picture has fine ensemble acting and superb Italian scenery. *** Suspenseful, highly disturbing, psycho-sexual drama, gruesome at times.
Sex/Nudity: 2 scenes with male nudity, 1 sexual situation. Violence: 7 instances of violence, some graphic. Profanity: 6 expressions, mostly harsh. Drugs: 15 scenes with alcohol, 9 with smoking.
Topsy-Turvy (R) **** Director: Mike Leigh. With Jim Broadbent, Allan Corduner, Timothy Spall, Lesley Manville. (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.
OUT ON VIDEO
(In stores Jan. 18)
Bowfinger (PG-13) ** Director: Frank Oz. With Steve Martin, Eddie Murphy, Heather Graham. (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. *** Lighthearted, funny, clever.
An Ideal Husband (PG-13) *** Director: Oliver Parker. With Jeremy Northam, Julianne Moore, Rupert Everett. (97 min.)
Oscar Wilde's play inspired this supple comedy, centering on a well-starched British gentleman who's hiding a secret that could touch off a political scandal. ***1/2 Sparkling, fun plot twists, witty.
Illuminata (R) ** Director: John Turturro. With John Turturro, Susan Sarandon. (111 min.)
An ambitious playwright and an actress he's infatuated with are among the characters of this comedy-drama about a theater troupe in New York a century ago.
The 13th Warrior (R) *** Directors: Michael Crichton, John McTiernan. With Antonio Banderas. (114 min.)
A dozen Viking warriors ride to the rescue of a kingdom under attack from a mysterious "terror that has no name." By Greg Lamb
The Wood (R) **1/2 Directed by Rick Famuyiwa. With Omar Epps, Taye Diggs, Richard T. Jones. (106 min.)
As two buddies try to get a runaway bridegroom to his wedding, the three of them recall how they became friends. By M.K. Terrell
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