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
Directors: Eric Leighton, Ralph Zondag. With voices of D.B. Sweeney, Julianna Margulies, Joan Plowright, Ossie Davis, Max Casella, Alfre Woodard. (82 min.) **** Dinosaurs speak and show human emotion in this story of Aladar, a giant Iguanodon, raised by monkeylike lemurs. Aladar eventually meets up with his own kind when he joins a pack on a life-or-death march across a forbidding landscape where water is scarce and meat-eating Carnotaurs pursue them. Despite a touch of Bambi-style pathos, Disney goes for a ferocious amount of prehistoric realism in this animated tour de force. It combines computer-generated characters with real, digitally enhanced scenery. Visually, it's a treat. By Ross Atkin ***1/2 Classic Disney, predictable, tremendous fun.
Sex/Nudity/Profanity/Drugs: None Violence: 9 scenes with violence, mostly dinosaurs hunting or battling.
8 1/2 Women (R)
Director: Peter Greenaway. With John Standing, Matthew Delamere, Polly Walker, Amanda Plummer, Vivian Wu, Toni Collette, Shizuka Inoh, Barbara Sarafian, Natacha Amal, Kirina Mano. (120 min.) *** Reunited by a death in their family, a father and son decide to live out a series of sexual fantasies that begin with their shared interest in Federico Fellini's classic movie "8 1/2" and quickly veer in directions they didn't expect. Greenaway is a highly serious artist whose films have little to do with everyday entertainment. This visually intricate fantasia combines his extraordinary cinematic imagination with a story and characters less compelling than those in his best works.
Director: Michael Almereyda. With Ethan Hawke, Kyle MacLachlan, Sam Shepard, Diane Venora, Bill Murray, Liev Schreiber, Julia Stiles, Steve Zahn. (111 min.) *** Hamlet set in New York City today? A talented cast and director make it seem plausible. In this somewhat shortened version, "Alas, poor Yorrick" is only a fleeting image on a TV and "To be or not to be" is uttered in the aisle of a Blockbuster Video store. The earnest cast will make you believe what might have looked foolish. By Gregory M. Lamb **1/2 Royalty meets a New York minute, innovative, tragic, entertaining.
Sex/Nudity: 2 sexual situations Violence: 5 scenes with violence, 2 of them somewhat graphic Profanity: 13 expressions from the Bard's script Drugs: 12 scenes with alcohol or tobacco
Director: Takeshi Kitano. With "Beat" Takeshi, Yusuke Sekiguchi. (116 min.) ** A nine-year-old boy turns to a gangster for help in finding the mother he's never met, and they embark on a summertime journey with little money in their pockets and even less good sense in their heads. Kitano's first major comedy is loose and likable, but rarely as memorable as its Chaplinesque ambitions lead one to hope. Still, his laid-back acting style grows on you, if you give it a chance.
Luminous Motion (Not rated)
Director: Bette Gordon. With Deborah Kara Unger, Eric Lloyd, Jamey Sheridan, Terry Kinney. (94 min.) *** A little boy struggles to retain a close relationship with his mother as her irresponsible lifestyle carries them from one temporary home to another. Fine acting and creative directing lend three-dimensional life to this absorbing story, which blends dreamlike elements with sharply etched drama and touches of pure cinematic ingenuity.
Mission: Impossible 2 (PG-13)
Director: John Woo. With Tom Cruise, Thandie Newton, Anthony Hopkins, Ving Rhames, Brendan Gleeson, Rad Sherbedgia, Dougray Scott, Richard Roxburgh, John Polson. (120 min.) ** Our dashing hero enlists a beautiful but devious thief in his assignment to track down the power-mad holders of a deadly new virus and its equally rare antidote. Woo's patented pyrotechnics - intricate editing, acrobatic camera movements, slow-motion mayhem - lend intermittent sparks to the violent action sequences, but the two-dimensional characters have little personality. Robert Towne's screenplay takes the easy route of blending elements from the first "M:I" movie and Woo's own "Face/Off" with Hitchcockian touches (the classic "Notorious" is a major source) as well as every James Bond movie ever made. **1/2 Action-packed, entertaining, unoriginal, impressive stunts.
Small Time Crooks (PG)
Director: Woody Allen. With Woody Allen, Tracey Ullman, Tony Darrow, Hugh Grant, George Grizzard, Jon Lovitz, Elaine May, Michael Rapaport. (94 min.) *** A bumbling ex-con and his status-seeking wife open a cookie shop as a front for a bank heist. Instead, the cookies make them multimillionaires and they attempt to join New York's high society. Allen is in top form in front of and behind the camera and surrounds himself with other talented comedians. A gentle message about marital fidelity and the failure of money to buy happiness underlies the antics. By Gregory M. Lamb *** Classic Allen, surprisingly wholesome, witty. Sex/Nudity: None Violence: 1 scene with a policeman pointing a gun Profanity: 13 fairly mild expressions Drugs: 11 scenes with alcohol, 1 with alcohol and tobacco
CURRENTLY IN RELEASE
Battlefield Earth (PG-13)
Director: Roger Christian. With John Travolta, Barry Pepper, Forest Whitaker, Kim Coates. (117 min.) * It's the year 3000 and a race called the Psychlos have invaded Earth and enslaved mankind for a mining operation. The film starts well with interesting comic book-style camera angles, but it never generates enough tension due to preposterous plot holes and liberal borrowings from other movies. Worse, alien villain Travolta delivers the script's risible lines in an over-the-top "Rocky Horror Picture Show" performance that is completely at odds with the square-jawed approach of the hero (Pepper). It's like another awful "Planet of the Apes" sequel.
By Stephen Humphries
Sex/Nudity: 1 instance of innuendo Violence: 14 scenes with violence, including shootings and beatings Profanity: 12 mostly mild expressions Drugs: 4 scenes with alcohol
The Big Kahuna (R)
Director: John Swanbeck. With Kevin Spacey, Danny DeVito, Peter Facinelli. (90 min.) *** Three businessmen face uncomfortable questions about their lives during a long evening in a hotel hospitality suite where they've gathered to give a sales pitch. There's nothing cinematic about this transplanted stage play, but good acting and pungent dialogue - some of it about the place of religion in business and in life - lend it more than passing interest.
Bossa Nova (R)
Director: Bruno Barreto. With Amy Irving, Antonio Fagundes, Alexandre Borges, Dbora Bloch. (95 min.) *** Romantic comedy about an English teacher and an attorney who enter an unexpected love affair while assorted friends and associates search for their own happiness. The story is slender, but the Brazilian settings are exquisite and lilting tunes by Antonio Carlos Jobim cast a spell over the entire enterprise. In English and Portuguese with English subtitles
Sex/Nudity: 2 brief sex scenes, 1 implied sex scene, 4 instances of innuendo Violence: 1 punch Profanity: 42 expressions, mostly harsh Drugs: 5 scenes with alcohol, 1 with tobacco, 1 with alcohol and tobacco.
Center Stage (PG-13)
Director: Nicholas Hytner. With Amanda Schull, Peter Gallagher, Susan May Pratt, Donna Murphy, Debra Monk. (113 min.) *** The place is a Lincoln Center ballet school that's as competitive as it is prestigious, and the main characters are young dancers who learn the rules of their new home, scope out the strengths and weaknesses of their teachers and fellow students, and plunge into their designated tasks with all the enthusiasm - and anxiety - of people who'll end the process as either newly discovered stars or instant has-beens. Rarely has a dance movie done so many cinematic pirouettes with such a graceful sense of audience-pleasing fun. **1/2 Exuberant, beautiful dancing, formulaic.
Sex/Nudity: 1 scene of implied sex, a few instances of innuendo Violence: None Profanity: 52 expressions, mostly mild Drugs: 3 scenes with alcohol, 5 with tobacco, 2 with both
Director: Gregory Hoblit. With Dennis Quaid, Jim Caviezel, Daniel Henson. (121 min.) ** A young man discovers an old ham-radio hookup that allows him to communicate with his dead father in the past. He uses this miracle - caused by an unusual solar storm - to help his dad avoid the accident that killed him, thereby altering their family's history. This event has negative consequences too, putting another loved relative into the path of a serial killer whom only they can track down. Toby Emmerich's screenplay gains emotional punch from its sincere concern for family values, but science-fiction fans may be disappointed by the limited exploration of its fascinating time-travel premise. *** Intelligent plot, touching, creepy, occasionally very violent.
Sex/Nudity: None Violence: 12 scenes of fairly graphic violence, including explosions and use of shotguns Profanity: 37 expressions, mostly mild Drugs: 18 scenes with alcohol, 25 with tobacco
Director: Ridley Scott. With Russell Crowe, Joaquin Phoenix, Oliver Reed, Richard Harris, Connie Nielsen, Derek Jacobi, Djimon Hounsou. (150 min.) ** Sold into slavery by an emperor's jealous son, a Roman general spends his time slaying fellow gladiators before bellowing crowds and dreaming of revenge against you-know-who. Scott's filmmaking is as blunt and bullying as the mayhem it portrays, but Crowe and Reed lend touches of intermittent class to the bone-crunching spectacle. *** Ambitious, bloody, grand, crowd-pleasing, moving.
Sex/Nudity: An instance of incestuous kissing Violence: 17 scenes of mostly gory violence, including gladiator spectacles and a lengthy war episode Profanity: 1 expression, somewhat harsh Drugs: 2 scenes with alcohol
Director: Jonathan Mostow. With Matthew McConaughey, Harvey Keitel, Bill Paxton, Jon Bon Jovi, Jake Weber, David Keith. (120 min.) *** You can't keep a good submarine story down. Our heroes are American sailors ordered to pose as Germans and capture a top-secret encryption device from a Nazi U-boat. Things get interesting when they find themselves stuck on the enemy vessel, unsure how it works and sitting ducks for any genuine Germans who happen to steam their way. The movie is full of old tricks - cuts between worried faces and overheated gauges inching into the red zone - but director Mostow pulls most of them off with conviction and pizazz. *** Sheer entertainment, not much sub-text, action-packed.
Sex/Nudity: None Violence: 9, often prolonged, scenes with violence, including gunfights, fistfights, and torpedo attacks Profanity: 50 expressions, mostly mild Drugs: 3 scenes with alcohol, 2 with tobacco
The Virgin Suicides (R)
Director: Sofia Coppola. With Kirsten Dunst, James Woods, Kathleen Turner, Hanna Hall, Chelse Swain, A.J. Cook, Leslie Hayman, Josh Hartnett, Scott Glenn, Danny DeVito. (96 min.) *** Is suicide the only escape route from an obsessively proper middle-class home? The question arises when an adolescent girl kills herself for no clear reason, and her sisters may be drifting in the same direction as they try to steer a course between their unbending parents and the neighborhood boys who'd like to become part of their lives. An artful blend of '70s detail and dream-like moodiness makes Coppola's first movie an exceptionally promising directorial debut. **1/2 Lacks fluidity, superficial, mysterious, a bit of a downer
Sex/Nudity: 2 instances of statutory rape, 3 of sexual innuendo Violence: 4 instances, all involving suicide Profanity: 4 expressions, 1 of them harsh Drugs: 6 scenes with alcohol, 6 with tobacco, 2 with marijuana
OUT ON VIDEO
American Movie: The Making of Northwestern (R)
Director: Chris Smith. With Mark Borchardt, Bill Borchardt, Mike Schank. (104 min.) *** Documentary about a young Wisconsin man trying to make a low-budget horror movie despite severe limitations of money, resources, and, probably, talent.
Eye of the Beholder (R)
Director: Stephan Elliott. With Ewan McGregor, Ashley Judd, Patrick Bergin. (109 min.) DUD A British agent falls in love with a serial killer and follows her across America. By Stephen Humphries * Boring, depressing, plot holes aplenty.
Sleepy Hollow (R)
Director: Tim Burton. With Johnny Depp, Christina Ricci, Miranda Richardson. (110 min.) *** A reshuffled version of "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow." Admirers of Washington Irving's story will be surprised to find Ichabod Crane turned into a detective investigating gruesome murders. ** Gory, disappointing, effective cinematography, lifeless acting.
(In stores May 30)
Man on the Moon (R)
Director: Milos Forman. With Jim Carrey, Danny DeVito, Courtney Love. (118 min.) **** Carrey is flat-out brilliant as Andy Kaufman, the maverick entertainer who pushed the limits of comic inventiveness. *** A superb performance by Jim Carrey, disturbing.
Snow Falling on Cedars (PG-13)
Director: Scott Hicks. With Ethan Hawke, Youki Koudoh, Max von Sydow. (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. ***1/2 Powerful, beautiful, slow-paced.
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