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
Blood Simple (R) *** Director: Joel Coen. With John Getz, Frances McDormand, M. Emmet Walsh, Dan Hedaya, Samm-Art Williams. (97 min.)
A slightly reedited version of the 1984 thriller that put the Coen Brothers on the map - directed by Joel, produced by Ethan, and written by both. It's a grisly tale about a private eye hired by a jealous husband to kill his cheating wife, but if you can handle its horror-comic grotesquerie, you'll find an enormous amount of cinematic imagination at work. Even the Coens have only managed to top this one a couple of times, most successfully in "Fargo" and the great "Barton Fink."
But I'm a Cheerleader (R) ** Director: Jamie Babbitt. With Natasha Lyonne, Cathy Moriarty, RuPaul, Clea DuVall, Bud Cort, Mink Stole, Eddie Cibrian, Michelle Williams, Kip Pardue, Richard Moll, Julie Delpy. (84 min.)
A spunky teenager gets sent to a sex-education camp when her parents decide she might be gay. The movie is as featherweight as its title, but Lyonne gives a winning performance and the mischievous story packs a few good laughs.
The Decline of Western Civilization Part III (Not rated) ** Director: Penelope Spheeris. With Rick Wilder, Keith Morris, Flea, Final Conflict, Naked Aggression, Litmus Green, The Resistance.
Spheeris continues her examination of the punk-rock scene in this documentary visit with musicians and street kids in Los Angeles during the late '90s. There's lots of atmosphere and information to be gained, but stay away unless you can tolerate graphic plunges into the wildest kinds of youthful excess.
The Kid (PG) *** Director: Jon Turteltaub. With Bruce Willis, Spencer Breslin, Emily Mortimer, Lily Tomlin, Jean Smart, Chi McBride, Dana Ivey, Susan Dalian, Juanita Moore. (104 min.)
Willis plays an egotistical image consultant who gets a needed dose of self-knowledge from an unexpected visitor: himself as a nine-year-old, equally puzzled by their time-warping encounter but loaded with clues as to how he became the creep he is today. Turteltaub makes the most of a solid screenplay and talented cast, rarely forcing the humor but letting it emerge from situations in its own good time. The result is fine fantasy fun.
Kiss Me Kate (Not rated) *** Director: George Sidney. With Howard Keel, Kathryn Grayson, Ann Miller, Bob Fosse, Carol Haney, Bobby Van, Tommy Rall. (120 min.)
Revival of the classic 1953 musical in its original 3-D format. Grayson and Keel are just right as a feuding showbiz couple who reunite for a Broadway musical version of "The Taming of the Shrew" and find themselves quarreling as much in real life as on the stage. Fun all around.
Shower (PG-13) **** Director: Zhang Yang. With Pu Cun Xin, Zhu Xu, Jiang Wu. (92 min.)
A broken-down Beijing bathhouse is the setting for this richly filmed comedy-drama about the clash between tradition and modernity, embodied by the attitudes of the sweet old proprietor and his citified young son. The movie is superbly acted, cleverly written, sensitively directed, and garnished with everything from sly humor to a hearty rendition of "O Solo Mio" with a Chinese accent. Zhang has only directed one previous feature, but it's hard to think of a more promising talent in contemporary Asian cinema. In Mandarin with English subtitles
CURRENTLY IN RELEASE
The Adventures of Rocky & Bullwinkle (PG) *** Director: Des McAnuff. With Robert De Niro, Piper Perabo, Jason Alexander, Rene Russo, Randy Quaid, Kel Mitchell, Kenan Thompson, Janeane Garofalo, Carl Reiner, Whoopi Goldberg, Jonathan Winters, John Goodman, David Alan Grier, James Rebhorn. (90 min.)
Hollywood pokes fun at itself as the animated squirrel and moose battle a trio of live-action villains who want to conquer America by flooding it with ultrarotten TV shows. The comedy is crammed with show-biz jokes that younger kids won't fathom, but the action is so quick and colorful that they probably won't mind. Older folks will find many chuckles, especially if they grew up watching the cartoon heroes' own great '60s series. *** Nostalgic, intermittently charming, good-natured.
Sex/Nudity: 1 mildly suggestive scene. Violence: 11 scenes of animated violence, including a brawl and an explosion. Profanity: 3 mild expressions. Drugs: 2 scenes with alcohol, 5 with tobacco.
Chicken Run (G) *** Directors: Peter Lord, Nick Park. With voices of Mel Gibson, Miranda Richardson, Jane Horrocks, Timothy Spall, Julia Sawalha, Imelda Staunton. (86 min.)
It's a dark day for the poultry when their owner decides to switch from the egg industry to the chicken-pie business. Can they escape her automated oven with help from a flying rooster who recently landed in their coop? The suspense isn't exactly breathtaking, but there are some mighty fine laughs in this clever Claymation cartoon from the creator of England's hilarious Wallace and Gromit movies. Family fun for all. *** "Egg-cellent," sweet, top family fare.
Sex/Nudity/Profanity/Drugs: None. Violence: 6 scenes of mild comic violence.
Gone in 60 Seconds (PG-13) * Director: Dominic Sena. With Nicolas Cage, Angelina Jolie, Robert Duvall, Giovanni Ribisi, Will Patton. (117 min.)
A reformed thief has to steal 50 autos in three days or an evil thug will murder his brother. Car-chase fans may enjoy the story's action-crazy formulas, but there's no excusing its bone-crunching violence, barbaric language, and smirky sexuality. How did a dignified pro like Duvall get stuck in this fender-bender? ** Surfacey, juvenile morality, fast-paced.
Sex/Nudity: 1 instance of innuendo. Violence: 7 violent scenes, including car chases and gunplay. Profanity: 25 expressions. Drugs: 3 scenes with alcohol, 1 with smoking.
Love's Labour's Lost (PG) ** Director: Kenneth Branagh. With Kenneth Branagh, Alicia Silverstone, Timothy Spall, Carmen Ejogo. (95 min.)
William Shakespeare's comedy about a King and three friends who take a pledge to give up partying for philosophizing, updated to the 1930s era and spiced with musical numbers featuring songs of that period. It's all very colorful, but the movie's diverse elements clash as often as they cooperate. *** Cheery, Bard-lite, intelligent, no Fred Astaires here.
Sex/Nudity: 2 mildly suggestive scenes. Violence: 5 scenes of mostly slapstick violence, except for one series of WWII clips. Profanity: None. Drugs: 11 with alcohol and/or tobacco.
Me, Myself & Irene (R) ** Directors: Bobby Farrelly, Peter Farrelly. With Jim Carrey, Rene Zellweger, Chris Cooper, Robert Forster. (116 min.)
The protagonist is a policeman with two personalities: One is sweeter than American pie, the other is lecherous enough to make Mr. Hyde look like a gentleman, and both are in love with Irene, a new acquaintance who's never quite sure which one she's dealing with. Carrey gives an awesome comic performance with little help from cinematic trickery, recalling Jerry Lewis's legendary acting in the 1963 version of "The Nutty Professor," which this farce frequently resembles. Look out for huge amounts of deliberately disgusting, gross-out humor, though. ***1/2 Hilarious, absurd, over-the-top gross-out humor, hollow.
Sex/Nudity: 2 instances of implied sex, 3 suggestive scenes, some innuendo. Violence: 14 scenes of mostly slapstick violence, but includes two gunshot wounds. Profanity: 114 expressions, mostly crude. Drugs: 4 scenes with alcohol, 7 with tobacco.
Mission: Impossible 2 (PG-13) ** Director: John Woo. With Tom Cruise, Thandie Newton, Anthony Hopkins, Ving Rhames. (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.
Sex/Nudity: 1 scene of implied sex, 2 sexually suggestive scenes. Violence: 58 scenes with violence, including shooting and hand-to-hand combat. Profanity: 11 expressions, mostly mild. Drugs: 1 cigar.
The Patriot (R) ** Director: Roland Emmerich. With Mel Gibson, Joely Richardson, Chris Cooper, Tcheky Karyo, Heath Ledger, Ren Auberjonois, Tom Wilkinson, Jason Isaacs. (165 min.)
The hero is a South Carolina farmer who becomes a reluctant fighter in the Revolutionary War after English soldiers kill his little boy. The movie pays lip service to the idea that war breeds violence, but it works more crudely on an emotional level, suggesting that the Colonial lads are basically decent sorts while the Redcoats harbor more than their share of monsters. What might have been a treat for history buffs and a refresher course for the rest of us turns into just another occasion to watch Gibson shoot guns, swing tomahawks, and wreak other kinds of havoc on enemies we've been primed to hate. *** Rousing, earnest, brutal, big.
Sex/Nudity: 1 instance of mild innuendo. Violence: 15 scenes of violence, including 6 long battle sequences. Profanity: 12 mild expressions. Drugs: 5 scenes with alcohol, 1 with alcohol and tobacco.
The Perfect Storm (PG-13) *** Director: Wolfgang Petersen. With George Clooney, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, Mark Wahlberg, Diane Lane, John C. Reilly, Karen Allen, William Fichtner. (127 min.)
The crew of a New England swordfishing boat battles the Worst Weather Ever while their friends and spouses wait anxiously on shore. Fish elsewhere if you want originality, creativity, or a tale dignified enough to match the real-life tragedy that inspired it; but dive right in if you're looking for an old-fashioned entertainment that delivers corny romance, turbulent action, and enough wave-churning seascapes to make "Titanic" seem landlocked.
Shaft (R) * Director: John Singleton. With Samuel L. Jackson, Jeffrey Wright, Christian Bale, Vanessa Williams. (98 min.)
The original "Shaft," a stylish 1971 crime drama, touched off the craze for "blaxploitation" movies. This follow-up retains little but the name, race, and no-nonsense attitude of the African-American hero, pitted here against crooked cops and a psychotic drug dealer as he tracks down the lone witness to a racially charged murder. Singleton does his best directing since his powerful "Boyz N the Hood," and Wright's brilliant acting almost makes his vicious character worth watching. But the plot is a shameless plea for vigilante violence, and the dignity of the black hero is outweighed by the ethnically marked evil of his Hispanic antagonist. Beneath its crisp veneer, much of the movie is a high-energy hymn to hate. **1/2 Flashy, style conscious, funny, clichd.
Sex/Nudity: 1 sex scene, 1 scene with scanty clothing, some sexual banter. Violence: Many scenes, including gunplay, stabbing, and shooting. Profanity: 90 expressions, mostly harsh. Drugs: 4 scenes with alcohol, 1 of a drug lab.
OUT ON VIDEO
(In Stores July 11)
All About My Mother (R) *** Director: Pedro Almodvar. With Cecilia Roth, Penlope Cruz, Marisa Paredes. (101 min.)
A woman tries to reorder her life after the untimely death of her teenage son. In Spanish with English subtitles
Boiler Room (R) ** Director: Ben Younger. With Giovanni Ribisi, Vin Diesel, Jamie Kennedy, Nia Long. (110 min.)
Young execs at a fraudulent brokerage house recruit similarly money-hungry young men. By Katherine Dillin
Down to You (PG-13) *1/2 Director: Kris Isacsson. With Freddie Prinze Jr., Julia Stiles, Selma Blair. (100 min.)
Al and Imogen fall in love at first sight in college, then face a little relationship turbulance. By Katherine Dillin
The Hurricane (R) ** Director: Norman Jewison. With Denzel Washington, Deborah Kara Unger. (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.
Last Night (R) *** Director: Don McKellar. With Don McKellar, Sandra Oh, Sarah Polley. (93 min.)
The setting of this quirky comedy-drama is a Canadian city a few hours before the end of the world.
Mansfield Park (PG-13) *** Director: Patricia Rozema. With Frances O'Connor, Alessandro Nivola. (98 min.)
The adventures of a poor young woman sent to live with a privileged branch of her class-conscious British family. A pared-down adaptation of Jane Austen's novel.
My Dog Skip (PG) *** Director: Jay Russell. With Frankie Muniz, Diane Lane, Kevin Bacon, Luke Wilson. (95 min.)
This fact-based tale is about the bond between a father and son and the realities of war. By Lisa Leigh Parney
Onegin (Not rated) *** Director: Martha Fiennes. With Ralph Fiennes, Liv Tyler, Martin Donovan. (106 min.)
Love and death hover in the Russian air as a jaded 19th-century sophisticate leaves the big city for a rural estate he's inherited.
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