Ratings and comments by David Sterritt and Monitor staff. Staff comments 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.
STAR RATINGS MEANING
**** Excellent *** Good ** Fair * Poor DUD The Worst
Director: Harold Ramis. With Brendan Fraser, Elizabeth Hurley, Frances O'Connor (93 min.)
Be careful what you wish for. Computer geek Elliot (Fraser) is granted seven wishes when he runs into a beautiful woman named the Devil (Hurley). Of course, every time he makes a wish, the Devil finds a way to mess things up. For instance, when Elliot wishes for money and power, he turns into a Colombian drug lord with an unfaithful wife. His funniest characters arrive in the form of an overly sensitive geek and an NBA star who has uncontrollable sweat glands. This remake of the 1967 movie starring Peter Cook and Dudley Moore is quite funny and eye-catching. By Lisa Leigh Parney
Sex/Nudity: 12 instances of innuendo. Violence: 5 mild instances, all played for laughs. Profanity: 12 expressions, mostly mild. Drugs: 4 scenes with drinking, 3 with smoking, and 1 scene in a cocaine factory.
Collectors (Not rated)
Director: Julian P. Hobbs. With Rick Staton, Tobias Allen. (80 min.)
Documentary look at a subculture of buyers and traders who specialize in artworks by murderers and other deviant personalities. The subject is disturbing, but the movie offers a rare glimpse at yet another way in which money has displaced morality in contemporary American life.
George Washington (Not rated)
Director: David Gordon Green. With Donald Holden, Candace Evanofski, Curtis Cotton III, Eddie Rouse, Paul Schneider. (89 min.)
Set in a rural corner of the American South, this utterly original comedy-drama spins the meandering story of several poor kids going through familiar routines of growing up: exploring their interests, falling in love, and figuring out the adult world they're about to enter. Among them is the title character, an African-American boy with a physical handicap and a gallant spirit that makes him a hero in ways he never expected. Green tells the tale through leisurely, eye-catching shots that allow the young cast members to imbue their characters with striking credibility and intensity.
Lucky Numbers (R)
Director: Nora Ephron. With John Travolta, Lisa Kudrow, Tim Roth, Michael Moore, Michael Rapaport, Ed O'Neill, Bill Pullman. (105 min.)
A debt-ridden meteorologist cooks up a scheme to rig a state lottery drawing in cahoots with the oversexed TV personality who pulls the numbers out of the lottery machine. A few mildly amusing gags don't outweigh the trite situations and mean-spirited attitude of this comedy, which relies too often on condescending jokes aimed at unattractive characters.
Pay It Forward (PG-13)
Director: Mimi Leder. With Kevin Spacey, Helen Hunt, Haley Joel Osment, James Caviezel, Jon Bon Jovi, Jay Mohr, Angie Dickinson. (115 min.)
Challenged by an innovative schoolteacher who wants his pupils to stretch their minds in new directions, a bright 11-year-old devises a scheme to encourage kindness among strangers, and it spreads by leaps and bounds even as his own hopes run into various obstacles. You'll enjoy this sentimental drama if you feel good intentions are their own reward, at least where movies are concerned; but it'll exasperate you if you want your entertainment to have some connection with the world we actually live in.
Emotionally manipulative, excellent message, Spacey rules.
Sex/Nudity: 1 sex scene, no nudity. Violence: 5 instances, including a fatal knifing, a robbery, and a hostage situation. Profanity: 33 expressions, mostly mild. Drugs: 19 scenes, including homeless people drinking excessively, some smoking, and the main character is an alcoholic.
Sound and Fury (Not rated)
Director: Josh Aronson. With Heather Artinian, Peter Artinian, Nita Artinian. (112 min.)
Riveting documentary about two Long Island families debating the best way to raise their deaf children. One considers a surgical procedure that promises to provide normal hearing and facilitate a normal life, while the other contends that deafness is neither a handicap nor a limitation. Rarely does a movie combine so much genuine human drama with such vivid exemplifications of "identity politics" and other sociocultural issues. In English with English subtitles
Director: Denys Arcand. With Jessica Pare, Dan Aykroyd, Frank Langella, Thomas Gibson. (103 min.)
Mock documentary about a pretty young woman who's plucked from obscurity by a photographer who thinks he's found the next supermodel destined for international fame. The satire is intermittently amusing, but Arcand adds little to the arsenal of standard mockumentary tricks, and the interesting cast doesn't get many interesting things to do.
A Time for Drunken Horses (Not rated)
Director: Bahman Ghobadi. With Ayoub Ahmadi, Rojin Younessi, Ameneh Ekhtiar-Dini, Mehdi Ekhtiar-Dini. (77 min.)
The poignant story of a poverty-stricken family's quest to find medical attention for a child during a harsh winter on the Iran-Iraq border. The tale is simply told but stunningly photographed and superbly acted in the best tradition of modern Iranian cinema. In Kurdish and Farsi with English subtitles
CURRENTLY IN RELEASE
Animal Factory (R)
Director: Steve Buscemi. With Willem Dafoe, Edward Furlong, Mickey Rourke, John Heard, Seymour Cassel, Steve Buscemi, Tom Arnold, Danny Trejo. (94 min.)
Sent to prison by a politically ambitious DA who wants to make an example of him, a first-time felon tries to serve his time quietly with the help of a thick-skinned inmate who befriends him, but one misstep after another gets him entangled with the jail's worst elements. Buscemi's directing blends hard-hitting visual qualities with great emotional energy and a refusal to let the story's message - that potentially valuable lives can be lost rather than redeemed in the brutal penitentiary system - get lost in the gut-wrenching violence that runs through it.
Director: Spike Lee. With Damon Wayans, Jada Pinkett-Smith, Savion Glover, Michael Rapaport. (135 min.)
Spurred by a mixture of personal and professional motives, an African-American writer dreams up an outrageous TV concept - a modern-day minstrel show - and contrary to his expectations it becomes a smash, making blatant racism the hottest thing in entertainment. The movie mixes in-your-face comedy with over-the-top plot twists and outspoken social commentary. It's a unique blend of history and hysteria, and there's no escaping the dead-serious ideas that run beneath its flamboyant surface.
Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: 4 scenes, including a shootout. Profanity: At least 283 expressions, many harsh. Drugs: 9 scenes, including 3 with smoking, 3 with drinking , and some of both in advertisements.
Best in Show (PG-13)
Director: Christopher Guest. With Christopher Guest, Parker Posey, Michael Hitchcock, Jennifer Coolidge, Eugene Levy, Catherine O'Hara. (89 min.)
A visit with the dog-show set as they prepare their pooches for competition, steeling themselves for the wagging tail of victory or the droopy eyes of defeat. There's no great cinema in this mock documentary, but there are so many uproarious laughs you'll hardly notice.
Doggone funny, hysterical, buoyant.
Sex/Nudity: 8 instances of innuendo. Violence: None. Profanity: 18 expressions, mostly mild. Drugs: 2 instances of drinking.
Billy Elliot (R)
Director: Stephen Daldry. With Jamie Bell, Julie Walters, Gary Lewis, Jamie Draven, Adam Cooper. (110 min.)
The sprightly tale of a feisty lad who lives in England's coal-mining country and wants to become a ballet dancer even though his family thinks that's no ambition for a real man. The movie does a fine job of integrating its political interests - a fierce 1984 mining strike - with a deeply felt love of dancing. It also trumpets the worthwhile message that ballet is just as manly and athletic as any other masculine activity - and maybe a touch more so, if you have to defy an uncomprehending community in order to pursue it.
Year's best, contagious energy, sweet story, a pure joy.
Sex/Nudity: Quick flash of male backside. Violence: Seven scenes, including angry union picketers throwing objects, and some scenes with domestic violence. Profanity: 57 mostly harsh expressions. Drugs: 17 scenes with cigarettes, 5 with alcohol.
The Contender (R)
Director: Rod Lurie. With Jeff Bridges, Joan Allen, Gary Oldman, Christian Slater, William Petersen, Philip Baker Hall, Saul Rubinek, Sam Elliott. (125 min.)
A well-meaning chief executive chooses a female senator to replace his deceased vice president, then discovers that her many assets are accompanied by a liability: an alleged sex scandal that surfaces from her distant past. Will the president stick to his convictions and help her refurbish her reputation? What will follow from the explosive event that opens the movie: A jolting accident that boosts yet another politician to prominence? The story is so calculated that it ultimately bears little relation to the real world.
Sex/Nudity: 4 scenes of explicit sex and 1 scene with graphic descriptions of sexual activity. Violence: None. Profanity: 63 expressions, mostly harsh. Drugs: Cigar smoking throughout; a few scenes with cigarette smoking.
Dr. T & the Women (R)
Director: Robert Altman. With Richard Gere, Shelley Long, Farrah Fawcett, Laura Dern, Kate Hudson, Liv Tyler, Helen Hunt, Matt Malloy, Tara Reid. (122 min.)
Gere plays a Dallas doctor surrounded by women who seem determined to raise new challenges for him every time he thinks he's figured them out. The movie gets much of its emotional interest from Gere's fine performance. And it derives much of its personality from Altman's improvisational atmosphere. Some will dislike its shaggy-dog screenplay and restless camera work, and others may find its finale too postfeminist for comfort.
Sex/Nudity: A few scenes of partial nudity. Violence: None. Profanity: 25 mostly mild expressions. Drugs: 12 scenes with drinking, 3 with smoking.
Lost Souls (R)
Director: Janusz Kaminski. With Winona Ryder, Ben Chaplin, John Hurt, Philip Baker Hall. (102 min.)
A young woman discovers that the Antichrist is about to appear in the body of a popular New York author, and all creation will be doomed if she can't prevent this transformation from occurring. Kaminski is a gifted cinematographer, but his directorial debut suffers from a preposterous plot, bad acting, and dialogue that provokes more laughs than shivers. Even schlock like "The Exorcist" shines alongside this silly stuff.
Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: 14 scenes, including exorcisms and punches. Profanity: 9 expressions, some harsh. Drugs: 9 scenes with smoking and drinking.
Meet the Parents (PG-13)
Director: Jay Roach. With Ben Stiller, Robert De Niro, Blythe Danner, Owen Wilson. (108 min.)
Pam's dad (De Niro): ex-CIA, a character somewhat reminiscent of the cat-loving James Bond nemesis Ernst Blofeld, absolutely paranoid, not likely to smile or chuckle. Try asking his permission for his daughter's hand in marriage. But smitten Greg (Stiller) tries when he realizes his beloved prefers the traditional route to the altar. Many belly laughs. By Katherine Dillin
Well cast, nonstop laughs, Stiller rules as the underdog.
Sex/Nudity: 1 mildly suggestive scene, 4 instances of innuendo. Violence: 3 scenes with mostly cartoonish violence. Profanity: 15 expressions, mostly mild. Drugs: 3 scenes with alcohol, 2 with tobacco, 1 scene with implied use of marijuana.
The Yards (R)
Director: James Gray. With Mark Wahlberg, Joaquin Phoenix, Ellen Burstyn, Charlize Theron, James Caan, Faye Dunaway. (115 min.)
Determined to live an honest life after serving a prison sentence for a crime he didn't commit, a young man finds himself drawn into a network of criminal activity that grows more dangerous and violent. The cast is just right for this mini-"Godfather" yarn, and Gray's filmmaking is generally on target even if it does tend to dawdle along the way.
OUT ON VIDEO (in stores oct. 31)
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. Science-fiction fans may be disappointed by the limited exploration of its fascinating time-travel premise.
Intelligent plot, touching, creepy, occasionally very violent.
Director: Davis Guggenheim. With James Marsden, Lena Headey, Kate Hudson. (100 min.)
Have you heard about "Gossip"? Did you know it's about three college friends who start a vicious rumor to study its effects for a class project? Did you hear that it's a creepy, uncomfortable story with unlikable characters, but that the concept and plot twists are rumored to be intriguing enough to keep you in your seat? That's what's going around, anyway. By Katherine Dillin
Thomas and the Magic Railroad (G)
Director: Britt Allcroft. With Peter Fonda, Mara Wilson, Alec Baldwin, Didi Conn. (84 min.)
A delightful way to spend an afternoon with a preschooler. Gently funny and uplifting - but not preachy - the movie chronicles the adventures of Thomas, a very useful engine, and Mr. Conductor as they try to prevent the villain, a train called Diesel Ten, from destroying Lady, the special engine that makes Thomas's universe possible. By Tom Regan
(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society