Movie Guide

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.


**** Excellent *** Good ** Fair * Poor DUD The Worst

Juliet of the Spirits (No Rated)

Director: Federico Fellini. With Giuletta Masina, Mario Pisu, Valentina Cortese, Sandra Milo. (148 min.)

Sterrit **** A woman must come to terms with moral, personal, and domestic challenges posed by her husband's infidelity. Masina gives one of her most expressive performances in the rerelease of this 1965 masterpiece, which explores psychological and cinematic ideas first unveiled in Fellini's classic "8 1/2," an even greater excursion into the borderline area where fantasy and reality intertwine.

Shrek (PG-13)

Directors: Andrew Adamson, Vicky Jenson. With voices of Mike Myers, Cameron Diaz, Eddie Murphy, John Lithgow, Vincent Cassel. (90 min.)

Sterrit *** An amiable ogre, a talkative donkey, and a domineering princess set off on a fairy-tale quest that brings out the hidden decency of the ugly-looking monster and the inner beauty of his royal companion. The story has rollicking moments and the visuals are amazingly realistic, filling the screen with authentic effects - eagerly dancing flames, smoothly flowing water, finely detailed facial expressions - that animators could only approximate before computer-generated imagery entered their tool kit. Don't expect a great cartoon on the level of "Toy Story" or the old Disney classics, but animation fans will find a generous amount of fun.

Currently in Release Along Came A Spider (R)

Director: Lee Tamahori. With Morgan Freeman, Monica Potter, Michael Wincott, Jay O. Sanders. (104 min.)

Staff **1/2 Morgan Freeman is back as detective Dr. Alex Cross in this well-paced thriller, which is technically the prequel to "Kiss the Girls." He's on the trail of a villain who has kidnapped the daughter of a US senator. "Along Came a Spider" is filled with surprising twists, which often evoke a smile.

By Steven Savides

Staff * Stale dialogue, ridiculous twists, Morgan Freeman is the only redeeming aspect.

Sex/Nudity: 1 reference to sex. Violence: 9 instances of fairly graphic violence, including one car crash and several shootings. Profanity: 9 harsh expressions. Drugs: 1 cigarette.

Blow (R)

Director: Ted Demme. With Johnny Depp, Penelope Cruz, Ray Liotta, Paul Reubens, Rachel Griffiths. (119 min.)

Sterrit ** The fact-based story of George Jung, a small-time California crook who became a big-time associate of a Colombia drug cartel, is inherently stale, especially since Martin Scorsese did it better in "Goodfellas." But Depp evokes emotional depth with a characteristically subtle performance, and Demme elicits fine acting from the supporting cast.

Staff *** Realistic, thought-provoking.

Sex/Nudity: Brief nude shots in a photo collage, topless women in a pool, and backside shots of nude women. Violence: Graphic fighting scenes with guns and 1 slap to a woman. Profanity: 134 harsh expressions. Drugs: 31 scenes with alcohol and 39 with drugs.

Bridget Jones's Diary (R)

Director: Sharon Maguire. With Renee Zellweger, Hugh Grant, Colin Firth, Jim Broadbent. (94 min.)

Sterrit ** A romantic Englishwoman searches for a man who won't mind her slightly bulky figure and slightly dissolute habits, and finds herself dallying with her cocky boss while dodging the company of a lawyer who'd be a duller but more dignified partner. This lightweight comedy evidently sees itself as a Jane Austen spinoff in the "Clueless" vein, and fans of the genre will enjoy it if they're not distracted by trite plot twists, Firth's one-note formality, or Zellweger's on-and-off English accent.

Staff ***1/2 Exaggerated, v.g. (very good), very British.

Sex/Nudity: 3 sex scenes, no nudity. 3 instances of innuendo and several sexual references. Violence: 1 scene with a fistfight. Profanity: 35 including many harsh expressions. Drugs: 15 scenes of smoking and drinking.

Center of the World (Not Rated]

Director: Wayne Wang. With Peter Sarsgaard, Molly Parker, Carla Gugino. (88 min.)

Sterrit * A young millionaire pays a stripper to accompany him to Las Vegas for the weekend in this grim and ultimately flat attempt to dissect the difference between money, sex, emotions, and what's really real. Director Wayne Wang relies on a self-consciously arty digital film style and brutally direct sex scenes - some of which border on pornographic - to make his film appear groundbreaking, but it ultimately leaves its audience as cold as its lifeless characters. By Amanda Paulson

Staff * Devoid of passion, pretentious, sophomoric script, hollow.

Sex/Nudity: 14 scenes, often exceptionally graphic. Violence: 1 instance of beating. Profanity: 48 harsh expressions. Drugs: 2 scenes with smoking; 8 scenes with alcohol.

The Circle (Not rated)

Director: Jafir Panahi. With Fereshteh Sadr Orafai, Maryiam Parvin Almani. (91 min.)

Sterrit **** A pregnant woman in despair, two women running from a prison sentence, and a grandmother who dreads her family's reaction to the birth of a baby girl are among the main characters of this suspenseful and ingeniously directed drama about problems of women in Iran today. Banned in its own country, the film stands with the most compelling movies ever made about specifically female challenges and tribulations. In Farsi with English subtitles

Staff *** Naturalistic, bare-bones acting, unsettling, not sentimental.

Sex/Nudity: 5 mild inferences. Violence: None. Profanity: 4 mild. Drugs: 1 instance of smoking.

Crocodile Dundee in Los Angeles (PG)

Director: Simon Wincer. With Paul Hogan, Linda Kozlowski. (92 min.)

Staff * You'll sooner find snow on Ayers Rock than you will laughs in this third outing of the Crocodile Dundee series. The flimsiest plot device sends Dundee, his girlfriend, and child from the Australian outback to Los Angeles, where they wander from one flat episode to another. Stay home and watch the real crocodile hunter, Steve Irwin, on cable's "Animal Planet" instead. By Stephen Humphries

Driven (PG-13)

Director: Renny Harlin. With Sylvester Stallone, Burt Reynolds, Estelle Warren, Gina Gershon. (120 min.)

Staff ** Actor, writer, and producer Sylvester Stallone and director Renny Harlin hope to re-create the success they had with "Cliffhanger" in this well-done, but flat, action-drama. The story of this racing-car tale is pure formula: A young rookie beats all odds to come out on top, and finds out what he's made of. But it's the racing scenes that take center stage, and the crashes are among the most realistic ever put on film.

By Alex Kaloostian

Staff DUD Predictable, insipid, hokey, overwrought, belongs on the scrap heap.

Sex/Nudity: 4 instances of innuendo and numerous shots of scantily clad women. Violence: 7 scenes of video game-like car crashes, no gore. Profanity: 11 mild expressions. Drugs: 3 scenes with alcohol.

Eureka (Not rated)

Director: Shinji Aoyama. With Yakusho Koji, Miyazaki Aoi, Miyazaki Masaru. (217 min.)

Sterrit **** After surviving a violent crime, two youngsters set off on a meandering odyssey through the Japanese countryside with an eccentric bus driver they've befriended, only to discover that ongoing eruptions of violence are traveling in their wake. Filmed in a style at once intimate and expansive, with understated acting and brilliant use of wide-screen black-and-white cinematography, Aoyama's celebrated movie is an ambitious psychological drama and a probing look at the intersections of kinship and friendship. In Japanese with English subtitles

The Golden Bowl (R)

Director: James Ivory. With Nick Nolte, Kate Beckinsale, Jeremy Northam, Uma Thurman, James Fox. (130 min.)

Sterrit *** Henry James's psychologically dense novel inspired this introspective drama about an American businessman and his daughter, who discover that their new spouses share a hidden past. Written by Ruth Prawer Jhabvala and produced by Ismail Merchant, the film will be too staid and stolid for audiences on the hunt for easy entertainment. Ivory gives it a sumptuous visual style and an exquisitely crafted early-20th-century milieu, though, offering fine pleasures for the eye and the imagination.

A Knight's Tale (PG-13)

Director: Brian Helgeland. With Heath Ledger, Mark Addy, Alan Tudyk, Paul Bettany. (132 min.)

Staff **1/2 "A Knight's Tale" is a familiar story in which a kid from the wrong side of town (Ledger) makes his dream of becoming a knight a reality by posing as royalty. Trained as a child by the best knight in England, the only thing holding him back from rivaling the best competitors from Europe - and winning the heart of a beautiful princess - is his status in society. This quest for personal triumph is accompanied by a surprising array of classic rock-music favorites and other light-hearted comic relief. The bloody and violent jousting prevents it from being family entertainment. By Heidi Wilson

Memento (R)

Director: Christopher Nolan, With Guy Pearce, Carrie-Ann Moss, Joe Pantoliano. (118 min.)

Sterrit *** A young man hunts the criminal who murdered his wife, hampered by a physical condition that obliterates his short-term memory on a day-by-day basis. How do you conduct a life-or-death quest under such circumstances? You write yourself endless notes, tattoo crucial information on your skin, and hope your cause is just enough to succeed. This unconventionally structured thriller moves at an energetic pace, spurred by a string of clever variations on conventional film narrative.

Staff *** A reelful of Polaroid moments, fresh.

Sex/Nudity: None. V: 9 scenes of violence, including a rape. Profanity: 143 harsh expressions. Drugs: 6 scenes of drinking; 1 scene with smoking.

The Mummy Returns (PG-13)

Director: Stephen Sommers. With Brendan Fraser, Rachel Weisz, Patricia Velasquez, John Hannah. (125 min.)

Sterrit ** A handsome adventurer and his Egyptologist wife dash through an Indiana Jones-style story about the resurrection of a three-millennium-old nemesis, the lurking danger of a long-buried warrior, and the appearance of a very ominous bracelet on their son's arm. Writer-director Sommers serves up rousing visual effects, smart-alecky dialogue, and sword-swinging action. But there's more emphasis on computer-generated gimmickry than on persuasive acting and ideas, and there's not a moment of real feeling in this expensive epic.

Staff **1/2 Good romance, witty references to other films, over the top.

Sex/Nudity: None. Violence:16 scenes, intense and scary, but not too gory. Profanity: 6 very mild expressions. Drugs: None.

Spy Kids (PG)

Director: Robert Rodriguez. With Antonio Banderas, George Clooney, Alan Cumming, Teri Hatcher. (93 min.)

Sterrit ** Billed as a spy caper for all ages, "Spy Kids" is indeed that. Carmen and Juni Cortez are two ordinary kids who must save their parents - and the world - from the evil techno-wizard, Floop. With bright colors and child-friendly names and settings, the movie definitely skews toward the under-10 set. By Gloria Goodale

Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: 12 scenes of comic violence. Profanity: None. Drugs: 2 instances with drinking.

The Tailor of Panama (R)

Director: John Boorman. With Geoffrey Rush, Pierce Brosnan, Jamie Lee Curtis, Brendon Gleeson. (110 min.)

Sterrit ** Brosnan plays a spy who's sent to Panama, and Rush plays a con artist who uses his profession - tailor to the rich and famous - as a front for more slippery activities. The movie strains too hard to seem smart and savvy, though, with touches of offbeat filmmaking that suggest a mood of unpredictable fun but prove to be a momentary sideshow.

uu Implausible plot, too heavy, Rush is great.

Sex/Nudity: 12 scenes, including some innuendo and brief sex scenes with seminudity. Violence: 4 scenes, including some beatings and rioting. Profanity: 48 mostly harsh expressions. Drugs: 18 scenes with smoking and/or drinking.

Out on Video in Stores may 22

Dungeons and Dragons (PG-13)

Director: Courtney Soloman. With Justin Whalin, Marlon Wayans, Thora Birch, Jeremy Irons. (110 min.)

Staff *1/2 Computer games and board games used to be adapted from successful movies. Nowadays studios are turning to games like "Dungeons and Dragons" for story ideas. This tale revolves around two young thieves and a sorceress who must retrieve a magical scepter to thwart the evil plans of Profion (Irons). A troupe of British actors ham it up as if they are guests on "Sesame Street," while Birch ("American Beauty") turns in a shockingly inept performance. Adults will wince - or laugh - at the acting, but unfussy tweenies will overlook the film's liberal borrowings from "Star Wars," and "Indiana Jones," and lap up the fine effects and perfectly passable adventure. By Stephen Humphries

Coming soon (In stores May 29)

Two Family House (R)

Director: Frank De Felitta. With Michael Rispoli, Katherine Narducci, Kelly MacDonald. (104 min.)

Sterrit *** Longing for a more exciting life, a would-be singer buys a run-down house big enough to set up his own neighborhood saloon where his friends can congregate, his income can swell, and he can provide the entertainment. But he and his wife have to deal with the couple who already live there, one of whom is an abused (white) woman who gives birth to an adorable (black) baby, sparking eruptions of bigotry in almost everyone they know. De Felitta dodges the temptations of sentiment and preachiness.

(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Monitor

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