Reviews in this weekly guide are written by Monitor critic David Sterritt (the first set of '+' marks in each review) unless otherwise noted. Ratings and comments by the Monitor staff panel (the second set of '+' marks in each review) reflect the sometimes diverse views of at least three other viewers. Information on violence, drugs, sex/nudity, and profanity is compiled by the panel.
+++1/2 Very Good
++ 1/2 Average
EVEREST (IMAX, Not rated)
Director: David Breashears. With Robert Schauer, Araceli Segarra, Ed Viesturs, Sumiyo Tsuzuki. (50 min.)
++++ "Just plain breathtaking." That's how an adviser to Greg MacGillivray and David Breashears, producers of "Everest," accurately describes the 80-foot-IMAX screen movie portraying a 1996 climb up the world's tallest peak. The story is told through the personal lives of the climbers, and though the dangers are made clear, the film doesn't become gruesome. Much is made of the task of lugging a 42-pound IMAX camera up the 29,028-foot peak. It provides panoramic views of dramatic beauty, as well as a sampling of the grueling step-by-step climb. Some of the more dramatic shots are taken the easy way - from a helicopter. By David Francis
FUNNY GAMES (Not rated)
Director: Michael Haneke. With Susanne Lothar, Ulrich Muhe, Frank Giering, Arno Frisch, Stefan Clapczynski. (103 min.)
+++ A couple of young thugs terrorize a family at their isolated vacation home. As in previous films, Austrian director Haneke is concerned with the tendency of contemporary society to breed mindless violence, and here he focuses on how mayhem-filled movies play a role in this syndrome by stirring up vengeful and destructive feelings in their audiences. Viewers will have to decide if Haneke's own horrific scenes are a criticism or an indulgence of this social trend.
Director: Jonathan Darby. With Jessica Lange, Gwyneth Paltrow, Johnathon Schaech, Nina Foch. (98 min.)
+ A woman inflicts unconscionable cruelty on her pregnant daughter-in-law attempting to keep her son down on the beautiful Virginia farm. Lange and Paltrow give it their all, but they can't save this one from plot holes, continuity mistakes, and heartlessness. But it's great to see Foch as a grandmother who keeps her sweetness, despite banishment to a nursing home. By M.K. Terrell
Sex/Nudity: Brief nudity. Violence: One stabbing scene and two attempted killings with morphine. Profanity: Minimal. Drugs: Scenes of drunkeness; misuses of farm drugs.
MEAN STREETS (R)
Director: Martin Scorsese. With Robert De Niro, Harvey Keitel, Amy Robinson, David Carradine. (110 min.)
++++ Revival of the scruffy but indelible 1973 portrait of small-time Manhattan hoods that launched Scorsese's career as the most important American filmmaker of our time. The acting and filmmaking are often brilliant, but beware of a great deal of unabashed violence and vulgarity.
Currently in Release
THE APOSTLE (PG-13)
Director: Robert Duvall. With Robert Duvall, Billy Bob Thornton, Farrah Fawcett. (133 min.)
++++ Robert Duvall wrote, directed, and stars in this riveting tale of a religiously devout but humanly flawed preacher, who flees from Texas to Louisiana after a violent incident sparked by his wife's infidelity and another minister's move to oust him from his church. Avoiding the clichs and condescension that characterize many films on religious figures, the movie is at once a compelling drama and a thoughtful look at faith-related issues on personal, social, and cultural levels.
+++ Compelling, inspiring, provokes thought about religion.
Sex/Nudity: One scene of a couple in bed together. Violence: One outburst. Profanity: One vulgarity. Drugs: None.
THE BIG LEBOWSKI (R)
Director: Joel Coen. With Jeff Bridges, John Goodman, Steve Buscemi, Julianne Moore, John Turturro, David Huddleston, David Thewlis, Sam Elliott, Ben Gazzara. (117 min.)
+++ Hired to deliver a ransom in a kidnapping scheme, two bowling-league buddies decide to abscond with the money themselves, landing themselves in a heap of complicated trouble. There are many delirious laughs in the Coen brothers' sprawling crime-comedy, but the heroes - a dope-smoking relic of the '60s and a gun-toting Vietnam vet - aren't exactly role models, and beware of some outbursts of violence and other scruffy material.
+++1/2 Hilarious, quirky, colorful.
Sex/Nudity: Brief nudity. Violence: Fistfighting with some biting. Profanity: An abundance of expletives. Drugs: Constant drinking and smoking marijuana.
DANGEROUS BEAUTY (R)
Director: Marshall Herskovitz. With Catherine McCormack, Rufus Sewell, Jacqueline Bisset, Oliver Platt, Moira Kelly, Jeroen Krabb, Joanna Cassidy, Fred Ward. (114 min.)
+ The setting is Venice in the 16th century; the heroine is a young woman who becomes a courtesan on the advice of her mother, gets involved in high-level political intrigue, and lands in perilous trouble when a would-be lover wields the power of the Inquisition against her. The camera work is pretty, but the drama is flat and lifeless, more concerned with titillating its audience than illuminating its historical background.
++1/2 Sensual, historical, melodramatic.
Sex/Nudity: Sex and nudity are central to the plot - very graphic. Violence: Some sword fighting. Profanity Mild. Drugs: Fair amount of wine drinking. Other: For mature audiences only.
DARK CITY (R)
Director: Alex Proyas. With Rufus Sewell, William Hurt, Kiefer Sutherland, Jennifer Connelly, Richard O'Brien. (103 min.)
+++ A man finds himself accused of awful crimes he can't recall, struggles to regain his memory and solve the puzzle, and enters a conflict with aliens who can change reality with their thoughts. The story is dark and often violent, but it's told with a remarkable sense of visual energy and imagination.
++1/2 Surreal, action-packed, visually stylish.
Sex/Nudity: Some brief nudity. Violence: Murder victims shown, stabbings, gory decapitation scene. Profanity/Drugs: None.
THE GINGERBREAD MAN (R)
Director: Robert Altman. With Kenneth Branagh, Embeth Davitz, Robert Duvall, Daryl Hannah. (115 min.)
+++ A lawyer lands in dangerous trouble with an unhappy young woman, her eccentric father, and a cultlike group to which the old man belongs. Popular novelist John Grisham cooked up the story for Altman's engrossing thriller, which gains additional power from moody camera work and more atmospheric rainfall than any movie in ages.
++ Suspenseful, gloomy, obvious plot.
Sex/Nudity: One scene of frontal nudity; two bedroom scenes with one implied and the other fairly brief. Violence: About a dozen scenes including car theft, a shot to the neck, a flare gun through a man's back. Profanity: 40 vulgar words and phrases. Drugs: Frequent scenes involving alcohol and cigarettes.
HURRICANE STREETS (R)
Director: Morgan J. Freeman. With Brendan Sexton Jr., Shawn Elliot, Jos Ziga, David Roland Frank. (86 min.)
++1/2 Nicely shot film and touching story about tough-city kids on the fast track to becoming tough adults. The story is about a teenager whose mother is in prison for killing his abusive father, and his life of petty street crime. His "gang" of friends drifts toward harder crimes, but our hero dreams about becoming good. By Lynde McCormick
++1/2 Gritty, cohesive story, well-acted.
Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: Graphic scene of a man getting shot; fighting among teenagers. Profanity: Large amount of expletives. Drugs: Teenagers on drugs; several scenes take place in a bar.
KISSING A FOOL (R)
Director: Doug Ellin. With David Schwimmer, Jason Lee, Mili Avital. (94 min.)
++ Schwimmer, one of TV's favorite "Friends," plays a ladies' man who tests his fiance's loyalty by setting her up with his best pal. This airy romantic comedy is clumsily told through the reflections of a third party, but the charming characters make this one love triangle worth watching. By Mariah Gardner
+++ Lively dialogue, well-crafted, refreshing.
Sex/Nudity: Two bar scenes with bare-bottomed women; several seduction scenes. Violence: None. Profanity: Frequent (81) expletives. Drugs: Non-stop use of alcohol and cigarettes.
LOVE AND DEATH ON LONG ISLAND (PG-13)
Director: Richard Kwietniowski. With John Hurt, Jason Priestley, Fiona Loewi, Sheila Hancock. (93 min.)
++++ An aging widower strays into the wrong movie at a multiplex, becomes transfixed by the youthful charm of a third-rate actor (Jason Priestley) he sees, and makes a pilgrimage from London to Long Island, New York, in hope of meeting the object of his dreams. Hurt gives an astonishingly sensitive and funny performance as the bedazzled intellectual, and first-time filmmaker Kwietniowski unfolds the story with an unfailing blend of humor and compassion.
MEN WITH GUNS (HOMBRES ARMADOS) (R)
Director: John Sayles. With Federico Luppi, Damin Delgado, Tania Cruz, Mandy Patinkin. (128 min.)
+++ After years of training young doctors to help poverty-stricken rural families, an aging physician learns that many of his students have abandoned their posts or disappeared. He begins an arduous voyage into the interior, hoping to learn what's going on. This leisurely drama intelligently explores issues of social responsibility and political violence and earns extra praise for being an American movie that allows its Spanish-speaking characters to actually speak Spanish (with English subtitles).
MOON OVER BROADWAY (NOT RATED)
Directors: Chris Hegedus and D.A. Pennebaker. With Carol Burnett, Philip Bosco, Ken Ludwig, Tom Moore. (98 min.)
+++ Lively, funny documentary about a cast and crew bringing a musical comedy from the drawing board to the Broadway stage, with previews in Boston and plenty of suspense along the way. An entertaining eyeful from two of the finest nonfiction filmmakers around.
MRS. DALLOWAY (PG-13)
Director: Marleen Gorris. With Vanessa Redgrave, Rupert Graves, Michael Kitchen, Alan Cox. (97 min.)
+++ A few years after World War I, a well-heeled London woman prepares for a party she's giving, encounters a long-ago suitor who's returned from India, and hears of a tragedy affecting a shellshocked veteran whose image has been haunting her. Redgrave is almost too radiant as the title character of Virginia Woolf's virtuosically written novel.
+++1/2 Charming, engaging, insightful.
Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: Only implied - man commits suicide by jumping out of a window. Profanity: None. Drugs: Social drinking.
Director: Volker Schlondorff. With Woody Harrelson, Elisabeth Shue, Gina Gershon, Chloe Sevigny. (114 min.)
+++ Just out of jail on a trumped-up charge, a Florida reporter gets involved in a phony kidnapping cooked up by a millionaire's greedy wife. Harrelson hits just the right sardonic note in this self-mocking crime drama, but look out for grisly touches along the way.
++ Senseless, weak, missed its potential.
Sex/Nudity: No nudity, but scantily clad women and implied sex. Violence: 8 violent acts ranging in severity from a simple slap to murder. Profanity: 35 expletives. Drugs: Mild drinking.
THE REAL BLONDE (R)
Director: Tom DiCillo. With Matthew Modine, Catherine Keener, Daryl Hannah, Maxwell Caulfield, Elizabeth Berkley, Buck Henry, Marlo Thomas, Kathleen Turner, Christopher Lloyd. (105 min.)
++ An out-of-work actor, his long-suffering girlfriend, a model abused by her lover, and a gay headwaiter are among the many characters of this ambitious but poorly structured comedy-drama. The movie raises more interesting issues - often connected with the hazy lines between appearance and reality - than it's prepared to coherently explore.
Director: James Cameron. With Leonardo DiCaprio, Kate Winslet, Billy Zane, Bill Paxton, Kathy Bates. (197 min.)
+++ The great ship's legendary voyage, as recalled by an elderly woman who fell in love with a young scamp and rejected her pompous fianc in the hours before the awful iceberg struck. The first half drags a bit, but the adventure scenes are exciting and the visual effects are as dazzling as Hollywood's most advanced technology can make them.
++++ Awesome epic, riveting, tragic.
Sex/Nudity: Brief, fairly explicit sex. Nude woman sketched by artist. Violence: One suicide. Suffering, fighting as ship sinks; gunfire wounds two people. Profanity: Several dozen four-letter words. Drugs: Frequent scenes (27) of drinking and/or smoking.
Director: Robert Benton. With Paul Newman, Susan Sarandon, Gene Hackman, Stockard Channing, James Garner, Giancarlo Esposito, Liev Schreiber. (96 min.)
+++ An aging private eye investigates a long-ago murder case that may involve two of his longtime friends, including an ailing millionaire who has virtually taken him into his family. The vintage detective-movie plot takes on extra interest from Benton's visual style, tinged with sad nostalgia for the vanished past, and from superb acting by a uniformly excellent cast.
++1/2 Well-acted, engrossing, suspenseful.
Sex/Nudity: A bedroom after-sex scene. Violence: Several bloody murders using handguns. Profanity: Frequent use of profanity. Drugs: A half-dozen scenes involving cigarettes and alcohol.
Out on Video
(In stores March 17)
+++ Director: Guillermo del Toro. With Mira Sorvino, Jeremy Northam, Alexander Goodwin. (105 min.)
+ Ludicrous, dark, grotesque.
SHE'S SO LOVELY (R)
+++ Director: Nick Cassavetes. With Sean Penn, Robin Wright, Harry Dean Stanton, Debi Mazar. (100 min.)
+++ Dark, unusual, well-acted.
(In stores March 23)
I KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER (R)
Director: Jim Gillespie. With Jennifer Love Hewitt, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Ryan Phillippe, Anne Heche. (100 min.)
++ Suspenseful, scary, exhilarating.
A THOUSAND ACRES (R)
Director: Jocelyn Moorhouse. With Michelle Pfeiffer, Jessica Lange, Jennifer Jason Leigh. (105 min.)
+ Melodramatic, relentless, sad.