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The Monitor Movie Guide

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.

++++ Excellent

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+++1/2 Very Good

+++ Good

++ 1/2 Average

++ Fair

+1/2 Poor

+ Worst

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Director: Thomas Mazziotti. With Austin Pendleton, Ken Garito, Tovah Feldshuh, Anita Gillette. (85 min.)

++ Dark comedy about a youthful hit man who spars with his girlfriend, his mother, and above all his partner, an older assassin who can't understand what's the matter with kids today. Mazziotti's screenplay leans toward the glib side, but Pendleton is always fun to watch.


Director: Benot Jacquot. With Judith Godrche, Marcel Bozonnet, Yvan Desny. (78 min.)

++++ Disillusioned by the insensitivity of her self-centered boyfriend and her jaded mother, a teenager has interactions with three very different men, each posing a different moral or psychological challenge. Godrche's understated acting and Jacquot's precise, expressive filmmaking give exceptional appeal to this elliptical French drama.


Director: Noah Baumbach. With Eric Stoltz, Annabella Sciorra, Chris Eigeman, Marianne Jean-Baptiste, Peter Bogdanovich, Bridget Fonda. (105 min.)

+++ Comedy about a man who frets so much about his girlfriend's past that his jealousy takes on an irksome life of its own. The cast is appealing and much of the action is wryly amusing, although Baumbach borrows so many moves from Woody Allen and Franois Truffaut that their names should be in the credits.


Director: Andrew Davis. With Michael Douglas, Gwyneth Paltrow, Viggo Mortensen, David Suchet. (105 min.)

+++ Twists and turns multiply like mad after a greedy husband decides to kill his wife and hires her deceitful lover to do the job. Inspired by the minor classic "Dial 'M' for Murder," the picture has more than its share of logical gaffes, but there's an amiable hint of old-Hollywood nostalgia in its glossy look and camera-friendly acting. Suspenseful fun if you can handle the occasional violent bits.


Director: Peter Weir. With Jim Carrey, Laura Linney, Ed Harris, Natasha McElhone, Noah Emmerich, Holland Taylor. (107 min.)

++++ Smart, funny, thought-provoking comedy about a painfully ordinary man who gradually learns he's the unwitting star of a real-life TV show. Weir's offbeat directing makes the most of Andrew Niccol's inventive screenplay, which includes large doses of surprisingly sardonic satire aimed at today's entertainment trends. But the biggest inspiration is having the hero played by Carrey, whose screen image is already so artificial and movie-ish that it makes the story seem doubly uncanny.

Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: 1 simulated drowning. Profanity: 11 obscenities, mostly mild. Drugs: 15 scenes where alcohol is present, though usually not being consumed.

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Director: Christopher Guest. With Chris Farley, Matthew Perry, Eugene Levy, Kevin Dunn, David Packer. (102 min.)

++ A week after Lewis and Clark begin their exploration of the Northwest, a rival team (Farley and Perry) sets out to beat them to the Pacific. The film is inoffensive and friendly, there's a marvelously choreographed brawl near the end and the scenery and faux Elmer Bernstein score are lovely. You just wish it was half as funny as it tries to be. By M.K. Terrell

Sex/Nudity: Backside nudity in a bathing scene and some sexual innuendo. Violence: A sword fight, a major brawl, and 4 additional scenes of slapstick violence. Profanity: 22 vulgarities. Drugs: 2 instances of drinking to excess played for laughs.


Director: Warren Beatty. With Warren Beatty, Halle Berry, Oliver Platt, Don Cheadle, Jack Warden, Isaiah Washington, Paul Sorvino. (100 min.)

++ Driven literally nuts by the repetitious drudgery of campaigning, a senator starts speaking his real, irreverent thoughts about class, race, and other sore points of American life. Beatty's political satire is wildly uneven, but a few episodes are witty and trenchant enough to make the broad, hyperactive scenes worth sitting through. Contains a good deal of deliberately offensive language.

++ Ridiculous, liberal, refreshing.

Sex/Nudity: Sexual innuendo, 1 instance of sex. Violence: 4 instances - none graphic. Profanity: 168 mostly vile vulgarities. Drugs: 23 scenes featuring liquor, cigarettes, marijuana, or cocaine.


Director: Mimi Leder. With Robert Duvall, Ta Leoni, Elijah Wood, Vanessa Redgrave, Morgan Freeman. (123 min.)

++ An enormous comet hurtles toward a collision with Earth, and Americans scramble to preserve their way of life by either diverting it from its course or squirreling away a random sample of the population in giant caves where they'll wait out the disastrous effects of the crash. Some scenes are preachy or predictable, but overall this is a worthy addition to a trusty genre that includes such minor classics as "When Worlds Collide."

+++ Moving, hopeful, spectacular.

Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: One explosion, a kidnapping, and natural disasters. Profanity: 34 obscenities - mostly mild. Drugs: 9 scenes of drinking.


Director: Terry Gilliam. With Johnny Depp, Benicio Del Toro, Ellen Barkin, Cameron Diaz, Penn Jillette. (118 min.)

++ Hyperactive screen version of Hunter S. Thompson's deadpan book about a journalist and an attorney peering through a drug-induced haze at the era of Watergate and the Vietnam War. Gilliam's visual style has never been more energetic or inventive, and nobody could be attracted to dope after this portrait of drug abuse as a hallucinatory quagmire. But many will be grossed out beyond endurance by the picture's nonstop barrage of explosive excesses.

++ Dark, depraved, out of control.

Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: Some pushing, one man waves a gun, another has a knife; nothing graphic. Profanity: More than 100 vulgarities from mild to harsh. Drugs: More than 100 instances - the entire movie revolves around drug and alcohol use.


Director: Roland Emmerich. With Matthew Broderick, Maria Pitillo, Jean Reno, Hank Azaria, Michael Lerner. (126 min.)

+ Giant lizard terrorizes city. Some of the special effects are impressive, but such enthusiasm for spectacular destruction could only be whipped up by filmmakers who hold the human values of their audience in very low regard.

++ Inane, teen-pleaser, overhyped.

Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: Godzilla and family destroy New York amid military assaults, bombings, and several gobbled people. Profanity: 41 obscenities, mostly mild. Drugs: 3 scenes with cigarettes, 1 with liquor.


Director: Thom Fitzgerald. With Chris Leavins, Kerry Fox, Sarah Polley. (91 min.)

+++ Unpredictable, sometimes dreamlike drama about a young gay man visiting his family and remembering his years as a shy, ungainly child. Good acting and a surprising story raise this offbeat tale a cut above the average.


Director: Spike Lee. With Denzel Washington, Ray Allen, John Turturro, Lonette McKee, Ned Beatty. (128 min.)

+++ A father is offered early release from prison if he can persuade his son, a gifted basketball player, to attend the local college instead of signing with one of the high-powered institutions that are tempting him with offers of money, sex, and sin. Combining elements of family drama, religious fable, and sports adventure, Lee's flawed but fascinating movie is sometimes brilliant and never dull. Contains brief but explicit sex and drug abuse.

+++ Powerful, lurid, ambitious.

Sex/Nudity: 8 sexual situations - some extremely graphic; brief nudity. Violence: 7 instances of violence, one involving an accidental murder. Profanity:: 102 vulgarities; often harsh and generally crude dialogue. Drugs: 5 instances of drinking, one scene with a drunk man.


Director: Forest Whitaker. With Sandra Bullock, Gena Rowlands, Mae Whitman, Harry Connick, Jr. (112 min.)

++ Jilted by her husband, a young mother takes her little girl from Chicago to the Texas town where she grew up, hoping to rediscover the happiness she had as a prom queen in bygone years. The story is slow and corny, but Whitaker gives commendable dignity to his everyday characters, and the acting is emotionally strong as long as the male romantic interest (Connick) isn't around.

+++ Genuine, touching, well-acted.

Sex/Nudity/Violence: None. Profanity: One mild profanity. Drugs: Some beer drinking, one drunk character.


Director: Robert Redford. With Robert Redford, Kristin Scott Thomas, Scarlett Johansson, Dianne Wiest, Sam Neill. (164 min.)

++ A sensitive cowboy helps a girl, her mother, and her horse overcome the psychological effects of a terrible riding accident. Redford the director makes sure that Redford the actor is favored by as many adoring close-ups as possible, and even his fans may find this too much of a good thing. But solid acting and gorgeous Montana landscapes lend class to what might have been a garden-variety soap opera.

+++1/2 Stunning scenery, touching, uplifting.

Sex/Nudity: One very sensual dance scene. Violence: 2 scenes: an extremely graphic riding accident and an episode with a crazed horse. Profanity: 11 instances, mostly mild. Drugs: 3 scenes with alcohol.


Director: Erik Skjoldbjaerg. With Stellan Skarsgard, Sverre Anker Ousdal, Maria Bonnevie. (92 min.)

++ A little girl's death touches off a murder investigation with many unexpected twists in this inventive Danish thriller. Skarsgard, best known for "Breaking the Waves," heads a capable cast.


Director: Whit Stillman. With Chle Sevigny, Kate Beckinsale, Chris Eigeman, Matt Keeslar, Mackenzie Astin, Robert Sean Leonard, Jennifer Beals, David Thornton, Matthew Ross, Tara Subkoff, Jaid Barrymore. (112 min.)

++++ The time is the early 1980s, and the main characters are several young adults who dimly suspect they may not be as smart, hip, and permanently privileged as their pampered upbringings led them to expect. Stillman brings his usual sharp wit to this exploration of upper-middle-class angst, completing the comic trilogy he began with "Metropolitan" and "Barcelona." Contains material related to drugs and sex.

+++ Witty, stylish, original.

Sex/Nudity: A few scenes of nude dancers, implied sex. Violence: 1 brief scene of physical violence. Profanity: Minimal. Drugs: Many scenes of social drinking in a nightclub.


Director: John Duigan. With Sam Rockwell, Mischa Barton, Kathleen Quinlan, Christopher McDonald. (100 min.)

++ Neighbors leap to fearful conclusions when a young worker strikes up an unexpected friendship with a 10-year-old girl in a class-conscious Southern suburb. Capably acted and directed, although less imaginative than its unconventional main characters might lead one to expect.

Sex/Nudity: 7 scenes - from nudity to sexual innuendo. Violence: 2 scenes of fighting and 1 scene involving the audible violent death of a dog. Profanity: 21 profanities. Drugs: A few scenes of beer drinking.


Director: Frederik Du Chau. With voices of Pierce Brosnan, Gabriel Byrne, Cary Elwes, John Gielgud, Eric Idle, Gary Oldman, Bronson Pinchot, Don Rickles, Jane Seymour. (90 min.)

+++ A feisty girl and her blind companion embark on a quest to rescue King Arthur's legendary sword from a nasty villain. The tale is full of songs and action; still, it would be more exciting if the Warner Bros. animators came up with new storytelling ideas instead of relying on time-tested Disney formulas.

+++ Festive, fast-paced, predictable.

Sex/Nudity: One reference to French kissing. Violence: Swordplay and fighting. Profanity/VDrugs: None.


Director: David Mamet. With Campbell Scott, Steve Martin, Rebecca Pidgeon, Ben Gazzara, Ricky Jay. (112 min.)

++++ Ingenious thriller about a young inventor who seeks help from an unpredictable new acquaintance when he suspects his company may be pushing him out of the profits from a high-tech formula he's developed. Witty performances and stylized dialogue give Mamet's edgy gamesmanship a sly, refreshing touch.

+++1/2 Intriguing, suspenseful, surprising twists.

Sex/Nudity: Some mild innuendo. Violence: A bloody murder scene, a threat with a gun. Profanity: 3 very mild expressions. Drugs: Smoking and social drinking.

Out On Video

(In stores June 9)



Director: Wes Craven. With David Arquette, Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox, Jada Pinkett. (122 min.)

++ It's the same plot, but a different murderer in the second "Scream" chapter. If you love getting scared, then you'll enjoy this thrill ride.

++ Frightening, exhilarating, clever.

Coming June 16:


(Action Adventure)

Director: Gregory Hoblit. With Denzel Washington, John Goodman, Donald Sutherland. (124 min.)

++ A detective battles a fallen angel who commits awful crimes while inhabiting the bodies of ordinary people. An energetic but uneven thriller.

++ Too slow, gloomy, morbid.



Director: Bob Spiers. With the Spice Girls, Richard E. Grant, George Wendt, Roger Moore. (93 min.)

+ A few fictionalized days in the happy-hectic lives of a British singing group. The filmmakers aim for a spoofy tone but fall short.

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