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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: Vincent Gallo. With Vincent Gallo, Christina Ricci, Anjelica Huston, Ben Gazzara, Rosanna Arquette, Mickey Rourke, Kevin Corrigan, Jan-Michael Vincent. (106 min.)

++ Affection slowly grows between a loutish ex-convict and a young woman he badgers into masquerading as his wife for the benefit of his uncaring parents. Gallo demonstrates an interesting visual style, especially in the movie's more dreamlike moments, but it would be more effective if he aimed the camera less frequently at himself and more often on Ricci's quietly magnetic performance.


Director: Ken Loach. With Robert Carlyle, Oyanka Cabezas, Scott Glenn. (127 min.)

++ A likable Scottish bus driver befriends a Nicaraguan immigrant and later accompanies her to her native country, where her brother has endured great pain and suffering for his political actions and beliefs. The story is marred by overstatement and emotionalism, but Loach's long-standing commitment to socially and politically alert filmmaking is clear in every scene.


Director: Victor Fleming. With Clark Gable, Vivien Leigh, Olivia de Havilland, Leslie Howard, Butterfly McQueen, Hattie McDaniel, Thomas Mitchell. (222 min.)

++++ Reissue of the 1939 classic about the troubled romance of a headstrong teenager and a handsome adventurer amid the turmoil of the Civil War and the end of an era in the land of gracious plantations, Southern hospitality, and unrepentant slavery. The 1998 rerelease brings back the movie's original height-to-width ratio and restores its Technicolor hues.


Director: Lisa Cholodenko. With Ally Sheedy, Radha Mitchell, Patricia Clarkson. (101 min.)

+++ A young magazine editor befriends a once-celebrated photographer and finds herself drawing perilously close to a New York demimonde of drugs and dissipation. Sensitive acting and imaginative filmmaking help rescue the movie from potential excesses of its own.

Sex/Nudity: Numerous scenes of lesbian kissing, 3 scenes involving sex. Violence: One reported suicide. Profanity: 45 obscenities, mostly harsh. Drugs: Numerous scenes with smoking, drinking, and heroin use.


Director: Antonio Tibaldi. With Ryan Phillippe, Nastassje Kinski, Jon Savage, Shirley Knight. (103 min.)

++ A young man tries to help his little brothers grow up in a wildly dysfunctional household dominated by their father, a disabled Vietnam veteran. The story is periodically overwhelmed by its own Southern gothic gumbo of physical and psychological ills, but there's a good deal of excellent acting on view, especially in secondary roles.


Director: Don Roos. With Christina Ricci, Martin Donovan, Lisa Kudrow, Lyle Lovett, Johnny Galecki, Ivan Sergei. (100 min.)

++ The emotional adventures of a teenage runaway, her middle-class gay brother, and an assorted group of friends, relations, and people they wish they'd never laid eyes on. Highly uneven but always energetic and sometimes very funny.


Director: Steven Soderbergh. With George Clooney, Jennifer Lopez, Michael Keaton, Samuel L. Jackson. (121 min.)

++ A tough-minded policewoman develops a weak spot for a longtime bank robber on the lam after a jailbreak. The screenplay serves up the quirky dialogue and ironic twists associated with author Elmore Leonard, who wrote the original novel, but much of the action seems more like warmed-over Quentin Tarantino than first-rate Steven Soderbergh.


Director: Chris Eyre. With Adam Beach, Evan Adams, Tantoo Cardinal, Gary Farmer, Irene Bedard. (89 min.)

++ Two young native Americans leave their economically and emotionally depressed reservation in search of heightened awareness regarding their personal and ethnic histories. The movie makes up in sincerity and goodwill what it lacks in originality and style.

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Director: Harry Elfont, Deborah Kaplan. With Jennifer Love Hewitt, Ethan Embry, Charlie Korsmo, Lauren Ambrose, Peter Facinelli, Seth Green, Jenna Elfman. (98 min.)

+ This formula teen flick has engaging performances and a few laughs as high school seniors sort out their lives at a graduation party-cum- binge. The filmmakers seem well in control of their chaotic material, but what can be said when the movie features wall-to-wall teenage alcohol abuse. It's not suitable for the teenage audience it targets. By M.K. Terrell

Sex/Nudity: Constant innuendo, one couple has sex. Violence: Some pushing and shoving. Profanity: 65 profanities, mostly mild. Drugs: Minors drink alcohol nonstop; some smoking.


Director: Des McAnuff. With Jessica Lange, Elisabeth Shue, Bob Hoskins, Hugh Laurie, Kelly MacDonald, Aden Young. (112 min.)

++ Rivalry, romance, and family intrigue in Paris of 1846. The movie is handsome, but there's little life to the dramatic scenes, and the comic bits are even flatter. Until now McAnuff has been a stage director, and his stagey approach makes this modern-day movie seem less edgy and contemporary than the great 19th-century novel by Honor de Balzac.


Director: Christopher Scott Cherot. With Chenoa Maxwell, Christopher Scott Cherot, Hill Harper. (92 min.)

++ Writer-director-star Cherot and a fresh, attractive African-American cast tell the true story of how he found love on his own surprisingly upright terms. The low budget and Cherot's too frequent asides to the camera undermine his good intentions. But it's encouraging to see a movie with such a positive message. By M.K. Terrell

Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: 2 scenes of punching. Profanity: 63 obscenities. Drugs: Some wine drinking.


Director: Hal Hartley. With Thomas Jay Ryan, James Urbaniak, Parker Posey, Maria Porter. (138 min.)

+++ An unsavory stranger drifts into the life of an unhappy young man, working on a "confession" he hopes to publish and encouraging his new friend to write a long poem that some find sublime but others find sick and disgusting. Hartley does his finest filmmaking to date in this stylized comedy-drama that suggests the best and worst in human nature may be vexingly intertwined with each other. Contains material about disturbing issues including sexual abuse of children.


Director: David Leland. With Catherine McCormack, Rachel Weisz, Anna Friel, Steven Mackintosh. (100 min.)

+++ Three young women seek love, fulfillment, and fun as transplanted farm workers doing their bit in the English countryside during a World War II labor shortage. The story is corny at times, but the movie has a richly romantic spirit to match its lively characters, witty performances, and bittersweet portrait of a bygone time.


Directors: Tony Bancroft, Barry Cook. With voices of Ming-Na Wen, Eddie Murphy, Harvey Fierstein, B.D. Wong, Pat Morita, Donny Osmond, Lea Salonga, George Takei. (85 min.)

+++ Helped by her "guardian dragon," a Chinese girl dresses as a man and joins the army to fight off a Hun invasion, fooling just about everyone into thinking she's as much a warrior as the other guys. This high-quality Disney animation combines strong pictorial appeal with amiable voice-performances. Fun for all.

+++1/2 Funny, appealing to all ages, exciting.

Sex/Nudity/Profanity/Drugs:: None. Violence: Some mild fight scenes, one character gets stabbed, implied violence.


Director: Ivan Reitman. With Harrison Ford, Anne Heche, David Schwimmer. (106 min.)

+ A lowbrow aviator and a Manhattan sophisticate crash-land on a tropical island where they trade wisecracks, dodge modern-day pirates, and fall battily in love. Reitman makes an earnest stab at old-fashioned romantic comedy, but unfortunately the dialogue isn't snappy, the story isn't surprising, there's little chemistry between the stars, and you can't help wondering whether people undergoing an ordeal like this would really think about sex every single minute.

+++ "Romancing the Stone" wannabe, lively, inventive.

Sex/Nudity: Sexual innuendo, one love scene implied. Violence: 6 instances of either hand-to-hand fighting or shooting, only one scene is conveyed in a serious manner. Profanity: 35 instances, mostly mild. Drugs: 11 scenes with liquor or cigarettes.


Director: Peter Weir. With Jim Carrey, Laura Linney, Ed Harris, Natasha McElhone, Noah Emmerich. (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.

+++ Original, bittersweet, clever.

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


Director: Rob Bowman. With David Duchovny, Gillian Anderson, Martin Landau, Blythe Danner. (105 min.)

+++ Investigating a terrorist bombing, FBI agents Mulder and Scully pursue answers to deeper questions about alien colonizers and governmental schemers; but it's not deep enough to place this action-adventure fantasy into the league of truly imaginative science-fiction classics like "2001: A Space Odyssey" or "Close Encounters of the Third Kind," which it occasionally recalls. Chris Carter wrote the screenplay, mining the same trove of ideas that underpins his hugely popular TV series.

+++ Well-crafted, brutal, some gaps in logic.

Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: About 10 scenes of brutal violence - maulings, explosions, and shootings. Multiple scenes involving unsavory aliens. Profanity: 10 profanities, mostly mild. Drugs: 1 scene of drinking, 4 scenes of smoking, and 1 drug injection.

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