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The Monitor Movie Guide


Excellent ++++

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Good +++

Fair ++

Poor +

The Worst DUD

MICKEY BLUE EYES (PG-13) Director: Kelly Makin. With Hugh Grant, Jeanne Tripplehorn, James Caan, Burt Young, James Fox, Joe Viterelli. (102 min.) ++ A mild-mannered English art auctioneer falls in love with a respectable New York woman whose unrespectable relatives are Mafia mobsters, and it’s far from clear whether the romantic couple will be able to separate their lives from the family’s criminal activities. The good cast has fun with the comic material, but it’s too uneven and heavy-handed to be as memorable as the “Godfather” saga that inspired this spoof.

ON THE ROPES (Not rated) Directors: Nanette Burstein, Brett Morgen. With Tyrene Manson, George Walton, Noel Santiago. (94 min.) +++ Hard-hitting documentary about a Brooklyn boxing gym and three aspiring prizefighters who see the ring as a possible route out of the inner city. The movie is especially revealing and troubling in its portrait of a young woman whose promising sports career is threatened by a dauntingly hard personal life.

PERFECT BLUE (Not rated) Director: Satoshi Kon. With voices of Ruby Marlowe, Wendee Lee. (80 min.) ++ A young pop singer decides to become a serious actress, but her career turns in dark directions when a real-life stalker starts blurring the line between everyday reality and the unhappy character she plays in her TV series. This is a technically strong specimen of Japan’s popular “anime” animation style. At heart, though, it’s a fairly standard thriller with a few imaginative twists.

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CURRENTLY IN RELEASE AUTUMN TALE (PG) Director: Eric Rohmer. With Batrice Romand, Marie Rivire, Alain Libolt, Didier Sandre, Alexia Portal. (110 min.) ++++ Two friends decide to fix up a middle-aged widow with a new man but get distracted by romantic agendas of their own. A founding member of French film's revolutionary New Wave movement, Rohmer gives this bittersweet story a truly autumnal mood, tinged with the melancholy of lives that won't see spring again, yet as bracing as the energy of its refreshingly mature main characters. In French with English subtitles. Sex/Nudity: Mild innuendo. Violence: None. Profanity: None. Drugs: 4 scenes with alcohol.

BOWFINGER (PG-13) Director: Frank Oz. With Steve Martin, Eddie Murphy, Heather Graham, Robert Downey Jr. (90 min.) ++ An untalented filmmaker gets turned down by the superstar he wants for his new action fantasy, so he decides to film the celebrity on the sly, using hidden cameras. This comedy is a cross between “Ed Wood” and “EDtv,” although it gains its own personality from a subplot about the superstar’s unique blend of egomania and paranoia. It would be a better entertainment if it separated itself more convincingly from the bad-movie scene it wants to satirize. +++ Lighthearted, funny, clever. Sex/Nudity: Several instances of sexual innuendo. Violence: 2 scenes with gunfire. Profanity: 16 expressions. Drugs: 3 scenes with alcohol.

BROKEDOWN PALACE (PG-13) Director: Jonathan Kaplan. With Claire Danes, Kate Beckinsale, Bill Pullman, Jacqueline Kim. (100 min.) ++ During a brief vacation in Thailand, two young American women are arrested on a narcotics charge, and a money-minded attorney is the only person standing between them and decades in prison. Variations on this tale had a little more oomph in “Midnight Express” and the recent “Return to Paradise.” Kaplan keeps it moving at a reasonably good pace, but the dialogue and acting are often too corny for comfort. ++1/2 Thought-provoking, suspenseful, flat. Sex/Nudity: Mild nudity in prison shower. Violence: 1 scene with beating. Profanity: 28 expressions, many harsh. Drugs: 11 scenes with drinking, smoking, or drugs.

DICK (PG-13) Director: Andrew Fleming. With Kirsten Dunst, Michelle Williams, Dan Hedaya, Will Ferrell, Teri Garr. (110 min.) ++1/2 Released near the 25th anniversary of President Nixon’s resignation, “Dick” is a frolic through Watergate. Two teenage girls, more interested in boys than politics, become witlessly (oops, unwittingly) embroiled in the scandal. It’s at once hilarious and uncomfortable to make fun of the messy chapter in US history. But no need to take life that seriously. We learn all kinds of juicy stuff – the source of Nixon’s paranoia, the true reason for the missing minutes on the tapes, and Deep Throat’s identity ... maybe. The soundtrack is pretty groovy, too. By Katherine Dillin +++ Witty, political spoof, irreverent. Sex/Nudity: Some innuendo. Violence: 1 mild scene. Profanity: 23 instances, many harsh. Drugs: 4 scenes with drinking, 4 with marijuana-laced cookies.

ILLUMINATA (R) Director: John Turturro. With John Turturro, Susan Sarandon, Christopher Walken, Beverly D'Angelo. (111 min.) ++ An ambitious playwright, an actress he's infatuated with, a self-important critic, and an insecure star are among the many characters of this comedy-drama about a theater troupe peddling its cultural wares in New York a century ago. While the cast and material have promise, Turturro's uneven filmmaking is stronger on superficial energy than deep-seated resonance.

THE IRON GIANT (PG) Director: Brad Bird. With voices of Jennifer Aniston, Harry Connick Jr., Eli Marienthal, Cloris Leachman. (90 min.) +++ A huge robot drops from the sky into the woods near a little Maine village, and a nine-year-old boy becomes its only friend, protecting it from fear-driven officials who think anything they don't understand must come from a communist plot. This remarkably clever, often hilarious animation derives much of its humor from its satirical view of the 1950s, when the story takes place. There's nothing old-fashioned about its wonderfully vivid characters and nonviolent message, though.

LES BONNES FEMMES (Not rated) Director: Claude Chabrol. With Stphane Audran, Bernadette Lafont, Lucille Saint-Simon. (102 min.) +++ Revival of a 1960 drama that helped launch Chabrol as a key figure in France’s innovative New Wave movement, focusing on four young women who dream of escaping their dreary shop-clerk routines and finding more romantic, exciting lives. Not as memorable as Chabrol’s greatest movies, but definitely worth a visit by fans of European film and anyone curious about the New Wave’s huge influence on Hollywood cinema. Photographed by the great Henri Deca. In French with English subtitles.

A LITTLE BIT OF SOUL (R) Director: Peter Duncan. With Geoffrey Rush, Frances O'Connor, David Wenham, Heather Mitchell. (83 min.) ++ Two rival scientists carry their romantic and professional feud into the country home of a high government official, who could help their research if he weren't so caught up in some kind of weird, possibly devilish cult. This dark Australian comedy has much funny dialogue and many unexpected twists, but runs out of steam before it's over.

MYSTERY MEN (PG-13) Director: Kinka Usher. With Ben Stiller, Janeane Garofalo, William H. Macy, Geoffrey Rush, Greg Kinnear. (121 min.) +++ A superhero named Captain Amazing gets kidnapped by his archenemy, and the only people who can save him are a rag-tag group of amateur superheroes armed with nothing more exotic than shovels, bowling balls, and dinner-table cutlery. The movie will disappoint people expecting a genuine superhero epic or an over- the-top spoof, but those in the mood for an offbeat satire with a gifted cast will have a surprisingly good time. Contains comic-book violence and gross-out humor. ++1/2 Funny, comic bookish, grows on you. Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: 8 scenes with fights and slapstick violence. Profanity: 4 very mild expressions. Drugs: 4 instances of alcohol and/or smoking.

RUNAWAY BRIDE (PG) Director: Garry Marshall. With Julia Roberts, Richard Gere, Joan Cusack, Paul Dooley, Hector Elizondo. (110 min.) ++ A jaded journalist writes a column about a woman who’s ditched three bridegrooms at the altar, then visits her small Southern town to meet her and her latest hopeful fianc. The screenplay provides enough cute one-liners and love-struck speeches to give the comedy intermittent charm. Still, star-power is its main asset as it reunites Gere and Roberts with director Marshall for the first time since their “Pretty Woman” became a runaway hit. +++ Nice, light, predictable, fun. Sex/Nudity: Some mild sexual innuendo. Violence: 1 punch. Profanity: 8 mild expressions. Drugs: 10 scenes with alcohol.

THE SIXTH SENSE (PG-13) Director: M. Night Shyamalan. With Bruce Willis, Haley Joel Osment, Toni Colette, Olivia Williams. (107 min.) ++ A child psychologist treats an eight-year-old boy who has ghostly visions that can’t be explained away by the doctor's theories. The thriller's best and worst features all stem from a highly unusual plot structure that builds to a genuinely startling conclusion. Some viewers may feel the ending justifies the means used to achieve it, while others may reject the picture's leisurely pace and literal-minded depiction of supernatural events. In any case, it's always refreshing to find a late-’90s horror movie with fairly little on-screen violence and a minimum of special effects. ++1/2 Gloomy, surprising, a little stiff. Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: 9 scenes including bloody ghosts and a shooting. Profanity: 10 harsh or crude expressions. Drugs: 1 scene with wine.

THE THOMAS CROWN AFFAIR (R) Director: John McTiernan. With Pierce Brosnan, Rene Russo, Denis Leary, Faye Dunaway. (114 min.) +++ A suave art thief spars with a gorgeous insurance agent who uncovers his secrets while falling in love with him. An appealing cast, handsome camera work, and snappy music make this updated version of Norman Jewison's popular 1968 thriller an enjoyable if lightweight affair. +++ Intelligent caper, debonair, lively. Sex/Nudity: 5 scenes including 1 graphic sex scene. Violence: 1 mild scene. Profanity: 30 expressions, mostly mild. Drugs: 10 scenes with drinking, 1 with a cigar.

TWIN FALLS IDAHO (Not rated) Director: Michael Polish. With Michael Polish, Mark Polish, Michele Hicks. (105 min.) +++ The bittersweet story of 25-year-old conjoined twins, the woman who falls in love with one of them, and the challenges they face when they realize that the other twin is in uncertain health. Made by actual (not conjoined) twins, the emotionally powerful drama unfolds its distinctive tale through understated images that counteract any possibility of exploitation or sensationalism. +++1/2 Strikingly original love story, captivating, bizarre. Sex/Nudity: Some sexual innuendo. Violence: None. Profanity: 23 expressions, many harsh. Drugs: 1 bar scene.

THE WOOD (R) Directed by Rick Famuyiwa. With Omar Epps, Taye Diggs, Richard T. Jones. (106 min.) ++1/2 Debut feature of twentysomething director Rick Famuyiwa, who draws on his growing-up experiences in the Wood – Inglewood, Calif., a predominantly African- American community near L.A. As two buddies try to get a runaway bridegroom to his wedding, the three of them recall how they became friends. Some viewers may be put off by a preoccupation with sex in some segments and the street talk, but it’s really about friendship and commitment. By M. K. Terrell ++ Nostalgic, amusing, sometimes compassionate, long. Sex/Nudity: 2 scenes including an explicit teenage sex scene; mild innuendo. Violence: 4 scenes including a fist fight and a robbery. Profanity: 217 expressions, many harsh. Drugs: 1 scene with marijuana, one with champagne. ‘brokedown palace’: Kate Beckinsale


Coming Soon ... (In stores Aug. 24)

GO (R) Director: Doug Liman. With Sarah Polley, William Fichtner, Desmond Askew, Katie Holmes. (100 min.) ++ Three interrelated stories about a teenage checkout clerk who gets involved in a drug scam, two men on the run from outraged enemies, and a cop who may be pushing a sinister scheme. Although some of the acting is strong, the atmosphere is relentlessly sleazy.

THE MOD SQUAD (R) Director: Scott Silver. With Claire Danes, Giovanni Ribisi, Omar Epps, Michael Lerner. (94 min.) + Uninspired spinoff from the TV series of 30 years ago, centering on three young delinquents helping the police solve a case involving drugs and corrupt cops. Everyone works hard, but the results are sadly short of style and personality.

(In stores Aug. 31)

OFFICE SPACE (R) Director: Mike Judge. With Ron Livingston, Jennifer Aniston, Gary Cole, Ajay Naidu. (89 min.) +++ Fed up with his dehumanizing job, a software engineer bands together with some downsized friends to rip off his company. The creator of “Beavis and Butt- head” has made a laid-back, even subtle comedy that favors mischievous ironies over outlandish jokes. +++ Irreverent, clever, entertaining.

200 CIGARETTES (R) Director: Risa Bramon Garcia. With Ben Affleck, Casey Affleck, Janeane Garofalo, Jay Mohr. (96 min.) + A cast of oddball New Yorkers celebrate New Year’s Eve 1981 by complaining about how much their lives stink. The film should have been packaged with a Surgeon General’s Warning – “ ‘Cigarettes’ is bad for you.” By John Christian Hoyle u1/2 Silly, plotless, slow.

(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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