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The Monitor Movie Guide


Excellent ++++

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Good +++

Fair ++

Poor +

The Worst DUD

NEW RELEASES LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL (PG-13) Director: Roberto Benigni. With Roberto Benigni, Nicoletta Braschi, Giorgio Cantarini, Horst Buchholz, Marisa Taredes. (114 min.) + Reissued with dubbed dialogue after its first release with subtitles, this popular Italian comedy focuses on a Jewish man who woos and wins the woman of his dreams, then gets incarcerated in a Nazi death camp, where he decides to protect his little boy by pretending that the horrors around them are a big, harmless game. The movie is a sadly nave tribute to the powers of self- delusion and denial, building its occasionally amusing story on an inexcusably watered-down view of the Holocausts radically evil nature. ++++ (Italian version) Exceptional, well-crafted, uplifting. Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: Some slapstick. Profanity: Mild. Drugs: Smoking and drinking.

THE MUSE (PG-13) Director: Albert Brooks. With Albert Brooks, Sharon Stone, Andie MacDowell, Jeff Bridges, Mark Feuerstein, Steven Wright, Bradley Whitford, James Cameron, Wolfgang Puck (97 min.) +++ Albert Brooks plays a screenwriter whos lost his edge. An industry colleague (Jeff Bridges) lets him into a Hollywood secret many writers have revived their careers by hiring a muse. The wacky plot begins to unfold with its generous mix of dry and laugh-out-loud humor. A vivacious performance by Sharon Stone as the Muse and wonderful cameos by big-name directors, including roaringly funny Martin Scorsese, highlight this sometimes unpolished movie. By todays standards, its so clean a film, you could bring your grandmother. By Katherine Dillin +++ Entertaining, intelligent comedy, uneven. Sex/Nudity: 1 brief instance of nudity, some innuendo. Violence: None. Profanity: 11 expressions, some harsh. Drugs: 9 scenes with alcohol.

THE SOURCE (NOT RATED) Director: Chuck Workman. With Johnny Depp, Dennis Hopper, John Turturro, and figures associated with the Beat Generation. (90 min.) +++ The rebels, radicals, and rapscallions of the Beat Generation renew their howls of antiauthoritarian protest in this wide-ranging documentary. The film traces the Beat scene from its origins in the war-torn 1940s to its influence on the hippie movement and its traces in todays sociocultural scene. Contains fascinating material, but lacks the freshness it could have gained by plugging into the Beats improvisational spirit instead of hewing to conventional filmmaking styles.

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THE WOUNDS (NOT RATED) Director: Srdjan Drogojevic. With Predrag Miki Manojlovic, Dragan Bjelogrlic, Nikola Katic. (103 min.) ++ This harrowing drama uses a cynical TV talk show and the criminal careers of two drugged-up teenagers as metaphors for the disarray of everyday life in current Serbian society. The film has few specific messages about politics in former Yugoslavia, but its portrait of personal and cultural chaos is sadly illuminating. In Serbo-Croatian with English subtitles Sex/Nudity: 8 instances of sex or nudity including teen sex with an adult; innuendo. Violence: 21 sometimes graphic scenes, including numerous shootings and a suicide. Profanity: 152 expressions, most harsh. Drugs: 5 scenes with drugs, 18 with smoking, drinking, or both.

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. +++ 1/2 Nuanced, gentle, charming, too serious. 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. A cross between Ed Wood and EDtv, the comedy gains its own personality from a subplot about the superstars 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 Nixons resignation, Dick is a frolic through Watergate. Two teenage girls, more interested in boys than politics, become witlessly (oops, unwittingly) embroiled in the scandal. Its 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 Nixons paranoia, the true reason for the missing minutes on the tapes, and Deep Throats 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. Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: 8 scenes including an atomic blast and a battle sequence. Profanity: 6 mild expressions. Drugs: 2 scenes with pipe smoking.

MICKEY BLUE EYES (PG-13) Director: Kelly Makin. With Hugh Grant, Jeanne Tripplehorn, James Caan, Burt Young, James Fox. (102 min.) ++ A mild-mannered English art auctioneer falls in love with a respectable New York woman whose unrespectable relatives are Mafia mobsters, and its far from clear whether the romantic couple will be able to separate their lives from the familys criminal activities. The good cast has fun with the comic material, but its too uneven and heavy-handed to be as memorable as the Godfather saga that inspired this spoof. ++1/2 Stale, unbelievable, not very romantic. Sex/Nudity: Some mild innuendo. Violence: 7 scenes including a gunfight. Profanity: 20 expressions, mostly mild. Drugs: 6 scenes with drinking, smoking, or both.

MY LIFE SO FAR (PG-13) Director: Hugh Hudson. With Colin Firth, Irene Jacob, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, Malcolm McDowell, Tcheky Karyo, Rosemary Harris, Robert Norman, Kelly MacDonald. (93 min.) ++ The adventures of a 10-year-old boy growing up on a peaceful Scottish estate surrounded by a not-so-peaceful family, including a matriarchal grandmother, a headstrong uncle, and a father who's half genius and half screwball. The story falls into many familiar formulas, but solid performances keep it reasonably entertaining. Sex/Nudity: 1 scene of implied sex; several instances of mild innuendo. Violence: 2 mild scenes with scuffles. Profanity: 7 expressions, mostly mild. Drugs: 5 scenes with smoking, 2 with alcohol, 2 with both.

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 ragtag 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.

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 cant 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.

OUT ON VIDEO FRIENDS & LOVERS (NOT RATED) Director: George Haas. With Robert Downey Jr., Claudia Schiffer, Stephen Baldwin. (98 min.) + A close-knit group of young adults goes to Utah for skiing, romantic adventures, and an emotional encounter with one mans neglectful father. The screenplay is an uneasy mixture of sex comedy and family drama; at least Downey shows up periodically to show how awful dialogue can almost work if enough propulsive energy is thrown into it.

PLAYING BY HEART (R) Director: Willard Carroll. With Gillian Anderson, Gena Rowlands, Sean Connery. (121 min.) u1/2 Four couples made up of such big names as Sean Connery, Gena Rowlands, Madeleine Stowe, and Anthony Edwards must resolve their tortured relationships by coming to terms with death, disease, and emotional barriers. Hardly fun and games. By Katherine Dillin u1/2 Unenjoyable, miserable. Sex/Nudity: 7 scenes of implied sex and adultery. Violence: 2 mild instances. Profanity: 41 expressions, mostly harsh. Drugs: 23 scenes with drinking, mostly at bars.

COMING SOON ... (In stores Aug. 31)

IDLE HANDS (R) Directed by Rodman Flender. With Seth Green, Devon Sawa, Elden Henson, Vivica A. Fox. (92 min.) + Anton is a good-for-nothing, pot-smoking high schooler whose life ambition is to watch loads of TV. That soon changes, however, when his right hand gets possessed by a demonic spirit that uncontrollably kills most of his friends. Theres scads of blood and gore, but the story is a lowbrow comedy disguised as a teen-horror film. By John Christian Hoyle Sex/Nudity: 9 instances. Violence: 17 instances, mostly graphic. Profanity: 62 expressions. Drugs: 7 instances of pot smoking and/or drinking.

(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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