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The 5th annual Mega Movie guide


David Sterritt Monitor panel Meaning

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**** **** Excellent

*** *** Good

** ** Fair

* * Poor

DUD DUD The Worst

Red stars denote the reviews of Monitor movie critic David Sterritt unless otherwise noted. Ratings and comments by the Monitor panel (blue stars) reflect the sometimes diverse views of at least three other moviegoers. Information on violence, drugs, sex/nudity, and profanity is compiled by the Monitor panel.

Motion picture Association of America ratings are as follows:

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G General Audiences: All ages admitted.

PG Parental Guidance: Some material may not be suitable for children.

PG-13 Parents Strongly Cautioned: Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.

R Restricted: Children under 17 require accompanying parent or adult guardian.

NC-17 No Children Under 17 Admitted: Age may vary in certain areas.


Mississippi Mermaid (Not rated) **** Director: Franois Truffaut. With Jean-Paul Belmondo, Catherine Deneuve, Nelly Borgeaud. (123 min.)

In 1969, this moody comedy-thriller seemed like a minor work by a major filmmaker. Seen a few decades later with missing minutes restored, it leaps from the screen as an exhilarating New Wave romp, spiced with an effervescent wit that balances its insightful glimpses into surprisingly dark corners of human nature.

The Mod Squad (R) * Director: Scott Silver. With Claire Danes, Giovanni Ribisi, Omar Epps, Michael Lerner, Dennis Farina. (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 or irony and intelligence.

Sex/Nudity: 3 sex scenes. Violence: 6 instances. Profanity: 43 expressions. Drugs: 5 scenes with cigarettes and/or alcohol.

Molly (PG-13) * Director: John Duigan. With Elisabeth Shue, Aaron Eckhart, Jill Hennessy, Lucy Liu, Thomas Jane. (91 min.)

A young man cares for his mentally challenged sister as she undergoes an experimental medical procedure that could increase her intelligence and allow her to live a normal life. Many moviegoers enjoyed the male version of this plot when "Charly" became a '60s hit; its '90s incarnation is shallow and sentimental.

A Moment of Innocence (Not rated) **** Director: Mohsen Makhmalbaf. With Mohsen Makhmalbaf, Ammar Tafti, Marjam Mohamadamini. (75 min.)

One of the most creative filmmakers in Iran tells the story of his effort to direct a film about a true event from his own past, when he physically attacked a political enemy who's now forgiven him and wants to star in the movie! Touching, funny, and totally original. In Farsi with English subtitles

The Monster (R) * Director: Roberto Benigni. With Roberto Benigni, Nicoletta Braschi, Michel Blanc. (111 min.)

Before he tried to make the Holocaust funny in "Life Is Beautiful," filmmaker-comedian Benigni tried to make sex crimes funny in this 1996 farce about a bumbling worker mistaken for a serial killer. It's full of his usual manic energy, but that's no match for the sheer bad taste of the picture.

Mumford (R) *** Director: Lawrence Kasdan. With Loren Dean, Hope Davis, Alfre Woodard, Ted Danson, Jason Lee. (111 min.)

The title character is a psychotherapist who helps his small-town neighbors cope with their problems while guarding a secret about his own checkered past. This good-natured comedy serves up plenty of laughs while suggesting that the best experts in human psychology are plain old humans, with or without fancy credentials and degrees. *** Quirky, unexpected, mostly genteel, good characters.

Sex/Nudity: 6 scenes total: 4 of them suggestive, the other two with nudity. Violence: Profanity: 34 expressions, many harsh. Drugs: 5 scenes with cigarettes, 5 with alcohol and/or drugs.

The Mummy (PG-13) ** Director: Stephen Sommers. With Brendan Fraser, Rachel Weisz, John Hannah, Arnold Vosloo. (125 min.)

High-tech remake of the 1932 horror classic about an ancient Egyptian schemer who launches an evil plot after 20th-century adventurers revive him. The movie is long, bombastic, and violent, but fantasy fans may enjoy its fast-moving energy, and some of the digitized effects are entertainingly hokey. **1/2 Imaginative, over the top, adventurous.

Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: 23 instances of gory gun battles and mummy fights. Profanity: 23 mild expressions. Drugs: 5 instances.

Muppets From Space (G) ** Director: Tim Hill. With Muppet performers and Ray Liotta, David Arquette, Andie MacDowell. (82 min.)

Gonzo always knew he was unique, and now he learns why: His family is from outer space, and a reunion is long overdue. Muppet fans will enjoy the antics of Miss Piggy and her friends, but others may find the action less sprightly and funny than it tries to be. *** Boisterous, nutty, good clean fun.

VSex/Nudity/Profanity:: None. Violence: 9 slapstick scenes, including electrocutions, a Miss Piggy karate fight, and the sound of a lawn mower hitting a cat. Drugs: 1 scene

The Muse (PG-13) *** Director: Albert Brooks. With Albert Brooks, Sharon Stone, Andie MacDowell, Jeff Bridges. (97 min.)

Afraid that his career is stalling in midstream, a Hollywood screenwriter seeks assistance from a woman who claims to be an ancient muse in a modern guise. Stone is superb, the movie-business cameo performances are very funny, and Brooks's sharp screenplay suggests he's found a muse of his own. *** 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.

Music of the Heart (PG) ** Director: Wes Craven. With Meryl Streep, Angela Bassett, Aidan Quinn, Cloris Leachman, Gloria Estefan. (120 min.)

A divorced musician decides to share the joys of classical music in an inner-city school. The story's can-do attitude and moments of soaring music make it a must-see for moviegoers seeking positive visions on the screen. It would convey its worthwhile themes more effectively, though, if it soft-pedaled its heartwarming sentiments and gave fuller attention to showing us exactly how the devoted teacher accomplishes her educational feats. *** Meryl Streep dazzles, musically stimulating, sweet, overly emotional.

Sex/Nudity: 1 mild instance of implied sex. Violence: 1 mild scene with kids tussling. Profanity: 9 expressions, mostly mild. Drugs: 2 scenes with alcohol; 1 man drinks on the job.

My Best Fiend - Klaus Kinski (Not rated) *** Director: Werner Herzog. With Klaus Kinski, Werner Herzog, Eva Mattes, Claudia Cardinale. (95 min.)

Herzog soft-pedals his cinematic ingenuity in this personal documentary about his love-hate relationship with Kinski, whose performances in Herzog classics like "Aguirre, the Wrath of God" and "Fitzcarraldo" helped both of them become towering figures on the international movie scene before Kinski's death. In English and German with English subtitles

My Dinner With Andr (Not rated) **** Director: Louis Malle. With Andr Gregory, Wallace Shawn. (110 min.)

Reissue of Malle's cleverly directed rendition of a long, entertaining conversation between director Gregory and playwright Shawn over a supper. Some claim the 1982 movie isn't cinematic enough to qualify for greatness, but think of it as a verbal jazz duet and you'll have a fine, freewheeling time.

My Favorite Martian (PG) * Director: Donald Petrie. With Jeff Daniels, Christopher Lloyd, Daryl Hannah, Wallace Shawn, Elizabeth Hurley. (93 min.)

A visitor from Mars becomes the unwanted houseguest of a TV producer with romantic problems. Daniels and Lloyd have strong comic talents, but they have little funny to say or do, and the filmmaking is a case of digitized effects driving out humor and imagination.

Unnecessary crudeness, cartoonish, obvious. *1/2 Sex/Nudity: 4 scenes of sexual innuendo. Violence: 6 slapstick scenes. Profanity: 6 expressions. Drugs: 3 scenes with cigarettes, 1 with wine.

My Life So Far (PG-13) ** Director: Hugh Hudson. With Colin Firth, Irne Jacob, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, Malcolm McDowell, Tchky Karyo, Rosemary Harris, Robert Norman. (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. ***1/2 Nostalgic, idyllic, charming.

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.

My Name Is Joe (Not rated) *** Director: Ken Loach. With Peter Mullan, Louise Goodall, Davie McKay. (105 min.)

A social worker starts a complex romantic relationship with a recovering alcoholic who's eager to start a constructive new life but apprehensive about the challenges he knows he'll face. Loach is one of the world's most deeply humanistic and politically alert filmmakers, and this expertly acted drama finds him close to his top form.

Sex/Nudity: 1 scene of implied sex. Violence: 6 scenes including beatings and one hanging. Profanity: More than 300 expressions. Drugs: 10 scenes with smoking, 3 with drinking; 1 scene with drugs.

My Son the Fanatic (R) *** Director: Udayan Prasad. With Om Puri, Rachel Griffiths, Stellan Skarsgrd, Akbar Kurtha, Gopi Desai. (86 min.)

The venturesome Hanif Kureishi wrote this colorful drama about a hard-working Pakistani immigrant who agonizes over his son's decision to become an Islamic fundamentalist instead of blending into their adopted English culture. The story loses momentum when it wanders into the father's friendships with a businessman and a prostitute, but overall it's intelligently written and appealingly acted.

Sex/Nudity: 2 scenes with nudity, 2 implied sex, 1 morning-after. Violence: 1 brief riot, 1 with a man being beaten. Profanity: 29 expressions. Drugs: 13 instances with drinking and/or smoking, 1 with drugs.

Mystery, Alaska (R) *** Director: Jay Roach. With Burt Reynolds, Hank Azaria, Russell Crowe, Mary McCormack, Colm Meaney. (118 min.)

Mystery, Alaska, population 633, lives for the Saturday game of hockey. When a former town member who's now a television producer returns offering to bring the New York Rangers to play a game against the local guys, lives are turned topsy-turvy. It's a sweet and gripping sports drama. By Katherine Dillin *** Sweet, solidly entertaining, formulaic.

Sex/Nudity: 5 scenes with sex or implied sex. Violence: 13 instances, mostly hockey related violence. Profanity: 67 expressions, mostly harsh. Drugs: 1 scene with alcohol.

Mystery Men (PG-13) *** Director: Kinka Usher. With Ben Stiller, Janeane Garofalo, William H. Macy, Paul Reubens, Geoffrey Rush. (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 gross-out humor. **1/2 Funny, comic bookish, grows on you.

Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: 8 scenes including fights and slapstick violence. Profanity: 4 very mild expressions. Drugs: 4 instances of alcohol and/or smoking.

Never Been Kissed (PG-13) ** Director: Raja Gosnell. With Drew Barrymore, Leelee Sobieski, David Arquette, Molly Shannon. (108 min.)

Colorful comedy about a 25-year-old journalist assigned to relive her senior year in high school as an undercover reporter getting the scoop on today's kids. Barrymore continues to grow as a comic actress, with solid support from Sobieski and Arquette, and the story has energy to spare. Much of the humor is youth-centered and some scenes trivialize sensitive sex-related issues. *** Crowd pleaser, hilarious, sweet.

Sex/Nudity: 4 instances of innuendo. Violence: None. Profanity: 9 expressions. Drugs: 3 scenes of smoking and drinking; main character eats a hash brownie.

New Rose Hotel (Not rated) ** Director: Abel Ferrara. With Willem Dafoe, Christopher Walken, Asia Argento, Annabella Sciorra. (93 min.)

Two criminals hire a prostitute to seduce and betray a Japanese electronics magnate. Quirky acting combines with Ferrara's dark, brooding style to give the throwaway story a noteworthy measure of dramatic and cinematic interest.

N (Not rated) ** Director: Robert Lepage. With Anne-Marie Cadieux, Alexis Martin, Marie Brassard, Richard Frechette. (83 min.)

A pregnant actress, a French-Canadian terrorist, a World's Fair in Japan, and a heady dose of theatricality are among the ingredients of this unconventional melodrama, which often seems self-consciously exotic when it's trying to be crisp, colorful, and creative.

North by Northwest (Not rated) **** Director: Alfred Hitchcock. With Cary Grant, Eva Marie Saint, James Mason, Martin Landau, Leo G. Carroll. (136 min.)

Reissue of the 1959 classic about a bewildered businessman on the run from cops and crooks who've mistaken him for a spy, a murderer, and a master of international intrigue. Not as deep as Hitchcock's greatest films, but nonstop fun from its Manhattan beginning to its Mt. Rushmore climax, spiced with Bernard Herrmann's exciting music, a superb supporting cast, and one of the most nuanced performances of Grant's great career.

Notting Hill (PG-13) *** Director: Roger Michell. With Julia Roberts, Hugh Grant, Hugh Bonneville, Rhys Ifans, Gina McKee. (124 min.)

A world-famous Hollywood star falls inexplicably in love with a bookstore owner in a modest London neighborhood. There's some very funny dialogue, but the picture falls apart when it tries to think real thoughts about celebrity, publicity, and the media. Worst weakness: too many love-conquers-all clichs. Strongest asset: Grant's dewy eyes and Roberts's voluptuous mouth are a romantic-comedy dream team. *** Charming, refreshing, good date flick.

Sex/Nudity: 1 morning-after scene. Violence: None. Profanity: 18 expressions. Drugs: 11 scenes with smoking and/or alcohol.

(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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