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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.


Pusher (Not rated) *** Director: Nicolas Winding Refn. With Kim Bodnia, Laura Drasbaek, Zlatko Buric, Slavko Labovic. (105 min.)

The life and times of a Danish drug dealer in trouble with dangerous colleagues. The action is horrific at times, but it adds up to a vigorous message about the hazards of a criminal life. In Danish, with subtitles

Pushing Tin (R) ** Director: Mike Newell. With John Cusack, Billy Bob Thornton, Cate Blanchett. (120 min.)

Romance and rivalry among a group of air-traffic controllers, portrayed as suburban roughnecks with a penchant for rowdy behavior. The movie bids for novelty by focusing on a profession that Hollywood rarely notices, but there's nothing fresh about the smart-alecky characters or love-triangle plot. Such an appealing cast deserves more appealing material. ** Tense, stretches credibility, mildly entertaining, pointless.

Sex/Nudity: 2 scenes of implied sex including some brief partial nudity in one of the scenes; some innuendo. Violence: 3 scenes including a scuffle. Profanity: 42 expressions. Drugs: 10 scenes involving alcohol, smoking, or both.

The Rage: Carrie 2 (R) * Director: Katt Shea. With Emily Bergl, Jason London, Dylan Bruno, Amy Irving, Rachel Blanchard. (104 min.)

Rachel is a fragile and unpopular high schooler who possesses the ability to move things with her mind. As a web of deceit is being spun to humiliate her at a party, she unleashes a rage more horrifying than Carrie 1 did at her prom. Flashbacks of the original Carrie are the only worthwhile portions of this abysmal movie. By John Christian Hoyle

Random Hearts (R) ** Director: Sydney Pollack. With Harrison Ford, Kristin Scott Thomas, Charles Dutton, Bonnie Hunt. (133 min.)

A policeman and a congresswoman are brought together in the aftermath of a plane crash by the discovery that their deceased spouses were having an affair. The shock of the accident is well-observed, but the burgeoning love affair between the lead characters is awkward. Their partners' infidelity isn't explained, while a contrived thriller subplot seems to have wandered in from another movie. As clumsy as its title. By Stephen Humphries **1/2 Stagnant, romantic, one-dimensional.

Sex/Nudity: 1 scene of implied sex. Violence: 4 scenes with fairly graphic violence. Profanity: 13 instances, mostly mild. Drugs: 12 scenes with alcohol.

Ravenous (R) ** Director: Antonia Bird. With Robert Carlyle, Guy Pearce, Jeffrey Jones, David Arquette, Jeremy Davies. (105 min.)

A horror movie disguised as a western, with cannibals stalking victims in the mountainous terrain of the American frontier. Most of the picture's ideas are drawn from the old vampire-film tradition; viewers with no tolerance for grisly violence should stay far away from it, but Bird's keen visual imagination keeps the action grimly watchable.

The Red Dwarf (Not rated) ** Director: Yvan Le Moine. With Jean-Yves Thual, Anita Ekberg, Arno Chevrier, Dyna Gauzy. (102 min.)

Feeling himself a perpetual outsider because of his small stature and moody temperament, a law-office assistant strikes up emotionally charged relationships with an aging opera singer and a young circus performer. Thual's sensitive acting and Le Moine's imaginative directing don't quite manage to steer this Belgian melodrama around pitfalls of sentimentality and sensationalism. In French with English subtitles

The Red Violin (Not rated) *** Director: Franois Girard. With Samuel L. Jackson, Greta Scacchi, Don McKellar, Jason Flemyng. (130 min.)

This omnibus-style film traces the fictional history of a superbly crafted violin, and the mystery attached to it, as it passes from 17th-century Italy to China during the Cultural Revolution, with stops in Austria and England along the way. Girard invests each episode of this production with dramatic credibility and emotional strength. In four languages, with English subtitles when appropriate. *** Lushly scored, unusual, leisurely paced, rewarding, haunting.

Sex/Nudity: 3 instances of nudity, 1 explicit sex scene, innuendo. Violence: 1 mild scene. Profanity: 6 expressions. Drugs: 2 scenes with smoking, 1 with opium.

Regret to Inform (Not rated) *** Director: Barbara Sonneborn. With Barbara Sonneborn, Xuan Ngoc Evans. (72 min.)

Documentary about women who lost their husbands in the Vietnam War, including the filmmaker herself. The movie gains depth and breadth by including interviews with women from North and South Vietnam as well as the United States, although its brief running time limits the thoroughness of its exploration.

Return With Honor (Not rated) *** Directors: Freida Lee Mock, Terry Sanders. With Everett Alvarez, John McCain. (102 min.)

Gripping, touching, sometimes warmly humorous documentary about American fliers shot down during the Vietnam war and held as prisoners under conditions that were often too horrifying to be imagined. A lovingly filmed tribute to human resilience.

Ride With the Devil (R) *** Director: Ang Lee. With Tobey Maguire, Jeffrey Wright, Jewel, Skeet Ulrich. (138 min.)

The adventures of several young men fighting the Civil War as irregular soldiers. The movie is longer and slower than necessary, but it explores interesting questions of wartime violence, personal integrity, and what it means to come of age in a society ripping apart at the seams. Wright stands out as an African-American man riding with defenders of the Confederacy out of loyalty to a humane slaveholder.

Romance (Not rated) ** Director: Catherine Breillat. With Caroline Ducey, Franois Berland, Sagamore Stvenin. (93 min.)

The main character of this French drama is a young woman who has far more interest in sex than her celibate boyfriend does. More cautionary than titillating. Contains extremely graphic sexual activity, some of it deliberately disturbing. In French with English subtitles

The Rook (Not rated) *** Director: Eran Palatnik. With Martin Donovan, John A. MacKay, Michael Finesilver. (84 min.)

At an unspecified time in the future, when humanity appears to have taken more backward steps than forward ones, a detective investigates the murder of a woman who may have been involved in a subversive plot. The story is murky at times, but the picture's highly original screenplay and visual design make it distinctive and absorbing.

Rosetta (R) *** Directors: Luc and Jean-Pierre Dardenne. With Emilie Dequenne, Anne Yearnaux, Olivier Gourmet. (95 min.)

Assailed by poverty and unemployment, a Belgian teenager makes a series of desperate efforts to get a regular job, hoping for a normal life. This hard-edged drama has less urgency than "La Promesse," the brilliant 1996 feature by the Dardenne brothers, but it carries a strong emotional charge along with its valuable reminder of the suffering that youngsters may undergo when a heedless society overlooks their needs. In French with English subtitles

Sex/Nudity: 1 mild instance implied sex. Violence: 8 mild scenes, mostly scuffles. Profanity: 9 expressions, mostly harsh. Drugs: 6 scenes with alcohol.

Rosie (R) *** Director: Patrice Toye. With Aranka Coppens, Joost Wijnant, Sara de Roo, Dirk Roofthooft, Frank Vercruyssen. (93 min.)

The title character is a 13-year-old girl whose 27-year-old mother is trying to raise her right, but keeps running into emotional and psychological problems. Sensitive acting and skillful directing make the drama quietly touching despite some harrowing moments. In Flemish with English subtitles.

Run Lola Run (R) **** Director: Tom Tykwer. With Franka Potente, Moritz Bleibtreu, Nina Petri, Herbert Knaup, Armin Rohde. (81 min.)

Amazingly creative filmmaking propels this anything-goes tale of a young woman who has just 20 minutes to save her boyfriend's life by raising a huge amount of cash. Tykwer's style gives the movie an explosive energy that never quits, marking him as the most ingenious new talent to hail from Germany in ages. Contains violent action. In German with English subtitles **** Nonstop, full of surprises, fun, philosophical.

Sex/Nudity: 1 very brief scene. Violence: 9 scenes with gunshots, mugging, car crashes followed by threats of violence. Profanity: 18 harsh expressions. Drugs: 1 drug deal, 2 scenes with smoking, 4 with drinking.

Runaway Bride (PG) ** Director: Garry Marshall. With Julia Roberts, Richard Gere, Joan Cusack, Elizondo, Rita Wilson. (110 min.)

A jaded journalist writes a column about a woman who's ditched three bridegrooms at the altar, then visits to meet her and her latest fianc. The screenplay provides enough cute one-liners and love-struck speeches to give the comedy intermittent charm. *** Nice, light, predictable, fun.

Sex/Nudity: Some mild sexual innuendo. Violence: 1 punch. Profanity: 3 mild expressions. Drugs: Several bar scenes.

Same Old Song (Not rated) ** Director: Alain Resnais. With Pierre Arditi, Agns Jaoui, Jean-Pierre Bacri, Jane Birkin, Sabine Azma. (120 min.)

A real-estate agent, a Paris apartment, and a shifting web of romantic feelings spark this lighthearted comedy-drama. The results are diverting at times, but have none of the interest or resonance of Resnais classics like "Night and Fog" or "Last Year at Marienbad." In French with English subtitles

The Saragossa Manuscript (Not rated) *** Director: Wojciech Has. With Zbigniew Cybulski, Iga Cembrzynska, Joanna Jedryka, Barbara Kraftowna. (180 min.)

Reissue of a minor classic of Polish cinema from 1965, restored to its full length. Stories grow out of other stories during the frequently dreamlike experiences of an 18th-century military officer who enters a series of fantastic adventures after finding a mysterious old book. In Polish with subtitles

The School of Flesh (Not rated) ** Director: Benoit Jacquot. With Isabelle Huppert, Vincent Martinez, Marthe Keller, Vincent Lindon. (105 min.)

A savvy businesswoman gets a crush on a man who's wildly different in age and social status, with emotionally complicated results. Huppert remains an exceptionally gifted actress, and few directors surpass Jacquot's deep interest in exploring female characters. This rather perfunctory French drama never quite catches fire. In French with subtitles

Secret Dfense (PG) **** Director: Jacques Rivette. With Sandrine Bonnaire, Jerzy Radziwilowicz, Laure Marsac. (170 min.)

A young biologist investigates the enigmatic death of her father and uncovers a complex web of family intrigue. Rivette's supremely elegant style lends unique appeal to this briskly acted, immaculately filmed mystery. In French with English subtitles

She's All That (PG-13) ** Director: Robert Iscove. With Freddie Prinze Jr., Rachael Leigh Cook, Matthew Lilliard, Kieran Culkin. (96 min.)

The most popular boy in school bets that he can turn an art-class dork into the prom queen. This teenage "Pygmalion" is predictable and a bit gawky, and some won't like its flashes of gross-out humor. The cast is appealing and there are a few hilarious jokes tucked in around the edges of the plot. ** Superficial, silly, cute.

Sex/Nudity: 2 mild scenes. Violence: A few scenes of shoving and harassment. Profanity: 49 expressions. Drugs: 3 scenes with teenage drinking; a few scenes with teenage smoking.

Show Me Love (Not rated) ** Director: Lukas Moodysson. With Alexandra Dahlstrm, Rebecca Liljeberg, Mathias Rust, Erica Carlson. (89 min.)

Two schoolgirls learn lessons about life, loyalty, and sexuality while growing up in a Swedish town. An amiable if undistinguished example of the coming-of-age genre that European filmmakers never seem to tire of. In Swedish with English subtitles

Sex/Nudity: 6 scenes including brief nudity, implied sex, and a lesbian kiss; a couple of instances of innuendo. Violence: 3 brief scuffles. Profanity: 50 expressions, mostly harsh. Drugs: 2 scenes with alcohol, 1 with smoking.

The Silence (Not rated) *** Director: Mohsen Makhmalbaf. With Tahmineh Normativa, Nadereh Abdelahyeva, Golbibi Ziadolahyeva. (73 min.)

The sensory pleasures of music are at the heart of this gentle tale about the daily life of a 10-year-old blind boy who may find himself homeless if his carefree ways make him lose his job as an instrument tuner. The movie's exquisitely filmed images reconfirm Makhmalbaf as one of Iran's most poetic filmmakers. In Farsi with English subtitles

Simply Irresistible (PG-13) ** Director: Mark Tarlov. With Sarah Michelle Gellar, Sean Patrick Flanery. (100 min.)

An uninspired chef bewitches a love-skeptical man when her emotions become the "magic" in her recipes. While the combination of movie romance and culinary craft can be rewarding, this movie mixes its ingredients too carelessly to provide much enchantment, and elements of magic that may appeal to young viewers don't blend well with underlying issues of sexual fantasy. By Laura Danese **1/2 Cute, quirky, fluffy.

Sex/Nudity: Some innuendo. Violence: 1 mild instance. Profanity: 22 expressions. Drugs: 3 scenes with wine.

Sitcom (Not rated) ** Director: Franois Ozon. With Evelyne Dandry, Francois Marthouret, Marina de Van, Adrien de Van. (80 min.)

Darkly satirical tale of a comfortable French family that sinks into a morass of self-destructive perversity. The movie's critique of middle-class hypocrisy carries a morbid kick. It's so heavily influenced by the vastly superior films of Luis Buuel that his name should appear over the title. Contains explicit sexual material. In French with English subtitles

The Sixth Sense (PG-13) ** Director: M. Night Shyamalan. With Bruce Willis, Haley Joel Osment, Toni Colette, Donnie Wahlberg. (107 min.)

A child psychologist treats an eight-year-old boy who has ghostly visions. 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 a minimum of special effects. **1/2 Gloomy, surprising, a little stiff, original.

Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: 9 scenes including bloody ghosts and a shooting. Profanity: 10 harsh or crude expressions. Drugs: 1 scene with wine.

Sleepy Hollow (R) *** Director: Tim Burton. With Johnny Depp, Christina Ricci, Miranda Richardson, Christopher Walken. (110 min.)

There's lots of over-the-top violence in this reshuffled version of "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow," and admirers of Washington Irving's great story will be surprised to find Ichabod Crane turned into a detective investigating a series of gruesome murders in 1799. There's also lots of brilliant filmmaking and high-spirited acting, at least until the story turns repetitious and formulaic. ** Gory, disappointing, effective cinematography, lifeless acting.

Sex/Nudity: 1 somewhat graphic sex scene. Violence: 29 instances of mostly bloody including many beheadings. Profanity: None. Drugs: 1 party scene with alcohol and smoking.

(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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