The Monitor Movie Guide
JUNE 9, 1995
Movies that contain violence, sexual situations, nudity, and profanity are denoted V, S, N, and P respectively. Evaluations do not constitute a Monitor endorsement. Further guidance is supplied by full reviews on the Arts pages.
David Sterritt Staff Panel Meaning
O\ O\ Don't bother
u q Poor
uu qq Fair
uuu qqq Good
uuuu qqqq Excellent
7 1 Half rating point
uu A young man visits his eccentric Arizona family, whose members include a high-pressure automobile dealer, a self-destructive woman with a gift for music, and an aging widow who can't think of anything but aviation. The cast is just as varied, with Johnny Depp and Jerry Lewis playing opposite Faye Dunaway and Lili Taylor, plus other famous faces in smaller roles. It's all barely held together by Emir Kusterica, the respected Bosnian filmmaker, who seems slightly at sea in his first English-language production. (Not rated) V P S
uu Aye, here's a wee bit of a three-hour epic about a handsome 13th-century hero freeing Scotland from its English overlords. The screenplay says repeatedly that thinking is more important than fighting, yet problems are always met with muscle-power in the movie, which wallows in violence and vengeance every chance it gets. Directed by and starring Mel Gibson, who puts more brawn than brain into both jobs. (R) V P S N
qqq Engrossing history lesson, violent battle scenes.
THE BRIDGES OF MADISON COUNTY
uuu Romance buds and blossoms during the brief encounter of an Iowa homemaker and a wandering photographer. Still one of Hollywood's most assured directors, Clint Eastwood transcends the story's cliches with a classically restrained yet steadily imaginative filmmaking style. He also gives one of his most fully realized performances, opposite Meryl Streep in the sort of introspective role she handles best. And don't miss the soundtrack, full of atmospheric jazz that reflects Eastwood's excellent musical taste. Richard LaGravanese wrote the screenplay, based on Robert James Waller's bestseller. (R) S N P
qqq1 Exquisite, romantic, Streep and Eastwood shine.
uuu A publisher's wife becomes fascinated with her visiting brother-in-law, a handsome young man with a poetic sensibility. This reissued work from 1964 is too dramatically diffuse to stand with the greatest works of Indian filmmaker Satyajit Ray, but it contains ravishing images and sensitive performances, and the screenplay does a splendid job of mingling deeply personal matters with political and cultural overtones of Calcutta in the late 19th century. Also known as "The Lonely Wife." (Not rated)
u Scientists, capitalists, and a talking gorilla hunt for African diamonds. Is this a thriller trying to be funny, or a comedy trying to be exciting? One thing is certain: It's a bomb trying to be a hit, and at that it'll never succeed. John Patrick Shanley's screenplay is feistier than Michael Crichton's flatly written novel, but also dopier. Frank Marshall directed. (PG-13) V P
uuu An outstanding high school student falls in love with a deeply troubled classmate, springs her from a mental hospital after she attempts suicide, and joins her in a headlong flight from society. The theme of amour fou has been tackled by many artists over the ages, and this effort stands as a modest but responsible addition to the genre until a contrived happy-ending explodes its credibility. Directed by Antonia Bird with a visual intelligence that her controversial "Priest" only hinted at. (PG-13) S V P
uuu A small tobacco shop is the hangout of choice for a melancholy writer, a rootless high school student, and other characters linked by family disruptions and the accidental appearance of a paper bag stuffed with money. The movie's intertwined stories don't work equally well, but some scenes are stunningly effective, and Paul Auster's screenplay shows a concern with family issues that's wise, warm, and utterly free of sentimental cant. Harvey Keitel and William Hurt head the uniformly fine cast. Directed by Wayne Wang in the best showing he's made since his debut with "Chan Is Missing." (R) P V
Currently in Release
uuu The friendly ghost makes his big-screen debut in a friendly movie, playing ectoplasmic games with a teenager who likes him, two fortune-hunters who covet the treasure hidden in his haunted house, and a spook psychiatrist who gives therapy to "living-impaired" individuals. Christina Ricci, so funny as the creepy Wednesday in the Addams Family films, is a scream as Casper's best friend. Brad Silberling directed. (PG) P V
CIRCLE OF FRIENDS
uu The place is an Irish village in 1957, and the heroines are three young women negotiating the twists and turns of love, friendship, and family relations. Pat O'Connor directed this likable but unmemorable comedy-drama, which creates some vivid moments without quite managing to flesh out its commonplace characters. (PG-13) S P V
qqq Heartwarming, engaging, beautiful scenery.
uuu The setting is a submarine on its way to confront nuclear-armed Russian rebels. The main action is a showdown between the sub's commander, a flinty veteran of many conflicts, and the executive officer, a thoughtful young fellow with more book-learning than experience. The movie has nothing intelligent to say about post-cold-war tensions or anything else, but it's great fun to watch Gene Hackman and Denzel Washington square off in a submarine that looks like a cross between the Starship Enterprise and something you'd get in a cereal box. Tony Scott directed. (R) V P
qqq Suspenseful, intense, two main actors are excellent.
uuu Absorbing but disturbing documentary about R. Crumb, a pioneer of kinky "underground comix," bringing out both the vivid imagination and the raging sexual obsessions that have characterized his career. Directed by Terry Zwigoff over a six-year period, the film also gives a poignant account of Crumb's sadly dysfunctional family, providing clues as to why his talent evolved in such bizarre directions.(Not rated) P N S V
DIE HARD WITH A VENGEANCE
qqq This sequel delivers even more explosions, effects, and stunts than its predecessors. Jeremy Irons plays Simon, a German-accented villain who wants to even the score with Det. John McClane (Bruce Willis). Simon phones in riddles and instructions that McClane must follow or else another building will be blown up. Samuel L. Jackson costars as McClane's sidekick, Zeus, and the pair's chemistry provides the film's entertainment. But where can the "Die Hard" series go from here? The answer: nowhere. (R) V S P By Lisa Leigh Parney
qq1 Uninspired, formulaic, Jeremy Irons is fantastic.
DON JUAN DEMARCO
uu Romantic dreams abound as a burned-out psychiatrist (Marlon Brando) enters the make-believe world of a young patient (Johnny Depp) who thinks he's the famous Don Juan of bygone years. The picture has more charm than credibility, and its conquistador-like attitude toward women is mighty questionable; but the story becomes resonant if you see it as a fable about Brando vicariously regaining his youth by teaming with Depp in this all-stops-out movie fantasy. (PG-13) S N V P
qqq1 Refreshing, funny, clever.
THE ENGLISHMAN WHO WENT UP A HILL BUT CAME DOWN A MOUNTAIN
qq A whimsical, small-scale item about a surveyor (Hugh Grant) in Wales, circa 1917, who arrives in a village to measure the terrain. When the residents discover that their pride and joy is going to be designated a hill instead of a mountain (it's short by 20 feet), they conspire to keep him there while they lug buckets of dirt to the top. Even Grant's comic skills and charm can't save the film from triviality. (PG) By Frank Scheck
qqq That's what married friends keep telling Mickey and Ellen, a couple who met in the City of Light but now are struggling to stay married. The pair seesaws between his career and emotional needs and hers, never quite striking a balance. For a change, Hollywood dips into a mature theme: What keeps a romance afloat when reality sets in. Billy Crystal gets to use his patented one-liners to good effect, and Debra Winger has the right blend of toughness and vulnerability as his wife. (PG-13) S P By April Austin
Hilarious, clever, heartfelt.
uu Romantic comedy about an American woman who chases her straying Canadian fiance from Toronto to Paris, and picks up a new French boyfriend along the way. Kevin Kline has some amusing moments, but Meg Ryan's acting runs out of energy, and Lawrence Kasdan's directing is too laid-back to help her out. Adam Brooks ("The Big Chill," "The Accidental Tourist") wrote the occasionally snappy screenplay. (PG-13) P N
qq Interminable, too cute, Kevin Kline carries the film.
qqq Keanu Reeves logs onto the big screen as the title character in this cyber-adventure based on the short story by award-winning author William Gibson. Johnny must race against time to remove information trapped on the hard disk implanted in his head before it or a band of thugs kill him. Set in the future, the virtual-reality sequences threaten sensory overload, but the otherwise entertaining flick sends you away wanting more. Ice-T co-stars as an underdefined lord of the underground. Excellent sound editing makes it worthwhile to search out a theater with digital sound. Violence is plentiful. (R) V P By Marianne Le Pelley
A LITTLE PRINCESS
uuu When her father goes to fight in World War I, a creative young girl finds herself trapped in a nasty boarding school where she's reduced to the status of a mistreated servant. This comedy-drama for children and adults is made with more intelligence and imagination than many of the so-called art films that come our way, filling the screen with vivid images that ideally suit its fanciful plot. Directed by Alfonso Cuaron from a screenplay by Richard LaGravenese and Elizabeth Chandler, based on a Frances Hodgson Burnett novel. (G)
qqq Enchanting, improbable, captivating for all ages.
LOVE & HUMAN REMAINS
uu A lonely journalist, her cynical gay roommate, and a mysterious killer are among the characters of this ambitious but unfocused drama about the traps and dangers lurking within contemporary attitudes toward sexuality. Directed by Canadian filmmaker Denys Arcand, lauded by many for such pictures as "Jesus of Montreal" and "The Decline and Fall of the American Empire," but still not a very consistent or compelling storyteller. Written by Brad Fraser from his successful stage play. (Not rated) S V P N
KISS OF DEATH
uu David Caruso takes his "NYPD Blue" talent to the big screen, playing a New York City crook who lets himself get suckered into one last job, then agrees to squeal on his accomplices. Even nastier than the 1947 gangster film it's based on, this updated "film noir" is stronger on gruesome details than psychological involvement. It's well acted, though. Barbet Schroeder directed. (R) S V P
q Ugly, sexist, extremely violent.
uuu Muriel is a misfit who's desperate to get married, but has everything from overbearing parents to nasty friends stand ing in her way. Australian newcomer P. J. Hogan wrote and directed this high-energy comedy, which earned several of this year's Australian Academy Awards. (R) S N P
qq1 Tragicomic, fast-moving plot, superb characters.
MY FAMILY (Mi Familia)
qqq "My Family" is the tale of a Mexican family in East L.A. narrated by its eldest son. The story is told with great humor, but it attempts to make a few too many social statements. Thoughtful performances and a strong sense of family love and moral values make it an enjoyable work. Directed by Francis Ford Coppola. P V By Terri Theiss
Picturesque, instructive, original plot.
THE PEREZ FAMILY
uu Eager to enter the United States after the Mariel boatlift in 1980, four Cuban emigrants with the same last name assemble themselves into a phony family to improve their chances of joining American society. Mira Nair's romantic comedy-drama has a generous heart and a lively spirit, but it's rarely as funny or touching as it sets out to be. Marisa Tomei and Alfred Molina head the energetic cast. (R) S V P
qqq Thought-provoking, lively, unrealistic ending.
WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING
qqq A lonely subway-token collector (Sandra Bullock) saves the life of an attorney she's had a crush on. Now he's in a coma, and his family is misled to believe that she's his fiancee. Reluctant to upset them with the truth, she plays along. Enter the sensitive brother (Bill Pullman) who is suspicious, but can't resist her unassuming charm. (PG) P By a staff panel
Delightful, predictable, a film to please all generations.