The 5th annual Mega Movie guide
David Sterritt Monitor panel Meaning
**** **** 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:
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.
1999 THEATER RELEASES
God Said, 'Ha!' (PG-13) *** Director: Julia Sweeney. With Julia Sweeney. (87 min.)
A sometimes hilarious, sometimes harrowing monologue about the joys and trials of ordinary life, centering on Sweeney's experiences with her all-too-typical family, and bouts with serious illness.
Goodbye Lover (R) ** Director: Roland Joff. With Patricia Arquette, Don Johnson, Dermot Mulroney, Ellen DeGeneres. (104 min.)
Arquette plays a femme fatale who kills her brother-in-law, outfoxes an attractive rival, and spars with a feisty detective in a film-noir plot that pivots on the idea that everyone has a devious streak of one kind or another. * Base, unsympathetic characters, unoriginal.
Sex/Nudity: 5 scenes with graphic sex. Violence: 8 instances. Profanity: 105 expressions. Drugs: 10 scenes with alcohol and smoking.
Goodbye 20th Century! (Not rated) ** Directors: Aleksandar Popovski, Darko Mitrevski. With Lazar Ristovski, Nikola Ristanovski, Irena Ristic. (83 min.)
Fractured fantasy spanning 100 years and focusing on a vengeful Santa Claus, the first wedding filmed by a movie camera, and a dark hero condemned to the fate of neverending life. This rare Macedonian production doesn't make a lot of sense, but it packs surprises. In Macedonian with English subtitles
Grand Illusion (Not rated) **** Director: Jean Renoir. With Erich von Stroheim, Jean Gabin, Pierre Fresnay. (101 min.)
Reissue of "La Grande Illusion," the towering 1937 masterpiece about French soldiers held in a series of German prisoner-of-war camps while World War I rages around them. Stroheim gives one of film history's greatest performances in this engrossing story of captives torn between conflicting loyalties, which is also the story of Western civilization passing fretfully into the 20th century. In French with English subtitles
The Grandfather (PG) ** Director: Jos Luis Garci. With Fernando Fernn-Gmez, Cayetana Guilln Cuervo, Rafael Alonso. (145 min.)
An elderly patriarch searches for the identity of his granddaughter in this prettily filmed drama, set in Spain a century ago. In Spanish with English subtitles
The Green Mile (R) ** Director: Frank Darabont. With Tom Hanks, David Morse, Michael Clarke Duncan, Bonnie Hunt. (180 min.)
Death-row guards in a Southern penitentiary meet a highly unusual prisoner with a gift for healing that appears incongruous next to the horrific crime he's been convicted of. The movie deals with substantial issues, but it treats capital punishment as a plot device rather than a moral issue. Still, its good acting will be enough to please many viewers. ***1/2 Never dull, compassionate, transcendent storytelling.
Sex/Nudity: 1 mild scene of implied sex; 5 instances of innuendo. Violence: 22 scenes including disturbing death row electrocutions. Profanity: 36 expressions, some harsh. Drugs: 5 scenes with beer.
Guinevere (Not rated) * Director: Audrey Wells. With Sarah Polley, Stephen Rea, Gina Gershon, Carrie Preston, Jean Smart. (104 min.)
Just when she's supposed to head for college, a talented but insecure young woman falls in love with a much older photographer, who shows every sign of being a dubious influence on her impressionable personality. The good cast wrestles with an uneven screenplay.
Happy, Texas (PG-13) **1/2 Director: Mark Illsley. With Jeremy Northam, Steve Zahn, Illeana Douglas, William H. Macy, Ally Walker. (104 min.)
An appealing ensemble cast enlivens this fairly predictable story of two escaped prisoners who appropriate the identities of two gay men who organize children's beauty pageants. The escapees stumble into a small Texas town and decide that they may as well rob the local bank. Chucklesome rather than hilarious. By Stephen Humphries *** Good-natured, happy, Zahn steals the show.
Sex/Nudity: 1 sexually-charged scene; many homosexual jokes and references. Violence: 7 scenes of mostly light violence. Profanity: 23 expressions. Drugs: 2 scenes with alcohol, 7 with smoking.
A Hard Day's Night (Not rated) **** Director: Richard Lester. With John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Ringo Starr. (85 min.)
Reissue of the hugely imaginative 1964 comedy that launched the Beatles' movie career, with fictionalized versions of the fabulous foursome looking for fun and fulfillment in the uproarious world of rock 'n' roll during the British Invasion years. Yeah, yeah, yeah!
The Harmonists (R) *** Director: Joseph Vilsmaier. With Ben Becker, Heino Ferch, Ulrich Noethen, Max Tidof. (114 min.)
A tuneful comedy-drama based on the real-life exploits of the Comedian Harmonists, a German vocal group that broke up after the Nazis started harassing its Jewish members.
Sex/Nudity: 5 mild scenes, 5 with innuendo. Violence: 2 scenes. Profanity: 4 expressions. Drugs: 10 scenes with either smoking, drinking, or drug use.
Harold and Maude (Not rated) *** Director: Hal Ashby. With Bud Cort, Ruth Gordon, Vivian Pickles, Cyril Cusack. (90 min.)
Reissue of the 1972 cult favorite about a suicidal young man who falls madly in love with an elderly woman.
The Haunting (PG-13) ** Director: Jan De Bont. With Liam Neeson, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Lili Taylor, Owen Wilson. (117 min.)
A psychologist brings three recruits to a spooky old house, where he hopes to study their reactions under fear-inducing conditions. The jolts are inspired less by Shirley Jackson's nuanced 1959 novel than by the high-tech fantasies of the computer-imaging department at DreamWorks, which made the picture. 1/2 Laughable, not scary, corny lines.
Sex/Nudity: References to bisexuality. Violence: 9 scenes including a near drowning, falling logs, and deaths. Profanity: 20 expressions, mostly mild. Drugs: 2 scenes with social drinking.
Hideous Kinky (R) *** Director: Gillies Mackinnon. With Kate Winslet, Sad Taghmaoui, Bella Riza, Carrie Mullan. (99 min.)
After moving to North Africa in search of '60s-style adventure and enlightenment, a young Englishwoman raises her little girls and plans a visit to an Algerian guru for an encounter with Sufi wisdom. Winslet gives a very creative performance. *** Visually rich, amusing, meandering.
Sex/Nudity: 2 scenes with nudity, 1 of them a sexual situation. Violence: 4 scenes including hitting and bullying. Profanity: 14 expressions, some harsh. Drugs: 12 scenes with smoking.
The Hole (Not rated) *** Director: Tsai Ming-liang. With Yang Kuei-mei, Lee Kang-sheng, Miao Tien, Tong Hsiang-chu. (95 min.)
A few days before the new millennium, a lonely man and woman are drawn into an arm's-length relationship by a gaping hole in the floor of their desperately decayed apartment building. Oddly engaging.
Holy Smoke! (R) ** Director: Jane Campion. With Kate Winslet, Harvey Keitel, Pam Grier, Sophie Lee. (120 min.)
Winslet is rousingly good as a young Australian woman whose parents, alarmed at her devotion to an Indian guru, hire a self-styled deprogrammer (Keitel) to clear her mind of cultish delusions.
Home Page (Not rated) ** Director: Doug Block. With Justin Hall, Doug Block, Lucy Block. (102 min.)
Director Block set out to make a documentary about his young daughter but got sidetracked by the growing importance of computers and Internet communications, so he filmed an extended portrait of a collegiate Web-head, who embodies the explosive energy and on-the-brink anarchy of the virtual scene.
The House on Haunted Hill (R) DUD Director: William Malone. With Geoffrey Rush, Famke Janssen, Taye Diggs, Peter Gallagher. (115 min.)
In this remake of the 1958 classic, the film revolves around four people who are offered $1 million if they spend the night in a haunted mansion. It's more laughable than scary. By Lisa Leigh Parney DUD Unoriginal, not interesting, predictable.
Sex/Nudity: 3 instances of innuendo, hallucinatory flashes of nudity throughout movie. Violence: 18 scenes including several gory shots. Profanity: 85 expressions, many harsh. Drugs: 2 scenes with alcohol, 2 with smoking.
Hundred and One Nights (Not rated) *** Director: Agns Varda. With Michel Piccoli, Marcello Mastroianni, Grard Depardieu, Robert De Niro. (101 min.)
Varda uses a humorous story idea - a friendship between a young film student and a movie-loving old codger - as the excuse for a feature-length celebration of motion-picture history. With film clips and star cameos.
I Woke Up Early the Day I Died (Not rated) * Director: Aris Iliopulos. With Billy Zane, Christina Ricci, Will Patton, Sandra Bernhard, Tippi Hedren. (90 min.)
An unproduced screenplay by Edward D. Wood Jr., the legendary master of incompetent filmmaking, inspired this silent-movie tale about a mixed-up thief trying to find a pile of stolen money he's managed to lose.
An Ideal Husband (PG-13) *** Director: Oliver Parker. With Jeremy Northam, Julianne Moore, Rupert Everett, Cate Blanchett. (97 min.)
Oscar Wilde's play inspired this supple comedy, centering on a well-starched British gentleman who's hiding a secret that could touch off a political scandal if a beautiful blackmailer doesn't get what she wants. The dialogue is witty, the cast is appealing. ***1/2 Sparkling comedy, fun plot twists, intelligent, charming, witty.
Sex/Nudity: Fleeting nudity, mild innuendo, 1 instance of implied sex. Violence: None. Profanity: 7 mild expressions. Drugs: 9 scenes with drinking and/or smoking.
Idle Hands (R) * Directed by Rodman Flender. With Seth Green, Devon Sawa, Elden Henson, Vivica A. Fox. (92 min.)
Anton is a lazy, good-for-nothing pot-smoking high-schooler who's 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. By John Christian Hoyle * Debased, grotesque, scarier than expected, supposed to be funny.
Sex/Nudity: 5 instances including clips from a soft porn video to an instance of nudity; some innuendo. Violence: 31 scenes with violence, from graphic to the darkly humorous gross-out variety. Profanity: 62 expressions, mostly harsh. Drugs: 2 scenes with alcohol, 10 with marijuana.
Illuminata (R) ** Director: John Turturro. With John Turturro, Susan Sarandon, Christopher Walken. (111 min.)
An ambitious playwright and a self-important critic are among the characters of this comedy-drama about a theater troupe peddling its cultural wares in New York a century ago.
Sex/Nudity: 5 scenes with nudity and/or sex, some fairly graphic. Violence: 1 scene with a serious consequence. Profanity: 28 expressions, many harsh. Drugs: 2 scenes with social drinking, 2 with smoking.
In Dreams (R) *** Director: Neil Jordan. With Annette Bening, Aidan Quinn, Robert Downey Jr., Stephen Rea. (112 min.)
After her young daughter is murdered by a mysterious madman, a clairvoyant woman realizes he's paying her sinister visits in her sleeping and waking thoughts. ** Nightmarish, edgy, forgettable.
Sex/Nudity: 1 scene. Violence: 17 scenes of weird, twisted violence. Profanity: 27 expressions, mostly strong. Drugs: 4 scenes with cigarettes.
In the Presence of a Clown (Not rated) *** Director: Ingmar Bergman. With Erland Josephson, Pernilla August, Brje Ahlstedt. (118 min.)
Bergman retired from filmmaking in 1982, but his ongoing video career continues in this unconventional comedy-drama about two 1920s mental patients who decide to parlay a fascination with composer Franz Schubert into an invention called a talking picture.
In Too Deep (R) **1/2 Director: Michael Rymer. With Omar Epps, LL Cool J, Nia Long, Stanley Tucci, Hill Harper. (95 min.)
An undercover cop tries to nail a likably psychopathic drug lord called "God." The filmmaker's quest for authenticity and the leads' gripping performances produce a suspenseful story. By M.K. Terrell **1/2 Taut, suspenseful, unoriginal.
Sex/Nudity: 2 sex scenes, 1 is graphic; 1 scene with a nude model for a photography class; 2 instances of innuendo. Violence: 11 scenes with harsh violence. Profanity: 234 expressions, mostly harsh. Drugs: 8 with alcohol, smoking, or both; 1 with marijuana; 4 involving drug deals.
The Insider (R) **** Director: Michael Mann. With Al Pacino, Russell Crowe, Diane Venora, Christopher Plummer. (155 min.)
Pacino is in top form as a crusading "60 Minutes" journalist and Crowe is even better as a whistle-blower in the tobacco industry whose life is almost ruined by his decision to take a stand against corporate greed and deceit. Excellent acting, a stirring screenplay, and crisply intelligent directing make this fact-based movie a great human drama. **** Emotionally powerful, gripping story, excellent cinematic style.
Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: 6 instances from minor shoving at an airport to death threats. Profanity: 71 expressions, mostly harsh. Drugs: 8 scenes with alcohol; 3 scenes with cigarettes.
Inspector Gadget (PG) * Director: David Kellogg. With Matthew Broderick, Rupert Everett, Joely Fisher, Dabney Coleman. (85 min.)
You'll welcome the daylight after enduring this silly, cartoonish romp. But don't blame the cast for this Disney disappointment. It's overwhelmed by computer-generated gimmicks. By John Dillin ** Zany, run-of-the-mill, AAAC! (avoid at all costs), good cast.
Sex/Nudity: 1 instance of innuendo. Violence: 15 scenes, often slapstick. Profanity: None. Drugs: 2 scenes with alcohol, 2 with cigars.
Instinct (R) ** Director: Jon Turteltaub. With Anthony Hopkins, Cuba Gooding, Jr., Donald Sutherland. (126 min.)
Looking like Hannibal Lecter with a beard, Hopkins plays another demented scientist - a primate researcher who's killed some African park rangers - and Gooding plays an ambitious psychiatrist who wants to learn why he did it. *** Intriguing concept, thought-provoking, nice acting.
Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: 9 instances, ranging from shootings and beatings to face slaps. Profanity: 8 expressions. Drugs: 3 instances.
The Iron Giant (PG) *** Director: Brad Bird. With voices of Jennifer Aniston, Harry Connick Jr., 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 officials who think it 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. *** Clever plot, endearing, well-animated.
Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: 8 scenes including an atomic blast and a battle sequence. Profanity: 6 mild expressions. Drugs: 2 scenes with pipe smoking.
Jakob the Liar (PG-13) *1/2 Director: Peter Kassovitz. With Robin Williams, Alan Arkin, Hannah Taylor-Gordon. (114 min.)
Some might mistake this story - about a simple man (Williams), who cheers his townsmen in a 1944 Jewish ghetto in Poland with tall tales - for a copy of Roberto Benigni's Oscar-winning "Life Is Beautiful," but it was filmed a year before that hit. By Katherine Dillin **1/2 Grim but hopeful, uninspired, thoughtful.
Sex/Nudity: 1 mild scene of implied sex. Violence: 11 scenes of ghetto violence including torture and suicides. Profanity: 4 mild expressions. Drugs: 1 scene with alcohol, 5 with cigarettes, 1 with alcohol and cigarettes.
Jawbreaker (R) * Director: Darren Stein. With Rose McGowan, Rebecca Gayheart, Pam Grier, Carol Kane, Julie Benz. (89 min.)
Three girls accidentally kill the fourth member of their clique in a prank gone wrong; one has a conscience, while the other two use their popularity to manipulate a "geek" who has discovered their secret. By Laura Danese **1/2 Unoriginal, dark, '90s "Heathers."
Sex/Nudity: A few scenes of sexual innuendo. Violence: 4 minor instances. Profanity: 38 expressions. Drugs: 2 scenes of cigarette smoking.
Jeanne and the Perfect Guy (Not rated) *** Director: Olivier DuCastel. With Virginie Ledoyen, Mathieu Demy, Jacques Bonnaffe. (89 min.)
French fable about a vivacious young woman who falls madly in love with a man she's just met, only to learn that he's been diagnosed with AIDS. The movie confronts this situation forthrightly, but tempers its potential gloominess with an undertone of hope.
(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society