Ratings and comments by David Sterritt and Monitor staff Staff comments 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.
STAR RATINGS MEANING
**** Excellent *** Good ** Fair * Poor DUD The Worst
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (PG-13)
Director: Ang Lee. With Chow Yun Fat, Michelle Yeoh, Chang Chen, Zhang Ziyi, Lung Sihung, Cheng Pei Pei. (119 min.)
Sterritt *** A war-weary warrior, a legendary sword, a restless and romantic young girl, and a rascally bandit are among the main characters of this ambitious epic. But the movie's real interest lies in a series of fighting scenes that veer between comic-book violence and cinematic ballet. The film may be too talky for action-minded viewers and too fantastic for more serious spectators, but it brings appealing twists - including a feminist sensibility - to the venerable martial-arts genre. In Mandarin with English subtitles
Dungeons and Dragons (PG-13)
Director: Courtney Soloman. With Justin Whalin, Marlon Wayans, Thora Birch, Jeremy Irons, Zoe McLellan, Bruce Payne, Richard O'Brien, Tom Baker. (110 min.)
Staff *1/2 Computer games and board games used to be adapted from successful movies. Nowadays studios are turning to games like "Dungeons and Dragons" for story ideas. This tale revolves around two young thieves and a sorceress who must retrieve a magical scepter to thwart the evil plans of Profion (Irons). A troupe of British actors ham it up as if they are guests on "Sesame Street," while Birch ("American Beauty") turns in a shockingly inept performance. Adults will wince - or laugh - at the acting, but unfussy tweenies will overlook the film's liberal borrowings from "Star Wars," and "Indiana Jones," and lap up the fine effects and perfectly passable adventure. By Stephen Humphries
Proof of Life (R)
Director: Taylor Hackford. With Meg Ryan, Russell Crowe, David Morse, David Caruso, Pamela Reed. (135 min.)
Staff ** No one does brooding stoicism like Russell Crowe. He's perfectly cast as Terry Thorne, an Australian K&R (kidnap and ransom) mercenary hired by an American woman (Ryan) whose engineer husband has been kidnapped by political rebels in South America. On one level, the film works well as a thriller with stunning action sequences in a lush jungle. The film is less successful as a drama, however, even though Crowe's presence lifts Ryan's performance. Subplots, a whiff of political commentary, character motivations, and relationships are all left dangling unsatisfactorily by the film's end. By Stephen Humphries
Spring Forward (R)
Director: Tom Gilroy. With Liev Schreiber, Ned Beatty, Campbell Scott, Bill Raymond, Catherine Kellner, Hallee Hirsh, Ian Hart, Peri Gilpin. (110 min.)
Sterritt *** Fresh out of jail, a basically decent young man takes a job with the parks and recreation department of a New England town and strikes up an increasingly close relationship with his older, more conservative partner. The movie's seven scenes were filmed in real time (as opposed to condensed editing-room time) over the course of a year, giving the drama an extra touch of realism and humanity.
Vertical Limit (PG-13)
Director: Martin Campbell. With Chris O'Donnell, Robin Tunney, Bill Paxton, Scott Glenn, Temuera Morrison, Izabella Scorupco, Stuart Wilson. (123 min.)
Sterritt ** A team of mountaineers scale impossible heights to rescue a trio of trapped colleagues after an accident just below the world's second-highest peak. The movie has moments of breathtaking suspense, at least until it lapses into cartoonish implausibility in the second half. With good acting and good dialogue it might actually have been a good picture.
A Good Baby (Not rated)
Director: Katherine Dieckmann. With Henry Thomas, Cara Seymour, David Strathairn. (89 min.)
Sterritt *** In a rural Southern community, an abandoned baby becomes a pawn in complicated relationships involving the melancholy young man who finds her, a thick-skinned woman who takes a liking to him, and a sinister traveling salesman who's deeply involved in the mystery. Dieckmann's debut film is skillfully acted, and builds a sense of true menace when Strathairn's salesman drifts onto the screen.
A Hard Day's Night (G)
Director: Richard Lester. With John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Ringo Starr, Wilfred Brambell, Victor Spinetti, Anna Quayle. (94 min.)
Sterritt **** Wit, joy, imagination, and sensational mid-'60s music spark this 1964 classic, starring the Beatles and providing a slyly fictionalized look at the skyrocketing fame that discombobulated their hitherto normal lives. Lester's filmmaking was never more inventive, and the fabulous foursome never made another movie that so perfectly suited their extraordinary talents.
Director: Don Roose. With Ben Affleck, Gwyneth Paltrow, Natasha Henstridge, Jennifer Grey, Tony Goldwyn, David Paymer. (105 min.)
Sterritt *** Paltrow stars as Abby, a real estate agent who tries to "bounce back" after her husband dies in a plane crash. As it turns out, Buddy (Affleck), a self-absorbed advertising agent, switched his ticket with a stranger he met in Chicago (Abby's husband) at the last minute. Riddled with guilt, Buddy shows up on her Los Angeles doorstep a year later to see if she's all right. Buddy then falls for her, but his "secret" creates problems. The movie is well acted, deeply moving, and unlike some love stories, it doesn't feel forced or contrived. By Lisa Leigh Parney
Staff *** Naturalistic, Paltrow shows versatility, heartfelt, moral tale, slow-moving.
Sex/Nudity: 2 bedroom scenes with no nudity, and 1 instance of innuendo. Violence: aftermath of a plane crash; clothing is ripped in a dog attack. Profanity: 24 expressions, some harsh. Drugs: 13 scenes with alcohol; 3 scenes with cigarettes.
Charlie's Angels (PG-13)
Director: McG. With Drew Barrymore, Cameron Diaz, Lucy Liu, Bill Murray, Tim Curry, LL Cool J, Crispin Glover, John Forsythe. (98 min.)
Sterritt ** The popular '70s television series inspired this campy romp, which has enough sassy lines - and enough of Diaz's radiant smile - to outclass most parodies of its ilk. Too bad the action scenes rarely rise above standard kung-fu comedy, diluting the film's otherwise considerable entertainment value.
Staff **1/2 Lively, humorous, kitsch fun, actresses let their hair down.
Sex/Nudity: 1 implied sex scene; 1 scene with brief nudity; and numerous scenes with scanty clothing. Violence: 3 scenes with violence, including a gun threat. Profanity: 4 expressions, mostly mild. Drugs: 16 scenes with drinking and smoking.
How the Grinch Stole Christmas (PG)
Director: Ron Howard. With Jim Carrey, Molly Shannon, Jeffrey Tambor, Christine Baranski, Bill Irwin. (105 min.)
Sterritt *** A lavishly produced adaptation of Dr. Seuss' classic children's book about a mountain-dwelling monster who decides to make the residents of nearby Whoville as grouchy as he is in the Yuletide season. Carrey is excellent, making the most of his comic gifts even in a cumbersome Grinch outfit, and the eye-spinning color scheme is dazzling to behold. The movie ultimately seems more entranced by its own effects than by the Christmas spirit itself, though.
Staff *** A holiday classic, Jim Carrey's perfect, great for kids, fantastic visuals.
Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: 11 extended scenes of comic mischief. Profanity: 75 expressions, a mix of harsh and mild. Drugs: 1 mild instance.
The Sixth Day (PG-13)
Director: Roger Spottiswoode. With Arnold Schwarzenneger, Robert Duvall, Michael Rapaport. (125 min.)
Staff ** Arnie's got his groove back in this sci-fi thriller, his best movie since "True Lies" in 1994. The Austrian hero plays an average suburbanite (try to suppress your laughter) who discovers he's been cloned by an evil corporation. There's a tad more discussion of the pros and cons of cloning than you'd expect from a shoot'em-up like this one, and the movie has a lot of fun designing plausible technology of the near future. Duvall steals the show as a genetic scientist, but with two Arnies causing mayhem, you get more bang for your buck. By Stephen Humphries
102 Dalmatians (G)
Director: Daniele Thompson. With Glenn Close, Ioan Gruffudd, Alice Evans, Gerard Depardieu, Eric Idle, Ben Crompton. (94 min.)
Staff *** "Ella" De Vil (Close) is unleashed from prison and instead of stealing cute canines, she helps a rundown animal shelter - simply because she absolutely loves dogs! OK, let's get real. Ella's perfectly coiffed black and white bun soon pings out of control and she returns to her former self as Cruella. She teams up with furrier Jean Pierre Le Pelt (Depardieu) and tries to steal 102 "poopies" for her dreamcoat. Close is perfectly cast as the overly dramatic and evil Cruella and the dalmatian puppies are just doggone cute.
By Lisa Leigh Parney
Staff *** Some hilarious moments, Glenn Close is marvelous, predictable, romantic.
Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: 8 scenes with comic violence, including slapping and fighting. Profanity: None. Drugs: 2 scenes with cigarettes.
Paragraph 175 (Not rated)
Directors: Rob Epstein, Jeffrey Friedman. With Rupert Everett, Klaus Muller, Annette Eick, Heinz Dormer, Pierre Seel, Gad Beck, Albrecht Becker. (81 min.)
Sterritt *** An informative documentary about how the Nazi regime used a 19th-century German law to initiate persecution of homosexuals in the Third Reich. Victimization of homosexuals during the Holocaust era has often been overlooked. Epstein and Friedman lucidly recount this woeful history, with help from Everett's articulate narration.
Director: Philip Kaufman. With Geoffrey Rush, Kate Winslet, Michael Caine, Joaquin Phoenix, Billie Whitelaw, Patrick Malahide. (120 min.)
Sterritt ** A melodramatic visit with the infamous Marquis de Sade, set in the Charenton asylum where he was imprisoned in the later part of his life. In many respects the movie is an exercise in Grand Guignol grotesquerie, presenting de Sade in the sort of self-consciously lurid manner associated with horror and exploitation pictures. At the same time it's a deliberately toned-down account of his outrageous ideas. The acting is passionate, but the film would be more effective if it presented a more thoroughgoing lesson in the raging horrors that swept through European culture during the era of the French Revolution.
Staff **1/2 Not for the timid, stunningly performed, intelligent.
Sex/Nudity: 23 instances, often very graphic, including nudity. Violence: 12 intensely violent scenes ranging from suicide to beheadings. Profanity: 14 expressions, mostly pornographic descriptons. Drugs: 5 scenes with alcohol.
Rugrats in Paris: The Movie (G)
Directors: Stig Bergqvist and Paul Demeyer. With John Lithgow, Debbie Reynolds, Susan Sarandon. (105 min.)
Staff ** The Rugrats are back, this time traveling to a Japanese theme park in Paris to repair (and hijack) a mechanical Godzilla - and to find a new mom for Chuckie. Potty jokes will amuse small children and dismay some parents. But some gags are for the grown ups: a karaoke chorus line of sumo wrestlers singing "Who Let the Dogs Out?" and takeoffs on other films, most notably "The Godfather." The animation is good, but the movie isn't terribly original. By M.K Terrell
Sex/Nudity: none. Violence: 9 scenes of cartoonish violence. Profanity: 1 mild expression. Drugs: none.
Director: M. Night Shyamalan. With Bruce Willis, Samuel L. Jackson, Robin Wright Penn, Spencer Treat Clark. (110 min.)
Sterritt ** How did an ordinary man survive a train crash that killed everyone around him? Why does another man suffer from an illness that makes his bones as breakable as glass? Do they occupy different positions on the same physiological spectrum, and is there a supernatural purpose to their increasingly complex relationship? The plot has a fascinating premise, and Shyamalan's visual style is even more insinuating than in "The Sixth Sense," his previous picture. But the story grows sillier as it goes along, culminating in a final switcheroo that's about as deep as the comic-book ideas that inspired the plot.
Staff **1/2 Unpredictable ending, half-baked, off-beat humor, slow but interesting.
Sex/Nudity: 1 implied date rape offscreen. Violence: 3 scenes with violence, including a gun threat. Profanity: 4 mild expressions. Drugs: 2 scenes with alcohol.
In stores DEC. 12
The Road to El Dorado (PG)
Directors: Eric "Bibo" Bergeron, Don Paul. With voices of Kevin Kline, Kenneth Branagh. (89 min.)
Sterritt ** Animated tale of two Spanish adventurers who find a mythical land of gold and beauty. The cartooning is stylish. But the package would be more enticing if it didn't fall so squarely into overused Hollywood formulas.
Scary Movie (R)
Director: Keenen Ivory Wayans. With Jon Abrahams, Carmen Electra, Shannon Elizabeth. (88 min.)
Staff 1/2 A supposedly comic succotash of the horror-movie genre, this movie pushes beyond the limits of taste with its endless sexual innuendo and images of male nudity. By Katherine Dillin
Director: John Singleton. With Samuel L. Jackson, Jeffrey Wright, Christian Bale. (98 min.)
Sterritt * The original "Shaft," a stylish 1971 crime drama, touched off the craze for "blaxploitation" movies. This follow-up retains little but the name, race, and no-nonsense attitude of the African-American hero. Beneath its crisp veneer, much of the movie is a high-energy hymn to hate.
Director: Zhang Yang. With Pu Cun Xin, Zhu Xu. (92 min.)
Sterritt **** A broken-down Beijing bathhouse is the setting for this richly filmed comedy-drama about the clash between tradition and modernity. The movie is superbly acted, cleverly written, and sensitively directed. It's hard to think of a more promising talent in Asian cinema. In Mandarin with English subtitles.
(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society