Freeze Frames

The Christian Science Monitor, November 22, 1996 | Go to article overview

Freeze Frames


Freeze Frames: The Monitor Movie Guide

Here are the week's reviews of both the latest releases and current films, rated according to the key below ("o" for forget it). The capsule reviews are by Monitor film critic David Sterritt; the one- liners from a panel of at least three other Monitor reviewers. Movies containing violence (V), sexual situations (S), nudity (N), and profanity (P) are noted.

o Forget it *Only if it's free **Maybe a matinee ***Worth full price ****Wait in line New Releases BREAKING THE WAVES (R) ** Not long after she begins a happy married life, a deeply religious woman's new husband becomes severely disabled and asks her to start relationships with other men. Lars von Trier's drama poses complicated moral questions, leaving the audience to decide whether the wife is engaging in noble self-sacrifice or allowing unhealthy impulses to rule and ruin her life. Unfortunately, the film is more successful at setting up ethical conundrums than at profitably exploring them. Robby Muller did the striking cinematography, using the unusual combination of wide-screen format and hand-held camera work. V S N P THE ENGLISH PATIENT (R) ** Badly wounded in World War II, a pilot recovers under the care of a sensitive nurse while remembering his wartime experiences and his earlier involvement with another woman. Told through persuasive performances and stunning camera work, the sweeping story shows how pressures of war may shake up conventional notions of loyalty, integrity, and even identity itself. But the film doesn't gather the emotional momentum that would make it compelling as well as impressive. Ralph Fiennes, Juliette Binoche, Willem Dafoe, and Kristin Scott Thomas head the cast. Directed by Anthony Minghella. S V N P THE MIRROR HAS TWO FACES (PG-13) * A male professor asks a female professor to join him in a platonic relationship so they can enjoy companion-ship while concentrating on their work, but she finds herself falling totally in love with him. The story might have been entertaining if the characters and their motivations made a speck of sense. Directed by Barbra Streisand, whose main priority appears to be making herself as lovable and beautiful as movie magic allows. Jeff Bridges, Lauren Bacall, George Segal, and Pierce Brosnan trudge obediently in her glamorous wake. S P *** Romantic, funny, clever one-liners. SET IT OFF (R) ** Angry at society for a variety of reasons, four young African-American women decide an influx of cash would solve all their problems, and they set out to pull off a bank robbery. The energetic story makes a case against crime by showing how each escapade has an outcome less happy than the last. In the end, though, the movie shows less interest in teaching lessons than in exploiting the box-office appeal of violent action. Jada Pinkett, Queen Latifah, and Vivica A. Fox head the talented cast. Directed by F. Gary Gray. V P S SHINE (PG-13) *** The fact-based story of a brilliant pianist whose musical gifts are offset by mental and emotional problems, made more severe by conflicts with his father, who never recovered from seeing the Holocaust destroy his family. The movie benefits from an involving story, sparkling music, vivid performances, and an avoidance of easy cliches about music's power to solve every problem in time for a happy ending. Scott Hicks directed the Australian production. P V SLING BLADE (R) *** A mentally slow man is released from a "nervous hospital" in Arkansas years after he killed his mother and her lover, who shocked him with their immoral behavior. The story has many unsavory elements including some strongly suggested violence, but most of the picture focuses on positive elements such as the hero's capacities for friendship, loyalty, and self-sacrifice. Directed with skill and compassion by Billy Bob Thornton, who also plays the protagonist. V P SPACE JAM (PG) ** The owner of an outer-space theme park kidnaps Bugs Bunny and other cartoon characters, and they enlist Michael Jordan to help them in a basketball match that will free them if they win. …

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