THE BACHELOR (PG-13, 102 minutes)
A cute romantic farce about a guy so into bachelorhood that he can't even propose sincerely to the girl he loves. This movie sets women back, oh, 30 or 40 years despite its drollery, portraying them as insanely money-and-marriage-hungry. Which isn't to say teen audiences, especially girls, won't buy the fantasy, like totally. Mild profanity peppers the script, and some characters smoke. Chris O'Donnell plays Jimmie, who meets Anne (Renee Zellweger), falls madly for her, and finally feels compelled to pop the question. But he makes it so clear that he dreads marriage that she walks out on him, longing for a more romantic proposal. Then his grandfather dies, leaving him a fortune, contingent upon his marrying by his 30th birthday -- which is, of course, the next day. He begins frantically proposing to anyone he ever dated, though true love, eventually conquers all.
THE INSIDER (R, 158 minutes)
A crackerjack behind-the-scenes saga of the news business and big business, "The Insider" is based on real-life events surrounding a "60 Minutes" story in 1996 that didn't air in full, because CBS management feared a lawsuit. Smart, funny, and with an edgy blend of cynicism and idealism, "The Insider" should fascinate high-schoolers interested in current events and character-driven drama. The script contains strong profanity, unsettling portrayals of death threats, harassment and a family breaking up, as well as characters who drink. Al Pacino plays "60 Minutes" field producer Lowell Bergman, who in the mid-1990s contacted Jeffrey Wigand (Russell Crowe), a former director of research for the Brown & Williamson tobacco company who became a whistle-blower. Crowe's intensity, Pacino's panache and Christopher Plummer's dead-on portrait of Mike Wallace make for a tasty moral tug-of-war.
THE BONE COLLECTOR (R, 118 minutes)
Grossly violent at times and thoroughly incredible throughout, "The Bone Collector" (based on Jeffery Deaver's novel) entertains in spite of its silly self, thanks to charismatic stars Denzel Washington and Angelina Jolie. But as serial-killer-thrillers go, it's not much; even the mystery-challenged Family Filmgoer guessed whodunit. Inappropriate for any but the oldest teens, the story involves a masked killer who tortures victims by knifing, cutting or scalding, then leaves obscure paper clues alongside the grisly remains. Profanity, sexual innuendo and talk of suicide also earn the rating. Washington plays forensics genius Lincoln Rhyme, wounded as a New York police detective and now a quadriplegic. His police pals ask him to help solve a murder. He ponders the evidence and chooses a rookie cop (Angelina Jolie) to be his "legs." Linked to him by cell phone, she explores rat-infested crime scenes alone. Seriously.
HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL (R, 106 minutes)
An amusement park mogul invites a few guests to celebrate his wife's birthday in a building that was once a 1930s asylum. Offered $1 million each if they survive the night, they and their host encounter the ghosts of victimized patients and sadistic doctors, while instruments of torture still reek of blood in the dank cellar. High-school horror buffs may find this gory but anti-climactic "House" party and its occasional flashes of wit amusing. They will, however, see bodies, body parts and skeletons, along with shootings, stabbings, an electrocution, weird noises, shadowy evil spirits and nudity. A remake of the 1958 horror classic with Vincent Price, this update makes full use of special effects, but relies too much on profanity and sexual innuendo. Geoffrey Rush as the mogul, is made up to resemble the late actor, and is even named Price.
Fine for Tots on Up
"The Adventures of Elmo in Grouchland" (G). Cuddly "Sesame Street" monster Elmo chases blanket down Oscar the Grouch's trash can into Grouchland in adorable "Wizard of Oz" variation, with minimal fidgety bits. Bert and Ernie reassure at scary moments.
Fine for 10 and Up
"Music of the Heart" (PG). Meryl Streep in warm, entertaining fact-based tale of violin teacher in East Harlem schools. Themes of divorce, loss; sadness over child killed in off-screen shooting; rare mild profanity.
"The Straight Story" (G). Touching tale, taken from real life of Alvin Straight, elderly Iowan who traveled 300 miles on rider mower to see ailing brother. Smoking, beer drinking; thunderstorms may scare youngest.
"Princess Mononoke." Ravishing, mythic animated epic from Japan about ancient struggles between human tribes and forest spirits over the land; dubbed into bland American English, but otherwise terrific. Not for most kids under 10 or 12, with violent battles, warrior's arms and heads lopped off; monsters, wild boar, writhing snakes rampage; mild sexual innuendo.
"Crazy in Alabama." Uneven drama set in 1965 South about white boy who joins civil rights protest and Melanie Griffith as his aunt, who kills abusive husband, goes to Hollywood. Police beating protesters; discussion of dead husband's severed head -- not shown; profanity, racial slurs.
"Being John Malkovich." John Cusack as file clerk who uncovers portal into actor John Malkovich's brain in weird, wildly inventive comedy that plays with identity, gender, fame. Explicit sexuality; cynical, amoral tone; profanity; marijuana; cigarettes. Mature high-schoolers.
"The Best Man." Taye Diggs as writer whose thinly fictionalized novel infuriates old friends in warm romantic comedy -- rare film portrayal of upper-middle-class African Americans. Explicit sexual situations, language; nudity; smoking, drinking; fistfight. Older high-schoolers.