SNOW FALLING ON CEDARS (PG-13, 127 minutes)
An extraordinarily beautiful film about injustice, lost love and piercing memories, "Snow Falling on Cedars" offers a movie experience to teen audiences who've never been to an "art film" before. It will also teach them about the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II. The picture contains flashbacks to the war, showing severed limbs and blood. Other elements include sexual situations that are somewhat explicit for a PG-13, racial slurs and profanity, and heavy smoking.
Based on David Guterson's prize-winning bestseller, the story is set in the 1950s Pacific Northwest. We see the tale through the memory-clouded eyes of a newspaper reporter named Ishmael (Ethan Hawke). He's covering the murder trial of a Japanese American for the death of another fisherman from the same island town. But Ishmael's views are colored by his obsession with the defendant's wife (Youki Kudoh), who was the forbidden sweetheart of his youth. Add the prejudice against Japanese Americans and the plot thickens.
NEXT FRIDAY (R, 99 minutes)
In this sequel to his 1995 hit comedy, "Friday" (also rated R), actor-rapper-scriptwriter Ice Cube again plays the perennially jobless Craig, now eluding bad guys in the 'burbs. And like the original, "Next Friday" is a lewd, crude, rude, music-filled urban comedy -- broadly funny and pretty tame stuff compared with the average Hollywood shoot'em-up. Parents may object to the movie's easygoing portrayal of marijuana use, its constant and fairly explicit verbal and visual sexual innuendo, its lighthearted take on a young woman pregnant out of wedlock and its toilet humor. There's also negative stereotyping of Latinos. Teens and younger kids may head straight for "Next Friday," since the first film remains a hit on video, but it's inappropriate for most teens under 16 or so.
The kindhearted but unambitious Craig (Ice Cube) still lives with his folks in South Central L.A. When the bully he defeated in the first movie breaks out of prison, Craig's hilariously loudmouth dad (John Witherspoon) sends him to live with his good-time uncle, now in a big suburban house after winning the lottery. But with bad-guy drug dealers next door, Craig finds the 'burbs as scary as South Central.
GIRL, INTERRUPTED (R, 128 minutes)
Brimming with terrific performances and searing emotions, "Girl, Interrupted" confronts problems -- suicide, anorexia, drug abuse, sexuality -- that can trouble teenage girls in any era. Some high-schoolers may find it reassuring to know that their feelings were shared by a girl in a true story set back in 1967. Others, especially those who've had more serious emotional illness, may find the unflinching portrait of girls in a psychiatric hospital upsetting. The rating reflects the suicide theme, which begins as mere talk but climaxes in a graphic incident. Other elements include marijuana and other drug abuse, strong profanity, mild sexual situations and much cigarette smoking.
Based on Susanna Kaysen's 1993 memoir, "Girl, Interrupted" stars Winona Ryder as the 17year-old Susanna, in a performance of glowing transparency of feeling. Her Susanna is so detached and suicidal that her parents have her committed to a fancy private institution. There she encounters a cadre of troubled young women, most particularly an antisocial brat named Lisa (Angelina Jolie) who likes to lead rebellions against the nurse (Whoopi Goldberg). It takes Susanna a long, long time to face her own weaknesses and choose to live in the world again. Occasionally too teary and self-indulgent -- like the sad rich kids it portrays -- "Girl, Interrupted" nonetheless spins dramatic gold that high-schoolers, especially girls, can treasure.
Okay for Most Kids
"Fantasia 2000." Whimsical blend of old and new animation techniques and bits of classical music; only Mickey Mouse in "The Sorcerer's Apprentice" retained from 1940 original. Under-six's may be scared by certain images, sounds, a nasty jack-in-the-box.
"Stuart Little" (PG). Droll, touching, slightly smart-alecky take on E.B. White kid lit classic about mouse who becomes youngest son of nice human family; lacks book's dignified tone, but still mighty entertaining. Tots may jump when cats chase Stuart; cats also swear.
More for Kids 10 and Older
"Galaxy Quest (PG). Has-been stars of "Star Trek"-style 1970's TV show beamed up by real space aliens in brilliant, droll send-up of "Star Trek" and its cult. Mild profanity; sexual innuendo; battles with space creatures may scare tots.
"Magnolia." Nine characters face life crises, their fates interwoven in unusual dramatic comedy with good turns by Tom Cruise, Jason Robards et al. Attempted suicides; gun violence; drug abuse; talk that one character molested his daughter; verbal sexual innuendo, profanity; brief, explicit sexual situations; semi-nudity; smoking, drinking. Older high-schoolers.
"The Hurricane." Denzel Washington as boxer Rubin "Hurricane" Carter in riveting if disjointed docudrama about his wrongful imprisonment for murder and his hard-won freedom. Gun violence, bloodied corpses; racial slurs, profanity; scene implying that secondary character preys sexually on young boys. High-schoolers.
"The End of the Affair." Ralph Fiennes, Julianne Moore as adulterous couple separated by spiritual matters in intimate, very British morality tale from Graham Greene novel. Explicit sex scenes; nudity; smoking, drinking; frightening moments when World War II bombs fall. High-schoolers.
"The Talented Mr. Ripley." Matt Damon as ambitious nobody who wangles friendship with rich American playboy in 1950's Italy in elegant, subtle tale of love and murder based on Patricia Highsmith novel. Sexual innuendo; sudden violence; rare profanity; drinking, smoking. Mature high-schoolers.