American Pie 2 (R)Skip to next paragraph
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Director: J.B. Rogers. With Jason Biggs, Shannon Elizabeth, Chris Klein, Alyson Hannigan, Mena Suvari, Natasha Lyonne, Tara Reid, Seann William Scott. (104 min.)
Sterritt ** It's summer vacation, the "American Pie" alumni are now college kids, and all they can think of is still - you guessed it - sex, sex, sex. This energetic sequel moves from one gross-out set piece to another, with occasional moments of teenpic sentimentality to cleanse the palate. It delivers all the raunch and ribaldry its designated audience could hope for, but others may find it more deliberately disgusting than effervescently outrageous.
VS/N: 19 scenes of graphic innuendo or implied sex, 1 sex scene with nudity. VV: 2 scenes of comic violence. VP: 124 very harsh expressions. VD: 20 scenes with alcohol, 1 with smoking.
Director: Miike Takashi. With Ryo Ishibashi, Eihi Shiina, Jun Kunimura, Tetsu Sawaki. (115 min.)
Sterritt ** A middle-age widower takes a cue from the entertainment media and "auditions" women who might make good romantic partners. His selection turns out to be a very strange candidate, however, whose behavior grows more ominous the more he learns about her. The most startling aspect of this slow-building horror movie is how unexpectedly it morphs from a quietly romantic suspense yarn to a flat-out tale of terror that may have some viewers hiding under their seats. Stay far away unless you're in the mood for very violent surprises. In Japanese with English subtitles
Directors: Scott McGehee, David Siegel. With Tilda Swinton, Goran Visnjic, Jonathan Tucker, Peter Donat. (99 min.)
Sterritt ** Trying to protect her teenage son from the sinister influence of an ill-chosen older friend, a woman finds herself covering up a death and negotiating with a tenacious blackmailer. Swinton has some affecting moments as the mom, but the rest of the acting is second-rate, and the directors (previously known for "Suture," which also promised more than it delivered) give it little originality or oomph. The same story was told vastly better in the 1949 melodrama "The Reckless Moment," directed by the Max Ophuls and starring James Mason in one of his most indelible roles.
Directors: Peter Farrelly, Bobby Farrelly. With Bill Murray, Molly Shannon, Chris Elliott, voices of Chris Rock, Laurence Fishburne, William Shatner, David Hyde Pierce. (90 min.)
Sterritt ** Our hero has poor health habits - heavy on the snacks, light on the exercise - and we see the physiological fallout of his irresponsibility in animated sequences set at different times of day in different parts of his distressed innards, where a talkative white blood cell and an officious patent-medicine pill work to cure him. This mixture of cartooning and live action has antecedents as different as the science-fiction adventure "Fantastic Journey," old educational TV specials like "Hemo the Magnificent," and "Who Framed Roger Rabbit," which was far more ambitious. But the Farrelly brothers inevitably steer toward gross-out farce, and little they cook up here amounts to more than smart-alecky parody with an intermittently sour smell. Young viewers may guffaw, but seasoned fans of "There's Something About Mary" will be disappointed.
Director: Alejandro Amenábar. With Nicole Kidman, Christopher Eccleston, Eric Sykes. (104 min.)
Sterritt ** A war widow, her little boy, and their new servants dwell amid the mysteries of what may be a very haunted house. This is a subdued and sometimes subtle exercise in ghostly doings, going against the horror-movie grain by relying on quietude and understatement. Kidman is a bit stiff as the increasingly anxious matriarch, though, and Amenábar's filmmaking is sadly short on surprises.
Director: Allan Miller. With Zhang Yimou, Zubin Mehta. (87 min.)
Sterritt ** Renowned conductor Mehta and celebrated filmmaker Zhang combined their talents to create a unique production of Puccini's opera "Turandot," first in Italy and then in China, where they ran into artistic and bureaucratic challenges they hadn't anticipated. Things worked out well in the end, and this attractively shot documentary of the production tells how the gifted duo managed to pull it off. Music buffs may wish there were a lot more Puccini and a little less talking-head chitchat, though. In English and in Mandarin and Italian with English subtitles