Director: Young Man Kang. With Susan Petry, Everardo Gil, Toya Cho, Ken Yasuda, Young Man Kang. (70 min.)
Sterritt * Los Angeles lovers pair off with one another on the rebound in this contemporary version of the old "La Ronde" idea. The acting is uneven and most of the romancing seems so mismatched that it's not surprising when things fall apart time after time. But there are appealing moments along the way, and the director gets impressive mileage with a budget that can only be called minuscule.
Director: Hassan Yektapanah. With Rashid Akbari, Valiollah Beta, Mahbobeh Khalili. (94 min.)
Sterritt **** The title character is an Afghani immigrant who works at a small Iranian dairy farm, where he shares his memories and hopes with his sympathetic boss. Their relationship grows more complicated when Djomeh falls in love with an Iranian woman and needs help winning her affection - no easy matter, given the strictness of Iranian courtship customs and the fact that he doesn't fit the local profile for a desirable catch. The performances of this quiet Iranian drama are utterly genuine, and the story is a delicate blend of slice-of-life realism and soft-spoken social commentary. In short, it's as smart and entertaining as they come. In Farsi with English subtitles
Director: Victor Salva. With Gina Philips, Justin Long, Jonathan Breck, Eileen Breenan.
Staff * Trish (Philips) and her brother, Darry (Long) are heading home from college. But this is no ordinary road trip. Instead of taking a shortcut, the siblings opt for the scenic route - on a never-ending country road. The first half is pretty intense, as Darry and his sister investigate an abandoned church. But then it just turns silly. They soon encounter a hideous and evil creature that's part bird, who likes to sniff laundry, spread his huge wings, and eat people. There's also a psychic who sings "Jeepers creepers, where'd you get those peepers?" Many scenes caused this reviewer to laugh out loud. The filmmakers seem to be making fun of the horror genre itself. By Lisa Leigh Parney
VS/N: 1 scene of naked dead bodies. VV: 10, including bloody scenes of eating flesh, bodies torn apart, and head decapitations. VP: 40 expressions, sometimes harsh. VD: None.
Director: Tim Blake Nelson. With Julia Stiles, Josh Hartnett, Mekhi Phifer, Martin Sheen, Rain Phoenix. (91 min.)
Staff *** Adapting Shakespeare's "Othello" into a modern-day high-school tragedy sounds gimmicky on paper. Thankfully, though, "O" has deeper concerns. A chain of tragic events is set in motion by the duplicitous conniving of high-schooler Hugo (Hartnett). Envious of the attention his father (Sheen), a basketball coach, bestows on African-American basketball star Odin (Phifer), Hugo deceives Odin into believing that his girlfriend (Stiles) has been unfaithful to him. In a time when school violence is often explained away in the media by superficial pop psychology, the deft script and top-rate cast invite audiences to reexamine the complexity of teenage behavior.
By Stephen Humphries
Director: J.B. Rogers. With Jason Biggs, Shannon Elizabeth, Chris Klein, Alyson Hannigan. (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 teen-pic sentimentality to cleanse the palate.
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: Blair Hayes. With Jake Gyllenhaal, Swoosie Kurtz, Marley Shelton, John Lynch. (84 min.)
Staff * You've probably heard the controversy. Protesters say that "Bubble Boy," a tale of an immunity deficient boy quarantined for life inside his home, makes fun of the disabled. They're wrong. The boy is portrayed as a resourceful role-model. It's racial minorities who ought to be offended by their portrayal. When the boy builds a hermetically sealed bubble so he can leave the home to find the girl of his dreams, everyone he encounters on his road trip is a freak. The story would have been more interesting if the main character had emerged into something approximating the real world. By Stephen Humphries
VS/N: 6 instances of innuendo. VV: 10 scenes, including gory killing of a cow. VP: 29 occasionally harsh expressions. VD: 2 scenes with smoking, 2 scenes with drinking.
Director: John Madden. With Nicolas Cage, Penélope Cruz, Christian Bale, Irene Papas, John Hurt. (125 min.)
Sterritt ** Cage plays a music-loving Italian officer who's garrisoned on a lovely Greek island during World War II, where he falls for a young woman (Cruz). This would be fine, if the romance were well-enough written, directed, and acted to capture our hearts.
Staff ***1/2 Beautiful, miscast, heavy hearted.
VS/N: 4 scenes of nudity, 1 scene of implied sex. VV: 8 gory war scenes. VP: 5 harsh expressions. VD: 9 scenes with alcohol, 3 with cigarettes.
Director: Woody Allen. With Woody Allen, Helen Hunt, Dan Aykroyd, Charlize Theron, David Ogden Stiers, Brian Markinson, Elizabeth Berkley, Wallace Shawn. (93 min.)
Sterritt ** Allen falls back on fast-talking comedy and old-movie nostalgia in this parody of 1940s melodrama, with Woody as an insurance investigator trying to unravel a crime that he committed himself after a session with a sinister nightclub hypnotist. There are lots of plot twists and romantic angles. What's lacking is laughs.
Director: John Carpenter. With Ice Cube, Natasha Henstridge, Jason Statham, Pam Grier, Clea Duvall. (98 min.)
Sterritt * Earthlings living in a Martian colony battle hostile forces who resent this alien invasion of their desolate red planet. Carpenter pulls out all the action-adventure stops, but he and coscripter Larry Sulkis forgot to write dialogue the audience could listen to without howling in disbelief. Henstridge is fun to watch as the Martian cop, though, and Ice Cube still has a powerful screen presence, even when he isn't bothering to act.
S/N: 4 instances of nudity. VV: 24 gory scenes. VP: 65 harsh expressions. VD: 2 scenes with cigarettes, 4 scenes with drugs.
Director: Kevin Smith. With Kevin Smith, Jason Mewes, Shannon Elizabeth, Ben Affleck, Chris Rock. (99 min.)
Sterritt * The title characters have appeared regularly in Smith comedies like "Dogma" and "Chasing Amy," and they take over the story here, traveling to Hollywood to register their protest that Miramax is making a movie about them. There are enough four-letter words and smarmy sex gags to stock a dozen ordinary movies, but even fans of Jay and Silent Bob may find the jokes too repetitive to be much fun.
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. Kidman is a bit stiff as the increasingly anxious matriarch, though, and Amenábar's filmmaking is sadly short on surprises.
Staff *1/2 Unoriginal twist ending, great ghost story, too slow.
VS/N: 1 scene of implied sex. VV: 10 scary scenes. VP: 2 mild expressions. VD: 2 scenes of pilltaking.
Director: Tim Burton. With Mark Wahlberg, Helena Bonham Carter, Tim Roth. (119 min.)
Sterritt ** Wahlberg crash-lands his spaceship on a world where supersmart simians have all the power and human beings are their slaves. Burton is an imaginative director, but his originality is nowhere to be seen in this by-the-numbers retread of a science-fiction premise that seemed much fresher in 1968, when the original "Planet" was released.
Staff *1/2 One-dimensional, Burton succeeds again, never dull, terrific makeup.
VS/N: 1 scene of innuendo. VV: 22 scenes, including gore. VP: 10 mild expressions. VD: 2 scenes with smoking, 2 scenes with drinking.
Director: Garry Marshall. With Julie Andrews, Anne Hathaway, Heather Matarazzo. (114 min.)
Sterritt ** Andrews is excellent as the queen of an itsy-bitsy European principality who decides the nation's next ruler should be her granddaughter, a San Francisco teenager. With its leisurely pace and unfancy filmmaking, this is a likable throwback to an old tradition of family-friendly comedies from Disney, spinning its unpretentious yarn with a quiet but inventive sense of humor. The problem is that it goes on much too long.
Staff *** Benign, whimsical, endearing, bland.
VS/N: None. VV: None. VP: None. VD: 2 scenes with drinking.
Director: Jerry Zucker. With John Cleese, Whoopi Goldberg, Cuba Goldberg, Seth Green. (112 min.)
Staff *1/2 When a millionaire (Cleese) sets up a cross-country race between a group of contestants, they have little idea of the mishaps that will ensue as they strive to beat the others to a $2 million prize. "Naked Gun" director Zucker adds plenty of energy to the madcap episodes the all-star cast find themselves in, but the laughs are scattershot. By Stephen Humphries
Staff *1/2 Flashy, nonsensical, simplistic, cocky.
S/N: 5 instances of innuendo. VV: 12 comic scenes, one fairly unpleasant. VP: 33 occasionally harsh expressions. VD: 5 scenes with alcohol, 1 with cigarettes.
Director: Bret Rattner. With Jackie Chan, Chris Tucker, Zhang Ziyi, Chris Penn, Don Cheadle. (88 min.)
Staff **1/2 Just put Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker together for 90 minutes, and you've got a hit movie. Here, the detectives chase Triad counterfeiters from Hong Kong to Las Vegas. Never mind that the sequel's stunts and fight-scene choreography aren't as impressive as that of the first movie - the amped-up comedy more than compensates to carry the day. By Matthew MacLean
Staff *** Flashy, nonsensical, simplistic, cocky.
VS/N: 4 scenes of innuendo. 3 scenes male posterior nudity. VV: 11 scenes, including martial arts. VP: 40 expressions, many harsh. VD: 3 scenes with alcohol, 3 scenes with smoking.
Director: Michael Tolin. With Freddie Prinze Jr., Jessica Biel, Bruce Davidson, Brian Dennehy. (108 min.)
Staff ** Blue-collar hometown boy and pro lawn mower Ryan Dunne (Freddie Prinze Jr.) has big-league aspirations playing on a Cape League baseball team. Saddled with troubles in his family and a huge lack of belief in himself, Ryan strives to make his dreams come true. This story has its share of bad acting. But "Summer Catch" turns out to be a well-meaning, light, and fluffy comedy with plenty of good giggles. By Deborah Henderson
Director: Christopher Nolan, With Guy Pearce, Carrie-Ann Moss, Joe Pantoliano. (118 min.)
Sterritt *** A young man hunts the criminal who murdered his wife, hampered by a condition that obliterates his short-term memory. How do you conduct a life-or-death quest under such circumstances? You write yourself endless notes and tattoo crucial information on your skin. This unconventionally structured thriller moves at an energetic pace, spurred by clever variations on film narrative.
Staff *** Kodak moments, fresh, intricate,
Director: Ted Demme. With Johnny Depp, Penelope Cruz, Ray Liotta, Paul Reubens. (119 min.)
Sterritt ** The fact-based story of a crook who became a big-time associate of Pablo Escobar's notorious Colombia drug cartel, is inherently stale, especially since Martin Scorsese did it better in the 1990 hit "GoodFellas." But Depp evokes emotional depth with a subtle performance.
Staff *** Realistic, compelling, a bore.
Director: John Boorman. With Geoffrey Rush, Pierce Brosnan, Jamie Lee Curtis. (110 min.)
Sterritt ** Brosnan plays a spy who's sent to Panama, and Rush plays a con artist who uses his profession - tailor to the rich and famous - as a front for more slippery activities. The movie strains too hard to seem smart and savvy, though, with touches of offbeat filmmaking that prove to be a momentary sideshow.
Staff ** Implausible, too heavy, Rush is great.