Director: Lucrecia Martel. With Mercedes MorÃƒÆ'Ã'ÃƒÂ'ÃƒÆ'ÂÂ'ÃƒÆ'Ã'ÂÂÂ'ÃƒÆ'Ã'ÃƒÂ'ÂÂÂÂ'ÃƒÆ'Ã'ÃƒÂ'ÃƒÆ'ÂÂ'ÂÂÂÂÂ'ÃƒÆ'Ã'ÃƒÂ'ÃƒÆ'ÂÂ'ÃƒÆ'Ã'ÂÂÂ'ÂÂÂÂÂÂ'ÃƒÆ'Ã'ÃƒÂ'ÃƒÆ'ÂÂ'ÃƒÆ'Ã'ÂÂÂ'ÃƒÆ'Ã'ÃƒÂ'ÂÂÂÂ'ÂÂÂÂÂÂÂ'ÃƒÆ'Ã'ÃƒÂ'ÃƒÆ'ÂÂ'ÃƒÆ'Ã'ÂÂÂ'ÃƒÆ'Ã'ÃƒÂ'ÂÂÂÂ'ÃƒÆ'Ã'ÃƒÂ'ÃƒÆ'ÂÂ'ÂÂÂÂÂ'ÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂ'ÃƒÆ'Ã'ÃƒÂ'ÃƒÆ'ÂÂ'ÃƒÆ'Ã'ÂÂÂ'ÃƒÆ'Ã'ÃƒÂ'ÂÂÂÂ'ÃƒÆ'Ã'ÃƒÂ'ÃƒÆ'ÂÂ'ÂÂÂÂÂ'ÃƒÆ'Ã'ÃƒÂ'ÃƒÆ'ÂÂ'ÃƒÆ'Ã'ÂÂÂ'ÂÂÂÂÂÂ'ÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂ'ÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂ¥n, Martin AdjemiÃƒÆ'Ã'ÃƒÂ'ÃƒÆ'ÂÂ'ÃƒÆ'Ã'ÂÂÂ'ÃƒÆ'Ã'ÃƒÂ'ÂÂÂÂ'ÃƒÆ'Ã'ÃƒÂ'ÃƒÆ'ÂÂ'ÂÂÂÂÂ'ÃƒÆ'Ã'ÃƒÂ'ÃƒÆ'ÂÂ'ÃƒÆ'Ã'ÂÂÂ'ÂÂÂÂÂÂ'ÃƒÆ'Ã'ÃƒÂ'ÃƒÆ'ÂÂ'ÃƒÆ'Ã'ÂÂÂ'ÃƒÆ'Ã'ÃƒÂ'ÂÂÂÂ'ÂÂÂÂÂÂÂ'ÃƒÆ'Ã'ÃƒÂ'ÃƒÆ'ÂÂ'ÃƒÆ'Ã'ÂÂÂ'ÃƒÆ'Ã'ÃƒÂ'ÂÂÂÂ'ÃƒÆ'Ã'ÃƒÂ'ÃƒÆ'ÂÂ'ÂÂÂÂÂ'ÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂ'ÃƒÆ'Ã'ÃƒÂ'ÃƒÆ'ÂÂ'ÃƒÆ'Ã'ÂÂÂ'ÃƒÆ'Ã'ÃƒÂ'ÂÂÂÂ'ÃƒÆ'Ã'ÃƒÂ'ÃƒÆ'ÂÂ'ÂÂÂÂÂ'ÃƒÆ'Ã'ÃƒÂ'ÃƒÆ'ÂÂ'ÃƒÆ'Ã'ÂÂÂ'ÂÂÂÂÂÂ'ÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂ'ÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂ¥n, Graciela Borges, Leonora Balcarce. (103 min.)
Sterritt ** The lives of two dysfunctional households in a small Argentine town during the hottest, stickiest summer anyone can remember. Martel shows great promise as a visual stylist and a director of strong performances, vividly etching her characters and condensing the experiences of three generations into a single economical story. But her screenplay gives little of interest, once the novelty of meeting these people has worn off. The title means "The Swamp," and you may feel you're in one after 103 minutes with such a generally unlikable gang. In Spanish with English subtitles
Director: Daniel M. Cohen. With Robert Forster, Donnie Wahlberg, Bess Armstrong, Jasmine Guy. (100 min.)
Sterritt ** An aging diamond dealer (Forster) goes on the road with a protégé (Wahlberg) he'd rather leave behind, reacting with a bemused blend of aversion and attraction when his young partner insists on behaving like the hero of a sleazy traveling-salesman joke. This modest comedy-drama begins as a mildly engaging tale of two conflicting but basically decent personalities, then loses its way in a crime-movie subplot and a less-than-believable love affair. Forster is always a pleasure to watch, though.
Director: Peter Chelsom. With John Cusack, Kate Beckinsale, Molly Shannon, Eugene Levy. (100 min.)
Sterritt ** A young man meets the woman of his dreams, but she wants a sign that destiny means them to be together, and destiny doesn't quite come through. Several years later, they're both due to marry other people, and since neither can forget the magical evening they once shared, they independently decide to give destiny one more chance. This exceedingly romantic comedy begins with flair but lapses into clichés long before the sentimental (and predictable) finale. The stars are fetching, though, and Levy is great fun in his too-small role.
Director: Jacques Rivette. With Jeanne Balibar, Jacques Bonaffé, Hélène de Fougerolles, Sergio Castellitto, Catherine Rouvel, Claude Berri. (150 min.)
Sterritt **** Back in Paris after three years with an Italian theater group, a French actress wavers between an old flame and her current boyfriend, who's obsessed with finding the manuscript of a long-lost play. Lots more happens in this magical movie, which has brilliant fun with the contrasts between film and theater, love and infatuation, reality and fantasy. Don't let the 2-1/2-hour running time put you off. It's a delight from beginning to end, and a triumphant return to glory for Rivette, one of French film's most towering talents. In French with English subtitles
Director: Antoine Fuqua. With Denzel Washington, Ethan Hawke, Scott Glenn, Macy Gray, Snoop Dogg. (120 min.)
Staff *** The first day on any job can be a nerve-wracking experience for anyone, but nothing can prepare ordinary cop Jake Hoyt (Hawke) for what he endures on his "training day." Hoyt shadows a veteran narcotics cop (Washington) through the underbelly of Los Angeles, and discovers a more corrupt and violent world than he could have imagined. Aided by superb performers, director Fuqua has fashioned a gripping thriller in which both moral and immoral actions have consequences. One of the year's best. By Stephen Humphries
Director: Gary Fleder. With Michael Douglas, Brittany Murphy, Sean Bean, Jennifer Esposito, Oliver Platt, Famke Janssen. (110 min.)
Sterritt ** Douglas plays a New York psychiatrist treating a troubled teenager who's been faking most of her afflictions for years; then his daughter gets kidnapped by a twisted criminal who's after a crucial number buried in the teen's memory. The movie has promise as a psychological thriller, but the filmmakers show far more interest in chases and shoot-outs than characters and ideas.
Director: Daniel Sackheim. With Leelee Sobieski, Diane Lane, Stellan Skarsgard, Trevor Morgan. (111 min.)
Staff * When Ruby and Rhett Baker's parents die in a mysterious car accident, they are adopted by Erin and Terry Glass. It isn't long before Ruby realizes there's something creepy about their adoptive parents. This is one of those thrillers in which lightning flashes in a dark house, the girl drops the car keys just as the baddie is approaching, and the killer has to be killed twice at the end. 'The Glass House' is too transparent to be effective. By Stephen Humphries
Director: Brian Robbins. With Keanu Reeves, Diane Lane, John Hawk, D.B. Sweeney. (90 min.)
Staff **1/2 His life threatened by bookies, Connor O'Neill (Reeves) agrees in desperation to coach Little League. Initially, O'Neill's only reason for coaching is to collect his weekly check. But the harsh realities of life in the projects won't let him, or the viewer, remain callous for long. Meanwhile, the young cast of "Hardball" pitches laughs and tears, making sure both you and O'Neill think twice about how to live. By Nathan Smith
Director: Scott Hicks. With Anthony Hopkins, Hope Davis, Anton Yelchin, Mika Boorem, David Morse. (98 min.)
Sterritt *** A mysterious stranger (Hopkins) rents a room above the home of an 11-year-old boy and his self-absorbed mother, then asks the child to keep an eye out for menacing enemies who want to capture him. The movie takes on a lot of material, from the boy's problems with bullies and romance to the stranger's clairvoyant powers that tell him when danger is approaching. Hicks doesn't always keep the story clear and compelling, but Hopkins is in top form, and the filmmakers leave some of its mysteries unsolved, inviting us to draw our own conclusions.
VS/N: 3 instances of innuendo, including implied rape. VV: 6 scenes including beatings. VP: 13 expressions. VD: 6 scenes with smoking, 2 scenes with drinking.
Director: Paul Cox. With Julia Blake, Charles Tingwell, Terry Norris, Robert Menzies. (94 min.)
Sterritt ***1/2 Yearning for the Englishwoman he loved in his youth, an aging Belgian widower finds her in Australia 45 years later where she is enduring a comfortable but thankless marriage. The grown offspring of the one-time couple's individual marriages show remarkable patience and understanding toward their parents' halting steps toward renewed love. Director Cox draws remarkably low-key performances from his cast, suggesting the would-be lovers' mental state with deft flashback glimmers of romance and separation. By M.K. Terrell
VS/N: 4 scenes, including nudity. VV: 2 scenes including a minor tussle. VP: 3 expressions. VD: 8 scenes of drinking.
Director: Peter Hyams. With Justin Chambers, Tim Roth, Mena Suvari, Catherine Deneuve. (106 min.)
Staff ** Great swordplay; terrible wordplay. That's the lowdown on the latest movie adaptation of the Alexander Dumas tale in which D'Artagnan, a valiant swordsman, rallies France's musketeers to protect the throne from the political machinations of Cardinal Richelieu (Rea). Justin Chambers shows not one iota of charisma in the lead role, and Mena Suvari isn't very interesting as the love interest, but the fencing choreography does manage to out-Zorro "Zorro." By Stephen Humphries
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 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.
u1/2 Unoriginal twist, great ghost story, slow.
VS/N: 1 scene of implied sex. VV: 10 scary scenes. VP: 2 mild expressions. VD: 2 scenes of pilltaking.
Director: Barbet Schroder. With German Jaramillo, Anderson Ballesteros. (101 min.)
Staff *** A middle-aged intellectual (Jaramillo), returns to Medellin, Colombia, after 30 years, to find that his sleepy home town has grown to 4 million people, many existing in crushing poverty and drug trade-related anarchy. He is strangely drawn to a teenager (Ballesteros), who murders at the slightest provocation and is himself the target of frequent drive-by shootings. Director Schroeder used non-professional youths from the actual barrios we see on screen.
By M.K. Terrell
VS/N: 7 scenes with nudity. VV: 5 scenes, sometimes gory. VP: 56 harsh expressions. VD: 6 scenes with drinking, 1 scene with smoking, 2 scenes with drugs.
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 in which the cast find themselves, 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 those 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 of male posterior nudity. VV: 11 scenes. VP: 40 expressions, many harsh. VD: 3 scenes with alcohol, 3 scenes with smoking.
Director: Ben Stiller. With Ben Stiller, Owen Wilson, Christine Taylor, Will Ferrell, Jerry Stiller. (95 min.)
Staff ** Imagine a collision between "Austin Powers" and "Dumb and Dumber" inside the world of fashion catwalks, and you'll have a fair idea of the manic and kaleidoscopic tone of "Zoolander." The loose plot - it's more of a concept, actually - has Ben Stiller starring as the world's most famous supermodel (that's worth a giggle right there) who becomes unwittingly embroiled in a plot to kill the Prime Minister of Malaysia. The hit-and-miss jokes play like a "Saturday Night Live" sketch, but there are laughs aplenty. By Stephen Humphries
VS/N: 2 scenes of implied sex, 1 scene with innuendo. VV: 13 scenes of cartoonish violence. VP: 19 expressions, sometimes harsh. VD: 6 scenes with drinking, 1 scene with smoking, 2 scenes with drugs.
Director: Luis Mandoki. With Jennifer Lopez, Jim Caviezel, Sonia Braga, Shirley Knight. (104 min.)
Sterritt **When a stranger (Caviezel) saves South Chicago cop (Lopez) from a dangerous situation, she thinks she may have met the perfect man. But relationship problems arise when she tries to find out about his past. This unconventional love story captivates early on, but even Lopez's surprisingly good acting can't rescue this slow-paced yarn. By Joshua S. Burek
uu Contrived, emotional, sweet moments.
Director: Sharon Maguire. With Renée Zellweger, Hugh Grant, Colin Firth, Jim Broadbent. (94 min.)
Sterritt ** A romantic Englishwoman searches for a man who won't mind her slightly bulky figure and slightly dissolute habits. This comedy evidently sees itself as a Jane Austen spinoff in the "Clueless" vein - Firth even plays a character called Mr. Darcy - and fans of the genre will enjoy it if they're not distracted by trite plot twists.
Staff ***1/2 Exaggerated, very good, witty.
Director: Im Kwon Taek. With Lee Hyo Jung, Cho Seung Woo, Kim Sung Nyu. (120 min.)
Sterritt **** The mythic tale of a courtesan's daughter who falls in love with a ruler's son, then suffers a thousand torments when a selfish governor decides he wants her for himself. Told through an imaginative blend of ravishing camera work and chanted "pansori" storytelling, this Korean production is poignant and original.