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Director: Brian Robbins. With Keanu Reeves, Diane Lane, John Hawk, D.B. Sweeney. (90 min.)Skip to next paragraph
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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. "Hardball" pitches both laughs and tears. 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. Hicks doesn't always keep the story clear and compelling, but Hopkins is in top form.
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: John Dahl. With Steve Zahn, Leelee Sobieski, Paul Walker, Walt Goggins. (97 min.)
Staff ** A stylish but ultimately cheap thrill, "Joy Ride" is a skillful production in the service of nothing better than your average teen fright- flick experience. Two brothers play a practical joke on a truck driver, who turns out to be Freddy Kreuger on 10 wheels as he pursues his revenge to its noisy, gory conclusion (and, of course, beyond). Fasten your seat belts if you must take this ride, but as every patron of the teen genre knows, you're better off if you don't get in the car.
By Gloria Goodale
Director: Paul Cox. With Julia Blake, Charles Tingwell, Terry Norris, Robert Menzies. (94 min.)
Staff ***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. 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: Tim Hill. With Alex Linz, Clifton Davis, Amy Hill, Orlando Brown. (86 min.)
Staff **1/2 Will Max survive his first week of junior high? Bullies take his money and toss him in a dumpster. He's also tormented by a crazed ice cream vendor, a bulldozer-driving principal, and a ninth-grader trying to make him her pet. Under the impression that he's about to move to another town, Max decides to strike back. This scattered production, which seems more like a Nickelodeon cartoon than a live action movie, often loses positive messages in the shuffle, but Linz's savvy performance as Max almost compensates. Fifth-graders may find it funny - or terrifying. By M.K. Terrell
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.
Staff *1/2 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: Bret Rattner. With Jackie Chan, Chris Tucker, Chris Penn, Don Cheadle, Zhang Ziyi. (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