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Movie Guide

December 7, 2001

Baran (Not rated)

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Director: Majid Majidi. With Hossein Abedini, Mohammad Reza Naji, Zahra Bahrami, Hossein Rahimi. (105 min.)

Sterritt **** The unglamorous setting is an Iranian construction site, and the unlikely hero is a young Iranian man who falls in love with an Afghan woman after a string of misadventures with an illegal immigrant who works alongside him. Majidi became one of Iran's most internationally famed filmmakers with "Children of Heaven" and "The Color of Paradise," but he far surpasses those sappy melodramas with this expressively filmed story of rivalry, romance, and cultural conflict. In Farsi with English subtitles

The Business of Strangers (R)

Director: Patrick Stettner. With Stockard Channing, Julia Stiles, Frederick Welle. (84 min.)

Sterritt ** Spending the night in the same hotel, an upwardly mobile executive (Channing) and a low-level assistant she's just fired (Stiles) decide to take psychological and physical revenge on a self-centered young man who may have sexually abused one of them in the past. Try to imagine "In the Company of Men" with a feminist twist and you'll have the gist of this fervently acted, ultimately unconvincing drama.

Ocean's Eleven (PG-13)

Director: Steven Soderbergh. With George Clooney, Matt Damon, Brad Pitt, Julia Roberts, Andy Garcia, Carl Reiner, Elliott Gould. (105 min.)

Sterritt *** Flimsy but amusing remake of the 1960 comedy-thriller about a gang of rascally thieves who decide to burgle a trio of Las Vegas casinos. Clooney and company aren't as self-consciously stylish as Frank Sinatra and his Rat Pack pals of yore, but they have good-natured fun with Soderbergh's blend of heist-movie suspense and smart-alecky dialogue, and Reiner and Gould are uproarious as old-timers helping with the job. Add the beguiling Roberts as a very wild card in the deck, and you have a caper that rarely goes wrong.

Currently in Release

The Affair of the Necklace (R)

Director: Charles Shyer. With Hilary Swank, Jonathan Pryce, Adrien Brody, Christopher Walken. (120 min.)

Sterritt ** Check off the ingredients for an old-fashioned historical melodrama: an orphan with noble blood, a secretly sinful churchman, an imperious queen, a mystic who may or may not know the future, and a piece of spectacular jewelry that becomes the center of an explosive 18th-century scandal. This sort of material goes back to D.W. Griffith and beyond, and Swank's persona seems too modern to compete with Lillian Gish on her own turf. The movie has almost enough corny appeal to offset its lack of originality, though.

Amélie (R)

Director: Jean-Pierre Jeunet. With Audrey Tautou, Mathieu Kassovitz, Rufus, Arthus de Penguern. (121 min.)

Sterritt *** Amélie is a waitress who anonymously becomes an eager do-gooder for people who never asked her to barge into their lives. Jeunet is never happy with a scene until he's directed it half to death with manic camera work and editing. But Tautou's acting is amiable enough to shine through any cinematic fuss. In French with English subtitles

Staff ***1/2 Unconventional, delightful, mischievous, visually stunning.

VS/N: 8 scenes with implied sex, innuendo and brief nudity. VV: 4 mild scenes of comic violence. VP: None. VD: 9 scenes with alcohol, 1 scene with a cigarette.

Behind Enemy Lines (PG-13)

Director: John Moore. With Gene Hackman, Owen Wilson, David Keith, Joaquim de Almeida. (105 min.)

Staff ** Comedian Owen Wilson in the role of a naval navigator whose plane is shot down over Bosnia? You'd be forgiven for thinking that there was a casting-agent strike going on in Hollywood. Fortunately Wilson's likeability goes a long way toward tempering the film's Rambo-like heroics as he evades Serbs on his way to a rendevouz with a rescue team. First-time director Moore does a sterling job with stylish camerawork, but cartoonish characterization and the score's unsubtle attempts to elicit a patriotic response from the audience are a liability. By Stephen Humphries

Staff **1/2 "The Fugitive" goes to war, gripping, melodramatic end, well-acted.

VS/N: None. VV: 6 gory scenes. VP: 18 mild expressions. VD: 7 scenes with smoking.

Black Knight (PG-13)

Director: Gil Junger. With Martin Lawrence, Tom Wilkinson, Marsha Thompson, Vincent Regan. (95 min.)