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Movie Guide

December 28, 2001



NEW RELEASES
Ali (R)

Director: Michael Mann. With Will Smith, Mykelti Williamson, Giancarlo Esposito, Jamie Foxx. (140 min.)

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Sterritt *** See review, page 15.

Charlotte Gray (R)

Director: Gillian Armstrong. With Cate Blanchett, Billy Crudup, Michael Gambon. (120 min)

Sterritt ** Blanchett gives an intermittently forceful performance as a British woman who becomes an undercover agent for the French resistance during the Nazi occupation, searching for news of a missing pilot she loves while carrying out spy activity and getting involved with a French family endangered by its Jewish roots. The story has inherent emotional power, but Jeremy Brock's formula-bound screenplay rarely soars beyond cliches. Still, vivid cinematography and a few suspenseful scenes give the picture some bursts of energy.

Gosford Park (R)

Director: Robert Altman. With Eileen Atkins, Bob Balaban, Alan Bates, Charles Dance. (137 min.)

Sterritt **** See review, page 15.

In the Bedroom (R)

Director: Todd Field. With Tom Wilkinson, Sissy Spacek, Nick Stahl, Marisa Tomei. (138 min.)

Sterritt *** See review, page 15.

Last Orders (R)

Director: Fred Schepisi. With Tom Courtenay, Helen Mirren, Michael Caine, David Hemmings. (109 min)

Sterritt ** After the death of their closest chum, four old friends go for a long drive to dispose of his ashes by the seaside, reminiscing about the past in flashbacks that gradually reveal the complex ways in which their lives have intersected over the years. Good performances by a distinguished cast don't quite overcome the weaknesses of the disappointing screenplay, which takes turns as predictable as the road traveled by the characters.

Monster's Ball (R)

Director: Marc Forster. With Heath Ledger, Billy Bob Thornton, Sean Combs, Halle Berry. (111 min.)

Sterritt *** See review, page 15.

The Shipping News (R)

Director: Lasse Hallström. With Kevin Spacey, Judi Dench, Julianne Moore, Cate Blanchett. (115 min.)

Sterritt ** After the death of his unfaithful wife, a painfully insecure man moves to snowy Newfoundland with his young daughter and gradually finds a new career, a loving girlfriend, and a sense of purpose he's never had before. Spacey is endearing, bringing his shy character to life despite glaring psychological gaps in the screenplay, based on E. Annie Proulx's novel. Still, the film's impact is stronger on superficial uplift than deep-digging insight.

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.

VS/N: 10 scenes, half innuendo. VV: 8 scenes. VP: 10 mostly mild expressions. VD: 12 scenes with alcohol, 1 with drugs.

Amélie (R)

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

Sterritt *** Amélie is a waitress who anonymously becomes a 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. VP: None. VD: 9 with alcohol, 1 with a cigarette.

Baran (not rated)

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

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