Movie Guide

New Releases
The Count of Monte Cristo (PG-13)

Director: Kevin Reynolds. With Jim Caviezel, Richard Harris, Dagmara Dominczyk, Guy Pearce. (113 min.)

Sterritt *** (See review, page 15.)

Eisenstein (Not rated)

Director: Renny Bartlett. With Simon McBurney, Raymond Coulthard, Jacqueline McKenzie. (96 min.)

Recommended: Could you pass a US citizenship test?

Sterritt ** Biopic about Soviet filmmaker and theorist Sergei Eisenstein, who energized cinema with new ideas from the '20s to the '40s, but ran afoul of narrow-minded authorities with his avant-garde notions. McBurney works hard to convey Eisenstein's conflicted personality as an artistic radical and gay man living in a notoriously oppressive society. Bartlett's screenplay is riddled with clichés, though, and the rhythms of his ungainly visual style are worlds away from the electrifying montage of Eisenstein's early films and the stately arabesques of his later work.

Storytelling (R)

Director: Todd Solondz. With John Goodman, Heather Matarazzo, Paul Giamatti, Selma Blair. (90 min.)

Sterritt *** (See review, page 15.)

Waydowntown (R)

Director: Gary Burns. With Don McKellar, Tammy Isbell, James McBurney, Marya Delver, . (83 min.)

Sterritt *** (See review, page 15.)

CURRENTLY IN RELEASE
Ali (R)

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

Sterritt *** Fast-talking prizefighter Muhammad Ali was a key athletic and cultural figure of the '60s and '70s. This energetic biopic covers key events of his career, including his rise to the heavyweight championship, his role in the Black Muslim movement, and his comeback. Smith lacks the champ's physical presence, but his vocal impersonation is exactly right. The film's heart is in the boxing scenes.

Staff *** Riveting, revealing, good history lesson, way too long.

Sex/Nudity: Three scenes. Violence: 11 scenes, mostly boxing. Profanity: 19 expressions, some harsh. Drugs: 13 scenes of smoking or drinking.

A Beautiful Mind (PG-13)

Director: Ron Howard. With Russell Crowe, Jennifer Connelly, Ed Harris. (120 min.)

Sterritt ** Howard takes more storytelling risks than usual in this crisply made biopic about John Nash, an economist who began his career with a theoretical breakthrough, then fell prey to psychological problems that hobbled him. Crowe brilliantly portrays this complex character. But the screenplay seems cavalier in assuming mental illness is no match for will power. You won't learn much about economics, despite Nash's devotion to the field.

Staff ***1/2 Amazing acting, turbulent, triumphant, believably real.

Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: 7 scenes. Profanity: 4 instances. Drugs: At least 6 scenes of drinking.

Black Hawk Down (R)

Director: Ridley Scott. With Josh Hartnett, Sam Shepard, Tom Sizemore. (148 min.)

Sterritt * The fact-based story focuses on US troops sent to Mogadishu in 1993 to disable a powerful Somali warlord by kidnapping high lieutenants who've helped him rule by terror. Their obstacles include aggressive enemy soldiers and hostile civilians, and the nightmare grows worse when two high-tech helicopters are shot down, sparking a hard-fought battle to rescue crash survivors and then the rescuers themselves. The screenplay lauds the resolute spirits of the troops, and Scott uses hard-hitting images. But the nature of warfare merits more thoughtful examination at this precarious time. Since the filmmakers have no insights to offer, their motives must be to sensationalize war's horrors and capitalize on its thrills. We deserve better.

Staff *** Gut wrenching, extremely violent, savage, lacks content, well directed.

Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: Most of the film is violent with at least 45 battle scenes, many very gory. Profanity: 22 expressions. Drugs: 10 scenes.

Brotherhood of the Wolf (R)

Director: Christophe Gans. With Jean Yanne, Emilie Dequenne, Vincent Cassel. (142 min.)

Sterritt ** In the time of Louis XV, a French detective and a native American mystic uncover a web of skullduggery as they probe a series of killings thought by local peasants to be the work of a supernatural monster. Gans tries to match "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" with his ambitious mix of action, romance, and mythic overtones, but much of the historical horrorfest is more frenetic than fascinating. Look out for violence. In French with English subtitles.

Staff *** Good monster movie, excessive, dark, mystical.

Sex/Nudity: 6 scenes. Violence: 18 scenes. Profanity: None. Drugs: 8 scenes with drinking or smoking; 2 with drugs.

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 a spy for the French resistance during World War II, searching for a missing pilot she loves while 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.

Staff ** Bland Blanchett, poignant, dodgy accents, dull, good evocation of era.

Sex/Nudity: Two scenes. Violence: Four scenes.Profanity: 15 expressions. Drugs: At least 12 scenes with drinking or smoking.

Gosford Park (R)

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

Sterritt **** Altman visits England for the first time in this peek at the British class system about 70 years ago, focusing on masters and servants at a rural estate during a shooting-party weekend roiled by a murder. This is familiar territory if you recall BBC miniseries "Upstairs Downstairs," but this great US filmmaker gives it new twists with an incisively satirical approach.

Staff **1/2 Too many characters, predictable, well-composed, witty, suspenseful.

Sex/Nudity: 5 scenes with implied sex. Violence: 2 scenes. Profanity: 7 harsh expressions. Drugs: 34 scenes with smoking, 14 with drinking.

In the Bedroom (R)

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

Sterritt *** A small-town doctor and his wife aren't sure how to take their college-age son's romance with an unhappily married woman. The climax suggests drastic measures may be needed in drastic circumstances and, more subtly, that the lines between "moral" and "immoral" people may be more slender than we'd like to believe. The acting is excellent.

Staff *** Humanistic, dark, deliberate pacing, absorbing, superbly acted.

Sex/Nudity: 8 scenes, mostly innuendo. Violence: 7 scenes, 1 graphic. Profanity: 20 expressions. Drugs: 12 scenes.

Italian for Beginners (R)

Director: Lone Scherfig. With Anders W. Berthelsen, Annette Stovelbaek, Peter Gantzler. (118 min.)

Sterritt *** A widowed minister takes a post in a small Danish town and starts attending weekly Italian lessons to pass the time, meeting new acquaintances more concerned with figuring out their problems than practicing their verbs and prepositions. Scherfig has made the movie in line with Denmark's distinctive Dogma 95 movement, avoiding fancy touches or extravagant effects. There aren't many exciting moments, but the story and performances have a low-key charm. (In Danish with English subtitles)

Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius (G)

Director: John Davis. With voices of Martin Short, Debi Derryberry, Patrick Stewart. (84 min.)

Staff **1/2 James "Isaac" Neutron is hardly a typical 10-year-old. The genius's quirky mannerisms and inventions - such as a super bubble-gum mobile - make the pocket protector set look like jocks. But when aliens resembling lime Jell-O kidnap the parents, it's up to Jimmy and his pals to save them. The animation is stunning, and kids will roar. But unlike Monsters Inc., the prosaic plot may spur the older crowd to take flight. By Stephanie Cook

Staff **1/2 Inventive, family fun, bright animation, forgettable storyline.

Sex/Nudity: None.Violence: 12 scenes of cartoonish violence.Profanity: None. Drugs: None.

Kandahar (Not rated)

Director: Mohsen Makhmalbaf. With Nilofaur Pazira, Sadou Teymour. (82 min.)

Sterritt *** Clad in a full-length veil that hides her identity and intentions, an Afghan woman tries to enter her homeland from Iran on a rescue mission to her sister. During the journey she witnesses suffering but sees the strength of people who assist her, including a US medical worker. This drama by one of Iran's great filmmakers casts a light on fundamental human conflicts.

Staff **1/2 Stunning images, weak acting, amateurish, impressionistic.

Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: 1 robbery scene. Profanity: None. Drugs: 1 scene with smoking.

Kate & Leopold (PG-13)

Director: James Mangold. With Meg Ryan, Hugh Jackman, Liev Schreiber. (118 min.)

Staff **1/2 When the world's first time traveler inadvertently transports Duke Leopold from the 19th century to present-day New York, an unexpected romance blooms between bewildered Leopold and a jaded advertising exec. If you buy into the outlandish premise, then there's much fun to be had with Jackman's antics and a typically sprightly performance by Ryan. By Stephen Humphries

Staff *** Romantic, playful, charmingly predictable, quick-witted.

Sex/Nudity: 1 scene of implied sex. Violence: None. Profanity: 6 expressions. Drugs: 8 scenes of alcohol.

Orange County (PG-13)

Director: Jake Kasdan. With Colin Hanks, Jack Black, Lily Tomlin, Schuyler Fisk. (81 min.)

Staff ** Hanks (son of Tom) and Fisk (daughter of Sissy Spacek) make a charming couple in this tale of a class president fighting to get into Stanford after his high school submits the wrong grades. Black, Ben Stiller and a raft of stars in minor parts lend support, but the filmmakers couldn't decide whether to make a teen romance, a wry look at suburbia, or a broad farce. "All of the above" was the wrong answer. By M.K. Terrell

Sex/Nudity: 11 scenes, mostly innuendo. Violence: 3 scenes. Profanity: 18 expressions. Drugs: At least 15 scenes of drinking, smoking and drug use.

The Royal Tenenbaums (R)

Director: Wes Anderson. With Gene Hackman, Gwyneth Paltrow, Bill Murray, Ben Stiller. (130 min.)

Sterritt *** Hackman plays the patriarch of an eccentric family, indulging his whimsies while sparring with a romance-starved wife and three adult children who've fallen way short of the promise they showed as precocious kids. Anderson begins this story with bursts of originality, but the plot loses momentum.

Staff *** Zany, slap-stick, dark, original.

Sex/Nudity: At least 5. Violence: 8 scenesProfanity: 12 expressions, some harsh. Drugs: 48 scenes with drinking and smoking; 1 scene with drugs.

Snow Dogs (PG)

Director: Brian Levant. With Cuba Gooding Jr., James Coburn, Joanna Bacalso. (99 min.)

Staff **1/2 A successful Miami dentist learns he is adopted when he inherits his birth mother's Alaskan sled dogs. Amid predictable slapstick episodes, the film champions courage and tenacity, and raises surprisingly serious issues: racial harmony, appreciation of adoptive parents despite the yearning for biological roots, and the worth of every child irrespective of parents' marital status. City kids will appreciate all the snow and mountains. By M.K. Terrell

What Time Is It There? (Not rated)

Director: Tasi Ming-Liang. With Lee Kang-Sheng, Chen Shiang-Chyi, Cecilia Yip. (116 min.)

Sterritt **** A streetside salesman falls instantly in love with a woman who wants to buy a wristwatch from him. But she's heading to Paris for an extended stay, so he consoles himself by resetting every clock he can find to French time, to make her feel closer and to distract himself from the burden of caring for his mother. Meanwhile the elusive traveler has a random series of Parisian adventures. Tsai's style is unique, unfolding the tale in long, static shots that allow you to discover their surprises on your own. (In Cantonese, Mandarin, and French with English subtitles)

OUT ON VIDEO
Rock Star (R)

Director: Stephen Herek. With Mark Wahlberg, Jennifer Aniston, Jason Flemyng, Timothy Spall. (104 min.)

Sterritt *** The hero is a wannabe pop singer who fronts a "tribute band" that slavishly imitates a far more famous group. It seems he's going nowhere until the famous group summons him to replace their ousted leader - which makes him an overnight sensation and lures him into the rock scene's dark side, endangering his relationship with his longtime girlfriend. Herek pushes the sex-and-drug material too far, threatening to exploit the dangers the story deplores. But the acting is excellent.

Staff **1/2 Top entertainment, cartoonish, like watching VH1's "Behind the Music."

Sex/Nudity: 8 scenes, including innuendo. Violence: 5 scenes. Profanity: 56 harsh expressions. Drugs: 25 scenes with alcohol or smoking, 2 with drugs.

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