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Movie Guide

February 15, 2002

Iris (R)

Director: Richard Eyre. With Judi Dench, Jim Broadbent, Kate Winslet, Hugh Bonneville, Eleanor Bron. (90 min.)

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Sterritt *** In alternating scenes, Winslet and Dench play novelist Iris Murdoch at two very different periods in her life. Some episodes show her early years as a writer, when she flirted with everyone in sight and decided to marry fellow author John Bayley; others paint a sad portrait of the mental and physical decline that eventually burdened her. Dench and Winslet give strong and creative performances, and Broadbent is positively brilliant as old Bayley, reconfirming his status as one of the greatest actors anywhere.

John Q (PG-13)

Director: Nick Cassavetes. With Denzel Washington, Anne Heche, Robert Duvall. (116 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 crisscrossed over the years. Good performances by a distinguished cast don't quite overcome the weaknesses of the disappointing, predictable screenplay.

Much Ado About Something (Not rated)

Director: Michael Rubbo. With Michael Rubbo, Mark Rylance, John Michell. (93 min.)

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

No Man's Land (R)

Director: Danis Tanovic. With Branko Djuric, Rene Bitorajac, Filip Sovagovic, Katrin Cartlidge. (93 min.)

Sterritt *** As battle rages between Bosnians and Serbs in 1993, a wounded soldier lies atop a new-fangled land mine that will blast destruction if he moves - flummoxing everyone from his friend to UN peacekeepers called in on the case. It's too simple to call this pitch-dark satire an antiwar statement, since self-righteous cant on the absurdity of war is one of its many targets. Some of the film's points are made a bit too heavily, but the subject is as timely as it is timeless, and many of the performances strike a pitch-perfect balance between parody and passion. In Bosnian, French, and English with English subtitles.

Return to Never Land (G)

Director: Robin Budd. With voices of Harriet Owen, Blayne Weaver, Corey Burton, Jeff Bennett. (72 min.)

Sterritt *** It's taken Walt Disney Pictures almost half a century to follow up "Peter Pan," but fans of the 1953 animated classic will find many familiar faces in this belated sequel, which follows Wendy's daughter on her adventure with wicked Captain Hook, magical Tinkerbell, the Pirates and Lost Boys, and Peter himself. The story lacks the freshness of the original film - and whose idea was it to replace the ominously ticking crocodile with a funny-looking octopus? Kids should enjoy its action and humor, though. And in the age of "Monsters, Inc." it's refreshing to see a cartoon that looks like a cartoon - and a lovingly drawn one - rather than a conglomeration of computer-generated bits and bytes.

The Son's Room (R)

Director: Nanni Moretti. With Nanni Moretti, Laura Moranti, Giuseppe Sanfelice, Jasmine Trinca. (99 min.)

Sterritt ** In the modest Italian city of Ancona, a gentle psychotherapist and his family face unexpected trauma when his teenage son dies in an accident. Don't look for Moretti's comic touch and autobiographical approach in this drama, which relies on straightforward screenwriting and unassuming performances for its emotional power. Moretti's acting skills aren't up to the demands of the main role, and his portrait of family life is too simplistic to be credible. In Italian with English subtitles.

Wendigo (R)

Director: Larry Fessenden. With Jake Weber, Patricia Clarkson, Erik Per Sullivan, John Speredakos. (90 min.)

Sterritt **** Spending a get-away weekend in a borrowed farmhouse, a city couple has a tense feud with a demented deer hunter, and their 8-year-old son copes with his anxieties through imaginative encounters with a rage-filled phantasm he's learned about from an enigmatic native American sage. Fessenden's latest horror yarn is a smart and scary voyage into the uncanny realm where hard realities,mind-spinning myths, and hallucinatory visions blur. Produced on a modest budget, it sports moody cinematography, razor-sharp editing, and good acting that make most of Hollywood's big-budget fakery look tame.

Beijing Bicycle (PG-13)