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Movie Guide

February 22, 2002

Big Bad Love (R)

Director: Arliss Howard. With Howard, Debra Winger, Paul Le Mat, Angie Dickinson. (111 min.)

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Sterritt *** See review, page 15.

Domestic Violence (Not rated)

Director: Frederick Wiseman. With residents of Tampa, Fla. (196 min.)

Sterritt **** In the 32nd film of his extraordinary career, Wiseman continues his practice of probing social institutions via cinema-verite documentary, allowing crisply captured images and sounds to speak for themselves without commentary. Here he travels with police to scenes of domestic violence, visits a shelter for battered women, and sits in on education and discussion sessions. Ingeniously structured as a long day's journey from morning until dead of night, the results are illuminating, harrowing, and riveting.

Dragonfly (PG-13)

Director: Tom Shadyac. With Kevin Costner, Kathy Bates, Joe Morton. (100 min.)

Sterritt ** See review, page 15.

Maryam (Not rated)

Director: Ramin Serry. With Mariam Parris, David Ackert, Shohreh Aghdashloo, Shaun Toub. (87 min.)

Sterritt ** The place is New Jersey, and the title character is a teen girl whose Iranian-American parents take in a politically cantankerous Iranian relative just before Iran's new Islamic government sparks the 1979 hostage crisis. This modestly produced drama isn't acted or directed with much flair, but it shows a welcome awareness of the complex links between personal and political impulses.

Monsoon Wedding (R)

Director: Mira Nair. With Naseeruddin Shah, Roshan Seth, Lillete Dubey, Shefali Shetty. (111 min.)

Sterritt *** See review, page 15.

Umberto D. (Not rated)

Director: Vittorio De Sica. With Carlo Battisti, Maria Pia Casilio, Alberto Albani Barbieri, Ileana Simova. (91 min.)

Sterritt **** The credo of Italy's fabled neorealist movement was that movies rooted in real, unadorned experience carry more dramatic impact than studio concoctions can dream of, and this 1952 masterpiece exemplifies that argument brilliantly. The title character is an aging man who needs a few lire to pay his rent; the story follows him and his little dog down the streets and sidewalks of postwar Rome as he tries to replenish his empty pockets. That's all. And you'll never forget it. In Italian with English subtitles.

Birthday Girl (R)

Director: Jez Butterworth. With: Nicole Kidman, Ben Chaplin, Vincent Cassel. (93 min.)

Staff ** It must have taken Nicole Kidman months to learn this script. For her role as Nadia, a Russian mail-order bride, the actress spends half the movie speaking Russian. Arriving in England, Nadia is met by her intended, John, a lonely bore of a banker wanting to spice up his life. Nadia isn't all she seems; John finds his British reserve punctured as his life spirals out of control. The movie, alas, isn't as lively as Kidman's performance. A quirkier sensibility and fleshed-out plot are missing. By Stephen Humphries

Staff **1/2 Odd, forgettable, edgy, lots of plot twists, ultimately shallow.

Sex/Nudity: 10 scenes. Violence: 17 scenes. Profanity: 19 expression, 10 of which are mild. Drugs: At least 16 scenes of smoking and 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 helicopters are shot down, sparking a hard-fought battle to rescue crash survivors. The screenplay lauds the resolute spirits of the troops. But the nature of warfare merits more thoughtful examination at this time. Since the filmmakers offer no insights, 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 film is violent with 45 scenes, many gory. Profanity: 22 instances. Drugs: 10 scenes.

Collateral Damage (R)

Director: Andrew Davis. With Arnold Schwarzenegger, Francesca Neri, John Leguizamo, Cliff Curtis. (110 min.)