Director: Arnaud Desplechin. With Summer Phoenix, Ian Holm, Frances Barber. (145 min.)Skip to next paragraph
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Sterritt ** The setting is London a century ago; the heroine is a young daughter of Jewish immigrants who gradually overcomes her apathy toward life through enthusiasm for a theatrical career and the jolt of an unhappy love affair. Desplechin wants to film an adventure of the human spirit in the manner of a Hitchcockian drama, but he doesn't have a solid enough grasp of English culture to equal the complexity of his French productions like "The Sentinel" and "The Life of the Dead."
Director: Julien Duvivier. With Jean Gabin, Mireille Balin, Marcel Dalio, Gabriel Gabrio. (90 min.)
Sterritt **** Pépé is a gifted French criminal who's moved his operation to the Casbah, where he lords it over friends and foes until a slinky French temptress leads him into a romantic muddle that proves his downfall. Made in 1937, this masterpiece of poetic realism features one of Gabin's most renowned performances, a smart subtext about French colonialism, and enough exotic atmosphere to keep your head in the clouds long after the final scene. In French with English subtitles.
Director: Claire Denis. With Vincent Gallo, Aurore Clement, Beatrice Dalle, Tricia Vessey. (102 min.)
Sterritt ** People literally consume each other in this fragmented drama of two modern-day cannibals: a Frenchwoman who seduces her victims and an American man who's transformed by a medical concoction. Denis's pungent images create a nightmarish mood but don't bring full artistic coherence to her odd mix of gothic horror and postmodern reverie. In English, French with English subtitles.
Director: Randall Wallace. With Mel Gibson, Madeleine Stowe, Greg Kinnear. (140 min.)
Sterritt * See review, page 15.
Director: Arliss Howard. With Howard, Debra Winger, Paul Le Mat, Angie Dickinson. (111 min.)
Sterritt *** Howard plays a cranky Mississippi writer who spends hours drinking with his buddy, feuding with his former spouse, worrying about his kids, and collecting rejection slips. He also deals with traumatic events like an alarming car accident and a tragic death in the family. The filmmakers clearly see him as a creative maverick, but he's really a likable cliché. The movie's best asset is Howard's filmmaking, which makes time-worn story ideas seem fresh and engaging through inventive camera moves and editing effects.
Director: Shawn Levy. With Frankie Muniz, Paul Giamatti, Amanda Bynes. (83 min.)
Staff *** A Hollywood producer steals the English essay of eighth-grader and inveterate liar Jason Shepherd (Muniz) and turns it into a movie. Naturally, his parents and teacher don't believe him. To regain their trust, he and his girlfriend head to Tinseltown to extort a confession. The resulting romp through the Universal Studios lot will amuse older children and their parents. By M.K. Terrell
Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: 4 instances. Profanity: A few mild expressions. Drugs: 4 scenes.
Director: Andrew Davis. With Arnold Schwarzenegger, Francesca Neri, Cliff Curtis. (110 min.)
Sterritt * Schwarzenegger strikes again, this time as a firefighter who embarks on a vendetta against Colombian terrorists, hunting them in their country and in Washington after his wife and child are killed in a L.A. bombing. The film paints a strikingly hostile portrait of its Latin American characters and some of its mayhem is vicious, even by debased standards of today's action-movie genre.
Staff **1/2 Standard, phone-in plot, suspenseful, intense.
Sex/Nudity: 2 instances innuendo. Violence: 16 scenes, some very bloody. Profanity: 33 expressions, mostly mild. Drugs: 4 scenes with drinking, smoking. 1 with illegal drugs.
Director: Tamra Davis. With Britney Spears, Dan Aykroyd. (92 min.)
Staff * Britney and her pals take off on a cross-country road trip, in a convertible driven by a guy with an ambiguous past. Britney's on a quest to see her estranged mom; the others want to compete in a music contest. Between blasting pop tunes, serious issues emerge: date rape, teen pregnancy, and parental abandonment. But only superficial dialogue occurs. Britney fans will enjoy, though the singing and acting seem manufactured. By Stephanie Cook