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Sex/Nudity: 13 scenes, including innuendo, suggestive dancing, implied sex. Violence: 4 scenes with mild fighting. Profanity: 7 expressions. Drugs: 4 scenes with drinking.Skip to next paragraph
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Director: Tom Shadyac. With Kevin Costner, Kathy Bates. (100 min.)
Sterritt ** A physician copes with grief after the untimely death of his wife, who was also a doctor, and starts to believe she may be communicating with him through messages passed along by her former patients, kids who've had near-death experiences. The story blends elements of "Ghost" and "Close Encounters" but lacks the romantic charge of the former and the imaginative thrill of the latter. Costner is convincing until the sappy finale.
Sex/Nudity: 1 scene implied sex. 1 with seminudity. Violence: 6 scenes. Profanity: 10 mild expressions. Drugs: 3 with drinking.
Director: Michael Lehmann. With Josh Hartnett, Shannyn Sossamon, Maggie Gyllenhaal. (110 min.)
Staff * Seeking solace after a breakup with his ex-girlfriend, a young dotcom programmer can't seem to break his habit of engaging in a different one-night stand every day of the week. So, for Lent, he takes a vow of celibacy. The film's protagonist may be chaste, but the movie certainly isn't. With enough ribald humor to make the cast of "American Pie" blush, this sex comedy tries in vain to soften its edginess by having the sex-starved character fall in love with a girl he meets. The overall result: too few laughs, and a story that paints men as leering leches and woman as wanton profligates. By Stephen Humphries
Director: Gregory Hoblit. With: Bruce Willis, Colin Farrell, Cole Hauser. (125 min.)
Staff *** In a German POW camp, Lt. Thomas Hart (Farrell) must defend a black pilot accused of murdering a white racist. Hart, with only two years of law school, is up against his colonel (Willis), the self-appointed judge, and an experienced prosecutor. Two characters raise this drama well above the routine: the jazz-loving commandant, who permits the court martial in the first place, and the pilot, who testifies that back home in Alabama, German POWs eat in restaurants that won't serve black soldiers. By M.K. Terrell
Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: 13 scenes. Profanity: 25 expressions. Drugs: 18 scenes, mostly smoking.
Director: Jessie Nelson. With Sean Penn, Michelle Pfeiffer, Laura Dern. (124 min.)
Sterritt * Penn's bravura acting is the only reason to watch this wildly sentimental comedy-drama about a mentally retarded man trying to regain custody of his daughter after social workers decide she needs a better home. The film means well, but scenes get clobbered by sappy screenwriting.
Staff **1/2 Creaky, mostly well-acted, trite.
Sex/Nudity: 3 scenes implied sex. Violence: None. Profanity: 8 expressions. Drugs: 1 scene with drinking.
Director: Richard Eyre. With Judi Dench, Jim Broadbent, Kate Winslet, Hugh Bonneville, Eleanor Bron. (90 min.)
Sterritt *** 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 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, creative performances, and Broadbent is positively brilliant as old Bayley, reconfirming his status as one of the world's greatest actors.
Staff ***1/2 Poignant, heartbreaking, well-acted.
Sex/Nudity: 4 scenes sex or implied sex, 4 scenes partial nudity. Violence: 3 mild scenes. Profanity: 3 expressions. Drugs: 8 with smoking, drinking.
Director: Nick Cassavetes. With Denzel Washington, Anne Heche, Robert Duvall. (116 min.)
Sterritt ** John is a working-class guy whose boy needs life-saving surgery not covered by his insurance. After failing to raise enough cash, and getting no sympathy from the hospital's financial office, he becomes a vigilante dad. The early scenes persuasively etch John's fatherly love and raise crucial questions about the US healthcare system. Things start to go wrong when he pulls a gun on a cardiac surgeon, and they go very wrong when Capra-esque crowds gather outside the emergency room to cheer him on. It's grimly fascinating to watch fine actors wrestle with the increasingly awful screenplay.