Movie Guide

NEW RELEASES
Harrison's Flowers (R)

Director: Elie Chouraqui. With Andie MacDowell, David Straithairn, Adrien Brody, Elias Koteas. (130 min.)

Sterritt ** Refusing to accept the possibility that her news photographer husband has lost his life while covering fierce combat in Yugoslavia, an American woman travels there and plunges into wartime chaos on a desperate search for him. The movie makes a commendable effort to celebrate bravery and underscore the terrors of war, but its melodramatic approach is more spectacular than insightful, even if, for a change, a woman character gets to show courage under fire. (See related story, page 20.)

Pauline & Paulette (PG)

Director: Lieven Debrauwer. With Dora Van Der Groen, Ann Petersen, Rosemarie Berghmans. (78 min.)

Recommended: 'The Godfather': 10 behind-the-scenes stories about the making of the classic films

Sterritt *** Three aging Belgian women face big decisions when the care of a mentally backward sister falls into their hands. Debrauwer brings crisp conviction to what might have been an overly sentimental tale, filming it with a straightforward style and good-natured sincerity that ring consistently true. In Flemish and French with English subtitles.

Showtime (PG-13)

Director: Tom Dey. With Robert De Niro, Eddie Murphy, Rene Russo, Drena De Niro. (95 min.)

Sterritt * See review, page 15.

Y Tu Mamá También (Not rated)

Director: Alfonso Cuarón. With Maribel Verdú, Diego Luna, Gael García Bernal. (115 min.)

Sterritt ** Faced with serious new problems in her life, a young Spanish woman living in Mexico City takes off on an impulsive road trip with two adolescent Mexican boys fueled by youthful energy, intoxicants, and hyperactive sex drives. Cuaron gives an offbeat flavor to this coming-of-age tale by combining up-close camera work with a modernistic third-person narration, and by touching on noteworthy social issues in the margins of the story. Too much repetition and an unconvincing finale take a toll on the film's overall effectiveness, though. In Spanish with English subtitles.

CURRENTLY IN RELEASE
Big Bad Love (R)

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

Sterritt *** Howard plays a cranky Mississippi writer who spends hours drinking with his buddy, feuding with his ex-wife, worrying about his kids, and collecting rejection slips. He also deals with traumatic events like a 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.

Staff *** Visually stunning, gritty yet poetic, compelling, original.

Sex/Nudity: 2 scenes implied sex. Violence: 8 scenes, including a severe car crash and fistfighting.

Dragonfly (PG-13)

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.

Festival in Cannes (PG-13)

Director: Henry Jaglom. With Ron Silver, Greta Scacchi, Maximilian Schell, Anouk Aimée. (99 min.)

Sterritt *** This romantic comedy takes a low-key look at a high-strung film festival, using it as the backdrop for intersecting stories about a young actress looking for a break, an aging diva longing for a comeback, an indie newcomer and a studio hotshot scrambling for the same star, and others of their ilk. The cast is excellent and Jaglom's improvisational style works nicely, turning loosely strung incidents into an easy-going treat for movie buffs.

40 Days and 40 Nights (R)

Director: Michael Lehmann. With Josh Hartnett, Shannyn Sossamon, Maggie Gyllenhaal. (110 min.)

Staff * Seeking solace after a breakup with his ex-girlfriend, a young dot-com 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

Sex/Nudity: 41 instances, mostly innuendo, but several nude scenes. Violence: 1 scene. Profanity: 54 mild and strong expressions. Drugs: At least 6 scenes of drinking. 1 with smoking.

John Q (PG-13)

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.

Staff ** Manipulative, bad dialogue, well-paced.

Sex/Nudity: 1 instance of innuendo. Violence: 8 scenes, including fistfighting. Profanity: 31 expressions, some harsh. Drugs: 2 scenes with smoking.

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.

Staff *** Brilliant, creative storytelling, contemplative, superbly cast.

Sex/Nudity: 4 scenes including implied sex and some nudity. Violence: 4, including war scenes and a fistfight. Profanity: At least 12 expressions. Drugs: 20 scenes with smoking and drinking.

Monsoon Wedding (R)

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

Sterritt *** Celebrants gather in New Delhi for the Punjabi wedding of an Indian-American groom and an Indian bride who's not sure she's ready for matrimony. Despite its entertaining trappings, this is a thoughtful story, touching on sensitive issues of sexuality and child abuse. Nair hasn't lost her eye for revealing details of personality, behavior, and environment. In English, Hindi, and Punjabi with English subtitles.

Staff ***1/2Vital, textured, zesty, mix of comedy and drama.

Sex/Nudity: 10 scenes, mostly innuendo and kissing. A few scenes implied child abuse. Violence: None. Profanity: About 12 expressions. Drugs: At least 8 scenes of drinking and smoking.

Pépé le Moko (Not rated)

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. In French with English subtitles.

Queen of the Damned (R)

Director: Michael Rymer. With: Stuart Townsend, Aaliyah. (100 min.)

Staff ** Roused from a 200-year sleep by 21st century rock 'n' roll, Anne Rice's vampire Lestat becomes a rocker himself, inviting other vampires to "come out, come out, wherever you are" and co-exist with humans. His fame brings back his mentor and wakes the mother of all vampires, Queen Akasha (Aaliyah). Bouncing between campiness and bloodbath, this one's a failed effort, but your only opportunity to see the late Aaliyah in a starring role. By M.K. Terrell

Sex/Nudity: 3 instances innuendo. Violence: 14 gory scenes. Profanity: 3 mild expressions. Drugs: 5 scenes, 2 with illegal drugs.

Return to Never Land (G)

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

Sterritt *** Fans of the 1953 animated classic "Peter Pan" will find familiar faces in this sequel, which follows Wendy's daughter on an adventure with Captain Hook, magical Tinkerbell, the Lost Boys, and Peter himself. The story lacks the freshness of the original film. But kids will enjoy its action and humor. And in the age of "Monsters, Inc." it's refreshing to see a cartoon that looks like one rather than a conglomeration of computer-generated bits and bytes.

Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: 16 scenes of cartoonish violence. Profanity: None. Drugs: None.

The Son's Room (R)

Director: Nanni Moretti. With 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. Don't look for Moretti's comic touch and autobiographical approach in this drama, which relies on straightforward screenwriting 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.

Staff *** Compassionate, low-key, intimate.

Sex/Nudity: 3 instances, including innuendo. Violence: 3 scenes, not graphic. Profanity: About 8 expressions. Drugs: At least 4 scenes with alcohol.

The Time Machine (PG-13)

Director: Simon Wells. With Guy Pearce, Samantha Mumba, Jeremy Irons, Phyllida Law. (96 min.)

Sterritt * The great-grandson of "Time Machine" novelist H.G. Wells directed this heavy-handed version of the classic tale about a scientist who travels from the turn of the 20th century to the distant future, where life has become a tragic standoff between two races: innocent Eloi and apelike Morlocks who cannibalize them. The movie overdoes the love angle, between our hero and an Eloi, and then it overdoes the violence angle, especially when a diabolical Uber-Morlock shows up. Stick with George Pal's colorful 1960 version.

Staff Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: 7 scenes, including fighting. Profanity: 2 mild expressions. Drugs: None.

We Were Soldiers (R)

Director: Randall Wallace. With Mel Gibson, Madeleine Stowe, Greg Kinnear. (140 min.)

Sterritt * Gibson leads US soldiers through a blood-filled battle of the Vietnam war in this fact-based but cliché-riddled melodrama. The filmmakers take advantage of their 1965 setting to dish out guts-and-glory archetypes, ignoring the bitterness and cynicism that welled up among US troops when they started questioning the war's moral and political basis later. Meanwhile, every female character is portrayed as a midcentury stereotype. How can so much money and star power add up to so little authenticity and conviction?

Staff *** Grimly fascinating, horrific, square-jawed heroism.

Sex/Nudity: 1 scene implied sex. Violence: 14 battle sequences, some gory. Profanity: 22 strong expressions. Drugs: 10 scenes smoking, drinking.

OUT ON VIDEO
Heist (R)

Director: David Mamet. With Gene Hackman, Danny DeVito, Rebecca Pidgeon. (107 min.)

Sterritt *** An aging thief assembles his accomplices and wife for an unusually ambitious crime. Complicating the job is the cantankerous crook they work for and the sleazy thug he forces them to team up with. At once a purebred caper movie and a loving tribute to that popular genre, the picture has plenty of tried-and-true elements. It's fun watching the master criminal turn his worst mistakes into crafty comebacks, just as Mamet turns familiar ingredients into unpredictable jolts.

Staff **1/2 Inscrutable, crisply directed, tired plot.

Sex/Nudity: 1 scene of implied sex. Violence: 2 scenes. Profanity: 92 strong expressions. Drugs: 15 scenes of smoking, 3 scenes with alcohol.

Zoolander (PG-13)

Director: Ben Stiller. With Stiller, Owen Wilson, Christine Taylor, Will Ferrell, Jerry Stiller. (95 min.)

Staff ** Imagine a collision between "Austin Powers" and "Dumb and Dumber" inside the world of fashion catwalks, and you'll have a fair idea of the tone of "Zoolander." The loose plot has Ben Stiller starring as the world's most famous supermodel who becomes unwittingly embroiled in a plot to kill the prime minister of Malaysia. The hit-and-miss jokes play like a "Saturday Night Live" sketch, but there are laughs aplenty. By Stephen Humphries

Staff **1/2 Zany, juvenile, uneven.

Sex/Nudity: 2 scenes of implied sex, 1 scene with innuendo. Violence: 13 scenes cartoonish violence. Profanity: 19 expressions, sometimes harsh. Drugs: 6 scenes drinking, 1 with smoking, 2 with drugs.

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