Movie Guide

NEW RELEASES
E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial (PG)

Director: Steven Spielberg. With Henry Thomas, Drew Barrymore, Dee Wallace Stone, Peter Coyote. (120 min.)

Sterritt *** Spielberg's much-acclaimed fantasy, about a 10-year-old boy and a childlike space visitor who wanders into his jumbled suburban home, has been touched up with new footage and a freshly tweaked soundtrack for its 20th anniversary. The picture charmed 1982 audiences with its sympathetic look at

the challenges of childhood, and it helped alter the course of sci-fi movies by suggesting that intergalactic aliens might not be monsters but friendly, even loving, creatures. This doesn't make it a masterpiece, but it's fun.

Recommended: Could you pass a US citizenship test?
Son of the Bride (R)

Director: Juan José Campanella. With Ricardo Darín, Norma Aleandro, Héctor Alterio. (124 min.)

Sterritt *** Flustered by family and personal problems as he heads into middle age, a mildly successful restaurateur helps his elderly father and mentally failing mother have the church wedding she's always wanted. Energetic acting and perky filmmaking help this likable Argentine comedy-drama avoid the sentimentality that intermittently threatens it. In Spanish with English subtitles.

The Sweet Smell of Success (Not rated)

Director: Alexander Mackendrick. With Burt Lancaster, Tony Curtis, Barbara Nichols, Sam Levene. (96 min.)

Sterritt **** Lancaster never surpassed his legendary depiction of newspaper columnist J.J. Hunsecker, a Manhattan power broker with a vicious personality and a poison pen to match, and Curtis is equally indelible as Sidney Falco, a fawning publicist who'll do almost anything to get a client's name into print. Everyone raves about this 1957 film featuring Mackendrick's hard-edged directing, James Wong Howe's taut cinematography, Elmer Bernstein's jazz-flavored score, and dialogue by Clifford Odets and Ernest Lehman, which barks and bites with equal intensity. And everyone's right.

CURRENTLY IN RELEASE
All about the Benjamins (R)

Director: Kevin Bray. With Ice Cube, Mike Epps, Valarie Rae Miller, Anthony Michael Hall. (94 min.)

Staff * Miami bounty hunter Bucum (Ice Cube) becomes a reluctant partner with his quarry, bail-jumping con artist Reggie (Epps), when they cross paths with a murderous gang chasing $20 million in diamonds. Oh, and somehow the thugs' boss gets hold of Reggie's winning lottery ticket. Explicit violence and nonstop foul language (co-written by Ice Cube) weigh down the comedy act in what should have been a lively spoof of tire-squealing heist movies. By M.K. Terrell

Sex/Nudity: 4 scenes including sex, innuendo. Violence: 16 instances, including shootings, fistfights. Profanity: 231 strong expressions, 3 gestures. Drugs: At least 7 scenes with smoking, 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 superb, and Jaglom's improvisational style works well, turning loosely strung incidents into an easy-going treat for movie buffs.

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 died covering fierce combat in Yugoslavia, an American woman travels there and plunges into wartime chaos on a desperate search for him. The film makes a commendable effort to celebrate bravery and underscore war's terrors, but its melodramatic approach is more spectacular than insightful, even if, for a change, a woman character gets to show courage under fire.

Sex/Nudity: 2 scenes innuendo, implied sex. Violence: 15 scenes, including attempted rape and battles. Profanity: At least 85 expressions, many harsh. Drugs: 15 scenes smoking, drinking, and a few scenes with illegal drugs.

How to Kill your Neighbor's Dog (R)

Director: Michael Kalesniko. With: Kenneth Branagh, Robin Wright, Suzi Hofrichter. (107 min.)

Staff *** The best playwright in L.A. hasn't had a hit in 10 years. Rehearsals for his latest opus, beset by a willful leading man and a director who wants to be Petula Clark, are going nowhere. Then there's the barking next door, a stalking fan, and his wife, who invites a girl to play at their house hoping to soften his resistance to fatherhood. Curiously, these irritants work together to lift the cynicism darkening his life, his play, and his marriage. By M.K. Terrell

Sex/Nudity: 9 instances, mostly innuendo. Violence: 3 scenes, including brawls. Profanity: About 60 expressions, many harsh. Drugs: 20 scenes of smoking or drinking.

Ice Age (PG)

Director: Chris Wedge. With (voices): Ray Romano, John Leguizamo, Denis Leary. (81 min.)

Staff *** Unlike the characters in "Ice Age," the computer animation that rendered them shows no sign of extinction. The woolly mammoth, sabre-toothed tiger, and sloth in this story look wonderfully realized thanks to the animation technology. If only the story were as three-dimensional. It's a fairly standard tale in which an unlikely gang of animals bond as they rescue a human infant separated from his tribe. What lifts the film is its humor, including a darkly comedic sequence hinting at why the Dodo is doomed to extinction, and hilarious set pieces that recall the late Chuck Jones' "Wile E. Coyote and the Roadrunners" 'toons. By Stephen Humphries

Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: 13 scenes with cartoonish violence. Profanity: None. Drugs: None.

Kissing Jessica Stein (R)

Director: Charles Herman-Wurmfeld. With Heather Juergensen, Jennifer Westfeldt, Tovah Feldshuh. (96 min)

Sterritt *** Itching for affection but disillusioned with the men she meets, a young woman decides to explore what being gay is like, choosing a partner who's not entirely sure what she wants in life, either. While this slightly edgy comedy has moments of offbeat charm, it would carry more conviction if the acting were richer and the characters focused on more sophisticated attitudes and ambitions.

Staff ** Sympathetic, boring, predictable.

Sex/Nudity: 17 instances frank talk, innuendo, implied sex. Violence: None. Profanity: About 21 strong expressions. Drugs: 19 scenes with smoking and drinking.

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, zesty, mix of comedy, 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.

Promises (Not rated)

Directors: Justine Shapiro, Carlos Bolado. With B.Z. Goldberg and children of the Jerusalem area. (106 min)

Sterritt ** Filmed over four years, this documentary presents a multifaceted portrait

of seven children, Palestinian and Israeli, growing up with strikingly different worldviews despite their physical proximity to one another. The movie views current events in this troubled Middle East area from a useful perspective, if not always a penetrating and thought-provoking one. In English and Arabic with English subtitles.

Staff **** Enlightening, tender, forthright

Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: None. Profanity: A few expressions. Drugs: At least 1 scene with smoking.

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.

Showtime (PG-13)

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

Sterritt * A jaded Los Angeles cop (De Niro) and a fame-hungry colleague (Murphy) become the unlikely stars of a reality-TV series cooked up by a producer (Russo) with more ambition than integrity. The movie tries to offer something for everyone, from comedy to shoot-outs to car chases. But the filmmakers are so busy cramming all this into 95 minutes that they forget to make individual scenes funny, exciting, touching, suspenseful, or anything else that might make the picture worth watching.

Sex/Nudity: 1 instance innuendo. Violence: 8 scenes, including shoot-outs. Profanity: About 50 strong expressions. Drugs: At least 3 scenes smoking and drinking, including 1 with illegal drugs.

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 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
Riding in Cars with Boys (PG-13)

Director: Penny Marshall. With Drew Barrymore, Steve Zahn, Brittany Murphy, Adam Garcia. (132 min.)

Staff **1/2 Beverly Donofrio is an ordinary teen with an extraordinary sense of destiny. When she becomes pregnant at age 15 and reluctantly marries her lover, her dreams are shattered by new, sometimes nasty, realities. She embarks on a 20-year quest to be a good mother and assert herself as a formidable writer. Based on a 1990 memoir by Donofrio, this film takes a touching, humorous look at the relationships and events that shaped one woman's life. It's an enjoyable journey, though at times it loses its way. By Steven Savides

Staff *** Full of pathos, satisfying, well-acted.

Sex/Nudity: 2 scenes innuendo. Violence: 4 scenes, including a mild fight. Profanity: 15 expressions. Drugs: 14 scenes with alcohol, smoking; 3 with drugs.

Training Day (R)

Director: Antoine Fuqua. With Denzel Washington, Ethan Hawke Snoop Dogg. (120 min.)

Staff *** The first day on any job can be nerve-wracking, but nothing can prepare ordinary cop Jake Hoyt (Hawke) for what he endures on his "training day" as he shadows a veteran narcotics cop through the underbelly of LA. Aided by superb performers, director Fuqua fashions a gripping thriller in which both moral and immoral actions have consequences. By Stephen Humphries

Staff *** Sweaty, disturbing, a moral struggle.

Sex/Nudity: 3 scenes of implied sex, 1 scene with nudity. Violence: 12 often gory scenes. Profanity: 268 harsh expressions. Drugs: 4 scenes of alcohol, 9 with cigarettes, 2 with drugs.

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