Movie Guide

NEW RELEASES
Death to Smoochy (R)

Director Danny DeVito. With Robin Williams, Edward Norton, De Vito, Catherine Keener. (100 min.)

Sterritt *** See review, page 15.

No Such Thing (R)

Director: Hal Hartley. With Sarah Polley, Robert John Burke, Helen Mirren, Julie Christie. (106 min.)

Recommended: Could you pass a US citizenship test?

Sterritt ** See review, page 15.

Panic Room (R)

Director: David Fincher. With Jodie Foster, Forest Whitaker, Kristen Stewart, Dwight Yoakam, Jared Leto. (110 min.)

Sterritt ** See review, page 15.

The Piano Teacher (Not rated)

Director: Michael Haneke. With Isabelle Huppert, Benoit Magimel, Annie Girardot. (130 min.)

Sterritt *** Huppert is brilliant as a music teacher whose obsessively respectable life masks deeper, darker desires that break through the surface when she becomes fixated on a young man she's just met, disrupting the orderly existence she shares with her demanding mother and sparking self-destructive actions that build to the story's bleak conclusion. Haneke probes negative aspects of modern life in all his movies, and this is his most psychologically detailed film to date. Its grimness is explicit, so approach it with caution.

Time Out (PG-13)

Director: Laurent Cantet. With Aurélien Recoing, Karin Viard. (132 min.)

Sterritt **** Disillusioned with his life, a businessman stops working and conceals this from his family. After pulling in small amounts of money with a false investment scheme, he hooks up with a small-time criminal operation, abandoning this when he finds it just as spirit-killing as ordinary work. The story gathers power as he exhausts one option after another, making his future seem more and more ominous. Cantet's previous film, "Human Resources," also probed social and ideological problems linked with family and work. He has rich insights into this material, and brings them alive through sensitive acting and powerful filmmaking.

CURRENTLY IN RELEASE
Blade II (R)

Director: Guillermo del Toro. With Wesley Snipes, Kris Kristofferson, Norman Redus, Luke Goss. (108 min.)

Staff *** This sequel is every bit as good as the original, though it didn't have much to measure up to. Blade, a half-human, half-vampire who can withstand daylight and do kung-fu in a bulky leather jacket, has dedicated his life to hunting down vampires. But now he must team up with an elite squadron of them to hunt even deadlier vampire mutants. The frenetic fight scenes are too fast for non-vampire eyes, but those familiar with the original should find plenty to like. By Alex Kaloostian

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.

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.

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

Staff ***1/2 Superb animation, edgy, bright, fun

Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: About 25 instances cartoonish violence. Profanity: None. Drugs: None.

Kissing Jessica Stein (R)

Director: Charles Herman-Wurmfeld. With Heather Juergensen, Jennifer Westfeldt. (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, predictable, neurotic.

Sex/Nudity: 17 instances frank talk, innuendo, and 7 scenes 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 friends go for a long drive to dispose of his ashes by the seaside, reminiscing in flashbacks that 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.

Pauline & Paulette (PG)

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

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.

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.

Resident Evil (R)

Director: Paul Anderson. With Milla Jovovich, Eric Mabius. (100 min.)

Staff ** When a nasty virus is released in a secret lab, the compound's artificially intelligent security system locks everyone in and kills them. But the afflicted don't stay dead long – they turn into zombies on a quest to seize control of the world. It's up to a group of government commandos to stop them. The zombies and commandos do their jobs, but Milla Jovovich is the only thing that really shines as the gun-toting, evening-gown wearing heroine. By Alex Kaloostian

Sex/Nudity: 6 instances, including seminudity. Violence: 20 scenes with violence. Profanity: 15 harsh expressions. 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 with more ambition than integrity. The movie tries to offer something for everyone, from comedy to car chases. But the filmmakers are so busy cramming all this into 95 minutes that they forget to make the 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.

Sorority Boys (R)

Director: Wally Wolodarsky. With Barry Watson, Michael Rosenbaum, Harland Williams. (94 min.)

DUD Three frat brothers, framed for stealing their animal house's treasury, disguise themselves as women and hide out in a feminist sorority until they can clear their names. Of course, no one recognizes them. As the boys learn to respect women, we wonder why the filmmakers have none for the audience. This rip-off of "Some Like It Hot" seems to ask, If Billy Wilder can get away with this plot, why can't we? Maybe because Wilder had taste and intelligence. By M.K. Terrell

Sex/Nudity: 32 instances innuendo, nudity, implied sex. Violence: 11 scenes, including rape. Profanity: 28 strong expressions. Drugs: At least 14 scenes of drinking and smoking, including illegal drugs.

Stolen Summer (PG)

Director: Pete Jones. With Aidan Quinn, Kevin Pollack, Brian Dennehy, Bonnie Hunt. (92 min.)

Staff **1/2 On a quest to emulate St. Paul and secure his entrance to heaven, the 8-year-old son of an Irish-American firefighter joyfully befriends the neighborhood rabbi and his boy, hoping to set one of them on a path to salvation. This heart-warming debut film of Jones, set in '70s Chicago, won the Project Greenlight screenplay contest in which there were more than 10,000 entrees. It's a bit contrived at times but clothes its message of tolerance with wit and sweetness. By M.K. Terrell

Sex/Nudity: 2 instances mild innuendo. Violence: 2 scenes, including a fire. Profanity: 16 mild expressions. Drugs: 10 scenes with drinking, smoking.

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 cynicism that welled up among US troops when they started questioning the war's moral and political basis later. 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
Life as a House (R)

Director: Irwin Winkler. With Kevin Kline, Kristen Scott Thomas, Hayden Christiansen. (124 min.)

Staff *** This film has a predictable storyline, yet the telling is compelling, with fresh twists. A lonely, eccentric architect is diagnosed with terminal cancer. To atone for a lifetime of mistakes, he builds his dream home, enlisting his estranged and rebellious teenage son and the help of his ex-wife. Constructing the house becomes a metaphor for a life rebuilt. The lead actors give meaningful performances, and moments of delightful humor offset the drama. The subject matter, sexual content, and language probably make this film best suited for a mature audience. By Steven Savides

Staff *** Enriching, sad but inspiring, preachy.

Sex/Nudity: 9 scenes of sex and graphic innuendo. Violence: 2 scenes. Profanity: 31 harsh expressions. Drugs: 1 scene of alcohol, 4 scenes with cigarettes, 4 scenes with substance abuse.

Bread and Tulips (PG-13)

Director: Silvio Soldini. With Licia Maglietta, Bruno Ganz, Giuseppe Battiston, Antonio Catania. (104 min.)

Sterritt *** A new life blossoms for a 40-year-old Italian housewife when she misses a bus, gets separated from her husband and kids, and decides she'd rather explore the wonders of Venice – and the friendship of offbeat new acquaintances – than return to her routine of worn-out domesticity. Maglietta gives a magical performance in this lightweight but flavor-ful comedy. In Italian with English subtitles.

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