Movie Guide

NEW RELEASES
Big Trouble (PG-13)

Director: Barry Sonnenfeld. With Tim Allen, Rene Russo, Omar Epps, Janeane Garofalo, Jason Lee. (85 min.)

Sterritt * See review, page 15.

High Crimes (PG-13)

Director: Carl Franklin. With Ashley Judd, Morgan Freeman, Amanda Peet, Jim Cavaziel (115 min.)

Recommended: Could you pass a US citizenship test?

Sterritt ** When her husband is charged with a wartime atrocity he never told her about and says he never committed, an attorney (Judd) teams with an old-time military lawyer to clear his name, encountering violent threats from forces that want to hush up the affair. The story has possibilities, but you'll spot the big plot twists long before they happen, and the acting by Judd and Cavaziel is strictly by the numbers. Ditto for Franklin's filmmaking.

The Komediant (Not rated)

Director: Arnon Goldfinger. With Mike Burstyn, Lillian Lux, Susan Burstein-Roth, Fyvush Finkel. (85 min.)

Sterritt *** An amiable documentary journey through the unique culture of Yiddish theater, as experienced by old-time stage star Pesach'ke Burstein and members of his family who followed a similar path in the US and elsewhere. The movie is more a family album than a historical study, but you'll learn a lot and your toe will tap, tap, tap. In English, Yiddish, and Hebrew with English subtitles.

Les Destinées (Not rated)

Director: Olivier Assayas. With Emmannuelle Béart, Charles Berling, Isabelle Huppert. (180 min.)

Sterritt ** See review, page 15.

Ram Dass: Fierce Grace (Not rated)

Director: Mickey Lemle. With Ram Dass, William Alpert, Dr. Huston Smith, Krishna Das. (93 min.)

Sterritt ** A documentary visit with Ram Dass, who was named Richard Alpert when he and fellow Harvard psychologist Timothy Leary pursued controversial research into psychedelic drugs in the 1960s era. Later he traveled to India for an education in Eastern religion and philosophy, and became a New Age icon in the US. That's the aspect of his career emphasized by this frequently sentimental portrait, along with his efforts to confront physical ailments in terms of his spiritual convictions.

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

Clockstoppers (PG)

Director: Jonathan Frakes. With: Jesse Bradford, French Stewart, Paula Garcés. (90 min.)

Staff ** Zak Gibbs (Bradford), a physics professor's son, accidentally gets hold of an experimental wristwatch that slows the world around him almost to a standstill. Evil forces kidnap the prof, hoping to turn this benign invention into a weapon for sale to the highest bidder. Zak and two friends set out to stop them. A fresh cast and delightful effects early on promise something special, but the script quickly shifts out of hypertime into plodding formula. By M.K. Terrell

Sex/Nudity: A few instances of innuendo. Violence: 9 scenes, including shootings. Profanity: 3 mild expressions. Drugs: 1 scene with drinking.

Death to Smoochy (R)

Director Danny DeVito. With Robin Williams, Edward Norton, DeVito. (100 min.)

Sterritt *** Producers replace a bribe-taking TV clown (Williams) with a straight-arrow entertainer (Norton) who's shocked by the onslaughts of greed, corruption, and violence he gets from his agent (DeVito) and everyone else in the kiddie-media world. This pitch-dark satire marks a surprising career step for Williams, who plays the vengeful clown with surprising ferocity. It's also an impressive achievement for DeVito, who turns the wildly cynical screenplay into a kinetic cartoon full of brain-spinning images. Stay away if you treasure the lovable image Williams has cultivated in previous films, and don't take the kids!

Festival in Cannes (PG-13)

Director: Henry Jaglom. With Ron Silver, Greta Scacchi, Maximilian Schell. (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.

Sex/Nudity: 3 instances of innuendo. Violence: None. Profanity: 6 strong expressions. Drugs: 4 scenes with smoking and 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 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 of cartoonish violence. Profanity: None. Drugs: None.

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.

No Such Thing (R)

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

Sterritt ** Following the trail of a missing news team, a young journalist meets a mythological Icelandic monster who's melancholy and mean, passing the hours of his endless life by cursing fate and killing any human who's unlucky enough to cross his path. Like some movie creatures of the past, this odd villain is baffled and enraged by his inability to live comfortably in the world, and the movie gains poetic power through Hartley's view of him as a kind of tragic hero, worthy of pity as well as fear. The movie is uneven, but has fresh, imaginative moments.

Sex/Nudity: 3 instances innuendo and implied sex. Violence: 12 scenes, some with torture. Profanity: 24 strong expressions. Drugs: 28 scenes with smoking and drinking.

Panic Room (R)

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

Sterritt ** A woman and her young daughter scurry to a bunkerlike sanctum when three crooks invade their new Manhattan home to steal a fortune that happens to be locked away in the panic room itself. This is a minimalist thriller, centering the action on five characters in one place during a single three-hour period. Also present is Fincher's long-standing affection for hyperactive camera movements, juicing up any scene where the acting or dialogue sags. There are many, since David Koepp's screenplay isn't nearly surprising or clever enough to sustain a reasonable degree of suspense on its own.

Staff **1/2Nail-biter, intense, goofy at times.

Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: 9 instances, some quite violent. Profanity: About 60 expressions, mostly harsh. Drugs: 6 scenes with drinking, smoking, including illegal drug use.

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, including fighting. Profanity: 15 harsh expressions. Drugs: None.

The Rookie (G)

Director: John Lee Hancock. With Dennis Quaid, Rachel Griffiths, Jay Hernandez, Brian Cox. (129 min.)

Staff ***1/2 Quaid plays a teacher-turned-Major League Baseball player in this Disney movie based on the true story of Jim Morris. While coaching another losing season of high school baseball, Morris cuts a deal: If his players start winning, he'll try out for the majors. By now an aging father, Morris defies skeptics with his uncanny 95-m.p.h. fastball. For adults who believe G stands for "goofy," Quaid's intense performance will convince them to take this film seriously. By Ben Arnoldy

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 and a fame-hungry colleague 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 film worth watching.

Sex/Nudity: 1 instance of innuendo. Violence: 8 scenes, including shooting. Profanity: About 50 strong expressions. Drugs: At least 3 scenes of 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 of innuendo, nudity, implied sex. Violence: 11 scenes, including rape. Profanity: 28 strong expressions. Drugs: At least 14 scenes of drinking, smoking, including illegal drugs.

Time of Favor (Not rated)

Director: Joseph Cedar. With Aki Avni, Tinkerbell, Assi Dayan. (98 min.)

Staff *** The captain of an elite commando unit and his best friend, a radical rabbi's most brilliant student, both love the rabbi's independent-minded daughter. When she chooses the captain, the student begins planning a massive, far-reaching bombing scheme in the Middle East. Only the captain can stop it, but he's under arrest as a co-conspirator. This surprisingly low-key exploration of the radical mindset won the Israeli equivalent of an Oscar. By M.K. Terrell

Sex/Nudity: Some innuendo. Violence: 5 scenes, including a beating. Profanity: A few mild expressions. Drugs: 6 scenes with tobacco use and drinking.

Waydowntown (R)

Director: Gary Burns. With Don McKellar, Tammy Isbell, James McBurney, Marya Delver. (83 min.)

Sterritt *** The setting is a Canadian urban complex, and the main characters are four young workers who've made a bet on who can go longest without venturing outside for a breath of non-recycled air and a glimpse of sunshine not filtered through sheets of glass. This smart, creative social satire skewers cheaply dehumanizing architecture and self-absorbed yuppie mentalities in skillfully assembled scenes. See it in a theater that's way downtown, and city life may never look the same.

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 their toll on the picture's overall effectiveness, though. In Spanish with English subtitles.

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