Movie Guide

NEW RELEASES
The Cat's Meow (PG-13)

Director: Peter Bogdanovich. With Edward Herrmann, Kirsten Dunst, Cary Elwes, Jennifer Tilly. (112 min.)

Sterritt ** See review, page 15.

Changing Lanes (R)

Director: Roger Michell. With Samuel L. Jackson, Ben Affleck, Amanda Peet, Sidney Pollack. (96 min.)

Recommended: Default

Sterritt *** See review, page 15.

Human Nature (R)

Director: Michel Gondry. With Tim Robbins, Patricia Arquette, Robert Forster, Rosie Perez. (96 min.)

Sterritt ** See review, page 15.

The Last Waltz (PG)

Director: Martin Scorsese. With The Band, Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, Eric Clapton, Dr. John. (117 min.)

Sterritt **** Scorsese directed this legendary concert film in 1976, planning and executing the production with meticulous care – unprecedented for a rock movie at the time – and editing it to fine-tuned perfection. The result is a rousing record of The Band's last full-fledged show, plus appearances by several of the era's most influential pop-music talents. It's never been topped.

Mule Skinner Blues (Not rated)

Director: Stephen Earnhart. With Beanie Andrew, Annabelle Lea Usher, Larry Parrot, Ricky Lix. (93 min.)

Sterritt *** Earnhart met the residents of a rural trailer park in Florida while shooting a music video, and stayed on to make this documentary about a handful of would-be filmmakers who create a home-grown horror flick starring themselves and friends. The end product is as deliciously eccentric as the real-life characters it chronicles.

The Other Side of Heaven (PG)

Director: Mitch Davis. With Christopher Gorham, Anne Hathaway, Joe Folau, Miriama Smith, Nathaniel Lees.

Staff *** Based on the true story of a young American who travels in the 1950s to the exotic island of Rarotonga to become a missionary. His two assignments: Learn the language and convert the Indians to Christianity. At first, he is mocked by the natives. But they quickly change their tune after he helps heal a dying boy. His faith is then put to the test again and again – a hurricane comes close to wiping out the island's food supply, and he nearly dies at sea. Meanwhile, the missionary corresponds with his love back home in Idaho, hoping they will marry after his 2-1/2 year mission. The film carries a simple, yet meaningful message about the healing power of God and how it can bring people together. By Lisa Leigh Parney

Sex/Nudity: 1 suggestive scene. Violence: 5 scenes. Profanity: None. Drugs: 2 with smoking, 2 with drinking.

The Sweetest Thing (R)

Director: Roger Kumble. With Cameron Diaz, Christina Applegate, and Thomas Jane. (87 min.)

Staff * Best friends Christina (Diaz) and Courtney (Applegate) claim to love singlehood and live a life of one-night-stands and unemotional flings. But when Christina finds her true love, the friends abandon their philosophy and chase him down. This not-quite-love story, not-quite-gal-pal movie is an unoriginal comedy that is nothing more than a recitation of platitudes and stereotypes. For fans of "Something About Mary," it is a cliché letdown. By Katie Nesse

CURRENTLY IN RELEASE
Big Trouble (PG-13)

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

Sterritt * A sleazy businessman acquires a mysterious suitcase in a Miami saloon, confusing all kinds of people including his unhappy wife and daughter, two hitmen hired to whack him, and two idiotic FBI men. The filmmakers wanted to make a comedy about couples, but there's so little chemistry between these pairs that the theme never picks up energy or conviction. Nor does the film offer any meaningful satire of our contemporary world, although it tries awfully hard, complete with gags about nuclear terrorism.

Clockstoppers (PG)

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

Staff ** Zak Gibbs, 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 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!

High Crimes (PG-13)

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

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.

Staff ** Vacuous, likable cast, gripping, formulaic.

Sex/Nudity: 7 instances of innuendo, including a few scenes implied sex. Violence: 13 instances. Profanity: 29 harsh expressions. Drugs: 16 scenes of drinking, smoking.

National Lampoon's Van Wilder (R)

Director: Walt Becker. With Ryan Reynolds, Tara Reid, Kal Penn. (95 min.)

Staff * Van (Reynolds) loves being big man on campus so much he's been an undergraduate for nearly seven years. Truth is, he's afraid to try his people skills in the real world. What shakes him out of it is a serious-minded journalism major (Reid) trying to crown her college career with a story on him. What could've been an off-the-wall comedy with a soft center collapses under its own excesses as these two – out of character – hatch obscene revenge plots against her vacuous pre-med boyfriend. By M.K. Terrell

Sex/Nudity: 48 instances, innuendo and implied sex. Violence: 5 instances. Profanity: About 30 harsh expressions. Drugs: 13 scenes with drinking and smoking, including 1 instance drug use.

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.

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.

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 filmmaking help this likable Argentine comedy-drama avoid the sentimentality that intermittently threatens it. In Spanish with English subtitles.

Swimming (Not rated)

Director: Robert J. Siegel. With Lauren Ambrose, Jennifer Dundas, Joelle Carter. (98 min.)

Staff *** Being pretty isn't what it's cracked up to be, teenager Frankie learns from the bad example of two older friends, as she begins to escape the shackles of stereotype and listen to her heart. She even stands up to her overbearing brother, who treats her like hired help in the seaside hamburger joint their retired parents left them. Frankie may not be as good-looking as the other young women, but she's the one we watch – she positively glows with beauty that she finds within. By M.K. Terrell

Sex/Nudity: 12 instances, mostly innuendo. Violence: 2 scenes. Profanity: 28 harsh expressions. Drugs: 8 scenes drinking. 1 with drugs.

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, various 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 and political issues in the margins of the story. Too much repetition and an unconvincing finale take their toll on the film's overall effectiveness, though. In Spanish with English subtitles.

Staff *** Reckless, life-affirming, sexually graphic, beautifully shot.

Sex/Nudity: 9 scenes, very graphic, including full nudity. Violence: 3 instances, mild. Drugs: 19 scenes with cigarettes, 9 scenes with drinking, 5 scenes with marijuana.

Out on video
Mulholland Drive (R)

Director: David Lynch. With Laura Herring, Justin Theroux, Naomi Watts, Robert Forster, Ann Miller. (147 min.)

Sterritt *** After losing her memory in a Los Angeles car crash, a young woman comes under the care of a wannabe actress who agrees to help her discover who she is and figure out why her purse is crammed with cash. That's just the bare bones of the plot, which also includes a cynical cop, a hit man who can't shoot straight, and others too numerous to mention. The movie is closer to a delirious dream than a conventional thriller. It will frustrate viewers who like stories to make instant sense, but fans of provocative puzzles will have mind-teasing fun if they can stomach Lynch's trademarked outbursts of sex and violence.

Sex/Nudity: 7 scenes of explicit sex and innuendo. Violence: 9 instances, often disturbing. Profanity: 9 harsh expressions. Drugs: 2 scenes with alcohol, 2 scenes with cigarettes.

No Man's Land (R)

Director: Danis Tanovic. With Branko Djuric, Rene Bitorajac, Filip Sovagovic, Katrin Cartlidge. (93 min.)

Sterritt *** As battle rages between Bosnians and Serbs in 1993, a wounded soldier lies atop a new-fangled land mine that will blast destruction if he moves – flummoxing everyone from his friend to UN peacekeepers called in on the case. It's too simple to call this pitch-dark satire an antiwar statement, since self-righteous cant on the absurdity of war is one of its many targets. Some of the film's points are made a bit too heavily, but the subject is as timely as it is timeless, and many of the performances strike a pitch-perfect balance between parody and passion. In Bosnian, French, and English with English subtitles.

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