Movie Guide

NEW RELEASES
Diamonds and Rust (Not rated)

Directors: Adi Barash, Ruth Shatz. With crew members of the Spirit of Namibia. (73 min.)

Sterritt ** To make this documentary about the multiethnic crew of a South African diamond ship off the African coast, the filmmakers moved right in with them for three months, chronicling daily affairs from the tedium of ordinary work to the racial tensions smoldering in too many members of the crew. The movie suffers from their reluctance to shape their material into a form more expressive than straightforward chronological order, but you meet some fascinating personalities during this uncomfortable voyage.

Fleeing by Night (Not rated)

Directors: Li-Kong Hsu, Chi Yin. With Rene Liu, Lei Huang, Chao-te Yin, Ah-leh Gua. (123 min.)

Recommended: Could you pass a US citizenship test?

Sterritt ** Emotional complications multiply as a Chinese cellist courts his music-loving fiancée while also becoming infatuated with a male opera singer who lives entirely for his art. The story is hardly original, but this well-directed Taiwanese drama paints an intermittently vivid portrait of life on the Chinese mainland in the 1930s era. In Mandarin with English subtitles.

Janice Beard: 45 Words Per Minute (Not rated)

Director: Clare Kilner. With Eileen Walsh, Rhys Ifans, Patsy Kensit. (80 min.)

Sterritt ** An overly imaginative young woman takes a job as an office temp to help with her mother's healthcare expenses; working at a second-rate automotive company, she finds herself in the thick of an industrial-sabotage scheme and a could-be love affair with a fellow employee. Lively acting and an amiable comic atmosphere offer partial compensation for generally lackluster filmmaking.

The Lady and the Duke (PG-13)

Director: Eric Rohmer. With Lucy Russell, Jean-Claude Dreyfus, Francois Marthouret, Caroline Morin. (129 min.)

Sterritt **** See review, page 15.

CURRENTLY IN RELEASE
Baran (Not rated)

Director: Majid Majidi. With Hossein Abedini, Mohammad Reza Naji, Zahra Bahrami. (105 min.)

Sterritt **** See review, page 15.

The Cat's Meow (PG-13)

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

Sterritt ** The place is newspaper tycoon William Randolph Hearst's yacht in the mid- 1920s, and the characters include comedian Charlie Chaplin, gossip columnist Louella Parsons, film producer Thomas Ince, and Hearst himself. They're hoping for a good time on their pleasure cruise, but the sea breezes carry whiffs of jealousy and danger. Based on a real-life murder case, this amiably dull comedy-drama resembles its setting: Everything is arranged for fun and diversion, but the vehicle takes too long to get us where we're going.

Changing Lanes (R)

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

Sterritt *** A corporate lawyer and an insurance salesman become adversaries after a highway fender-bender, sparking a day-long ordeal of threats and counter-threats. The filmmakers meant to whip up a high-tension thriller. What they ended up with is a psychological satire that's quite engrossing if you regard it as an absurdist morality tale rather than a straight-ahead suspense yarn. It loses its bite in a last-minute happy ending, but much of the way it's a refreshingly novel ride.

Sex/Nudity: 3 instances innuendo. Violence: 5 scenes, including assault. Profanity: 13 strong expressions. Drugs: 3 instances drinking.

Crush (R)

Director: John McKay. With Andie MacDowell, Imelda Staunton, Anna Chancellor, Kenny Doughty. (110 min.)

Staff ** "Crush" swoops over stereotypes of femininity, as three lovelorn 40-somethings – Kate (MacDowell), Molly, and Janine – meet to swap stories of amorous humiliation over gin, chocolate, and gibes. They are, ostensibly, allies in the quest for love, but when Kate gets involved with a former student, Molly spearheads a scheme to end the affair. Though engaging in its banter and its romance, the film's myopic vision of women borders on misogyny. When clumsy, catty Molly brings on disaster with her scheme, the women are softened by humiliation and a new awareness of their distinctly feminine failings. By Christina McCarroll

Staff **1/2 Predictable, silly gabby, twisted.

Sex/Nudity: 37 instances, including innuendo, partial nudity and implied sex. Violence: 2 scenes. Profanity: 12 expressions. Drugs: 16 scenes with drinking and smoking.

Deuces Wild (R)

Director: Scott Kalvert. Cast: Stephen Dorff, Brad Renfro, Fairuza Balk. (93 min.)

Staff ** It's 1958, and tensions are high on the streets of Brooklyn. Marco, ex-con and leader of The Vipers, wants to deal drugs in the neighborhood, but Leon and The Deuces will have none of it. Threats, violence, and 90 minutes of tough-guy clichés ensue. It's full of sound and fury, and the ensemble tries hard, but mob boss Fitzy has it right: They're just kids who need to grow up. By Alex Kaloostian.

Enigma (R)

Director: Michael Apted. With Dougray Scott, Kate Winslet, Jeremy Northam, Saffron Burrows. (117 min.)

Staff ***1/2"A Beautiful Mind" meets "The Longest Day" as a brilliant mathematician leads a team of British scientists desperately trying to break the Nazi's enigma code and stop their U-boats before they cut off the North Atlantic shipping routes and win the war. But the mathematician's sanity is close to breaking: Is the beautiful blonde he's in love with a spy? And is the dapper British secret agent shadowing him (played with his usual delightful elegance by Northam) a friend or foe? There's romance and suspense aplenty before several puzzles are solved – and the war won. By Gregory M. Lamb

Frailty (R)

Director: Bill Paxton. With Paxton, Matthew McConaughey,

Jeremy Sumpter, Powers Boothe. (100 min.)

Staff ** In this dark film, dad (Paxton) wakes his two young sons to tell them that God has given them a mission: to kill demons. These demons, however, happen to look like normal people. The story is told in flashback by McConaughey, who weaves a mesmerizing tale with his soft monotone. Once dad takes up the tools of his so-called divine justice (a metal pipe and an ax), the family is changed forever. A twist at the end of the film makes it worth the ride. By Michele Babineau

High Crimes (PG-13)

Director: Carl Franklin. With Ashley Judd, Morgan Freeman. (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, soon encountering threats from forces that want to hush up the affair. The story has potential, but you'll spot the plot twists long before they happen, and the acting by Judd and Cavaziel is strictly by the numbers. Ditto for the filmmaking.

Staff ** 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.

Hollywood Ending (PG-13)

Director: Woody Allen. With Allen, Téa Leoni, Mark Rydell, George Hamilton, Debra Messing. (114 min.)

Sterritt *** Allen plays a once-lauded movie director who tries for a comeback via a project bankrolled by the Hollywood exec his exwife dumped him for; then his subconscious goes haywire, rendering him temporarily blind, and since he can't reveal this secret, he has to put on an act and pretend he knows what's in front of the camera. This cheerfully absurd comedy isn't brilliantly written, but it takes many amusing shots at the moviemaking scene.

Jason X (R)

Director: James Isaac. With: Kane Hodder, Lexa Doig, Lisa Ryder. (93 min.)

Staff ** You can't keep a good undead psycho down. The tenth installment in the Friday-the-13th series brings Jason and one of his hapless victims-to-be into the 25th century, when Earth is no longer inhabitable and a dark spaceship takes the place of camp Crystal Lake. Ninety minutes of the usual ensues: running, screaming, wisecracking, and impaling. Thoroughly awful, but fans of the genre may just find this to be one of Jason's best. By Alex Kaloostian.

Life or Something Like It (PG-13)

Director: Stephen Herek. With Angelina Jolie, Edward Burns, Stockard Channing. (103 min.)

Sterritt ** An ambitious TV newswoman takes a fresh look at life and love after a sidewalk psychic tells her she has a week to live. This slickly produced romantic comedy takes its creaky premise down the most predictable, sentimental pathways it can find. If the heroine really had seven days left, she wouldn't waste it watching stuff like this.

Sex/Nudity: 9 instances, including innuendo and 2 scenes implied sex. Violence: 1 shooting scene. Profanity: 13 expressions. Drugs: 13 scenes with drinking and smoking.

Murder By Numbers (R)

Director: Barbet Schroeder. With Sandra Bullock, Ryan Gosling, Michael Pitt, Ben Chaplin.

Staff ** Bullock stars as a brilliant, wise-cracking crime-scene investigator whose own dark past is a mystery in itself. She quickly figures out who has committed a horrifying crime (shown with lingering shots of the corpse), but can she prove it? The murderers are daring her to outwit them. Gosling and Pitt shine as her troubled-teen suspects, and Chaplin is fine as a low-key partner and potential love interest. Some entertaining plot twists ensue, but it's a must-see only for Bullock fans. By Gregory M. Lamb

Sex/Nudity: 2 sex scenes, 1 scene with sounds of TV pornography (unseen). No nudity. Violence: 16 scenes, including some with severed body parts. Profanity: 33 expressions. Drugs: At least 16 scenes with alcohol and smoking.

The Mystic Masseur (PG)

Director: Ismail Merchant. With Aasif Mandvi, Om Puri, Ayesha Dharker, Zohra Segal. (117 min.)

Sterritt **** See review, page 15.

The Scorpion King (PG-13)

Director: Chuck Russell. With Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson, Kelly Hu, Michael Clarke Duncan. (90 min.)

Staff **1/2An evil warlord is sweeping across the Near East, and it's up to the last of a long line of assassins to stop him, win the girl, and save Gomorrah (for the time being, of course). Surprisingly, pro wrestler "The Rock" is the best part about the film, playing the title role like an antediluvian Jackie Chan, even if his dialogue is flat. With just a bit more polish, this could have been Indiana Jones Revisited. Can you smell The Rock signing on for a sequel? By Alex Kaloostian

Sex/Nudity: 6 scenes, including innuendo and implied sex. Violence: 18 scenes, including swordfights. Profanity: 1 mild expression. Drugs: 4 instances of drinking.

Spider-Man (PG-13)

Director: Samuel Raimi. With Tobey Maguire, Willem Dafoe, Kirsten Dunst, James Franco. (121 min.)

Staff ***The long-awaited "Spider-Man," finally swings and soars his way across Gotham City, marking the 40th anniversary of the Marvel Comics creation. The teen turned superhero after being bitten by a mutant spider, delivers a visually impressive turn, saving damsels and confronting his own demons in a satisfying high-tech action flick. Parents will appreciate the emphasis on responsibility, duty, and sacrifice while teens will enjoy the coming-of-age struggles of an extra-ordinary kid trying to get the girl and oh, by the way, saving the world from super-villains. By Gloria Goodale

Staff ***1/2 Best superhero film, exhilarating, action galore.

Sex/Nudity: 1 wet T-shirt scene. Violence: Cartoonish violence in most scenes, but few are graphic. Profanity: 2 harsh expressions. Drugs: 3 scenes with alcohol, 1 with cigar.

Time Out (PG-13)

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

Sterritt **** Disillusioned with his life, a businessman stops working and hides this from his family. He hooks up with a small 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 ominous. Cantet's previous film, "Human Resources," also probed social and ideological problems tied to family and work. He offers rich insights, and brings them alive with sensitive acting.

Warm Water Under a Red Bridge (Not rated)

Director: Shohei Imamura. With Koji Yakusho, Misa Shimizu, Mitsuko Baisho, Manasaku Fowa. (119 min.)

Sterritt ** See review, page 15.

Wendigo (R)

Director: Larry Fessenden. With Jake Weber, Patricia Clarkson, Erik Per Sullivan, John Speredakos. (90 min.)

Sterritt **** Spending a get-away weekend in a borrowed farmhouse, a city couple has a tense feud with a demented deer hunter, and their 8-year-old son copes with his anxieties through imaginative encounters with a rage-filled phantasm he's learned about from an enigmatic native-American sage. Fessenden's latest horror yarn is a smart and scary voyage into the uncanny realm where hard realities, mind-spinning myths, and hallucinatory visions blur. Produced on a modest budget, it sports moody cinematography, razor-sharp editing, and good acting.

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