Movie Guide

NEW RELEASES
The Importance of Being Earnest (PG)

Director: Oliver Parker. With Rupert Everett, Colin Firth, Frances O'Connor, Reese Witherspoon. (94 min.)

Staff *** If a dreamy romp and Oscar Wilde don't seem as if they should go together, then British director Oliver Parker has a surprise for fans of one of Wilde's great comedies. This late Victorian-era farce, the first film rendition of this play in 50 years, is based on the slimmest of conceits: that only a man named Earnest is marriage material to two English lasses, played winningly by Witherspoon and O'Connor. Coming on the heels of his success with "An Ideal Husband," this latest version is a nice addition to the updating of classic British theater works. By Gloria Goodale

Stallion: Spirit of the Cimarron (G)

Directors: Kelly Asbury, Lorna Cook. With voices of Matt Damon, James Cromwell, Daniel Studi. (84 min.)

Recommended: Could you pass a US citizenship test?

Sterritt ** The adventures of a wild stallion who wants to stay wild, the young Indian who befriends him, and a mean-tempered cavalry captain who wants to break his will and hold him in captivity. The proudly traditional style of this kid-friendly animation seems rather tame in the age of "Shrek" and "Monsters, Inc.," but the action is mild enough for fairly young children, and grownups may enjoy its old-fashioned spirit.

Standing by Yourself (Not rated)

Director: Josh Koury. With Josh Siegfried, Adam Koury. (66 min.)

Sterritt * This deliberately scruffy documentary paints an on-the-spot portrait of disaffected teens in a New York town, focusing mainly on two 16-year-olds, one of whom is the filmmaker's younger brother. It has a degree of sociological interest, but it would be more effective if the material were shaped into a more coherent form.

CURRENTLY IN RELEASE
About a Boy (PG-13)

Directors: Paul Weitz, Chris Weitz. With Hugh Grant, Toni Collette, Nicholas Hoult, Rachel Weisz. (101 min.)

Sterritt * Grant plays a mischievous bachelor who pretends he has a child so he can hunt wooable women in a single-parents club, then becomes the unexpected friend of a real 12-year-old who needs help to overcome his geekiness and make a hit with his peers. Hoult is excellent as the kid, but there's little he or Grant can do with the movie's most mawkish moments.

Staff *** Wryly humorous, cute, unconventional, Grant's best role.

Sex/Nudity: 1 scene, and some innuendo. Violence: About 5 scenes with bullying. Profanity: 44 expressions, some harsh. Drugs: 14 scenes with alcohol, 9 with smoking.

Dogtown and Z-Boys (PG-13)

Director: Stacy Peralta. With Sean Penn, Jay Adams, Tony Alva, Bob Biniak. (90 min.)

Staff **** The first incarnation of the skateboard came in with the hula hoop and lasted as long. Director and original "Z-Boy" skater Stacy Peralta has fashioned a wildly entertaining documentary chronicling the true birth of southern California "skater" cool, a decade later. Cobbled together for less than $500,000, his film chronicles the mid-'70s exploits of a rag-tag bunch of teens (the Z-Boys) who hung out at surf shops on the rundown streets of "Dogtown" (south Santa Monica, before gentrification). Having conquered the local surf with reckless bravado, they sought new thrills on the West Side's asphalt playgrounds and empty swimming pools with homemade skateboards and absolutely no fear. Inside a year, these daredevils redefined what was possible on a skateboard and created a guerrilla style and attitude that still pervades youth culture today. By John Kehe

Sex/Nudity: 3 scenes with semi-nudity. Profanity: 43 harsh expressions. Drugs: 2 instances of smoking, some talk of drug use.

Enigma (R)

Director: Michael Apted. With Dougray Scott, Kate Winslet, Jeremy Northam. (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. 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

Staff *** Intelligent thriller, riveting, beautiful scenery, multifaceted.

Sex/Nudity: 1 sex scene with partial nudity. Violence: 9 scenes, a few of mass graves, but mostly not graphic. Profanity: 13 harsh expressions. Drugs: 26 scenes with smoking and drinking.

Harvard Man (R)

Director: James Toback. With Adrian Grenier, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Joey Lauren Adams, Eric Stoltz. (97 min.)

Staff *** A Harvard basketball player (Grenier) tries to find his inner self by taking a triple hit of LSD. It doesn't have that effect, and it doesn't help him out of his troubles with FBI investigators of his girlfriend's Mafioso father. Director Toback struggled for years to fund this pet project, which pulls no punches in depicting the kind of nightmare he lived through after trying the hallucinogen in his own 1960s Harvard days. It plays in stark relief with classical soundtrack music and lovingly photographed locations in and around Harvard. This indie will shock many viewers, but it may keep some from seeking truth in chemicals. By M.K. Terrell

Sex/Nudity: 15 instances, including graphic nudity and innuendo. Violence: 2 mild scenes. Profanity: 100 harsh expressions. Drugs: 3 scenes with drinking and 6 with illegal drug use.

The Lady and the Duke (PG-13)

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

Sterritt **** A courtly account of the skittish friendship between an Englishwoman living in France during the French Revolution and a curmudgeonly French aristocrat who confronts his tumultuous age with an unsteady set of divided loyalties. An old master with young ideas, Rohmer shot the movie with digital video, lending a sense of exquisitely crafted artifice that enhances the tale's historical atmosphere. It's deliciously acted, too. Originally titled "L'Anglaise et le duc." In French with English subtitles.

Lagaan (PG)

Director: Ashutosh Gowariker. Starring: Aamir Khan, Gracy Singh, Rachel Shelley, Paul Blackthorne. (225 min.)

Staff ***1/2 In 1893 India, villagers protest the military government's arbitrary doubling of their annual grain tax (lagaan). The captain strikes a wager: Beat the officers' cricket team, and no lagaan for three years, or lose and pay triple. All seems hopeless until the captain's independent-minded sister offers to teach them the game. This simple plot is the premise for a sumptuous feast of sight and sound, with comedy, a love story, and elaborate and deftly integrated song and dance. Don't let the four-hour running time (including intermission) keep you away. It's the most expensive Indian film ever, and it looks it. Hooray for Bollywood! By M.K. Terrell

Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: 8 scenes, including tussles. Profanity: 8 expressions. Drugs: At least 3 scenes with drinking, smoking.

My Big Fat Greek Wedding (PG)

Director: Joel Zwick. With Nia Vardalos, John Corbett, Michael Constantine, Lainie Kazan. (95 min.)

Staff *** A frumpy Greek woman lives with her parents as the black sheep of the family because she can't net a nice Greek husband. But her lackluster life changes abruptly when a handsome schoolteacher walks into her family's restaurant where she works and sees through her drab disguise. Only problem: He's not Greek. Not since "Muriel's Wedding" has a film about mismatched couples and dysfunctional families tickled the funny bone so deliciously. The dialogue is a little flat, but sparkles at times. The moral is clear and noble, and leaves the audience with the afterglow of a blushing bride. By Gary W. Broadhurst

Sex/Nudity: 12 scenes, including a few with implied sex and innuendo. Violence: 5 mild scenes. Profanity: At least 7 expressions. Drugs: About 22 scenes with alcohol, including drunkenness.

The Mystic Masseur (PG)

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

Sterritt **** A little knowledge can be a wonderful thing, or so it seems to the hero of this delightful comedy-drama. He's an Indian man living in Trinidad, where his smattering of book learning brings him enough local prestige to become first a masseur and healer, then a small-time book writer, and then an aspiring politician – although each step up the ladder of success doesn't necessarily bring more of the personal happiness he's always in search of. Merchant usually works as the producing half of the Merchant Ivory filmmaking team, but his skills as a director have grown by leaps and bounds. This delicious fable reflects his great love of language, his delicate visual sense, and his ability to make you think and laugh out loud, often at the very same time.

Sex/Nudity: 1 instance innuendo. Violence: 1 mild scene. Profanity: 11 expressions. Drugs: At least 8 scenes with smoking or drinking.

The New Guy (PG-13)

Director: Edward Decter. With D.J. Qualls, Lyle Lovett, Eddie Griffin, Eliza Dushku. (100 min.)

Staff *1/2 Dizzy Gillespie Harrison (Qualls) is a high school senior who stretches the boundaries of geekiness, until a convict teaches him you don't need a magic wand, a spider bite, or divine intervention to be cool – you just need an attitude. His newfound charisma inspires a whole school to greatness. Now all he needs is a little humility. Original gags, an earnest young cast, lots of cameos, and even compassionate moments bring welcome freshness to the genre, but rationality and cohesiveness skipped class today. By M.K. Terrell

Sex/Nudity: 6 instances, mostly innuendo. Violence: 12 scenes with violence. Profanity: 44 harsh expressions. Drugs: 1 scene with alcohol.

Rain (Not rated)

Director: Christine Jeffs. With Alicia Fulford-Wierzbicki, Marton Scokas, Sarah Peirse. (88 min.)

Sterritt *** The psychologically charged story of a girl whose adolescence is complicated by sexual tensions linked with her parents' troubled marriage. Jeffs is an unusually gifted director, but her screenplay (based on Kirsty Gunn's novel) never quite gets a firm grip or fresh perspective on its coming-of-age subject.

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.

Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones (PG-13)

Director: George Lucas. With Hayden Christensen, Natalie Portman, Ewan McGregor, Samuel L. Jackson. (136 min.)

Sterritt ** Anakin Skywalker is now a fledgling Jedi knight who helps Senator Padmé, his former Tatooine playmate, hide from assassins while Obi-Wan Kenobi probes a threat from Dark Side enemies. The film has a broader range of emotions and visual effects than any "Star Wars" installment since "The Empire Strikes Back," but the writing and acting are as stiff as R2-D2's metal torso. If clones are so scary, why does Lucas keep cloning pop-culture clichés he's latched onto from other films, including his own?

Staff **1/2 Cheezy dialogue, uninspired acting, technologically dazzling, Yoda is fantastic!

Sex/Nudity: None. Some mild innuendo. Violence: 12 scenes, some long. Profanity: None. Drugs: 2 scenes with alcohol-like drinks.

Unfaithful (R)

Director: Adrian Lyne. With Richard Gere, Diane Lane, Olivier Martinez, Erik Per Sullivan.

Staff ** This movie is loosely based on the 1968 French film "La Femme Infidèle." Lane and Gere play an affluent couple living in a New York City suburb with their 8-year-old son and dog. Their lifestyle is as comfortable as the V-neck sweaters that Gere sports daily. But the mood suddenly changes when Lane falls for a sexy French book dealer (Martinez) in SoHo. The movie's flaw lies in the screenplay – it fails to shed light on why she wants to have an affair. OK, she's bored, he's great-looking, but that doesn't seem to be enough in this story. What does work is Lane's performance. She moves from being happy to sad and confused without saying a word.By Lisa Leigh Parney

Staff **1/2 Lacks depth, suspenseful, tragic, very few clichés.

Sex/Nudity: 9 scenes with sex/nudity. Violence: 2 scenes, 1 is bloody. Profanity: 28 harsh expressions. Drugs: 7 scenes with alcohol, 3 with smoking.

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