Director: Roman Coppola. With Jeremy Davies, Elodie Bouchez, Gérard Depardieu. (100 min.)
Sterritt ** Two filmmakers in Paris about 30 years ago one a documentary director, the other a science-fiction storyteller who can't figure out how to finish his current production head for confusion when they fall for the same glamorous actress. Coppola's satirical debut movie is too ambitious for its own good. The cast is good, though, and ambition isn't the worst fault a fledgling filmmaker can have.
Director: Mel Brooks. With Gene Wilder, Zero Mostel, Dick Shawn, Lee Meredith. (90 min.)
Sterritt ** Brooks won a best-screenplay Academy Award for this 1968 farce about a Broadway producer and a small-time accountant who decide to swindle theatrical investors by producing a deliberately rotten musical called "Springtime for Hitler." The idea of the movie is better than the movie itself Wilder and Mostel compete to see who can shout loudest and distract the camera longest but if old-fashioned outrageousness is what you're looking for, window shop no more.
Director: Phil Alden Robinson. With Ben Affleck, Morgan Freeman, James Cromwell, Liev Schreiber.
Staff **1/2 See full review, page 17.
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.
Director: Henry Bean. With Ryan Gosling, Summer Phoenix, Billy Zane, Theresa Russell. (92 min.)
Sterritt **** Gosling plays a 20-something Jew with a deadly hatred of Jewish life, faith, and history whose friends range from rage-filled local thugs to a pair of intellectually sophisticated neofascists. Based on an actual case history, Bean's screenplay paints an excruciatingly vivid portrait of the most dangerous person a tolerant society can have a zealot who's as mentally agile as he is morally misguided. The result is a stunningly smart, genuinely disturbing drama.
Director: Michael Apted. With Jennifer Lopez, Bill Campbell, Juliette Lewis, Dan Futterman. (111 min.)
Staff *1/2 "Slim" (Lopez) is a hardworking waitress who marries a wealthy stranger she meets while serving burgers and coleslaw. Mitch whisks her away into an ostensibly picture-perfect life, complete with a lavish house and fun-loving daughter. But when Slim discovers Mitch is a philanderer and confronts him, he starts beating her. With help, she musters the courage to escape from his possessive grip. This disturbing story highlights major flaws in our legal system and dire struggles abuse victims face: from a lack of money, housing, and food to a lost sense of security. It's exploitative at times, especially when the victim learns martial arts, then channels her newfound might to act aggressively against Mitch. The ending may seem justified, but unfortunately it teaches the only way to fight violence is with violence. By Stephanie Cook
Sex/Nudity: 7 scenes, mostly innuendo, 1 with partial nudity. Violence: 6 scenes, including fighting. Profanity: 11 harsh expressions. Drugs: 2 scenes with drinking.
Director: Oliver Parker. With Rupert Everett, 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
Staff ***1/2 Freshly frivolous, witty, well-acted, wildly Wilde.
Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: None. Profanity: None. Drugs: 11 scenes with drinking and smoking.
Director: Christopher Nolan. With Al Pacino, Robin Williams, Hilary Swank, Maura Tierney. (118 min.)
Staff *** See full review, page 17.
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.
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.
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.
Director: Christine Jeffs. With Alicia Fulford-Wierzbicki, Marton Scokas, Sarah Peirse. (88 min.)
Sterritt *** The psychologically charged story of a 13-year-old 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.
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.
Directors: Kelly Asbury, Lorna Cook. With voices of Matt Damon, James Cromwell, Daniel Studi. (84 min.)
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.
Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: 11 scenes, none graphic. Profanity: None. Drugs: 1 instance cigar smoking.
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.
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, few clichés.
Sex/Nudity: 9 scenes with graphic sex/nudity. Violence: 2 scenes, 1 is bloody. Profanity: 28 harsh expressions. Drugs: 7 scenes with alcohol, 3 with smoking.
Director: Chris Columbus. With Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Maggie Smith. (150 min.)
Sterritt *** This richly produced fantasy stays true to the letter and spirit of J.K. Rowling's lively novel about a boy who discovers he's a natural-born wizard and finds himself battling the sinister sorcerer who killed his parents when he was a baby. Columbus fills the screen with colorful images, special effects, and a superbly chosen cast. What you won't find are qualities a great movie adaptation might have offered new layers of meaning and fresh perspectives that only film images could provide.
Staff **1/2 Stirs childhood memories, a bit ordinary, enchanting, top-notch effects.
Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: 8 scenes. Profanity: 1 mild expression. Drugs: 1 scene with alcohol.
Director: Mark Pellington. With Richard Gere, Laura Linney, Will Patton, Alan Bates. (120 min.)
Sterritt ** After his wife's death in a mysterious car accident, a hotshot Washington reporter finds himself stranded in a small town plagued by enigmatic incidents, weird visions, and auguries of catastrophes to come. The first third of this overambitious horror yarn builds an ominous mood of menace and suspense; the rest is drained of dramatic energy by uneven acting and an overly long running time.
Staff ** Unsatisfying thriller, creepy, gimmicky.
Sex/Nudity: 2 scenes implied sex, 1 innuendo. Violence: 5 scenes. Profanity: 8 mild expressions. Drugs: 3 scenes with drinking.