Director: Billy Wilder. With Ray Walston, Kim Novak, Dean Martin, Felicia Farr, Cliff Osmond. (126 min.)
Sterritt **** This scalding 1964 comedy was one of the great Wilder's last major films. Martin plays a singing star who falls into the clutches of two small-town songwriters when they sabotage his car and hire him a hooker with a heart of gold, hoping he'll buy some of their ditties. Hollywood censors made Wilder reshoot one scene, but the original version has been rediscovered; while it's tame by today's standards, it makes the movie's caustic social commentary more potent than ever.
Directors: Chris Sanders, Dean DeBlois. With voices of Daveigh Chase, Tia Carrere, Ving Rhames. (85 min.)
Sterritt *** See review, page 15.
Director: Steven Spielberg. With Tom Cruise, Samantha Morton, Colin Farrell, Max von Sydow. (145 min.)
Sterritt *** See review, page 15.
Director: Doris Kornish. With Rudy Burckhardt, Jacob Burkhardt, Yushiko Chuma, Alex Katz. (85 min.)
Sterritt ** Kornish spent a decade filming this documentary visit with the late painter, photographer, and filmmaker. The best parts are excerpts from brief Burkhardt movies like "Square Times" and "Lurk," which show his offbeat artistry in full flower. The film would be better if it devoted more time to showing his work, though, and less to talking heads telling us how great it is.
Director: John Sayles. With Edie Falco, Timothy Hutton, Angela Bassett, Miguel Ferrer, Jane Alexander. (141 min.)
Sterritt ** See review, page 15.
Director: Joe Maggio. With Clint Jordan, Kirsten Russell, Greg Amici, Anthony Gorman. (93 min.)
Sterritt *** Virgil is determined to start a new life after finishing his prison term, but he falls into bad company despite his good intentions. A few miscalculated scenes aside, this low-budget drama is stunningly smart and powerful, with real-as-life lead performances and a style as gripping as it is unpretentious. Maggio is definitely a filmmaker to watch.
Director: Christian Frei. With James Nachtwey, Christiane Amanpour, Denis O'Neill. (96 min.)
Sterritt **** Nominated for best feature documentary in the 2002 Oscar race, this strikingly original movie chronicles Nachtwey's career as a news photographer in countries torn by war and poverty, often situating its own video lens directly behind his camera. Indelible images and brilliant use of unconventional music make this a nonfiction film that must be seen and heard to be believed.
Director: Joel Schumacher. With Chris Rock, Anthony Hopkins, Garcelle Beauvais, Brooke Smith. (120 min.)
Sterritt ** A streetwise hustler is drafted by the CIA to replace his killed-in-action twin on a mission to seize a contraband nuclear device, helped by a CIA veteran and threatened by a terrorist team. Rock and Hopkins give performances so different you'd think they were spliced together from two separate movies. This is fun to watch for a while, but the picture runs much too long, and most of the comedy writing is lame.
Sex/Nudity: 2 mild scenes. Violence: 10 scenes, including shooting. Profanity: 26 harsh expressions. Drugs: 8 scenes of smoking and drinking.
Director: Jonathan Parker. With David Paymer, Crispin Glover, Glenne Headly, Joe Piscopo. (82 min.)
Staff ** Glover is remarkably consistent as the stonefaced new hire in a public-records office, who "would prefer not" to do anything but filing, and then not to do anything at all, even leave after he's fired. This snide commentary on government work is perfectly cast with Paymer as the frustrated boss of an office full of kooks. But it runs out of gas as it moves faithful to its source, Herman Melville's 1853 "Bartleby the Scrivener" to a sad conclusion. By M.K. Terrell
Sex/Nudity: 5 instances, mostly innuendo. Violence: None. Profanity: 5 mild expressions. Drugs: 2 scenes with drinking.
Director: Doug Liman. With Matt Damon, Franka Potente, Chris Cooper, Brian Cox. (113 min.)
Sterritt ** Damon plays a spy so afflicted by amnesia that he doesn't know his name, much less the assignment he's supposed to carry out. The movie has director Liman's distinctive stamp, with fidgety camera work and flashes of lightning-quick editing. But he hasn't so much transformed the espionage thriller as submitted to its conventions. A truly fresh treatment of Robert Ludlum's novel wouldn't rely so heavily on shootouts, car chases, and boy-meets-girl clichés we've seen a zillion times before.
Staff *** Fresh, entertaining, great casting, good action.
Sex/Nudity: 1 instance implied sex. Violence: 11 scenes, including shooting. Profanity: 6 strong expressions. Drugs: 4 scenes drinking, smoking.
Director: Finn Taylor. With Robin Tunney, Tim Blake Nelson, Jason Priestley, Lindsay Crouse. (99 min.)
Staff **1/2 After a few drinks too many, Zoe Adler (Tunney) tries to call a cab on her cellphone, but a carjacker forces her to drive. He flees after she runs over a police officer and crashes, leaving her to face the music. The film's first few minutes throw an annoying array of cinematic distraction at the audience, but a witty little thriller emerges as Zoe, under house arrest, resourcefully stretches her electronic anklet's restrictions. Then, aided by a smitten watchdog deputy, she tries to clear her name by ferreting out her abductor before he can kill her. By M.K. Terrell
Sex/Nudity: 3 instances implied sex. Violence: 8 scenes, including fighting. Profanity: 28 strong expressions. Drugs: 7 scenes with drinking, smoking.
Director: Peter Care. With Kieran Culkin, Emile Hirsch, Jena Malone, Jodie Foster, Vincent D'Onofrio. (110 min.)
Sterritt *** "Stand by Me" meets "Ghost World." This coming-of-age story centers on two 1970s parochial-school students who express their frustrations by drawing a lurid comic book, but get into trouble when their discontents spill over into the real world. The film's theme is that many adolescents don't draw firm lines between reality and fantasy. It has no profound insights to offer, even when it tackles the grim subject of incest, but nimble performances and lifelike dialogue make it entertaining as well as reasonably thoughtful.
Director: Callie Khouri. With Ellen Burstyn, Ashley Judd, Sandra Bullock, Maggie Smith, Shirley Knight. (118 min.)
Sterritt * A mother flies into a Louisiana tizzy when her daughter criticizes her in a magazine interview, so her kooky old friends kidnap the erring offspring, convinced she'll change her ungrateful tune if they reveal how many challenges her mom faced during her own salad days. Flashbacks follow, depicting childish mischief and girlish romance along with alcoholism and mental illness. Full of cardboard characters and logic-defying leaps between farce and melodrama, the movie is rarely effective on its own sentimental terms.
Staff **1/2Tender, well-paced, an acting fest.
Sex/Nudity: 1 instance innuendo, no nudity. Violence: 1 scene with child beating. Profanity: 42 expressions. Drugs: 20 scenes with drinking and smoking.
Director: Zacharias Kunuk. With Natar Ungalaaq, Sylvia Ivalu, Peter-Henry Arnatsiaq. (172 min.)
Sterritt *** The adventures of an Inuit nomad over 20 years, starting with a mysterious event during his childhood and then detailing his feud with a rival over a woman they both love. There's as much unbridled passion and violent conflict as melodrama fans could ask for. You feel the power of the Arctic setting in every scene, from frantic chases to intimate conversations, and the story's refusal to draw solid lines between "good" and "evil" characters shows striking psychological sophistication.
Director: Christopher Nolan. With Al Pacino, Robin Williams, Hilary Swank, Maura Tierney. (118 min.)
Sterritt *** The aging detective played by Pacino believes a cop can't sleep if he's stuck on a case or bothered by his conscience. He has both problems as he hunts the killer of a teenage girl in a small Alaskan town. Good acting and slow but steady dramatic rhythms lend moody power to this well-written thriller, which becomes something of a horror movie as the lead character's mental disorientation transforms the plot from whodunit mystery to psychological nightmare.
Staff ***Smart, gripping, great cinematography
Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: 11, including beatings and shooting. Profanity: 30 harsh expressions.
Director: Raja Gosnell. With Freddy Prinze Jr., Sarah Michelle Gellar, Matthew Lillard, Linda Cardellini.
Staff *** The wild and droll canine Scooby-Doo and his villain-chasing friends reunite for a spooky adventure in this first live-action adaptation of the animated TV series. A theme-park owner calls on the Mystery gang to uncover the reason visitors are leaving the park as monster-possessed zombies. Numerous clues and outlandish happenings lead them through fun-house twists and turns as they seek the desperado behind it all. The characters are well portrayed and the ending is unexpected, but some scenes are clichés and others grotesque. The qualities that enable this quintet to succeed include adaptability and an appreciation of good friends. The story offers enough incentive for adults to stay and kids to watch so give yourself a Scooby Snack! By Chase Clements (age 13)
Sex/Nudity: 2 scenes of provocative behavior. Violence: 18 instances of cartoonish violence. Profanity: 3 instances of mild profanity. Drugs: None.
Director: George Lucas. With Hayden Christensen, Natalie Portman 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 Cheesy dialogue, uninspired acting, technologically dazzling, Yoda is fantastic!
Sex/Nudity: Mild innuendo. Violence: 12 scenes, some long. Profanity: None. Drugs: 2 scenes with alcohol-like drinks.
Director: Phil Alden Robinson. With Ben Affleck, Morgan Freeman, James Cromwell, Liev Schreiber.
Staff **1/2 The fourth in Tom Clancy's Jack Ryan series to make it to the screen, this film imagines the US after a terrorist nuclear blast destroys Baltimore. The film arrived amid much speculation about America's readiness to see terrorism as entertainment, but the director chose to show little actual damage. More chilling may be the US President's calm willingness to deploy top government agents to assassinate the bad guys, rather than bring them to face the rule of law. By Gloria Goodale
Staff **1/2 Thrilling, gripping, unrealistic.
Sex/Nudity: 2 mild scenes. Violence: 13 scenes, including a hanging. Profanity: At least 7 harsh expressions. Drugs: 8 scenes with drinking, smoking.
Director: Jill Sprecher. With Alan Arkin, Matthew McConaughey, Amy Irving, John Turturro. (94 min.)
Staff ***1/2 A series of related vignettes in the lives of several New Yorkers begins with a successful prosecutor (McConaughey) who is haunted by his own hidden crime. Arkin is especially poignant as an aging middle manager who finds his life crumbling around him. Some viewers may decide the film is about whether fortune or luck exists. Others may decide it shows that love and good deeds are the only things that give life meaning. The stories are both frustratingly and satisfyingly open-ended. By Gregory M. Lamb
Staff **1/2 Creative, maudlin dialogue, probing
Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: 5 instances. Profanity: 11 harsh expressions. Drugs: 3 scenes with drinking, 2 with smoking and 1 with illegal drugs.
Director: John Woo. With Nicolas Cage, Adam Beach, Christian Slater, Roger Willie, Peter Stormare. (134 min.)
Sterritt * A wounded-in-action marine sergeant is ordered to accompany a Navajo code talker into battle and protect him from harm or kill him if there's a danger he'll be captured and tortured for information. The movie claims to celebrate native American contributions in World War II, but its main priority is to let Woo create lots of the choreographed violence he's built his career on. It doesn't help that Cage is the opposite of subtle, grimacing so much he seems to be acting with his teeth.