Director: James Toback. With Adrian Grenier, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Joey Lauren Adams. (100 min.)
Sterritt *** The adventures of an Ivy League basketball player and his cronies, including a lover with a mobster dad, a platonic girlfriend with her own drug lab, and a kinky professor at his university. Toback has been transfixed by sex, money, gambling, and philosophy as long as he's been making movies. The first half of this freewheeling comedy-drama finds him at his imaginative best. The second half sinks into silliness as he throws in every twist that might sell a couple of more tickets.
Director: Tuck Tucker. With Spencer Klein, Craig Bartlett, Christopher Lloyd, Jennifer Jason Leigh. (72 min.)
Staff ** Arnold and his hip friend Gerald try to stop the corporate Goliath Scheck from tearing down their beloved neighborhood to build a shopping mall. With the help of an enigmatic stranger and a secret agent-like comrade, the buddies search for a lost document that would protect their historical community. Sketches from hit movies like "Men in Black," "The Incredible Hulk," and "The Shawshank Redemption" are amusingly woven into subplots in this adaptation of the Nickelodeon TV series. The ending is jovial, but the story line is far-fetched and the dialogue is hackneyed. Unnecessary violence and mature themes aren't suitable for young kids. Wait to see 'Hey Arnold!' on video. By Chase Clements (age 13)
Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: 6 scenes cartoonish violence, 3 with blood. Profanity: None. Drugs: None.
Director: Nicole Holofcener. With Catherine Keener, Brenda Blethyn, Emily Mortimer. (89 min.)
Staff *** See review, page 16.
Director: Gregg Lachow. With Megan Murphy, Jeff Weatherford, Cynthia Whalen, John Holyoke. (110 min.)
Sterritt * A married couple drift apart in the wake of a friend's suicide. Then they encounter friends and strangers who help them understand their needs and desires a tiny bit better. Lachow goes for cuteness and whimsy every chance he gets, missing a lot more often than he hits.
Director: Steven Brill. With Adam Sandler, Winona Ryder, Steve Buscemi, Peter Gallagher. (91 min.)
Staff * See review, page 16.
Director: Hélène Angel. With Serge Riaboukine, Virginie Guinand, Bernard Blancan, Maaike Jensen. (97 min.)
Sterritt ** Serious psychological trouble brews when a moody Frenchman returns home after a long absence, sparking questions about his past and tension between his brothers, who have problems of their own. Much of the story is viewed from the standpoint of two young girls in the family, giving the drama an unusual perspective. In the end there's more nasty behavior than constructive insight, though. In French with English subtitles.
Director: Robert Altman. With Sissy Spacek, Shelley Duvall, Janice Rule. (125 min.)
Sterritt **** Inspired by a dream Altman had at a troubled time in his life, this 1977 masterpiece blends realism with surrealism as it offers an unhurried look at two painfully ordinary young women whose personalities undergo eerie alterations as they get to know each other. Written and directed by a brilliant screen artist at the peak of his powers, it's an utterly original comedy-drama.
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: 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 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.
Staff *** Fresh, entertaining, great casting.
Sex/Nudity: 1 instance implied sex. Violence: 11 scenes, including shooting. Profanity: 6 strong expressions. Drugs: 4 scenes 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 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 topic of incest, but nimble performances and lifelike dialogue make it entertaining as well as reasonably thoughtful.
Sex/Nudity: 11 instances, including innuendo. Violence: 12 scenes, including violent drawings. Profanity: 49 harsh expressions. Drugs: At least 13 scenes with drinking, smoking, illegal drugs.
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 each scene, from frantic chases to intimate conversations. The story's refusal to draw solid lines between "good" and "evil" characters shows striking sophistication.
Staff *** Captivating, revealing, spare, real.
Sex/Nudity: 8 scenes, mostly innuendo, 2 with nudity. Violence: 12 scenes, including a rape. Profanity: 4 harsh expressions. Drugs: Nothing explicit.
Director: Jesse Vaughan. With Miguel A. Nuñez Jr., Vivica A. Fox, Tommy Davidson. (90 min.)
Staff *1/2 Angry over his ejection from a game, ace basketball player Jamal Jeffries flashes the crowd and earns an indefinite suspension. Desperate to play, he joins a women's team as Juwanna Mann and begins to learn sportsmanship and humility. The cast, including team captain Fox and long-suffering agent Pollak, exhibits sportsmanship by fighting gamely with this worn-out material to produce some amusing moments. The impressive game footage with real-life players helps, too, but not enough. By M.K. Terrell
Sex/Nudity: 9 scenes, mostly innuendo, 1 with nudity. Violence: 6 mild scenes. Profanity: 25 harsh expressions. Drugs: 3 scenes with drinking.
Directors: Chris Sanders, Dean DeBlois. With voices of Daveigh Chase, Tia Carrere. (85 min.)
Sterritt *** Lilo is a bratty Hawaiian girl whose dysfunctional family gets worse and then predictably heals after she befriends Stitch, a bratty genetic experiment who travels to Earth from a distant planet. Kids will love the fantasy and adventure of this cleverly written animation, and grownups will appreciate its whimsical humor. All this plus six Elvis Presley songs on the soundtrack!
Staff **1/2 Chaotic, adventurous, endearing.
Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: 15 scenes cartoonish violence. Profanity: None. Drugs: 1 scene with alcohol.
Director: Steven Spielberg. With Tom Cruise, Samantha Morton, Colin Farrell, Max von Sydow. (145 min.)
Sterritt *** The year is 2054, when clairvoyant "precogs" enable police to arrest murderers before they murder. Cruise plays a dedicated cop who's inexplicably accused as the would-be killer of someone he's never heard of. Most of the movie is clever, imaginative, and savvy in its questions about social anxiety and government power. Too bad Spielberg also indulges the kiddie side of his talent, cooking up a silly chase sequence that only video-game nuts will be able to watch without wincing.
Staff ***1/2 Politically relevant, complex but lucid, future-noir, well-paced.
Sex/Nudity: 4 scenes with sex, 2 with innuendo. Violence: 20 (often extended) scenes. Profanity: 3 harsh words. Drugs: 3 scenes with alcohol. 1 with smoking and 8 with drug use.
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 live-action adaptation of the animated TV series. A theme-park owner calls on the Mystery gang to uncover the reason visitors leave the park as monster-possessed zombies. Many clues 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 friends. The story offers 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: 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 on screen, this film imagines the US after a terrorist nuclear blast destroys Baltimore. It arrived amid much speculation about America's readiness to see terrorism on screen, but the director chose to show little damage. More chilling may be the US president's calm willingness to deploy government agents to assassinate the bad guys, rather than bring them to face the law.
By Gloria Goodale
Staff **1/2 Thrilling, gripping, unrealistic.
Sex/Nudity: 2 mild scenes. Violence: 13 scenes, including a hanging. Profanity: 7 harsh expressions. Drugs: 8 scenes with drinking, smoking.
Director: John Sayles. With Edie Falco, Timothy Hutton. (141 min.)
Sterritt ** This ambitious drama sweeps through a Florida town with a skeptical eye, focusing on people including a civic booster with an artificial smile, an unhappy motel manager with too many men in her life, and an African-American woman revisiting her home after years of absence. Sayles has assembled an impressive cast, but he's so busy orchestrating these lives into a large symphony that he doesn't manage to give each individual the fine details a persuasive portrait needs.
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: 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 film 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.
Staff ** Thin story line, gory, grim, bad acting.
Sex/Nudity: 3 instances innuendo. Violence: 9 scenes, including graphic battles. Profanity: 55 harsh words. Drugs: 15 scenes with smoking, drinking.