Director: Marilyn Freeman. With Carrie Brownstein, Kari Fillipi, Vicki Hollenberg, S. Ann Hall. (106 min.)
Sterritt ** Eight characters attend group-therapy sessions for 21 weeks, and we watch selected moments from their highly emotional sessions, where they face down a variety of daunting psychological problems. The movie teeters on a slippery dividing line between realism and fiction. It gains power from the mercurial nature of its improvised acting and split-screen camera work, though.
Director: John Schultz. With Bow Wow, Morris Chestnut, Jonathan Lipnicki, Anne Meara. (100 min.)
Staff **1/2 See review, page 15.
Director: Barry Sonnenfeld. With Will Smith, Tommy Lee Jones, Rosario Dawson, Johnny Knoxville. (88 min.)
Staff ** See review, page 15.
Director: Craig McCracken. With (voices): Tara Strong, Catherine Cavadini, Elizabeth Daily. (87 min.)
Staff *1/2 See review, page 15.
Director: Luchino Visconti. With Alain Delon, Annie Girardot, Renato Salvatori. (180 min.)
Sterritt **** This extraordinary 1960 epic traces the fortunes of a southern Italian family who migrates north to Milan in search of a better life, focusing memorably on Delon as the clan's idealistic conscience and Salvatori as its enemy within. From its star-studded cast to its indelible camerawork by the legendary Giuseppe Rotunno, it's an unforgettable experience by a revered master of European cinema. In Italian with English subtitles.
Director: Jo Sol. With Mercedes Ortega, Miguel Molina, Elsa Pataky, Alexis Valdes. (90 min.)
Sterritt ** A tattoo salon in Barcelona is the focal point for this unconventional drama about a woman who wants to forget her experiences with a past lover in India who still attracts her despite the attentions of a new man who might be able to help her start a new life. Sol doesn't knit the complicated story into a coherent flow, but there are many visually striking moments along the way. In Spanish with English subtitles.
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 cliches.
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. (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 and thoughtful.
Staff *** Dark, unsnarling, original, captures the struggles of youth
Sex/Nudity: 11 instances, including innuendo. Violence: 12 scenes, including violent drawings. Profanity: 49 harsh expressions. Drugs: 13 scenes with drinking, smoking, drugs.
Director: Callie Khouri. With Ellen Burstyn, Ashley Judd, Sandra Bullock, Maggie Smith. (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.
Staff **1/2 Tender, well-paced, an acting fest.
Sex/Nudity: 1 instance innuendo. Violence: 1 scene with child beating. Profanity: 42 expressions. Drugs: 20 scenes with drinking, smoking.
Director: Alan Taylor. With Ian Holm, Iben Hjejle, Tim McInnerny, Tom Watson. (107 min.)
Staff ***1/2 Napoleon and his retinue on St. Helena Island conspire to spring him from exile by having him trade places with a look-alike deckhand. Once in Paris he will reveal himself, depose the king, and again rule France. Trouble is, no one there recognizes him, and hardly anyone wants the little emperor back. Holm is superb as the erstwhile ruler forced to live as an ordinary citizen under the roof of a patient widow who needs a battle plan to rescue her melon business. Low-key comedy drama by director Taylor features excellent ensemble acting; beautiful, authentic-looking locations; and a delightful score. By M.K. Terrell
Sex/Nudity: 1 scene implied sex. Violence: 1 mild scene. Profanity: 2 mild expressions. Drugs: 3 scenes with smoking; 7 with drinking.
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 expressions. Drugs: Nothing explicit.
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 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 films 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 storyline is far-fetched and the dialogue is hackneyed. 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.
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: Nicole Holofcener. With Catherine Keener, Brenda Blethyn, Emily Mortimer. (89 min.)
Staff *** What is most lovely and amazing about this story of a family of confused women is director Holofcener's wit, timing, and affection for her highly flawed characters. The white mother (Blethyn) of two grown daughters (Keener and Mortimer) has adopted an 8-year-old African-American girl who is beginning to show signs of the family obsession with looks. Her oldest sister is even jealous of the child, but when a health crisis arises with the mom, the women rally, and it becomes evident how they keep each other in balance. Some nudity, adult situations, and rough language. By M.S. Mason
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: Steven Brill. With Adam Sandler, Winona Ryder, John Turturro. (91 min.)
Staff * No matter what name Adam Sandler assumes he's the same persona in every movie: the ultimate village idiot savant. In the latest vehicle for his personality a remake of Frank Capra's "Mr. Deeds Goes to Town" Sandler plays Mr. Deeds, a simpleton from Vermont who is whisked to New York to collect a $40 billion inheritance. Deeds finds himself in a palatial environment manned by more butlers than you could cram into Gosford Park. But nefarious interests are sniffing around. A butler (Turturro) provides this joyless movie's one good running gag with his uncanny ability to sneak up on people. Though the movie has a "wealth doesn't equal happiness" message, it's clear filmmakers put more thought into product placement than storytelling. By Stephen Humphries
Staff ** Silly, uninspired, dumb, earnest
Sex/Nudity: No nudity, some innuendo. Violence: 5 scenes comic violence. Profanity: 22 expressions. Drugs: 14 scenes drinking and smoking.
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, 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)
Staff *** Fresh, funny, frenzied
Sex/Nudity: 2 scenes innuendo. Violence: 18 scenes with cartoonish violence. Profanity: 2 instances of mild profanity. Drugs: 2 scenes with drinking.
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 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 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 away. Sayles has assembled an impressive cast, but he's so busy orchestrating these lives together that he doesn't manage to give each individual the fine details a persuasive portrait needs.
Staff *** Down-to-earth, insightful, leisurely.
Sex/Nudity: 6 scenes, including implied sex. Violence: 3, including arson. Profanity: 24 harsh expressions. Drugs: 20 scenes with smoking and drinking.