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Movie Guide

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Sex/Nudity: 3 implied sex scenes, 3 scenes with innuendo, 1 scene with semi-nudity. Violence: 3 scenes, including fistfight. Profanity: 22 harsh expressions. Drugs: At least 5 instances of drinking and smoking. 1 scene with abuse of household remedies.

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Road to Perdition (R)

Director: Sam Mendes. With Tom Hanks, Paul Newman, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Jude Law. (119 min.)

Sterritt ** Hanks plays a 1930s hit man seeking revenge against the mobsters who killed his wife and son. Mendes surrounds the slow-moving plot with a lonely, dreary view of middle America in the Depression era. The cinematography provides much moody atmosphere, and Law is terrific as an enticingly weird thug; but the plot has huge holes, and it's hard to swallow the notion that we should love a paid assassin because his heart is full of family values.

Staff ***1/2 Well-acted, dark, epic, visually stunning.

Sex/Nudity: 1 instance. Violence: 16 extremely violent scenes. Profanity: 20 expressions. Drugs: About 20 scenes with drinking and smoking.

Reign of Fire (PG-13)

Director: Rob Bowman. Starring Christian Bale, Matthew McConaughey, Izabella Scorupco. (100 min.)

Staff ** How do you reinvent the monster movie? How about casting a mythological creature that is as much a part of biblical lore as ancient Chinese culture: the dragon. Here, hibernating dragons reawaken and, by 2020, have reduced mankind to little bands of feudal refugees. But, when one such group in Northern England meets a traveling group of American soldiers, they join forces to vanquish the winged beasts. Result? Ridiculous macho posturing as Matthew McConaughey's soldier chews more scenery than even the toothiest of the dragons. Still, there's a nifty sky-diving sequence, a funny homage to "Star Wars," and enough action to keep undemanding monster-movie fans momentarily distracted. By Stephen Humphries

The Salton Sea (R)

Director: D.J. Caruso. With Val Kilmer, Vincent D'Onofrio Meat Loaf. (103 min.)

Sterritt ** Plot twists proliferate in this gimmicky thriller about a seemingly drug-dazed loser who turns out to be cooler and more calculating than he appears. Full-throttle performances by D'Onofrio and Goldberg provide the most memorable moments. Otherwise the film gets less interesting as it goes along, and Tony Gayton's violence-prone screenplay is sometimes as hard to fathom as the salt-smothered California lake it's named after.

Sex/Nudity: 2 instances innuendo, 2 sex scenes. Violence: 14 scenes, including beating and torture. Profanity: 83 strong expressions. Drugs: At least 30 scenes of drinking, illegal drug use, and smoking.

Amélie (R)

Director: Jean-Pierre Jeunet. With Audrey Tautou, Mathieu Kassovitz. (121 min.)

Sterritt *** Amélie is a waitress who anonymously becomes a do-gooder for people who never asked her to barge into their lives. Jeunet is never happy with a scene until he's directed it half to death with manic camera work and editing. But Tautou's acting is amiable enough to shine through any cinematic fuss. In French with English subtitles.

Staff ***1/2 Unconventional, delightful, mischievous, visually stunning.

Sex/Nudity: 8 scenes with implied sex, innuendo, and brief nudity. Violence: 4 mild scenes. Profanity: None. Drugs: 9 with alcohol, 1 with a cigarette.

John Q (PG-13)

Director: Nick Cassavetes. With Denzel Washington, Anne Heche, Robert Duvall. (116 min.)

Sterritt ** John is a working-class guy whose boy needs life-saving surgery not covered by his insurance. After failing to raise enough cash, and getting no sympathy from the hospital's financial office, he becomes a vigilante dad. The early scenes persuasively etch John's fatherly love and raise crucial questions about the US healthcare system. Things start to go wrong when he pulls a gun on a cardiac surgeon, and they go very wrong when Capra-esque crowds gather outside the emergency room to cheer him on. It's grimly fascinating to watch fine actors wrestle with the awful screenplay.

Staff ** Manipulative, bad dialogue, well-paced.

Sex/Nudity: 1 instance of innuendo. Violence: 8 scenes, including fistfighting. Profanity: 31 expressions, some harsh. Drugs: 2 scenes with smoking.