Movie Guide

NEW RELEASES
Full Frontal (R)

Director: Steven Soderbergh. With Julia Roberts, David Duchovny, Catherine Keener, Blair Underwood. (101 min.)

Sterritt ** See review.

Signs (PG-13)

Director: M. Night Shyamalan. With Mel Gibson, Joaquin Phoenix, Rory Culkin. (106 min.)

Sterritt * See review.

Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: At least four scenes, including one of animal violence.

CURRENTLY IN RELEASE
Austin Powers in Goldmember (PG-13)

Director: Jay Roach. With Mike Myers, Michael Caine, Beyoncé Knowles, Robert Wagner, Michael York. (98 min.)

Sterritt * Our hero battles Dr. Evil and a villain he's recruited from 1975 to help him destroy the world. The third Powers movie wants to be a flashy, funny satire on the swinging '70s and the science-fiction spy stories that embodied the era's fashions and foibles. What's really on the filmmakers' minds is how much box-office power they can tap into by blitzing moviegoers with even larger doses of repetitive sex jokes and insipid scatological gags than before.

Staff ** Sophomoric, funny, repetitive

Sex/Nudity: 19 instances of innuendo. No nudity. Violence: 11 scenes, including fighting, but mostly comic violence. Profanity: 32 mostly mild expressions. Drugs: At least 2 instances drinking.

The Country Bears (G)

Director: Peter Hastings. With Christopher Walken, Stephen Tobolowsky. (88 min.)

Staff ** When 11-year-old Beary Barrington learns he was adopted by humans, he leaves home to find more of "his kind," members of the long-disbanded Country Bears singing group. Arriving at Country Bears Hall, he finds it threatened by developers. What to do but reunite the band for a benefit concert. Slow stretches and careless editing weigh against wholesomeness and good songs. The clever credits sequence features Willie Nelson, Queen Latifah, and others telling how The Country Bears influence their work. Also watch for one impressive outtake after the credits. Based on the attraction at Disney's theme parks. By M.K. Terrell

Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: 4 mild scenes. Profanity: None. Drugs: None.

Eight Legged Freaks (PG-13)

Director: Ellory Elkayem. With David Arquette, Scarlett Johansson, Doug E. Doug, Kari Wuhrer. (98 min.)

Sterritt * Spiders get humongous after a toxic-waste debacle in a Southwestern town. You can guess the rest. Action freaks may enjoy the chasing and chomping, but there's no hint of human interest or moviemaking imagination. Stick with the 1955 classic "Tarantula," still the best of this creepy-crawly breed.

Group (Not rated)

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.

K-19: The Widowmaker (PG-13)

Director: Kathryn Bigelow. With Harrison Ford, Liam Neeson, Peter Sarsgaard, Joss Ackland. (138 min.)

Staff *** The true story of a near nuclear meltdown aboard a cold-war era Soviet submarine might not seem likely engaging material for 21st-century American audiences. But history and geopolitics provide only a backdrop here. A fine corps of actors, led by Ford as the strong-willed captain and Neeson as his good-hearted executive officer, make this an uplifting tale of survival against a powerful new technology run amok. Bigelow deftly blends gripping action sequences with dramatic moments amid the leaks and groans of a fatally flawed ship. By Gregory M. Lamb

Staff **1/2 Gripping, sobering, realistic.

Sex/Nudity: 2 instances innuendo. Violence: 6 scenes, including disturbing scenes of radiation exposure. Profanity: 2 mild expressions. Drugs: At least 6 scenes with drinking and smoking.

The Kid Stays in the Picture (R)

Directors: Brett Morgen, Nanette Burstein. With Robert Evans, various Hollywood figures. (92 min.)

Sterritt ** See review.

Men in Black II (PG-13)

Director: Barry Sonnenfeld. With Will Smith, Tommy Lee Jones, Lara Flynn Boyle, Tony Shalhoub. (88 min.)

Sterritt ** Agent J needs Agent K to help him combat Serleena, a Victoria's Secret model who's really an insidious alien; but K has lost all memory of his top-secret career, and the high-tech gizmo they need to retrieve it is in the hands of a guy who's weird even by MIB standards. That's just the starting point of this moderately amusing sequel, which is best when it relies on dead-pan acting by the stars, worst when it drags in summer-movie stupidities like an incessantly talking dog.

Staff ** Nutty, obvious jokes, OK sequel.

Sex/Nudity: 7 instances, mostly innuendo. Violence: 11 scenes, including attempted rape. Profanity: 17 mild expressions. Drugs: At least 3 scenes with drinking and smoking.

Minority Report (PG-13)

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 Timely, politically relevant, 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.

My Wife Is an Actress (R)

Director: Yvan Attal. With Charlotte Gainsbourg, Terence Stamp, Yvan Attal, Lionel Abelanski. (93 min.)

Staff ***1/2 A happy heart is the first casualty when an ordinary man's affection for his movie-star wife is bedeviled by pangs of jealousy for her role in an arousing screenplay. This humorous French film is exquisite, handling the drama of a suffering marriage with delicacies of character that save the plot from being yet another formulaic lechery-fest. You'll find the crisp dialogue and personable characters refreshing, and the emphasis on substance over sensation a welcome relief. By Aaron Bingham

Sex/Nudity: 6 scenes, including sex, nudity. Violence: 2 instances. Profanity: 23 harsh expressions. Drugs: 20 scenes with drinking and smoking.

Read My Lips (Not rated)

Director: Jacques Audiard. With Emmanuelle Devos, Vincent Cassel, Olivier Gourmet. (115 min.)

Sterritt ** A young woman with a hearing disorder strikes up an uneasy friendship with a recently released convict who takes a low-level job at the office where she works and then starts slipping back toward crime. The first half is a well-acted psychological drama, but the second half is standard thriller fare with more action than insight. In French with English subtitles.

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 an assassin because his heart is full of family values.

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

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

Sex and Lucía (Not rated)

Director: Julio Medem. With Paz Vega, Tristan Ulloa, Najwa Nimri, Daniel Freire. (128 min.)

Staff **1/2 An obsessive young woman barges into the life of a novelist, giving him motivation and subject matter to overcome his writer's block. Adding fuel to the fire is his meeting a daughter he didn't know he had and the daughter's sexy nanny, whose mother is a retired porn star. We see his life as it unfolds and as he adapts it in his book. This surrealistic blend of life and fantasy works well most of the way, giving us insight to the characters' passions and fears, but beware – the film more than lives up to its title. In Spanish with English subtitles. By M.K. Terrell

Sex/Nudity: 21 scenes, including graphic sex and much nudity. Violence: 5 scenes, including a dog attack. Profanity: 12 harsh expressions. Drugs: At least 9 scenes of smoking and drinking.

Stuart Little 2 (PG)

Director: Rob Minkoff. With Michael J. Fox, Geena Davis, Melanie Griffith, Jonathan Lipnicki. (70 min.)

Staff ***1/2 America's unlikeliest action hero is a five-inch mouse with a heart as big as Central Park. As voiced by the incomparable Michael J. Fox, Stuart Little – now the middle Little in a family of five – is struggling with fitting in at school and his mom's suffocating over-protectedness. Just as Stuart is wishing for a friend, an adorable canary falls from the sky into his lap – and into his heart. Nathan Lane is again hilarious as the cat Snowbell. The character design, digital animation, and action sequences are all stunning, and the love that grows between the two new friends is convincing and touching. A winner for kids and parents alike. By John Kehe

Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: Some cartoonish violence. Profanity: None. Drugs: None.

Tadpole (PG-13)

Director: Gary Winick. With: Sigourney Weaver, John Ritter, Bebe Neuwirth, Aaron Stanford. (78 min.)

Staff **1/2 Oscar (Stanford) is an intellectual prep-school sophomore, bored with girls his age and infatuated with his 40-year-old stepmother (Weaver). Without intending to, he manages to sleep with her best friend (Neuwirth). This coming-of-age comedy is quite enjoyable on its own terms, no doubt intended as an homage to French culture (particularly Louis Malle's 1971 "Murmur of the Heart.") But practically everything in it derives from Malle's classic film, chopped into a salad that leaves you hungry for the main course. It is filmed using digital video, which ill-serves the Manhattan setting. By M.K. Terrell

Sex/Nudity: 7 instances, including innuendo, implied sex. Violence: None. Profanity: 11 mostly mild expressions. Drugs: 5 scenes of drinking, smoking.

OUT ON VIDEO
Dragonfly (PG-13)

Director: Tom Shadyac. With Kevin Costner, Kathy Bates. (100 min.)

Sterritt ** A physician copes with grief after the untimely death of his wife, who was also a doctor, and starts to believe she may be communicating with him through messages passed along by her former patients, kids who've had near-death experiences. The story blends elements of "Ghost" and "Close Encounters" but lacks the romantic charge of the former and the imaginative thrill of the latter. Costner is convincing until the sappy finale.

Sex/Nudity: 1 scene implied sex. 1 with seminudity. Violence: 6 scenes. Profanity: 10 mild expressions. Drugs: 3 with drinking.

IN STORES AUG. 6
Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (PG-13)

Director: Peter Jackson. With Elijah Wood, Richard Harris, Liv Tyler, Cate Blanchett. (178 min.)

Sterritt ** J.R.R. Tolkien's great trilogy tells an epic story centered on a modest character: Frodo Baggins, a hobbit who becomes custodian of a powerful ring that must be destroyed. He sets off to do this, helped by a loyal band of companions and opposed by terrifying supernatural foes. The bad characters are often more interesting than the virtuous ones. The film is a drab experience, marred by a lack of insight and few laughs.

Staff *** Outstanding special effects, action-packed, dark, enchantingly scenic, violent.

Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: 28 scenes, many involving sword fights. Profanity: Some minor expressions. Drugs: 7 scenes of smoking, 3 of drinking.

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