Movie Guide

NEW RELEASES

Beauty and the Beast (Not rated)

Director: Jean Cocteau. With Jean Marais, Josette Day, Michel Auclair, Mila Parély. (93 min.)

Sterritt **** The timeless fairy tale about a young woman who agrees to dwell with a mysterious monster, as interpreted in 1946 by one of cinema's most brilliant visual stylists and mythmakers. Cocteau's helpers include the great cinematographer Henri Alekan, the adventurous composer Georges Auric, and matinee idol Marais in no fewer than three roles.

Recommended: Could you pass a US citizenship test?
Blue Crush (PG-13)

Director: John Stockwell. With Kate Bosworth, Michelle Rodriguez, Matthew Davis, Mika Boorem. (103 min.)

Sterritt ** They're chambermaids by night, surfin' girls by day, and one of them has the makings of wave-riding stardom. Moviegoing tip: Skip the first hour or so, but grab a seat in time for the surfing contest that climaxes the picture, complete with mile-high waves and the most graceful ocean-gliding this side of "The Endless Summer."

Dahmer (Not rated)

Director: David Jacobson. With Jeremy Renner, Bruce Davison, Artel Kayaru, Dion Basco. (101 min.)

Sterritt *** Based on the life and crimes of serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer, this intelligently directed drama explores the troubled man's personality without claiming to have psychological explanations for his horrific actions. The performances are excellent and the filmmaking is remarkably restrained, although moments of perverse violence are necessary to the real-life story being told.

I'm Going Home (Not rated)

Director: Edouardo de Oliveira. With Michel Piccoli, Catherine Deneuve, John Malkovich. (90 min.)

Sterritt **** An aging actor relies on work to balance his life after a family tragedy takes a great toll on him, but he eventually finds himself facing the end of his career with mingled nostalgia and regret. Piccoli gives one of the most nuanced performances of his distinguished career, but the primary star of the movie is de Oliveira, who unfolds the story with unfailing skill and sensitivity.

Possession (PG-13)

Director: Neil LaBute. With Gwyneth Paltrow, Aaron Eckhart, Jennifer Ehle, Jeremy Northam. (102 min.)

Sterritt * See review, page 15.

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 filmmakers' minds is how much box-office power they can tap into by blitzing viewers with even larger doses of repetitive sex jokes and insipid scatological gags than before.

Staff ** Sophomoric, funny, repetitive

Sex/Nudity: 19 instances of innuendo. Violence: 11 scenes, including fighting. Profanity: 32 mostly mild expressions. Drugs: 2 instances drinking.

Blood Work (R)

Director: Clint Eastwood. With Eastwood, Anjelica Huston, Jeff Daniels. (115 min.)

Sterritt *** An aging cop tracks down the serial killer who murdered the donor of his newly transplanted heart. Eastwood plays the sleuth – a sort of geriatric Dirty Harry – with the same physically taut, emotionally walled-up personality that has typified most of his characters. He still gets the girl, too. In the director's chair, Eastwood takes a conservative approach, telling the tale efficiently but with few of the imaginative touches that have made some of his films so memorable.

Staff **1/2 Spotty acting, utterly predictable, well-crafted.

Sex/Nudity: 1 scene implied sex. Violence: 13 scenes, including shootouts. Profanity: 24 strong expressions. Drugs: 5 scenes with drinking.

Full Frontal (R)

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

Sterritt ** Soderbergh tries a freewheeling experiment in this comedy-drama about people making a film and rehearsing a play; it takes place during 24 hours and unfolds in loosely strung scenes that drift in different directions. The focus is on mercurial moods rather than logic-driven causes and effects. It's refreshingly different, even if it's low on energy, and too eager to be quirky at moments when a little old-fashioned storytelling would come in handy.

Staff *1/2 Self-centered, free-form, slow, irritating.

Sex/Nudity: 6 sex scenes; 8 with innuendo. Violence: 1 suicide scene. Profanity: 55 expressions. Drugs: 7 scenes drinking, smoking.

The Good Girl (R)

Director: Miguel Arteta. With Jennifer Aniston, John C. Reilly, Tim Blake Nelson. (93 min.)

Sterritt **** What's a well-meaning young woman to do when she's stuck in a miserable marriage, a tedious town, and a boring job, and the only chance for escape is a love affair she can't resist? Aniston and Reilly give the best of many excellent performances. A few plotty scenes aside, this quietly directed drama paints a sensitive, sympathetic portrait of modern malaise, and has a smart sense of humor as a bonus.

The Kid Stays in the Picture (R)

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

Sterritt ** Documentary about the active life and checkered career of small-time Hollywood actor and big-time producer Robert Evans, based on his autobiography and narrated by the celebrity himself. Admirers will enjoy the inside dope on movies like "The Godfather" and "Rosemary's Baby," while detractors will zero in on his unsavory spell as a drug abuser. The overall effect is too self-worshipping to be of lasting interest. The guy sure isn't shy!

Staff *** Stylish, lucid, over-produced

Sex/Nudity: 5 instances innuendo. Violence: 5 clips of murders from other films. Profanity: 27 harsh expressions. Drugs: 27 scenes with smoking, drinking, or cocaine use.

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, including fighting. Profanity: 17 mild expressions. Drugs: 3 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. In French with English subtitles.

Sex/Nudity: 3 scenes innuendo, implied sex, nudity. Violence: 11 scenes, including attempted rape. Profanity: 25 harsh expressions. Drugs: 27 scenes of drinking and smoking.

Secret Ballot (G)

Director: Babak Payami. With Nassim Abdi, Cyrus Abidi, Youssef Habashi, Gholbahar Janghali. (105 min.)

Sterritt **** On a remote island in the Persian Gulf, a young woman combs the countryside for people to cast votes in the ballot box she carries with her, accompanied by a grumpy soldier who – like many folks – knows this is all very important but isn't quite certain what elections are for. Payami's gentle comedy captures a subtle range of human feelings through a quietly inventive visual style that embodies the best life-affirming tendencies of modern Iranian film. In Farsi with English subtitles.

Signs (PG-13)

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

Sterritt * A clergyman who's lost his faith regains it while undergoing an attack by aliens in the farmhouse he shares with his brother and kids. The film raises important issues of religion and the meaning of life, but every time it promises to get thoughtful, Shyamalan douses it with overwrought emotion, family-values clichés, tepid space-monster suspense, and humor that's never, ever funny. Think "Roswell" meets "Father Knows Best."

Staff *** Scary, clichéd, pseudo-philosophical.

Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: At least four violent scenes, including animal brutality. Profanity: 11 mild expressions. Drugs: None.

Spy Kids 2: The Island of Lost Dreams (PG)

Director: Robert Rodriguez. With Antonio Banderas, Carla Gugino, Alexa Vega, Daryl Sabara. (100 min.)

Staff *** Rodriguez crafts an imaginative sequel for kids that reflects his own creative urge to play. There are enough nifty gadgets to make 007 drool, like RALPH, a bug robot that can tie a bow tie and crawl his way into secret meetings, and a snazzy dragon fly submarine. The story picks up with the Cortez family as part of a global spy organization. Amid stiff competition and sibling bickering, a vital mission arises: to find a device that could destroy the world. The trail leads to an island filled with hybrid animals – a genetically re-engineered Jurassic Park of sorts. At times this colorful adventure causes sensory overload. But it teaches valuable lessons, such as the importance of family and integrity. By Stephanie Cook

Staff ***1/2Refreshingly childlike, strong sequel, funny.

Sex/Nudity: None. Profanity: 1 mild expression. Violence: 8 scenes with mostly mild violence. Some fighting. Drugs: 2 scenes with alcohol.

Tadpole (PG-13)

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

Staff **1/2 Oscar 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. 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 almost everything in it derives from Malle's classic film, chopped into a salad that leaves you hungry for the main course. 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.

24 Hour Party People (R)

Director: Michael Winterbottom. With Steve Coogan, Chris Coghill, Paddy Considine. (115 min.)

Sterritt **** This lively look at the rock scene in Manchester, England, begins with impresario Antony Wilson's discovery of the Sex Pistols in 1976 and ends with the demise of his influential Factory Records label in the early '90s. Coogan is dazzling as Wilson, and candid treatment of the era's problem with drugs keeps the film from partying too much. Winterbottom gives it an edgy MTV-look that should please young people who see the Sex Pistols epoch as ancient history.

XXX (PG-13)

Director: Rob Cohen. With Vin Diesel, Asia Argento, Samuel L. Jackson. (120 min.)

Sterritt * Extreme sports meet cold-war politics as our hero gets recruited by the government to battle an anarchist gang in Eastern Europe. If your idea of star power is "buff to the max" with "attitude to spare," as the publicity puts it, then Diesel is your man. But do we really need a warmed-over James Bond adventure with 007 transformed into the movie-poster version of a village idiot?

Sex/Nudity: 4 scenes. Violence: 18 scenes, including shootings. Profanity: 15 strong expressions. Drugs: 12 scenes with smoking, drinking, drugs.

OUT ON VIDEO
Birthday Girl (R)

Director: Jez Butterworth. With: Nicole Kidman, Ben Chaplin. (93 min.)

Staff ** It must have taken Nicole Kidman months to learn this script. For her role as Nadia, a Russian mail-order bride, the actress spends half the movie speaking Russian. Arriving in England, Nadia is met by her intended, John, a lonely bore of a banker. Nadia isn't all she seems; John finds his British reserve punctured as his life spirals out of control. The movie, alas, isn't as lively as Kidman's performance. A quirkier sensibility and fleshed-out plot are missing. By Stephen Humphries

Staff **1/2 Forgettable, edgy, lots of plot twists.

Sex/Nudity: 10 scenes. Violence: 17 scenes. Profanity: 19 expressions, 10 of which are mild. Drugs: At least 16 scenes of smoking and drinking.

In the Bedroom (R)

Director: Todd Field. With Tom Wilkinson, Sissy Spacek, Nick Stahl, Marisa Tomei. (138 min.)

Sterritt *** A town doctor and his wife aren't sure how to take their college-age son's romance with an unhappily married woman. The climax suggests drastic measures may be needed in drastic circumstances and that the lines between "moral" and "immoral" people may be more slender than we'd like to believe. The acting is excellent.

Staff *** Humanistic, dark, absorbing.

Sex/Nudity: 8 scenes, mostly innuendo. Violence: 7 scenes, 1 graphic. Profanity: 20 expressions. Drugs: 12 scenes with drinking or smoking.

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