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Movie Guide

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

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

Simone (PG-13)

Director: Andrew Niccol. With Al Pacino, Catherine Keener, Winona Ryder, Evan Rachel Wood. (117 min.)

Sterritt * A has-been director tries to restart his career by creating a computer-generated cyberstar and passing her off as an elusive flesh-and-blood actress. This might have been a savvy satire on today's celebrity-struck media culture, but Niccol unfolds the story at a lumbering pace, peppered with not-funny gags and dramatic scenes that build little emotional power. The deliberately bogus sets of "The Truman Show," which Niccol wrote, look like cinéma-vérité next to the ersatz Hollywood he's cooked up here. In all, it's a sadly missed opportunity.

Staff *** Inventive but falls short of potential, witty, predictable, shallow in parts.

Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: 4 instances, nothing severe. Profanity: 2 mild expressions. Drugs: 13 scenes of drinking or smoking.

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 into secret meetings. 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 may destroy the world. The trail leads to an island filled with hybrid animals. At times this colorful adventure causes sensory overload. But it teaches valuable lessons, like the importance of family and integrity. By Stephanie Cook

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

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

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
High Crimes (PG-13)

Director: Carl Franklin. With Ashley Judd, Morgan Freeman, Amanda Peet. (115 min.)

Sterritt ** When her husband is charged with a wartime atrocity he never told her about and says he never committed, an attorney (Judd) teams with an old-time military lawyer to clear his name, soon encountering threats from forces that want to hush up the affair. The story has potential, but you'll spot the plot twists long before they happen, and the acting by Judd and Cavaziel is strictly by the numbers. Ditto for the filmmaking.

Staff ** Vacuous, gripping, formulaic.

Sex/Nudity: 7 instances of innuendo, including a few scenes implied sex. Violence: 13 scenes. Profanity: 29 strong expressions. Drugs: 16 scenes of drinking, smoking.

The Rookie (G)

Director: John Lee Hancock. With Dennis Quaid, Rachel Griffiths, Jay Hernandez. (129 min.)

Staff ***1/2 Quaid plays a teacher-turned-Major League Baseball player in this Disney film based on the true story of Jim Morris. While coaching another losing season of high school baseball, Morris cuts a deal: If his players start winning, he'll try out for the majors. By now an older father, Morris defies skeptics with his uncanny 95-m.p.h. fastball. Quaid's intense performance will convince adults who believe "G" stands for "goofy" to take this film seriously. By Ben Arnoldy

Staff ***1/2 Home run, avoids clichés, inspiring.

Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: None. Profanity: None. Drugs: 5 scenes with alcohol.

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