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Movie Guide

September 6, 2002

Ace in the Hole (Not rated)

Director: Billy Wilder. With Kirk Douglas, Jan Sterling, Richard Benedict, Ray Teal. (111 min.)

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Sterritt **** Few films of bygone decades have retained their relevance as stingingly as this 1951 satire about a journalist who eagerly exploits the plight of a man trapped in a collapsed mine in order to restart his own failing career. It's dark, funny, ferocious, and vintage Wilder all the way. Originally released as "The Big Carnival."

City by the Sea (R)

Director: Michael Caton-Jones. With Robert De Niro, Frances McDormand, James Franco. (105 min.)

Sterritt ** See review, page 17.

The Decalogue (Not rated)

Director: Krzysztof Kieslowski. With Krystyna Janda, Henryk Baranowski, Maria Pakulnis. (550 min.)

Sterritt **** An apartment complex in Warsaw is the primary setting for this series of 10, approximately hour-long dramas, loosely based on the Ten Commandments and exploring a wide range of moral, ethical, and psychological issues, from the motivations for capital punishment to the meaning of God in the modern world. Most are enthralling; some are small masterpieces. Originally produced as a miniseries for Polish television.

The Execution of Wanda Jean (Not rated)

Director: Liz Garbus. With Wanda Jean Allen, Ruby Wilson. (88 min.)

Sterritt *** A nonfiction chronicle of events leading to the execution of a mentally slow African-American woman in Oklahoma for the 1989 murder of her female lover. The documentary is revealing and chilling, although it doesn't explore the inner workings of the American criminal-justice system as thoroughly as one might wish.

Heartbreak Hospital (Not rated)

Director: Ruedi Gerber. With Chelsea Altman, John Shea, Diane Venora, Demián Bichir. (91 min.)

Sterritt * An actress lands the not-so-juicy role of a bandage-covered coma patient in a TV soap opera, sparking complications in her off-screen romantic life and lunacy in an eccentric neighbor who's got a crush on the leading man of the series. Everyone tries very hard to make the story sweet and funny, but the soggy screenplay defeats them every time.

In Praise of Love (Not rated)

Director: Jean-Luc Godard. With Bruno Putzulu, Cécile Camp, Jean Davy, Françoise Verny. (98 min.)

Sterritt **** See review, page 17.

Swimfan (PG-13)

Director: John Polson. With Jesse Bradford, Erika Christensen, Kate Burton, Shiri Appleby. (85 min.)

Sterritt ** "Fatal Attraction" goes to high school, as a pretty psychopath stalks a swimming-team hunk with deadly results. Polson's well-filmed thriller swims down the usual lanes for this sort of story, and everyone looks way too old for senior year; but many of the suspense scenes work fine, and Bradford is terrific as the endangered hero.

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."

Staff **1/2 Stunning surf footage, exhilarating, insipid dialogue.