Movie Guide

NEW RELEASES
Alias Betty (Not rated)

Director: Claude Miller. With Sandrine Kiberlain, Nicole Garcia, Mathilde Seigner, Èdouard Baer. (101 min.)

Sterritt *** See review, page 17.

Barbershop (PG-13)

Director: Tim Story. With Ice Cube, Anthony Anderson, Sean Patrick Thomas, Eve. (102 min.)

Recommended: Could you pass a US citizenship test?

Staff **1/2 The best part of this movie is the characters. The plot is predictable, but it's rescued by an abundance of boisterous personalities that transcend stereotypes and snappy dialogue that addresses social issues. The barbershop is the center of life for a group of neighborhood guys, although its owner, Calvin, sees the shop as a money drain. When an ATM is stolen from the store across the street by a modern Laurel and Hardy, the shop becomes gossip central. If every barbershop were this much fun, there would be a lot more well-trimmed men. By Katie Nesse

Igby Goes Down (R)

Director: Burr Steers. With Kieran Culkin, Susan Sarandon, Jeff Goldblum, Claire Danes. (98 min.)

Staff **1/2 See review, page 16.

The Last Picture Show (Not rated)

Director: Peter Bogdanovich. With Timothy Bottoms, Jeff Bridges, Cybill Shepherd, Randy Quaid. (118 min.)

Sterritt **** In the years after World War II, youngsters reach for grown-up lives in a small Texas community whose waning vitality is symbolized by the imminent shutdown of the only movie theater in town. Bogdanovich became a directorial star with this 1971 drama, which blends a nostalgic view of the American past with a full-blooded reverence for the films embodying that past in the American imagination.

Stealing Harvard (PG-13)

Director: Bruce McCulloch. With Tom Green, Jason Lee, Megan Mullally. (83 min.)

Staff *** John has a great fiancee, a decent job, and has finally saved enough to buy a house and get married. Everything seems perfect – until his niece gets accepted to Harvard and reminds him of a pledge he made years ago to pay her tuition. Running out of time and options, he turns to an ill-fated career in crime, along with his mentally unstable friend. Zany antics ensue. At first glance, this seems to be another cookie-cutter gross-out movie, but it surprises by being low on gross-out and big on heart, not to mention genuinely funny almost from start to finish. By Alex Kaloostian

Swimming (Not rated)

Director: Robert J. Siegel. With Lauren Ambrose, Joelle Carter, Jennifer Dundas, Jamie Harrold. (98 min.)

Sterritt *** The setting is a South Carolina resort town, and the main characters are a discontented working girl, her party-girl best friend, and a sexy new girl who's just arrived on the scene. Sprightly acting, understated emotions, and lovingly detailed ambience make this amiable comedy-drama an easygoing indie pleasure.

Ted Bundy (Not rated)

Director: Matthew Bright. With Michael Reilly Burke, Boti Bliss, Steffani Brass, Marina Black. (96 min.)

Sterritt ** Fact-based melodrama about the appallingly productive serial killer. It's grisly going, but no more exploitative than a lot of mainstream TV reporting about violent crime. The last scenes etch one of the most revealing depictions of capital punishment ever put on the wide screen.

CURRENTLY IN RELEASE
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 Good surf footage, exhilarating, insipid dialogue.

Sex/Nudity: 6 instances innuendo; 1 scene implied sex. Violence: 12 scenes, including near drownings and surfing injuries. Profanity: 22 expressions. Drugs: 4 scenes with drinking and smoking.

City by the Sea (R)

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

Sterritt ** A cop faces the prospect of arresting his son for murder, stirring up memories of his own father's execution for homicide and muddling his relationships with his girlfriend and former wife. This melodrama would be more powerful if it stayed with the story's character-driven aspects instead of surrounding them with overdone action and suspense scenes. De Niro is excellent for an hour, but doesn't seem fully involved with his role in the last part.

Sex/Nudity: 4 instances innuendo and implied sex. Violence: 8 scenes, including fighting, shootings. Profanity: 67 harsh expressions. Drugs: 17 instances drinking, smoking, and illegal drug use.

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 also has a smart sense of humor.

Staff ***1/2 Well-acted, thoughtful, sad.

Sex/Nudity: 6 scenes with innuendo, several explicit, adulterous sex scenes. Violence: 6, including fighting. Profanity: 14 expressions. Drugs: 14 scenes with illegal drugs, alcohol, smoking.

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.

Staff ***1/2 Quietly sad, poignant, subtle

Sex/Nudity: 2 instances innuendo. Violence: 1 robbery scene. Profanity: 2 mild expressions. Drugs: At least 3 scenes drinking and smoking.

In Praise of Love (Not rated)

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

Sterritt **** For the first hour, a movie director named Bruno works on a film about the four stages of love – meeting, passion, quarreling, reconciliation – in the lives of couples in different stages of life; the last portion takes place two years earlier, as Bruno visits an elderly couple mulling a Hollywood offer for the rights to their story as anti-Nazi resistors. Godard's masterpiece is as densely layered and intricately structured as the subjects of memory and history that it explores. It's also witty, contemplative, and sublimely beautiful. Originally called "Éloge de l'amour."

Mad Love (R)

Director: Vicente Aranda. With Pilar Lopez de Ayala, Danielle Liotti, Rosana Pastor. (120 min.)

Juana "the Mad," daughter of Isabella and Ferdinand, succeeded her mother to the thrones of Castile and León in 1504. But her insanity kept her from ruling, and she spent 47 years in a remote castle. This lavish telling of the story suggests that Juana wasn't mad, but that medieval minds weren't ready for her Renaissance behavior. She was desperately in love with an unfaithful husband and jealous to the point of distraction in a marriage of convenience. The photography, settings, costumes, and performances make such a view credible. By M.K. Terrell

Sex/Nudity: 12 instances innuendo and implied sex, including full nudity. Violence: 3 scenes. Profanity: 2 expressions. Drugs: 3 scenes drinking.

Mostly Martha (PG)

Director: Sandra Nettelbeck. With Martina Gedeck, Sergio Castellitto. (107 min.)

Staff ***1/2 Martha is a perfectionist chef in Hamburg who can't quite cope when her 8-year-old niece unexpectedly comes to live with her. There's no recipe for raising Lina, but slowly Martha finds a new rhythm – especially when she gets over feeling threatened by a free-spirited chef who joins the staff at her restaurant. Not to be seen on an empty stomach, this beautiful film is equal parts drama and humor, seasoned with a hint of romance. By Stacy A. Teicher

Sex/Nudity: 1 instance innuendo. Violence: 1 scene with slapping. Profanity: 5 mild expressions. Drugs: 3 smoking scenes. 9 scenes drinking or cooking with alcohol.

My Big Fat Greek Wedding (PG)

Director: Joel Zwick. With Nia Vardalos, John Corbett, Michael Constantine, Lainie Kazan. (95 min.)

Staff *** A frumpy Greek woman lives with her parents as the black sheep of the family because she can't net a nice Greek husband. But her lackluster life changes abruptly when a handsome schoolteacher walks into her family's restaurant where she works and sees through her drab disguise. Only problem: He's not Greek. Not since "Muriel's Wedding" has a film about mismatched couples and dysfunctional families tickled the funny bone so deliciously. The dialogue is a little flat, but sparkles at times. The moral is clear and noble, and leaves the audience with the afterglow of a blushing bride. By Gary W. Broadhurst

Sex/Nudity: 12 scenes, including a few with implied sex and innuendo. Violence: 5 mild scenes. Profanity: At least 7 expressions. Drugs: About 22 scenes with alcohol, including drunkenness.

One Hour Photo (R)

Director: Mark Romanek. With Robin Williams, Connie Nielsen. (98 min.)

Sterritt ** Williams plays a seemingly bland photo-booth clerk who's become dangerously obsessed with a local family whose pictures he's been processing for years. Williams's acting is as chilling as it is restrained, but Romanek's directing damps down the drama's psychological impact, making it look as glossy and two-dimensional as the snapshots that run through the photo man's finely calibrated machines.

Staff ** Overdone, twisted, unnecessarily violent, creepy and vacuous.

Sex/Nudity: 6 instances, including innuendo, photos of sex, graphic sex scene. Violence: 3 instances, 1 graphic. Profanity: 17 strong expressions. Drugs: 2 scenes with alcohol.

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.

Staff *** Original, touching, minimalist, scenic.

Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: None. Profanity: None. 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 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.

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.

OUT ON VIDEO
In stores sept. 17
Monsters, Inc. (G)

Director: Pete Docter. With voices of John Goodman, Jennifer Tilly, Billy Crystal, Steve Buscemi. (90 min.)

Sterritt *** The setting is a monster-populated city where energy is generated from children's screams, helped by a company that employs professional kiddie-scarers to frighten tykes in their beds. The monsters are more scared of kids than kids are of them, however. The characters of this animated comedy are as sweet as they are ridiculous, and the story is told with gentleness and tact. But many of the story's grownup touches – a monster love affair, references to old movies – are more calculated than clever.

Staff ***1/2 Warm, fuzzy, inventive, well-voiced.

Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: 10 scenes with comic violence. Profanity: None. Drugs: None

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