Movie Guide

NEW RELEASES
The Banger Sisters (R)

Director: Bob Dolman. With Susan Sarandon, Goldie Hawn, Geoffrey Rush, Erika Christensen. (97 min.)

Staff **1/2Former rock groupie Suzette (Hawn) wants to reconnect with her friend "Vinny" (Sarandon) in Phoenix. Problem is, it's 20 years later and Vinny isn't a wild woman anymore. Known to family and friends as Livinia Kingsley, she lives in a big house with her lawyer-husband, two daughters, and a golden retriever. Vinny is wound up as tightly as the curls pinned up in her daughter's hair. Adding another dimension to the film is Geoffrey Rush. He's brilliant as a neurotic writer whom Suzette picks up on her way to Phoenix. This hilarious romp looks like a shallow film on the surface, but it addresses family tensions, peer pressure, and the need to just let loose later in life. Contains harsh language and frank sexual talk. By Lisa Parney Connors

8 Women (R)

Director: François Ozon. With Catherine Deneuve, Isabelle Huppert, Emmanuelle Béart, Fanny Ardant. (113 min.)

Recommended: Could you pass a US citizenship test?

Sterritt **** See review.

The Four Feathers (PG-13)

Director: Shekhar Kapur. With Heath Ledger, Kate Hudson, Wes Bentley, Djimon Hounsou. (125 min.)

Sterritt *** See review.

Secretary (R)

Director: Steven Shainberg. With James Spader, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Patrick Bauchau. (111 min.)

Sterritt ** A woman with a self-punishing streak takes a job with a lawyer who spanks her for spelling mistakes. The movie works hard to be naughty, but its sub-David Lynch style doesn't quite click. Gyllenhaal is excellent and Spader effectively adds to his roster of creepy characters.

Spirited Away (PG)

Director: Hayao Miyazaki. With voices of Daveigh Chase, David Ogden Stiers, Suzanne Pleshette. (125 min.)

Sterritt *** See review.

CURRENTLY IN RELEASE
All About Lily Chou-Chou (Not rated)

Director: Shunji Iwai. With Hayato Ichihara, Shûgo Oshinari, Yû Aoi, Ayumi Ito. (146 min.)

Sterritt **** Lily Chou-Chou is a pop star we hardly see, and the key characters are Japanese adolescents who use idealized fantasies of her as respite from the routines and power games that oppress them at school and play. Iwai's ambitious drama is strikingly shot, poignantly acted by a splendid young cast, and enriched by surprising use of Debussy classics on the soundtrack. It's remarkable for digital video and chat-room messages to look so richly cinematic. In Japanese with English subtitles.

Barbershop (PG-13)

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

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

Sex/Nudity: 6 instances innuendo. Violence: 9 scenes, including car crash and punching. Profanity: 66 expressions. Drugs: At least 1 instance 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, implied sex. Violence: 8 scenes, including shootings. Profanity: 67 harsh expressions. Drugs: 17 instances drinking, smoking, and illegal drug use.

Elling (R)

Director: Petter Naess. With Per Christian Ellefsen, Sven Nordin, Jorgen Langhelle. (89 min.)

Staff *** Kjell Bjarne and Elling are orphaned 40-year-old roommates in a Norwegian mental institution. Elling has lived with his mother all his life and is terrified of the outside world. The government gives them a city apartment to see if they can cope with independent living. Their mentor has little hope, but, against all odds, his tough-love badgering brings results. This first film by director Naess paints a witty portrait without belittling the pair. Nominated for the Best Foreign Film Academy Award. By M.K. Terrell

Sex/Nudity: 12 scenes, including nudity. Violence: 5 scenes, including punching. Profanity: 24 harsh expressions. Drugs: 12 scenes drinking, smoking.

Igby Goes Down (R)

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

Staff **1/2 This alluring and sometimes unsettling comedy traces the coming of age of the blue-blooded yet rebellious Igby (Culkin). The story begins with Igby and his older brother trying to poison their mother and then rewinds to explain how they could do such a thing. Igby, who has worn out his welcome at every East Coast prep school, is shipped off to a military academy by his mother. Igby is miserable and manages to escape to New York, where he enters a world of misfit characters. Overall, the film is an entertaining ride with its uncommon blend of seriousness and humor. But in the end there's not much of a meaningful destination. By Judy Nichols

Mad Love (R)

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

Staff ***1/2 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.

Stealing Harvard (PG-13)

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

Staff *** John has a great fiancée, 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

Staff * Boring, strange, shameful, juvenile.

Sex/Nudity: Several suggestive scenes with innuendo. No nudity. Violence: 40 instances slapstick violence. Profanity: 66 harsh expressions. Drugs: 25 scenes of smoking and drinking.

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.

Sex/Nudity: 4 instances sex and innuendo. Violence: 10 scenes. Profanity: 16 mostly mild expressions. Drugs: 1 party scene with drinking and smoking.

Tosca (Not rated)

Director: Benoît Jacquot. With Angela Gheorghiu, Ruggero Raimondi. (119 min.)

Sterritt *** Imaginative adaptation of Giacomo Puccini's great opera. Most of this French production aims at dramatic realism, skillfully etching the love-struck painter Cavaradossi, the wicked police chief Scarpia, and the fatally deceived title character. Jacquot adds modernist touches, though, as when he shows real Roman locations in home-movie-style footage, and cuts between the performers singing in the studio and miming their roles onstage. The result is a fine opera production given cinematic interest by the director's fresh treatment. In Italian with English subtitles.

OUT ON VIDEO
In stores sept. 24
Monsoon Wedding (R)

Director: Mira Nair. With Naseeruddin Shah, Roshan Seth, Lillete Dubey, Shefali Shetty. (111 min.)

Sterritt *** Celebrants gather in New Delhi for the Punjabi wedding of an Indian-American groom and an Indian bride who's not sure she's ready for matrimony. Despite its entertaining trappings, this is a thoughtful story, touching on sensitive issues of sexuality and child abuse. Nair hasn't lost her eye for revealing details of personality, behavior, and environment. In English, Hindi, and Punjabi with subtitles.

Staff ***1/2 Vital, zesty, mix of comedy, drama.

Sex/Nudity: 10 scenes, mostly innuendo and kissing. Violence: A few scenes implied child sex abuse. Profanity: About 12 expressions. Drugs: At least 8 scenes of drinking and smoking.

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