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Movie Guide

October 18, 2002

Auto Focus (R)

Director: Paul Schrader. With Greg Kinnear, Willem Dafoe, Rita Wilson, Ron Leibman. (107 min.)

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Sterritt *** See review, page 15.

Fidel (Not rated)

Director: Estela Bravo. With Fidel Castro, Alice Walker, Sydney Pollack, Harry Belafonte. (91 min.)

Sterritt *** In place of the cold-war biases that have affected most American treatments of Castro's career, this well-produced documentary offers a sympathetic view of the Cuban leader's aims and ambitions. If anything, Bravo works too hard at extolling Castro, treating some of the issues – such as the case of Cuban boy Elian Gonzales – with sketchy, imprecise strokes that weaken her overall argument. The film's historical footage is compelling, though, and provides plenty to think about.

The Ring (PG-13)

Director: Gore Verbinski. With Naomi Watts, Martin Henderson, Brian Cox, David Dorfman. (109 min.)

Staff ***1/2Rachel, a no-compromise reporter for a Seattle paper, is asked to investigate the strange deaths of four teens, all seven days after watching a haunted video tape. Urban legend, or deadly curse? Rachel must watch and find out. But soon, her own family is in danger. Will she solve the mystery in time, or will haunting visions from the tape overcome her? The film is one of the most intelligent and genuinely scary ghost stories to come around in a long time. The acting is adequate, and Verbinski directs with a Hitchcock confidence and menace, filling his compositions with subtle nuances and homages to horror classics. By Alex Kaloostian

Solaris (Not rated)

Director: Andrei Tarkovsky. With Natalya Bondarchuk, Donatas Banionis, Nikolai Grinko. (165 min.)

Sterritt **** Based on Stanislaw Lem's brilliant novel, this towering 1972 allegory takes place mostly on a space station near a mysterious planet that may be a living, thinking entity capable of sending phantoms from the past into its visitors' minds. Some of the uncanny power surging through this visionary epic comes from changes Tarkovsky made to divert the attention of Soviet censors. The triumph was all his – along with his astonishing "Stalker," this stands with the greatest science-fiction movies ever made.

Stealing the Fire (Not rated)

Directors: John S. Friedman, Eric Nadler. With Karl-Heinz Schaab, Carl von Weizsacker, A.Q. Khan. (95 min.)

Sterritt *** This lucid documentary digs into Schaab's activities as a spy who provided a key German connection for Iraq's nuclear-weapons program, tracing a history of greed and deceit back to the 1930s. The film is timely, chilling, and grimly instructive. In English and German with English subtitles.

Bowling for Columbine (R)

Director: Michael Moore. With Moore, Charlton Heston, Marilyn Manson. (120 min.)

Sterritt *** Contemporary film's most freewheeling documentary-maker turns his sights on the longtime American love affair with guns, including a living-room confrontation with National Rifle Association leader Heston and a discussion with goth-rocker Manson that's amazingly articulate. Moore turns the camera on himself too often for comfort, but he provides an eye-opening array of revelations.

Brown Sugar (PG-13)

Director: Rick Famuyiwa. With Taye Diggs, Sanaa Lathan, Mos Def, Nicole Ari Parker, Queen Latifah.

Staff ** She's an editor at a music magazine. He's a record-company executive. Dre and Sidney have been friends since childhood. They share a love of hip-hop and know every detail about each other's lives, but they have never been romantically involved. Dre ends up getting married and Sidney gets engaged, but did they make a mistake? It gets tiresome when Sidney uses hip-hop as an endless metaphor for her love for Dre. The movie has some funny moments, but it ultimately never crystallizes. By Lisa Parney Connors

Sex/Nudity: 6 instances, including implied sex and innuendo. Violence: 1 boxing scene. Profanity: 13 strong expressions. Drugs: 11 scenes drinking, smoking.

Heaven (R)

Director: Tom Tykwer. With Cate Blanchett, Giovanni Ribisi, Remo Girone, Stefania Rocca. (96 min.)