Movie Guide

NEW RELEASES
8 Mile (R)

Director: Curtis Hanson. With Eminem, Kim Basinger, Mekhi Phifer, Brittany Murphy. (111 min.)

Sterritt ** See review.

Étoiles: Dancers of the Paris Opera Ballet (Not rated)

Director: Nils Tavernier. With dancers of the Paris Opera Ballet. (100 min.)

Recommended: Could you pass a US citizenship test?

Sterritt *** This graceful documentary explores dance, life, and love through interviews with gifted ballerinas at various stages of their careers. While more performance views would have been welcome, this is a treat no balletomane can afford to miss. In French with English subtitles.

Far From Heaven (PG-13)

Director: Todd Haynes. With Julianne Moore, Dennis Quaid, Dennis Haysbert, Patricia Clarkson. (107 min.)

Sterritt **** See review.

Femme Fatale (R)

Director: Brian De Palma. With Rebecca Romijn-Stamos, Antonio Banderas, Peter Coyote. (110 min.)

Sterritt ** See review.

Interview With the Assassin (Not rated)

Director: Neil Burger. With Raymond J. Barry, Dylan Haggerty, Christel Khalil, Jack Tate. (88 min.)

Sterritt ** An unemployed newsman probes the story of an enigmatic neighbor who claims he wants to unveil his experiences as the second gunman in John F. Kennedy's assassination. This documentary-style fiction is no "JFK," but the story is weirdly compelling when it focuses on the journalist's growing paranoia as he plunges ever more deeply into a world of conspiracies that may or may not really exist.

The Phantom of Liberty (Not rated)

Director: Luis Buñuel. With Monica Vitti, Jean-Claude Brialy, Michel Lonsdale, Michel Piccoli. (105 min.)

Sterritt **** Poker-playing monks, police looking for a missing girl who is right under their noses, and an uproariously bizarre dinner party are among the ingredients of this dreamlike 1974 comedy, directed by the greatest surrealist in the history of film. Made near the end of Buñuel's career, it's not his greatest movie, but it contains some of his most memorable moments. In French with English subtitles.

The Rising Place (PG-13)

Director: Tom Rice. With Frances Fisher, Gary Cole, Tess Harper, Laurel Holloman. (93 min.)

Sterritt ** Reading a stack of decades-old letters she's found, a woman learns about 1940s life in the Mississippi Delta through the words of her aunt, whose adventures included giving birth to a baby out of wedlock and having an African-American best friend. This low-key drama is always warm and mellow, although it doesn't build much of an emotional charge.

Strange Fruit (Not rated)

Director: Joel Katz. With Amiri Baraka, Abbey Lincoln, Pete Seeger, Michael Meeropol, Robert Meeropol. (57 min.)

Sterritt **** This film documents the story behind Billie Holliday's longtime association with the jazz protest song "Strange Fruit," including the tale of its authorship by a Jewish high school teacher in New York whose other good deeds included adopting the children of executed communists Julius and Ethel Rosenberg. This is a riveting treatment of a fascinating subject.

CURRENTLY IN RELEASE
All or Nothing (R)

Director: Mike Leigh. With Timothy Spall, Lesley Manville, Alison Garland, James Corden. (127 min.)

Sterritt *** A downbeat portrait of Britain's working poor, focusing on an unhappy cab driver, his common-law wife, and their two grown kids, who make up in girth what they lack in civility. Leigh is at his best when etching their daily experiences and showing how a catastrophe delivers a crushing blow to their meager amount of hard-won comfort, and then encourages them toward new levels of loyalty and understanding. Unfortunately, the last portion isn't quite convincing in its elements of uplift and redemption.

Sex/Nudity: 6 scenes innuendo, implied sex. Violence: 2 scenes, including accident. Profanity: 126 harsh expressions. Drugs: 24 scenes of drinking, smoking.

Comedian (R)

Director: Christian Charles. With Jerry Seinfeld, Colin Quinn, Chris Rock, Garry Shandling. (100 min.)

Staff *** In this film, you may not find out how comedy is made, but you will certainly see what goes on behind the scenes when one of America's most popular comedians gives up his jokes and starts from scratch. Shot in comedy clubs across the US, we see Seinfeld "kill" (that is have a great show) and bomb at a small New York club. At its best, this documentary-style film reminds us of the joy in doing something for the joy of doing it, and the dedication that is needed. Unfortunately, viewers are subjected to a companion story line with Orny Adams, a young comedic upstart whose ego is larger than most of the rooms he plays in. Ignore him, and the film is comedy gold. By Michele Babineau

Staff *** Absorbing, Reveals artistry in standup, fun but not funny, low budget.

Sex/Nudity: 5 references to sex in jokes or comedy skits. Violence: None.

Frida (R)

Director: Julie Taymor. With Salma Hayek, Alfred Molina, Geoffrey Rush, Ashley Judd. (120 min.)

Sterritt * The legendary Mexican artist Frida Kahlo had a colorful life - great achievements in painting; a turbulent marriage with fabled muralist Diego Rivera; even a close relationship with Leon Trotsky, the communist leader. This biopic gets the facts on screen, but that's about it. Perhaps intimidated by the strength of Kahlo's own artistic personality, Taymor shows isolated flashes of the storytelling inventiveness she brought to "Titus." Hayek doesn't have the acting skills such a multifaceted character calls for.

Sex/Nudity: 18 scenes innuendo, implied sex. Violence: 8 scenes, including brawls. Profanity: 12 expressions. Drugs: 28 scenes of smoking, drinking.

The Grey Zone (R)

Director: Tim Blake Nelson. With David Arquette, Daniel Benzali, Steve Buscemi, David Chandler. (108 min.)

Staff **1/2 Based on true events, this is the first mainstream Holocaust movie to highlight Jewish prisoners who worked in the crematoriums at Auschwitz - and who daily faced the wrenching moral dilemma of prolonging their own lives in exchange for disposing of others' lives. It focuses on the men of Auschwitz's 12th Sonderkommando, the only group of its kind to foment a rebellion in the camp. This difficult, heartrending film ultimately doesn't slow down enough to greatly illumine or enlighten. By Jen McLaughlin

Staff *** Heavy, well-acted, horrendous, grim

Sex/Nudity: 9 scenes nudity, all of prisoners in gas chambers. Violence: 20 graphic scenes, including executions, torture. Profanity: 31 expressions. Drugs: 13 instances smoking, drinking.

I Spy (PG-13)

Director: Betty Thomas. With Eddie Murphy, Owen Wilson, Famke Janssen, Gary Cole. (96 min.)

Staff *1/2 Eddie Murphy and Owen Wilson are both masters of comic patter, and pairing them in a buddy film does result in some entertaining comic riffs. But everything else here is strictly spy by the numbers. Secret agent Alexander Scott (Wilson) must stop a stolen US super "stealth" airplane from being sold to evildoers. Boxing champion Kelly Robinson (Murphy) is recruited to help him. But can these two bickering teammates blend as buddies, stop the villain, and save the world? "I Spy" grabs its title, but little else, from the '60s TV show, which emphasized cool, witty repartee. Murphy and Wilson are more inspired by the "Dumb and Dumber" school of comedy. There are chuckles, but far too few. By Gregory M. Lamb

Sex/Nudity: 4 instances innuendo. Violence: 19 scenes, including kidnapping. Profanity: 41 harsh expressions. Drugs: 3 scenes of drinking.

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 resisters. 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.

Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: None. Profanity: None. Drugs: 9 scenes of drinking and smoking.

Naqoyqatsi (PG)

Director: Godfrey Reggio. (89 min.)

Sterritt **** All three parts of Reggio's adventurous "qatsi" trilogy, which includes "Koyaanisqatsi" and "Powaqqatsi," are free-association documentaries exploring the idea that humanity has fallen out of balance with the natural world and needs to realign its psychological and spiritual priorities if it is to survive and prosper. This last installment focuses on "life as war," but the shimmering beauty of Reggio's images and the pulsing allure of Philip Glass's music suggest an optimistic prognosis for our uncertain future. The film has moments of sheer cinematic poetry that will lift receptive viewers clear out of their seats.

Roger Dodger (R)

Director: Dylan Kidd. With Campbell Scott, Isabella Rossellini, Jesse Eisenberg, Jennifer Beals. (105 min.)

Sterritt **** After getting dumped by his latest girlfriend, a 40-ish womanizer named Roger gets an unexpected visit from his 16-year-old nephew Nick, and together they set off on a quest for seduction and romance in the bars and byways of Manhattan, where Roger's temerity and Nick's timidity prove a predictably poor combination. As shaggily comical as it often is, this sharply directed satire deals with two serious themes - the age-old clash between innocence and experience, and the amazing powers of self-delusion. Scott is excellent, and so is everyone else. See this with a date ... if you dare.

Staff *** Superior acting, Inventive, cynical.

Sex/Nudity: 11 scenes of innuendo and implied sex. Violence: 1 fight. Profanity: 25 harsh expressions. Drugs: 16 instances of smoking and drinking.

The Santa Clause 2 (G)

Director: Michael Lembeck. With Tim Allen, Elizabeth Mitchell, Judge Reinhold, Wendy Crewson. (105 min.)

Sterritt ** Allen reprises his 1994 role as an ordinary guy who's taken over Santa's job. This time he has to marry a Mrs. Claus, get his misbehaving son off the "naughty" list, and save his workshop from a malfunctioning Santa robot, all before a Christmas Eve deadline rolls around. Allen does well with all three of his roles, ably helped by the Disney makeup department. The rest of the acting is bland, but the movie's preteen target audience won't mind, and adults will find occasional grown-up jokes to chuckle at.

The Truth About Charlie (PG-13)

Director: Jonathan Demme. With Thandie Newton, Mark Wahlberg, Tim Robbins, Lisa Gay Hamilton. (104 min.)

Sterritt *** The widow of a recently deceased adventurer learns she's the heiress to millions of hidden dollars and meets threatening people who believe they have a right to it. Newton and Wahlberg are well cast, but there's little chemistry between them, and the story is so busy springing surprises, it forgets to develop much feeling. Ultimately this remake of 1963's "Charade" is just a razzle-dazzle chase picture, not the romantic thriller it might have been. But film buffs will enjoy tributes to France's New Wave filmmaking era of the '60s.

Staff **1/2 Stylish, jumpy, OK remake, artistic.

Sex/Nudity: 9 scenes, including innuendo, implied sex, partial nudity. Violence: 14 scenes, including shootings. Profanity: 2 expressions. Drugs: At least 8 scenes of drinking, smoking.

OUT ON VIDEO
The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys (R)

Director: Peter Care. With Kieran Culkin, Emile Hirsch, Jena Malone, Jodie Foster. (110 min.)

Sterritt *** "Stand by Me" meets "Ghost World." This coming-of-age story centers on two 1970s parochial-school students who express their frustrations by drawing a lurid comic book, but get into trouble when their discontents spill into the real world. The film's theme is that many adolescents don't draw firm lines between reality and fantasy. It has no profound insights to offer, even when it tackles the grim topic of incest, but nimble performances and lifelike dialogue make it entertaining and thoughtful.

Staff *** Dark, captures the struggles of youth.

Sex/Nudity: 11 instances, including innuendo. Violence: 12 scenes, including violent drawings. Profanity: 49 harsh expressions. Drugs: 13 scenes with drinking, smoking, drugs.

Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood (PG-13)

Director: Callie Khouri. With Ellen Burstyn, Ashley Judd, Sandra Bullock, Maggie Smith. (118 min.)

Sterritt * A mother flies into a Louisiana tizzy when her daughter criticizes her in a magazine interview, so her kooky old friends kidnap the erring offspring, convinced she'll change her ungrateful tune if they reveal how many challenges her mom faced during her own salad days. Flashbacks follow, depicting childish mischief and girlish romance along with alcoholism and mental illness. Full of cardboard characters and logic-defying leaps between farce and melodrama, it is rarely effective.

Staff **1/2 Tender, well-paced, an acting fest.

Sex/Nudity: 1 instance innuendo. Violence: 1 scene with child beating. Profanity: 42 expressions. Drugs: 20 scenes with drinking, smoking.

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