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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 BabineauSkip to next paragraph
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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.