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Movie Guide

November 15, 2002

Ararat (R)

Director: Atom Egoyan. With David Alpay, Arsinée Khanjian, Christopher Plummer, Elias Koteas. (116 min.)

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Sterritt ** A young man explains to a troubled customs official why a film he's making - about the horrific treatment of Armenians by Turks in the World War I era - has strong reverberations in his own Armenian-Canadian family; this sparks a densely structured series of flashbacks, film-within-a-film scenes, and episodes from the present day. Egoyan is one of Canada's most ambitious and original filmmakers, but the power of this intricate drama falls short of its aspirations, despite his personal investment in the subject, since he is of Armenian ancestry himself.

El Crimen del Padre Amaro (R)

Director: Carlos Carrera. Gael Garcia Bernal, Sancho Gracia, Ana Claudia Talancón, Damían Álcazar. (120 min.)

Sterritt **** A young Roman Catholic priest takes a position in a rural Mexican church and gets caught in a tangled web of temptations involving an older priest with ties to organized crime, a local drug kingpin, an idealistic cleric who believes the church must engage in active struggle on behalf of oppressed people, and a woman he falls in love with despite his vow of chastity. Excellent acting, intelligent screenwriting, and dynamic filmmaking give this Mexican production a forceful emotional and intellectual charge. In Spanish with English subtitles.

Half Past Dead (PG-13)

Director: Don Michael Paul. With Morris Chestnut, Steven Seagal, Nia Peeples.

Staff * The action genre reaches new levels of unintentional self-parody in Stephen Seagal's latest film. He plays Sasha Petrosevich, an undercover Fed who is almost killed when his partner in crime blows a fuse. All patched up, he's sent to the newly renovated and even tougher Alcatraz to keep on the case. But things go horribly awry when ninjas invade, looking for gold. Yes, you read right. This is a mess from start to finish - a noisy patchwork of explosions, clichés, more explosions, and a plot assembled from everything that was cut from Segal's last six movies. By Alex Kaloostian

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (PG)

Director: Chris Columbus. With Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Kenneth Branagh, Robbie Coltrane. (160 min.)

Sterritt ** See review.

Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: 8 scenes with scary images, 3 mildly violent scenes; 3 scenes with blood. Profanity: 2 mild expressions.

Hell House (Not rated)

Director: George Ratliff. With members of the Trinity Church in Cedar Hill, Texas. (85 min.)

Sterritt **** Hell House X: The Walking Dead is the 2000 edition of an annual extravaganza staged by members of a Pentecostal church in Texas doing their bit to spotlight the sinfulness of the modern world and remind their neighbors to safeguard their eternal souls. Drug abuse, teen suicide, "the homosexual lifestyle," and the dire consequences of abortion are among the evils predictably on display. Most cast members are students in the Trinity Christian School, and competition for juicy roles - the abortion girl, the suicide boy, the abusive dad - is fierce. Making this documentary with the cooperation of Hell House participants, Ratliff avoids Michael Moore-style interventions, letting his subjects expose their own follies - zealotry, sexism, homophobia - through the things they say and do. The result is a lively, insightful look at multiple levels of self-delusion among people who truly believe their Halloween funhouse is making our fallen world a better place.

Standing in the Shadows of Motown (PG)

Director: Paul Justman. With The Funk Brothers, Chaka Kahn Joan Osborne, Ben Harper. (108 min.)

Sterritt **** The self-named Funk Brothers were enormously gifted studio musicians who accompanied a wide range of Motown stars, from Stevie Wonder to Smoky Robinson and the Miracles. They changed the course of pop music while receiving little of the acclaim or attention they deserved. Justman redresses this injustice in his rollicking documentary about them, which will have your toes tapping and your ears sizzling whether you're a die-hard Motown fan or not.

8 Mile (R)

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