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Staff **1/2 Fun, slick, surprising.Skip to next paragraph
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Sex/Nudity: 4 instances innuendo. Violence: 19 scenes, including kidnapping. Profanity: 41 harsh expressions. Drugs: 3 scenes of drinking.
Director: Patricia Cardoso. With America Ferrera, Lupe Ontiveros, Ingrid Oliu, Brian Sites. (93 min.)
Staff *** Ana (Ferrera) has just graduated from high school and earned a full scholarship to Columbia. The only problem is that her mother (Ontiveros) refuses to let her go, insisting Ana should work in her sister's sweat shop like she does. Moreover, she keeps nagging Ana about her weight, saying she'll never catch a husband until she slims down. Funny and touching, without resorting to stereotypes, "Real Women" paints a nuanced and down-to-earth portrait of one Latino family, and particularly of these two stubborn, feisty women who are more alike than they realize. It's clearly a low-budget film, and not all the actors are as strong as Ferrera and Ontiveros, but in the end, Patricia Cardoso has created a very compelling - and very real - coming-of-age tale. By Amanda Paulson
Staff *** Thoughtful, involving, triumphant
Sex/Nudity: 4 instances, mostly innuendo. Violence: None. Profanity: 2 strong expressions. Drugs: 1 scene with alcohol.
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.
Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: 3 scenes cartoonish fighting. Profanity: 3 mild expressions. Drugs: None.
Director: Hilary Birmingham. With Anson Mount, Julianne Nicholson, Bob Burrus, Glenn Fitzgerald. (102 min.)
Sterritt **** This is a quietly told drama of two young men, their troubled father, and their efforts to carve out a satisfying life on their modest farm as financial and emotional problems loom. Such understated storytelling, sensitive directing, and avoidance of easy filmmaking tricks are all too rare in American movies. This is truly one from the heart.
Director: Oliver Parker. With Rupert Everett, Frances O'Connor, Reese Witherspoon. (94 min.)
Staff *** If a dreamy romp and Oscar Wilde don't seem as if they should go together, then British director Oliver Parker has a surprise for fans of one of Wilde's great comedies. This late Victorian-era farce, the first film rendition of this play in 50 years, is based on the slimmest of conceits: that only a man named Earnest is marriage material to two English lasses, played winningly by Witherspoon and O'Connor. On the heels of Parker's successful "An Ideal Husband," this film is a nice addition to the updating of classic British theater works. By Gloria Goodale
Staff ***1/2 Freshly frivolous, witty, well-acted. Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: None. Profanity: None. Drugs: 11 scenes with drinking and smoking.
Director: George Lucas. With Hayden Christensen, Natalie Portman Samuel L. Jackson. (136 min.)
Sterritt ** Anakin Skywalker is now a fledgling Jedi knight who helps Senator Padmé, his former Tatooine playmate, hide from assassins while Obi-Wan Kenobi probes a threat from Dark Side enemies. The film has a broader range of emotions and visual effects than any "Star Wars" installment since "The Empire Strikes Back," but the writing and acting are as stiff as R2-D2's metal torso. If clones are so scary, why does Lucas keep cloning pop-culture clichés he's latched onto from other films, including his own?
Staff **1/2 Cheesy dialogue, uninspired acting, technologically dazzling, Yoda is fantastic!
Sex/Nudity: Mild innuendo. Violence: 12 scenes, some long. Profanity: None. Drugs: 2 scenes with alcohol-like drinks.