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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: 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.
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.
Staff *** Funny, playful, heartwarming, romantic.
Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: 5 scenes cartoonish violence, including snowball battles and skirmishes. Profanity: 1 mild expression. Drugs: 2 mild scenes with alcohol.
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.
Staff ***1/2 Energetic, informative, celebratory, good mix of music and narrative.
Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: 1 or 2 archival clips of violence against civil rights activists. Profanity: 3 harsh expressions. Drugs: 3 scenes of drinking; 4 scenes with smoking.
Directors: Kelly Asbury, Lorna Cook. With voices of Matt Damon, James Cromwell, Daniel Studi. (84 min.)
Sterritt ** The adventures of a wild stallion who wants to stay wild, the young Indian who befriends him, and a mean-tempered cavalry captain who wants to break his will and hold him in captivity. The proudly traditional style of this kid-friendly animation seems rather tame in the age of "Shrek" and "Monsters, Inc.," but the action is mild enough for fairly young children, and grownups may enjoy its old-fashioned spirit.
Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: 11 scenes of cartoonish violence; none graphic. Profanity: None. Drugs: 1 instance of cigar smoking.