2002 Mega Movie Guide
Director: Curtis Hanson. With Eminem, Kim Basinger, Mekhi Phifer. (111 min.)
Sterritt ** A rapper called Rabbit lives an unhappy life in a trailer with his amoral mom, spending his time with a racially mixed group of friends and learning to express his anger in rhythmic rhymes that win the big rap competition (surprise!) that climaxes the story. Eminem plays his movie-debut role with a sullen naiveté that's not very interesting, and Hanson's directing has little vigor apart from kinetic camerawork and very, very, very large amounts of yelling on the soundtrack.
Staff *** Gritty, compelling story, sympathetic.
Sex/Nudity: 3 graphic sex scenes. Innuendo in rap songs. Violence: 9 scenes, including fights. Profanity: 240 harsh expressions. Drugs: 3 drinking scenes, 12 smoking scenes. 1 with drugs.
Director: François Ozon. With Catherine Deneuve, Isabelle Huppert, Emmanuelle Béart, Fanny Ardant. (113 min.)
Sterritt **** The setting is a fine French country house. The mystery: which of several excellent suspects murdered the aging gentleman who owned it? Ozon fills the screen with suspense and surprises in this colorful comedy-thriller-musical-romance, helped by a superb cast and a mischievous sense of fun that keeps you guessing whether the next moment will bring a triumph, a tragedy, or a little song and dance. In French with English subtitles.
Staff **1/2 Bizarre, creative, lush, stage-like.
Sex/Nudity: Mostly innuendo. Violence: 11 scenes, including suicide. Profanity: None. Drugs: 7 scenes of drinking, smoking.
Director: Jill Sprecher. With Alan Arkin, Matthew McConaughey, Amy Irving, John Turturro. (94 min.)
Sterritt **** A smug lawyer, a spunky cleaning woman, a cynical businessman, and other diverse characters grapple with personal and professional problems that challenge their ideas about the nature of happiness and fulfillment. Arkin is the standout in the superb cast, and the screenplay by Sprecher and co-writer Karen Sprecher doesn't flinch from discussing science, philosophy, and other things that grownups actually talk about.
Staff **1/2 Creative, maudlin dialogue, probing.
Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: 5 instances. Profanity: 11 harsh expressions. Drugs: 3 scenes with drinking, 2 with smoking and 1 with illegal drugs.
Director: Michael Winterbottom. With Steve Coogan, Chris Coghill. (115 min.)
Sterritt **** This lively look at the rock scene in Manchester, England, begins with impresario Antony Wilson's discovery of the Sex Pistols in 1976 and ends with the demise of his influential Factory Records label in the early '90s. Coogan is dazzling as Wilson, and candid treatment of the era's problem with drugs and violence keeps the film from partying too much for its own good.
Sex/Nudity: 26 scenes, mostly innuendo. Partial, not full nudity. Violence: 15 scenes, mostly fights and gun scenes.
Director: Spike Lee. With Edward Norton, Rosario Dawson, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Brian Cox. (134 min.)
Sterritt **** A young drug dealer tries to come to terms with his past on the day before he leaves for a seven-year prison term. The movie is flawed by implausible psychology and moments of weak acting. But it's more than redeemed by Lee's passionate ideas about America today, which he sees as plagued by evils of violence and materialism, yet unbounded in its possibilities and unquenchable in its spirit. He's a unique filmmaker, and this uneven drama is truly one of a kind.
Director: Michael Lehmann. With Josh Hartnett, Shannyn Sossamon, Maggie Gyllenhaal. (110 min.)
Staff * Seeking solace after a breakup with his ex-girlfriend, a young man seems unable to break his habit of engaging in one-night stands. So, for Lent, he takes a vow of celibacy. With enough ribald humor to make the cast of "American Pie" blush, this comedy tries in vain to soften its edginess by having the sex-starved character fall in love. The overall result: too few laughs, and a story that paints men as leering leches and women as wanton profligates. By Stephen Humphries
Sex/Nudity: 41 instances, mostly innuendo, but several nude scenes. Violence: 1 scene. Profanity: 54 mild and strong expressions. Drugs: At least 6 scenes of drinking. 1 with smoking.
Director: Stephen Gaghan. With Katie Holmes, Benjamin Bratt. (99 min.)
Staff ** A college senior (Holmes) is being harassed by a former boyfriend, who has been missing and presumed dead for two years. This first directing effort by screenwriter Gaghan ("Traffic") generates a few suspenseful moments, but its leaps between past, present, and future are more confusing than artful. The muddled surprise ending lacks much punch. By Gregory M. Lamb
Sex/Nudity: 6 scenes of implied sex and innuendo. Violence: 3 instances, including drowning. Profanity: 7 harsh expressions. Drugs: 1 scene with drugs; 4 with alcohol, 2 with smoking.
Directors: Paul Weitz, Chris Weitz. With Hugh Grant, Toni Collette. (101 min.)
Sterritt * Grant plays a mischievous bachelor who pretends he has a child so he can hunt wooable women in a single-parents club. He then becomes the unexpected friend of a real 12-year-old who needs help to overcome his geekiness. Hoult is excellent as the kid, but there's little he or Grant can do with the movie's most mawkish moments.
Staff *** Wryly humorous, cute, unconventional.
Sex/Nudity: 1 scene and some innuendo. Violence: 5 scenes with bullying. Profanity: 44 expressions. Drugs: 14 scenes with alcohol; 9 with smoking.
Director: Alexander Payne. With Jack Nicholson, Hope Davis, Dermot Mulroney, Kathy Bates. (125 min.)
Sterritt *** After his wife's unexpected death, a retired man rethinks his future and reevaluates his past while traveling across the Midwest to his daughter's wedding, where his discontents grow greater than ever. Nicholson's acting is awesome, and Payne and co-writer Jim Taylor haven't lost their ear for the empty aphorisms of middle-class speech.
Director: Seth Kearsley. With (voices) Adam Sandler, Jackie Titone, Jon Lovitz, Tyra Banks. (86 min.)
Staff ** Bitterness over losing both parents 20 years ago has turned Davey Stone into the town drunk. Yet as Hanukkah begins, Whitey, the basketball league's retiring referee, sees through the Grinch-like façade and hopes to make Davey his replacement. Tasteless gags and language undermine the moments of warmth and comic brilliance.
Sex/Nudity: 7 instances innuendo. Violence: 7 scenes of cartoonish, dark violence. Profanity: 12 harsh expressions. Drugs: At least 7 scenes of drinking.
Director: Spike Jonze. With Nicolas Cage, Meryl Streep, Chris Cooper, Brian Cox. (114 min.)
Sterritt *** A fictional doppelganger of real-life screenwriter Charlie Kaufman struggles to write the screenplay of this film, dogged by the success of his (totally fictional) twin brother and spurred by his bashful admiration for the journalist who wrote the nonfiction book he's trying to adapt, about a man who's obsessed with tracking down rare orchids. The film is less confusing than it sounds, and it's great mazelike fun until it bogs down in familiar chase-picture conventions near the end.
Director: Ron Underwood. With Eddie Murphy, Randy Quaid, Rosario Dawson. (95 min.)
Staff *1/2 It's 2087, and reformed smuggler Pluto Nash (Murphy) gets out of the slammer and opens the moon's most popular nightclub. When he refuses to sell to a gangster, the kingpin blows up the club and sends his goons to kill Nash. With colossal sets, a remarkable cast, and hundreds of extras, this sci-fi spoof of '30s movies should be funny, but it falls flat. By M.K. Terrell
Sex/Nudity: 4 instances innuendo. Violence: 12 scenes, including explosions. Profanity: 29 strong expressions. Drugs: 10 scenes of drinking, smoking.
Director: Claude Miller. With Sandrine Kiberlain, Nicole Garcia. (101 min.)
Sterritt *** After the death of a novelist's child, her mother kidnaps a child for her to raise. The grief-stricken woman decides to accept this illegal scheme when she learns her little houseguest may come from an abusive home. Miller spins an engrossing story combining psychological drama, sociological reflection, and suspense. In French with English subtitles.
Director: Shunji Iwai. With Hayato Ichihara, Shûgo Oshinari, Yû Aoi, Ayumi Ito. (146 min.)
Sterritt **** Lily Chou-Chou is a pop star we hardly see, and the key characters are Japanese adolescents who use idealized fantasies of her as respite from the routines and power games that oppress them at school and play. Iwai's ambitious drama is strikingly shot and poignantly acted by a splendid young cast. In Japanese with English subtitles.
Director: Kevin Bray. With Ice Cube, Mike Epps, Anthony Michael Hall. (94 min.)
Staff * Miami bounty hunter Bucum (Ice Cube) becomes a reluctant partner with bail-jumping con artist Reggie (Epps) when they cross paths with a murderous gang chasing $20 million in diamonds. Oh, and somehow the thugs' boss gets hold of Reggie's winning lottery ticket. Explicit violence and foul language weigh down the comedy. By M.K. Terrell
Sex/Nudity: 4 scenes of sex, innuendo. Violence: 16 instances, including shootings, fistfights. Profanity: 231 strong expressions, 3 gestures. Drugs: At least 7 scenes with smoking and drinking.
Director: Mike Leigh. With Timothy Spall, Lesley Manville, Alison Garland. (127 min.)
Sterritt *** This film provides 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 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.
Sex/Nudity: 6 scenes innuendo, implied sex. Violence: 2 scenes. Profanity: 126 harsh expressions. Drugs: 24 scenes of drinking, smoking.
Director: Harold Ramis. With Robert De Niro, Billy Crystal, Lisa Kudrow, Joe Viterelli. (94 min.)
Sterritt * Sequel to the 1999 hit "Analyze This," reuniting De Niro as an organized-crime boss and Crystal as the psychotherapist who listens to his troubles and secrets. The movie adds new twists to the situation - making the mobster technical adviser to a TV show that's apparently meant as a "Sopranos" satire - but nobody on or off the screen seems excited with rehashing the one-joke original.
Staff *1/2 Boring, OK sequel, crowd pleaser.
Sex/Nudity: 5 scenes of partial nudity; 5 instances of innuendo. Profanity: 98 expressions. Violence: 11 scenes, including shootouts. Drugs: 13 scenes of drinking, smoking.
Director: Denzel Washington. With Derek Luke, Joy Bryant, Washington, Salli Richardson. (117 min.)
Sterritt ** This is a fact-based drama about a Navy psychiatrist (Washington) who treats a violence-prone sailor (Luke) by encouraging him to probe his abusive childhood that he has long repressed. Although it's touching and sincere, Washington's directorial debut is weakened by a too-slow pace and a story that offers few real surprises.
Director: Atom Egoyan. With David Alpay, Arsinée Khanjian, Christopher Plummer, Elias Koteas. (116 min.)
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 series of flashbacks, film-within-a-film scenes, and episodes from the present day. Egoyan, an Armenian-Canadian, is one of Canada's most ambitious filmmakers, but the power of this intricate drama falls short, despite his personal investment in the subject.
Staff ***1/2 Riveting, layered, brilliantly directed.
Sex/Nudity: 4 scenes of nudity and sex. Violence: 14 scenes, some quite graphic, including rape. Profanity: 5 expressions. Drugs: 4 scenes of drinking.
Director: Jay Roach. With Mike Myers, Michael Caine, Beyoncé Knowles. (98 min.)
Sterritt * Our hero battles Dr. Evil and a villain he's recruited from 1975 to help him destroy the world. The third Powers movie wants to be a flashy, funny satire on the swinging '70s. What's really on filmmakers' minds is how much box-office power they can tap into by blitzing viewers with even larger doses of repetitive sex jokes and insipid scatological gags than before.
Staff ** Sophomoric, funny, repetitive
Sex/Nudity: 19 instances of innuendo. Violence: 11 scenes, including fighting. Profanity: 32 mostly mild expressions. Drugs: 2 instances drinking.
Director: Paul Schrader. With Greg Kinnear, Willem Dafoe, Rita Wilson. (107 min.)
Sterritt *** This film documents the rise and fall of Bob Crane ("Hogan's Heroes"), who ruined his life and career when he befriended a technology wonk and participated in living-room orgies recorded by his sleazy companion with video equipment. Kinnear gives a pitch-perfect performance as the self-destructive actor, and Schrader offers one of his most harrowing explorations of the dangers of sensuality.
Director: Joel Schumacher. With Chris Rock, Anthony Hopkins, Brooke Smith. (120 min.)
Sterritt ** A streetwise hustler is drafted by the CIA to replace his killed-in-action twin on a mission to seize a contraband nuclear device. Rock and Hopkins give performances so different you'd think they were spliced together from two movies. This is fun to watch for a while, but the picture runs much too long, and most of the comedy writing is lame.
Sex/Nudity: 2 mild scenes. Violence: 10 scenes, including shootings. Profanity: 26 harsh expressions. Drugs: 8 scenes of smoking and drinking.
Director: Wych Kaosayananda. With Antonio Banderas, Lucy Liu, Gregg Henry. (91 min.)
Staff * Sever, a beautiful, deadly ex-agent from a shadowy government agency, has kidnapped the son of another shadowy government agent. It's up to Ecks, a retired FBI agent, to stop her and get the child back, while the two of them blow up everything in their way. The subplots are so complicated, it's difficult to keep up, let alone care. The fight choreography is good, but not good enough to make this mess worthwhile. By Alex Kaloostian
Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: 20 scenes, including shootings. Profanity: 2 expressions. Drugs: 5 scenes of smoking, drinking.
Director: Bob Dolman. With Susan Sarandon, Goldie Hawn, Geoffrey Rush. (97 min.)
Staff **1/2Former rock groupie Suzette (Hawn) wants to reconnect with her friend "Vinny" (Sarandon) in Phoenix. The problem is, it's 20 years later, and Vinny isn't a wild woman anymore. Known to family and friends as Lavinia Kingsley, she lives in a big house with her lawyer-husband, two daughters, and a golden retriever. This hilarious romp looks like a shallow film, but it addresses family tensions, peer pressure, and the need to just let loose later in life. By Lisa Leigh Connors
Staff *** A Goldie-oldie, energetic, star vehicle.
Sex/Nudity: 5 scenes, including implied sex and nude photos. 10 instances innuendo. Violence: 2 scenes. Profanity: 28 expressions. Drugs: 13 scenes of drinking, smoking. 2 scenes with drugs.
Director: Majid Majidi. With Hossein Abedini, Mohammad Reza Naji. (105 min.)
Sterritt **** The unglamorous setting is an Iranian construction site, and the unlikely hero is an Iranian man who falls in love with an Afghan woman after a string of misadventures with an illegal immigrant who works with him. Majidi became one of Iran's most internationally famed filmmakers with "Children of Heaven" and "The Color of Paradise," but he far surpasses those sappy melodramas with this story of rivalry, romance, and cultural conflict. In Farsi with English subtitles.
Director: Tim Story. With Ice Cube, Anthony Anderson, Sean Patrick Thomas. (102 min.)
Staff **1/2 The barbershop is the center of life for a group of neighborhood guys, although its owner, Calvin, sees the shop as a money drain. When an ATM is stolen from a nearby store by a modern Laurel and Hardy, the shop becomes gossip central. If every barbershop were this much fun, there would be a lot more well-trimmed men. By Katie Nesse
Sex/Nudity: 6 scenes of innuendo. Violence: 9 scenes, including punching. Profanity: 66 expressions. Drugs: 1 scene of smoking.
Director: Jonathan Parker. With David Paymer, Crispin Glover, Joe Piscopo. (82 min.)
Staff ** Glover is remarkably consistent as the stonefaced new hire in a public-records office, who "would prefer not" to do anything but filing, and then not to do anything at all, even leave after he's fired. This snide commentary on government work is well cast. But it runs out of gas as it moves - faithful to its source, Herman Melville's "Bartleby the Scrivener" - to a sad conclusion. By M.K. Terrell
Sex/Nudity: 5 instances, mostly innuendo. Violence: None. Profanity: 5 mild expressions. Drugs: 2 scenes with drinking.
Director: Wang Xiaoshuai. With Cui Lin, Li Bin, Shou Xun, Gao Yuanyuahn. (113 min.)
Sterritt *** Guei is a country boy filled with enthusiasm over his new job as a big-city courier until his new bike gets stolen before it's even paid for. This quickly paced comedy-drama careens from lowdown humor to anxiety and violence as briskly as the protagonists steer from one crowded avenue to another on their contested bike. The film occasionally meanders from its course, but it's vividly acted. In Mandarin with English subtitles.
Staff **1/2 Subtle, touching, wry.
Sex/Nudity: 1 brief scene. Violence: 6 scenes. Profanity: 4 expressions. Drugs: 7 scenes of smoking.
Director: Henry Bean. With Ryan Gosling, Summer Phoenix, Billy Zane. (92 min.)
Sterritt **** Gosling plays a 20-something Jew with a deadly hatred of Jewish life, faith, and history whose friends range from rage-filled local thugs to a pair of intellectual neofascists. Based on a real case history, Bean's screenplay paints an excruciatingly vivid portrait of the most dangerous person a tolerant society can have - a zealot who's as mentally agile as he is morally misguided. The result is a stunningly smart, disturbing drama.
Sex/Nudity: 4 instances, including implied sex and nudity. Profanity: 74 harsh expressions.
Director: Arliss Howard. With Howard, Debra Winger, Paul Le Mat. (111 min.)
Sterritt *** Howard plays a cranky Mississippi writer who spends hours drinking with his buddy, feuding with his ex-wife, worrying about his kids, and collecting rejection slips. He also deals with such traumatic events as a death in the family. The filmmakers clearly see him as a creative maverick, but he's really a likable cliché. The movie's best asset is Howard's filmmaking.
Staff *** Visually stunning, gritty yet poetic, compelling, original.
Sex/Nudity: 2 scenes implied sex. Violence: 8 scenes, including a severe car crash and fistfighting.
Director: Shawn Levy. With Frankie Muniz, Paul Giamatti, Amanda Bynes. (83 min.)
Staff *** A Hollywood producer steals the English essay of an eighth-grader and inveterate liar (Muniz), and turns it into a film. Naturally, his parents and teacher don't believe the teen. To regain their trust, he and his girlfriend head to Tinseltown to extort a confession. The resulting romp through Universal Studios will amuse older children and their parents. By M.K. Terrell
Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: 4 instances. Profanity: A few mild expressions. Drugs: 4 scenes.
Director: Barry Sonnenfeld. With Tim Allen, Rene Russo, Omar Epps, Jason Lee. (85 min.)
Sterritt * A sleazy businessman acquires a mysterious suitcase in a Miami saloon, confusing all kinds of people including his unhappy wife, two hitmen hired to whack him, and two idiotic FBI agents. The filmmakers wanted to make a comedy about couples, but there's so little chemistry between these pairs that the theme never picks up energy.
Director: Jez Butterworth. With Nicole Kidman, Ben Chaplin. (93 min.)
Staff ** It must have taken Nicole Kidman months to learn this script. For her role as Nadia, an Internet-order bride from Russia, the actress spends half the movie speaking Russian. Arriving in England, Nadia is met by her intended, John, a lonely, bore of a banker. Nadia isn't all she seems; John soon finds his British reserve punctured as his life spirals out of control. The movie isn't as lively as Kidman's performance. By Stephen Humphries
Staff **1/2 Odd, forgettable, edgy.
Sex/Nudity: 10 scenes, including 4 with innuendo. Violence: 17 scenes. Profanity: 19 expressions. Drugs: 16 scenes of smoking, drinking.
Director: Samira Makhmalbaf. With Said Mohamadi, Gahman Ghobadi. (85 min.)
Sterritt **** Two teachers, seeking students in the mountains along the border between Iran and Iraq, find new uses for the blackboards they've been toting when a military attack separates them from their colleagues and puts them into close contact with the hard realities of existence in the region. Makhmalbaf continues her rise as Iran's most promising young female filmmaker, and Iranian cinema extends its reign as one of the world's most exciting cultural phenomena. In Kurdish with English subtitles.
Director: Guillermo del Toro. With Wesley Snipes, Kris Kristofferson. (108 min.)
Staff *** This sequel is every bit as good as the original, though it didn't have much to measure up to. Blade has dedicated his life to hunting down vampires. But now he must team up with an elite squadron of them to hunt even deadlier vampire mutants. The frenetic fight scenes are too fast for nonvampire eyes, but those familiar with the original should find plenty to like. By Alex Kaloostian
Sex/Nudity: None. Drugs: 8 scenes with smoking, 1 with drugs.
Director: Clint Eastwood. With Eastwood, Anjelica Huston, Jeff Daniels. (115 min.)
Sterritt *** An aging cop tracks down the serial killer who murdered the donor of his newly transplanted heart. Eastwood plays the sleuth - a sort of geriatric Dirty Harry - with the same physically taut, emotionally walled-up personality that typifies his characters. He still gets the girl, too. In the director's chair, Eastwood takes a conservative approach, telling the tale efficiently but with few of the imaginative touches that have made some of his films so memorable.
Staff **1/2 Spotty acting, predictable, well-crafted.
Sex/Nudity: 1 scene implied sex. Violence: 13 scenes, including shootouts. Profanity: 24 expressions. Drugs: 5 scenes drinking.
Director: Paul Greengrass. With James Nesbitt, Tim Pigott-Smith, Nicholas Farrell. (107 min.)
Sterritt *** Crisply made docudrama about a deadly 1972 clash between British soldiers and civil-rights protesters in a Northern Irish city. The movie is more a logistical feat than a historical analysis, but it offers a heartfelt account of a mortal blow dealt to pacifist ideals by violence and militarism.
Sex/Nudity: 1 instance innuendo. Violence: 11 scenes, including bloody shootings. Profanity: 18 harsh expressions. Drugs: 6 scenes smoking.
Director: John Stockwell. With Kate Bosworth, Michelle Rodriguez, Matthew Davis. (103 min.)
Sterritt ** They're chambermaids by night, surfin' girls by day, and one of them has the makings of wave-riding stardom. Moviegoing tip: Skip the first hour, but grab a seat in time for the surfing contest that climaxes the picture, complete with mile-high waves and the most graceful ocean-gliding this side of "The Endless Summer."
Staff **1/2 Great surf footage, insipid dialogue.
Sex/Nudity: 6 instances innuendo; 1 scene implied sex. Violence: 12 scenes, including near drownings. Profanity: 22 expressions. Drugs: 4 scenes of drinking and smoking.
Director: Doug Liman. With Matt Damon, Chris Cooper, Brian Cox. (113 min.)
Sterritt ** Damon plays a spy so afflicted by amnesia that he doesn't know his name, much less the assignment he's supposed to carry out. The movie has director Liman's distinctive stamp, with fidgety camerawork and lightning-quick editing. But he hasn't so much transformed the espionage thriller as submitted to its conventions. A truly fresh treatment of Robert Ludlum's novel wouldn't rely so heavily on shootouts, car chases, and boy-meets-girl clichés.
Staff *** Fresh, entertaining, great cast.
Sex/Nudity: 1 scene implied sex. Violence: 11 scenes, including shootings. Profanity: 6 harsh expressions. Drugs: 4 scenes of drinking and smoking.
Director: Michael Moore. With Moore, Charlton Heston, Marilyn Manson. (120 min.)
Sterritt *** Contemporary film's most freewheeling documentarymaker turns his sights on the longtime American love affair with guns, including a living-room confrontation with National Rifle Association leader Heston and a discussion with goth-rocker Manson that's amazingly articulate. Moore turns the camera on himself too often for comfort, but he provides an eye-opening array of revelations.
Staff ***1/2Biting, intelligent, relevant.
Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: 38 scenes, mostly violent news clips. Profanity: 8 expressions. Drugs: 1 scene of smoking.
Director: Christophe Gans. With Jean Yanne, Emilie Dequenne, Vincent Cassel. (142 min.)
Sterritt ** In the time of Louis XV, a French detective and a native American mystic uncover a web of skulduggery as they probe a series of killings thought by local peasants to be the work of a supernatural monster. Gans tries to match "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" with his ambitious mix of action, romance, and mythic overtones, but much of the historical horrorfest is more frenetic than fascinating. In French with English subtitles.
Staff *** Good monster movie, excessively violent, dark, mystical.
Sex/Nudity: 6 scenes. Violence: 18 bloody scenes. Profanity: None. Drugs: 8 scenes of drinking, smoking; 2 with drugs.
Director: Rick Famuyiwa. With Taye Diggs, Mos Def, Nicole Parker, Queen Latifah. (108 min.)
Staff ** She's an editor at a music magazine. He's a record-company executive. Dre and Sidney have been friends since childhood, but they have never been romantically involved. Dre ends up getting married and Sidney gets engaged, but did they make a mistake? It gets tiresome when Sidney uses hip-hop as an endless metaphor for her love for Dre. The movie has some funny moments, but it ultimately never crystallizes. By Lisa Leigh Connors
Staff *** Mild, fresh, good characters.
Sex/Nudity: 6 instances, including implied sex, innuendo. Violence: 1 boxing scene. Profanity: 13 expressions. Drugs: 11 scenes of drinking, smoking.
Director: Roman Coppola. With Jeremy Davies, Elodie Bouchez. (100 min.)
Sterritt ** Two filmmakers in Paris 30 years ago - one a documentary director, the other a sci-fi storyteller who can't figure out how to finish his current production - head for confusion when they fall for the same glamorous actress. Coppola's satirical debut film is too ambitious for its own good. But the cast is good.
Director: Peter Bogdanovich. With Edward Herrmann, Kirsten Dunst. (112 min.)
Sterritt ** The place is newspaper tycoon William Randolph Hearst's yacht in the mid-'20s, and the characters include comedian Charlie Chaplin, gossip columnist Louella Parsons, and Hearst himself. They're hoping for a pleasure cruise, but the sea breezes carry whiffs of jealousy and danger. Based on a real murder case, this amiably dull comedy-drama resembles its setting: Everything is arranged for fun and diversion, but the vehicle takes too long to get us where we're going.
Sex/Nudity: 2 scenes implied sex. 5 scenes innuendo. Violence: 2 shooting scenes.Profanity: 22 mostly mild expressions. Drugs: 14 scenes of smoking and drinking, 2 with marijuana.
Director: Steven Spielberg. With Tom Hanks, Leonardo DiCaprio, Nathalie Baye, Christopher Walken. (140 min.)
Sterritt *** The mostly true story of a master impostor (DiCaprio) who passes himself off as everything from a Pan Am copilot to a Harvard-trained physician, cashing bad checks along the way - to the consternation of a workaholic FBI agent (Hanks) who spends years tracking him down. Spielberg's directing is a tad less tricky than usual, but he doesn't have much talent for psychological suspense, which is the heart of the story. DiCaprio underplays nicely and Walken is superb as the con artist's downtrodden dad.
Director: Roger Michell. With Samuel L. Jackson, Ben Affleck. (96 min.)
Sterritt *** A corporate lawyer and an insurance salesman become adversaries after a fender-bender, sparking a day-long ordeal of threats and counter-threats. The filmmakers meant to whip up a high-tension thriller. What they ended up with is a psychological satire that's engrossing if you regard it as an absurdist morality tale rather than a suspense yarn. It loses its bite in a last-minute happy ending, but it's a refreshingly novel ride.
Sex/Nudity: 3 instances innuendo. Violence: 5 scenes, including assault.Profanity: 13 strong expressions. Drugs: 3 scenes of drinking.
Director: Ethan Hawke. With Uma Thurman, Kris Kristofferson, Tuesday Weld, Vincent D'Onofrio. (110 min.)
Sterritt **** A meandering visit with a collection of characters who have little in common beyond a yen for art and a room at New York's fabled Chelsea Hotel, which hasn't received so much screen attention since Andy Warhol filmed his brilliant "Chelsea Girls" there in the '60s. There's not much of a story, but lots of atmosphere and a jazzlike affection for eccentricity and spontaneity.
Director: Finn Taylor. With Robin Tunney, Tim Blake Nelson, Jason Priestley. (99 min.)
Staff **1/2 After too many drinks, Zoe Adler (Tunney) tries to call a cab on her cellphone, but a carjacker forces her to drive. He flees after she runs over a police officer, leaving her to face the music. At first, the film throws an annoying array of cinematic distractions, but Zoe, under house arrest, resourcefully stretches her restrictions. Then she tries to clear her name by finding her abductor before he can kill her. By M.K. Terrell
Sex/Nudity: 3 instances implied sex. Violence: 8 scenes, including fighting. Profanity: 28 harsh expressions. Drugs: 7 scenes of drinking, smoking.
Director: Michael Caton-Jones. With Robert De Niro, Frances McDormand. (105 min.)
Sterritt ** A cop faces the prospect of arresting his son for murder, stirring up memories of his own father's execution for homicide and muddling his relationships with his girlfriend and former wife. This melodrama would be more powerful if it stayed with the story's character-driven aspects instead of surrounding them with overdone action scenes. De Niro is great, but doesn't seem involved with his role in the last part.
Sex/Nudity: 4 scenes with innuendo, implied sex. Violence: 8 scenes, including shootings. Profanity: 67 harsh expressions. Drugs: 17 instances drinking, smoking, and illegal drug use.
Director: Jonathan Frakes. With Jesse Bradford, French Stewart. (90 min.)
Staff ** Zak Gibbs, a physics professor's son, accidentally gets hold of an experimental wristwatch that almost stops the world around him. Evil forces kidnap the prof, hoping to turn this invention into a weapon. Zak and friends set out to stop them. At first, a fresh cast and delightful effects promise something special, but the script shifts out of hypertime into plodding formula. By M.K. Terrell
Sex/Nudity: A few instances of innuendo. Violence: 9 scenes, including shootings. Profanity: 3 mild expressions. Drugs: 1 scene with drinking.
Director: Andrew Davis. With Arnold Schwarzenegger, Francesca Neri. (110 min.)
Sterritt * Schwarzenegger strikes again, this time as a firefighter who embarks on a vendetta against Colombian terrorists, hunting them in their country and in Washington after his wife and child are killed in a L.A. bombing. The film paints a strikingly hostile portrait of its Latin American characters and some of its mayhem is vicious, even by the debased standards of today's action-movie genre.
Staff **1/2 Phone-in plot, suspenseful, intense.
Sex/Nudity: 2 scenes innuendo. Violence: 16 scenes, some very bloody. Profanity: 33 expressions. Drugs: 4 scenes of drinking, smoking. 1 with drugs.
Director: Christian Charles. With Jerry Seinfeld, Chris Rock, Garry Shandling. (100 min.)
Staff *** In this documentary-style film, you see what goes on behind the scenes when one of the most popular comedians gives up his jokes and starts from scratch. Shot in comedy clubs across the US, we see Seinfeld "kill" (have a great show) and bomb. The movie reminds us of the joy in doing something for the joy of doing it, and the dedication that is needed. By Michele Babineau
Staff *** Absorbing, reveals artistry of standup, fun but not funny.
Sex/Nudity: 5 references to sex in jokes or comedy skits. Violence: None.
Director: Michael Snow. With Kim Plate, Greg Hermanovic, John Massey. (93 min.)
Sterritt *** Named after the part of the brain that passes signals between the two hemispheres, this avant-garde extravaganza uses digital techniques to morph, twist, and generally slice and dice every object and person it can find, destabilizing time, place, and gender along the way. Snow is a genius who enlarged the fundamental horizons of cinema with his classic "Wavelength," but here his aesthetic and philosophical ideas don't quite keep pace with his technological boldness.
Director: Kevin Reynolds. With Jim Caviezel, Richard Harris, Guy Pearce. (113 min.)
Sterritt *** Caviezel plays Edmond Dantes, a French sailor who hits hard times when his best friend steals his girlfriend, a corrupt magistrate brands him as a courier for Napoleon, and he's thrown into an island prison. Things look up when he escapes, finds buried treasure, and sets about taking revenge on his treacherous enemies. The filmmakers focus more on personalities and emotions than action and violence, and the acting soars even when dialogue sags. Don't worry swordfighting fans, there's plenty of flashing steel.
Staff *** Clever, fun, beautifully filmed.
Sex/Nudity: 2 scenes implied sex. Violence: 14 scenes, mostly swordfighting. Profanity: 1 expression. Drugs: 15 scenes of drinking, smoking.
Director: Peter Hastings. With Christopher Walken, Stephen Tobolowsky. (88 min.)
Staff ** When 11-year-old Beary Barrington learns he was adopted by humans, he leaves home to find more of "his kind," members of the long-disbanded Country Bears singing group. Arriving at Country Bears Hall, he finds it threatened by developers. What to do but reunite the band for a benefit concert. Slow stretches and careless editing weigh against wholesomeness and good songs. Based on the Disney theme park attraction. By M.K. Terrell
Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: 4 mild scenes. Profanity: None. Drugs: None.
Director: John Stainton. With Steve Irwin, Terri Irwin, Magda Szubanski. (90 min.)
Staff **1/2 Australian naturalist and "Animal World" TV personalities Steve and Terri Irwin play themselves in this comedy involving a crocodile that swallows a top-secret satellite part. As the Irwins try to relocate the croc away from a shotgun-toting rancher, the CIA thinks they're spies, and the Irwins think the agents are poachers. This is not a great movie, but you'll learn much about outback wildlife. Small children may find the critters and action scary - I did. By M.K. Terrell
Sex/Nudity: 2 instances innuendo. Violence: 19 scenes, including wrestling with a croc. Profanity: 2 expressions. Drugs: None.
Director: Tamra Davis. With Britney Spears, Dan Aykroyd. (92 min.)
Staff * Britney and pals take off on a cross-country road trip in a convertible driven by a guy with a shady past. Britney's on a quest to see her estranged mom; the others want to win a music contest. Between pop tunes, serious issues emerge: date rape, teen pregnancy, and parental abandonment, but only superficial dialogue occurs. Britney fans will enjoy, though the singing and acting seem manufactured. By Stephanie Cook Broadhurst
Sex/Nudity: 13 scenes, including innuendo, implied sex. Violence: 4 scenes with mild fighting. Profanity: 7 expressions. Drugs: 4 scenes with drinking.
Director: John McKay. With Andie MacDowell, Imelda Staunton, Anna Chancellor. (110 min.)
Staff ** "Crush" swoops over stereotypes of femininity, as three lovelorn 40-somethings - Kate (MacDowell), Molly, and Janine - meet to swap stories of amorous humiliation over gin, chocolate, and gibes. They are, ostensibly, allies in the quest for love, but when Kate gets involved with a former student, Molly spearheads a scheme to end the affair. Though engaging in its banter and its romance, the film's myopic vision of women borders on misogyny. By Christina McCarroll
Staff **1/2 Predictable, silly, gabby.
Sex/Nudity: 37 instances, including innuendo and partial nudity. Violence: 2 scenes. Profanity: 12 expressions. Drugs: 16 scenes of drinking, smoking.
Director: Karim Dridri. With Miguel Del Morales, Pepin Vaillant. (96 min.)
Staff *** On a more modest grass-roots level than "The Buena Vista Social Club," this documentary explores the Cuban musical heritage, following veteran singer-guitarist Miguel del Morales, better known as "El Gallo" (The Rooster), across Cuba. Director Dridi supplies little narration, leaving us to observe for ourselves how an oppressed island finds freedom in its culture. By M.K. Terrell
Sex/Nudity: 1 scene with suggestive dancing. Violence: None. Profanity: 5 expressions. Drugs: 13 scenes with drinking or smoking.
Director: Peter Care. With Kieran Culkin, Emile Hirsch, Jena Malone, Jodie Foster. (110 min.)
Sterritt *** "Stand by Me" meets "Ghost World" in this coming-of-age story. It 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. 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.
Staff *** Dark, thoughtful, captures the struggles of youth.
Sex/Nudity: 11 scenes, including innuendo. Violence: 12 scenes, including violent drawings. Profanity: 49 harsh expressions. Drugs: 13 scenes of drinking, smoking, and drug use.
Director Danny DeVito. With Robin Williams, Edward Norton, DeVito. (100 min.)
Sterritt *** Producers replace a bribe-taking TV clown (Williams) with a straight-arrow entertainer (Norton) who's shocked by the onslaughts of greed, corruption, and violence he gets from everyone in the kiddie-media world. This pitch-dark satire marked a surprising career change for Williams, who plays the vengeful clown with surprising ferocity. Don't take the kids!
Staff *** Dark, amusing, inventive.
Sex/Nudity: Innuendo in all scenes. 1 with implied sex, 3 with nudity. Violence: 12 scenes, including fights. Profanity: 87 harsh expressions. Drugs: 11 scenes of smoking, drinking.
Director: Krzysztof Kieslowski. With Krystyna Janda, Henryk Baranowski. (550 min.)
Sterritt **** An apartment complex in Warsaw is the setting for this series of 10, approximately hour-long dramas, loosely based on the Ten Commandments and exploring a wide range of moral, ethical, and psychological issues, from the motivations for capital punishment to the meaning of God. Most are enthralling; some are small masterpieces. Originally produced as a miniseries for Polish television.
Directors: Kirby Dick, Amy Kofman. With Jacques Derrida, Marguerite Derrida. (85 min.)
Sterritt *** Who would have guessed a documentary about Derrida, the great French philosopher of deconstruction and "différence," would be so entertaining? He emerges as a nice guy as well as a brilliant mind, and he's certainly a master at evading questions. Still, the things he says on camera aren't as profound as the passages quoted from his books.
Director: Scott Kalvert. Cast: Stephen Dorff, Brad Renfro, Fairuza Balk. (93 min.)
Staff ** It's 1958, and tensions are high on the streets of Brooklyn. Marco, ex-con and leader of The Vipers, wants to deal drugs in the neighborhood, but Leon and The Deuces will have none of it. Threats, violence, and 90 minutes of tough-guy clichés ensue. The film is full of fury, and the ensemble tries hard, but mob boss Fitzy has it right: They're just kids who need to grow up. By Alex Kaloostian
Director: Guillermo del Toro. With Eduardo Noriega, Marisa Paredes. (106 min.)
Staff *** A remote orphanage during the 1930s Spanish Civil War is haunted by the ghost of a boy who has a story to tell and a score to settle. A new orphan bravely tries to solve the mystery and protect his friends. Top-notch acting by both the adult and child actors is marred somewhat by excessive profanity and sexual scenes. In Spanish with subtitles. By Gregory M. Lamb
Sex/Nudity: 2 scenes, 4 with innuendo. Violence: 11 scenes. Profanity: 34 expressions Drugs: 6 scenes of drinking, smoking.
Director: Lee Tamahori. With Pierce Brosnan, Halle Berry, John Cleese, Judi Dench. (132 min.)
Sterritt ** The suave British agent starts his 20th screen adventure by falling into enemy hands and getting kicked out of Her Majesty's Secret Service. But don't fret - he's running true to form within a scene or two, wowing everyone with fast escapes, jaunty wisecracks, and amorous escapades. Brosnan is in top form, making the 007 role more his own than anyone since Sean Connery called it quits.
Staff **1/2 Predictable but entertaining, Berry is a tough match, action galore.
Sex/Nudity: 13 instances of innuendo or implied sex. Violence: 18 scenes of extended violence, including explosions and shootings. Profanity: 1 harsh expression. Drugs: 11 scenes of drinking, smoking; several bar scenes.
Director: Callie Khouri. With 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 girlish mischief and romance along with alcoholism and illness. Full of logic-defying leaps between farce and melodrama, it's rarely effective.
Staff **1/2 Tender, well-paced, fun.
Sex/Nudity: 1 instance innuendo. Violence: 1 scene with child beatings. Profanity: 42 expressions. Drugs: 20 scenes of drinking, smoking.
Director: Stacy Peralta. With Sean Penn, Jay Adams, Tony Alva, Bob Biniak. (90 min.)
Staff **** The first incarnation of the skateboard came in with the hula hoop and lasted as long. Director and original "Z-Boy" skater Stacy Peralta fashions an entertaining documentary chronicling the true birth of southern California "skater" cool, a decade later. These daredevils redefined what was possible on a skateboard, creating a guerrilla style that still pervades youth culture. By John Kehe
Sex/Nudity: 3 scenes with semi-nudity. Profanity: 43 expressions. Drugs: 2 scenes of smoking; some talk of drug use.
Director: Frederick Wiseman. With residents of Tampa, Fla. (196 min.)
Sterritt **** In the 32nd film of his extraordinary career, Wiseman continues his practice of probing social institutions via cinema-verite documentary, allowing crisply captured images and sounds to speak for themselves. Here he travels with police to scenes of domestic violence, visits a shelter for battered women, and sits in on education and discussion sessions. Ingeniously structured as a long day's journey, the results are illuminating, harrowing, and riveting.
Director: Tom Shadyac. With Kevin Costner, Kathy Bates. (100 min.)
Sterritt ** A physician copes with grief after the death of his wife, who was also a doctor, and starts to believe she may be communicating with him through her former patients, kids who've had near-death experiences. The story blends elements of "Ghost" and "Close Encounters" but lacks the romantic charge of the former and imaginative thrill of the latter. Costner is convincing until the sappy finale.
Sex/Nudity: 1 scene of implied sex. 1 with seminudity. Violence: 6 scenes. Profanity: 10 mild expressions. Drugs: 3 scenes of drinking.
Director: Charles Stone III. With Nick Cannon, Orlando Jones, Zoe Saldana, Leonard Roberts. (118 min.)
Staff *** Hotshot drumming earns a young African-American a full scholarship to a Southern college, but he must learn humility and teamwork if he's to succeed in music and life. What drives this feel-good film is not the plot, but the drumming performances. It's mostly good, clean fun. By M.K. Terrell
Sex/Nudity: 2 instances innuendo. Violence: 1 minor fight scene. Profanity: 37 expressions. Drugs: None.
Director: Ellory Elkayem. With David Arquette, Scarlett Johansson, Doug E. Doug. (98 min.)
Sterritt * Spiders get humongous after a toxic-waste debacle in a Southwestern town. You can guess the rest. Action freaks may enjoy the chasing and chomping, but there's no hint of human interest or moviemaking imagination. Stick with the 1955 classic "Tarantula," still the best of this creepy-crawly breed.
Director: Carlos Carrera. Gael García Bernal, Ana Claudia Talancón, Damían Alcázar. (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, and a woman he falls in love with. Great acting, intelligent screenwriting, and dynamic filmmaking give this Mexican production an emotional and intellectual charge. In Spanish with English subtitles.
Director: Petter Naess. With Per Christian Ellefsen, JéÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂ¸rgen Langhelle. (89 min.)
Staff *** Kjell Bjarne and Elling are orphaned 40-year-old roommates in a Norwegian mental institution. The government gives them a city apartment to see if they can cope with independent living. Their mentor has little hope, but his tough-love badgering brings results. This film paints a witty portrait without belittling the pair. Nominated for the Best Foreign Film Academy Award. By M.K. Terrell
Sex/Nudity: 12 scenes, including nudity. Violence: 5 scenes. Profanity: 24 harsh expressions. Drugs: 12 scenes of drinking and smoking.
Director: Michael Hoffman. With Kevin Kline, Emile Hirsch. (115 min.)
Sterritt ** An idealistic classics teacher sticks to his principles when less scrupulous folks let their moral values slide. Kline is excellent as the lovable hero, and the story makes valuable points about the importance of ethics in a society driven by money and prestige. But at a time when public education is in a state of decay, one wonders whether this sentimental ode to old-school dignity is in touch with today's pressing realities.
Staff **1/2 Inspiring, moralistic, well acted.
Sex/Nudity: 3 scenes of innuendo. Violence: None. Profanity: 8 expressions. Drugs: 1 scene of smoking. 4 scenes of drinking.
Director: Alan Taylor. With Ian Holm, Iben Hjejle, Tim McInnerny. (107 min.)
Staff ***1/2 Napoleon and his retinue on St. Helena Island conspire to spring him from exile by having him trade places with a look-alike deckhand. Once in Paris he will reveal himself, depose the king, and again rule France. Trouble is, no one there recognizes him, and hardly anyone wants the little emperor back. Holm is superb as the erstwhile ruler forced to live as an ordinary citizen under the roof of a patient widow who needs a battle plan to rescue her melon business. By M.K. Terrell
Sex/Nudity: 1 scene implied sex. Violence: 1 mild scene. Profanity: 2 mild expressions. Drugs: 3 scenes with smoking; 7 with drinking.
Director: Franc Reyes. With John Leguizamo, Peter Sarsgaard, Denise Richards, Isabella Rossellini. (90 min.)
Staff **1/2 A highly successful Bronx drug dealer meets an investment banker and decides to "go legit," adding fuel to the territorial disputes already rocking his world. A well-told story that posits that since the American Dream is all about greed anyway, drug dealing is no worse than any other industry. By M.K. Terrell
Sex/Nudity: 2 scenes implied sex. Violence: 12 scenes, including shootings. Profanity: 325 expressions. Drugs: 32 scenes of smoking, drinking, drugs.
Director: Michael Apted. With Dougray Scott, Kate Winslet, Jeremy Northam. (117 min.)
Staff ***1/2 "A Beautiful Mind" meets "The Longest Day" as a brilliant mathematician leads a team of British scientists trying to break the Nazis' Enigma code and stop their U-boats before they cut off the North Atlantic shipping routes. But the mathematician's sanity is close to breaking: Is the beautiful blonde he's in love with a spy? And is the dapper British secret agent shadowing him a friend or foe? There's romance and suspense aplenty before several puzzles are solved - and the war won. By Gregory M. Lamb
Staff *** Intelligent thriller, riveting.
Sex/Nudity: Sex scenes, nudity. Violence: 9 scenes, including mass graves. Profanity: 13 expressions. Drugs: 26 scenes of smoking, drinking.
Director: Michael Apted. With Jennifer Lopez, Bill Campbell, Juliette Lewis. (111 min.)
Staff *1/2 "Slim" (Lopez) is a hardworking waitress who marries a wealthy stranger she meets while serving burgers and coleslaw. Mitch whisks her away into an ostensibly picture-perfect life - but then Slim learns Mitch is a philanderer, and he starts beating her. The ending may seem justified, but unfortunately it teaches the only way to fight violence is with violence. By Stephanie Cook Broadhurst
Sex/Nudity: 7 scenes, mostly innuendo, 1 with nudity. Violence: 6 scenes. Profanity: 11 expressions. Drugs: 2 scenes with drinking.
Director Kurt Wimmer. With Christian Bale, Taye Diggs, Emily Watson, William Fichtner, Sean Bean. (100 min.)
Staff *** After World War III nearly wipes out humankind, emotion is blamed for all conflict. People are ordered to take a serum that numbs all feeling, and clerics eliminate dissenters - and the paintings, literature, and music they cherish. When a cleric misses a dose, his senses are aroused by the touch of a puppy, the sound of a symphony. The message conjures eerie parallels to Prozac, and the beautiful score sets a haunting stage for the future. By Elizabeth Armstrong
Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: 20 scenes, including combat. Profanity: 3 expressions. Drugs: 1 alcohol scene.
Director: Nils Tavernier. With dancers of the Paris Opera Ballet. (100 min.)
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.
Director: Christian Duguay. With Devon Sawa, Rupert Graves, Bridgette Wilson, Rufus Sewell. (93 min.)
Staff ** Daredevil skateboarders and skiers go to a hotel under construction on an Austrian mountaintop to shoot a camera commercial. Serbian terrorists hiding out at the site cleverly reason that they must be CIA agents. The action and alpine scenery sometimes almost make up for a plot as numbing as the unheated resort. By M.K. Terrell
Directors: Bob Connolly, Robin Anderson. With Anne Boyd and faculty and students at the Univ. of Sydney. (89 min.)
Sterritt *** This smart Australian documentary looks at shrinking education budgets - and their effects on teachers, students, and society at large - through a visit to a university music department run by an Australian composer, who becomes increasingly politicized as her institution sinks into deeper deficits.
Director: Todd Haynes. With Julianne Moore, Dennis Quaid, Dennis Haysbert. (107 min.)
Sterritt **** The time is the 1950s, and the heroine is a well-to-do housewife struggling to find a pathway back to happiness after her husband realizes he's gay and her friendship with a black gardener causes vicious gossip among her friends. Haynes works cinematic and emotional miracles, reviving conventions of '50s melodrama that have gone out of fashion but haven't lost their ability to touch moviegoers' minds and hearts.
Staff *** Nuanced, inspired, wrenching.
Sex/Nudity: 6 scenes innuendo. Violence: 3 scenes, including domestic abuse. Profanity: 1 harsh expression. Drugs: 18 scenes drinking, smoking.
Director: Zacharias Kunuk. With Natar Ungalaaq, Sylvia Ivalu, Peter-Henry Arnatsiaq. (172 min.)
Sterritt *** The adventures of an Inuit nomad over 20 years, starting with a mysterious event during his childhood and then detailing his feud with a rival over a woman they both love. There's as much unbridled passion and violent conflict as melodrama fans could ask for. You feel the power of the Arctic setting in each scene, from frantic chases to intimate conversations. The story's refusal to draw solid lines between "good" and "evil" characters shows striking sophistication.
Staff *** Captivating, revealing, spare.
Sex/Nudity: 8 scenes, mostly innuendo, 2 with nudity. Violence: 12 scenes, including a rape. Profanity: 4 expressions. Drugs: Nothing explicit.
Director: William Malone. With Stephen Dorff, Natascha McElhone, Stephen Rea. (90 min.)
Staff *1/2 A homicide detective enlists the help of a Department of Health employee to solve a string of murders. Or suicides. They're not really sure, and it doesn't matter much. What really matters is that a website is (gasp!) tormenting the souls of all who visit with their own worst fears, such as car crashes, cockroaches, or having to sit through this movie. By Alex Kaloostian
Sex/Nudity: 7 instances, including nudity, innuendo. Violence: 27 scenes of graphic violence, including torture. Profanity: 23 strong expressions. Drugs: At least 5 scenes of smoking, drinking.
Director: Brian De Palma. With Rebecca Romijn-Stamos, Antonio Banderas, Peter Coyote. (110 min.)
Sterritt ** A glamorous woman participates in a conspicuously spectacular French diamond heist, assumes an incognito life in America, and then heads to Paris, where she and a crafty photographer (Banderas) wend their way toward a predictably unpredictable finale. The story doesn't make much sense, and the actors are more like pieces on De Palma's chessboard than three-dimensional characters.
Sex/Nudity: 10 sex scenes, including seminudity. Violence: 14 scenes of violence, including shootings and beating. Profanity: 34 strong expressions. Drugs: At least 8 scenes of drinking, smoking.
Director: Henry Jaglom. With Ron Silver, Greta Scacchi, Maximilian Schell. (99 min.)
Sterritt *** This romantic comedy takes a low-key look at a high-strung film festival, using it as the backdrop for intersecting stories about a young actress looking for a break, an aging diva longing for a comeback, an indie newcomer and a studio hotshot scrambling for the same star, and others of their ilk. The cast is superb, and Jaglom's improvisational style works well, turning loosely strung incidents into an easy-going treat.
Sex/Nudity: 3 instances of innuendo. Violence: None. Profanity: 6 strong expressions. Drugs: 4 scenes with smoking and drinking.
Director: Estela Bravo. With Fidel Castro, Alice Walker, Sydney Pollack, Harry Belafonte. (91 min.)
Sterritt *** In place of the cold-war biases that have affected most US treatments of Castro's career, this well-produced documentary offers a sympathetic view of the Cuban leader's aims and ambitions. If anything, Bravo works too hard at extolling Castro, treating some of the issues - such as the case of Cuban boy Elian Gonzales - with sketchy, imprecise strokes that weaken her overall argument.
Director: Ronny Yu. With Samuel L. Jackson, Robert Carlyle, Emily Mortimer, Rhys Ifans. (92 min.)
Staff ** Elmo McElroy has concocted the next great drug: cheaper, safer, and stronger than anything on the street. He flees his boss and goes to England to sell the formula. Add too many fight scenes, too many car chases, an assassin ex-girlfriend, and some skinheads, and you get an entertaining but muddled rehash of "Trainspotting." Flashy, profane, and pointless. By Alex Kaloostian
Director: Bill Paxton. With Paxton, Matthew McConaughey, Jeremy Sumpter, Powers Boothe. (100 min.)
Sterritt **** Convinced that God has commanded him to destroy demons disguised as humans living in his town, a man enlists his young sons in a demented, violent crusade. Paxton's debut film as a director is an understated horror movie, relying on spooky moods and startling twists more than grisly gore. Be prepared for a high body count and a few explosively bloody moments, though.
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."
Staff **1/2 Imaginative, colorful, passionate.
Sex/Nudity: 18 scenes innuendo, implied sex. Violence: 8 scenes, including brawls. Profanity: 12 expressions. Drugs: 29 scenes of smoking, drinking. 2 scenes morphine abuse.
Director: Marcus Raboy. With Ice Cube, Mike Epps, John Witherspoon, Don 'D.C.' Curry. (93 min.)
Staff * 'Tis the night before Christmas Eve, and the only creature stirring is the Santa Claus burglar, breaking into Craig (Ice Cube) and Day-Day's (Epps) ghetto apartment and stealing presents and rent money. The frantic hip-hop pace and realistic setting of this third "Friday" movie will help viewers overlook old jokes and sloppy filmmaking. By M.K. Terrell
Staff ** Vulgar, cheesy, vacuous.
Sex/Nudity: 3 scenes implied sex or nudity. 14 instances of innuendo. Violence: 10 fight scenes, some gory. Attempted rape. Profanity: 150 harsh expressions. Drugs: At least 12 scenes of drinking, smoking, and drug use.
Director: Steven Soderbergh. With Julia Roberts, Blair Underwood. (101 min.)
Sterritt ** Soderbergh tries a freewheeling experiment in this comedy-drama about people making a film and rehearsing a play; it takes place during 24 hours and unfolds in loosely strung scenes. The focus is on mercurial moods rather than logic-driven causes and effects. It's refreshingly different, even if it's low on energy, and too eager to be quirky at moments when a little old-fashioned storytelling would come in handy.
Staff *1/2 Self-centered, free-form, slow.
Sex/Nudity: 6 sex scenes; 8 with innuendo. Violence: 1 suicide scene. Profanity: 55 expressions. Drugs: 7 scenes of drinking, smoking.
Director: Martin Scorsese. With Leonardo DiCaprio, Daniel Day-Lewis, Cameron Diaz, John C. Reilly. (155 min.)
Sterritt *** Scorsese depicts the physical and psychological mayhem that poisoned relations between European immigrants and American bigots in New York City during the Civil War era, focusing on a warlord and the son of an Irish settler he murdered years ago. The film offers a wide-ranging portrait of this bitter period, showing how the evils of ethnic bigotry, political corruption, and blind personal ambition helped shape the foundations of American society in ways that have not entirely faded. The movie is strong in sound and fury, weak in nuance and insight.
Director: Steve Beck. With Gabriel Byrne, Julianna Margulies, Ron Eldard
Staff *1/2 Formally dressed couples dance on an Italian cruise ship's top deck. But the lush music and pretty pink tiles of this '60s-style opening serve only to set you up for a gruesome massacre. When salvagers find the ship 40 years later, the revelers' ghosts are the least of their worries, as dark forces try to add them to the ship's haunted residents. It's a fairly routine shocker. By M.K. Terrell
Sex/Nudity: 4 scenes, including innuendo and seminudity. Violence: 20 instances, with many scenes of blood and corpses. Profanity: 71 expressions. Drugs: 14 instances of drinking and smoking.
Director: Miguel Arteta. With Jennifer Aniston, John C. Reilly, Tim Blake Nelson. (93 min.)
Sterritt **** What's a well-meaning young woman to do when she's stuck in a miserable marriage, a tedious town, and a boring job, and the only chance for escape is a love affair she can't bring herself to resist? Aniston and Reilly give the best of many excellent performances. A few plotty scenes aside, this quietly directed drama paints a sensitive, sympathetic portrait of modern malaise, and also has a smart sense of humor.
Staff ***1/2 Well-acted, thoughtful, sad.
Sex/Nudity: 6 scenes with innuendo, several explicit, adulterous sex scenes. Violence: 6, including fighting. Profanity: 14 expressions. Drugs: 14 scenes with illegal drugs, alcohol, smoking.
Director: Timothy Linh Bui. With Don Duong, Patrick Swayze, Forest Whitaker, Hiep Thi Le. (115 min.)
Sterritt ** As the Vietnam War winds to a close, Vietnamese immigrants start preparing for new lives in a California refugee camp. The movie takes a humane look at an episode in history that's received little attention. Duong makes an impression, Swayze shows new maturity, and Whitaker is at his likable best. In English and Vietnamese with English subtitles.
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 their complicity in ending others'. It focuses on the men of Auschwitz's 12th Sonderkommando, the only group of its kind to foment a rebellion. 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: Chris Marker. With voices of Jim Broadbent, Cyril Cusack, Robert Kramer. (179 min.)
Sterritt **** This towering documentary spans the world in its overview of the war between left-wing radicalism and right-wing conservativism during the troubled '60s and '70s. Completed in 1993 from material first assembled in 1977, it reconfirms Marker as one of the artistically gifted filmmakers in France, or anywhere else. In English, Spanish, and French with English subtitles.
Director: Marilyn Freeman. With Carrie Brownstein, Kari Fillipi, Vicki Hollenberg, S. Ann Hall. (106 min.)
Sterritt ** Eight characters attend group therapy for 21 weeks, and we watch selected moments from their highly emotional sessions, where they face down a variety of psychological problems. The film teeters on a slippery dividing line between realism and fiction. But it gains power from the mercurial nature of its improvised acting and split-screen camera work.
Director: Don Michael Paul. With Morris Chestnut, Steven Seagal, Nia Peeples.
Staff * The action genre reaches new levels of unintentional self-parody in Seagal's latest film. He plays an undercover Fed who is almost killed when his partner blows a fuse. All patched up, he's sent to the newly renovated Alcatraz. But things go horribly awry when ninjas invade. 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 cut from Segal's last six movies. By Alex Kaloostian
Sex/Nudity: A few instances innuendo. Violence: 21 intense scenes. Profanity: 17 expressions. Drugs: 8 scenes of drinking and smoking.
Director: Rick Rosenthal. With Jamie Lee Curtis, Tyra Banks, Busta Rhymes, Sean Patrick Thomas.
Staff ** A "reality" webcaster (Rhymes) sends six college students into Michael Myers's boyhood home to spend the night seeking clues to his behavior. Michael returns to defend his turf, and they all get more than they bargained for. A prologue shows how Michael survived beheading at the end of Part 7 and what became of his sister. By M.K. Terrell
Sex/Nudity: 5 instances, mostly innuendo. Violence: 15 sequences, including decapitations. Profanity: 63 expressions. Drugs: At least four scenes of drinking and smoking.
Director: Elie Chouraqui. With Andie MacDowell, David Straithairn, Adrien Brody, Elias Koteas. (130 min.)
Sterritt ** Refusing to accept the possibility that her photographer husband has died covering fierce combat in Yugoslavia, an American woman travels there and plunges into wartime chaos in a desperate search for him. The film makes a commendable effort to celebrate bravery and underscore war's terrors, but its melodramatic approach is more spectacular than insightful.
Sex/Nudity: 2 scenes innuendo, implied sex. Violence: 15 scenes, including attempted rape and battles. Profanity: 85 expressions, many harsh. Drugs: 15 scenes smoking, drinking, and a few scenes with illegal drugs.
Director: Chris Columbus. With Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Kenneth Branagh, Robbie Coltrane. (160 min.)
Sterritt ** Harry returns for his second school year at Hogwarts, where an unseen enemy is casting an evil spell on students, leading some to think Harry may be the culprit. The film hews closely to J.K. Rowling's novel, decking it out with lavish settings, costumes, and effects. These are impressive in an ostentatious way, but their cumulative impact has a lumbering spirit different from that of Rowling's easygoing prose.
Staff ***1/2 Magical, scary, better than first film.
Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: 12 scenes "magical" violence. Some kicking, shoving, and scary images. Profanity: 2 expressions. Drugs: None.
Director: Gregory Hoblit. With Bruce Willis, Colin Farrell, Cole Hauser. (125 min.)
Staff *** In a German POW camp, Lt. Thomas Hart (Farrell) must defend a black pilot accused of murdering a white racist. Hart, with only two years of law school, is up against his colonel (Willis), the self-appointed judge, and an experienced prosecutor. By M.K. Terrell
Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: 13 scenes. Profanity: 25 expressions. Drugs: 18 scenes, mostly smoking.
Director: James Toback. With Adrian Grenier, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Joey Lauren Adams. (97 min.)
Sterritt *** The adventures of an Ivy League basketball player and his cronies, including a lover with a mobster dad and a kinky professor. Toback has been transfixed by sex, money, and philosophy as long as he's been making films. The first half finds him at his imaginative best. The second half sinks into silliness.
Sex/Nudity: 15 instances, including full nudity and innuendo. Violence: 2 mild scenes. Profanity: 100 harsh expressions. Drugs: 3 scenes with drinking and 6 with illegal drug use.
Director: Tom Tykwer. With Cate Blanchett, Giovanni Ribisi, Remo Girone, Stefania Rocca. (96 min.)
Sterritt *** Blanchett plays a British teacher who turns vigilante after her Italian husband dies in a drug-related crime scheme. Tykwer doesn't aim for the heights of invention he reached in "Run Lola Run," but he blends an impressively varied palette of moods into an intriguingly unpredictable story. The late Krzysztof Kieslowski, one of Europe's great modern filmmakers, wrote the screenplay.
Sex/Nudity: 2 scenes implied sex and partial nudity. Violence: 5 scenes. Profanity: 3 harsh expressions. Drugs: 9 scenes drinking, smoking.
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. Making this documentary with the cooperation of Hell House participants, Ratliff lets 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 fun house is making our world a better place.
Director: Tuck Tucker. With Spencer Klein, Craig Bartlett, Jennifer Jason Leigh. (72 min.)
Staff ** Arnold and his friend Gerald try to stop the corporate Goliath Scheck from tearing down their neighborhood to build a shopping mall. Sketches from films like "Men in Black," and "The Shawshank Redemption" are amusingly woven into subplots in this adaptation of the Nickelodeon TV series. By Chase Clements
Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: 6 scenes cartoonish violence, 3 with blood. Profanity: None. Drugs: None.
Director: Carl Franklin. With Ashley Judd, Morgan Freeman, Jim Cavaziel. (115 min.)
Sterritt ** When her husband is charged with a wartime atrocity he never told her about and says he never committed, an attorney (Judd) teams with an old-time military lawyer to clear his name. The story has potential, but you'll spot the plot twists long before they happen, and the acting by Judd and Cavaziel is strictly by the numbers.
Staff ** Good cast, gripping, formulaic.
Sex/Nudity: 7 instances innuendo; a few scenes implied sex. Violence: 13 scenes. Profanity: 29 harsh expressions. Drugs: 16 scenes of drinking, smoking.
Director: Woody Allen. With Allen, Téa Leoni, Mark Rydell, George Hamilton, Debra Messing. (114 min.)
Sterritt *** Allen plays a once-lauded film director who tries for a comeback via a project bankrolled by the Hollywood exec his exwife dumped him for; then his subconscious goes haywire, rendering him temporarily blind. This cheerfully absurd comedy isn't brilliantly written, but it takes many amusing shots at the filmmaking scene.
Sex/Nudity: 2 instances innuendo. Violence: 2 mild scenes.Profanity: 4 mild expressions. Drugs: 10 scenes of drinking and smoking.
Director: Chris Smith. With Bill Tregle, Linda Beech, Darlene Satrinano. (66 min.)
Sterritt *** If one's domestic environment is a kind of autobiography, then the five households visited by this entertaining documentary reveal fascinating lives indeed. One couple lives in a converted missile silo, another in a home designed more for their cats than for themselves. Home, sweet home, was never like this!
Director: Tom Brady. With Rob Schneider, Rachel McAdams, Anna Faris. (101 min.)
Staff **1/2 Magic earrings cause Jessica, a Miss Perfect cheerleader, to change bodies with a 30-year-old man. This film is no masterpiece, but it's one of Schneider's funniest roles. By M.K. Terrell
Staff *1/2 Scattered plot, sophomoric.
Sex/Nudity: 2 instances of brief nudity; several instances of innuendo. Violence: 9 scenes, including a robbery. Profanity: About 15 mild expressions. Drugs: 3 scenes of drinking, smoking.
Director: Stephen Daldry. With Nicole Kidman, Julianne Moore, Meryl Streep, Ed Harris. (120 min.)
Sterritt **** Superb adaptation of Michael Cunningham's novel about three women - author Virginia Woolf, a 1949 housewife, and a liberated woman of today - facing emotional crises. David Hare's screenplay ingeniously translates the time-jumping story into cinematic terms, and Daldry's directing subtly orchestrates the motifs (kisses, parties, partings) that link the episodes into a smoothly flowing whole. Kidman, Moore, and Streep do some of their best work, backed by a first-rank supporting cast.
Director: Michael Kalesniko. With Kenneth Branagh, Robin Wright. (107 min.)
Staff *** The best playwright in L.A. hasn't had a hit in 10 years. Rehearsals for his latest opus are going nowhere. Then there's the barking dog next door, a stalking fan, and his wife, who invites a girl to their house hoping to soften his resistance to fatherhood. Curiously, these irritants work together to lift the cynicism darkening his life, his play, and his marriage. By M.K. Terrell
Sex/Nudity: 9 instances, mostly innuendo. Violence: 3 scenes, including brawls. Profanity: About 60 expressions, many harsh. Drugs: 20 scenes of smoking or drinking.
Director: Michel Gondry. With Tim Robbins, Patricia Arquette, Robert Forster, Rosie Perez. (96 min.)
Sterritt ** A mild-mannered scientist wavers between his hair-covered wife and his pretty but aggressive assistant, and tries to civilize a recently discovered ape-man. This whimsical comedy-fantasy deserves a few points for the audacity of Charlie Kaufman's screenplay. Its problems come from Gondry's directing, which betrays his roots in music video and TV commercials. Every moment is cute and snappy, and that gets tiring.
Staff **1/2Off the wall, odd, not awfully funny.
Sex/Nudity: 20 instances, including nudity, frank sexual talk. Violence: 9 scenes, including shooting. Profanity: 16 strong expressions. Drugs: At least 6 scenes with drinking and smoking.
Director: Betty Thomas. With Eddie Murphy, Owen Wilson, Famke Janssen, Gary Cole. (96 min.)
Staff *1/2 Eddie Murphy and Owen Wilson are masters of comic patter, and pairing them in a buddy film does result in some entertaining comic riffs. But everything else is strictly spy by the numbers. "I Spy" grabs its title, but little else, from the '60s TV show, which emphasized cool, witty repartee. By Gregory M. Lamb
Staff **1/2 Fun, slick, surprising.
Sex/Nudity: 4 instances innuendo. Violence: 19 scenes, including kidnapping. Profanity: 41 harsh expressions. Drugs: 3 scenes of drinking.
Director: Edouardo de Oliveira. With Michel Piccoli, Catherine Deneuve, John Malkovich. (90 min.)
Sterritt **** An aging actor relies on work to balance his life after a family tragedy takes a great toll on him, but he eventually finds himself facing the end of his career with mingled nostalgia and regret. Piccoli gives one of the most nuanced performances of his distinguished career, but the star of the movie is de Oliveira, who unfolds the story with unfailing skill and sensitivity.
Staff ***1/2 Quietly sad, poignant, subtle
Sex/Nudity: 2 instances innuendo. Violence: 1 robbery scene. Profanity: 2 mild expressions. Drugs: At least 3 scenes drinking and smoking.
Director: Chris Wedge. With (voices) Ray Romano, John Leguizamo, Denis Leary. (81 min.)
Staff *** If only the story were as three-dimensional as the wonderfully realized computer animation. It's a fairly standard tale in which an unlikely gang of animals - a mammoth, a sabre-tooth tiger, and a sloth - bond as they rescue a human infant separated from his tribe. What lifts the film is its humor, including a sequence hinting at why the Dodo is doomed to extinction. By Stephen Humphries
Staff ***1/2Superb animation, edgy, bright, fun.
Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: About 25 instances of cartoonish violence. Profanity: None. Drugs: None.
Director: Burr Steers. With Kieran Culkin, Susan Sarandon, Jeff Goldblum, Claire Danes. (98 min.)
Staff **1/2 This alluring and sometimes unsettling comedy begins with Igby (Culkin) and his brother trying to poison their mother and then rewinds to explain how they could do such a thing. Igby, who has worn out his welcome at every East Coast prep school, is shipped off to a military academy by his mother. Igby is miserable and manages to escape to New York. The film is an entertaining ride with its uncommon blend of seriousness and humor. But in the end, there's not much of a meaningful destination. By Judy Nichols
Violence: 6 scenes, including aided suicide, beatings. Drugs: 12 scenes with smoking, 10 with drinking, 8 with drugs.
Director: Oliver Parker. With Rupert Everett, Frances O'Connor, Reese Witherspoon. (94 min.)
Staff *** This late Victorian-era farce, the first film rendition of Oscar Wilde's play in 50 years, is based on the slimmest of conceits: that only a man named Earnest is marriage material for two English lasses, played winningly by Witherspoon and O'Connor. On the heels of Parker's successful "An Ideal Husband," this dreamy romp 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: Gary Fleder. With Gary Sinise, Madeleine Stowe, Vincent D'Onofrio, Tony Shalhoub. (96 min.)
Staff *1/2 In 2079, Earth is locked in interplanetary battle with the ruthless and powerful Centaurians, who have secretly sent an android who is a living bomb. Is our hero (Sinise) still himself, a good-guy scientist, or an impostor? Some fun futuristic gadgets, but otherwise it's routine Grade B sci-fi worthy of an "Outer Limits" episode. By Gregory M. Lamb
Staff ** Minor effort, great acting, consistently inconsistent, interesting sci-fi story.
Sex/Nudity: 2 scenes implied sex. Violence: 14 scenes, some intense. Profanity: 9 expressions. Drugs: None.
Director: Jean-Luc Godard. With Bruno Putzulu, Cécile Camp, Jean Davy, Françoise Verny. (98 min.)
Sterritt **** For the first hour, a film director named Bruno works on a movie 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 intricately structured as the subjects of memory and history that it explores.
Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: None. Profanity: None. Drugs: 9 scenes drinking and smoking.
Director: Christopher Nolan. With Al Pacino, Robin Williams, Hilary Swank, Maura Tierney. (118 min.)
Sterritt *** The aging detective played by Pacino believes a cop can't sleep if he's stuck on a case or bothered by his conscience. He has both problems as he hunts the killer of a teenage girl in a small Alaskan town. Good acting and dramatic rhythms lend moody power to this well-written thriller, which becomes something of a horror movie as the detective's mental disorientation transforms the plot from whodunit mystery to psychological nightmare.
Staff ***Smart, gripping, great cinematography
Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: 11, including beatings and shooting. Profanity: 30 harsh expressions.
Director: Juan Carlos Fresnadillo. With Leonardo Sbaraglia, Mónica López, Max von Sydow. (108 min.)
Sterritt *** After surviving a plane crash, a young man strikes a deal with a gambler who seeks out lucky people to participate in games of chance that have extremely high stakes. The story of this Spanish thriller is weak in psychological credibility but strong in suspense, novelty, and imagination. In Spanish with English subtitles.
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 more deeply into a world of conspiracies.
Director: Lone Scherfig. With Anders W. Berthelsen, Annette Stovelbaek, Peter Gantzler. (118 min.)
Sterritt *** A widowed minister takes a post in a small Danish town and attends Italian lessons to pass the time, meeting new acquaintances more concerned with figuring out their problems than practicing verbs and prepositions. Scherfig has made the movie in line with Denmark's distinctive Dogma 95 movement, avoiding fancy touches or extravagant effects. There aren't many exciting moments, but the story and performances have a low-key charm. In Danish with English subtitles
Staff *** Witty, romantic, quirky, uplifting.
Sex/Nudity: 2 implied instances. Violence: None. Profanity: 8 expressions, mostly mild. Drugs: 8 scenes.
Director: Jeff Tremaine. With Johnny Knoxville, Bam Margera, Chris Pontius, Steve-O. (87 min.)
Staff * The stunt-filled MTV show has inspired lawsuits from injured copycats. The R-rating means there's now no limit to the gags' tastelessness. Stay away from this one, and don't try it at home. By M.K. Terrell
Sex/Nudity: 9 instances of seminudity and several scenes of innuendo. Violence: 29 instances, including exploding fireworks. Profanity: 83 harsh expressions. Drugs: 7 scenes.
Director: Clare Kilner. With Eileen Walsh, Rhys Ifans, Patsy Kensit. (80 min.)
Sterritt ** An overly imaginative young woman takes a job as an office temp to help with her mother's healthcare expenses; working at a second-rate automotive company, she finds herself in the thick of an industrial-sabotage scheme and a could-be love affair with a fellow employee. Lively acting and an amiable comic atmosphere offer partial compensation for generally lackluster filmmaking.
Director: James Isaac. With: Kane Hodder, Lexa Doig, Lisa Ryder. (93 min.)
Staff ** You can't keep a good undead psycho down. The 10th installment in the "Friday the 13th" series brings Jason and one of his hapless victims into the 25th century, when Earth is no longer inhabitable and a dark spaceship takes the place of camp Crystal Lake. Ninety minutes of the usual ensues: running, screaming, and impaling. By Alex Kaloostian.
Director: Nick Cassavetes. With Denzel Washington, Anne Heche, Robert Duvall. (116 min.)
Sterritt ** John is a working-class guy whose boy needs life-saving surgery not covered by his insurance. After failing to raise enough cash, and getting no sympathy from the hospital's financial office, he becomes a vigilante dad. The early scenes persuasively etch John's fatherly love and raise crucial questions about the US healthcare system. But it's grimly fascinating to watch fine actors wrestle with the increasingly awful screenplay.
Staff ** Manipulative, bad dialogue, well-paced.
Sex/Nudity: 1 instance of innuendo. Violence: 8 scenes, including fistfighting. Profanity: 31 expressions, some harsh. Drugs: 2 scenes with smoking.
Director: Mike Nawrocki, Phil Vischer. With (voices): Vischer, Nawrocki, Tim Hodge, Lisa Vischer. (83 min.)
Staff *** Squabbling families run their van off a road and wind up in a cafe, where strangers teach them about compassion and mercy through a delightfully updated telling of the Jonah story. Aimed at children, but filled with gags for adults, this is the first theatrical film based on the popular VeggieTales video series. By M.K. Terrell
Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: 5 scenes cartoonish violence. Profanity: None. Drugs: None.
Director: Jesse Vaughan. With Miguel A. Nuñez Jr., Vivica A. Fox, Tommy Davidson. (90 min.)
Staff *1/2 Angry over his ejection from a game, ace basketball player Jamal Jeffries flashes the crowd and earns an indefinite suspension. Desperate to play, he joins a women's team as Juwanna Mann and begins to learn sportsmanship and humility. The cast, including team captain Fox and long-suffering agent Pollak, exhibits sportsmanship by fighting gamely with this worn-out material to produce some amusing moments. By M.K. Terrell
Sex/Nudity: 9 scenes, mostly innuendo, 1 with nudity. Violence: 6 mild scenes. Profanity: 25 harsh expressions. Drugs: 3 scenes with drinking.
Director: Kathryn Bigelow. With Harrison Ford, Liam Neeson, Peter Sarsgaard, Joss Ackland. (138 min.)
Staff *** True story of a near-nuclear meltdown aboard a cold-war-era Soviet submarine might not seem likely engaging material for 21st-century American audiences. But history and geopolitics provide only a backdrop here. A fine corps of actors, led by Ford and Neeson, make this an uplifting tale of survival against powerful technology run amok. By Gregory M. Lamb
Staff **1/2 Gripping, sobering, realistic.
Sex/Nudity: 2 instances innuendo. Violence: 6 scenes, including disturbing scenes of radiation exposure. Profanity: 2 mild expressions. Drugs: At least 6 scenes with drinking and smoking.
Director: Mohsen Makhmalbaf. With Nilofaur Pazira, Sadou Teymour. (82 min.)
Sterritt *** Clad in a veil that hides her identity and intentions, an Afghan woman tries to enter her homeland from Iran on a rescue mission to her sister. During the journey, she witnesses suffering but sees the strength of people who assist her, including a US medical worker. This drama by one of Iran's great filmmakers casts a light on fundamental human conflicts.
Staff **1/2 Stunning images, weak acting, amateurish, impressionistic.
Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: 1 robbery scene. Profanity: None. Drugs: 1 scene with smoking.
Director: Joseph Gaï Ramaka. With Djeïnaba Diop Gaï, Magaye Niang, Stéphanie Biddle. (84 min.)
Sterritt *** You won't hear the familiar strains of Bizet's opera, but you'll recognize the classic story of a proud seductress, able to mesmerize anyone she fancies with her sensual beauty. The soundtrack pulses with the music of Senegal, where this energetic movie was filmed. In French and Wolof with English subtitles.
Directors: Brett Morgen, Nanette Burstein. With Robert Evans, various Hollywood figures. (92 min.)
Sterritt ** Documentary about the active life and checkered career of small-time Hollywood actor and big-time producer Robert Evans, based on his autobiography and narrated by the celebrity himself. Admirers will enjoy the inside dope on movies like "The Godfather" and "Rosemary's Baby," while detractors will zero in on his unsavory spell as a drug abuser. The overall effect is too self-worshiping to be of lasting interest. The guy sure isn't shy!
Staff *** Stylish, lucid, over-produced
Sex/Nudity: 5 instances innuendo. Violence: 5 clips of murders from other films. Profanity: 27 harsh expressions. Drugs: 27 scenes with smoking, drinking, or cocaine use.
Director: Charles Herman-Wurmfeld. With Heather Juergensen, Jennifer Westfeldt, Tovah Feldshuh. (96 min)
Sterritt *** Itching for affection but disillusioned with the men she meets, a young woman decides to explore what being gay is like, choosing a partner who's not entirely sure what she wants in life, either. While this slightly edgy comedy has moments of offbeat charm, it would carry more conviction if the acting were richer and the characters focused on more sophisticated attitudes and ambitions.
Staff ** Sympathetic, boring, predictable.
Sex/Nudity: 17 instances innuendo, implied sex. Violence: None. Profanity: About 21 strong expressions. Drugs: 19 scenes of smoking, drinking.
Directors: David Levien, Brian Koppelman. With John Malkovich, Dennis Hopper, Vin Diesel. (92 min.)
Sterritt * A group of young Brooklyn thugs invade a small Montana town to retrieve a satchel of illicit cash they've lost there, coming to blows with various locals including a sheriff who's as corrupt as they are. The story is a string of sub-Scorsese clichés, and if engaging actors like Malkovich and Hopper seem to be sleepwalking through their roles, imagine how unwatchable Diesel manages to be.
Director: Arnon Goldfinger. With Mike Burstyn, Lillian Lux, Susan Burstein-Roth, Fyvush Finkel. (85 min.)
Sterritt *** An amiable documentary journey through the unique culture of Yiddish theater, as experienced by old-time stage star Pesach'ke Burstein and members of his family. The movie is more a family album than a historical study, but you'll learn a lot and your toe will tap, tap, tap. In English, Yiddish, and Hebrew with English subtitles.
Director: Eric Rohmer. With Lucy Russell, Jean-Claude Dreyfus, François Marthouret. (129 min.)
Sterritt **** A courtly account of the skittish friendship between an Englishwoman living in France during the French Revolution and a curmudgeonly French aristocrat who confronts his tumultuous age with an unsteady set of divided loyalties. Rohmer shot the movie with digital video, lending a sense of exquisitely crafted artifice that enhances the tale's historical atmosphere. It's deliciously acted, too. In French with English subtitles.
Director: Ashutosh Gowariker. With Aamir Khan, Gracy Singh, Rachel Shelley. (225 min.)
Staff ***1/2 In 1893 India, villagers protest the doubling of their annual grain tax (lagaan). The British captain strikes a wager: Beat the officers' cricket team, and no lagaan for three years, or lose and pay triple. All seems hopeless until the captain's independent-minded sister offers to teach them the game. This simple plot is the premise for a sumptuous feast of sight and sound, with comedy, a love story, and deftly integrated song and dance. It's the most expensive Indian film ever, and it looks it. Hooray for Bollywood! By M.K. Terrell
Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: 8 scenes, including tussles. Profanity: 8 expressions. Drugs: At least 3 scenes with drinking, smoking.
Director: Stanley Kwan. With Liu Ye, Jun Hu, Jin Su, Li Huatong. (86 min.)
Sterritt ** An architecture student moves to Beijing and becomes sexually involved with a high-powered businessman, with results that change both men's lives. This well-directed Hong Kong drama is at its best when it captures the casual affection that grows between the main characters. The screenplay by Jimmy Ngai is based on an anonymously written Internet novel. In Mandarin with English subtitles.
Director: David Jones. With Jeremy Irons, Judi Dench, Margaret Whiting. (105 min.)
Sterritt **** It took 24 years for this 1978 drama to reach its theatrical première, which is scandalous, since it's a first-rate achievement. Irons plays a self-centered German working on a scholarly thesis in the countryside near Dublin, and Dench plays a down-to-earth Irishwoman who becomes his ill-suited lover.
Director: Ray Lawrence. With Anthony LaPaglia, Geoffrey Rush. (110 min.)
Sterritt *** A grieving mother, an adulterous police officer, and the hunt for a missing person are among the ingredients of this detective thriller, which explores the insecurities of four married couples. While the movie is well acted, its story and style are too self-consciously clever to build a high degree of emotional power.
Staff *** Heart-rending, intense, well-acted.
Sex/Nudity: 4 scenes of implied sex; 4 scenes with innuendo. Violence: 4 scenes. Profanity: At least 40 expressions. Drugs: 8 scenes with alcohol, 11 scenes with smoking; 1 with illegal drugs.
Director: Mirra Bank. With Maurice Sendak, Pilobolus Dance Theatre. (84 min.)
Sterritt *** Documentary about the collaboration between children's-book author Sendak and the Pilobolus dance troupe to create "A Selection," an internationally successful dance dealing with Holocaust themes. The film is hardly a blistering look behind the scenes, but it gives a more balanced account of the creative process - including disagreement - than most arts-related movies of its ilk.
Sex/Nudity: 7 instances, including full nudity. Violence: 2 instances. Profanity: 10 expressions. Drugs: None.
Director: Gabriele Muccino. With Stefano Accorsi, Giovanna Mezzogiorno, Stefania Sandrelli. (115 min.)
Staff *** A couple's announcement that they're expecting their first child seems to trigger an upheaval in the lives of family and friends. Beneath a farcical surface is a serious exploration of commitment and fidelity, along with a tip of the hat to the great Italian cinematic tradition. By M.K. Terrell
Sex/Nudity: 3 instances innuendo. 3 sex scenes with seminudity. Violence: 4 scenes, including a tussle. Profanity: 29 strong expressions. Drugs: 20 scenes of drinking, smoking, and drug use.
Director: Fred Schepisi. With Tom Courtenay, Helen Mirren, Michael Caine, David Hemmings. (109 min.)
Sterritt ** After the death of their closest chum, four old friends go for a long drive to dispose of his ashes by the seaside, reminiscing about the past in flashbacks that gradually reveal the complex ways in which their lives have crisscrossed over the years. Good performances by a distinguished cast don't overcome the weaknesses of the predictable screenplay.
Staff *** Brilliant, contemplative, superbly cast.
Sex/Nudity: 4 scenes including implied sex and some nudity. Violence: 4, including war scenes and a fistfight. Profanity: At least 12 expressions. Drugs: 20 scenes with smoking and drinking.
Director: Dover Kosashvili. With Lior Ashkenazi, Ronit Elkabetz, Moni Moshonov. (100 min.)
Sterritt **** After an unpromising start, this unpredictable comedy-drama becomes a dazzlingly funny-sad account of a man's attempt to avoid an arranged marriage despite his family's insistence on keeping traditions alive in the Republic of Georgia. The acting is superb, the filmmaking is imaginative, and the story never goes where you expect. In Georgian, Hebrew with English subtitles.
Director: Olivier Assayas. With Emmanuelle Béart, Charles Berling, Isabelle Huppert. (180 min.)
Sterritt ** A well-to-do Protestant clergyman falls in love with a younger woman, complicating his passage through the World War I era and subsequent years of changing social conditions. Assayas has made more exciting films, and this drama is longer and more leisurely than it needs to be. It's very elegant, though, with strong acting by a distinguished cast. In French with English subtitles.
Sex/Nudity: 1 sex scene, 1 brief nudity, 1 implied sex scene, 3 instances innuendo. Violence: 1 violent scene. Profanity: 1 expression. Drugs: 16 scenes of tobacco and alcohol.
Director: Stephen Herek. With Angelina Jolie, Edward Burns, Stockard Channing. (103 min.)
Sterritt ** An ambitious TV newswoman takes a fresh look at life and love after a sidewalk psychic tells her she has a week to live. This slickly produced romantic comedy takes its creaky premise down the most predictable, sentimental pathways it can find. If the heroine really had seven days left, she wouldn't waste it watching stuff like this.
Sex/Nudity: 9 instances, including innuendo and 2 scenes implied sex. Violence: 1 shooting scene. Profanity: 13 expressions. Drugs: 13 scenes with drinking and smoking.
Director: John Schultz. With Bow Wow, Morris Chestnut, Jonathan Lipnicki. (100 min.)
Staff **1/2 Some may see this as a feature-length commercial for the NBA. They'd be right. But it's also a good-hearted fairy tale about finding a family and your dreams. An orphan (Bow Wow) discovers a pair of magic sneakers that make him a basketball phenomenon. But what he wants even more is a home. By Gregory M. Lamb
Sex/Nudity: A few instances innuendo. Violence: 10 instances, including fistfights and rough basketball play. Profanity: A few harsh expressions. Drugs: 1 scene with drinking.
Directors: Chris Sanders, Dean DeBlois. With voices of Daveigh Chase. (85 min.)
Sterritt *** Lilo is a bratty Hawaiian girl whose dysfunctional family gets worse - and then predictably heals - after she befriends Stitch, a bratty genetic experiment who travels to Earth from a distant planet. Kids will love the fantasy and adventure of this cleverly written animation, and grownups will appreciate its whimsical humor. All this plus six Elvis Presley songs on the soundtrack!
Staff **1/2 Chaotic, adventurous, endearing.
Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: 15 scenes with cartoonish violence. Profanity: None. Drugs: 1 scene of drinking.
Director: Blair Treu. With Evan Rachel Wood, Michael Angarano, Vivica A. Fox. (100 min.)
Sterritt ** Emily is a gifted and disciplined adolescent who may succeed as a budding violinist if she doesn't get distracted by the new boy in her neighborhood, and if she can come to terms with an innocent secret she carries bottled up inside her. This easygoing comedy-drama is gentle and wholesome, if not very realistic or convincing in the long run.
Director: Peter Jackson. With Elijah Wood, Liv Tyler, Ian McKellen, Christopher Lee. (179 min.)
Sterritt ** Frodo and Sam head for the dark land of Mordor to destroy the ring of power before evil Sauron can use it to enslave Middle Earth forever. The second installment in Jackson's trilogy of J.R.R. Tolkien's marvelous novels is more effective than "The Fellowship of the Ring" partly because it isn't weighed down with plodding exposition. But its greatest asset is Gollum, almost as creepy on the screen as he was in Tolkien's pages.
Director: Nicole Holofcener. With Catherine Keener, Brenda Blethyn, Jake Gyllenhaal, Emily Mortimer. (89 min.)
Sterritt *** Two sisters cope with personal problems while fretting over the latest whims of their eccentric mother and the insecurities of the African-American preteen she adopted. Holofcener makes good on the promise she showed in her 1996 comedy "Walking and Talking," neatly balancing humor and poignancy while eliciting splendid performances from her gifted cast.
Staff *** Fresh, engaging, well-paced.
Sex/Nudity: 2 scenes with full nudity. 3 scenes with allusions to sex but nothing graphic. Violence: None. Profanity: 26 strong expressions. Drugs: At least 5 instances smoking and drinking.
Director: Vicente Aranda. With Pilar Lopez de Ayala, Danielle Liotti. (120 min.)
Staff ***1/2 Juana "the Mad," daughter of Isabella and Ferdinand, succeeded her mother to the throne in 1504. But her insanity kept her from ruling, and she spent 47 years in a remote castle. This lavish telling of the story suggests that Juana wasn't mad - just desperately in love with her unfaithful husband - but that medieval minds weren't ready for her Renaissance behavior. By M.K. Terrell
Sex/Nudity: 12 instances innuendo and implied sex, including full nudity. Violence: 3 scenes. Profanity: 2 expressions. Drugs: 3 scenes of drinking.
Director: Denis Villeneuve. With Marie-Josée Croze, Jean-Nicolas Verreault, Stephanie Morgenstern. (86 min.)
Sterritt *** Bibiane is a French-Canadian woman whose comfortable life goes sour while she's still shy of 30. Things get bleakest when she runs down a stranger with her car; hope returns when she meets his grieving son, who likes her but could turn against her if he discovers her ties to his late father. This eccentric melodrama would be more effective if it didn't have so many self-conscious directorial touches. In French with English subtitles.
Director: Wayne Wang. With Jennifer Lopez, Ralph Fiennes, Stanley Tucci, Bob Hoskins. (105 min.)
Sterritt ** Lopez plays the title character, a single mom who cleans hotel rooms while dreaming of a better life she doesn't think she'll really achieve, and Fiennes plays the handsome politico who sweeps her into his arms. The stars of this toned-down "Pretty Woman" clone don't exude much romantic chemistry, but Wang moves the action along smoothly and has the good sense to make Manhattan itself one of the most prominent attractions.
Sex/Nudity: 1 scene of implied sex; some innuendo. Profanity: 12 expressions. Violence: 1 mild scene.
Director: George Hickenlooper. With Andy Garcia, Julianna Margulies, James Coburn, Mick Jagger. (106 min.)
Staff *** Desperate to find a way to support his family, struggling novelist Byron Tiller (Garcia) accepts employment from a well-tailored stranger (Jagger). When Byron's wife learns that the source of the family's newfound prosperity is the Elysian Fields escort service, she leaves him. Through this sad experience, Byron finds his voice as a writer, along with hope and redemption. By M.K. Terrell
Sex/Nudity: 13 scenes innuendo, implied sex. Violence: 2 mild scenes. Profanity: 20 strong expressions. Drugs: At least 12 scenes of drinking, smoking.
Director: Christophe de Ponfilly. With Ahmed Shah Massoud, de Ponfilly. (90 min.)
Sterritt **** This documentary about an Afghan resistance leader who struggled against the Taliban despite crushing odds led de Ponfilly to look more deeply at his own fascination with brutal warfare in far-flung places. The movie doesn't reach any deep insights, but its mixture of psychology, philosophy, and realpolitik is downright riveting. In French and Pashtu with English subtitles.
Director: Perry Andelin Blake. With Dana Carvey, Jennifer Esposito. (80 min.)
Staff **1/2 Pistachio Disguisey (Carvey) doesn't realize he's heir to a lineage of disguise masters because his father opted out and opened an Italian restaurant. An old enemy kidnaps mom and dad, and Pistachio's long-lost grandpa shows up to teach him the disguise trade to rescue them. None of it makes sense, especially Pistachio's ability to mimic any dialect but standard US English. By M.K. Terrell
Sex/Nudity: 1 instance of innuendo. Violence: 15 scenes, including slapping. Profanity: 1 mild expression. Drugs: 5 scenes of drinking and smoking.
Director: Menno Meyjes. With John Cusack, Noah Taylor, Leelee Sobieski, Molly Parker. (106 min)
Sterritt **** After World War I, a Jewish art dealer in Munich befriends an aspiring painter named Adolf Hitler, thinking he can distract the young man from his crazy political ideas by encouraging his creative instincts. This moodily filmed drama traces the roots of German fascism not only to the demented notions of the Nazi Party but to German culture in the early 20th century. It also reveals a key aspect of fascism's cynical use of art and architecture to mesmerize a weak and vulnerable society.
Director: Barry Sonnenfeld. With Will Smith, Tommy Lee Jones, Lara Flynn Boyle, Tony Shalhoub. (88 min.)
Sterritt ** Agent J needs Agent K to help him combat Serleena, a Victoria's Secret model who's really an insidious alien; but K has lost all memory of his top-secret career, and the high-tech gizmo they need to retrieve it is in the hands of a guy who's weird even by MIB standards. That's just the starting point of this moderately amusing sequel, which is best when it relies on dead-pan acting by the stars, worst when it drags in summer-movie stupidities like an incessantly talking dog.
Staff ** Nutty, obvious jokes, OK sequel.
Sex/Nudity: 7 instances, mostly innuendo. Violence: 11, including fighting. Profanity: 17 mild expressions. Drugs: 3 scenes with drinking and smoking
Director: Fritz Lang. With Gustav Fröhlich, Brigitte Helm, Alfred Abel, Rudolf Klein-Rogge. (120 min.)
Sterritt **** Lang's science-fiction classic was shortened by its distributors after its 1927 première, and this restoration is probably the closest we'll ever come to the original 153-minute version. The movie packs a visual wallop with its portrait of a future world that breeds hatred among oppressed workers, self-centered leaders, and a bizarre scientist whose newest invention - a seductive robot - sparks catastrophe.
Director: Steven Spielberg. With Tom Cruise, Samantha Morton, Colin Farrell, Max von Sydow. (145 min.)
Sterritt *** The year is 2054, when clairvoyant "precogs" enable police to arrest murderers before they kill. Cruise plays a dedicated cop who's accused as the would-be killer of someone he's never heard of. Most of the movie is clever, imaginative, and savvy in its questions about social anxiety and government power. Too bad Spielberg also indulges the kiddie side of his talent, cooking up a silly chase sequence that only video-game nuts will be able to watch without wincing.
Staff ***1/2 Timely, politically relevant, future-noir, well-paced.
Sex/Nudity: 4 scenes with sex, 2 with innuendo. Violence: 20 (often extended) scenes. Profanity: 3 harsh words. Drugs: 3 scenes with alcohol. 1 with smoking and 8 with drug use.
Director: Mira Nair. With Naseeruddin Shah, Roshan Seth, Lillete Dubey. (111 min.)
Sterritt *** Celebrants gather in New Delhi for the Punjabi wedding of a bride who's not sure she's ready for matrimony. Despite its entertaining trappings, this is a thoughtful story, touching on sensitive issues of sexuality and child abuse. Nair hasn't lost her eye for revealing details of personality, behavior, and environment. In English, Hindi, and Punjabi with English subtitles.
Staff ***1/2Vital, zesty, mix of comedy, drama.
Sex/Nudity: 10 scenes, mostly innuendo and kissing. A few scenes of implied child abuse. Violence: None. Profanity: About 12 expressions. Drugs: At least 8 scenes of drinking and smoking.
Director: Brad Silberling. With Dustin Hoffman, Susan Sarandon, Jake Gyllenhaal, Holly Hunter. (112 min.)
Sterritt * After his fiancée is tragically killed, a young man moves into her parents' home, where he gets caught between the conflicting goals of pleasing needy friends or being true to his own desires. This fuzzy-minded drama fails to build much emotional power. What's a superstar like Hoffman doing in a meandering soap opera like this?
Staff *** Hopeful, well paced, detailed, poignant.
Sex/Nudity: 3 instances, mostly innuendo. 1 implied sex scene. Violence: 1 discussion of murder. Profanity: 67, with some strong expressions. Drugs: 14 scenes of drinking and smoking.
Director: Lynne Ramsay. With Samantha Morton, Kathleen McDermott, Dan Cadan, Carolyn Calder. (97 min.)
Sterritt *** After the suicide of her boyfriend, who was an aspiring novelist, a working-class woman takes a spur-of-the-moment vacation with a pal, hoping for newfound wealth if she can pass her lover's unpublished manuscript off as her own. Morton acts up a storm, and Ramsay continues her rise as England's hottest young female filmmaker.
Director: Sandra Nettelbeck. With Martina Gedeck, Sergio Castellitto. (107 min.)
Staff ***1/2 Martha is a perfectionist chef in Hamburg who can't quite cope when her 8-year-old niece comes to live with her. There's no recipe for raising Lina, but slowly Martha finds a new rhythm - especially when she gets over feeling threatened by a free-spirited chef who joins the staff at her restaurant. Not to be seen on an empty stomach, this beautiful film is equal parts drama and humor, seasoned with a hint of romance. By Stacy A. Teicher
Sex/Nudity: 1 instance of innuendo. Violence: 1 scene with slapping. Profanity: 5 mild expressions. Drugs: 3 smoking scenes. 9 scenes with drinking or cooking with alcohol.
Director: Mark Pellington. With Richard Gere, Laura Linney, Will Patton, Alan Bates. (120 min.)
Sterritt ** After his wife's death in a mysterious car accident, a Washington reporter finds himself stranded in a small town plagued by enigmatic incidents and weird visions of catastrophes to come. The first third of this overambitious horror yarn builds an ominous mood of menace and suspense; the rest is drained of dramatic energy by uneven acting and a too-long running time. Gere shows an impressive ability to undergo emotional ordeals without mussing his neatly combed hair.
Staff ** Unsatisfying thriller, creepy, plot drags.
Sex/Nudity: 2 scenes of implied sex, 1 innuendo. Violence: 5 scenes. Profanity: 8 mild expressions. Drugs: 3 scenes with drinking.
Director: Steven Brill. With Adam Sandler, Winona Ryder, John Turturro. (91 min.)
Staff * No matter what name Adam Sandler assumes, he's the same persona in every movie: the ultimate village idiot savant. In this remake of Frank Capra's "Mr. Deeds Goes to Town," he plays a simpleton from Vermont who's whisked to New York to collect a $40 billion inheritance. Deeds finds himself attended by more butlers than you could cram into Gosford Park. But nefarious interests are sniffing around. Though the film has a "wealth doesn't equal happiness" message, it's clear filmmakers put more thought into product placement than storytelling. By Stephen Humphries
Staff ** Silly, uninspired, dumb.
Sex/Nudity: Some innuendo. Violence: 5 scenes of comic violence. Profanity: 22 expressions. Drugs: 14 scenes of drinking, smoking.
Director: Michael Rubbo. With Rubbo, Mark Rylance, John Michell. (93 min.)
Sterritt *** And you thought William Shakespeare wrote his own plays? This entertaining documentary makes a lively argument that his works - even sonnets - were penned by Christopher Marlowe, who allegedly faked his own murder at age 29 and high-tailed it for Italy, smuggling his plays back to England under an assumed moniker. All right, it's a far-fetched theory. But it's fun to think about, and Rubbo's collection of quibbling scholars provides a colorful account. Will the real Bard of Avon please stand up?
Director: Stephen Earnhart. With Beanie Andrew, Annabelle Lea Usher, Larry Parrot, Ricky Lix. (93 min.)
Sterritt *** Earnhart met the residents of a rural trailer park in Florida while shooting a music video, and stayed to make this documentary about a handful of would-be filmmakers who create a home-grown horror flick starring themselves. The result is as deliciously eccentric as the characters it chronicles.
Director: Barbet Schroeder. With Sandra Bullock, Ryan Gosling, Michael Pitt, Ben Chaplin.
Staff ** Bullock stars as a wise-cracking investigator whose own dark past is a mystery. She quickly figures out who committed a horrifying crime, but can she prove it? Gosling and Pitt shine as her troubled-teen suspects, and Chaplin is fine as a low-key partner and potential love interest. A must-see only for Bullock fans. By Gregory M. Lamb
Sex/Nudity: 2 sex scenes (unseen). Violence: 16 scenes, including some with severed body parts. Profanity: 33 expressions. Drugs: At least 16 scenes with alcohol and smoking.
Director: Joel Zwick. With Nia Vardalos, John Corbett, Michael Constantine. (95 min.)
Sterritt * An ugly duckling gets a makeover, goes to college, and snares the man of her dreams even though he's not Greek enough to please her parents. The title could have been "My Big Fat _____ Wedding," since the screenplay is a string of stereotypes and clichés that have worn out their welcome in comedies about Italians and Jews, and will surely be recycled in by-the-numbers farces about other ethnic groups in years to come.
Staff *** Hilarious, light, family fun.
Sex/Nudity: 12 scenes, including a few with implied sex. Violence: 5 mild scenes. Profanity: 7 expressions. Drugs: About 22 scenes with alcohol.
Director: Yvan Attal. With Charlotte Gainsbourg, Terence Stamp, Yvan Attal, Lionel Abelanski. (93 min.)
Staff ***1/2 A happy heart is the first casualty when a man's affection for his movie-star wife is bedeviled by pangs of jealousy for her role in an arousing screenplay. This humorous French film is exquisite, handling the drama of a suffering marriage with delicacies of character that save the plot from being yet another formulaic lechery-fest. By Aaron Bingham
Sex/Nudity: 6 scenes, including sex, nudity. Violence: 2 instances. Profanity: 23 harsh expressions. Drugs: 20 scenes with drinking and smoking.
Director: Ismail Merchant. With Aasif Mandvi, Om Puri, Ayesha Dharker, Zohra Segal. (117 min.)
Sterritt **** A little knowledge can be a wonderful thing, or so it seems to the hero of this delightful comedy-drama. He's an Indian man living in Trinidad, where his smattering of book learning brings him enough local prestige to become first a masseur and healer, then a small-time writer, and then an aspiring politician - though each step up the ladder of success doesn't necessarily bring more of the personal happiness he's in search of.
Sex/Nudity: 1 instance of innuendo. Violence: 1 mild scene. Profanity: 11 expressions. Drugs: At least 8 scenes with smoking or drinking.
Director: Joe Carnahan. With Jason Patric, Ray Liotta, Chi McBride, Busta Rhymes. (105 min)
Sterritt * A young cop with a bad career history (Patric) rejoins the force, teaming with a violence-prone colleague (Liotta) who's under investigation for a long list of abuses. The movie is designed to show off Liotta's acting skills, but pointless mayhem and sheer nastiness crowd out any virtues it might have had.
Director: Walt Becker. With Ryan Reynolds, Tara Reid, Kal Penn. (95 min.)
Staff * Van loves being big man on campus so much he's been an undergraduate for nearly seven years. Truth is, he's afraid to try his people skills in the real world. What shakes him out of it is a serious-minded journalism major trying to crown her college career with a story on him. What could've been an off-the-wall comedy collapses under its own excesses as these two hatch obscene revenge plots against her vacuous boyfriend. By M.K. Terrell
Sex/Nudity: 48 instances of innuendo and implied sex. Violence: 5 instances. Profanity: About 30 harsh expressions. Drugs: 13 scenes with drinking and smoking, including 1 instance of drug use.
Director: Godfrey Reggio. (89 min.)
Sterritt **** All three parts of Reggio's adventurous "qatsi" trilogy 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.
Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: 14 scenes, including police clubbing people, nuclear explosions. Profanity: None. Drugs: 1 scene of smoking.
Director: Edward Decter. With D.J. Qualls, Lyle Lovett, Eddie Griffin, Eliza Dushku. (100 min.)
Staff *1/2 Dizzy Gillespie Harrison (Qualls) is a high school senior who stretches the boundaries of geekiness, until a convict teaches him you don't need a magic wand, a spider bite to be cool - you just need an attitude. His newfound charisma inspires a whole school to greatness. Now all he needs is a little humility. An earnest young cast brings welcome freshness, but rationality and cohesiveness skipped class. By M.K. Terrell
Sex/Nudity: 6 instances, mostly innuendo. Violence: 12 scenes with violence. Profanity: 44 harsh expressions. Drugs: 1 scene with alcohol.
Director: Douglas McGrath. With Charlie Hunnam, Anne Hathaway, Jim Broadbent. (133 min)
Sterritt *** Large-scale adaptation of Charles Dickens's novel about a young man who encounters a motley list of friends and foes while trying to rescue his family from poverty. Some portions of the film are a Dickensian delight, especially when Broadbent's slimy Squeers and Tom Courtenay's good-natured Noggs are on the screen. But Hunnam isn't up to the title role. It's an uneven film, but Dickens admirers shouldn't miss it.
Director: Fabián Bielinsky. With Gastón Pauls, Ricardo Darin, Leticia Brédice. (115 min.)
Sterritt *** The nine queens are a set of artfully forged postage stamps that draw a couple of petty swindlers into a money-making scheme that may prove far too tricky for them to successfully pull off. This cleverly structured Argentine heist movie isn't as original as it tries to be, but it's fun watching the chicanery veer down one unexpected pathway after another. In Spanish with English subtitles.
Sex/Nudity: 6 scenes of implied sex, innuendo. Violence: 5 scenes, including fights. Profanity: 108 expressions. Drugs: 17 scenes of drinking, smoking.
Director: Hal Hartley. With Sarah Polley, Robert John Burke, Helen Mirren, Julie Christie. (106 min.)
Sterritt ** Following the trail of a missing news team, a journalist (Polley) meets an Icelandic monster who passes the hours of his endless life by cursing fate and killing any human who crosses his path. Like some movie creatures of the past, this odd villain is baffled and enraged by his inability to live comfortably in the world, and the movie gains poetic power through Hartley's view of him as a kind of tragic hero, worthy of pity as well as fear.
Sex/Nudity: 3 instances innuendo and implied sex. Violence: 12 scenes, some with torture. Profanity: 24 strong expressions. Drugs: 28 scenes with smoking and drinking.
Director: Lorene Machado. With Margaret Cho. (95 min.)
Staff **1/2 This follow-up to Margaret Cho's one-woman concert "I'm the One That I Want," which chronicled a Hollywood experience that nearly killed her with drugs and dieting, is more upbeat. Cho's "be yourself" humor points out the absurdity of sexual politics, especially among gays and lesbians. Charmingly, in "Notorious" she gives her Korean parents - often the butt of her jokes - screen time to defend themselves. By M.K. Terrell
Sex/Nudity: 25 instances innuendo. 4 instances gestures, implied sex. Violence: 1 instance. Profanity: 105 expressions, many harsh. Drugs: None.
Director: Mark Romanek. With Robin Williams, Connie Nielsen. (98 min.)
Sterritt ** Williams plays a seemingly bland photo clerk who's become dangerously obsessed with a local family whose pictures he's been processing for years. Williams's acting is as chilling as it is restrained, but Romanek's directing damps down the drama's psychological impact, making it look as two-dimensional as the snapshots that run through the photo man's finely calibrated machines.
Staff ** Twisted, unnecessarily violent, vacuous.
Sex/Nudity: 6 instances, including innuendo, photos of sex, graphic sex scene. Violence: 3 instances, 1 graphic. Profanity: 17 strong expressions. Drugs: 2 scenes with alcohol.
Director: Jake Kasdan. With Colin Hanks, Jack Black, Lily Tomlin, Schuyler Fisk. (81 min.)
Staff ** Hanks and Fisk make a charming couple in this tale of a class president fighting to get into Stanford after his school sends the wrong grades. Kevin Kline, Ben Stiller, Chevy Chase, and others in minor parts lend support. Unfortunately, the material doesn't. The filmmakers can't decide if they're making a teen romance, a wry look at suburbia, or a broad farce. By M.K. Terrell
Sex/Nudity: 11 scenes, mostly innuendo. Violence: 3 scenes. Profanity: 18 expressions. Drugs: At least 15 scenes of drinking, smoking and drug use.
Director: Mitch Davis. With Christopher Gorham, Anne Hathaway, Joe Folau, Miriama Smith, Nathaniel Lees.
Staff *** Based on the true story of a young American who travels to the exotic island of Rarotonga to become a missionary in the 1950s, the film carries a simple, yet meaningful message about God's healing power and how it can bring people together. By Lisa Leigh Connors
Sex/Nudity: 1 implied sex scene. Violence: 5 scenes. Profanity: None. Drugs: 2 with smoking, 2 drinking.
Director: Charles Stone III. With Wood Harris, Mekhi Phifer, Kevin Carroll, Esai Morales. (93 min.)
Staff *** Ace (Harris) is unhappy behind the counter of his uncle's dry-cleaning business, but holds out against friends' enticements to deal drugs with them. Finally, the lure of fancy cars and promise of a better life are too great, and he succumbs. The story, based on real-life dealer A.Z. Alpo, barely touches on drug users, concentrating rather on the trade's devastating effect on the pushers themselves. By M.K. Terrell
Sex/Nudity: 3 instances of innuendo, sex. Violence: 17 scenes, including beating, shootings. Profanity: 212 expressions. Drugs: 27 instances of smoking, drinking, and drug use.
Director: David Fincher. With Jodie Foster, Forest Whitaker. (110 min.)
Sterritt ** A woman and her daughter scurry to a bunkerlike sanctum when crooks invade their Manhattan home to steal a fortune that happens to be locked away in the panic room itself. This minimalist thriller relies on hyperactive camera movements to juice up any scene where the acting sags. There are many, since the screenplay isn't nearly clever enough to sustain a reasonable degree of suspense.
Staff **1/2Nail-biter, intense.
Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: 9 instances, some quite violent. Profanity: 60 harsh expressions. Drugs: 6 scenes with drinking, smoking, illegal drugs.
Director: Lieven Debrauwer. With Dora Van Der Groen, Ann Petersen, Rosemarie Berghmans. (78 min.)
Sterritt *** Three aging Belgian women face big decisions when the care of a mentally backward sister falls into their hands. Debrauwer brings crisp conviction to what might have been an overly sentimental tale, filming it with a good-natured sincerity that rings consistently true. In Flemish and French with English subtitles.
Director: Rebecca Miller. With Kyra Sedgwick, Parker Posey, Fairuza Balk, Leo Fitzpatrick. (85 min.)
Sterritt **** This movie looks at three separate tales of troubled young women: one on the run from an abusive husband, one sorting through mixed emotions as her professional fortunes rise, and one a pregnant runaway with a horrific past. The episodes don't give as much insight into their subjects as one would hope, but Miller shows talent as a director with a sharp eye for images, a keen ear for dialogue, and a refreshing willingness to take risks.
Sex/Nudity: 8 scenes, including implied sex and innuendo. Violence: 9 scenes, including fights. Profanity: 18 harsh expressions. Drugs: 13 scenes of drinking, smoking.
Director: Roman Polanski. With Adrien Brody, Maureen Lipman, Frank Finlay, Emilia Fox. (148 min)
Sterritt *** Fact-based drama about the experiences of concert pianist Wladislaw Szpilman in Warsaw after Germany's defeat of Poland in 1939, where he survived in hiding as Nazis occupied the city. Polanski has personal links with Polish suffering in the Nazi era, and his movie has a sense of emotional urgency and deep-dwelling grief.
Director: Michael Haneke. With Isabelle Huppert, Benoit Magimel, Annie Girardot. (130 min.)
Sterritt *** Huppert is brilliant as a music teacher whose obsessively respectable life masks deeper, darker desires that break through the surface when she becomes fixated on a man she's just met, disrupting the orderly existence she shares with her demanding mother and sparking self-destructive actions that build to the story's bleak conclusion. Its grimness is explicit, so approach it with caution.
Director: Neil LaBute. With Gwyneth Paltrow, Aaron Eckhart, Jennifer Ehle, Jeremy Northam. (102 min.)
Sterritt * Two scholars (Paltrow, Eckhart) unearth a long-ago love affair between two Victorian poets whose strait-laced morality supposedly ruled out illicit adventures like this. LaBute's adaptation of A.S. Byatt's novel extracts the bare bones of plot for purposes of bland Hollywood romance, filmed and acted with lots of glamour but precious little depth.
Staff ***1/2 Captivating, elegant, romantic.
Sex/Nudity: 6 instances of innuendo. 2 sex scenes. No nudity. Violence: 2, including a fistfight and implied suicide. Nothing graphic. Profanity: 6 expressions. Drugs: 4 scenes with alcohol.
Director: Craig McCracken. With (voices): Tara Strong, Catherine Cavadini. (87 min.)
Staff *1/2 "Powerpuff Girls," could use a little more power and a lot less puff in its storyline. This film, based on the Cartoon Network series, tells how three kindergarten heroines became protectors of good. Young children, especially girls, will enjoy the lighthearted adventure, but adults may prefer to take several long trips to the snack counter. By Stephanie Cook Broadhurst
Director: Pamela Yates. With Jeff Adachi, Michele Forrar, Will Maas, Lam Choi. (115 min.)
Sterritt *** This engrossing documentary follows a number of cases handled by San Francisco public defenders. Some end happily for the lawyers and defendants; others emphatically don't. The movie's TV-style production values are a little too slick, but the real-life stories are fascinating to watch.
Directors: Justine Shapiro, Carlos Bolado. With B.Z. Goldberg and children of the Jerusalem area. (106 min)
Sterritt ** Filmed over four years, this documentary presents a multifaceted portrait of seven children, Palestinian and Israeli, growing up with strikingly different worldviews despite their physical proximity to one another. In English and Arabic with English subtitles.
Staff **** Enlightening, tender, forthright
Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: None. Profanity: A few expressions. Drugs: At least 1 scene with smoking.
Directors: Anthony Abrams, Adam Larson Broder. With Christina Ricci, Hank Harris, Brenda Blethyn. (113 min.)
Staff ** Alpha Omega Pi sorority, always runner-up as sorority of the year, decides the way to beat the Tri-Omegas is to coach a group of disabled athletes. Ricci, much to her own and everyone's horror, falls in love with her severely challenged protégé. Ricci is always worth watching, but she can't save this satire, which, wades into subject matter too deep for its broadly farcical approach. By M.K. Terrell
Sex/Nudity: 3 implied sex scenes, 3 scenes with innuendo, 1 scene of semi-nudity. Violence: 3 scenes, including a fistfight. Profanity: 22 harsh expressions. Drugs: 5 scenes of drinking and smoking. 1 scene with abuse of household remedies.
Director: Paul Thomas Anderson. With Adam Sandler, Emily Watson, Philip Seymour Hoffman. (95 min.)
Sterritt *** A small-time businessman copes with a nagging family, eludes a con artist, and woos a woman who's as kooky as he is. Anderson's filmmaking is quirky and original, but his biggest creative coup is drawing on submerged aspects of Sandler's usual screen persona - a wounded insecurity, a sense of repression that's almost violent - to give the comedy an edgy undertone that's one of a kind.
Staff *** Quirky, light, original, spicy.
Sex/Nudity: 2, including phone sex. Violence: 9 scenes, including car crash. Profanity: 28 strong expressions. Drugs: 3 drinking scenes.
Director: Michael Rymer. With: Stuart Townsend, Aaliyah. (100 min.)
Staff ** Roused from a 200-year sleep by 21st century rock 'n' roll, Anne Rice's vampire Lestat becomes a rocker himself. His fame brings back his mentor and wakes the mother of all vampires, Queen Akasha (Aaliyah). This one is a failed effort, but the only opportunity to see the late Aaliyah in a starring role. By M.K. Terrell
Sex/Nudity: 3 instances of innuendo. Violence: 14 gory scenes. Profanity: 3 mild expressions. Drugs: 5 scenes, 2 with illegal drugs.
Director: Phillip Noyce. With Michael Caine, Brendan Fraser, Do Thi Hai Yen. (101 min.)
Sterritt **** Caine plays a jaded British journalist covering the French Indochina war in the early '50s. Fraser plays an American who claims to be on a charity mission but is really scheming to help a renegade Vietnamese general gain control. Based on Graham Greene's 1955 novel, this thoughtful drama deals with a host of timely issues including terrorism, international strife, and the use and abuse of American power. Caine and Fraser are superb.
Director: Phillip Noyce. With Kenneth Branagh, David Gulpilil, Everlyn Sampi, Tianna Sansbury. (95 min.)
Sterritt ** A feisty 14-year-old girl rebels against Australia's policy of taking mixed-race children like her away from their parents and putting them in training schools for menial work. She engineers an escape with her young sister and cousin, trekking 1,500 miles in an effort to return home. The fact-based story provides action and suspense, but Noyce makes little effort to capture the inner lives of the girls or the friends and foes they meet.
Sex/Nudity: 2 instances of innuendo. Violence: 4 scenes, including kidnapping. Profanity: None. Drugs: None.
Director: Christine Jeffs. With Alicia Fulford-Wierzbicki, Marton Scokas, Sarah Peirse. (98 min.)
Sterritt *** This is a psychologically charged story of a 13-year-old girl whose adolescence is complicated by sexual tensions linked with her parents' troubled marriage. Jeffs is an unusually gifted director, but her screenplay never quite gets a firm grip or fresh perspective on its coming-of-age subject.
Staff **1/2 Sleepy drama, dark, thoughtful.
Sex/Nudity: 7 scenes, including partial nudity. Violence: 1 scene with drowning. Profanity: None. Drugs: 17 drinking scenes, 10 scenes with smoking.
Director: Jacques Audiard. With Emmanuelle Devos, Vincent Cassel, Olivier Gourmet. (115 min.)
Sterritt ** A young woman with a hearing disorder strikes up an uneasy friendship with a recently released convict who takes a low-level job at the office where she works and then starts slipping back toward crime. The first half is a well-acted psychological drama, but the second half is standard thriller fare. In French with English subtitles.
Sex/Nudity: 3 scenes with innuendo, implied sex, nudity. Violence: 11 scenes, including attempted rape. Profanity: 25 harsh expressions. Drugs: 27 scenes of drinking and smoking.
Director: Patricia Cardoso. With America Ferrera, Lupe Ontiveros, Ingrid Oliu, Brian Sites. (93 min.)
Sterritt ** A young Mexican-American works in her sister's dress factory, spars with her conservative parents, and dreams of going to college over their objections. The story is trite, but the acting is lively and the music is delightful.
Staff *** Thoughtful, involving, triumphant
Sex/Nudity: 4 instances, mostly innuendo. Violence: None. Profanity: 2 strong expressions. Drugs: 1 scene with alcohol.
Director: Brett Ratner. With Anthony Hopkins, Edward Norton, Ralph Fiennes, Emily Watson. (125 min.)
Sterritt *** Hopkins makes his third appearance as Hannibal Lecter, psychiatrist and cannibal, joined by Norton and Keitel as FBI agents tracking down a new serial killer (Fiennes) with Lecter's grudging help. The story is a rehash of "The Silence of the Lambs" featuring Norton in the Jodie Foster role, with solid acting and hardly a special effect in sight.
Staff **1/2Good thriller, better than "Hannibal," disturbing.
Sex/Nudity: 4 scenes with nudity. 1 scene with implied sex. Violence: 14 scenes, some graphic. Profanity: 26 expressions. Drugs: 4 scenes of drinking; 2 with smoking.
Director: Rob Bowman. Starring Christian Bale, Matthew McConaughey, Izabella Scorupco. (100 min.)
Staff ** How do you reinvent the monster movie? How about casting a mythological creature that is as much a part of biblical lore as ancient Chinese culture: the dragon. Here, hibernating dragons reawaken and, by 2020, have reduced mankind to little bands of feudal refugees. When one such group in England meets a group of US soldiers, they join forces to vanquish the beasts. Result? Ridiculous macho posturing, as McConaughey's soldier chews more scenery than even the toothiest of the dragons. By Stephen Humphries
Director: Paul Anderson. With Milla Jovovich, Eric Mabius. (100 min.)
Staff ** When a nasty virus is released in a secret lab, the compound's artificially intelligent security system locks everyone in and kills them. But the afflicted don't stay dead long - they turn into zombies on a quest to seize control of the world. It's up to a group of government commandos to stop them. Heroine Jovovich is the only thing that really shines in this film. By Alex Kaloostian
Sex/Nudity: 6 instances, including seminudity. Violence: 20 scenes with violence. Profanity: 15 harsh expressions. Drugs: None.
Director: Robin Budd. With voices of Harriet Owen, Blayne Weaver, Corey Burton, Jeff Bennett. (72 min.)
Sterritt *** It's taken Walt Disney Pictures almost half a century to follow up "Peter Pan," but fans of the 1953 animated classic will find many familiar faces in this belated sequel, which follows Wendy's daughter on her adventure with wicked Captain Hook, magical Tinkerbell, the pirates and Lost Boys, and Peter himself. The story lacks the freshness of the original film and the J.M. Barrie novel that inspired it - and whose idea was it to replace the ominously ticking crocodile with a funny-looking octopus?
Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: 16 scenes of cartoonish violence. Profanity: None. Drugs: None.
Director: Tim McCann. With Michael Risley, Adrienne Shelley, Spalding Gray. (90 min.)
Sterritt *** Convinced that a TV commercial is invading his mind and body, a New Yorker poses as a reporter to get the facts he needs to strike back, and his girlfriend gets lost in a labyrinth of health-care bureaucracy as she tries to get him treated for the dementia she thinks he suffers from. Although the dramatic and satiric elements of this offbeat movie don't quite mesh with each other, it still gives an adventurous ride through territory few other films have explored.
Director: Gore Verbinski. With Naomi Watts, Martin Henderson, Brian Cox. (109 min.)
Staff ***1/2 Rachel, a reporter for a Seattle paper, is asked to investigate the deaths of four teens, who all died seven days after supposedly watching a haunted video tape. Soon, her own family is in danger, and she must solve the mystery before the tape's visions overcome her. This is one of the most intelligent and genuinely scary ghost stories to come around in a long time. By Alex Kaloostian
Sex/Nudity: 1 instance of innuendo. Violence: 12 instances, some quite violent, including killings. Profanity: 9 harsh expressions. Drugs: At least 3 scenes with drinking, smoking.
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.
Director: Sam Mendes. With Tom Hanks, Paul Newman, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Jude Law. (119 min.)
Sterritt ** Hanks plays a 1930s hit man seeking revenge against the mobsters who killed his wife and son. Mendes surrounds the slow-moving plot with a lonely, dreary view of middle America in the Depression. The cinematography provides much moody atmosphere, and Law is terrific as an enticingly weird thug; but the plot has huge holes, and it's hard to swallow the notion that we should love an assassin because his heart is full of family values.
Staff ***1/2 Well-acted, dark, visually stunning.
Sex/Nudity: 1 scene. Violence: 16 extremely violent scenes. Profanity: 20 expressions. Drugs: About 20 scenes with drinking and smoking.
Director: Dylan Kidd. With Campbell Scott, Isabella Rossellini, Jesse Eisenberg, Jennifer Beals. (105 min.)
Sterritt **** After getting dumped by his latest girlfriend, a womanizer named Roger and his 16-year-old nephew Nick set off on a quest for 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; so is everyone else.
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.
Director: John McTiernan. With: Chris Klein, Jean Reno, LL Cool J. (99 min.)
Staff *1/2 Jonathan is the best player in the world's most dangerous game, a confusing mix of skates, motorcycles, balls, and fireworks. Even players don't understand it. LL Cool J as Jonathan's buddy and Reno as a franchise owner who'd kill his star to boost ratings, are watchable, but why not just rent the '75 original? By M.K. Terrell
Sex/Nudity: 7 instances, mostly innuendo. Violence: 16 scenes. Profanity: 27 expressions. Drugs: 13 scenes of drinking and smoking.
Director: John Lee Hancock. With Dennis Quaid, Rachel Griffiths, Jay Hernandez. (129 min.)
Staff ***1/2Quaid plays a teacher-turned-Major League Baseball player in this Disney movie based on the true story of Jim Morris. While coaching a losing season of high school baseball, Morris cuts a deal: If his players start winning, he'll try out for the majors. For adults who think G stands for "goofy," Quaid's intense performance will convince them to take this film seriously. By Ben Arnoldy
Staff ***1/2 Home run, avoids clichés, inspiring.
Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: None. Profanity: None. Drugs: 5 scenes with alcohol.
Director: Roger Avary. With James Van Der Beek, Shannyn Sossamon, Faye Dunaway. (110 min.)
Sterritt * Sex and love meet fear and loathing on a college campus in this hyperactive adaptation of Bret Easton Ellis's novel. Most of the characters are one-dimensional, and Avary's over-the-top directing doesn't make them interesting for more than a few isolated moments.
Director: Alexander Sokurov. With Sergey Dreiden, Maria Kuznetsova, Leonid Mozgovoy. (96 min.)
Sterritt **** A time traveler and a 19th-century French aristocrat ponder the vicissitudes of Russian and European history as they wander the corridors and galleries of a monumental Russian palace, witnessing large and small scenes from the country's turbulent past. Filmed in a single 90-minute-plus shot that makes cinema history this sumptuous masterpiece is an unforgettable treat for the eyes, ears, and mind. In Russian with English subtitles.
Director: Benoit Jacquot. With Daniel Auteuil, Isild Le Besco, Grégoire Colin, Marianne Denicourt. (100 min.)
Sterritt ** Imprisoned in an asylum at the height of the French Revolution, the aging Marquis de Sade refines his subversive philosophy, plans his latest theatrical production, and works his seductive wiles on an aristocrat's daughter. Auteuil is a superb actor. Still, the real-life Sade would be dismayed to see himself portrayed more as an eccentric old codger than the world-changing firebrand he worked hard to be. In French with subtitles.
Director: D.J. Caruso. With Val Kilmer, Vincent D'Onofrio Meat Loaf. (103 min.)
Sterritt ** Plot twists proliferate in this gimmicky thriller about a seemingly drug-dazed loser who turns out to be cooler and more calculating than he appears. Full-throttle performances by D'Onofrio and Goldberg provide the most memorable moments. Otherwise the film gets less interesting as it goes along, and Tony Gayton's violence-prone screenplay is sometimes as hard to fathom as the salt-smothered California lake it's named after.
Sex/Nudity: 2 scenes with innuendo, 2 sex scenes. Violence: 14 scenes, including beating and torture. Profanity: 83 strong expressions. Drugs: 30 scenes of drinking, illegal drug use, and smoking.
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 Christmas Eve. 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 of cartoonish violence. Profanity: 1 mild expression. Drugs: 2 mild scenes with alcohol.
Director: Raja Amari. With Hiyam Abbas, Hend El Fahem. (100 min.)
Sterritt *** A single mom adds spice to her life by taking gigs as a nightclub belly dancer and striking up a romance with a younger man, bringing complications to her relationship with her teen daughter. Sincere acting and heartfelt filmmaking add energy to this unassuming Tunisian drama. In Arabic with English subtitles.
Director: Raja Gosnell. With Freddy Prinze Jr., Sarah Michelle Gellar, Matthew Lillard, Linda Cardellini.
Staff *** The wild and droll canine Scooby-Doo and his villain-chasing friends reunite for a spooky adventure in this live-action adaptation of the animated TV series. A theme-park owner calls on the Mystery gang to uncover the reason visitors leave the park as zombies. The story offers enough incentive for adults to stay and kids to watch - so give yourself a Scooby Snack! By Chase Clements (age 13)
Staff *** Fresh, funny, frenzied.
Sex/Nudity: 2 scenes innuendo. Violence: 18 scenes with cartoonish violence. Profanity: 2 instances of mild profanity. Drugs: 2 scenes with drinking.
Director: Chuck Russell. With Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson, Kelly Hu, Michael Clarke Duncan. (90 min.)
Staff **1/2An evil warlord is sweeping across the Near East, and it's up to the last of a long line of assassins to stop him, win the girl, and save Gomorrah (for the time being, of course). Surprisingly, pro wrestler "The Rock" is the best part about the film. By Alex Kaloostian
Sex/Nudity: 6 scenes, including innuendo and implied sex. Violence: 18 scenes, including swordfights. Profanity: 1 mild expression. Drugs: 4 instances of drinking.
Director: Billy Morrissette. With: James LeGros, Maura Tierney, Christopher Walken (97 min.)
Staff ** This reworking of Shakespeare's MacBeth is set in a rural Pennsylvania diner. Joe McBeth, a cook, and his waitress wife, Pat, conspire to eliminate the owner of Duncan's and turn it into a fast-food McDonald's clone. Some creative adaptions to the Bard include Lady McBeth's guilt manifesting as a deep-fat fryer burn that won't heal. Director Morrissette tries too hard to make the dark comedy feel like "Fargo." By Seth Stern
Staff **1/2Quirky, low-budget feel, clever, dark.
Sex/Nudity: 8 instances, 2 with nudity. Violence: 10, including several murders. Profanity: At least 53 expressions, some harsh. Drugs: 41 scenes with smoking, drinking.
Director: Babak Payami. With Nassim Abdi, Cyrus Abidi, Youssef Habashi, Gholbahar Janghali. (105 min.)
Sterritt **** On a remote island in the Persian Gulf, a young woman combs the countryside for people to cast votes in the ballot box she carries with her, accompanied by a grumpy soldier who - like many folks - knows this is all very important but isn't quite certain what elections are for. Payami's gentle comedy captures a subtle range of human feelings through a quietly inventive visual style. In Farsi with English subtitles.
Staff *** Original, touching, minimalist, scenic.
Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: None. Profanity: None. Drugs: None.
Director: Steven Shainberg. With James Spader, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Patrick Bauchau. (111 min.)
Sterritt ** A woman with a self-punishing streak takes a job with a lawyer who spanks her for spelling mistakes. The movie works hard to be naughty, but its sub-David Lynch style doesn't quite click. Gyllenhaal is excellent, and Spader effectively adds to his roster of creepy characters.
Staff *** Sassy, quirky, disturbing.
Sex/Nudity: 12 scenes, including bondage and full nudity. Violence: 14 instances, including self mutilation. Profanity: 7 harsh expressions. Drugs: 5 drinking scenes. 1 with smoking.
Director: Reginald Hudlin. With Matthew Perry, Elizabeth Hurley, Bruce Campbell. (100 min.)
Sterritt * While trying to serve a subpoena on a winsome wife in a divorce case, an ex-lawyer takes her side against the arrogant spouse who dumps her. Perry and Hurley don't have much chemistry, and the story is so dumb you might want to sue it for stupidity.
Sex/Nudity: 6 instances of innuendo. Violence: 10 scenes, including shootings. Profanity: 8 harsh expressions. Drugs: 6 scenes of drinking, smoking.
Director: Julio Medem. With Paz Vega, Tristan Ulloa, Najwa Nimri, Daniel Freire. (128 min.)
Staff **1/2 An obsessive young woman barges into the life of a novelist, giving him motivation to overcome his writer's block. Adding fuel to the fire is his meeting a daughter he didn't know he had and the daughter's sexy nanny. We see his life as it unfolds and as he adapts it in his book. This surrealistic blend of life and fantasy works well most of the way. But beware - the film more than lives up to its title. By M.K. Terrell
Sex/Nudity: 21 scenes, including graphic sex and much nudity. Violence: 5 scenes, including a dog attack. Profanity: 12 harsh expressions. Drugs: At least 9 scenes of smoking and drinking.
Directors: Dana Janklowicz-Mann, Amir Mann. With Alfred (Laco) Kohn, Harold Janklowicz. (95 min.)
Sterritt *** Did you know there was a bustling community of Jewish refugees in China during the Nazi era? This earnest documentary tells its tale, complete with recent visits to the area shot with smuggled-in digital cameras.
Director: Tom Dey. With Robert De Niro, Eddie Murphy, Rene Russo, Drena De Niro. (95 min.)
Sterritt * A jaded Los Angeles cop and a fame-hungry colleague become the unlikely stars of a reality-TV series. The movie tries to offer something for everyone, from comedy to car chases. But the filmmakers are so busy cramming all this into 95 minutes that they forget to make the scenes funny, touching, suspenseful, or anything else that might make the film worth watching.
Sex/Nudity: 1 instance of innuendo. Violence: 8 scenes, including shooting. Profanity: About 50 strong expressions. Drugs: At least 3 scenes of smoking and drinking, including 1 with illegal drugs.
Director: M. Night Shyamalan. With Mel Gibson, Joaquin Phoenix, Rory Culkin. (106 min.)
Sterritt * A clergyman who's lost his faith regains it while undergoing an attack by aliens in the farmhouse he shares with his brother and kids. The film raises important issues of religion and the meaning of life, but every time it promises to get thoughtful, Shyamalan douses it with family-values clichés, tepid space-monster suspense, pretentious camera work, and humor that's never, ever funny. Think "Roswell" meets "Father Knows Best."
Staff *** Scary, clichéd, pseudo-philosophical.
Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: 4 violent scenes. Profanity: 11 mild expressions. Drugs: None.
Director: Andrew Niccol. With Al Pacino, Catherine Keener, Winona Ryder, Evan Rachel Wood. (117 min.)
Sterritt * A has-been director tries to restart his career by creating a computer-generated cyberstar and passing her off as an elusive actress. This might have been a savvy satire on today's celebrity-struck media culture, but Niccol unfolds the story at a lumbering pace, peppered with not-funny gags and dramatic scenes that build little emotional power.
Staff *** Inventive but falls short of potential
Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: 4 instances, nothing severe. Profanity: 2 mild expressions. Drugs: 13 scenes of drinking and smoking.
Director: Chris Eyre. With Graham Greene, Eric Schweig, Gary Farmer. (86 min.)
Sterritt ** Outraged by social problems that plague the South Dakota reservation where he lives, a native American sheriff turns to vigilante violence, with results that boomerang on his own conscience and well-being. The story gets off to a slow start after its riveting documentary-style introduction, but heartfelt acting and unexpected plot twists eventually give it solid dramatic impact.
Staff ***1/2 Eye-opening, daring, good character development, insightful.
Sex/Nudity: 1 scene of implied adultery. Violence: 12 scenes, including close-up of beaten murder victim. Profanity: 58 harsh expressions. Drugs: 15 instances of smoking, drinking.
Director: Brian Levant. With Cuba Gooding Jr., James Coburn, Joanna Bacalso. (99 min.)
Staff **1/2 A Miami dentist learns he is adopted when he inherits his birth mother's Alaskan sled dogs. Amid predictable slapstick episodes, the film champions courage and tenacity, and raises surprisingly serious issues: racial harmony, appreciation of adoptive parents, and the worth of every child. By M.K. Terrell.
Director: Steven Soderbergh. With George Clooney, Natascha McElhone, Viola Davis. (99 min.)
Sterritt *** Astronauts on a space station investigate a mysterious planet that's really a living entity capable of haunting the Earthlings with replicas of people with whom they had troubled relationships. The story comes from Stanislaw Lem's brilliant novel, and Soderbergh's style is strongly influenced by Soviet filmmaker Andrei Tarkovsky's classic 1972 version.
Staff *** Contemplative, smart, dark, slow.
Sex/Nudity: 3 scenes implied sex, partial nudity. Violence: 5 scenes of violence, including suicide. Profanity: 5 expressions. Drugs: 2 scenes of alcohol.
Director: Juan José Campanella. With Ricardo Darín, Norma Aleandro. (124 min.)
Sterritt *** Flustered by family and personal problems as he heads into middle age, a mildly successful restaurateur helps his elderly father and mentally failing mother have the church wedding she's always wanted. Energetic acting and filmmaking help this likable Argentine comedy-drama avoid the sentimentality that intermittently threatens it. In Spanish with English subtitles.
Director: Nanni Moretti. With Moretti, Laura Moranti, Giuseppe Sanfelice, Jasmine Trinca. (99 min.)
Sterritt ** A gentle psychotherapist and his family face unexpected trauma when his teenage son dies. The drama relies on straightforward screenwriting and unassuming performances for its emotional power. Moretti's acting skills aren't up to the demands of the main role, and his portrait of family life is too simplistic to be credible. In Italian with English subtitles.
Staff *** Compassionate, low-key, intimate.
Sex/Nudity: 3 instances, including innuendo. Violence: 3 scenes, not graphic. Profanity: About 8 expressions. Drugs: At least 4 scenes with alcohol.
Director: Roy Andersson. With Lars Nordh, Stefan Larsson, Hanna Eriksson. (98 min.)
Sterritt **** In place of a conventional plot, this utterly unique Swedish movie offers a series of related episodes about a business tycoon on the skids, a magician whose tricks go wrong, and a motley crew of other characters. Some are funny, some are tragic, all are dreamlike and unpredictable. In Swedish with English subtitles.
Director: Wally Wolodarsky. With Barry Watson, Michael Rosenbaum. (94 min.)
Staff DUD Three frat brothers, framed for stealing, disguise themselves as women and hide out in a feminist sorority until they can clear their names. Of course, no one recognizes them. As the boys learn to respect women, we wonder why the filmmakers have none for the audience. By M.K. Terrell
Sex/Nudity: 32 instances of innuendo, nudity, implied sex. Violence: 11 scenes, including rape. Profanity: 28 strong expressions. Drugs: 14 scenes of drinking, smoking, including illegal drugs.
Director: Samuel Raimi. With Tobey Maguire, Willem Dafoe, Kirsten Dunst, James Franco. (121 min.)
Staff *** The teen turned superhero after being bitten by a mutant spider delivers a visually impressive turn, saving damsels and confronting his own demons in a satisfying high-tech action flick. Parents will appreciate the emphasis on duty, while teens will enjoy the coming-of-age struggles of an extraordinary kid trying to get the girl - and save the world. By Gloria Goodale
Staff ***1/2 Best superhero film, exhilarating.
Sex/Nudity: 1 wet T-shirt scene. Violence: Cartoonish violence; some is graphic. Profanity: 3 harsh expressions. Drugs: 3 scenes with alcohol, 1 with cigar.
Directors: Kelly Asbury, Lorna Cook. With voices of Matt Damon, James Cromwell, Daniel Studi. (84 min.)
Sterritt ** The adventures of a wild stallion, the young Indian who befriends him, and a mean-tempered cavalry captain who wants to break his will. The proudly traditional style of this kid-friendly animation seems rather tame in the age of "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.
Director: Hayao Miyazaki. With voices of Daveigh Chase, David Ogden Stiers, Suzanne Pleshette. (125 min.)
Sterritt *** Echoing the dreamlike logic and weird transformations of "Alice in Wonderland," this ambitious Japanese animation is an allegory on individuality and a glimpse into contemporary Japanese culture, as well as an imaginatively told fantasy.
Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: 10 scenes of cartoon violence, including animal attacks. Profanity: None. Drugs: 4 scenes of drinking, smoking.
Director: Robert Rodriguez. With Antonio Banderas, Carla Gugino, Alexa Vega, Daryl Sabara. (100 min.)
Staff *** Rodriguez crafts an imaginative sequel for kids that reflects his own creative urge to play - including enough nifty gadgets to make 007 drool. This time, the Cortez family's mission is to track down a device that may destroy the world. The trail leads to an island filled with hybrid animals. At times this colorful adventure causes sensory overload. But it teaches valuable lessons, like the importance of family and integrity. By Stephanie Cook Broadhurst
Staff ***1/2 Refreshingly childlike, strong sequel.
Sex/Nudity: None. Profanity: 1 mild expression. Violence: 8 scenes with mostly mild violence. Drugs: 2 scenes with alcohol.
Director: Paul Justman. With The Funk Brothers, Chaka Kahn, Joan Osborne. (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.
Staff ***1/2 Energetic, informative, celebratory.
Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: 2 archival clips of violence against civil-rights activists. Profanity: 3 expressions. Drugs: 7 scenes of drinking, smoking.
Director: Stuart Baird. With Patrick Stewart, Tom Hardy, Jonathan Frakes, Brent Spiner, LeVar Burton. (116 min.)
Staff *1/2 The crew from "Star Trek: The Next Generation" pilot the 10th Star Trek movie to the screen. But the warp drive is off line, and this alleged adventure never picks up much speed. Captain Picard must face an evil younger version of himself, with Earth and the Federation at stake. But the lack of fresh ideas leave viewers with something closer to Star dreck. By Gregory M. Lamb
Staff **1/2 Slow trek, tense, time to retire the fleet.
Sex/Nudity: 1 implied sex scene. Violence: 11 scenes, including combat and impalement. Profanity: 2 expressions. Drugs: 2 drinking scenes.
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 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 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.
Director: Bruce McCulloch. With Tom Green, Jason Lee, Megan Mullally. (83 min.)
Staff *** John has a great fiancée, a decent job, and has saved enough money to buy a house and get married. Everything seems perfect - until his niece is accepted at Harvard and reminds him of a pledge he made to pay her tuition. Running out of time and options, he turns to an ill-fated career in crime, along with his mentally unstable friend. Zany antics ensue. By Alex Kaloostian
Staff * Boring, strange, shameful, juvenile.
Sex/Nudity: Several suggestive scenes with innuendo. No nudity. Violence: 40 instances of slapstick violence. Profanity: 66 harsh expressions. Drugs: 25 scenes of smoking and drinking.
Director: Pete Jones. With Aidan Quinn, Kevin Pollack, Brian Dennehy, Bonnie Hunt. (92 min.)
Staff **1/2 On a quest to emulate St. Paul, the son of an Irish-American firefighter joyfully befriends the neighborhood rabbi and his boy, hoping to set one of them on a path to salvation. This heart-warming debut film of Jones, set in '70s Chicago, won the Project Greenlight screenplay contest. It's a bit contrived at times, but clothes its message of tolerance with wit and sweetness. By M.K. Terrell
Sex/Nudity: 2 instances of mild innuendo. Violence: 2 scenes, including a fire. Profanity: 16 mild expressions. Drugs: 10 scenes with drinking, smoking.
Director: Todd Solondz. With John Goodman, Heather Matarazzo, Paul Giamatti, Selma Blair. (90 min.)
Sterritt *** The maker of "Happiness" and "Welcome to the Dollhouse" tells two tales in this outrageous comedy-drama. The first, "Fiction," probes the psychosexual tensions between a disabled student, his fickle girlfriend, and their creative-writing teacher. The second, "Nonfiction," follows the exploits of a wannabe filmmaker who decides to shoot a documentary on a pallid teenage boy.
Staff **1/2 Tedious, dark, cynical, eerie.
Sex/Nudity: 7 scenes. Profanity: 50 expressions. Drugs: 5 scenes of drinking or smoking, 3 with drugs.
Director: Joel Katz. With Amiri Baraka, Abbey Lincoln, Pete Seeger. (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 whose other good deeds included adopting the children of executed communists Julius and Ethel Rosenberg. This is a riveting treatment of a fascinating subject.
Director: Rob Minkoff. With Michael J. Fox, Geena Davis, Melanie Griffith, Jonathan Lipnicki. (70 min.)
Staff ***1/2 America's unlikeliest action hero is a five-inch mouse with a heart as big as Central Park. As voiced by the incomparable Michael J. Fox, Stuart Little is struggling with fitting in at school and his mom's overprotectedness. Just as Stuart is wishing for a friend, an adorable canary falls from the sky into his lap - and his heart. Nathan Lane is again hilarious as the cat Snowbell. A winner for kids and parents alike. By John Kehe
Staff *** Top animation, lively, Stuart charms
Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: About 8 scenes with cartoonish violence. Profanity: None. Drugs: None.
Director: Phil Alden Robinson. With Ben Affleck, Morgan Freeman, James Cromwell, Liev Schreiber.
Staff **1/2 The fourth in Tom Clancy's Jack Ryan series to make it on screen, this film imagines the US after a terrorist nuclear blast destroys Baltimore. It arrived amid much speculation about America's readiness to see terrorism as entertainment, but the director chose to show little damage. More chilling may be the US president's willingness to deploy government agents to assassinate the bad guys. By Gloria Goodale
Staff **1/2 Thrilling, gripping, unrealistic.
Sex/Nudity: 2 mild scenes. Violence: 13 scenes, including a hanging. Profanity: 7 harsh expressions. Drugs: 8 scenes of drinking and smoking.
Director: John Sayles. With Edie Falco, Timothy Hutton. (141 min.)
Sterritt ** This ambitious drama sweeps through a Florida town with a skeptical eye, focusing on a civic booster with an artificial smile, an unhappy motel manager with too many men in her life, and an African-American woman revisiting her home after years away. Sayles has assembled an impressive cast, but he's so busy orchestrating these lives into a symphony that he doesn't manage to give each person the details a persuasive portrait needs.
Staff *** Down-to-earth, insightful, leisurely.
Sex/Nudity: 6 scenes, including implied sex. Violence: 3, including arson. Profanity: 24 harsh expressions. Drugs: 20 scenes with smoking and drinking.
Director: Andy Tennant. With Reese Witherspoon, Josh Lucas, Patrick Dempsey, Fred Ward. (102 min.)
Sterritt ** A young New York fashion designer visits her Southern hometown to divorce her husband, sparking bittersweet reunions and a chance to rediscover her roots. This glossy romantic comedy doesn't have a speck of authentic heart or soul - you can bet its Hollywood creators wouldn't move to Alabama if their lives depended on it - but it provides a colorful setting for Witherspoon's charm.
Staff *** Funny, light-hearted, dreamy.
Sex/Nudity: Some innuendo. Violence: 2 mild scenes. Drugs: 7 scenes with alcohol.
Director: Roger Kumble. With Cameron Diaz, Christina Applegate, and Thomas Jane. (87 min.)
Staff * Best friends Christina (Diaz) and Courtney (Applegate) claim to love a life of one-night-stands. Until one finds her true love, that is, when they abandon the single life to chase him down. This unoriginal comedy is nothing more than a recitation of platitudes and stereotypes. By Katie Nesse
Director: Guy Ritchie. With Madonna, Adriano Giannini, Jeanne Tripplehorn, John Turturro. (92 min.)
Sterritt * A fisherman is stranded on a deserted island with the rich, obnoxious woman he works for, and both succumb to their worst instincts before inevitably falling in love. Giannini makes a promising English-language acting debut. Madonna gives the most tiresome performance of her career. The material girl is running out of material!
Director: John Polson. With Jesse Bradford, Erika Christensen, Kate Burton. (85 min.)
Sterritt ** "Fatal Attraction" goes to high school, as a pretty psychopath stalks a swimming-team hunk with deadly results. Polson's well-filmed thriller swims down the usual lanes for this genre, and everyone looks way too old for senior year. But many of the suspense scenes work fine, and Bradford is terrific as the endangered hero.
Sex/Nudity: 4 instances of sex and innuendo. Violence: 10 scenes. Profanity: 16 mostly mild expressions. Drugs: 1 party scene with drinking, smoking.
Director: Robert J. Siegel. With Lauren Ambrose, Joelle Carter, Jennifer Dundas, Jamie Harrold. (98 min.)
Sterritt *** The setting is a South Carolina resort town, and the main characters are a discontented working girl, her party-girl best friend, and a sexy new girl who's just arrived on the scene. Sprightly acting, understated emotions, and lovingly detailed ambience make this amiable comedy-drama an easygoing indie pleasure.
Sex/Nudity: 12 instances, mostly innuendo. Violence: 2 scenes. Profanity: 28 harsh expressions. Drugs: 8 scenes with drinking. 1 with drugs.
Director: Gary Winick. With: Sigourney Weaver, John Ritter, Bebe Neuwirth, Aaron Stanford. (78 min.)
Sterritt * A precocious prep-school student falls in love with his stepmother and has an affair with one of her best friends. The dialogue rarely rings true, and the only well-rounded performance is Neuwirth's as the middle-aged seductress.
Sex/Nudity: 7 instances, including innuendo, implied sex. Violence: None. Profanity: 11 mostly mild expressions. Drugs: 5 scenes of drinking, smoking.
Director: Pedro Almodóvar. With Javier Cámara, Darío Grandinetti, Geraldine Chaplin. (116 min.)
Sterritt **** The main characters are two very different men caring for women in long-term comas, and the message is that the power of love and compassion must never be underestimated, even when the recipients seem oblivious. The intricate story is challenging to follow and sometimes perverse in its content. There's no mistaking the rays of optimism shining at its heart, though. In Spanish with English subtitles.
Director: Benoit Jacquot. With Angela Gheorghiu, Ruggero Raimondi. (119 min.)
Sterritt *** Imaginative adaptation of Giacomo Puccini's great opera. Most of this French production aims at dramatic realism, skillfully etching the love-struck painter Cavaradossi, the wicked police chief Scarpia, and the fatally deceived title character. Jacquot adds modernist touches, though, as when he shows real Roman locations in home-movie-style footage. In Italian with English subtitles.
Director: Joseph Cedar. With Aki Avni, Tinkerbell, Assi Dayan. (98 min.)
Staff *** The captain of an elite commando unit and his best friend, a radical rabbi's most brilliant student, both love the rabbi's independent-minded daughter. When she chooses the captain, the student begins planning a massive, far-reaching bombing scheme in the Middle East. Only the captain can stop it, but he's under arrest as a co-conspirator. This surprisingly low-key exploration of the radical mindset won the Israeli equivalent of an Oscar. By M.K. Terrell
Sex/Nudity: Some innuendo. Violence: 5 scenes, including a beating. Profanity: A few mild expressions. Drugs: 6 scenes with tobacco use and drinking.
Director: Simon Wells. With Guy Pearce, Samantha Mumba, Jeremy Irons,. (96 min.)
Sterritt * The great-grandson of "Time Machine" novelist H.G. Wells directed this heavy-handed version of the classic tale about a scientist who travels from the turn of the 20th century to the distant future, where life has become a tragic standoff between two races: innocent Eloi and apelike Morlocks who cannibalize them. The movie overdoes the love angle, and then it overdoes the violence angle. Stick with George Pal's colorful 1960 version.
Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: 7 scenes, including fighting. Profanity: 2 mild expressions. Drugs: None.
Director: Laurent Cantet. With Aurélien Recoing, Karin Viard. (132 min.)
Sterritt **** Disillusioned with his life, a businessman stops working and hides this from his family. He hooks up with a small criminal operation, abandoning this when he finds it just as spirit-killing as ordinary work. The story gathers power as he exhausts one option after another, making his future seem more ominous. Cantet's previous film, "Human Resources," also probed social and ideological problems tied to family and work. He has rich insights into this material, and brings them alive through sensitive acting and powerful filmmaking..
Director: Corey Yuen. With Jason Statham, Qi Shu, Matt Schulze, François Berléand. (92 min.)
Staff * For those who get their kicks from karate, meet Jason Statham, Britain's bald-headed answer to Vin Diesel. In this film, Statham's black BMW is a car-for-hire in Southern France. One day, he discovers that the "package" he is to deliver is a Chinese woman who knows too much about a global slavery ring. And that's the whole plot. The choreography and editing are sensational, but the nonstop action soon numbs. By Stephen Humphries
Sex/Nudity: 1 scene of implied sex. Violence: 14 scenes, including shootings and explosions. Profanity: 11 expressions. Drugs: 5 scenes.
Director: Luis Mandoki. With Kevin Bacon, Courtney Love. (110 min.)
Staff ** Joe Hickey (Bacon) has the perfect kidnap-for-ransom scheme. He knows it's foolproof, because he's tried it before. But on what is to be the last caper, he underestimates the power of parental love. The director has assembled a fairly efficient thriller, discounting the overblown climax. But are fictional child abductions what we need right now? By M.K. Terrell
Sex/Nudity: 3 scenes of innuendo. Violence: 17 instances, including kidnapping, attempted rape. Profanity: 59 strong expressions. Drugs: 4 instances of drinking.
Director: Ron Clements, John Musker. With (voices) Emma Thompson, Martin Short. (95 min.)
Staff **1/2 Disney's latest animated film launches Robert Louis Stevenson's "Treasure Island" into outer space. Emma Thompson's voice is put to excellent use as the modern, feminine Captain Amelia, but the most valuable gem in this film is the combination of handrawn and computer-generated animation. By Stephanie Cook Broadhurst
Staff *** Triumphant, inventive, visually stunning.
Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: 10 scenes of cartoon violence. Profanity: None. Drugs: 1 scene with smoking.
Director: Jonathan Demme. With Thandie Newton, Mark Wahlberg, Tim Robbins, Lisa Gay Hamilton. (104 min.)
Sterritt *** The widow of a 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.
Staff **1/2 Stylish, jumpy, OK remake
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.
Director: Jay Russell. With Alexis Bledel, William Hurt, Sissy Spacek, Ben Kingsley, Amy Irving. (90 min.)
Sterritt *** A teen girl is abducted by a backwoods family that fears she's discovered a closely guarded treasure - the secret of human immortality, available to anyone who drinks from a nearby spring. Meanwhile, she's sought by her parents and an enigmatic stranger. The story is engrossing after a slow start. Kingsley is perfect as the menacing outsider.
Staff **1/2 Good cast, dark, predictable.
Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: 10 scenes, including kidnapping. Profanity: None. Drugs: 1 bar scene.
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.
Staff ***1/2 Touching, nuanced, well-paced.
Sex/Nudity: 3 scenes of implied sex. Violence: 3 mild scenes. Drugs: 9 scenes with alcohol. 2 scenes of smoking.
Director: Kevin Donovan. With Jackie Chan, Jennifer Love Hewitt, Jason Isaacs, Debi Mazar. (99 min.)
Staff DUD One would be hard-pressed to witness a bigger waste of time, talent, money, or popcorn than this latest Jackie Chan vehicle. The hackneyed "plot" involves a high-tech, gravity-defying tuxedo that transforms shy, klutzy taxi driver James Tong (Chan) into a master secret agent, fabulous dancer, and suave ladies' man. Too bad it couldn't make this turkey disappear. By John Kehe
Sex/Nudity: 3 instances of innuendo. Violence: 14 scenes, including drowning and fighting. Profanity: 15 mild expressions. Drugs: 4 scenes with smoking and drinking.
Director: Marc Lawrence. With Sandra Bullock, Hugh Grant, Dorian Missick, Katheryn Winnick. (100 min)
Sterritt *** She's an idealistic lawyer, he's the devil-may-care businessman who hires her, and you know love-sparks will fly before the final credits roll. Bullock is cute. Grant is even cuter. They have the timing and panache of a first-rate comedy team. They should make a million movies together.
Director: Malcolm Lee. With Eddie Griffin, Chris Kattan, Denise Richards. (88 min.)
Staff * "Undercover Brother" should have stayed undercover, brother. Imagine "Shaft" meets "Austin Powers," but not as cool or as funny. Our jive-talking hero (Griffin) is recruited by a group of vigilantes trying to bring down "the Man" after discovering that he is distributing mind-controlling drugs through a fried chicken fast-food chain. By Stuart S. Cox Jr.
Director: Walter Hill. With Wesley Snipes, Ving Rhames, Peter Falk. (96 min.)
Staff **1/2 George "Iceman" Chambers (Rhames), heavyweight boxing champ, goes to prison for a rape he denies, but is mean enough to have committed. There he encounters Monroe Hutchens (Snipes), an introspective lifer, undefeated in the prison fight program. It's inevitable that the two will meet in the ring. Director Hill's spare, macho style manages to keep things moving enough that you don't think too much about plausibility. By M.K. Terrell
Sex/Nudity: 5 instances, mostly innuendo. Violence: 16 instances violence, including fight scenes. Profanity: 70 strong expressions. Drugs: At least 2 scenes of smoking.
Director: Adrian Lyne. With Diane Lane, Richard Gere, Olivier Martinez (124 min)
Sterritt *** Tragedy ensues when a well-to-do woman starts cheating on her conscientious husband with a flighty intellectual she's met by chance. Steamy sex scenes aside, this is one of Lyne's most carefully crafted dramas, helped by solid acting and a well-developed sense of time, place, and atmosphere.
Staff **1/2Lacks depth, suspenseful, tragic.
Sex/Nudity: 9 scenes with graphic sex. Violence: 2 scenes Profanity: 28 expressions. Drugs: 7 scenes with alcohol, 3 with smoking.
Director: Joe Maggio. With Clint Jordan, Kirsten Russell, Greg Amici, Anthony Gorman. (93 min.)
Sterritt *** Virgil is determined to start a new life after finishing his prison term, but he falls into bad company despite his good intentions. A few miscalculated scenes aside, this low-budget drama is stunningly smart and powerful, with real-as-life lead performances and a style as gripping as it is unpretentious.
Director: Adam Shankman. With Mandy Moore, Shane West, Daryl Hannah. (100 min.)
Staff **1/2 After a prank injures a student, a principal orders the most popular boy in school (West) to tutor underprivileged kids on weekends and act in a play. Both jobs throw him in with Jamie, the ethical minister's daughter (Moore). The film may be trite or weepy in spots, but it's a celebration of decency. By M.K. Terrell
Sex/Nudity: 5 scenes with innuendo. Violence: 2 scenes. Profanity: 13 expressions. Drugs: 3 drinking scenes.
Director: Shohei Imamura. With Koji Yakusho, Misa Shimizu, Mitsuko Baisho, Manasaku Fowa. (119 min.)
Sterritt ** On a hunt for buried treasure, a lonely man makes peculiar acquaintances in a seaside Japanese town, including a woman whose body is attuned to nature in disconcerting ways. Imamura has directed near-legendary films like "Vengeance Is Mine," but his acute sense of color and offbeat storytelling style aren't enough to make this sensual fantasy more than a whimsical trifle. In Japanese with English subtitles.
Director: Gary Burns. With Don McKellar, Tammy Isbell, James McBurney. (83 min.)
Sterritt *** The setting is a Canadian urban complex, and the main characters are four young workers who've made a bet on who can go longest without venturing outside for a breath of non-recycled air. This smart, creative social satire skewers cheaply dehumanizing architecture and self-absorbed yuppie mentalities.
Director: Randall Wallace. With Mel Gibson, Madeleine Stowe, Greg Kinnear. (140 min.)
Sterritt * Gibson leads US soldiers through a blood-filled battle of the Vietnam War in this fact-based but cliché-riddled melodrama. The filmmakers dish out guts-and-glory archetypes, meanwhile, every female character is portrayed as a midcentury stereotype. How can so much money and star power add up to so little authenticity and conviction?
Staff *** Grimly fascinating, horrific, square-jawed heroism.
Sex/Nudity: 1 scene of implied sex. Violence: 14 battle sequences, some gory. Profanity: 22 strong expressions. Drugs: 10 scenes smoking, drinking.
Directors: Anthony Russo, Joe Russo. With William H. Macy, George Clooney, Jennifer Esposito. (96 min.)
Sterritt *** Small-time crooks decide to pull off a big-time heist in their Cleveland neighborhood, with predictably chaotic results. Inspired by Mario Monicelli's 1958 comedy "Big Deal on Madonna Street," the farce is energetically written, breezily acted, and never quite as dumb as the lunkheads it's about.
Director: Larry Fessenden. With Jake Weber, Patricia Clarkson, Erik Per Sullivan, John Speredakos. (90 min.)
Sterritt **** Spending a get-away weekend in a borrowed farmhouse, a city couple has a tense feud with a demented deer hunter, and their eight-year-old son copes with his anxieties through encounters with a rage-filled phantasm. Fessenden's latest horror yarn is a smart and scary voyage into the uncanny realm where hard realities, mind-spinning myths, and hallucinatory visions blur.
Director: Gregor Schnitzler. With Til Schweiger, Nadia Uhl, Martin Feifel, Klaus Löwitsch. (102 min.)
Sterritt *** A group of scruffy German activists turn to political violence when the Berlin wall is crumbling, and then become average citizens who want to put the past behind them - until police find a piece of long-buried evidence that could land them all in jail unless they pull off one last caper to get it back. This energetically acted, creatively directed comedy-drama has every ingredient for success except a satisfying finale. In German with English subtitles.
Director: Tasi Ming-Liang. With Lee Kang-Sheng, Chen Shiang-Chyi. (116 min.)
Sterritt **** A streetside salesman falls instantly in love with a woman who wants to buy a wristwatch from him. But she's heading to Paris for an extended stay, so he consoles himself by resetting every clock he can find to French time. Meanwhile the elusive traveler has a random series of Parisian adventures. Tsai's style is unique, unfolding the tale in static shots that allow you to discover their surprises on your own. In Cantonese, Mandarin, and French with English subtitles.
Director: Peter Kosminsky. With Alison Lohman, Michelle Pfeiffer, Renée Zellweger. (110 min.)
Sterritt ** A 15-year-old shuttles through a series of foster homes after her strong-willed mother is imprisoned for killing her abusive boyfriend. The acting is heartfelt and Kosminsky directs with quiet assurance. The story is too schematic, though, watching the heroine take on the coloration of each new environment as if she had almost no mind at all.
Staff *** Probing, great cast, crisp, moving.
Sex/Nudity: 8 scenes, including sex. Violence: 11 scenes, including shootings. Profanity: 4 expressions. Drugs: 13 scenes of smoking, drinking.
Directors: Cathy Malkasian, Jeff McGrath. With (voices) Ian Abercrombie, Brenda Blethyn, Lacey Chabert. (79 min.)
Sterritt **** Eliza can talk with animals, which is handy in the African wild, where she lives with her eccentric parents, a chimpanzee named Darwin, and a self-absorbed sister. It's less handy when she's sent to a British boarding school where neither she nor Darwin fit in, and worse yet, poachers are threatening her elephant friends back home. Lively characters, snappy dialogue, and snazzy visuals make this an uncommonly fine animation.
Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: 9 scenes, mostly with the poachers. Profanity: None. Drugs: None.
Director: John Woo. With Nicolas Cage, Adam Beach, Christian Slater, Roger Willie, Peter Stormare. (134 min.)
Sterritt * A marine sergeant is ordered to accompany a Navajo code talker into battle and protect him from harm - or kill him if there's a danger he'll be captured. The film claims to celebrate native American contributions in World War II, but its main priority is to let Woo create lots of the choreographed violence he's built his career on. It doesn't help that Cage is the opposite of subtle, grimacing so much he seems to be acting with his teeth.
Staff ** Thin story line, gory, grim, bad acting.
Sex/Nudity: 3 instances of innuendo. Violence: 9 scenes, including graphic battles. Profanity: 55 harsh words. Drugs: 15 scenes of smoking, drinking.
Director: Rob Cohen. With Vin Diesel, Asia Argento, Samuel L. Jackson. (120 min.)
Sterritt * Extreme sports meet cold-war politics as our hero gets recruited by the government to battle an anarchist gang in Eastern Europe. If your idea of star power is "buff to the max" with "attitude to spare," as the publicity puts it, then Diesel is your man. But do we really need a warmed-over James Bond adventure with 007 transformed into the village idiot?
Sex/Nudity: 4 scenes. Violence: 18 scenes, including shootings. Profanity: 15 strong expressions. Drugs: 12 scenes with smoking, drinking, drugs.
Director: Alfonso Cuarón. With Maribel Verdú, Diego Luna, Gael García Bernal. (115 min.)
Sterritt ** Faced with serious problems in her life, a woman takes off on a road trip with two teen boys fueled by youthful energy, various intoxicants, and hyperactive sex drives. Cuarón gives an offbeat flavor to this coming-of-age tale by combining up-close camera work with a modernistic third-person narration, and by touching on noteworthy social and political issues in the margins of the story. In Spanish with English subtitles.
Staff *** Reckless, life-affirming, beautiful.
Sex/Nudity: 9 scenes, very graphic, including full nudity. Violence: 3 mild scenes. Profanity: 109 harsh expressions. Drugs: 19 scenes with smoking, 9 with drinking, 5 with marijuana.
Director: Arik Kaplun. With Nir Levi, Shmil Ben Ari, Moscu Alcalay. (95 min.)
Staff ***1/2 This engaging love story is simultaneously humorous, beautiful, and real. The story takes place in Israel under the threat of war with Iraq, when an Israeli filmmaker crosses paths with a Russian émigré. The film's rustic moments of joy and poignant glimpses into the human situation will affirm what you already knew: life has a funny way of working out. By Aaron Bingham
Staff ***1/2 Light-hearted, funny, comforting.
Sex/Nudity: 7 instances, including 2 brief sex scenes. Violence: 6 scenes. Profanity: 10 expressions. Drugs: 10 scenes of drinking, smoking.