Movie Guide

NEW RELEASES
Amen. (Not rated)

Director: Costa-Gavras. With Mathieu Kassovitz, Ulrich Tukur, Ulrich Muhe, Michel Duchaussoy. (130 min.)

Sterritt ** See review.

Blind Spot - Hitler's Secretary (PG)

Directors: André Heller and Othmar Schmiderer. With Traudl Junge. (90 min.)

Sterritt **** See review.

Darkness Falls (PG-13)

Director: Jonathan Liebesman. With Chaney Kley, Emma Caulfield, Lee Cormie.

Staff * The 1850s lynching of an innocent woman has provided Darkness Falls, Maine, with a "tooth fairy" ghost-in-residence who sometimes attacks children the night they lose their last baby tooth. Sometimes she also goes after adults who venture out in the dark. The largely Australian cast sounds American (but not Eastern) and does a good job of not breaking up while uttering inanities in one idiotic situation after another. By M.K. Terrell

Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: 17 scenes, including dead bodies and ghost attacks. Profanity: 4 harsh expressions. Drugs: 1 scene of drinking.

In the Mirror of Maya Deren (Not rated)

Director: Martina Kudlacek. With Jonas Mekas, Judith Malina, Amos and Marcia Vogel. (103 min.)

Sterritt **** See review.

CURRENTLY IN RELEASE
25th Hour (R)

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 film is flawed by implausible psychology and moments of weak acting. But it's more than redeemed by Lee's passionate ideas about America, which he sees as plagued by evils of violence and materialism, yet unbounded in its possibilities. He's a unique filmmaker, and this uneven drama is truly one of a kind.

Staff ***1/2 Intelligent, well-acted, humanistic.

Sex/Nudity: 9 scenes with innuendo; 1 scene of couple in bathtub. Violence: 3 scenes, including brutal beatings. Profanity: 169 harsh expressions. Drugs: 18 scenes of drinking, smoking. 1 scene with illegal drugs.

A Guy Thing (PG-13)

Director: Chris Koch. With Jason Lee, Julia Stiles, Selma Blair, Diana Scarwid. (105 min.)

Sterritt * After his bachelor party, a groom-to-be wakes up in bed with a woman he doesn't know, then finds out she's his fiancée's favorite cousin, and a lot more fun than the fiancée herself. The screenplay has a lot of talk about people being "right for each other," but the characters are so shallow and generic it's hard to care who winds up with whom. This may be a "guy thing," but a "good romantic comedy thing" it's not.

Staff * Predictable, painfully bad, overacted.

Sex/Nudity: 1 implied sex scene. Violence: 9 scenes of fairly gratuitous violence, including a brutal fight.

About Schmidt (R)

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. 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.

Staff *** Jack is back, bittersweet, touching.

Sex/Nudity: 1 scene of partial nudity. Violence: 1 brief tussle. Profanity: 12 expressions. Drugs: 8 scenes with drinking; 1 with prescription drugs.

Adaptation (R)

Director: Spike Jonze. With Nicolas Cage, Meryl Streep, Chris Cooper, Brian Cox. (114 min.)

Sterritt *** A fictional doppelgänger 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. 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.

Staff *** Original, clever, disappointing third act.

Sex/Nudity: 9 scenes with sexual activity, including partial nudity. Violence: 2 car crashes, gator attack, and gunshots. Profanity: 30 expressions. Drugs: 19 scenes of smoking, alcohol.

Catch Me If You Can (PG-13)

Director: Steven Spielberg. With Tom Hanks, Leonardo DiCaprio, Nathalie Baye. (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 an FBI agent (Hanks) who spends years tracking him down. Spielberg doesn't have much talent for psychological suspense, but DiCaprio underplays nicely. Walken is superb as the con artist's downtrodden dad.

Staff *** Leo shines, zip and verve, stylish.

Sex/Nudity: 2 scenes with implied sex; 2 scenes of innuendo. Violence: Several scenes in which guns are pulled but not fired. Profanity: 7 harsh expressions. Drugs: 17 scenes of smoking, drinking, and illegal drugs.

Chicago (PG-13)

Director: Rob Marshall. With Renée Zellweger, Richard Gere, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Queen Latifah. (113 min.)

Sterritt ** Two women of the Roaring '20s land on death row after killing men who've wronged them, and their friendship turns to rivalry when they go after the same money-minded lawyer to defend them. The music is irresistible, and who would have guessed Zellweger, Zeta-Jones, and Gere could hoof and croon with the best of them?

Staff ***1/2 Visual razzle-dazzle, clever choreography, strong acting.

Sex/Nudity: 1 sex scene; mildly provocative dance numbers. Violence: 6 scenes of mild violence. Profanity: 20 expressions. Drugs: 6 scenes of smoking, drinking.

City of God (R)

Director: Fernando Meirelles. With Alexandre Rodrigues, Matheus Nachtergaele, Seu Jorge. (140 min.)

Sterritt ** A young photographer records the terrible events and personalities that surround him in a Rio de Janeiro slum between the late '60s and early '80s, including a psychopath who runs a gang of kids. In its story and characters, this violent Brazilian drama recalls the Cinema Novo movement spawned by Brazil in the '60s and '70s. But its cinematic approach is as flashy as a Hollywood thriller. In Portuguese with English subtitles.

Confessions of a Dangerous Mind (R)

Director: George Clooney. With Sam Rockwell, Julia Roberts, Clooney, Drew Barrymore. (113 min.)

Sterritt *** An apocryphal memoir by Chuck Barris inspired this partly true story, which blends his experience as "Gong Show" host with his ersatz secret life as a CIA assassin. Clooney shows imagination in his directorial debut, but the movie's driving force is Charlie Kaufman's screenplay, a genre-bending romp that blurs all boundaries between the factual and the fantastical. The picture would be better if it took a less jokey tone, though.

Divine Intervention (Not rated)

Director: Elia Suleiman. With Elia Suleiman, Manal Khader, Nayef Fahoum Daher. (92 min.)

Sterritt *** This is a film about the adventures of a Palestinian man called E.S., based on writer-director Suleiman, as he copes with his ailing father, woos a girlfriend who lives on the other side of an Israeli checkpoint, and gets through daily life in his neighborhood. While much of the material is handled in a spirit of sardonic humor, occasional bursts of bitingly sarcastic material give the movie a controversial ideological edge. In Arabic and Hebrew with English subtitles.

Gangs of New York (R)

Director: Martin Scorsese. With Leonardo DiCaprio, Daniel Day-Lewis, Cameron Diaz. (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. 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 US society. The film is strong in sound and fury, weak in nuance and insight.

Staff *** Stunning sets; Daniel Day-Lewis plays scariest villain since Hannibal Lecter; starts strong but loses its way.

Sex/Nudity: 11 scenes, including semi-nudity. Violence: 36 instances of graphic violence. Profanity: 4 expressions. Drugs: 35 scenes of smoking, drinking. 1 scene with opium.

The Hours (PG-13)

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 modern woman - 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 smoothly link the episodes.

Staff ***1/2 Masterly, superb acting, emotionally charged.

Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: 3 scenes of suicide. Profanity: 2 harsh expressions. Drugs: 6 smoking scenes.

Just Married (PG-13)

Director: Shawn Levy. With Ashton Kutcher, Brittany Murphy, Christian Kane, Taran Killam. (95 min.)

Staff * A fairy-tale honeymoon in Europe quickly becomes a nightmare for a young couple through her father's attempted sabotage and the groom's boorish treatment of the locals. The principals try to breathe life into the old gags, and the scenery is magnificent, but the filmmakers are unable to marry these elements into a cohesive film. By M.K. Terrell

Sex/Nudity: 7 instances of innuendo. 1 scene of implied sex. Violence: 8 scenes, including assault. Profanity: 29 instances of profanity. Drugs: 12 scenes with drinking or smoking.

Kangaroo Jack (PG)

Director: David McNally. With Jerry O'Connell, Anthony Anderson, Estella Warren, Christopher Walken. (88 min.)

Sterritt * Two lunkheaded Americans fly to Australia on a mission for a mobster, and find themselves chasing after a kangaroo that's carrying an envelope stuffed with cash. Walken has a few good moments, but nobody else does, including the computer-enhanced title character. Hop to a different movie!

Sex/Nudity: 1 instance of innuendo. Profanity: 12 mild expressions. Violence: 13 scenes, including kangaroo kicks. Drugs: 3 drinking scenes.

The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (PG-13)

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 first because it isn't weighed down with plodding exposition. Its greatest asset is Gollum, almost as creepy as he was in Tolkien's pages.

Staff *** Visually stunning, action-packed.

Sex/Nudity: None. Profanity: None. Violence: Graphic violence, including hacked limbs. Drugs: 2 scenes with a pipe.

National Security (PG-13)

Director: Dennis Dugan. With Martin Lawrence, Steve Zahn. (90 min.)

Staff **1/2 Lawrence plays a cadet who flunks out of the L.A. police academy and falsely accuses a white officer (Zahn) after a bystander comes forward with a video that shows a Rodney King-type beating. They must put animosities aside when they wind up as security guards chasing a gang of thieves. Zahn and Lawrence make a good team in this parody of police buddy films while raising issues of racism and the reliability of amateur videos as courtroom evidence. By M.K. Terrell

Sex/Nudity: 3 instances of innuendo. Profanity: 19 harsh expressions. Violence: 16 scenes, including shootouts galore. Drugs: 1 drinking scene.

Nicholas Nickleby (PG)

Director: Douglas McGrath. With Charlie Hunnam, Anne Hathaway, Jim Broadbent. (133 min)

Sterritt *** Large-scale adaptation of Charles Dickens's novel about a man who meets 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 screen. But Hunnam isn't up to the title role. It's uneven, but Dickens admirers shouldn't miss it.

Staff *** Satisfying, miscast, more sugar than spice.

Sex/Nudity: None. Profanity: None. Violence: 10 scenes, including suicide. Drugs: 8 instances of drinking; 1 scene with smoking.

The Pianist (R)

Director: Roman Polanski. With Adrien Brody, Maureen Lipman, Frank Finlay, Emilia Fox. (148 min.)

Sterritt *** Fact-based drama about the experiences of concert pianist Wladyslaw Szpilman in Warsaw, where he survived in hiding as Nazis occupied the city after Germany's defeat of Poland in 1939. Polanski has personal ties to the holocaust, and his movie has a sense of emotional urgency and deep-dwelling grief.

Staff **** Harrowing, detailed, beautifully shot.

Sex/Nudity: None. Profanity: 6 harsh expressions. Violence: 23 scenes of graphic violence. Drugs: 6 scenes of smoking, drinking.

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