Director: Lee Hirsch. With Miriam Makeba, Abdullah Ibrahim, Hugh Masakela, Thandi Modise. (108 min.)
Sterritt ** A look at the role played by popular music in the war against apartheid during 40 years of South Africa's history. There are lots of lively tunes in an excellent cause, but in the end you wish you'd either probed more deeply into historical events or heard more uninterrupted minutes of inspired performing. In English, Xhosa, and Zulu, with English subtitles.
Director: Ron Shelton. With Kurt Russell, Lolita Davidovich, Scott Speedman, Ving Rhames. (116 min.)
Sterritt *** See review, page 15.
Directors: Susan Seidelman, Amos Kollek, Jos Stelling. With Mira Sorvino, Aida Turturro, Victor Argo, Ruth Maleczech. (76 min.)
Sterritt ** Three brief comedies filmed in English for a German television series. The most thoughtful is Seidelman's contribution, "The Dutch Master," about a working woman who becomes transfixed by a painting in a museum. "Angela" views an aging man's wish for companionship with an elusive stranger, and "The Waiting Room" glances at fleeting relationships in a public place.
Director: Chantal Akerman. With Mexican immigrants to the United States. (103 min.)
Sterritt ** Akerman's concern for a Mexican woman who disappeared after moving to Los Angeles sparked this documentary about the dangers faced by undocumented immigrants who evade American immigration laws. Akerman is among the most imaginative filmmakers in her native Belgium or anywhere else, but here she doesn't get very far beneath the surface of her subject. In English, French, and Spanish, with English subtitles.
Director: Ronald F. Maxwell. With Robert Duvall, Jeff Daniels, Stephen Lang, Mira Sorvino. (225 min.)
Sterritt * See review, page 15.
Directors: Neil Hunter, Tom Hunsinger. With Tom Hollander, Bill Nighy, Douglas Henshall, Clementine Celarie. (110 min.)
Sterritt *** After a friend's untimely death, three men rethink the other relationships in their lives. What's essentially a commonplace story is broadened and deepened by the filmmakers' strategy of telling it multiple times from multiple points of view. Solid acting and engaging characters round out the neatly assembled tale.
Director: Alan Parker. With Kevin Spacey, Kate Winslet, Gabriel Mann, Laura Linney. (130 min.)
Sterritt ** See review, page 15.
Director Todd Phillips. With Will Ferrell, Luke Wilson, Vince Vaughn, Juliette Lewis. (90 min.)
Staff * Ferrell, Wilson, and Vaughn play middle-aged men who yearn for a return to the frolics of student life. What better solution than to purchase a house and set up a fraternity next to an institution of higher learning. "Old School," then, is another entry in the oddly enduring genre spawned by "Animal House": the campus comedy. The conventions are all too familiar: booze, sex, ribald hijinks, a fight against a college administration, and coming-of-age moments. In this case, the latter element is noticeably absent. So is the comedy. The three men are capable comics but the material is so weak that it makes one almost yearn for the inadequacy of a Police Academy sequel. "Old School" flunks on every level. By Stephen Humphries
Director: Michael Petroni. With Guy Pearce, Helena Bonham Carter, Frank Gallacher. (101 min.)
Sterritt ** Visiting his Australian hometown after his father's death, a man remembers a romance of his teenage years and develops an enigmatic relationship with a mysterious woman who can't remember her own past. Petroni's directorial debut is too bittersweet and atmospheric for its own good, wrapping a potentially strong story in too many layers of misty emotion.
Director: Mark Steven Johnson. With Ben Affleck, Colin Farrell, Jennifer Garner. (96 min.)
Staff * Batman, Superman, Spidey, and now Daredevil? Yes, Daredevil, the comic-book hero created in 1964 by Stan Lee. Ten minutes into it, you won't need superhuman senses to realize it won't be a great movie. Affleck plays Matt Murdock, a blind lawyer by day, action hero by night. He lost his sight as a young boy in a freak accident. Suddenly, he has heightened senses, can leap from building to building, and fight expertly with his walking stick. There's plenty of action - almost too much - but the characters aren't likable, the plot is thin, and the acting is robotic. This is no "Spider-Man." It's a dark, gritty world, and the violence is exhausting. By Lisa Leigh Connors
Staff **1/2 Violent, mindless, comic-bookish.
Sex/Nudity: 1 instance of innuendo; 1 scene of implied sex. Violence: 20 scenes, including bloody fights. Profanity: 11 expressions. Drugs: 10 scenes of drinking and smoking.
Director: Gary Hardwick. With Gabrielle Union, LL Cool J, Duane Martin, Mel Jackson. (105 min.)
Staff ** Eva (Union) has raised her three younger sisters since the untimely death of their parents. Now they're grown up, and Eva continues to mother them by meddling in their relationships. The sisters' husbands and fiancé hire a ladies' man (LL Cool J), to sweep Eva off her feet and out of their lives. Naturally, the plan backfires. What nearly saves the paint-by-numbers plot is a watchable cast and filmmakers' occasional willingness to paint outside the lines. By M.K. Terrell
Staff *** Brightly cast, energetic, ribald.
Sex/Nudity: 19 instances of innuendo. 1 sex scene. Violence: 3 scenes. Profanity: 68 expressions. Drugs: 10 scenes of drinking.
Director: David Richard Ellis. With A.J. Cook, Sarah Hattingh, Ali Larter, Tony Todd. (100 min.)
Staff *1/2 Waiting for a red light, young Kimberly (Cook) has a terrifying, gruesome vision of a major freeway pileup. As the lead character did in the original "Destination," Kim acts on her precognition, blocking an on-ramp to keep would-be victims off the highway until the crashes are over. But it's not nice to mess with fate. Horrible accidents overtake survivors, one by one, as they theorize about how they can thwart death's plan. The movie becomes progressively less imaginative but no less grisly as it wears on. By M.K. Terrell
Sex/Nudity: Partial nudity. 1 instance of innuendo. Violence: 20 scenes, including bad traffic accident. Profanity: 25 harsh expressions. Drugs: 9 scenes of drinking, smoking, and illegal drug use.
Director: Daisy von Scherler Mayer. With Jimi Mistry, Heather Graham, Marisa Tomei. (95 min.)
Sterritt * An Indian immigrant goes to work for a porn-movie outfit and then starts impersonating a new-age mystic, becoming a star on the inspirational circuit. Instead of getting us emotionally involved with the characters, the comedy invites us to sneer at society snobs, giggle at tepid sex jokes, sniffle at sentimental interludes, and congratulate ourselves for being sophisticated enough to watch the unconventional kisses (biracial, gay) that climax the picture. What are talents like Tomei and Graham doing in a wafer-thin fizzle like this?
Sex/Nudity: 20 instances, including innuendo, implied sex, and partial nudity. Violence: 1 scene of assault. Profanity: 28 harsh expressions. Drugs: 11 scenes of smoking and drinking.
Director: Laetitia Colombani. With Audrey Tautou, Samuel Le Bihan, Isabel Carré. (92 min.)
Sterritt **** A bright-eyed art student dreams of a wonderful future with the handsome doctor who's stolen her heart - but halfway through the movie we start seeing things through the doctor's eyes, and they don't look quite the same. Tautou's fame in the popular fantasy "Amélie" lends a deftly ironic underpinning to the anti-Amélie she plays here. Colombani's directorial debut is smart, gripping, and suspenseful. In French with English subtitles.
Director: Donald Petrie. With Kate Hudson, Matthew McConaughey, Adam Goldberg. (114 min.)
Staff *1/2 The title of this film would more accurately read: "How to Lose an Audience in 10 Minutes." Some scenes will make you laugh out loud, but the movie's formula for comedy gets old faster than you can say, "Let's just be friends." Andie (Hudson) is the "how to" girl for a women's magazine who writes a feature on how to ditch a clingy guy. But her subject has his own agenda. Ben (McConaughey) bets his friends that he can make a woman fall in love with him in 10 days. The setup conveniently allows filmmakers to stage all sorts of slapstick scenarios. By Stephanie Cook Broadhurst
Staff **1/2 Silly, biting, insipid, funny at times.
Sex/Nudity: 2 sexually suggestive scenes. Innuendo throughout. Profanity: 39 harsh expressions. Drugs: 7 scenes with drinking. 1 scene with smoking.
Director: Martina Kudlacek. With Jonas Mekas, Judith Malina, Amos and Marcia Vogel. (103 min.)
Sterritt **** In the movie world, the late Maya Deren is the equivalent of a legendary poet who blazes new trails in language while remaining unknown to readers who stick to bestseller lists. Spiced with quotations from her lectures, interviews with her associates, and excerpts from classic Deren works like "Meshes of the Afternoon," this documentary is an eloquent memorial to her achievements as an avant-garde filmmaker and her status as one of the very few women to enter the pantheon of major screen artists.
Director: Steve Trenbirth. With John Goodman, Haley Joel Osment, Tony Jay. (72 min.)
Staff ** "The Jungle Book 2" takes more than just "The Bare Necessities" from the original film. The story line feels like a modern-day version of the first installment, including many of the same jigs, jokes, and jingles. The film picks up with Mowgli trying to adjust to life in a human village. He longs for his old stomping grounds in the jungle, where he and Baloo held their jam sessions, and soon finds himself back there, encountering the same friends and foes. Instead of recycling so many former hits, Disney ought to make inventive films. But the animation is classically beautiful. And, like its predecessor, it will inspire children to tap their feet to the jungle rhythms. By Stephanie Cook Broadhurst
Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: 9 scenes of cartoonish violence. Profanity: None. Drugs: None.
Directors: Keith Fulton, Louis Pepe. With Terry Gilliam, Johnny Depp, Jeff Bridges. (93 min.)
Sterritt **** Bridges narrates this entertaining documentary about the unmaking of Gilliam's dream project, "The Man Who Killed Don Quixote," which went before the cameras in Spain only to be knocked out of production by problems including a flood that washed away sets and noise from military planes. This is a sad and funny true-life tale that speaks volumes about the difficulties of independent filmmaking.
Sex/Nudity: 1 instance of innuendo. Violence: 1 storm scene. Profanity: 30 expressions. Drugs: At least 12 scenes of smoking or drinking.
Director: Roger Donaldson. With Al Pacino, Colin Farrell. (105 min.)
Sterritt ** "Nothing is what it seems," says CIA boss Pacino before putting new recruit Farrell onto the trail of fellow trainee Moynahan, who may be a double agent but is otherwise the woman of his dreams. The first half comes up with nifty surprises, but suspense ebbs as the story sinks into standard-issue shootout and car-chase scenes. In the end, this tricky thriller is exactly what it seems - another failed attempt to outdo "Three Days of the Condor," which flew higher in every way.
Staff *1/2 Unoriginal, well-cast, recycled.
Sex/Nudity: Several instances of innuendo. 2 scenes of implied sex. Violence: 7 scenes, including a kidnapping. Profanity: 26 expressions. Drugs: 7 scenes of drinking, smoking.
Director: David Dobkin. With Jackie Chan, Owen Wilson, Fann Wong. (114 min.)
Staff *** Watching the Buster Keatonesque action in this superior sequel to "Shanghai Noon," one wonders whether Kung Fu maestro Jackie Chan was a Looney 'toon in his previous life. Just as animated is Owen Wilson, the other member of the odd couple, whose naive surf-dude persona offers up plenty of laughs as the duo venture into Victorian London. Suffice to say that the mechanical plot entails avenging a murder and preventing an aristocrat from assassinating the royal family. The journey is more important than the destination - as long as there are fight sequences along the way. By Stephen Humphries
Staff ***Hilarious, amazing stunts, colorful.
Sex/Nudity: At least 12 sexually suggestive scenes. Violence: 17 scenes, including karate and swordfights. Profanity: 23 expressions. Drugs: 9 scenes of smoking, drinking.