Movie Guide

NEW RELEASES
Agent Cody Banks (PG)

Director: Harald Zwart. With Frankie Muniz, Hilary Duff, Keith David, Angie Harmon. (110 min.)

Sterritt * See review, page 15.

Bend It Like Beckham (PG-13)

Director: Gurinder Chadha. With Parminder K. Nagra, Jonathan Rhys-Meyers, Keira Knightley. (112 min.)

Recommended: Could you pass a US citizenship test?

Sterritt ** See review, page 15.

The Hunted (R)

Director: William Friedkin. With Tommy Lee Jones, Benicio Del Toro, Connie Nielsen, Jenna Boyd. (94 min.)

Sterritt * See review, page 15.

Platform (Not rated)

Director: Zhang Ke Jia. With Hong Wei Wang, Jing Dong Liang, Tao Zhao, Tian Yi Yang. (155 min.)

Sterritt *** The setting is provincial China in the late '70s and '80s, and the main characters are members of a theater troupe that has to change its subjects and styles as the nation shifts from Maoist orthodoxy to new, more progressive attitudes. The movie makes up in sweep and splendor what it lacks in psychological depth and dramatic impact. In Mandarin with English subtitles.

Under the Skin of the City (Not rated)

Director: Rakshan Bani-Etemad. With Golab Adineh, Baran Kosari, Mohammad Reza Forutan. (92 min.)

Sterritt *** Various challenges loom for members of an ordinary Tehran family, including the worried old matriarch and an ambitious son who wants to leave Iran for greener pastures in Japan and will do anything to get the money and papers he needs. This gritty drama doesn't rank with the greatest Iranian films, but its urban characters offer an interesting change from the nation's best-known productions, which generally center on rural subjects. In Farsi with English subtitles.

CURRENTLY IN RELEASE
Alias Betty (Not rated)

Director: Claude Miller. With Sandrine Kiberlain, Nicole Garcia, Mathilde Seigner, Edouard Baer. (101 min.)

Sterritt *** After a novelist's child dies, her neurotic 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 have come from an abusive home. Miller spins an engrossing story combining psychological drama, sociological reflection, and high-octane suspense. In French with English subtitles.

Blind Spot - Hitler's Secretary (PG)

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

Sterritt **** This documentary presents a long interview with a personal assistant to Adolf Hitler who lived in his bunker during his final days. She candidly admits her failure to recognize the profound evil of a man she found personable and even kind during their daily interactions. Her testimony is a salutary reminder that Hitler was a person - not a supernatural monster whose malevolence sprang from inexplicable sources - and that the evil he manifested could visit us again if more civilized humans don't remain watchful.

Staff **** Candid, intimate, sparse, riveting.

Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: None shown, but some description of violence. Profanity: None. Drugs: At least three scenes in which interviewee is smoking.

Bringing Down the House (PG-13)

Director: Adam Shankman. With Steve Martin, Queen Latifah, Eugene Levy, Joan Plowright. (105 min.)

Sterritt * Likable white lawyer (Martin) meets earthy black exconvict (Latifah) who won't stop pestering him until he helps her clear her name. Parts of this boisterous comedy are in remarkably poor taste - a female fistfight, a scene where Martin dudes himself up in ghetto-style gear - and the rest is plain old not funny. What's such a talented cast doing in such a brain-dead farce?

Staff ** Slapstick, funny at times, racially tense.

Sex/Nudity: 6 scenes with innuendo, strong at times. Violence: 7 scenes, including fights. Profanity: 7 harsh expressions; 42 mild. Drugs: 13 scenes of drinking, smoking. 1 scene of drugs.

Cradle 2 The Grave (R)

Director: Andrzej Bartkowiak. With Jet Li, DMX, Mark Dacascos. (100 min.)

Staff * DMX plays Tony Fait, the leader of a gang of thieves who enlists the help of Taiwanese intelligence agent Jet Li when his daughter is kidnapped by thugs seeking his latest booty. Perhaps paying homage to DMX's rap style, the film plays like a music video with bright colors, pounding music, and dizzying camera moves. But even a father's love for his daughter can't justify the relentless violence. If the gore does not make you look away, then the "been there, done that" plot will. By Sasha Brown

Sex/Nudity: 4 instances of innuendo. Violence: 18 scenes, including beatings and dead bodies. Profanity: 73 harsh expressions. Drugs: At least 7 scenes of smoking and drinking.

Daredevil (PG-13)

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. 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.

Gerry (R)

Director: Gus Van Sant. With Matt Damon, Casey Affleck. (103 min.)

Sterritt **** Two men embark on a hike in a lonely patch of wilderness, then discover they're deeply lost. This bravely offbeat drama is a radical experiment in stripping a story to its bare essentials, then pushing those essentials as far as they'll go, asking viewers to be as intrepid and tenacious as the characters. It reconfirms Van Sant as one of the most original filmmakers, and Damon as a star who's not afraid to take risks.

Staff *** Breathtaking scenery, spare, slow.

Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: 1 scene of strangulation. Profanity: 39 harsh expressions. Drugs: 4 scenes with smoking.

He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not (Not rated)

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.

Irréversible (Not rated)

Director: Gaspar Noé. With Vincent Cassell, Monica Bellucci, Albert Dupontel, Jo Prestia. (95 min.)

Sterritt *** This is a story about a brutal murder, a horrifying rape, and the events leading up to them, all revealed in reverse chronology and eye-churning camera work. Noe's despairing view of human nature is as thoughtful as it is grim, limning the most appalling aspects of earthly experience in terms recalling Dante and Bosh, among other apocalyptic artists. Only moviegoers who can tolerate extreme violence should venture anywhere near this corrosive film. In French with English subtitles.

Sex/Nudity: 10 scenes, including 5 with nudity. Violence: 8 scenes, including an extended, brutal rape scene and a graphic beating. Profanity: 99 harsh expressions. Drugs: 6 scenes of smoking, drinking. 2 scenes with drugs.

The Life of David Gale (R)

Director: Alan Parker. With Kevin Spacey, Kate Winslet, Gabriel Mann, Laura Linney. (130 min.)

Sterritt ** The title character is a troubled philosophy professor whose life goes downhill when he loses his job because of a trumped-up rape charge and then gets convicted of murdering a fellow political activist who protested capital punishment at his side for years. The subject is timely and some of the acting is strong, but as usual, Parker cares more about quickening our pulses than enlightening our minds. And the surprise ending isn't much of a surprise.

Staff ***1/2 Gripping, well acted, superb.

Sex/Nudity: 2 graphic sex scenes. 3 scenes of a nude body. Innuendo throughout. Violence: 6 scenes, including flashbacks of a murder scene. Profanity: 22 expressions. Drugs: 7 scenes, including drunkenness. 5 scenes of smoking. 1 scene with illegal drug use.

Nowhere in Africa (Not rated)

Director: Caroline Link. With Karoline Eckertz, Merab Ninidze, Juliane Köhler, Regine Zimmermann. (141 min.)

Sterritt *** The story begins in 1938, when a Jewish refugee from Germany's growing Nazi violence moves to a lonely farm in Kenya, then sends for his wife and daughter to join him, resulting in major adjustment problems for all three. The movie focuses mainly on the girl as she grows from childhood to adolescence, and it also portrays the difficulties her parents face in their new environment. If lush landscapes and exotic wildlife are what you're after, this isn't the safari for you. But many moviegoers will respond to its understated mixture of family drama and Holocaust-era history. In English, German, and Swahili with English subtitles.

Open Hearts (R)

Director: Susanne Bier. With Sonja Richter, Nikolaj Lie Kaas, Mads Mikkelsen. (114 min.)

Staff ***1/2 Nearly too painful to watch, Bier's film (Denmark's entry for the Best Foreign Film Oscar) forces the viewer down the same gantlet of emotions as the characters themselves. Sonja Richter plays Cecilie, a young woman who has an affair with Niels (Mikkelsen), a married doctor with three small children, after her fiancé becomes paralyzed. Niels happens to be the husband of the woman who struck her fiancé. Unforgiving in its starkness, with no tricks of lighting or soundtrack, what might otherwise seem melodramatic, plays as tender and deeply affecting. By Sasha Brown

Staff ***1/2Gripping, raw, wrenching.

Sex/Nudity: 10 instances, including innuendo, sex, and partial nudity. Violence: 2 scenes. Profanity: 27 instances of profanity. Drugs: 6 drinking scenes. 1 scene with smoking.

The Quiet American (R)

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.

Staff ***1/2 Intricate, well acted, thoughtful, suspenseful.

Sex/Nudity: 3 scenes of implied sex and several scenes with prostitutes and innuendo. Violence: 8 scenes, including battles, bloody bombings, and dead bodies. Profanity: 14 expressions. Drugs: 12 scenes with smoking and drinking.

The Safety of Objects (R)

Director: Rose Troche. With Glenn Close, Dermot Mulroney, Patricia Clarkson, Robert Klein. (120 min.)

Sterritt ** A lonely father, an insecure woman, a comatose young man, and an adolescent infatuated with a doll are among the diverse characters of this multifaceted drama, based on A.M. Homes's stories. The effect is imaginative but overambitious, though Troche has cinematic talent.

Sex/Nudity: 10 scenes, including implied sex, seminudity, and innuendo. Violence: 5 scenes, including kidnapping. Profanity: 33 expressions. Drugs: 11 scenes with smoking, drinking.

Spider (R)

Director: David Cronenberg. With Ralph Fiennes, Miranda Richardson, Gabriel Byrne, Lynne Redgrave. (98 min.)

Sterritt **** A mentally troubled man tries to relive and understand his tormented past, flooded by delusions and memories of his apparently abused childhood while wandering through the London neighborhood where he grew up. Cronenberg doesn't draw clear boundary lines between illusion and reality, depicting the main character's experiences as a complex web of memories, fantasies, longings, and dreads. Honors also go to first-rate acting by Fiennes as the protagonist and Richardson in multiple roles.

Tears of the Sun (R)

Director: Antoine Fuqua. With Bruce Willis, Monica Bellucci, Cole Hauser, Tom Skerritt. (105 min.)

Sterritt ** American soldiers led by a hard-boiled lieutenant (Willis) penetrate the Nigerian jungle to rescue an endangered Italian physician (Bellucci) who refuses to leave for safety unless she can bring a group of refugees with her. Dark-toned camera work and moody music give this slowly paced war movie an effectively chilling atmosphere until the final scenes, when US missiles and flaming Columbia Pictures fireballs turn the climax into a reunion of combat-movie clichés.

Sex/Nudity: 1 scene of partial nudity. Violence: 10 scenes of extreme war violence, including torture. Profanity: 38 expressions.

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