Movie Guide

NEW RELEASES
Anger Management (PG-13)

Director: Peter Segal. With Jack Nicholson, Adam Sandler, Marisa Tomei, Heather Graham. (100 min.)

Sterritt *** See review.

Better Luck Tomorrow (R)

Director: Justin Lin. With Parry Shen, Sung Kang, Jason Tobin, Roger Fan. (99 min.)

Sterritt *** A small circle of Asian-American friends scramble for good grades, plan for college, and pull off petty crimes for fun. The filmmaking is gimmicky, aimed at young moviegoers with a taste for rowdy teen comedy and music-video aesthetics. What helps Lin's feature-directing debut is his insight into the dark side of living up to "model minority" stereotypes in a materialistic culture.

Ghosts of the Abyss (G)

Director: James Cameron. With Bill Paxton, John Lynch, Charles Pellegrino, Lori Johnston. (60 min.)

Sterritt *** See review.

Raising Victor Vargas (R)

Director: Peter Sollett. With Victor Rasuk, Judy Marte, Melonie Diaz, Altagracia Guzman. (87 min.)

Sterritt *** See review.

CURRENTLY IN RELEASE
A Man Apart (R)

Director: F. Gary Gray. With Vin Diesel, Larenz Tate, Timothy Olyphant, Jacqueline Obradors. (109 min.)

Sterritt * Diesel plays a narcotics cop who prospers by relying on the tricks he learned as a streetwise hustler. When criminals murder his wife, his lust for vengeance brings out a side of him as nasty as the bad guys he wants to bring down. Diesel's unmodulated acting and Gray's heavy-handed directing make this more of a down-and-dirty vigilante yarn than the psychological drama it tries to be.

Staff **1/2 Predictable, exciting, Diesel-icious.

Sex/Nudity: 3 scenes, including innuendo and topless dancers. Violence: 14 scenes, including shootouts. Profanity: 105 harsh profanities. Drugs: 22 scenes with drinking, smoking, drugs.

Assassination Tango (R)

Director: Robert Duvall. With Duvall, Luciana Pedraza. (114 min.)

Sterritt *** Duvall is terrific as an American hit man who learns to tango in Argentina while waiting for the return of a general he's been hired to murder. As usual in the films he writes and directs, Duvall blends a fictional story with authentic background details and performances by cast members who aren't trained actors. There's plenty to please the eye and the ear, but Pedraza's acting skills don't equal her excellence as a dancer.

Staff *** Intelligent, elegant dancing, engaging.

Sex/Nudity: 1 sex scene; 12 scenes with innuendo related to tango. Violence: 8 scenes, including shootings. Profanity: 24 harsh profanities.

Basic (R)

Director: John McTiernan. With John Travolta, Connie Nielsen, Samuel L. Jackson, Giovanni Ribisi. (98 min.)

Sterritt * A retired military man (Travolta) investigates the murder of a brutal sergeant (Jackson) in a chaotic training situation where too many people had too many motives and opportunities for the crime. Travolta and Jackson have some effective scenes, but Nielsen is lacking in charisma, and James Vanderbilt's screenplay ought to be court-martialed.

Sex/Nudity: 2 instances of innuendo. Violence: 15 scenes, including bloody fights. Profanity: 69 profanities. Drugs: 9 scenes of drinking, smoking.

Bend It Like Beckham (PG-13)

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

Sterritt ** The heroine is a soccer-loving Indian teen living in London with her highly traditional family; they believe nice young women shouldn't chase after balls, and their conservatism may prevent her from fashioning her future on her own terms. The film probes territory already explored in pictures like "East Is East," but its look at cultural clashes is always well-meaning and good-humored.

Staff **1/2 Joyous, innocent, predictable.

Sex/Nudity: 1 mild sex scene. Violence: Mild violence on the soccer field. Profanity: 7 instances of profanity. Drugs: 8 scenes of drinking; 1 with smoking.

The Core (PG-13)

Director: Jon Amiel. With Aaron Eckhart, Hilary Swank, Delroy Lindo, Stanley Tucci. (136 min.)

Staff * It's the end of the world as we know it when a military experiment ends up destabilizing Earth's core. Before long, subpar fire-and-brimstone special effects are raining on postcard scenery like the Colosseum in Rome. In an attempt to restore gravity to the planet and add gravitas to the lightweight story, a distinguished cast is gathered to journey to Earth's center. The actors tackle their roles with laughable temerity, and the result, though hardly laudable, is better than "Armaggedon." By Stephen Humphries

Staff ** Core-ny, explosive, good effects.

Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: 14 scenes, including explosions. Profanity: 3 harsh expressions. Drugs: 11 scenes of smoking, drinking.

Cowboy Bebop (R)

Director: Shinichiro Watanabe. With Koichi Yamadera, Unsho Ishizuka, Megumi Hayashibara. (116 min.)

Staff **1/2 Bounty hunters from space track down a terrorist with a stolen military bioweapon capable of making his apocalyptic dreams come true. There are no cowboys and little bebop, but the words hint at hero Spike Spiegel's blend of solitary grit and unflappable cool. Slick animation and a hip soundtrack lend the action a distinctive style. Fans of the TV series will argue over whether the movie surpasses it. But animé fans will enjoy the show regardless. By Tim Rauschenberger

Sex/Nudity: Some innuendo. Violence: 16 scenes, including gunfights and battles Profanity: 13 profanities. Drugs: 13 scenes of smoking, drinking.

Dysfunktional Family (R)

Director: George Gallo. With Eddie Griffin, Uncle Buckey, Uncle Curtis. (89 min.)

Staff *1/2 Like Chris Rock and Eddie Murphy before him, Eddie Griffin has made a film based on his stand-up comedy routine - now if only it were funny. There are some mildly humorous moments, but overall, this film is boring and depressing to boot. Griffin talks for 20 minutes about the beatings he endured as a child that "kept him out of jail." He talks of his uncle the junkie whom he saw injecting heroin. Memo to Eddie: child abuse and drug addiction, while certainly "dysfunk- tional" are not funny at all. By Sasha Brown

Sex/Nudity: 57 scenes, mostly sex talk. A few porn clips. Violence: Scenes of child abuse. Profanity: At least 600 profanities, including racial slurs. Drugs: 13 scenes of smoking, drinking, drugs.

The Good Thief (R)

Director: Neil Jordan. With Nick Nolte, Tchéky Karyo, Emir Kusturica. (110 min.)

Sterritt ** Nolte plays a gambler on the French Riviera who stakes his future on a scheme to pull off two heists - a real one and a decoy - helped by a motley crew of collaborators. This caper is a duded-up remake of Jean-Pierre Melville's classic "Bob le Flambeur," with an added subplot about forged paintings that dovetails with the story's interest in illusion and reality. Jordan miscalculates by substituting noise and bustle for the moody atmosphere of the 1955 original.

The Guys (PG)

Director: Jim Simpson. With Sigourney Weaver, Anthony LaPaglia. (88 min.)

Sterritt ** This is a two-character drama about a journalist (Weaver) who agrees to help a New York City fire captain (LaPaglia) write eulogies for comrades who were killed in the Sept. 11 attacks, coming into more intimate contact with the tragedy than she ever expected. Based on Anne Nelson's play, Simpson's film is a soft-spoken memorial to the awful event and its human consequences, but it has little new to tell or teach us.

Sex/Nudity: None. Profanity: Not much. Drugs: None.

Head of State (PG-13)

Director: Chris Rock. With Rock, Bernie Mac, Robin Givens. (95 min.)

Sterritt ** Rock plays a black alderman who's coaxed into running for president by an underhanded politico who really wants him to lose. You can guess the rest - he speaks his mind, charms average citizens, and sweeps in from behind. But along with painfully predictable gags the film has moments of sharp social satire, and Rock makes a promising directorial debut. Chris Rock 4 President.

Sex/Nudity: 2 instances of innuendo. Violence: 8 violent scenes, including shootings.

Laurel Canyon (R)

Director: Lisa Cholodenko. With Frances McDormand, Christian Bale, Kate Beckinsale. (103 min.)

Sterritt *** Fresh from medical school, a conscientious young man and his fiancée move into the southern California home of his mother, an aging flower child whose domicile does extra duty as recording studio for her young lover's rock band. The story doesn't ultimately live up to its technical polish, but it paints a vivid picture of emotional vibes emanating from the Hollywood Hills.

Staff *** Evocative setting, shocking, quirky.

Sex/Nudity: 9 scenes, including 3 with nudity and 6 of sex. Violence: 1 scene. Profanity: 50 profanities. Drugs: 20 scenes of smoking, drinking.

Lawless Heart (R)

Directors: Neil Hunter, Tom Hunsinger. With Tom Hollander, Bill Nighy, Douglas Henshall. (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 deepened by the filmmakers' strategy of telling it from multiple points of view. Solid acting and engaging characters round out the neatly assembled tale.

Sex/Nudity: 9 sex scenes, including nudity. Violence: 1 scene. Profanity: 20 profanities. Drugs: 27 scenes of smoking, drinking.

Levity (R)

Director: Ed Solomon. With Billy Bob Thornton, Kirsten Dunst, Morgan Freeman, Holly Hunter. (100 min.)

Sterritt *** Leaving jail after serving 23 years for a murder he committed as a teenager, a lonely man (Thornton) takes a job in a forlorn community center run by an enigmatic preacher (Freeman). He strikes up hesitant relationships with a troubled young woman (Dunst) and the sister of the man he killed. Solomon keeps the drama generally clear and interesting, though some touches make the film-noir plot seem too pretentious.

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 Nazi violence moves to a lonely farm in Kenya, then sends for his wife and daughter, resulting in major adjustment problems. The film focuses on the girl as she grows into adolescence. It also shows the difficulties her parents face in their new world. Many viewers will respond to this film's understated mix of family drama and Holocaust-era history.

Staff **** Enriching, absorbing, artful.

Sex/Nudity: 8 scenes, including innuendo, and 2 sex scenes. Violence: 2 scenes with slapping. 3 graphic scenes with dead animals. Profanity: 4 expressions. Drugs: 15 scenes.

Phone Booth (R)

Director: Joel Schumacher. With Colin Farrell, Katie Holmes, Kiefer Sutherland. (81 min.)

Sterritt *** A self-centered yuppie (Farrell) answers a ringing pay phone on a Manhattan street, and discovers he's talking with an unseen psychopath (Sutherland) who threatens to shoot him if he dares to hang up. Farrell solidly holds the screen while allowing enough emotional space for other characters, and Schumacher has directed the high-voltage story without a wasted move.

Staff *** Riveting, fast-paced, scary.

Sex/Nudity: Mild innuendo. Violence: 6 scenes, including sniper shootings; guns drawn throughout. Profanity: 97 profanities. Drugs: 4 smoking scenes.

Till Human Voices Wake Us (R)

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 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.

Staff **1/2 Stylish, modest, flat, quiet.

Sex/Nudity: 1 sex scene with nudity. Violence: 2 scenes, including attempted suicide. Profanity: 2 profanities. Drugs: None.

What a Girl Wants (PG)

Director: Dennie Gordon. With Amanda Bynes, Colin Firth, Eileen Atkins. (103 min.)

Sterritt * Longing to meet her father, an English aristocrat who sired her in romantic fling, a New York teenager (Bynes) flies to London and barges into his life. Bynes buffs may never have a better chance to bask in her perky presence. Others may draw some entertainment value from the high-profile supporting cast, but that's all this warmed-over comic trifle has to offer.

Staff **1/2 Light-hearted, goofy, standard fare.

Sex/Nudity: 2 scenes with innuendo. Violence: 3 scenes. Profanity: 8 profanities. Drugs: 5 drinking scenes.

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