Movie Guide

NEW RELEASES
Afghan Stories (Not rated)

Director: Taran Davies. With families in New York and Afghanistan. (61 min.)

Sterritt *** A visit with Afghan men, women, and children in the wake of Sept. 11, probing views of everything from the Soviet invasion of 1979 to problems with poverty today. The documentary makes up in humane values what it lacks in sociological depth. In English, Pashto, and Turkmen with English subtitles.

Blue Car (R)

Director: Karen Moncrieff. With Agnes Bruckner, David Strathairn, Margaret Colin, Frances Fisher. (87 min.)

Recommended: Default

Sterritt *** See full review, page 15.

The Dancer Upstairs (R)

Director: John Malkovich. With Javier Bardem, Laura Morante, Juan Diego Botto, Oliver Cotton. (135 min.)

Sterritt ** See full review, page 15.

The Lizzie McGuire Movie (PG)

Director: Jim Fall. With Hilary Duff, Adam Lamberg, Alex Borstein, Clayton Snyder. (90 min.)

Sterritt *** The popular TV character heads for Rome with a gaggle of classmates and a bossy chaperon, looking for adventure and finding more than she bargained for. The action is light and lively all the way, poking inventive fun at everything from nosy little brothers to clueless hotel managers and romantic Romans who aren't as glamorous as they claim to be. Highly recommended.

Owning Mahowny (R)

Director: Richard Kwietniowski. With Philip Seymour Hoffman, Minnie Driver, John Hurt. (104 min.)

Sterritt **** See full review, page 15.

X2: X-Men United (PG-13)

Director: Bryan Singer. With Patrick Stewart, Hugh Jackman, Ian McKellen, Halle Berry. (134 min.)

Staff **1/2See full review, page 15.

CURRENTLY IN RELEASE
A Mighty Wind (PG-13)

Director: Christopher Guest. With Eugene Levy, Catherine O'Hara, Bob Balaban, Parker Posey. (87 min.)

Sterritt *** Guest follows his amusing "Waiting for Guffman" and "Best in Show" with yet another faux documentary, focusing on folkies from the '60s era of sentimental ballads and lusty protest songs. The parody would be more memorable if it satirized a broader section of the folk-music scene instead of limiting itself to commercialized acts of the Kingston Trio and Peter, Paul & Mary ilk. But it is as accurate as it is funny.

Staff *** Quirky, witty, well-acted.

Sex/Nudity: 7 scenes with innuendo. Violence: None. Profanity: None. Drugs: 2 drinking scenes.

Anger Management (PG-13)

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

Sterritt *** A businessman (Sandler) with an anger problem gets sentenced to live-in therapy sessions with an eccentric shrink (Nicholson). The comedy is uneven and sometimes crude, but it's worth seeing for Sandler's minimalist acting and for a few very funny scenes. Nicholson also is fine when he isn't overplaying his character's shenanigans.

Staff **1/2 Promising start, too slapstick, predictable.

Sex/Nudity: Innuendo throughout; heavy kissing between women. Violence: 15 scenes of violence, mostly fights. Profanity: 23 harsh profanities. Drugs: 14 scenes with drinking and smoking.

Bulletproof Monk (PG-13)

Director: Paul Hunter. With Chow Yun-Fat, Seann William Scott, Jamie King. (103 min.)

Staff **1/2 In Tibet in 1943, the "Monk Without a Name" (Yun-Fat) becomes the protector of a sacred scroll that will make its reader ruler of the world. Naturally, the Nazis want it. Sixty years later the monk comes to the US - Nazis still in pursuit - to find a successor. What he finds is a kung-fu loving pickpocket (Scott) and a mysterious girl (King). The mix of martial arts, super-hero comic book, and Eastern philosophy doesn't really come together, but it moves quickly. By M.K. Terrell

Staff *1/2 Flat, corny, jumpy.

Sex/Nudity: 3 scenes of innuendo. Violence: 20 scenes, including kung-fu battles. Profanity: 11 profanities. Drugs: 3 scenes of drinking, smoking.

Chasing Papi (PG)

Director: Linda Mendoza. With Roselyn Sanchez, Sofia Vergara, Jaci Velasquez. (80 min.)

Staff **1/2 Good-looking Papi (Verastegui) can't resist acquiring new girlfriends as business takes him around the US. Now he loves three women - each in a different city. When they all decide to visit him in L.A., everyone gets a big surprise. This romp has the innocence and pace of a '30s screwball comedy. By M.K. Terrell

Staff *** Spicy, sharp dialogue, innocent.

Sex/Nudity: 3 scenes of innuendo. Violence: 5 scenes, mostly women slapping men. Profanity: 6 profanities. Drugs: 6 scenes of drinking, smoking.

Confidence (R)

Director: James Foley. With Edward Burns, Rachel Weisz, Andy Garcia, Dustin Hoffman. (98 min.)

Sterritt * A con artist plans his last big scam, motivated by revenge and dogged by mobsters who feel he owes them. The film is as tricky and superficial as its lowlife characters, using visual flimflam to mask its lack of substance. The confidence-game scenes work reasonably well, since they allow characters to interact with a little intensity; the rest is awful.

Sex/Nudity: 6 sex scenes with nudity; 2 scenes of innuendo. Violence: 14 harsh scenes. Drugs: 19 drinking scenes; 18 smoking; 2 with drugs.

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.

Staff **1/2 Slow, severe, political.

Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: 9 scenes, including explosions and gunfire. Profanity: 21 harsh expressions. Drugs: At least 9 scenes with smoking.

Holes (PG)

Director: Andrew Davis. With Sigourney Weaver, Jon Voight, Patricia Arquette, Shia LeBeouf. (111 min.)

Staff *** This honky-tonk tale hews closely to Louis Sachar's Newbery-winning children's book. LaBeouf plays Stanley Yelnats IV, a teen who's wrongly convicted of stealing a pair of sneakers. He's shipped off to Camp Green Lake, a detention center that, despite its name, lacks foliage and natural water of any sort. Stanley and the other boys are forced to shovel holes in the desert ostensibly "to build character," says the warden, played chillingly by Weaver. Like most children's films, everything wraps up predictably in the end. But overall, "Holes" digs deeper than other movies of its ilk, probing racism, children not fitting in, and the value of friendship. By Stephanie Cook Broadhurst

Staff ***1/2 Adept adaptation, entertaining, 'Hole'-some.

Sex/Nudity: 1 scene with innuendo. Violence: 12 scenes, including shootings and fights. Profanity: 10 mild profanities. Drugs: None.

Identity (R)

Director: James Mangold. With John Cusack, Amanda Peet, Ray Liotta, Rebecca de Mornay. (90 min.)

Sterritt *** A ramshackle motel hosts a motley crew of stranded travelers on a rain-drenched night - including a mad killer on his way to a hearing just hours before his execution. Soon, corpses start piling up like crazy. The movie has wild mood-swings, from "Psycho" to "Scream" and back again, but it's just loopy enough to be tantalizing, involving, and fun if you're willing to leave your brain at the popcorn counter.

Staff **1/2 Cliché, Cusack is watchable, mystery fans will enjoy.

Sex/Nudity: 1 scene of implied sex. Violence: 22 scenes, quite gory. Profanity: 23 profanities. Drugs: 3 smoking scenes; 2 with drinking.

It Runs in the Family (PG-13)

Director: Fred Schepisi. With Kirk Douglas, Michael Douglas, Rory Culkin, Bernadette Peters. (109 min.)

Sterritt ** The ailing patriarch of a wealthy New York clan (Kirk D.) copes with emotional issues revolving around a successful son (Michael D.) who's facing his own challenges: problem kids, deaths in the family, and a near miss with an extramarital love affair. The screenplay is ragged around the edges, weaving in more story threads than it's prepared to handle. But the film is worth a visit if you're fond of the terrific Douglas duo.

Sex/Nudity: 10 instances of innuendo; 1 of implied sex. Violence: 3 scenes, including fights. Profanity: 19 harsh expressions. Drugs: 8 drinking scenes; some smoking; 3 scenes with pot.

Malibu's Most Wanted (PG-13)

Director: John Whitesell. With Jamie Kennedy, Regina Hall, Taye Diggs, Ryan O'Neal. (85 min.)

Sterritt *** Kennedy plays a white teen who tries so hard to be black that his politically ambitious father (O'Neal) hires two African-American actors to pose as inner-city hoods and scare him back into white-bread behavior. The comedy is often crass, but it makes points about how much of "race" is more about words and gestures we use than the colors of our skins.

Staff *** Inspired silliness, lighthearted, fun.

Sex/Nudity: 9 innuendos. Violence: 16 scenes, including shootouts, explosions. Profanity: 105 profanities. Drugs: 6 scenes of drinking.

The Man Without a Past (PG-13)

Director: Aki Kaurismäki. With Markku Peltola, Kati Outinen, Annikki Tähti, Sakari Kousmanen. (97 min.)

Sterritt **** An ordinary man gets beaten and robbed by thugs, develops a walloping case of amnesia, and spends the rest of the film rebuilding his life through the kindness of strangers and with the love of a good woman. Kaurismaki is Finland's greatest filmmaker, and never has he more artfully balanced his patented blend of deadpan humor, low-key melodrama, and toe-tapping music. In Finnish with English subtitles.

Staff *** 1/2 Tender, moving, riveting.

Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: 5 scenes, including 2 gory beatings. Profanity: None. Drugs: 27 scenes of smoking; 3 with drinking.

Phone Booth (R)

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

Sterritt *** A self-centered yuppie (Farrell) answers a pay phone in New York, and discovers he's talking with a 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.

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

People I Know (R)

Director: Don Algrant. With Al Pacino, Kim Basinger, Ryan O'Neal, Téa Leoni. (95 min.)

Sterritt *** Imagine mixing "The Sweet Smell of Success" with "Eyes Wide Shut" and a dash of "ivans xtc," and you'll have an idea of this daringly offbeat fable about an aging publicity flack, a client aiming at political stardom, and a conspiracy that's as mystifying as it is menacing. Pacino gives his best performance in years, backed by a superb supporting cast and a screenplay that keeps you guessing and engrossed.

Raising Victor Vargas (R)

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

Sterritt *** This is a likable comedy-drama about a Latino teenager in New York who romances a pretty girl who's both standoffish and insecure, like him, and faces domestic difficulties with a grandma who doesn't understand the modern world. Sympathetic and unsentimental, this is a nice example of low-budget filmmaking on a human scale.

Staff *** Realistic, tender, well-acted, witty.

Sex/Nudity: 3 scenes of innuendo. 1 with implied sex. Violence: None. Profanity: 61 profanities. Drugs: 3 scenes of smoking, drinking.

The Real Cancún (R)

Director: Rick de Oliveira. With 16 American college students. (96 min.)

Staff ** Reality TV comes to the big screen. Concept: Recruit a few van loads of college men and women to spend their spring break in Cancún, roll film, and see what happens. Throughout the movie relationships form, break up, or fail to happen. But much is filler (wet T-shirt contests, nighty parties), and a lot seems contrived. By M.K. Terrell

Sex/Nudity: 27 scenes, including nudity, sex, and innuendo. Violence: 1 mild scene. Profanity: 156 profanities. Drugs: Smoking, drinking throughout.

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 a romantic fling, a New York teen (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, fun, goofy, standard fare.

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

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