Director: Peyton Reed. With Renée Zellweger, Ewan McGregor, David Hyde Pierce, Tony Randall. (96 min.)
Sterritt * See full review.
Director: Guy Maddin. With Zhang Wei-Qiang, Tara Birtwhistle, the Royal Winnipeg Ballet. (75 min.)
Sterritt **** Maddin reconfirms his well-established status as one of modern cinema's great fabulists with this dance version of Bram Stoker's great novel about a vampire, his victims, and his nemesis. The visual style is at once deliberately archaic and slyly postmodernist, slinky and sensuous from first frame to last. Credit also goes to Mark Godden for the passion-filled choreography and Gustav Mahler for the superbly chosen score.
Directors: The Wachowski Brothers. With Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, Carrie-Anne Moss. (138 min.)
Sterritt ** See full review.
Director: Baltasar Kormákur. With Gunnar Eyjólfsson, Sven Nordin, Hélène de Fougerolles. (109 min.)
Sterritt ** Tensions flare when an older Icelandic businessman calls his family together at his home near the coast and tries to forge an agreement on financial matters that holds a key to their future. Hovering somewhere between the domestic passions of "King Lear" and the realism-based Dogma 95 film movement in neighboring Denmark, with echoes of Ibsen and Strindberg, Kormakur's drama is ultimately more ambitious than enlightening. In Icelandic with English subtitles.
Director: Ken Loach. With Martin Compston, Michelle Coulter, Gary McCormack, Annmarie Fulton. (106 min.)
Sterritt *** Approaching his 16th birthday, a troubled Glasgow lad awaits his mother's return from prison; he schemes to raise the money that might let him escape his dysfunctional household and start a better life. Loach has made more memorable films, such as "Raining Stones" and "Ladybird Ladybird," but his dramatic sense remains strong and his social conscience is absolutely unstoppable.
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.
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.
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 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 profanities. Drugs: 8 scenes of drinking; 1 with smoking.
Director: Steve Carr. With Eddie Murphy, Jeff Garlin, Anjelica Huston. (93 min.)
Sterritt ** Murphy and Garlin start a kiddie-minding business as an alternative to a pretentious preschool they can't afford for their own kids when they lose their jobs. Murphy gives one of his more restrained performances, which suits the mood of carefully contained comic mayhem that Carr sustains, while the screenplay pitches a message that would have seemed progressive 30 years ago: Men can change diapers, and women can be lawyers!
Staff ** 1/2 Fun family fare, cute kids, simple.
Sex/Nudity: 1 innuendo. Violence: 9 scenes of slapstick violence. Profanity: 7 mild expressions. Drugs: 1 scene with smoking.
Director: John Malkovich. With Javier Bardem, Laura Morante, Juan Diego. (135 min.)
Sterritt ** Bardem plays a Latin American police detective who tracks down a revolutionary zealot while mooning over his daughter's dance teacher. Malkovich's directorial debut is intellectually ambitious, but his meandering style dilutes the story's emotional effectiveness, and Nicholas Shakespeare's screenplay deals more in vague qualities of Latin culture than in the specific conditions that drive the plot about revolutionary violence. But Bardem delivers a sensitive performance.
Staff *** Provocative, well-paced, intricate.
Sex/Nudity: 1 nude scene. Violence: 22 scenes, some quite gory depicting aftermath of explosions. Drugs: 7 smoking scenes; 2 with alcohol.
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 where 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 neatly 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.
Staff *S/N: 1 scene with innuendo. Violence: 12 scenes, including shootings and fights. Profanity: 10 mild profanities. Drugs: None.
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 film has wild mood-swings, from "Psycho" to "Scream" and back again, but it's loopy enough to be involving and fun if you're willing to leave your brain at the snack 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.
Director: Carlos Reygadas. With Alejandro Ferretis, Magdalena Flores, Carlos Reygadas Barquin. (122 min.)
Sterritt *** A man travels from Mexico City to the rugged countryside, where he plans to commit suicide. Renting a room from a lonely old woman, he builds an intimate relationship with her, nudging him toward altered views of the world. Reygadas's first feature is more persuasive as visually engaging cinema than as thoughtful philosophy, but it's an engrossing and inventive drama despite its flaws. Many widescreen shots are transfixing. In Spanish with English subtitles.
Staff *** Rich plot, jarring, beautiful, slow.
Sex/Nudity: 4 graphic sex scenes. Violence: 7 scenes, some gory. Profanity: 11 profanities.
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.
Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: 1 scene of punching. Profanity: None. Drugs: 1 drinking scene.
Director: Jennifer Dworkin. With Love Hinson, Diane Hazzard, Donyaeh Hazzard, Willie Hazzard. (155 min.)
Sterritt **** Dworkin makes a powerful filmmaking debut with this long, intense documentary about an inner-city family beset by problems of poverty and addiction. The movie is expansive in its concerns, intimate in its emotions, and incisive in its analysis of the interplay between social-service systems and the individual, often idiosyncratic households they're meant to help.
Director: Patrice Leconte. With Jean Rochefort, Johnny Hallyday, Isabelle Petit-Jacques. (90 min.)
Sterritt *** Rochefort and Hallyday play two aging men - a retired poetry teacher and an over-the-hill robber - who meet when the latter comes to town for a poorly planned heist. Their friendship starts by chance and ends abruptly, but it blossoms long enough to make each man wonder if his chosen path has been as fulfilling as it has seemed. Heartfelt acting makes up for some stodgy dialogue and sentimentality, and it's nice to know Leconte still has a foot firmly planted in old-fashioned humanistic storytelling. In French with English subtitles.
Directors: Chris Hegedus, D.A. Pennebaker. With Mary Wilson, Isaac Hayes, Sam Moore. (95 min.)
Staff ** 1/2 Groove your way back to the heyday of soul in this documentary that follows artists who've been strong enough to carry on, or revive, their musical careers. You'll catch up with Mary Wilson of the Supremes. You'll feel every heartfelt note as Sam Moore sings "When Something's Wrong With My Baby" during a tribute to Isaac Hayes. The film lacks the poignancy of the long-overdue tribute to musicians in "Standing in the Shadows of Motown." But it delivers the same joyful blend of humorous stories and tunes that simply won't let you sit still. By Stacy A. Teicher
Violence: None. Profanity: 2 profanities.
Director: Richard Kwietniowski. With Philip Seymour Hoffman, Minnie Driver, John Hurt. (104 min.)
Sterritt **** Based on true events, this engrossing drama chronicles the decline of a mild-mannered bank clerk (Hoffman) as his gambling addiction drives him so deeply into debt that even his bookies feel bad about it. Hoffman is devastatingly good, and Hurt is excellent as a money-driven casino manager who wants to milk his obsessive client for all he's worth. Kwietniowski's second feature isn't as brilliant as his first, "Love and Death on Long Island," but it confirms his promise as an exceptional talent.
Director: Neil LaBute. With Rachel Weisz, Paul Rudd, Gretchen Mol. (97 min.)
Sterritt **** An insecure college student becomes more assured under the sway of his new girlfriend, an aspiring artist who transforms his self-image but brings rueful surprises when she turns out to have an intellectual agenda. The film begins as a well-crafted dramatic comedy, then morphs into a disturbing deconstruction of truisms about love, loyalty, maturing, and the complex permutations of art and ethics. LaBute succeeds as he never did in his previous films.
Staff *** Insightful, powerful, incisive dialogue.
Sex/Nudity: 5 scenes, including innuendo and implied sex. Violence: 5 scenes of pushing. Profanity: 32 harsh expressions. Drugs: 1 scene of drinking; 1 with drugs.
Director: Jacques Perrin. With many flying birds. (85 min.)
Staff ** Birds, birds, birds. Some of the shots have the up-close naturalism of Audubon paintings, capturing our feathered friends in colorful detail. Others are out-and-out spectacular, with eye-filling juxtapositions of bird flocks and scenic vistas. As pretty as it is, however, the film isn't very informative, conveying little about its subject beyond what species and locations are on the screen.
Director: Bryan Singer. With Patrick Stewart, Hugh Jackman, Ian McKellen, Halle Berry. (134 min.)
Staff **1/2Warning: Do not even consider going to this sequel until you've seen the first X-Men film. The sequel picks up as if you just ran to the fridge for a soda. That said, Singer has given this a slightly more serious tone, a broader canvas, and more minutes for your money. There are some great new characters and memorable interchanges between the two main mutants about the age-old question: "Who am I?" By Gloria Goodale
Staff *** X-cellent, superior sequel, overcooked.
Sex/Nudity: 3 innuendos. 1 brief nude scene. Violence: Extreme violence throughout. Profanity: 11 expressions. Drugs: 1 drinking scene; 3 with smoking.