Director: Tom Shadyac. With Jim Carrey, Jennifer Aniston, Morgan Freeman. (94 min.)
Staff *** See full review, page 15.
Director: Jim Sheridan. With Samantha Morton, Paddy Considine, Djimon Hounsou. (103 min.)
Sterritt ** An actor emigrates from Ireland to New York with his wife and young daughters, moving into a scruffy tenement and hoping he'll achieve some degree of success before overwhelming poverty gets the better of them all. The story has too many trite moments, but strong acting and a good-hearted attitude keep the picture afloat.
Director: Andrew Fleming. With Michael Douglas, Albert Brooks, Ryan Reynolds. (95 min.)
Staff ** See full review, page 15.
Director: Aviva Sleslin. With surviving parents and children of the World War II era.
Sterritt *** This is a documentary about non- Jewish adults who risked their lives and families to save Jewish children from Nazi brutality. Although it isn't very original in style, this heartfelt account is always instructive and frequently very touching. In English, German, and French with English subtitles.
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: Karen Moncrieff. With Agnes Bruckner, David Strathairn, Margaret Colin. (87 min.)
Sterritt *** A teenage girl writes poetry as a means of coping with her dysfunctional family and then faces a new challenge when her encouraging English teacher starts to cross the line of teacher-pupil propriety. Except for the somewhat superficial climax, Moncrieff's low-key screenwriting and directing mesh marvelously with the first-rate acting.
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's message 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 social and political conditions that drive the plot about revolutionary violence. But Bardem delivers a sensitive performance.
Staff *** Provocative, well-paced, intricate.
Sex/Nudity: 1 nude scene; 3 innuendos. Violence: 22 scenes, some quite gory depicting aftermath of explosions. Profanity: 14 profanities. Drugs: 7 smoking scenes; 2 scenes with alcohol.
Director: Peyton Reed. With Renée Zellweger, Ewan McGregor, David Hyde Pierce, Tony Randall. (96 min.)
Sterritt * The time is 1962. The heroine is an enterprising author (Zellweger) who's penned a feminist book years ahead of its time, but the suave magazine editor she needs for publicity purposes (McGregor) wants to prove she's a romantic softie at heart. There's promise in the film's idea of reviving the spirit of Doris Day-Rock Hudson comedies, complete with colorful images and vintage wide-screen cinematography. Sadly, though, director Reed has no idea how to build the right bubbling rhythms.
Sex/Nudity: 16 instances of innuendo. Violence: 3 mild scenes. Profanity: None. Drugs: 21 scenes with drinking and smoking.
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 just loopy enough to be involving and fun if you're willing to leave your brain at the snack counter and let Mangold jolt your spine with every thriller-chiller trick in Hollywood's hefty book.
Staff **1/2 Cliché, Cusack is watchable, mystery fans will enjoy.
Sex/Nudity: 1 scene of implied sex. Violence: 22 scenes, some are quite gory. Profanity: 23 profanities. Drugs: 3 smoking scenes; 2 scenes with drinking.
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 with 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.
Sex/Nudity: 3 innuendos. Violence: 1 shootout. Profanity: 14 harsh expressions. Drugs: 12 scenes of drinking, smoking.
Directors: The Wachowski Brothers. With Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, Carrie-Anne Moss. (138 min.)
Sterritt ** Like its predecessor, this sequel pits a sort of superhero (Reeves) and his trusty right-hand man (Fishburne) against the oppressive agents of machines that sustain their control of Earth by plugging humans into a virtual-reality world that keeps them deluded. The action is fast-paced and the visual effects are impressive. But the occasional hints of philosophical depth are mere window dressing on what is essentially a money-driven franchise film. At least the first installment had some degree of originality; the only real surprise here is how abrupt and arbitrary the ending dares to be.
Staff **1/2 Thrilling car chase, video game-ish, too long.
Sex/Nudity: 1 sex scene with nudity; 1 scene with dirty dancing. 2 instances of innuendo. Violence: 17 extended scenes, including bloody battles. Profanity: 24 profanities. Drugs: 1 scene with drinking.
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 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 talent.
Staff *** Chilling, neurotic, frustrating.
Sex/Nudity: 1 nude scene; 2 innuendos. Violence: None. Profanity: 11 profanities. Drugs: 18 scenes of drinking, smoking.
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 sex. Violence: 5 scenes of pushing. Profanity: 32 harsh expressions. Drugs: 1 scene of drinking; 1 scene with drugs.
Director: Jacques Perrin. With many flying birds. (85 min.)
Sterritt ** 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.
Staff ***1/2 Stunning photography, interesting footage, empty narration.
Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: None. Profanity: None. Drugs: None.
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 instances of innuendo. 1 brief nude scene. Violence: Extreme violence throughout. Profanity: 11 expressions. Drugs: 1 drinking scene; 3 scenes with smoking.