Director: Andrew Jarecki. With Arnold Friedman, Jesse Friedman, Elaine Friedman, David Friedman. (107 min.)
Sterritt **** This is a riveting documentary about a seemingly ordinary Long Island family knocked to smithereens when shocking criminal charges are levied against two of them, sparking a series of dramatic, traumatic events. Jarecki was fortunate to have a substantial trove of revealing film and video materials at his disposal. He makes excellent use of them, crafting a compulsively watchable movie that's also a provocative inquiry into the ability of the criminal-justice system to determine culpability and truth.
Director: Andrew Stanton. With Albert Brooks, Ellen DeGeneres, Willem Dafoe, Geoffrey Rush. (101 min.)
Staff *** See full review.
Director: F. Gary Gray. With Mark Wahlberg, Edward Norton, Charlize Theron, Seth Green. (104 min.)
Staff **See full review.
Director: Aluizio Abranches. With Júlia Lemmertz, Luíza Mariani, Maria Luisa Mendonça. (90 min.)
Sterritt **** Stricken with grief and rage after her sons and husband are murdered by a long-ago romantic rival, a woman dispatches her three daughters to exact revenge with the help of three implacable killers whose aid they must enlist. This strikingly unusual movie is at once an old-fashioned melodrama, a boldly stylized spectacle, and a very grim fairy tale, acted and directed with originality and flair. In Portuguese with English subtitles.
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.
Staff *** Nuanced, chilling, transparent.
Sex/Nudity: 1 scene of implied sex; some innuendo. Violence: 4 instances, including statutory rape, coercion, self-mutilation. Profanity: 17 profanities. Drugs: 3 drinking scenes.
Director: Tom Shadyac. With Jim Carrey, Jennifer Aniston, Morgan Freeman. (94 min.)
Staff *** Carrey stars as a TV reporter who blames God for all his problems. In a flash, he comes face to face with God, warmly played by Freeman. Turns out that God wants to take a vacation and has chosen Bruce to fill in while he's away. Now Bruce has got the power, but he has no idea what to do with it, except part his tomato soup like the Red Sea or potty-train his dog. But there has to be a moral lurking here somewhere, and Bruce finally learns the importance of helping people. Happily, Carrey is back with his trademark facial expressions and outrageous physical comedy. Aniston, as his girlfriend, is a bright presence, too. By Lisa Leigh Connors
Staff *** Carrey is allllrighty, divinely funny, too sentimental.
Sex/Nudity: 10 scenes, including innuendo and implied sex. No nudity. Violence: 7 scenes of violence, mostly slapstick or fighting. Profanity: 12 profanities. Drugs: 4 scenes with drinking.
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 story.
Sex/Nudity: 1 innuendo. Violence: 9 scenes of slapstick violence. Profanity: 7 mild expressions. Drugs: 1 scene with smoking.
Director: Peyton Reed. With Renée Zellweger, Ewan McGregor. (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 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.
Staff ** 1/2 Campy, giddy, sappy.
Sex/Nudity: 16 instances of innuendo. Violence: 3 mild scenes. Profanity: None. Drugs: 25 scenes with drinking and smoking.
Directors: Michael Galinsky, Suki Hawley. With James Hatfield, Sander Hicks, Mark Crispin Miller. (90 min.)
Sterritt **** This is a chilling and engrossing documentary about an author whose life took wild turns when his biography of George W. Bush lost its berth with a mainstream press, leading him to team up with a maverick publisher. The film should fascinate anyone interested in politics, publishing, and the uneasy marriage between big money and mass communication.
Director: Andrew Fleming. With Michael Douglas, Albert Brooks, Ryan Reynolds. (95 min.)
Staff ** A loose-cannon secret agent (Douglas) drags a mild-mannered foot doctor (Brooks) into his world of clandestine capers and narrow escapes. Can they save the world and still pull off the wedding of their son and daughter? This remake of a near-classic 1979 comedy is funny in spots but devolves into sitcom silliness, with an ending right out of an old "McHale's Navy" episode. David Suchet steals scenes as a chilling yet comic über-villain. By Gregory M. Lamb
Sex/Nudity: 6 innuendos. Violence: 7 scenes, including explosions, beatings. Profanity: 6 profanities. Drugs: 5 drinking scenes.
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 mean to help.
Director: Jordan Malamed. With Don Cheadle, Zooey Deschanel. (100 min.)
Sterritt * Spoiled adolescents fill a mental institution with pouting and tantrums, and we're supposed to feel their pain. What really hurts is the film's shallow screenwriting, self-indulgent acting, and poor camerawork.
Director: Bahman Ghobadi. With Shahab Ebrahimi, Faegh Mohammadi. (97 min.)
Sterritt **** Surrounded by chaos in the violent aftermath of the Iran-Iraq War, a popular Kurdish musician and his sons hunt for his missing wife, keeping up their spirits with melodies and carousing. A mix of war film, road movie, and romantic comedy-drama, this peripatetic yarn is less resonant than Ghobadi's beautiful "A Time for Drunken Horses," but it has enough energy to keep your eyes popping and your toes tapping. In Kurdish with English subtitles.
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: 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 Denmark, with echoes of Ibsen and Strindberg for good measure, Kormakur's drama is ultimately more ambitious than enlightening. In Icelandic with English subtitles.
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 other 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: Jeff Blitz. With children in the National Spelling Bee. (97 min.)
Sterritt **** The characters are socially and culturally diverse kids who share a knack for spelling, and the event is the National Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C., where they're competing in the finals. This spirited documentary would be more valuable if it explored the dark side of its subject, probing rote learning and asking if competition for its own sake is a proper educational tool. But you won't find many films with more sheer suspense. In all, it's downright spellbinding.
Director: Ken Loach. With Martin Compston, Michelle Coulter, Gary McCormack. (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: 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.