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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.Skip to next paragraph
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Staff **1/2 Thrilling car chase, video game-ish, too long.
Sex/Nudity: 1 sex scene with nudity; 1 scene of dirty dancing. 2 instances of innuendo. Violence: 17 extended scenes, including bloody battles. Profanity: 24 profanities. Drugs: 1 drinking scene.
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: Jeff Blitz. With children in the National Spelling Bee. (97 min.)
Sterritt **** The characters are a socially and culturally diverse group of 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.
Staff **** Humorous, suspenseful, interesting.
Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: None. Profanity: 1 profanity. Drugs: None.
Director: Ken Loach. With Martin Compston, Michelle Coulter. (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.
Staff *** Depressing, important, realistic.
Sex/Nudity: 3 innuendos. Violence: 12 scenes, including beatings. Profanity: 356 profanities. Drugs: 14 scenes of drinking, smoking, and drugs.
Director: Rob Schmidt. With Eliza Dushku, Jeremy Sisto, Emmanuelle Chriqui, Desmond Harrington. (84 min.)
Staff **1/2 Four young adults stumble on the cabin of hillbilly mutants who disable their cars. They must fight the mutants or join scores of unsolved West Virginia disappearances. Fortunately, one of the four (Harrington) is a medical student who can patch himself up and inspire the others with one can-do plan after another. The cast is far better than the material, but a less-is-more approach aids suspense. By M.K. Terrell
Sex/Nudity: 3 instances, including innuendo and implied sex. Violence: 16 scenes of extreme violence. Profanity: 12 profanities. Drugs: Several scenes of drinking, smoking, and drug use.
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.