Director: John Singleton. With Paul Walker, Tyrese Gibson, Cole Hauser, Eva Mendes. (110 min.)
Sterritt * A former cop and his ex-con friend agree to help the feds capture a big-time dope dealer in exchange for clearing their own criminal records. The film has enough wild driving to satisfy any "French Connection" fan or "Bullitt" buff, but there's precious little for anyone else to enjoy. 2 foolish + 2 flashy = 4 get it!
Director: Katsuhito Ishii. With Tadanobu Asano, Shie Kohinata, Susumu Terajima, Shingo Tsurumi. (108 min.)
Sterritt ** On the lam after fleecing some mobsters, a crook teams up with a runaway woman for a chase that becomes more frantic and complicated as it goes along. The movie is visually impressive, but Ishii's virtuoso style can't overcome the flatness of the comic-book story he's telling.
Director: Sam Green. With Bernardine Dohrn, Mark Rudd, Todd Gitlin, Kathleen Cleaver. (93 min.)
Sterritt **** See full review.
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.)
Sterritt ** Finding himself endowed with divine powers temporarily granted by God, a self-centered local TV reporter gradually learns there are more important things in life than his career woes and petty gripes. The screenplay doesn't ultimately make much sense. Carrey is a unique comic talent, though, and Freeman and Aniston back him up with such sensitive supporting performances that the film almost works if you can suspend enough disbelief to swallow its fantastic premise.
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.
Director: Andrew Stanton. With (voices) Albert Brooks, Ellen DeGeneres, Willem Dafoe, Geoffrey Rush. (101 min.)
Staff *** A grumpy clown fish searches for his missing son after the youngster is scooped up by scuba divers and plopped into the office aquarium of an Australian dentist. This exuberant animation is no "Toy Story," but it's the next best thing, with colorful cartooning, imaginative dialogue, and voice performances that mold the finny characters into richly believable figures.
Staff **** Artistic triumph, hilarious, fun.
Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: 5 scenes of cartoonish violence. Some scenes may scare small children. Profanity: None. Drugs: None.
Directors: Johnnie To, Wai Ka Fai. With Andy Lau, Takashi Sorimachi, Kelly Lin. (102 min.)
Sterritt ** Two hit men - one secretive and reclusive, the other wild and flamboyant - joust for the No. 1 reputation, bringing excitement and danger to a young woman who becomes a pawn in their competition. The story matters less than the style, full of swooping camera movements, rapid-fire editing, and color-drenched displays of the vivid violence the Hong Kong school is famous for. Action- adventure buffs will enjoy it, but the picture's interests are too narrow for crossover viewers. In English, Cantonese, Mandarin, and Japanese with English subtitles.
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.
Staff *** Grass roots, smart, raw.
Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: None. Drugs: 2 scenes with drinking; 4 with smoking.
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
Staff *** Screwball, tedious, fast.
Sex/Nudity: 6 innuendos. 1 nude scene. Violence: 7 scenes, including explosions and beatings. Profanity: 6 harsh expressions. Drugs: 6 scenes with drinking.
Director: F. Gary Gray. With Mark Wahlberg, Edward Norton, Charlize Theron, Seth Green. (104 min.)
Staff ** This remake of the 1969 crime caper rounds up all the usual clichés. There's a computer genius, an explosives expert, and a veteran safe cracker (Donald Sutherland at his most venerable) who vows this is his last job. Wahlberg plays the mastermind. The gang plots to retrieve their gold by recruiting an illegally blond safecracker (Theron). Sadly, "Italian Job" lacks the key ingredients of a great heist. The plot is all too easy: Computer hacking and gizmos are used to solve every problem, squandering the potential for suspense. By Stephen Humphries
Staff ** 1/2 Slick, star vehicle, zippy car chase.
Sex/Nudity: 5 innuendos. 1 scene of implied sex. Violence: 10 extended scenes, including shootings, explosions. Profanity: 17 profanities. Drugs: 10 scenes with smoking, drinking.
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 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.