Director: Troy Miller. With Eric Christian Olsen, Derek Richardson, Mimi Rogers, Eugene Levy. (95 min.)
Sterritt *** Positioned somewhere between "Wayne's World" and "Animal House," with an occasional nod to "There's Something About Mary," this good-natured farce gives the backstory of the 1994 hit "Dumb & Dumber," telling how the dopey heroes met as high school students in a "special class." Olsen and Richardson bear uncanny resemblances to Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels, and Levy gives a generous dose of his weird-grownup shtick. In all it's a pleasant surprise if not a great comedy.
Director: Scott Roberts. With Guy Pearce, Rachel Griffiths, Damien Richardson, Joel Edgerton. (102 min.)
Sterritt ** See full review.
Director: Thaddeus O'Sullivan. With Helena Bonham Carter, Paul Bettany, Olivia Williams. (96 min.)
Sterritt *** See full review.
Director: Ron Shelton. With Harrison Ford, Josh Hartnett, Lena Olin, Martin Landau. (115 min.)
Sterritt * See full review.
Director: Liz Garbus. With Edith Hahn, Julia Ormond, Susan Sarandon. (99 min.)
Sterritt *** This well-produced documentary tells Hahn's dramatic story of survival in Vienna and Germany during the World War II era, when she hid her Jewish identity and ended up married to a Nazi who kept her secret, despite his anti-Semitism. Sarandon narrates and Ormond reads excerpts from Hahn's memoir, supplemented by archival footage and interviews with the survivor herself.
Director: Seijun Suzuki. With Makiko Esumi, Sayoko Yamaguchi, Mikijiro Hira, Kirin Kiki. (112 min.)
Sterritt **** A stylish hit woman, a guild of killers, and a competition for the title of top assassin are the ingredients in this outlandish reconfiguration of Japan's popular yakuza genre. What counts isn't the convoluted plot or exotic characters - it's the brilliance of Suzuki's cinematic style, articulating the action with eye-boggling color and split-second editing effects. In Japanese with English subtitles.
Directors: Norton Virgien, John Eng. With voices of Bruce Willis, Nancy Cartwright, Tim Curry. (85 min.)
Sterritt *** The suburban Rugrats meet the wild Thornberrys when their boating vacation takes a wrong turn and lands them on a faraway island. Not surprisingly, the Thornberrys scenes are more fun than the Rugrats material, but the film turns into an enjoyable enough trip. Don't expect much from the scratch-and-sniff "odorama" gimmick; the mischievous John Waters set a higher standard for that novelty in "Polyester" (1981).
Director: Pavel Lounguine. With Vladimir Mashkov, Andrei Krasko, Maria Mironova, Sergei Oshkevich. (128 min.)
Sterritt *** In the heady days after the Soviet Union fell, an anything-goes entrepreneur coaxes four students into joining him for a business spree that calls for collaborating with mobsters, eluding the secret police, and sparring with crooked military men and rival capitalists as greedy as he is. Lounguine tells the story with more discipline than you'll find in his earlier films, painting a crowded portrait of a society moving toward a future it can neither confidently predict nor look forward to with anything but nervous anticipation. In Russian with English subtitles.
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!
Sex/Nudity: 6 innuendos. Violence: 15 scenes, including car crashes. Profanity: 25 profanities. Drugs: At least 5 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: 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 traumatic events. Jarecki was fortunate to have a 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: Guy Maddin. With Zhang Wei-Qiang, Tara Birtwhistle, the Royal Winnipeg Ballet. (75 min.)
Sterritt **** Maddin reconfirms his well-established status as one of 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.
Director: Andrew Stanton. With 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.
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). 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.
Staff ***1/2Folkloric, exotic, arresting.
Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: 9 scenes, including robbery. Profanity: 14 profanities. Drugs: At least 4 instances of 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 film 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 innuendos. Violence: 17 extended scenes, including battles. Profanity: 24 profanities. Drugs: 1 drinking scene.
Director: Emanuele Crialese. With Valeria Golino, Vincenzo Amato, Francesco Casisa. (90 min.)
Staff **1/2 When the seductive and reckless Grazia, a young wife and mother of three, finds herself at odds with the customs of her small fishing community, she seeks refuge in her devoted son. The film deftly depicts the bleak and beautiful island life of Lampedusa, but it lacks direction. Yet it's no punishment to be stuck in this seaside setting, with its turquoise waters, craggy cliffs, and sun-kissed faces. By Marie Ewald
Sex/Nudity: 5 scenes, including nudity, innuendo. Violence: 10 scenes, including fighting and dog killing. Profanity: 13 profanities. Drugs: At least 8 instances of smoking and 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, Kormakur's drama is ultimately more ambitious than enlightening. In Icelandic with English subtitles.
Sex/Nudity: 12 scenes, including innuendo, nudity. Violence: 7 scenes, including attempted rape. Profanity: 28 profanities. Drugs: 23 scenes of smoking, drinking.
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. It's downright spellbinding.
Staff **** Humorous, suspenseful, interesting.
Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: None. Profanity: 1 profanity. Drugs: None.
Director: Chen Kaige. With Peiqi Liu , Hong Chen, Zhiwen Wang, Chen Kaige, and Yun Tang. (117 min.)
Staff **** A 13-year-old boy and his father take off to Beijing in the hopes of finding a suitable violin teacher to affirm and encourage the adolescent's genius. Young Xiaochun, reserved at all times save when bow hits string, struggles silently with a simmering attraction to the woman next door, a longing for his father's affection, and a confusion about the role success plays in his own happiness. "Together" is a breathtaking exploration of the relationship between people and music, between longing and need, whose culmination is both delicate and explosive. By Elizabeth Armstrong
Sex/Nudity: Some innuendo. Violence: 2 tussles. Profanity: None. Drugs: 13 scenes of smoking, drinking.
Director: Rob Schmidt. With Eliza Dushku, Jeremy Sisto, Emmanuelle Chriqui, Desmond Harrington. (84 min.)
Staff **1/2 Four young adults stumble on a group 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.