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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 film 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 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.