Director: Rob Reiner. With Luke Wilson, Kate Hudson, Sophie Marceau. (105 min.)
Sterritt *** See full review.
Director: Martin Doblmeier. With voices of Klaus Maria Brandauer, Adele Schmidt, Richard Mancini. (94 min.)
Sterritt ** This well-meaning documentary is about Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the German theologian who was executed in a Nazi prison camp after participating in a conspiracy to take Hitler's life. While this account is interesting, what's missing is a thorough exploration of Bonhoeffer's innovative ideas and a probing examination of how he reconciled his passion for pacifism with his growing conviction that assassination is justifiable in some cases. In English and German with English subtitles.
Director: Claire Denis. With Valérie Lemercier, Vincent Lindon, Hélène de Saint-Père. (90 min.)
Sterritt **** See full review.
Director: Ang Lee. With Eric Bana, Jennifer Connelly, Nick Nolte, Sam Elliott. (137 min.)
Sterritt *** See full review.
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.
Staff ***1/2 Gripping, daring, painfully sad.
Sex/Nudity: 10 scenes with sexually explicit conversations. Violence: Sexual abuse is a theme throughout; there are several instances of graphic description of abuse. Profanity: 27 profanities. Drugs: 3 scenes of drinking.
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.
Profanity: None. Drugs: None.
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.
Director: Danny Pang, Oxide Pang Chun. With Lee Sin-Je, Lawrence Chou, Chutcha Rujinanon. (99 min.)
Staff **** After receiving a cornea transplant to regain her sight, a young Hong Kong woman starts seeing people who aren't there. This horror flick frightens the old-fashioned way by repeatedly exploiting the audience's sense of dread. It's a truly scary and psychologically perceptive film. By Cyndy Patrick
Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: 11 scenes of violence, including hangings, brutal deaths. Profanity: None.
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: Ron Shelton. With Harrison Ford, Josh Hartnett, Lena Olin, Martin Landau. (115 min.)
Sterritt * A longtime LAPD detective (Ford) and his somewhat naive partner (Hartnett) try to solve the murder of an entire rap group while moonlighting at other jobs. The film shows some interest in exploring the transition of L.A. from the capitol of an entertainment empire to a grubby battlefield for petty show-biz entrepreneurs. But such interesting angles are thumb-tacked onto the picture like afterthoughts; what it really cares about are summer-movie staples - gunfights, fistfights, and wild driving.
Sex/Nudity: 8 scenes of innuendo, implied sex. Violence: 12 scenes, including shootings, fights. Profanity: 31 profanities. Drugs: At least 9 scenes with drinking and smoking.
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.
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.
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).
Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: 8 scenes of cartoonish violence. Profanity: None. Drugs: 1 scene of 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: Mark Moskowitz. With Dow Mossman, Leslie Fiedler, Robert Gottlieb. (128 min.)
Sterritt * This is a documentary about Moskowitz's long, energetic effort to track down and interview Mossman, the now-obscure author of a novel that made a deep impression on him. This film should have been a book-lover's dream, but Moskowitz's attitude toward literature seems closer to that of a hobbyist and collector than of a real connoisseur, and Mossman's long-delayed appearance is predictably anticlimactic. The film is a disappointment, and at more than two hours' running time, a very long disappointment.
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
Staff **** Endearing, familial, quirky, artful.
Sex/Nudity: Some innuendo. Violence: 2 tussles. Profanity: None. Drugs: 15 scenes of smoking, drinking.
Director: Rakshan Bani-Etemad. With Golab Adineh, Baran Kosari, Mohammad Reza Forutan. (92 min.)
Sterritt *** Various challenges loom for members of an ordinary Tehran family, including the worried old matriarch and an ambitious son who wants to leave Iran for greener pastures in Japan and will do anything to get the money and papers he needs. This gritty drama doesn't rank with the greatest Iranian films, but its urban characters offer an interesting change from the nation's best-known productions, which generally center on rural subjects. In Farsi with English subtitles.
Director: Niki Caro. With Keisha Castle-Hughes, Rawiri Paratene, Vicky Haughton. (105 min.)
Staff *** Karo's film chronicles a New Zealand girl's determination to become chief of her Maori tribe, a position traditionally reserved for men. Pai, played with sensitivity and verve by Castle-Hughes, clashes with her stubborn granddad, the chief who's searching for a male successor. But Pai passes the most difficult tests of bravery, strength, and wisdom - qualities of a leader. The film pits tradition against modern-day ideas and offers a window on the Maori culture. There's also breathtaking footage of New Zealand's coastline. By Stephanie Cook Broadhurst