Movie Guide

NEW RELEASES
La Commune (Not rated)

Director: Peter Watkins. With an ensemble cast. (345 min.)

Sterritt **** Watkins envisions the historical events surrounding a real-life experiment in radical democracy carried out by Parisian proletarians and their allies in the 19th century. The film also comments on media issues of today by imagining that the uprising of 1871 was covered by journalists with both progressive and conservative agendas. It takes time to grow accustomed to the docu- drama's stylized approach, influenced by Bertolt Brecht and Jean-Luc Godard. But this nearly six-hour movie is generous with time. In French with English subtitles.

Confusion of Genders (Not rated)

Director: Ilan Duran Cohen. With Pascal Greggory, Nathalie Richard, Vincent Martinez, Julie Gayet. (94 min.)

Recommended: 'The Godfather': 10 behind-the-scenes stories about the making of the classic films

Sterritt *** Uncertain where he wants his life to go, a French lawyer does a romantic juggling act involving the attorney he works for, a client, and other male and female acquaintances. Although there's quite a bit of nudity and sex, the potentially sensationalistic story is acted with sincerity and directed with a creative eye. In French with English subtitles.

Legally Blonde 2: Red, White & Blonde (PG-13)

Director: Charles Herman-Wurmfeld. With Reese Witherspoon, Luke Wilson, Sally Field. (95 min.)

Sterritt * See full review.

Love the Hard Way (Not rated)

Director: Peter Sehr. With Adrien Brody, Charlotte Ayanna, Jon Seda, Pam Grier. (104 min.)

Sterritt * For reasons the film never clarifies, a petty criminal and a brilliant biology student fall in love, with awful consequences. Brody has offbeat charisma, but it's no match for the corny dialogue he's given here, not to mention the "Wild at Heart" snakeskin jacket he wears.

Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas (PG)

Directors: Tim Johnson, Patrick Gilmore. With voices: Brad Pitt, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Michelle Pfeiffer. (86 min.)

Sterritt ** See full review.

Swimming Pool (R)

Director: François Ozon. With Charlotte Rampling, Charles Dance, Ludivine Sagnier, Marc Fayolle. (102 min.)

Sterritt ** Suffering from writer's block, an English mystery novelist moves into a French chateau owned by her publisher, where she enters an increasingly ominous relationship with a woman who's staying there. The suspenseful set-up never pays off, but Rampling continues the impressive collaboration with Ozon that began with "Under the Sand" in 2000. In English and French with English subtitles.

Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (R)

Director: Jonathan Mostow. With Arnold Schwarzenegger, Kristanna Loken, Nick Stahl, Claire Danes. (109 min.)

Sterritt ** See full review, page 18.

CURRENTLY IN RELEASE
2 Fast 2 Furious (PG-13)

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!

Staff ** 1/2 Adrenaline pumping, flashy, the new "Dukes of Hazzard."

Sex/Nudity: 6 innuendos. Violence: 15 scenes, including multiple car crashes. Profanity: 25 profanities. Drugs: At least 5 scenes.

28 Days Later (R)

Director: Danny Boyle. With Cillian Murphy, Naomie Harris, Brendan Gleeson. (113 min.)

Sterritt *** An epidemic of medically induced rage has reduced almost everyone in England to a brainless zombie gripped by mindless, murderous hate, and our heroes are a small group of survivors making their way to a military enclave that may offer safety and hope. The story borrows from many well-known sources, including "Night of the Living Dead" and Stephen King's novel "The Stand," but heartfelt acting and imaginative directing raise it a notch above average. Beware of very strong violence, though.

Staff *** Gritty, daring, biting, horror classic.

Sex/Nudity: 4 scenes of male nudity. Violence: Very bloody and graphic throughout, including rapes and mutilation. Profanity: 60 profanities. Drugs: 7 scenes of drinking, smoking.

Alex & Emma (PG-13)

Director: Rob Reiner. With Luke Wilson, Kate Hudson, Sophie Marceau. (105 min.)

Sterritt *** He's a novelist who must start and finish a new book in one month or face the wrath of loan sharks, and she's a stenographer who begins as his assistant and becomes much more than that. The movie alternates between the author's musty apartment and the 1920s nostalgia-world of the story he's dreaming up. Wilson and Hudson play a gallery of comic characters without showing off or camping it up, and the story is predictable but amusing.

Staff ** Exhausting sequences of clichés, charming cast, lacks substance.

Sex/Nudity: 3 scenes of innuendo, implied sex. Violence: 2 scenes, including roughing up a man and smashing TV with baseball bat. Profanity: 1 instance. Drugs: 1 instance of drinking.

Bruce Almighty (PG-13)

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 sensitive supporting performances.

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.

Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle (PG-13)

Director: McG. With Cameron Diaz, Drew Barrymore, Lucy Liu, Bernie Mac. (111 min.)

Sterritt ** The woman warriors must retrieve two metal rings encoded with secret information about a witness-protection program. Their enemies include an Angel's former boyfriend, a handsome assassin, and a retired member of Charlie's flock who's thrown in her lot with the villains of the world. The spunky cast is the main - nay, the only - reason to see this lively but forgettable action-adventure farce.

Staff ** Fun cast, scant plot, flashy.

Sex/Nudity: 6 innuendos. Violence: 16 scenes, including fights. Profanity: 1 harsh profanity. Drugs: 4 drinking scenes. 2 with smoking.

Finding Nemo (G)

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.

The Hard Word (R)

Director: Scott Roberts. With Guy Pearce, Rachel Griffiths, Damien Richardson, Joel Edgerton. (102 min.)

Sterritt ** This film is about three brothers who've built a joint career as robbers and thieves. Sprung from the slammer for one last job, they take on the challenge of stealing millions from the Melbourne Cup racing sweepstakes. If they'd spent enough time out of jail to see a proper ration of caper pictures, they'd know better than to trust new associates they don't really know - anyone named Tarzan is a psycho for sure - or to expect their sleazy attorney to keep his hands off the sexy wife one of them has managed to marry. The offbeat characters keep the story mildly engrossing, if a bit slow-moving at times.

The Heart of Me (R)

Director: Thaddeus O'Sullivan. With Helena Bonham Carter, Paul Bettany, Olivia Williams. (96 min.)

Sterritt *** Carter plays a romantic Englishwoman who has the bad fortune to fall in love with her brother-in-law, embarking on a long-term affair that entails keeping the hapless wife and sister in the dark. The power of this moving and intelligent drama grows from its dark-toned portrayal of the World War II era and from its evocative use of flashbacks as the plot leaps to and fro in time, caring more about the characters' emotional lives than story devices such as surprise and suspense.

Hollywood Homicide (PG-13)

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 merely thumb-tacked onto the picture; what it really cares about are summer-movie staples - gunfights, fistfights, wild driving.

Sex/Nudity: 8 scenes of innuendo, implied sex. Violence: 12 scenes, including shootings. Profanity: 31 harsh profanities. Drugs: 9 scenes of drinking, smoking.

Hulk (PG-13)

Director: Ang Lee. With Eric Bana, Jennifer Connelly, Nick Nolte, Sam Elliott. (137 min.)

Sterritt *** Cerebral scientist Bruce Banner becomes a modern-day Dr. Jekyll after gamma rays wreak havoc on his cellular system, morphing him into a hulking green giant. As a character, the Hulk is no more interesting here than in the Marvel Comics that spawned him, and some of his exploits - hopping through the American desert like a superfrog, for instance - are as silly as can be. But the movie adds a poignant plot element by making Bruce's father responsible for his predicament, allowing a current of pop-Freudian psychology to run through the yarn.

Staff ** Intense, surprisingly well acted, atrocious screenplay.

Sex/Nudity: 1 brief instance of posterior nudity. Violence: 23 scenes including brutal fights and gunfire. Profanity: 6 mild expressions. Drugs: 1 instance of drug use; 1 instance of drinking.

The Italian Job (PG-13)

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. 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 and drinking.

Rugrats Go Wild (PG)

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 as it goes along. Don't expect much from the scratch-and-sniff "odorama" gimmick; the mischievous John Waters set a much higher standard for that novelty in "Polyester" (1981).

Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: 8 scenes of cartoonish violence. Profanity: None. Drugs: 1 scene with drinking.

Spellbound (G)

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. Overall, it's downright spellbinding.

Staff **** Humorous, suspenseful, interesting.

Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: None. Profanity: 1 profanity. Drugs: None.

Whale Rider (PG-13)

Director: Niki Caro. With Keisha Castle-Hughes, Rawiri Paratene, Vicky Haughton. (105 min.)

Staff *** Caro'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. 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

Staff *** Life-affirming, tender, deeply moving.

Sex/Nudity: 1 instance of innuendo. Violence: 3 minor scenes. Profanity: 3 expressions. Drugs: 6 scenes, mostly smoking.

OUT ON VIDEO
Gangs of New York (R)

Director: Martin Scorsese. With Leonardo DiCaprio, Daniel Day-Lewis, Cameron Diaz. (155 min.)

Sterritt *** Scorsese depicts the physical and psychological mayhem that poisoned relations between European immigrants and American bigots in New York City during the Civil War era. The film offers a wide-ranging portrait of this bitter period, showing how the evils of ethnic bigotry, political corruption, and blind personal ambition helped shape US society. The film is strong in sound and fury, weak in nuance and insight.

Staff *** Daniel Day-Lewis is the scariest villain since Hannibal Lecter; stunning sets; starts strong but loses its way.

Sex/Nudity: 11 scenes, including semi-nudity. Violence: 36 instances of graphic violence. Profanity: 4 expressions. Drugs: 35 scenes of smoking and drinking. 1 scene with opium.

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