Movie Guide

NEW RELEASES
Buffalo Soldiers (R)

Director: Gregor Jordan. With Joaquin Phoenix, Anna Paquin, Ed Harris, Elizabeth McGovern. (98 min.)

Sterritt *** The year is 1989, the setting is an American army base in West Germany, and the subject is rampant corruption orchestrated by a young officer and participated in by more soldiers and other people than you'd like to think. The irony and skepticism of this dark comedy-drama are closer to "Catch-22" and "M*A*S*H" than to movies with more reverent views of the military, and at its best it's as refreshing as it is daring. Superbly acted.

Hotel (Not rated)

Director: Mike Figgis. With John Malkovich, Salma Hayek, Burt Reynolds, Lucy Liu. (93 min.)

Recommended: Default

Sterritt *** Filming a movie version of a classic play in Italy, a British production crew interacts with a documentary crew shooting a film about them, all in the peculiar environment of a very odd hotel. Figgis cooks up fewer memorable cinematic tricks here than in "Time Code," his previous picture, but he still deserves credit for taking more artistic chances than a dozen ordinary directors.

Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life (PG-13)

Director: Jan de Bont. With Angelina Jolie, Gerard Butler, Chris Barrie. (118 min.)

DUD See full review.

Mondays in the Sun (R)

Director: Fernando León de Aranda. With Javier Bardem, Nieve de Medina, José Ángel Egido, Luis Tosar. (115 min.)

Sterritt *** Bardem conveys his familiar brand of understated sensitivity in this drama about a small group of newly unemployed Spanish men whose lives grow lonelier and edgier day by day. The story's rambling, meandering style is just right for the melancholy subject being explored, and all the acting is excellent.

Seabiscuit (PG-13)

Director: Gary Ross. With Jeff Bridges, Chris Cooper, Tobey Maguire, William H. Macy. (129 min.)

Sterritt * See full review.

Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over (PG)

Director: Robert Rodriguez. With Daryl Sabara, Ricardo Montalban, Salma Hayek, Sylvester Stallone. (83 min.)

Sterritt ** See full review.

CURRENTLY IN RELEASE
Bad Boys II (R)

Director: Michael Bay. With Will Smith, Martin Lawrence, Gabrielle Union. (87 min.)

Staff ** Miami PD's mismatched partners, family man Marcus (Lawrence) and bachelor Mike (Smith), return to find themselves in the middle of a Russian-Cuban-Haitian drug war and in a contest between Miami's finest and the feds to bring down the combatants. Their captain is into meditation, enabling him to rationalize putting them back on the street after every gun battle and destruction derby car chase. Clever ideas and hilarious moments drown in a flood of violence and profanity. By M.K. Terrell

Sex/Nudity: 10 scenes, including innuendo, implied sex. Violence: 19 scenes, including explosions, shootings. Profanity: 236 profanities. Drugs: 9 scenes of drinking, smoking, and drug use.

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 and a retired member of Charlie's flock who's thrown in her lot with the villains. The spunky cast is the only reason to see this lively but forgettable action farce.

Staff ** Fun cast, scant plot, flashy.

Sex/Nudity: 13 innuendos. Violence: 16 extended scenes, including fights. Profanity: 1 harsh profanity. Drugs: 4 drinking scenes. 2 with smoking.

The Cuckoo (PG-13)

Director: Alexander Rogozhkin. With Viktor Bychkov, Anni-Christina Juuso. (100 min.)

Sterritt ** Isolated from their units in the remote countryside during World War II, two soldiers from the rival Soviet and Finnish armies seek refuge with a Lappland peasant woman. Language problems compound the emotional complications that result. The situation hardly provides an original metaphor for the communication failures that plague the human race, but the drama's heart is in the right place. In Russian, Finnish, and Sami with English subtitles.

Sex/Nudity: 5 scenes. Violence: 5 scenes. Profanity: 3 profanities. Drugs: 1 instance.

Finding Nemo (G)

Director: Andrew Stanton. With Albert Brooks, Ellen DeGeneres, Geoffrey Rush. (101 min.)

Staff *** A grumpy clownfish searches for his missing son after the youngster is scooped up and plopped into the 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 Housekeeper (Not rated)

Director: Claude Berri. With Jean-Pierre Bacri, Emilie Dequenne, Catherine Breillat, Brigitte Catillon. (90 min.)

Sterritt **** A middle-aged engineer falls in love with his young housekeeper. Berri is experienced enough to know that ill-starred affection and May-December romance have been treated in plenty of other films, so he takes a subdued and sensitive approach, allowing the emotions of the story to blossom in a gradual, organic way, culminating in a bittersweet final scene that's as precisely on target as the movie's excellent cast. In French with English subtitles.

How To Deal (PG-13)

Director: Clare Kilner. With Mandy Moore, Allison Janney, Peter Gallagher, Nina Foch. (109 min.)

Sterritt ** Moore turns in a smart, restrained performance as a 17-year-old girl whose dysfunctional friends and family - a mom hurt by divorce, a dad about to marry a bimbo, a classmate whose boyfriend dies after getting her pregnant - make her so skeptical about romance that she resists the handsome guy who wants to date her. The story is more like a TV soap opera, and the filmmakers don't walk the comedy-drama tightrope skillfully.

Sex/Nudity: 4 scenes, including implied sex, innuendo. Violence: 1 car crash. Profanity: 4 profanities. Drugs: At least 11 scenes of drinking, smoking.

I Capture the Castle (R)

Director: Tim Fywell. With Romola Garai, Henry Thomas, Rose Byrne, Bill Nighy. (113 min.)

Sterritt *** Cassandra is a 17-year-old girl living in an old English castle with her sister Rose and their very eccentric parents. The rent is so far overdue that Rose cooks up a scheme to marry the American landlord, but complications ensue when Cassandra starts falling for him. Fywell keeps the funny-sad story moving at a steady clip, and the atmosphere of the marvelously awful castle helps fend off the sentimentality and overstatement that occasionally threaten to capture the movie. In all, an enticing and unpredictable tale.

Staff ***1/2Literate, romantic, terrific script.

Sex/Nudity: No sex; 2 scenes of nudity. Violence: 3 scenes with family fights. Profanity: 3 profanities. Drugs: 7 scenes of drinking; 3 smoking scenes.

Johnny English (PG)

Director: Peter Howitt. With Rowan Atkinson, John Malkovich, Natalie Imbruglia, Ben Miller. (87 min.)

Sterritt ** Just what we needed, another James Bond spoof. The hero is a bumbling secret agent who mingles ineptitude with self-confidence that never quits as he tries to stop a French villain (Malkovich) from replacing Queen Elizabeth and turning her country into real estate for his jail business. There are clever scenes, but Atkinson was funnier in his earlier "Bean." The screenplay falls back on stale scatological jokes. Bring back the real 007 - or better yet, Inspector Clouseau!

Sex/Nudity: 1 brief scene of nudity; 2 innuendoes. Violence: 8 scenes, including shootings. Profanity: 9 mild expressions. Drugs: 4 scenes of drinking.

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (PG-13)

Director: Stephen Norrington. With Sean Connery, Peta Wilson, Shane West, Jason Flemyng. (112 min.)

Sterritt * A band of 19th-century adventurers familiar from other yarns - submariner Captain Nemo, the Invisible Man, vampire huntress Mina Harker, and so on - agree to help the British Empire by thwarting the villainous Fantom's plan to blow up a conclave of world leaders. The mighty Nautilus surging through the sea is an impressive sight to behold, but most of the picture is standard action-movie stuff. Extraordinary? Balderdash!

Sex/Nudity: 2 innuendoes. Violence: 23 scenes, including shootings and fights. Profanity: 5 profanities. Drugs: At least 4 drinking and smoking scenes.

Lilya 4-Ever (R)

Director: Lukas Moodysson. With Oksana Akinshina, Artiom Bogucharskij, Elina Benenson. (109 min.)

Sterritt *** Left to fend for herself by an uncaring mother and an impersonal society, a teenage girl sinks into a spiral of abuse by others and misguided decisions of her own. Set mostly in an unnamed part of the former Soviet Union, this grim Danish-Swedish production is socially revealing and artistically creative, both coldly realistic and infused with compassion for its heroine and her youth culture. In Rus sian and Swedish with English subtitles.

Northfork (PG-13)

Director: Michael Polish. With Nick Nolte, Daryl Hannah, James Woods, Kyle MacLachlan. (103 min.)

Sterritt **** A hydroelectric project is about to put a Great Plains town underwater, and an evacuation committee is assigned to ensure no family gets left in harm's way. Meanwhile a sick boy, too weak to move, has an elaborate fever dream about angels as ineffectual and good-hearted as he is. This offbeat fable elegantly mingles drama, comedy, fantasy, and low-key spiritual resonance. Nolte's final soliloquy provides a crowning touch.

Staff ** Understated, disjointed, wistful.

Sex/Nudity: 1 scene. Violence: 2 violent scenes. Profanity: 1 profanity. Drugs: None.

Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (PG-13)

Director: Gore Verbinski. With Johnny Depp, Keira Knightley, Geoffrey Rush, Jonathan Pryce. (136 min.)

Sterritt ** This swashbuckling yarn centers on an endangered woman, a mysterious pendant, and a crew of cursed pirates who want to get their hands on both so they can undo the malediction that's turned them into undead versions of the Flying Dutchman. The story is silly, but the cinematography is handsome and Cap'n Depp shines as a fey buccaneer whose dandified demeanor is more fun to watch than the rest of the spectacle.

Staff *** Depp steals the show, swashbuckling fun, a little long.

Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: 18 violent scenes, including stabbings, hangings. Drugs: 10 scenes with drinking. Profanity: 6 mild profanities.

Secret Lives: Hidden Children & Their Rescuers During WWII (Not rated)

Director: Aviva Sleslin. With surviving parents and children of the World War II era.

Sterritt *** This is a documentary about non-Jewish adults who risked their lives and families to save Jewish children from Nazi brutality. Although it isn't very original in style, this heartfelt account is always instructive and frequently very touching. In English, German, and French with English subtitles.

Swimming Pool (R)

Director: François Ozon. With Charlotte Rampling, Charles Dance. (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 setup 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.

Staff **1/2 Understated, superficial, entertaining.

Sex/Nudity: 15 scenes, including nudity, sex. Violence: 3 scenes. Profanity: 9 profanities. Drugs: 20 scenes of drinking, smoking, drug use.

Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (R)

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

Sterritt ** A high-tech Terminator is sent from the future to assassinate the late Sarah Connor's son, who has a crucial role to play in a future battle between humans and gizmos. The human resistance movement sends a similar cyborg to protect him, touching off spectacular battles with computer-generated visual effects. Schwarzenegger strides across the screen with a magnetism that makes the Hulk look wimpy.

Staff *** Relentless pace, witty at times, potent.

Sex/Nudity: 3 scenes of posterior nudity; 2 scenes with innuendo. Violence: 24 extended scenes, including high-tech fights, shootings. Profanity: 26 profanities. Drugs: 3 scenes of drinking.

OUT ON VIDEO
Nicholas Nickleby (PG)

Director: Douglas McGrath. With Charlie Hunnam, Anne Hathaway, Jim Broadbent. (133 min.)

Sterritt *** Large-scale adaptation of Charles Dickens's novel about a man who meets a motley list of friends and foes while trying to rescue his family from poverty. Some portions are a Dickensian delight. It's uneven, but Dickens admirers shouldn't miss it.

Staff ***Satisfying, more sugar than spice.

Sex/Nudity: None. Profanity: None. Violence: 10 scenes. Drugs: 8 instances of drinking; 1 with smoking.

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