Movie Guide

NEW RELEASES
American Wedding (R)

Director: Jesse Dylan. With Jason Biggs, Alyson Hannigan, Eugene Levy, January Jones. (102 min.)

Sterritt * Jim and Michelle get married in the third "American Pie" movie, and the whole gang gets involved in planning the shindig. Whatever novelty this series ever possessed has gone down the proverbial tube. The actors are on autopilot, and Adam Herz's screenplay panders to its immature target audience so cravenly and relentlessly that it verges on incompetence. Even gross-out movies ought to maintain some kind of standards!

Circle of Deceit (R)

Director: Volker Schlöndorff. With Bruno Ganz, Hanna Schygulla, Jerzy Skolimowski, Jean Carmet. (108 min.)

Recommended: Could you pass a US citizenship test?

Sterritt *** A reporter with personal problems has a challenging time in battle-weary Beirut as Palestinians and Christians square off during the early 1980s. This politically charged 1981 drama isn't one of Schlöndorff's greatest films, but its strong moral concerns and superb cast make it well worth viewing. In German with English subtitles.

Gigli (R)

Director: Martin Brest. With Ben Affleck, Jennifer Lopez, Justin Bartha, Al Pacino. (124 min.)

DUD See full review, page 15.

The Magdalene Sisters (R)

Director: Peter Mullan. With Anne-Marie Duff, Nora-Jane Noone, Dorothy Duffy, Geraldine McEwan. (119 min.)

Sterritt **** See full review, page 15.

The Secret Lives of Dentists (R)

Director: Alan Rudolph. With Campbell Scott, Hope Davis, Denis Leary, Robin Tunney. (105 min.)

Sterritt **** See full review, page 15.

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. 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.

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.

Friday Night (Not rated)

Director: Claire Denis. With Valérie Lemercier, Vincent Lindon, Hélène de Saint-Père. (90 min.)

Sterritt **** Driving to a dinner engagement, a young Parisian woman gets stuck in the mother of all traffic jams, offers a ride to a handsome pedestrian, and enters a fleeting affair that catches both of them by surprise. What's appealing about this lyrical romance is less its minimalist story than the way Denis unfolds its moment-by-moment events, treating each tiny detail as a lovingly placed fragment of what gradually grows into an enticing mosaic of time, place, and personality. In French with English subtitles.

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.

Sex/Nudity: 4 scenes, including sex, partial nudity, innuendo. Violence: None. Profanity: 4 profanities. Drugs: 23 scenes of drinking, smoking.

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!

Staff ** Cheeky, slapstick, standard fare.

Sex/Nudity: 1 brief scene of nudity; 3 innuendoes. Violence: 8 scenes, including shootings. Profanity: 9 mild expressions. Drugs: 4 scenes of drinking.

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

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

DUD In this unwelcome sequel, Lara Croft (Jolie) undertakes a quest to find Pandora's Box before a mad scientist can get there first, open it, and unleash a series of second-rate special effects upon an unsuspecting world. With the aid of a Scottish mercenary soldier (Buter), the gun-toting archaeologist battles faceless henchmen and a script that seems to rely on emoticon symbols over dialogue. The result is more a showreel of cool stunts than a proper movie. By Stephen Humphries

Sex/Nudity: 1 innuendo. Violence: 18 extended scenes. Profanity: 2 profanities. Drugs: 2 drinking scenes.

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.

Staff *** A must-see, harrowing, superbly acted.

Sex/Nudity: 12 scenes including sex, nudity, prostitution. Violence: At least 5 scenes of sexual violence and sex slavery. Drugs: 11 scenes of drinking, smoking, and drug use.

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.

Seabiscuit (PG-13)

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

Sterritt * This is a story of an unlikely trio - a millionaire, an eccentric loner, and an oversized jockey - who made a runty horse with an ungainly gallop into the most famous racer of the Depression and World War II eras. The subject is fascinating and the cast is glamorous, but writer-director Ross never goes a millimeter beneath the surface of his characters, substituting a superficial kind of "uplift" and "inspiration" for a thoughtful look at what made Seabiscuit and his handlers special.

Staff *** Heart-warming, triumphant, iconic.

Sex/Nudity: 2 scenes of seminudity, sex. Violence: Violence includes bloody fights and flashbacks to animal cruelty. Drugs: 29 scenes with smoking; 22 with drinking. Profanity: 20 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 documentary is about non-Jewish adults who risked their lives to save Jewish children from Nazi brutality. Although it isn't original in style, this heartfelt account is instructive and often touching. In English, German, and French with English subtitles.

Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over (PG)

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

Sterritt ** The popular series continues with young Juni entering a computer-generated world to save his sister Carmen from the evil Toymaker. The celebrity-studded cast does its best to treat this gimmicky fantasy like a regular film, which isn't easy in a movie that interrupts its own action with instructions to "Put On Glasses" whenever it morphs from 2-D to 3-D phantasmagoria. You'll enjoy it if you're 8 years old or in the mood for a dose of mindless fun.

Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: 11 scenes. Drugs: None. Profanity: None.

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
Piglet's Big Movie (G)

With (voices): John Fiedler, Jim Cummings, Ken Sansom. (75 min.)

Staff *** "Piglet's Big Movie" is a lot bigger - and better - than its predecessor, "The Tigger Movie." OK, so a 5-year-old may not see the nuance in the always dear, always pastel Pooh pals in either Disney riff, but parents will recognize a whole new level of plot development. Piglet's kindness is sorely tested by his honey-obsessed friends - until he gets lost and they realize he's a hero who may be small, but in the "biggest, helpfulest way." By Clara Germani

Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: 5 very mild scenes. Profanity: None. Drugs: None.

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