Directors: Richard LaGravenese, Ted Demme. With diverse film personalities. (108 min.)
Sterritt **** Trimmed down from its fully justified three-hour length as a TV miniseries, this engrossing documentary explores the whys and wherefores of a boom in art-film production by both Hollywood and independent filmmakers in the 1970s era. It's illuminating and nostalgic and for anyone who lined up for American movies in that bygone golden age.
Director: Mark Waters. With Jamie Lee Curtis, Lindsay Lohan, Harold Gould, Mark Harmon. (93 min.)
Sterritt *** See full review, page 15.
Director: James Ivory. With Kate Hudson, Naomi Watts, Glenn Close, Sam Waterston. (115 min.)
Sterritt *** See full review, page 15.
Director: Dana Brown. With various surfers. (88 min.)
Sterritt ** Hanging ten from Southern California, universally known for surfing, to places like Ireland and Vietnam, totally unknown for surfing, this sun-struck documentary tries to recapture the 1966 magic of "The Endless Summer," which makes sense, since director-writer-editor Brown is son of Bruce Brown, who made that surfboard classic. There are some novelties, like views of people surfing down sand dunes, but there's also far too much self-congratulation by surfers. Don't step into this not-so-new wave unless you're a die-hard surfing buff.
Director: Clark Johnson. With Samuel L. Jackson, Colin Farrell, Michelle Rodriguez, LL Cool J.
Staff ** Farrell, still looking for his breakthrough role, plays a resourceful LAPD cop reduced to weapons clerk for refusing to rat on a buddy in this resurrection of the '70s TV series. The ever-watchable Jackson plays a sergeant who wants Farrell for his super-elite S.W.A.T. unit. Of course, there's a commander who's against everything the Old Sarge stands for. The fresh cast breathes some life into the proceedings, and it looks good on screen, but the formulaic plot gets less and less believable as it goes along. By M.K. Terrell
Sex/Nudity: 4 innuendoes. Violence: 18 scenes, including shootings, chases. Drugs: 8 drinking and smoking scenes. Profanity: 17 harsh profanities.
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" film, and the whole gang gets involved in planning the shindig. Whatever novelty this series ever possessed has gone down the proverbial tube. Actors are on autopilot, and Adam Herz's screenplay panders to its immature target audience so relentlessly it verges on incompetence. Even gross-out films ought to maintain some standards!
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.
Director: Gregor Jordan. With Joaquin Phoenix, Anna Paquin, Ed Harris. (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.
Director: Stephen Frears. With Audrey Tautou, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Sergi Lopez, Sophie Okonedo. (107 min.)
Staff *** An illegal Nigerian immigrant (Ejiofor), who works as both a night clerk and a cabbie just to make ends meet, discovers an underground organ-trading operation at the posh London hotel that employs him. A morally centered man who's fled a tragic past, he enlists the help of a maid (Tautou), also an illegal immigrant. Together they seek to expose the crime ring while avoiding authorities threatening to deport them at any moment. In this intelligent thriller, Frears offers an unflinchingly gritty view of the underbelly of life as an illegal immigrant, often exploited and clinging to survival. The acting by both Tautou and Ejiofor is top-notch. By Stephanie Cook Broadhurst
Staff ***1/2 Probing, realistic, heart wrenching.
Sex/Nudity: 5 scenes, including sex, innuendo. Violence: 8 scenes, including rapes, footage of human organs, graphic surgeries, fights. Profanity: 19 profanities. Drugs: 13 scenes of smoking, drinking, and drug use.
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.
Staff **1/2Seductive, tense, slow.
Sex/Nudity: 4 long scenes of sex, 3 with nudity, 2 innuendoes. Violence: 1 fight. Drugs: 11 drinking, smoking scenes. Profanity: 10 profanities.
Director: Martin Brest. With Ben Affleck, Jennifer Lopez, Justin Bartha, Al Pacino. (124 min.)
DUD In "Gigli," Ben Affleck has a constant smirk on his face. His costar and fiancée, Jennifer Lopez, also sports a mischievous grin. It's as if the pair are laughing to themselves, thinking, "We can make a really bad movie and people will still pay to see us." Affleck plays mob thug Larry Gigli, which rhymes with "really." (One of many jokes in this movie that falls flat.) To protect a mob boss, Gigli gets orders to kidnap the brother of a federal prosecutor. J. Lo plays Gigli's sidekick, and eventually, romantic tensions flare. Filmmakers have cobbled together a script with no thought or reason behind it. By Lisa Leigh Connors
Sex/Nudity: 10 scenes of sex, innuendo. Violence: 7 scenes, including kidnapping and fights. Profanity: 125 harsh profanities.
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: 4 profanities. Drugs: 2 drinking scenes.
Director Antonio Serrano. With Cecilia Roth, Kuno Becker, Carlos Alvarez-Novoa. (110 min.)
Staff *** When Lucía's husband disappears in the Mexico City airport, two male neighbors, one much older and one much younger, come to her aid. They uncover police corruption and governmental misdeeds and learn that her husband of 10 years wasn't the honest government functionary he appeared to be. Overall, it's a tidy, well-acted thriller with the surreal touch we've come to expect from Spanish-language films. By M.K. Terrell
Sex/Nudity: 4 scenes of nudity, sex. Violence: 9 scenes, including bloody fighting. Profanity: 15 profanities. Drugs: 6 scenes of drinking, smoking, drugs.
Director: Peter Mullan. With Anne-Marie Duff, Nora-Jane Noone, Dorothy Duffy, Geraldine McEwan. (119 min.)
Sterritt **** Four young Irish Catholic women are sent to live in a home for "wayward girls" run by an order of Roman Catholic nuns who discipline their inmates - many of whom have been deemed incorrigibly sinful by fraudulent families that want one fewer mouth to feed - with a regime of celibacy, forced labor, and isolation from the world. Based on realities that persisted into the 1990s, Mullan's sensitive screenplay exposes near-medieval misogyny in a supposedly civilized society and provides a vivid reminder that piety without compassion is meaningless.
Director: Larry Charles. With Jeff Bridges, Penelope Cruz, Bob Dylan, John Goodman. (120 min.)
Staff ** A Latin-American dictator has turned the whole North American continent into a third-world country. A sleazy promoter (Goodman), promising the state network a "benefit" concert (for his own profit), can't come up with big names, but gets a washed up great (Dylan) out of jail to perform. This throwback to '70s protests, anonymously scripted by Dylan, never really comes together, but it has its moments. By M.K. Terrell
Sex/Nudity: 3 scenes of sex, innuendo. Violence: 9 scenes, including brutal tussles. Profanity: 3 profanities. Drugs: 20 scenes of drinking, smoking.
Director: Fernando León de Aranda. With Javier Bardem, Nieve de Medina, José Ángel Egido. (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.
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, long.
Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: 18 violent scenes, including stabbings, hangings. Drugs: 10 scenes with drinking. Profanity: 6 mild profanities.
Director: Gary Ross. With Jeff Bridges, Chris Cooper, Tobey Maguire. (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, 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 nudity, sex. Violence: 6 scenes, including bloody fights and animal cruelty. Drugs: 29 scenes of smoking; 22 of drinking. Profanity: 20 profanities.
Director: Alan Rudolph. With Campbell Scott, Hope Davis, Denis Leary, Robin Tunney. (105 min.)
Sterritt **** This is a story about the marriage of two dentists. The wife may be having an affair so secret that her spouse can't be certain it's happening at all. The husband is still desperately in love with her but can't help recognizing that three lively kids, professional success, and money to spare add up to much less than the picture-perfect existence for which he worked so hard. This bittersweet comedy-drama ranks with the best work Rudolph has ever done, offering a smart, sensitive look at domestic life. Also invaluable are Scott's acting and Craig Lucas's screenplay, based on Jane Smiley's novella "The Age of Grief."
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 action with instructions to "Put On Glasses" whenever it morphs into 3-D phantasmagoria. You'll enjoy it if you're 8 years old or in the mood for mindless fun.
Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: 11 scenes. Drugs: None. Profanity: None.