Director: Vladimir Michalek. With Vlastimil Brodsky, Stella Zazvorkova, Stanislav Zinduka, Ondrej Vetchy. (97 min.)
Sterritt ** See review.
Director: Sarah George. With members of the freight-hopping community. (80 min.)
Sterritt *** See review.
Director: Ulrich Seidl. With Rene Wanko, Franziska Weiss, Victor Rathbone, Claudia Martini. (120 min.)
Sterritt ** See review.
Director: Milcho Manchevski. With Joseph Fiennes, Rosemary Murphy, David Wenham, Anne Brochet. (127 min.)
Sterritt ** This hugely ambitious melodrama begins when an African-American burglar in New York gets held at gunpoint by his intended victim, an elderly white woman who uses the opportunity to tell him an apocryphal story of her family's past in Macedonia. Its most impressive aspect is its visual style, patterned to some degree on Sergio Leone westerns. A picture this long and dense should work harder to be cogent and coherent, though.
Director: Hany Abu-Asad. With Clara Khoury, Ismael Dabbag, Khalifa Natour, Zuher Fahoum. (90 min.)
Sterritt *** The father of our Palestinian heroine plans to take her to Egypt to a new life she's sure will be less happy than her current one, despite the daily challenges of living in Jerusalem under Israeli laws and protocols. Her only chance to avoid this is to locate her boyfriend, Khalil, by 4 this afternoon. Can she locate Khalil, find a lawyer who'll override her dad's objections to the wedding, and get past Israeli roadblocks in time to meet her goal? Excellent acting, and a plot that combines suspense, whimsy, and political resonance make this Palestinian comedy-drama an unusual treat. In Arabic with English subtitles
Director: Catherine Hardwicke. With Evan Rachel Wood, Holly Hunter, Nikki Reed, Jeremy Sisto. (100 min.)
Staff **1/2This raw film chronicles how a 13-year-old honors student (Evan Rachel Wood) succumbs to a range of peer pressures when she gains acceptance from the ringleader (Nikki Reed) of the cool clan at her junior high. Her grades, her self-esteem, and her relationships plummet to rock bottom as her mom (Holly Hunter) struggles to understand and stop the self-destructiveness. Co-written by Reed when she was 13, the movie style is as volatile as a rebellious teen - at times veering over the top. The acting is impressive, though, particularly by Reed, Wood, and Hunter. See interview, page 15. By Stephanie Broadhurst Cook
Directors: Shari Springer Berman, Robert Pulcini. With Paul Giamatti, Hope Davis, Harvey Pekar. (100 min.)
Sterritt **** This movie breaks all the rules, offering a partly fictionalized look at the life and times of Pekar, a writer of underground comic books who earns most of his living as a file clerk and finds an equally idiosyncratic comics fan, Brabner, to be his wife. Pekar and Brabner are played by Giamatti and Davis, respectively, but also appear as themselves in interview sequences. Emotionally poignant, socially and culturally revealing, and wildly entertaining from start to finish.
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!
Staff *** Sophomoric, crass, zany, playful.
Sex/Nudity: 22 scenes, including sex, nudity, innuendo. Violence: 4 scenes, including whipping. Drugs: 5 drinking scenes.
Director: Stephen Frears. With Audrey Tautou, Chiwetel Ejiofor. (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 a posh London hotel. 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. 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, graphic surgeries, fights. Profanity: 19 profanities. Drugs: 13 scenes of smoking, drinking, and drug use.
Director: Mark Waters. With Jamie Lee Curtis, Lindsay Lohan, Harold Gould, Mark Harmon. (93 min.)
Sterritt *** This delicious remake of Disney's popular 1976 comedy stars Curtis and Lohan as a middle-aged mother and teen daughter who inexplicably exchange bodies, causing each to live in the other's shoes (and jeans, dresses, and underwear) for a confusing and amusing 24-hour period. Lohan is winsome, Curtis is even better, and there's hardly a special effect in sight. The only freaky thing about this "Friday" is its delightful difference from the trendy eye candy that's come to dominate family-friendly filmmaking.
Staff **1/2 Funny Friday, childlike, Curtis's show.
Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: None. Profanity: 3 mild expressions. Drugs: 3 drinking scenes.
Director: Ronny Yu. With Robert Englund, Monica Keena, Ken Kirzinger, Kelly Rowland.
Staff ** The movie opens with Freddy Krueger of "Nightmare on Elm Street" explaining he has lost the ability to claim his victims because they have forgotten about him. To remedy his situation, he resurrects Jason of "Friday the 13th" to do his dirty work. This works, of course, until Jason starts taking all the credit. And then the fun begins. This is purely a gory, knockdown streetfight. One can only imagine what lies in store for Michael Myers of "Halloween." By Adam Weiskind
Director: Casey La Scala. With Mike Vogel, Vince Vieluf,
Adam Brody, Joey Kern.
Staff ** Four Chicago skateboarders follow a professional 'boarder's tour across the country, hoping he'll sponsor their team. Then they can skate and pursue the women on the circuit full time. They run out of money and a rival team steals their van, stranding them in the desert, but they refuse to give up. The cast is young and exuberant, the road-trip gags are plentiful, the skateboarding is, like, awesome, but it's often slowgoing in between. By M.K. Terrell
Sex/Nudity: 4 instances of innuendo. Violence: 5 instances, including shoving and punching. Profanity: 36 mostly mild expressions. Drugs: 2 scenes with drinking.
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 almost medieval misogyny in a supposedly civilized society and provides a vivid reminder that piety without compassion is meaningless.
Staff *** Brutally honest, enraging, uncompromising.
Sex/Nudity: 10 scenes with innuendo and frontal nudity. Violence: 10 scenes, including rapes and beatings. Profanity: 22 instances, some harsh. Drugs: 4 scenes with drinking, 2 with smoking.
Director: Kevin Costner. With Kevin Costner, Robert Duvall, Annette Bening, Michael Jeter. (139 min.)
Sterritt ** Most of this western takes place not on the open range but in a small frontier town where a grizzled old wrangler (Duvall) and his crusty partner (Costner) get into a deadly feud with a corrupt Irish land baron and a bought-off sheriff who couldn't care less about the law. Costner is comfortable directing westerns, as he showed with "Dances With Wolves" in 1990, and here he takes a strictly traditional approach - tricky to pull off, since what seems nostalgically classical to one viewer may seem hopelessly hackneyed to another. Few will quarrel with the lavishly filmed landscapes in the open-range sequences, though.
Sex/Nudity: 2 instances of innuendo. Violence: 11 scenes, including many shootouts. Profanity: 35 mostly mild expressions. Drugs: 4 scenes with with smoking, 1 with drinking.
Director: Dan Ireland. With Jason Isaacs, Sofia Milos, Emmy Rossum, Theresa Russell, Seymour Cassel.
Staff ** The tale of a romance set in New Bedford, a picturesque New England seaport, between an attractive working-class single mom with traditional Portuguese moral values and a carefree, charming English cardplayer. Despite its talented cast and dazzling scenery, this love story is bland and predictable. What starts out with all the ingredients for a rich and spicy Portuguese paella ends up tasting more like fish and chips with ketchup. By Bernard Cabrera
Staff ** Sweet, sincere, cute.
Sex/Nudity: 1 scene of implied sex. Violence: None. Profanity: 12 mild expressions. Drugs: 12 scenes with drinking, 1 with smoking.
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 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" 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, 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 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 a picture-perfect existence. This bittersweet comedy-drama ranks with the best work Rudolph has ever done, offering a smart, sensitive look at domestic life.
Staff *** Original, touching, ingenuous.
Sex/Nudity: 5 scenes, nothing graphic. Violence: 1 scene of brutal beating; several scenes of child-slapping parents. Profanity: 20 expressions, some strong. Drugs: 8 instances of drinking and/or smoking.
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. Jackson plays a sergeant who wants Farrell for his super-elite S.W.A.T. unit. The fresh cast breathes some life into the proceedings, but the formulaic plot gets less believable as it goes along. By M.K. Terrell
Staff * Insipid, unsatisfying, noisy.
Drugs: 4 smoking scenes; 8 with drinking. Profanity: 78 profanities.
Director: Boaz Yakin. With Brittany Murphy, Dakota Fanning, Heather Locklear. (90 min.)
Sterritt *** A spoiled but sweet young woman becomes the nanny of a spoiled but not-so-sweet little girl, and they are both driven crazy before they learn valuable life lessons. Murphy is a sensational comic actress and Fanning's talent far exceeds her years. Add imaginative directing - finally Yakin fulfills the promise he showed in "Fresh" almost a decade ago - and you have a colorful, creative, deliciously frolicsome romp.
Staff ** Insipid, means well, falls flat.
Sex/Nudity: 3 instances of innuendo. Violence: 1 slap. Profanity: 5 minor expressions. Drugs: 4 scenes with drinking.