Director: Delphine Gleize. With Chiara Mastroianni, Jacques Gamblin, Ángela Molina. (130 min.)
Sterritt *** After a bull is slain in a Spanish bullring, parts of the deceased creature's carcass are sent for various reasons to various places in Europe, affecting a wide range of characters in an equally wide number of ways. Funny, sad, and tinged with magic realism, this ambitious comedy-drama is as original as it is nimbly directed. In French and Spanish with English subtitles.
Director: Sam Weisman. With David Spade, Mary McCormack, Jon Lovitz, Rob Reiner. (99 min.)
Sterritt * Now a 35-year-old failure in every sense of the word, a once-famous actor prepares for a big audition by reliving his childhood, moving in with a nice suburban family that turns out to have problems of its own. Four chuckles and a lively final-credits sequence are a mighty poor score for 99 minutes of alleged comedy, and the sentimental stuff is even worse. Spade will be a former grownup star if he can't find funnier material than this.
Directors: Fenton Bailey, Randy Barbato. With Macauley Culkin, Chloë Sevigny, Seth Green. (98 min.)
Sterritt ** This is a fact-based story of an imaginative young man (Culkin) who makes himself and his sidekicks conspicuous figures in the New York nightclub circuit, which is quite a feat given the pride he takes in having no particular talent except a knack for showing off. The plot is sordid and predictable - indiscriminate nightclubbing leads to escalating drugs, promiscuity, and violence. Things perk up cinematically in the last few scenes, but by then it's almost too late.
Director: István Szabó. With Harvey Keitel, Stellan Skarsgard, Birgit Minichmayr, Moritz Bleibtreu. (105 min.)
Sterritt *** This is a fictionalized account of the post-World War II effort by American authorities to discredit brilliant German conductor Wilhelm Furtwangler as having been a Hitler supporter during the Nazi period. Ronald Harwood's screenplay, based on his stage play, brings an impressive range of moral and political issues into play. The acting is also strong, especially by Skarsgard as the legendary musician and Keitel as the American in charge of the investigation.
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, but also appear as themselves in interview sequences. It's emotionally poignant, socially revealing, and wildly entertaining.
Staff ***1/2 Wry humor, ode to an antihero, triumphant.
Sex/Nudity: 2 innuendoes. Violence: 1 slap. Profanity: 20 profanities. Drugs: 2 drinking, smoking scenes.
Directors: Efram Potelle, Kyle Rankin. With: Shia LaBeouf, Elden Henson, Amy Smart, Kathleen Quinlan. (88 min.)
Staff ** See review.
Sex/Nudity: 2 innuendoes. Violence: 5 scenes, mostly fights. Profanity: 9 profanities. Drugs: 3 drinking scenes.
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 mom 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 hours. Lohan is winsome, Curtis is even better. 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: Victor Salva. With Jonathan Breck, Billy Aaron Brown, Nicki Lynn Aycox. (103 min.)
Staff *1/2 Every 23rd spring, the creeper gets to eat for 23 days. On day 23, it plans to turn a busload of high school basketball champs into dessert, ripping open the bus roof like a box of candy and plucking out what it wants. Corny, '50s-style dialogue (profanity added) and the Creeper's delight make this seem more parody than sequel, but it's gruesome nonetheless. By M.K. Terrell
Sex/Nudity: 4 innuendoes. Violence: 28 extremely gory scenes. Profanity: 55 profanities. Drugs: 1 smoking scene.
Director: Karim Ainouz. With Lázaro Ramos, Marcelia Cartaxo, Felipe Bauraqui. (105 min.)
Sterritt ** Rio de Janeiro is the setting for this fact-based story of an all-around social, sexual, and romantic rogue who became a widely renowned female impersonator. No-nonsense critiques of Brazil's endemic poverty and deeply flawed criminal-justice system lend substance to what otherwise might have seemed a flimsy and sensationalistic tale. In Portuguese with English subtitles.
Staff **1/2 Complex, gritty, ruthless.
Sex/Nudity: 12 scenes of innuendo, nudity, and graphic sex. Violence: 10 scenes, some graphic, including fights. Profanity: 29 profanities. Drugs: 18 smoking, drinking, and drug scenes.
Director: Peter Mullan. With Anne-Marie Duff, Nora-Jane Noone, Dorothy Duffy. (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 who 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 '90s, 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, nudity. Violence: 10 scenes, including rapes. Profanity: 22 profanities. Drugs: 4 scenes of drinking; 2 smoking.
Director: Gordon Chan. With Jackie Chan, Claire Forlani, Christy Chung, Lee Evans.
Staff * Three Interpol agents end up in Ireland to fight evil forces and save a gifted boy who is the keeper of a magical medallion of immortality. Eddy Yang (Chan) saves the day over and over while charming a fellow agent (Fiorlani). The story line, acting, and dialogue are disjointed and only nominally logical, but Jackie Chan fans will be pleased with good action sequences and new Hollywood acrobatics. The story is best summed up by the bizarre sight of Jackie Chan "kung fu-ing" the bad guys while wearing an Irish tweed suit. By Shannon Shaper
Sex/Nudity: 2 innuendoes. Violence: 14 scenes, including shootouts, martial arts. Profanity: 3 profanities. Drugs: At least 1 smoking scene.
Director: David Zucker. With Ashton Kutcher, Tara Reid, Molly Shannon, Andy Richter.
Staff * Anxious to move up in the publishing company office, as well as impress the tyrannical owner's daughter, nice guy Tom Stansfield (Kutcher) agrees to baby sit the old man's adored pet owl. After receiving strict orders to have no visitors, he's unable to prevent a steady stream of people from wrecking the boss's mansion - and letting the owl escape. But the real disaster is the slapstick-ridden script, which a great supporting cast is powerless to salvage. By M.K. Terrell
Sex/Nudity: 5 innuendoes; 1 nude scene. Violence: 8 scenes, including shooting. Profanity: 6 profanities. Drugs: 8 scenes of smoking, drinking, drugs.
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, though.
Staff **1/2 Old-fashioned, formulaic, earthy.
Sex/Nudity: 2 instances of innuendo. Violence: 11 scenes, including many shootouts. Profanity: 35 mostly mild expressions. Drugs: 4 scenes with smoking, 1 with drinking.
Director: Emilio Martínez Lázaro. With: Ernesto Alterio, Paz Vega, Guillermo Toledo. (109 min.)
Staff **1/2 When girlfriend Paula tells Pedro she loves someone else, Pedro seeks comfort from tennis buddy Javier, which is awkward because Javier is Paula's new "someone." The cheating lovers go off for a weekend, leaving Pedro to find consolation in the arms of Javier's girlfriend, Sonia. Occasionally the cast breaks into song because, as the director explains in a preshow interview, musical numbers get at emotions that standard filmmaking can't. It almost works. In Spanish, with English subtitles. By M.K. Terrell
Sex/Nudity: 19 scenes of innuendo, nudity, and sex. Violence: 2 scenes. Profanity: 22 profanities. Drugs: 7 drinking, smoking scenes.
Director: Scott Hamilton Kennedy. With students at a Compton, Calif., high school. (76 min.)
Sterritt *** A creative teacher persuades a group of high-school students to mount a production of Thornton Wilder's classic small-town play "Our Town" in their own community, populated mostly by minority groups and dogged by poverty-related problems. Kennedy documents their efforts with skill and compassion, almost entirely avoiding the pitfalls of sentimentality and victimology. He and his likable "cast" deserve a standing ovation.
Staff ***1/2 Touching, hopeful, spirited.
Sex/Nudity: 4 innuendoes. Violence: 1 scene with gunshots. Profanity: 17 expressions. Drugs: None.
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 *** Heartwarming, triumphant, iconic.
Sex/Nudity: 2 scenes with partial nudity and sex. Violence: 6 scenes, including bloody fights and animal cruelty. Drugs: 29 scenes with smoking and 22 with drinking. Profanity: 20 harsh profanities.
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: Catherine Hardwicke. With Evan Rachel Wood, Holly Hunter, Nikki Reed. (100 min.)
Staff **1/2This raw film chronicles how a 13-year-old honors student (Wood) succumbs to a range of peer pressures when she gains acceptance from the ringleader (Reed) of the cool clan at her junior high. Her grades, her self-esteem, and her relationships plummet as her mom (Hunter) struggles to understand and stop the self-destructiveness. Co-written by Reed when she was 13, the film's style is as volatile as a rebellious teen - at times veering over the top. The acting is impressive, though. By Stephanie Cook Broadhurst
Staff *** Harrowing, disturbing, eye-opening.
Sex/Nudity: 12 scenes of sex, seminudity, and innuendo. Violence: 18 scenes, including punches and self-mutilation. Profanity: 70 harsh expressions. Drugs: 28 drinking, smoking, and drug scenes.
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 of drinking.