Movie Guide

NEW RELEASES
Matchstick Men (PG-13)

Director: Ridley Scott. With Nicolas Cage, Alison Lohman, Sam Rockwell, Bruce Altman. (116 min.)

Sterritt *** See review.

Once Upon a Time in Mexico (R)

Director: Robert Rodriguez. With Antonio Banderas, Salma Hayek, Johnny Depp, Willem Dafoe. (101 min.)

Staff ** Now that the "Spy Kids" franchise has run its course, director Rodriguez returns to more grown-up fare with the final installment of his "Desperado" trilogy. Translation: Big guns and blowups. Banderas plays a mariachi player/assassin who's recruited by a corrupt CIA agent (Depp) to take out a drug lord. Antonio joins forces with two other mariachi friends who play beautiful music and carry guitar cases that shoot bullets. Depp delivers the best lines in a deadpan style. It's entertaining, but if you can't stomach brutal violence and gunfire, it's best to skip this one. By Lisa Leigh Connors

CURRENTLY IN RELEASE
American Splendor (R)

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.

The Battle of Shaker Heights (PG-13)

Directors: Efram Potelle, Kyle Rankin. With: Shia LaBeouf, Elden Henson, Kathleen Quinlan. (88 min.)

Staff ** If you've been rooting for one of HBO's "Project Greenlight" movies to be a hit, you'll need to put your pompoms away for now. This latest effort by an amateur writer and director starts out promisingly but can't sustain the laughs or character development it needs to be engaging. Teen actor Shia LaBeouf helps distract from the shortcomings with his performance as a war reenactor coping with quirky parents, a high school bully, and a crush on an older girl. But with a running time of only 78 minutes, this film is hardly the best showcase for his talent. By Kim Campbell

Sex/Nudity: 2 innuendoes. Violence: 5 scenes, mostly fights. Profanity: 9 profanities. Drugs: 3 drinking scenes.

Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star (PG-13)

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. Spade will be a former grownup star if he can't find funnier material than this.

Staff ** Mindless fun, corny, winning performances.

Sex/Nudity: 8 innuendoes. Violence: 5 scenes, mostly tame. Profanity: 71 profanities. Drugs: 5 drinking scenes; 1 with drugs.

Jeepers Creepers 2 (R)

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. 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.

The Magdalene Sisters (R)

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 are deemed incorrigibly sinful by fraudulent families who want one fewer mouth to feed - with a regime of celibacy, forced labor, and isolation. 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 with smoking.

Once Upon a Time in the Midlands (R)

Director: Shane Meadows. With Robert Carlyle, Rhys Ifans, Kathy Burke, Shirley Henderson. (103 min.)

Staff *** Robert Carlyle of "Full Monty" fame returns in another slapstick comedy about what makes a man. (This time he keeps his clothes on.) Carlyle's Jimmy returns to the wife and daughter he abandoned to find another man in their life. Dek is bumbling, fearful, and good for more than a few laughs, but he's also a loving boyfriend and father figure. Will he have what it takes to stand up to thug Jimmy? You can probably guess, but you'll enjoy it anyway. By Mary Wiltenburg

Sex/Nudity: 3 innuendoes. Violence: 7 scenes, including brawls. Profanity: 106 profanities. Drugs: 11 drinking and smoking scenes.

Open Range (R)

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." Here he takes a traditional approach - tricky to pull off, since what seems nostalgic to one viewer may seem 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.

The Order (R)

Director: Brian Helgeland. With Heath Ledger, Mark Addy, Shannyn Sossaman. (102 min.)

Staff * A "sin eater" can absolve all sins by taking them unto himself, thus allowing salvation for the excommunicated. After 500 years, the last of the sin-eaters is fed up and chooses a priest (Ledger) from a nearly extinct order as his replacement. While agonizing over the job offer, Ledger deals with demons, lust, and a megalomaniac cardinal bent on making himself pope. It's all pretty much mismash. Someone should have fed this one to the script-eater. By M.K. Terrell

Sex/Nudity: 2 innuendoes. Violence: 17 gory scenes, including torture. Profanity: 7 profanities. Drugs: 8 scenes with smoking, 1 with drinking.

Party Monster (R)

Directors: Fenton Bailey, Randy Barbato. With Macauley Culkin, Chloë Sevigny. (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. The plot is sordid and predictable - indiscriminate nightclubbing leads to escalating drugs, promiscuity, and violence. Things perk up in the last few scenes, but by then it's almost too late.

Stoked: The Rise and Fall of Gator (Not rated)

Director: Helen Stickler. With Gator Rogowski, Tony Hawk, Stacy Peralta, Jason Jesse. (80 min.)

Staff **** Almost since its invention, skateboarding has had a bad rap, and Gator Rogowski did little to turn it around. Since he began skating at age 11, he sought recognition for a talent that was obvious from the start - and with recognition came money, swarms of adoring fans, and drugs. With a refreshing ability to ignore stereotypes that have plagued this counterculture, director Stickler documents Gator's descent - not as a skater but as an adolescent who skates - and leaves you horrified by what he becomes and by the toll that fame takes. By Elizabeth Armstrong

Sex/Nudity: 5 innuendoes. Violence: 5 scenes, including description of rape. Profanity: 33 profanities. Drugs: 7 drinking, smoking scenes.

S.W.A.T. (PG-13)

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 plot is formulaic. By M.K. Terrell

Staff * Insipid, unsatisfying, noisy.

Drugs: 4 smoking scenes; 8 with drinking. Profanity: 78 profanities.

Thirteen (R)

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 almost every peer pressure imaginable 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 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 self-mutilation. Profanity: 70 profanities. Drugs: 28 drinking, smoking, and drug scenes.

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