Director: Woody Allen. With Allen, Jason Biggs, Stockard Channing, Christina Ricci. (108 min.)
Sterritt ** A rising young comedy writer (Biggs) has oddball conversations with an older colleague (Allen) while dealing with a girlfriend (Ricci) who's almost as eccentric as both of them put together. This is a quintessential Allen comedy: squirmy relationships, dark Jewish humor, an assumption that everybody in Manhattan has money and a touch of glamour, and - as with most of Allen's movies since the first few years of his career - not nearly as many laughs as it gamely tries for.
Director: Mike Figgis. With Sharon Stone, Dennis Quaid, Stephen Dorff, Juliette Lewis. (117 min.)
Sterritt ** A family from the big city moves to a rural home and is menaced by a psychopath whose family used to own the place. After two highly experimental movies in a row, "Time Code" and "Hotel," the gifted director of "Leaving Las Vegas" apparently felt he needed another box-office hit. Unfortunately, this isn't it. Figgis brings strong visual imagination to the first hour, but he can't rescue Richard Jefferies's screenplay from plot holes bigger than the manor itself.
Director: Olivier Assayas. With Connie Nielsen, Charles Berling, Chloë Sevigny, Gina Gershon. (120 min.)
Sterritt ** A nosy businesswoman (Nielsen) runs into formidable and sometimes inscrutable foes as she traces the connections between a multinational company and a website worthy of "Videodrome" for nastiness. Assayas has directed some fine French films, but while this ambitious epic takes a finely cynical attitude toward the excesses of our media-saturated age, it never quite jells into a coherent statement. Or a coherent film. In French and English with English subtitles.
Director: Andrew Molina. With Eishy Hayata, Eve Hayata. (117 min.)
Sterritt ** Hayata's real-life exploits inspired this rough-and-tough drama about a Japanese-born businessman who goes to Los Angeles and then settles in Colombia, where he wheels, deals, and sometimes shoots his way to the top in the ruthlessly competitive world of mining and selling emeralds. The acting is weak, largely because many of the performers seem uncomfortable speaking English. The last half-hour works up a fair amount of action and suspense, though. In English and Spanish with English subtitles.
Director: Tim McCanlies. With Robert Duvall, Michael Caine, Haley Joel Osment, Kyra Sedgwick. (110 min.)
Sterritt *** See review.
Director: Len Wiseman. With Kate Beckinsale, Scott Speedman, Bill Nighy, Michael Sheen. (121 min.)
Sterritt *** A bewildered young physician gets caught up in a centuries-old war between vampires and werewolves, or lycans, as Danny McBride's screenplay renames lycanthropes for a target audience that doesn't like long words. At heart, this is an old-fashioned monster flick decked out with Hollywood's full battery of high-tech visual effects. It's as goofy as it is gory - stay away if you don't like in-your-face mayhem - but Tony Pierce-Roberts's moody camera work and Martin Hunter's rat-a-tat-tat editing give it an electricity that horror buffs will enjoy. Beckinsale looks swell in medieval spandex, too.
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.
Director: Eli Roth. With Jordan Ladd, Rider Strong, James DeBello, Cerina Vincent. (94 min.)
1/2 Five college students rent a cabin for a weeklong getaway. Out of the woods comes a man soaked in blood from a flesh-consuming virus, which may also have infected the minds of filmmakers. After the friends set the visitor on fire and chase him off, they begin succumbing, one by one. The locals try to stop the epidemic by shooting at survivors. There's way too much gross-out gore - this film should be quarantined. By M.K. Terrell
Sex/Nudity: 4 scenes with sex, innuendo. Violence: 22 extremely grisly scenes. Profanity: 138 profanities. Drugs: 14 drinking, smoking, and drug scenes.
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.
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. 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: Sofia Coppola. With Bill Murray, Scarlett Johansson, Giovanni Ribisi, Akiko Takeshita. (102 min.)
Sterritt **** See review, page 16.
Staff **** Stylish, witty, thoughtful, layered.
Sex/Nudity: 1 scene of implied sex; 1 nude scene; some innuendo. Violence: None. Profanity: 5 profanities. Drugs: 16 drinking scenes; 9 with smoking.
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 smoking.
Director: Ridley Scott. With Nicolas Cage, Alison Lohman, Sam Rockwell, Bruce Altman. (116 min.)
Sterritt *** A conspicuously neurotic con artist (Cage) gets distracted from a swindle he's pulling off with his partner (Rockwell) when he meets his teenage daughter (Lohman) whose existence he's recently discovered - and who shows remarkable talent for scams and skulduggery when he instructs her in his crooked profession. True to the caper-movie format, deceit and double-dealing run deeper than the plot's surface suggests. Even die-hard fans of the genre are likely to be surprised. Cage plays a difficult character with skill and sympathy, helped by a solid supporting cast. It's mischievous fun.
Staff *** Touching, oddball characters, suspenseful.
Sex/Nudity: 1 scene at a nude bar. Violence: 2 scenes, including murder. Drugs: 14 scenes of drinking; 25 smoking.
Director: Satoshi Kon. With Miyoko Shoji, Mami Koyama, Fumiko Orikasa, Shouzou Iizuka. (87 min.)
Staff *** A TV interviewer and cameraman track down a Japanese film star who, like Greta Garbo, retired at the height of fame. They travel with her as she relives her career, beginning with a pre-World War II adolescence. This witty animé operates on several levels and serves as a brief history of Japanese cinema. It's more modest than last year's Oscar-winning "Spirited Away," but a charming and eye-filling departure from the usual US cartoon feature. By M.K. Terrell.
Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: 9 scenes, including battles. Profanity: 3 profanities. Drugs: At least 1 scene.
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
Staff * Vapid, unoriginal, gratuitously violent.
Sex/Nudity: 4 innuendoes. Violence: 30 gory scenes, including shootings, beatings. Profanity: 23 profanities. Drugs: 21 scenes of drinking and 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." 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.
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.
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.