Director: Danny DeVito. With Ben Stiller, Drew Barrymore, Eileen Essel, Harvey Fierstein. (97 min.)
Staff ** Newlyweds Alex and Nancy (Stiller, Barrymore) can't believe the gem of a townhouse they find. It even has an income-generating unit upstairs. But the sweet little tenant pays only $88 a month under rent control and is such a nuisance that the new owners start plotting her demise. This is not the tribute to "The Ladykillers" it wants to be, but the leads are likable - and try hard. By M.K. Terrell
Director: Eric Till. With Joseph Fiennes, Peter Ustinov, Claire Cox, Alfred Molina. (113 min.)
Sterritt ** See full review.
Director: Isabel Coixet. With Sarah Polley, Scott Speedman, Deborah Harry, Mark Ruffalo. (106 min.)
Sterritt * See full review.
Director: Peter Berg. With The Rock, Seann William Scott, Rosario Dawson, Christopher Walken. (105 min.)
Sterritt ** A big-muscled "retrieval expert" visits Brazil to kidnap a mobster's son, then makes a deal with a revolutionary leader to help find an artifact that's also coveted by an American capitalist who runs a slave-labor operation. This is basically a 10th-tier rehash of the Indiana Jones genre, laced with moments that are actually clever and exciting. Dawson is alluring, Scott is smug and bratty, Walken is terrific, and The Rock is, well, The Rock.
Director: Audrey Wells. With Diane Lane, Raoul Bova, Sandra Oh, Lindsay Duncan. (113 min.)
Staff *** Lane plays Frances Mayes, a divorced San Francisco writer in search of a new start. When her best friends give her a 10-day trip to Tuscany, it turns out to be the right ticket. While touring the Italian countryside, Frances spots a charming villa and buys it. While restoring the villa, she meets colorful characters, including an eccentric older woman who teaches her how to let loose. A handsome Italian man also sweeps her off her feet. But thankfully, it's not a by-the-numbers romantic comedy. Lane does a superb job. Kudos also go to director Wells for delivering a delightful, clever script. By Lisa Leigh Connors
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: Woody Allen. With Allen, Jason Biggs, Stockard Channing, Christina Ricci. (108 min.)
Sterritt ** A rising 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. 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 films since the first few years of his career - not nearly as many laughs.
Sex/Nudity: 16 scenes, including innuendo and implied sex. Violence: 3 scenes. Profanity: 2 profanities. Drugs: 19 drinking, smoking, and drug scenes.
Director: Vladimir Michalek. With Vlastimil Brodsky, Stella Zázvorková. (97 min.)
Sterritt ** Part caper movie and part scenes from a marriage, this Czech comedy-drama focuses on an elderly man who escapes from his tedious old marriage by pulling off small-time con jobs with a cantankerous old crony. The acting is wonderful and the story is engrossing until it takes a wrong turn in its final scenes, leading to a sentimental ending that's out of tune with the film's earlier, more emotionally complex moods. In Czech with English subtitles.
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: 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, 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.
Staff ** Flat script, Stone cold, gripping at times.
Sex/Nudity: 6 scenes, including innuendo and implied sex. Violence: 14 scenes, including murder, fights. Profanity: 29 profanities. Drugs: At least 8 drinking and smoking scenes.
Director: Olivier Assayas. With Connie Nielsen, Charles Berling, Chloë Sevigny. (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: 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: Jonathan Lynn. With Cuba Gooding Jr., Beyoncé Knowles, Mike Epps, Wanda Williams. (123 min.)
Staff ** The Music Man goes gospel in this tale of a New York con man returning to his Georgia roots. Cuba Gooding, Jr. stars as the film's Professor Harold Hill, an unemployed advertiser scheming to win an inheritance from his small-town aunt. When he spots sultry jazz singer Lilly in a local club, he decides the sadder but wiser girl is for him. To win her, though, he has to lose his lying ways - and lead their gospel choir to glory. No 76 trombone-calibre acting here, but some of the music will make you want to stand up and say "Amen." By Mary Wiltenburg
Sex/Nudity: 5 innuendoes. Violence: None. Profanity: 9 profanities. Drugs: 12 scenes of drinking, smoking.
Director: Michael Winterbottom. With Enayatullah Jumaudin, Imran Paracha, Allah Bauhsh. (88 min.)
Staff ***1/2 This film chronicles the true journey of two young brothers from Pakistan who, like thousands of others, risk their lives to seek refuge in London. Hand-held cameras track their journey through the frozen mountains near Tehran, the frenzied streets of Istanbul, and onward. The tension and exhilaration felt by the brothers is something you'll share with them, and it will stay with you long after you leave the theater. By Heidi Wilson
Sex/Nudity: 1 innuendo. Violence: 4 scenes. Profanity: 4 profanities. Drugs: 12 scenes of drinking, smoking.
Director: Sofia Coppola. With Bill Murray, Scarlett Johansson, Giovanni Ribisi, Akiko Takeshita. (102 min.)
Sterritt **** Murray and Johansson play two Americans in Tokyo, a movie star doing a tedious photo shoot for a whiskey ad and a young woman whose new husband (Ribisi) loves his work more than he loves her. They cope with loneliness by forming an unlikely friendship across generations, and the big question is whether this will blossom into a romance. Not quite a love story and not quite NOT a love story, Coppola's sophomore effort (after "The Virgin Suicides," also excellent) is smart, funny, and splendidly acted.
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: 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. True to the caper-movie format, deceit and double-dealing run deeper than the plot's surface suggests. 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: Robert Rodriguez. With Antonio Banderas, Salma Hayek, Johnny Depp. (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. Depp delivers great lines in a deadpan style. It's entertaining, but if you can't stomach violence, 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: Tim McCanlies. With Robert Duvall, Michael Caine, Haley Joel Osment, Kyra Sedgwick. (110 min.)
Sterritt *** Duvall and Caine play two cranky old codgers whose idea of a good time is shooting rifles at the traveling salesmen who dare to approach their ramshackle front porch. They learn to enjoy life better when they take in a 14-year-old relative (Osment) who listens to their tales of bygone adventures. Duvall and Caine are anything but secondhand, and their acting is marvelous - as is McCanlies's screenplay.
Sex/Nudity: 1 innuendo. Violence: 14 scenes, including swordfights. Profanity: 28 mild profanities. Drugs: At least 5 scenes of drinking, smoking.
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.
Director: Len Wiseman. With Kate Beckinsale, Scott Speedman, Bill Nighy, Michael Sheen. (121 min.)
Sterritt *** A bewildered physician gets caught up in a war between vampires and werewolves. 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, 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.
Sex/Nudity: 1 mild scene. Violence: 30 gory scenes, including massacres. Profanity: 10 profanities. Drugs: At least 4 scenes of smoking.