Movie Guide

NEW RELEASES

Returner (R)

Director: Takashi Yamazaki. With Ann Suzuki, Takeshi Kaneshiro, Kirin Kiki, Goro Kishitani. (116 min.)

Sterritt ** A time-traveling teenage girl arrives from the future with the mission of killing an outer-space alien who'll cause global war if not eliminated now. Hovering between "Last Action Hero" and "E.T.," this sci-fi extravaganza is bookended with violence but has some gentle moments in between. In Japanese with English subtitles.

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Runaway Jury (PG-13)

Director: Gary Fleder. With Gene Hackman, Dustin Hoffman, John Cusack, Rachel Weisz. (123 min.)

Sterritt ** See full review, page 15.

Sylvia (R)

Director: Christine Jeffs. With Gwyneth Paltrow, Daniel Craig, Blythe Danner, Michael Gambon. (100 min.)

Sterritt *** See full review, page 15.

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (R)

Director: Marcus Nispel. With Jessica Biel, Eric Balfour, Erica Leerhsen, R. Lee Ermey. (98 min.)

Sterritt ** Far from home, five clueless 20-somethings run into a demented girl, a sinister cop, a cannibal family, and ... the title tells the rest. A lot more violent and a tad less creepy than the 1974 original, the much-changed remake delivers enough gory, belligerent mayhem to keep horror fans screaming.

Veronica Guerin (R)

Director: Joel Schumacher. With Cate Blanchett, Gerard McSorley, Brenda Fricker, Colin Farrell. (92 min.)

Sterritt *** See full review, page 15.

CURRENTLY IN RELEASE
Bubba Ho-Tep (R)

Director: Don Coscarelli. With Bruce Campbell, Ossie Davis, Reggie Bannister, Bob Ivy. (92 min.)

Sterritt *It turns out Elvis Presley is alive but not so well, living in a rest home where he and a crazy crony start to suspect an ancient Egyptian spirit is menacing the place. Davis contributes his usual dignity - not easy when you're playing a character who thinks he's John F. Kennedy dyed black - but it's not enough to save this silly thriller-comedy.

Good Boy! (PG)

Director: John Robert Hoffman. With Liam Aiken, Kevin Nealon, Molly Shannon, and the voices of Matthew Broderick, Brittany Murphy, Carl Reiner. (89 min.)

Staff * Talking dogs were cute, once. It's a wonder that the genre, started by the marvelous "Babe," has any currency left after "Cats and Dogs" and "Snow Dogs." In "Good Boy," the dogs themselves are worthy of show at Crufts. It's a tad disconcerting, however, when a German Shepherd starts lip syncing to the voice of Carl Reiner so it can complain about flatulence. That's typical of the dialogue in this story about a lonely boy (Aiken) who discovers a UFO with a dog who comes from a planet ruled by mutts. The canine visitor is astonished to find that earth dogs are subservient to humans instead of ruling the planet. Given the intelligence level of "Good Boy," he might have a point. By Stephen Humphries

Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: 3 mild scenes. Profanity: 5 profanities. Drugs: None.

House of the Dead (R)

Director: Uwe Boll. With Jürgen Prochnow, Clint Howard. (92 min.)

DUD When five young people arrive late at a rave on the deserted "Isla de la Muerte," most of the partygoers have fallen victim to resident zombies seeking replacement body parts. Fortunately a smuggler is on hand to provide weapons for our heroes' defense. The movie, like the videogame series it inspired, features nonstop killing. If that doesn't make you scream, the sheer stupidity of this movie will. By M.K. Terrell

Sex/Nudity: 6 scenes of innuendo, nudity. Violence: 24 very gory scenes. Profanity: 54 profanities. Drugs: 10 scenes of drinking, smoking.

Intolerable Cruelty (PG-13)

Director: Joel Coen. With George Clooney, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Billy Bob Thornton, Cedric the Entertainer. (100 min.)

Sterritt *** A high-powered attorney (Clooney) falls for a gorgeous gold digger (Zeta-Jones) while representing her husband in their divorce proceedings, producing an elaborate web of comic situations sprinkled with one-liners and coincidences. There's enough dark, cynical, and eccentric moments to make this a true Coen brothers satire of modern life and love rather than a standard romantic comedy.

Staff **1/2 Screwball comedy, witty banter, overdone.

Sex/Nudity: At least 4 scenes of implied sex. Innuendo throughout. Violence: 8 scenes, including shooting, comic violence. Profanity: 45 mild profanities. Drugs: 10 scenes of drinking; 1 with smoking.

Kill Bill: Vol. 1 (R)

Director: Quentin Tarantino. With Uma Thurman, Vivica A. Fox, Sonny Chiba, Lucy Liu. (110 min.)

Sterritt *** Talk about pulp fiction. This extremely bloody martial-arts epic has the most straightforward story a Tarantino feature has ever told, following a samurai-type woman warrior (Thurman) as she takes gory revenge on many enemies. Once again, Tarantino's screenplay doesn't live up to his huge talent as a director. The filmmaking is lively, though, paying homage to the Asian kung fu flicks Tarantino loves. Stay miles away if you have a single squeamish bone in your body.

Staff *** Gory, moody, stylish.

Violence: 97 scenes. Extreme violence throughout film, including rape, slaughters. Profanity: 28 profanities. Drugs: 5 scenes of drinking, smoking.

Lost in Translation (R)

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 her. They cope with loneliness by forming a friendship across generations - but will it 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.

My Life Without Me (R)

Director: Isabel Coixet. With Sarah Polley, Scott Speedman, Deborah Harry, Mark Ruffalo. (106 min.)

Sterritt * Learning that she has only a few months to live, a 20-something woman keeps the fact a secret from her husband and daughters, but makes a list of things she wants to do with her remaining time, like record future birthday messages and entice a new man to fall in love with her. It wants to be funny and sad, but it's really a schmaltzy soap opera full of coincidence, sentimentality, and behavior far less life-affirming than we're meant to think.

Sex/Nudity: 4 scenes of implied sex. Violence: None. Profanity: 16 profanities. Drugs: At least 9 scenes of smoking and drinking.

Mystic River (R)

Director: Clint Eastwood. With Tim Robbins, Sean Penn, Kevin Bacon, Laura Linney. (137 min.)

Sterritt **** The lives of a cop (Bacon) and a shopkeeper (Penn) intersect for the first time since childhood when the merchant's daughter is murdered and it appears that another boyhood friend (Robbins) may have committed the crime. Robbins is brilliant as a secretly troubled man who was sexually abused as a child, and so is Linney as the shopkeeper's wife, a working-class woman with a streak of Lady Macbeth in her nature. Best of all is Eastwood's decision to probe serious themes through a leisurely style and a lingering sense of ambiguity.

Staff ***1/2 Engrossing, great acting, complex.

Sex/Nudity: 1 scene of implied sex. Violence: 11 scenes, including dead body, child abuse. Profanity: 30 profanities. Drugs: 15 scenes of drinking, smoking.

Out of Time (PG-13)

Director: Carl Franklin. With Denzel Washington, Eva Mendes, Sanaa Lathan, Dean Cain. (114 min.)

Sterritt ** The protagonist is the police chief of a tiny Florida town where a double homicide has occurred and various clues - including the fact that one of the victims was his lover - may finger him as the culprit if he can't solve the case in a hurry. There are a few exciting scenes, and Washington gives another fine performance as a man who's upright in some respects, sly in others. But the thriller has so many contrived escapes and last-minute switcheroos that they could have called it "Just in Time."

Sex/Nudity: 8 scenes of sex, innuendo. Violence: 6 scenes, including shootings. Profanity: 4 profanities. Drugs: 8 scenes of smoking, drinking.

The Rundown (PG-13)

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, Walken is terrific, and The Rock is, well, The Rock.

Sex/Nudity: 4 innuendoes. Violence: 19 scenes, including beatings, shootings. Profanity: 11 profanities. Drugs: At least 11 drinking, smoking scenes.

School of Rock (PG-13)

Director: Richard Linklater. With Jack Black, Joan Cusack, Mike White, Sarah Silverman. (108 min.)

Sterritt **** Kicked out of his band and desperate for rent money, a washed-up rock singer impersonates a friend, takes a job as a substitute teacher in a snooty private school, and decides to turn his fourth-grade class into a jivin' pop group. Black gives the performance of his career as the hilarious hero. White, who also wrote the sharp-witted screenplay, is perfect as his nebbishy landlord. Cusack is equally terrific as the school's stiff principal. Best of all, the kids are marvelous. Viewers of all musical tastes will find crisp comic pleasures in this amiable tale, which is so likable it doesn't even have a villain. Rock on!

Staff *** One-man show, family film, the next "Spinal Tap."

Sex/Nudity: 3 innuendoes. Violence: 1 minor scene. Profanity: 13 mild profanities. Drugs: 4 scenes of smoking and drinking.

Secondhand Lions (PG)

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 firing shotguns at the salesmen who dare to approach their ramshackle porch. They learn to enjoy life better when they take in a young 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.

Staff *** Uplifting, funny, adventurous.

Sex/Nudity: 1 innuendo. Violence: 14 scenes, including swordfights. Profanity: 28 mild profanities. Drugs: 6 scenes with drinking or tobacco.

Taking Sides (Not rated)

Director: István Szabó. With Harvey Keitel, Stellan Skarsgård, Birgit Minichmayr. (105 min.)

Sterritt *** This is a fictionalized account of the post-World War II effort by US authorities to discredit brilliant German conductor Wilhelm Furtwangler as having been a Hitler supporter during the Nazi period. Ronald Harwood's screenplay brings an impressive range of moral and political issues into play. The acting is also strong.

Sex/Nudity: 1 innuendo. Violence: 4 scenes, including World War II footage. Profanity: 15 harsh profanities. Drugs: 9 scenes of smoking and drinking.

Under the Tuscan Sun (PG-13)

Director: Audrey Wells. With Diane Lane, Raoul Bova, Sandra Oh, Lindsay Duncan. (113 min.)

Staff *** Lane plays Frances Mayes, a divorced US writer in search of a new start. When her best friend gives 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 it, she meets colorful characters, including an eccentric woman and a handsome Italian man who 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 script. By Lisa Leigh Connors

Staff **1/2 Picturesque, lively, predictable.

Sex/Nudity: 7 scenes, including sex. Violence: None. Profanity: 13 profanities. Drugs: 7 drinking scenes.

Underworld (R)

Director: Len Wiseman. With Kate Beckinsale, Scott Speedman, Bill Nighy, Michael Sheen. (121 min.)

Sterritt *** A 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 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.

Wonderland (R)

Director: James Cox. With Val Kilmer, Lisa Kudrow, Carrie Fisher, Eric Bogosian. (99 min.)

Sterritt ** This is a film about the relentlessly sordid life of John Holmes, better known as porn-film icon Johnny Wadd, after his "stardom" has disintegrated and he's living a rotten life as a drug addict with the sleaziest friends and foes you can imagine. The murder-mystery plot is told in rough-and-tumble style, full of sound and fury but signifying almost nothing in the end.

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