Movie Guide

NEW RELEASES
Acts of Worship (Not rated)

Director: Rosemary Rodriguez. With Ana Reeder, Michael Hyatt, Christopher Kadish, Nestor Rodriguez. (94 min)

Sterritt *** A young woman copes with drug addiction and related problems on unsparing urban streets. Rodriguez makes a promising debut with this unsentimental drama. If she keeps working on her screenwriting skills, she could become a filmmaker to reckon with.

The Barbarian Invasions (R)

Director: Denys Arcand. With Rémy Girard, Dorothée Berryman, Stéphane Rousseau, Sophie Lorain. (95 min)

Recommended: Could you pass a US citizenship test?

Sterritt ** A dying man tries coming to terms with his condition, his past, and his family. Arcand is today's most prominent French-Canadian filmmaker, with a knack for blending drama and humor. But here, as in previous movies, his work is a bit too neat and calculated to make the emotions ring really true. In French with English subtitles.

The Cat in the Hat (PG)

Director: Bo Welch. With Mike Myers, Kelly Preston, Alec Baldwin, Dakota Fanning. (71 min)

Sterritt * See review.

Gothika (R)

Director: Mathieu Kassovitz. With Halle Berry, Robert Downey Jr., Penélope Cruz, Charles S. Dutton. (97 min)

Sterritt ** Accused of murdering her husband, a psychiatrist (Berry) is forcibly committed to her own mental institution, where her colleagues have trouble believing her growing realization that an evil ghost is behind the whole tragic misunderstanding. Great cast, great atmosphere, little sense or first-rate suspense.

El Leyton (Not rated)

Director: Gonzalo Justiniano. With Juan Pablo Sáez, Siboney Lo, Luis Wigdorsky, Francisca Arze. (95 min)

Sterritt ** Two fishermen and a fiery woman are at the center of this Chilean production, which ambitiously mixes melodrama with lighter moods. Too bad the acting is uneven. And the ineptly done English subtitles will have you laughing in all the wrong places.

The Triplets of Belleville (PG-13)

Director: Sylvain Chomet. With voices of Michèle Caucheteux, Michel Robin, Jean-Claude Donda. (78 min)

Sterritt **** See review.

21 Grams (R)

Director: Alejandro González Iñárritu. With Sean Penn, Naomi Watts, Benicio Del Toro, Clea DuVall. (125 min)

Sterritt **** See review.

CURRENTLY IN RELEASE
Brother Bear (G)

Directors: Aaron Blaise, Robert Walker. With voices of Joaquin Phoenix, Joan Copeland, Michael Clarke Duncan, Rick Moranis. (85 min.)

Sterritt ** This old-fashioned animation tells the story of three native American brothers, one of whom is mysteriously turned into a bear as a path to redemption from his human faults. All the old Disney trademarks are here, except the wit and surprise that were once the studio's stock in trade. There's little appeal to grownups, but kids should enjoy it.

Staff **1/2 Warm, scenic, enthralling storyline.

Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: 8 scenes. Profanity: None. Drugs: None.

Elf (PG)

Director: Jon Favreau. With Will Ferrell, James Caan, Zooey Deschanel, Edward Asner. (92 min.)

Sterritt **** Buddy was raised at the North Pole by Santa, and when he learns he's an adopted human rather than an everyday elf, he heads for Manhattan to meet his dad, a Scrooge-like executive. The cast is perfect, and David Berenbaum has written a smart and funny sugarplum of a screenplay. Feel free to open before Christmas, or any other time of year.

Staff *** Sprightly, festive, good-hearted fun

Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: 4 scenes of violence, including a beating. Profanity: 2 mild profanities. Drugs: 5 scenes with alcohol, 1 scene with smoking.

Looney Tunes: Back in Action (PG)

Director: Joe Dante. With Brendan Fraser, Joan Cusack, Steve Martin (91 min.)

Sterritt ** Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck join two humans on a search for a magical diamond, quarreling about star status all the way. Dante's technical tour de force combines live action and animation as good as anything in "Who Framed Roger Rabbit," but the film is preoccupied with whiz-bang adventure rather than storytelling. There's also far too much cartoon violence for young kids.

Love Actually (R)

Director: Richard Curtis. With Hugh Grant, Emma Thompson, Alan Rickman, Laura Linney. (128 min.)

Sterritt * Set in London during the Christmas season, this overstuffed romantic comedy tells loosely intertwined tales about the prime minister and an assistant he's infatuated with, his sister and her straying husband, a rock star who hates the holiday song he's just recorded, a pair of porn actors, and plenty more. The cast glitters, but most of the storytelling falls flat, relying on gimmicks like bathroom humor and needless nudity.

Staff *** Charming, light, impressive cast.

Sex/Nudity: 3 sex scenes, 7 instances of innuendo, including scenes set on a porn shoot. Violence: Mostly comic violence. Profanity: 26 instances. Drugs: 9 scenes of drinking.

Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World (PG-13)

Director: Peter Weir. With Russell Crowe, Paul Bettany, Billy Boyd, James D'Arcy. (138 min.)

Sterritt **** During the Napoleonic Wars, Captain "Lucky Jack" Aubrey plays an oceanic cat-and-mouse game from Brazil to the Galápagos Islands as he tries to get the better of an enemy ship. Based on novels by Patrick O'Brian, this rip-roaring epic combines edge-of-your-seat battle scenes with vivid historical details and more fascinating characters than most actionmovies dream of. Add heartfelt acting and superbly atmospheric camera work and you have the adventure movie of the year.

Staff *** Captivating, masterfully atmospheric, but so gory it will make you seasick.

Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: 15 scenes of extended warfare, including flogging, amputation. Profanity: 9 profanities. Drugs: 11 instances of drinking, 1 of smoking.

The Matrix Revolutions (R)

Directors: The Wachowski Brothers. With Keanu Reeves, Jada Pinkett Smith, Laurence Fishburne, Hugo Weaving. (129 min.)

Sterritt ** The "Matrix" trilogy concludes with lots of fighting between the machines - who've trapped most of humanity in a computer-controlled reality - and the holdout humans, struggling for freedom with help from their leader, Neo, and the prophetic Oracle who advises him. This is basically a war movie decked out in fashionable sci-fi duds, plus touches of New Age hokum to make it seem profound.

Staff *** Stellar special effects, thrilling, poor dialogue.

Sex/Nudity: 1 scene of topless nudity. Violence: 12 scenes of extended violence. Profanity: 20 profanities. Drugs: 1 scene of drinking, 3 of smoking.

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 troubled man who was sexually abused as a child, and so is Linney as the shopkeeper's wife. 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.

Radio (PG)

Director: Mike Tollin. With Cuba Gooding, Jr., Ed Harris, Alfre Woodard. (109 min.)

Sterritt * In a small Southern town, a mentally slow African-American man (Gooding) comes under the wing of a high-school football coach (Harris) who helps him achieve a happier and more trusting relationship with the everyday world. This fact-based drama is very well-meaning but also cloying, sentimental, and simplistic. Sex/Nudity: 0 Violence: 2 mild scenes. Profanity: 14 profanities. Drugs: 2 scenes of tobacco.

Scary Movie 3 (PG-13)

Director: David Zucker. With Anna Faris, Charlie Sheen, Denise Richards, Jeremy Piven, Queen Latifah. (90 min.)

Staff *** Acting? Minimal. Character development? Nil. Plot? Barely: An anchorwoman has seven days to discover the source of a videotape before she is killed. Elsewhere, a farmer wants to know who is planting crop circles in his fields that spell out "ATTACK HERE," while his white brother competes in an inner-city rap contest. Thanks to director Zucker, this is by far the best installment yet - there's less bathroom humor and more "Airplane!"-type lunacy. By Alex Kaloostian

Sex/Nudity: 14 instances of innuendo. Violence: 28 instances. Profanity: 47 profanities. Drugs: 2 scenes of smoking, 1 of alcohol.

Shattered Glass (PG-13)

Director: Billy Ray. With: Hayden Christensen, Peter Sarsgaard, Chloë Sevigny, Steve Zahn. (90 min.)

Sterritt **** Based on a 1998 article in Vanity Fair, this is a dramatized version of the real-life journalism scandal sparked by Stephen Glass, a New Republic staffer who built a temporarily dazzling career by juicing up, distorting, and downright inventing supposed "facts" in many of his articles. Intimate in scale and marvelously acted - yes, Christensen can do more than swing a light saber - Ray's debut film is the most resonant movie about American journalism since "All the President's Men."

OUT ON DVD
Bruce Almighty (PG-13)

Director: Tom Shadyac. With Jim Carrey, Jennifer Aniston, Morgan Freeman. (94 min.)

Staff **1/2 When God decides to take a week of vacation - and, let's face it, it has been a while since that seventh day of rest - he asks Bruce, a disgruntled small-town TV reporter (Carrey), to sub for him. Cue many gags and a rote parable of redemption involving his girlfriend (Aniston). Special features: Skip the director's droning commentary track - this is not a man you want to be stuck talking to at a cocktail party - and go straight to the chucklesome outtakes and deleted scenes. In one of them, Aniston's character looks at the actress on the cover of a supermarket tabloid and comments, "This girl is so talented, and all they can talk about is her hair." By Stephen Humphries

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