Movie Guide

NEW RELEASES
The Cooler (R)

Director: Wayne Kramer. With William H. Macy, Maria Bello, Alec Baldwin, Paul Sorvino. (101 min.)

Sterritt **** See review.

The Haunted Mansion (PG)

Director: Ron Minkoff. With Eddie Murphy, Marsha Thomason, Terence Stamp, Wallace Shawn. (88 min.)

Recommended: Could you pass a US citizenship test?

Sterritt ** See review.

Hukkle (Not rated)

Director: György Palfi. With Ferenc Bandi, Attila Kaszás, Ferenc Nagy, József Forkas. (75 min.)

Sterritt *** The title is Hungarian for "hiccup," and that's what an elderly man often does as director Pálfi veers between close-ups of his weathered face and goings-on in the rural town around him, which may or may not include murder. Hovering between vivid countryside documentary and understated melodrama, this almost wordless film is a unique excursion into fascinating territory. In Hungarian with English subtitles

In America (PG-13)

Director: Jim Sheridan. With Samantha Morton, Paddy Considine, Djimon Hounsou, Emma Bolger. (103 min.)

Sterritt ** An actor emigrates from Ireland to New York with his wife and young daughters, moving into a scruffy tenement and hoping he'll achieve some success before overwhelming poverty gets the better of them all. The story has too many trite moments, but strong acting and a goodhearted attitude keep it afloat.

Independent Spirits: Faith Hubley/John Hubley (Not rated)

Director: Sybil DelGaudio. With Faith Hubley, John Hubley, Emily Hubley, John Canemaker. (85 min.)

Sterritt *** A nonfiction look at the lives of two filmmakers who pioneered the art of independent cinema via ingenious and intelligent animations, supplementing their income with everything from laboring at the Disney studio to creating legendary TV commercials. Many excerpts from the Hubley canon are included and even more would have been welcome.

The Legend of Leigh Bowery (Not rated)

Director: Charles Atlas. With Boy George, Bella Freud, Damien Hirst, Norman Rosenthal. (80 min.)

Sterritt *** Visually jolting documentary about Bowery, the late fashion designer who turned his over-the-top approach to clothing into a form of performance art; in the process he became a pop-culture icon and also a soul-baring model who posed for some of Lucien Freud's most respected paintings. You may find the film as outrageous as it is outlandish, and Bowery would have taken that as a compliment.

The Missing (R)

Director: Ron Howard. With Cate Blanchett, Tommy Lee Jones, Evan Rachel Wood, Jenna Boyd. (130 min.)

Sterritt ** See review at right.

Timeline (PG-13)

Director: Richard Donner. With Paul Walker, Frances O'Connor, Billy Connolly, Anna Friel. (116 min.)

Staff * In this "Stargate" redux, a Yale history professor rides a wormhole back to 14th century France. When he gets stuck there, a group of students time travel to rescue him, landing amid the clanking metal and flying arrows of a Anglo-French battle. Based on Michael Crichton's bestseller, this action film plays more like a comedy filled with TV acting and cliché one-liners. ("They made history together.") See another film, or you'll find yourself wishing you could travel back to change your ticket. By Stephanie Cook Broadhurst

Valley of Tears (Not rated)

Director: Hart Perry. With residents of Raymondville, Texas. (82 min.)

Sterritt *** Documentary about the exploitation of Chicano workers in a Texas town not far from the Mexican border. Centering mainly on a farm-workers strike in 1979 and a subsequent struggle to gain equal schooling for Mexican and Anglo children, the movie peaks about halfway through, when town officials try to stop Perry from revealing what's going on.

CURRENTLY IN RELEASE
The Cat in the Hat (PG)

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

Sterritt * Dismal adaptation of Dr. Seuss's classic book, about a magical cat who coaxes two kids into having mischievous fun while their mom's away. Myers plays the title feline as if he were a borscht-belt comedian without a speck of talent, and Welch's frenetic style is more like a Freudian fever dream than a children's amusement. In all, jaw-droppingly miscalculated.

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.

21 Grams (R)

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

Sterritt **** A car crash sets off events affecting two sisters with emotional problems, a former thug who's now a Christian, an ailing professor, and his wife, who wants to have a baby. The title refers to the weight a body supposedly loses when its soul leaves the material world, a notion Inarritu uses as a metaphor for the limitations of our ability to understand the enigmas of the human experience.

Brother Bear (G)

Directors: Aaron Blaise, Robert Walker. With voices of Joaquin Phoenix, Michael Clarke Duncan. (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 wit and surprise.

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.

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 there's far too much cartoon violence for young kids.

Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: 39 scenes of violence. Profanity: 3 mild profanities. Drugs: 3 scenes with alcohol.

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 intertwined tales about the prime minister and an assistant he's infatuated with, his sister and her straying husband, and plenty more. The cast glitters but the storytelling falls flat, relying on bathroom humor and needless nudity.

Staff *** Charming, light, impressive cast.

Sex/Nudity: 3 sex scenes, 7 instances of innuendo, including scenes with nudity. 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. This rip-roaring epic combines edge-of-your-seat battle scenes, heartfelt acting and superbly atmospheric camera work.

Staff *** Captivating, masterfully atmospheric, gory.

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. (129 min.)

Sterritt ** The trilogy concludes with lots of fighting between the machines - who've trapped humanity in a computer-controlled reality - and humans, struggling for freedom. This is basically a war movie in sci-fi duds, plus touches of New Age hokum.

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.

Scary Movie 3 (PG-13)

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

Staff *** An anchorwoman has seven days to discover the source of a videotape before she is killed. 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.

Tupac: Resurrection (R)

Director: Lauren Lazin. With Tupac Shakur. (90 min.)

Staff *** The talented and charming rapper Tupac Shakur tells of his rise to fame in an extended interview illustrated by clips from concerts, dramatic films, and news footage. The MTV documentary style can be maddeningly superficial at times, but it can't blunt the eloquence as Tupac narrates his tragic march toward a violent and untimely death. By M.K. Terrell

OUT ON DVD
X2: X-Men United (PG-13)

Director: Bryan Singer. With Patrick Stewart, Hugh Jackman, Ian McKellen, Halle Berry. (134 min.)

Staff **1/2Warning: Do not even consider going to this sequel until you've seen the first X-Men film. Singer has given this film a slightly more serious tone, a broader canvas, and more minutes for your money. Extras include the requisite commentary tracks, deleted scenes, and dozens of behind-the-scenes featurettes, including a look at the stunt rehearsals and complex makeup. By Gloria Goodale

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