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Movie Guide

December 5, 2003

Forget Baghdad (Not rated)

Director: Samir. With: Ella Shohat, Shimon Ballas, Samir Naqqash, Moishe Houri. (95 min.)

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Sterritt **** Engrossing documentary about the social, cultural, and political conundrums faced by Israeli citizens whose Jewish background is rooted in the Sephardic tradition of Arab countries rather than the Ashkenazi heritage of immigrants from European nations. Articulate interviews and an unusually creative visual style make the picture as lively to watch as it is illuminating to think about. In English, Arabic, and Hebrew with English subtitles.

The Last Samurai (R)

Director: Edward Zwick. With: Tom Cruise, Ken Watanabe, Timothy Spall, Billy Connelly. (144 min.)

Sterritt ** See review.

What Alice Found (R)

Director: A. Dean Bell. With: Emily Grace, Judith Ivey, Bill Raymond. (97 min.)

Sterritt *** A teenage runaway is taken in by a pair of older nomads who spend their days seeing the USA in their SUV, and their nights in more dubious activities. Gradually the youngster is drawn into their way of life, which is sleazy enough to give "trailer trash" a bad name. The subject is sordid, but the movie's attitude is ultimately hopeful and life-affirming. The screenplay by director Bell is packed with surprises, and the acting is excellent.

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.

Staff * Irritating, Cat-astrophic, inappropriate for kids.

Sex/Nudity: 4 scenes with innuendo. Violence: 10 scenes of mild violence, mostly played for laughs. Profanity: 1 profanity, and several scenes of vulgarity, crudity. Drugs: 2 scenes with alcohol.

The Cooler (R)

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

Sterritt **** The title character is a guy whose luck is so bad it's contagious, which makes him valuable to a Las Vegas casino that uses him to cool the good fortune of gamblers winning too much at the tables. Look for realism and you'll be disappointed. Look for a contemporary fairy tale, and you'll find this an oddly engaging yarn. Macy is at his inimitable best, with Baldwin and Bello close behind.

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.

Staff **1/2 Dark, eerie, grisly.

Sex/Nudity: 1 instance of nudity, 2 innuendos. Violence: 15 instances of violence, including rape and sexual torture. Profanity: 5 profanities. Drugs: 3 scenes with smoking.

21 Grams (R)

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