Movie Guide

NEW RELEASES
Forget Baghdad (Not rated)

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

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.)

Recommended: Could you pass a US citizenship test?

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.

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.

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.)

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 Iñárritu 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 the wit and surprise that were once the studio's stock in trade.

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 but 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.

The Haunted Mansion (PG)

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

Sterritt ** Hoping to land a commission, two married real-estate brokers and their kids visit a spooky old manor containing a mysterious young man, his weirded-out butler, and ghosts galore. While this uneven horror comedy may supply giggles and shivers to the preteens it's aimed at, grownups won't find anything they haven't seen before. Stamp's portrayal of the butler is fun, though.

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.

Staff ***1/2 Touching, genuine, take some tissues.

Sex/Nudity: 3 sex scenes, 2 instances of innuendo. Violence: 1 scene. Profanity: 4 instances. Drugs: 1 scene of drinking.

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, a rock star who hates the holiday song he's just recorded, 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. 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 action movies dream of. Add heartfelt acting and superbly atmospheric camera work and you have the adventure movie of the year.

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 decked out in 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.

The Missing (R)

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

Sterritt ** A frontier physician (Blanchett) and her estranged father (Jones) search for her young daughter, who's been kidnapped by a native American shaman with evil intentions. Blanchett provides a forceful center of gravity for the western, and Jones projects affecting sadness as a white man who has lived with Indians so long he's no longer certain of his own identity. Still, the screenplay often contradicts its supposed celebration of strong women and condemnation of anti-Indian oppression, and the last third is a lackluster barrage of fighting and shooting.

Staff *** Epic, entertaining, gruesome.

Sex/Nudity: 3 instances of innuendo, 1 scene of implied sex. Violence: 23 scenes of violence, including kidnappings, attempted rape. Profanity: 4 profanities. Drugs: 3 scenes with smoking, 5 with drinking.

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

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

Staff *** Passionate, intimate, one-sided

Sex/Nudity: 10 instances. Violence: 21 scenes of violence, including beatings and shootings. Profanity: 60. Drugs: 9 instances of drug use, 8 of alcohol, 10 of smoking.

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