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Sterritt ** A county mistakenly evicts a troubled woman from her family home and auctions it off to a conservative Iranian immigrant, sparking a fierce battle over conflicting rights that threatens to turn violent when a cop in love with the woman gets involved. The first hour is excellent, spinning an ethically and emotionally compelling tale. Narrative logic fades during the second half, though, reducing the movie's impact on every level - and it's worse if you've read the novel by André Dubus III, which carries its grim premise to a more tough-minded conclusion.Skip to next paragraph
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Sex/Nudity: 3 scenes. Violence: 12 grim scenes. Profanity: 16 harsh expressions. Drugs: 8 scenes of smoking, 8 scenes with drinking. 1 with drug overdose.
Director: Edward Zwick. With Tom Cruise, Ken Watanabe, Timothy Spall, Billy Connelly. (144 min.)
Sterritt ** A down-and-out Civil War veteran, who also served under General Custer in the Indian wars, accepts an offer to teach Japanese troops how to shoot so they can subdue Japan's remaining samurai swordsmen. But his loyalties shift when he's held captive in a samurai village overflowing with values of dignity, fidelity, and honor. The slow-moving movie puts more weight on pretty pictures than on historical issues.
Staff *** Flawed plot, 'Dances with Wolves' remake, beautifully shot, epic.
Sex/Nudity: 2 instances of innuendo. Violence: 21 scenes of bloody battle. Profanity: 4 instances. Drugs: 10 scenes of drinking, 2 scenes smoking.
Director: Peter Jackson. With Viggo Mortensen, Ian McKellan, Elijah Wood, Sean Astin, Liv Tyler. (301 min.)
Sterritt **The hugely popular series comes to a close as Frodo and Sam struggle toward Mount Doom to destroy the One Ring in the fires where it was forged, ending an evil threat. This is one of the rare times when a trilogy's third chapter is the best of the bunch, thanks mostly to the character of Gollum and the spectacular effects of the climactic battle scene. Jackson can't sustain such power for way over three hours, though, and most of the acting is dull, dull, dull.
Staff **** Incredible, stunning, built to last forever.
Sex/Nudity: None Violence: 97 scenes, including battle gore. Profanity: None. Drugs: 2 scenes of drinking, 4 with smoking.
Director: Mike Newell. With Julia Roberts, Kirsten Dunst, Julia Stiles, Maggie Gyllenhaal. (118 min.)
Sterritt ** The time is 1953, the place is a tradition-bound women's college in New England, and the heroine is an ornery Berkeley grad who takes a job teaching art history there, reasoning that she'd rather enlarge the minds of conservative students than preach her feminist-type ideas to folks who already agree with her. Roberts contributes as much energy as she can, but sentimentality trumps substance at every opportunity. The movie is a call for women's liberation in the 1950s - haven't we been there, done that already?
Sex/Nudity: 9 instances of innuendo including implied sex. Violence: None. Profanity: 16 mild profanities. Drugs: 15 scenes of smoking, 10 instances of drinking.
Director: Patty Jenkins. With Charlize Theron, Christina Ricci, Scott Wilson, Bruce Dern. (110 min.)
Sterritt *** Based on the real-life exploits of serial killer Aileen Wuornos, this scalding drama follows her psychopathic career through the alternately awed and terrified eyes of a young woman who's fallen in love with her. Theron's performance is like a force of nature, transfixing and ferocious, and Ricci's understatement provides a perfect complement. If you can endure watching it, you won't forget this grim cautionary tale for a long time.
Director: John Woo. With Ben Affleck, Uma Thurman, Paul Giamatti, Joe Morton. (118 min.)