Movie Guide

NEW RELEASES
Aileen: Life and Death of a Serial Killer (Not rated)

Director: Nick Broomfield. With Aileen Wuornos, Nick Broomfield. (89 min)

Sterritt **** See review.

The Battle of Algiers (Not rated)

Director: Gillo Pontecorvo. With Jean Martin, Yacef Saadi, Brahim Haggiag, Samia Kerbash. (123 min)

Recommended: Could you pass a US citizenship test?

Sterritt **** See review.

Charlie: The Life and Art of Charles Chaplin (Not rated)

Director: Richard Schickel. With Charles Chaplin, Geraldine Chaplin, Woody Allen, Sydney Pollack. (127 min)

Sterritt **** Delightful documentary about the legendary comic actor, director, writer, producer, and composer, whose career stretched from English music halls and silent cinema through philosophically ambitious later films, courting social and political controversy along the way. You'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll think.

Chasing Liberty (PG-13)

Director: Andy Cadiff. With Mandy Moore, Matthew Goode, Annabella Sciorra, Mark Harmon. (109 min)

Sterritt ** See review.

YSL: 5, Avenue Marceau, 75116 Paris (Not rated)

Director: David Teboul. With Yves Saint Laurent, Catherine Deneuve. (85 min)

Sterritt *** A documentary looks at Saint Laurent as he presides over his famed atelier, guiding his creations from sketches to garments that will be coveted by countless connoisseurs with nothing better to spend too much money on. This companion film to Teboul's slightly more revealing "YSL: His Life and Times" uncovers less than one might wish about Saint Laurent's enigmatic personality, but fashion buffs will get an eyeful. In French with English subtitles.

CURRENTLY IN RELEASE
Bad Santa (R)

Director: Terry Zwigoff. With Billy Bob Thornton, Tony Cox, Lauren Graham, Brett Kelly. (91 min.)

Staff ** "Bad Santa," indeed. With all the hype about this film, one may expect a dark, cynical comedy with some sort of commentary on the mass consumerism of the season. Sadly, moments like that are few. Instead, we get 93 minutes of Billy Bob Thornton drinking and pointlessly cussing in a Santa suit. This movie is as welcome as a lump of coal. By Adam Weiskind

Staff ** Mean-spirited, juvenile, tasteless, raunchy.

Sex/Nudity: 13 scenes of innuendo, 3 sex scenes. Violence: 14 scenes of violence. Profanity: 275 harsh profanities. Drugs: 17 scenes with alcohol, 17 scenes with smoking, 1 with drugs.

Calendar Girls (PG-13)

Director: Nigel Cole. With Helen Mirren, Julie Walters, Linda Bassett, John Alderton. (108 min)

Sterritt ** Wanting to juice up their charity fundraising for medical research after one of them loses her husband to an illness, members of an English ladies' club decide to replace the bucolic views on their annual calendar with photos of themselves coyly photographed in the buff. This actually happened, and the calendar was a great success. The same can't be said for this female "Full Monty" because it follows formulas already overused in British comedies.

Staff *** Saucy, fresh, more than skin deep.

Sex/Nudity: 7 instances of nudity, innuendo. Violence: None. Profanity: 8 instances. Drugs: 2 scenes of smoking, 6 with alcohol.

Cheaper by the Dozen (PG)

Director: Shawn Levy. With Steve Martin, Bonnie Hunt, Hilary Duff, Piper Perabo. (95 min.)

Sterritt ** Remake of the 1950 comedy about a couple with almost more kids than they can count, focusing on how football-coach dad (Martin) and book-writing mom (Hunt) learn they've got to spend more time at home. Soft, sentimental, and as unlike real family life as you can get.

Cold Mountain (R)

Director: Anthony Minghella. With Nicole Kidman, Jude Law, Renée Zellweger. (155 min.)

Sterritt ** Just as the Civil War is breaking out, a young Southern couple falls in love, and the man (Law) deserts the Confederate army for a long trek home to his love, who's been struggling for survival against mighty odds. The story builds some melodramatic momentum, but its celebration of endurance and romance is interrupted by episodes of suffering that smack more of sensationalism than candor and compassion. The fine cast is also misused - especially Kidman, who looks as unruffled at the end of her torments as before they began, and Zellweger, who does a job of overacting that might have gotten rejected by "The Beverly Hillbillies."

Sex/Nudity: 5 instances including nudity. Violence: 19 scenes including bloody battles. Profanity: 14 instances. Drugs: 5 scenes of drinking.

The Company (PG-13)

Director: Robert Altman. With Neve Campbell, Malcolm McDowell, Susie Cusack. (112 min.)

Sterritt **** Campbell started her career as a dancer, and she's just right for this colorful tale about a young ballerina with high ambitions. Like many Altman movies, this is less a dramatic story than an atmospheric environment His virtuoso directing gets ample assistance from Barbara Turner's loosely choreographed screenplay, Andrew Dunn's supple camera work, and superb dancing by members of the real-life Joffrey Ballet of Chicago.

Girl With a Pearl Earring (PG-13)

Director: Peter Webber. With Scarlett Johansson, Colin Firth, Judy Parfitt. (95 min.)

Sterritt **** A young woman (Johansson) signs on as a servant in the home of Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer, becoming his protégé when he discovers her eye for art, and his model when he becomes fascinated by her beauty. What makes the movie distinctive is that it's photographed in imitation of Vermeer's style - an approach that could have seemed gimmicky but is redeemed by the filmmakers' integrity. Just as important, Johansson may have been born to play this role.

The Last Samurai (R)

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.

Lord of the Rings: Return of the King (PG-13)

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.

Staff **** Incredible, stunning, built to last forever.

Sex/Nudity: None Violence: 97 scenes, including intense instances of battle gore. Profanity: None. Drugs: 2 scenes of drinking, 4 scenes with smoking.

Mona Lisa Smile (PG-13)

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. Roberts contributes as much energy and wit as she can, but sentimentality trumps substance at every opportunity.

Sex/Nudity: 9 instances of innuendo including implied sex. Violence: None. Profanity: 16 mild profanities. Drugs: 15 scenes of smoking, 10 instances of drinking.

Paycheck (PG-13)

Director: John Woo. With Ben Affleck, Uma Thurman, Paul Giamatti, Joe Morton. (118 min.)

Sterritt ** Affleck plays an engineer who returns from his latest job - involving a new machine that can see into the future - with no memories of the three years he worked on the project and plenty of evidence that someone wants to kill him right now. Woo's customary action-film pyrotechnics gather more substance than usual from the implausible but inventive plot, drawn from a Philip K. Dick story.

Sex/Nudity: 2 scenes of innuendo. Violence: 10 scenes of violence, including torture. Profanity: 9 profanities. Drugs: 2 scenes with alcohol, 4 scenes with smoking.

Peter Pan (PG)

Director: P.J. Hogan. With Jeremy Sumpter, Rachel Hurd-Wood, Ludivine Sagnier, Lynn Redgrave. (105 min.)

Sterritt *** Still another retelling of J.M. Barrie's classic fable about a magical boy who won't grow up and three English siblings who fly with him to Neverland for adventures with Indians, pirates, and a very mean crocodile. Hogan's version brings out the story's somber side, showing how the mischief of unworldly characters like Peter and Tinkerbell can do real damage, and how refusing to grow up is an awful idea if you actually try it. The visual effects are inventive, if too violent for very young viewers.

Something's Gotta Give (PG-13)

Director: Nancy Meyers. With Jack Nicholson, Diane Keaton, Keanu Reeves, Amanda Peet. (121 min.)

Sterritt *** An aging businessman (Nicholson) realizes that the 20-something he's wooing (Peet) is less interesting, fun, and sexy than her mother (Keaton). While it's a standard romantic comedy in most respects, Meyers's movie deserves extra credit for challenging Hollywood clichés about love across the generations, and for teaming up Nicholson and Keaton, whose chemistry bubbles off the screen.

Staff **1/2 Lovably cast, long-winded, Keaton is radiant.

Sex/Nudity: 4 scenes with nudity, 2 sex scenes, 3 innuendos. Violence: None. Profanity: 19 profanities. Drugs: 14 scenes with drinking. 4 scenes with smoking.

OUT ON DVD
Out of Time (PG-13)

Director: Carl Franklin. With Denzel Washington, Eva Mendes, Sanaa Lathan, Dean Cain. (105 min.)

Staff ** This low-wattage thriller, set in the clammy Florida keys, is just perfect for a wintry night. There are a few sequences that'll make you sweat as much as the small-town police chief (Washington) who has been framed for the murder of a women he was having an affair with. Though this film noir isn't as good as "Devil in a Blue Dress," director Franklin's previous collaboration with Washington, he does craft several outstanding setpieces in which the cop outmaneuvers the homicide investigators in his office even as he tries to solve the case. If only the disc's slight bonus features were as riveting. By Stephen Humphries

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