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Movie Guide

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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.

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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.

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