Director: John Hamburg. With Ben Stiller, Jennifer Aniston, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Debra Messing. (90 min.)
Sterritt * A neurotically cautious man (Stiller) gets cheated on by his wife (Messing) during their honeymoon, whereupon he inexplicably starts chasing a woman (Aniston) whose life philosophy is the dead opposite of his. If you can swallow that premise, you may be able to tolerate the crass bathroom humor - evidently trying to out-gross "There's Something About Mary" - and the weak acting, even by Hoffman. Aniston is so far above this material she should never, ever have signed on.
Director: Jafar Panahi. With Hussein Emadeddin, Pourang Nakhael, Azita Rayeji. (97 min)
Sterritt **** See review.
Director: Gary Keys. With Gary Keys, Billy Taylor, Candido Camero. (95 min.)
Sterritt *** While visiting Cuba to teach a master class in filmmaking, American jazz-movie specialist Keys travels to a variety of cities and towns to sample, analyze, and just plain dig the diverse musical styles he runs across. The analytical discussions don't run very deep, but eyes will shine and toes will tap whenever this picture is shown.
Director: Sue Brooks. With Toni Collette, Gotaro Tsunashima, Kate Atkinson. (107 min.)
Sterritt *** See review.
Director: Satoshi Kon. With voices of Toru Emori, Aya Okamoto. (90 min.)
Sterritt *** Don't think the mafia kind of godfather - this Japanese animation is loosely inspired by John Ford's western about three fugitives from justice who carry a motherless infant to safety. Here, the setting is Tokyo and the heroes are a homeless man, a drag queen, and a woman who's run away from home. The story is sweet by animé standards, although it has harsh elements as well. In Japanese with English subtitles
Director: Joseph Kahn. With Martin Henderson, Monet Mazur, Ice Cube, Jay Hernandez. (82 min.)
Sterritt *** A macho motorbiker returns to California for unfinished business with his worst enemy, then gets framed for murdering a member of a rival gang. The movie is as adolescent as it sounds, but Kahn keeps your eyes popping with truly nonstop action and some of the most outlandishly inventive effects you've ever seen. And of course Cube is so supercool it's worth the price of admission just to watch him.
Sex/Nudity: 1 instance of innuendo. Violence: 21 scenes. Profanity: 44 instances. Drugs: 7 scenes of drinking.
Director: Rolf de Heer. With David Gulpilil, Gary Sweet, Grant Page, Damon Gameau. (90 min.)
Sterritt *** See review.
Director: Tim Burton. With Albert Finney, Jessica Lange, Ewan McGregor, Billy Crudup, Alison Lohman. (110 min.)
Sterritt ** A young man (McGregor) tries to understand the life of his estranged, now dying father (Finney) by sifting grains of truth from the mountains of tall tales the old guy was forever telling about himself. Burton spices up the story with touches of his trademarked surrealism, but they're swamped by the sentimentality of John August's screenplay.
Director: Andy Cadiff. With Mandy Moore, Matthew Goode, Annabella Sciorra, Mark Harmon. (109 min)
Sterritt ** Romantic comedy about a fictional president's teenaged daughter who can't escape the Secret Service chaperons who follow her everywhere - until she makes a getaway with help from a handsome young Englishman who's secretly a Secret Service guy as well. There aren't many laughs despite game efforts by the overhyped Moore. Teens may enjoy it, though.
Staff ** Teeny-bopper chick flick, predictable, cute, rote.
Sex/Nudity: 2 instances of innuendo. 2 with brief nudity. Violence: 1 brief scene. Profanity: 4 instances. Drugs: 10 scenes of drinking, 4 scenes smoking.
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.
Director: Anthony Minghella. With Nicole Kidman, Jude Law, Renée Zellweger. (155 min.)
Sterritt ** Just as the Civil War is breaking out, a young couple fall in love, and the man (Law) deserts the Confederate army for a long trek home to his love, who's been struggling for survival. The story builds some melodramatic momentum, but it's interrupted by episodes of suffering that smack more of sensationalism than candor. The fine cast is also misused and Zellweger does a job of overacting that might have gotten rejected by "The Beverly Hillbillies."
Staff *** Zellweger adds verve, poetic, book is better.
Sex/Nudity: 5 instances, including nudity. Violence: 19 scenes including bloody battles. Profanity: 14 instances. Drugs: 5 scenes of drinking.
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 superb dancing by members of the real-life Joffrey Ballet of Chicago.
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 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. Johansson may have been born to play this role.
Staff ***1/2 Understated, lush, sumptuous visuals.
Sex/Nudity: 1 sex scene, 1 attempted rape, 5 scenes of innuendo. Violence: 6 scenes, including graphic ear piercing. Profanity: None. Drugs: 10 scenes with drinking.
Director: Edward Zwick. With Tom Cruise, Ken Watanabe, Timothy Spall, Billy Connelly. (144 min.)
Sterritt ** A down-and-out Civil War veteran 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. The slow-moving movie puts more weight on pretty pictures than on historical issues.
Staff *** Flawed plot, 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 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.
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.
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 wit and energy 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.
Director: John Woo. With Ben Affleck, Uma Thurman, Paul Giamatti. (118 min.)
Sterritt ** Affleck plays an engineer who returns from his latest job 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 action-film pyrotechnics gather more substance than usual from the inventive plot.
Sex/Nudity: 2 scenes of innuendo. Violence: 10 scenes of violence. Profanity: 9 profanities. Drugs: 2 scenes with alcohol, 4 scenes with smoking.
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 than her mother (Keaton). While it's a standard romantic comedy in most respects, Meyers's movie deserves extra credit 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.
Director: François Ozon. With Charlotte Rampling, Charles Dance, Ludivine Sagnier. (102 min.)
Staff **If there's a common complaint about French movies, it's this: nothing much happens. That's pretty much true of 'Swimming Pool,' a movie about an English murder-mystery novelist whose quiet writing time in a French countryside villa is interrupted by the arrival of its owner's brazen, sexually voracious daughter. True, there is a murder near the pool and there's a vague, ambiguous ending (how French!) but mostly this trifle seems to be a voyeuristic study of topless sunbathing (yep, it's most definitely French). If director Ozon had included a commentary with the negligible extras, he might have explained what it's all about. By Stephen Humphries