Movie Guide

NEW RELEASES
The Butterfly Effect (R)

Directors: J. Mackye Gruber, Eric Bress. With Ashton Kutcher, Amy Smart, Eric Stoltz. (113 min.)

Sterritt * See review.

Empathy (Not rated)

Director: Amie Siegel. With Tracy Thorpe, Dr. David Solomon, Gigi Buffington, Aria Knee. (92 min.)

Recommended: Could you pass a US citizenship test?

Sterritt *** Part drama, part documentary, part deconstruction, this offbeat movie oscillates between interviews with psychoanalysts - full of cheeky questions, like what they really think about while their patients drone away on the couch - and the story of a fictional woman having psychotherapy, plus screen-test shots of actresses trying out for this role. Siegel calls it a talking-heads film about the talking cure, and that pretty well sums it up. The nonfiction scenes

are most interesting, and could have easily sustained the whole picture.

Piccadilly (Not rated)

Director: E.A. Dupont. With Anna May Wong, Gilda Gray, Cyril Ritchard, Charles Laughton. (93 min.)

Sterritt **** First released in 1929 as the silent-film era was approaching its final fadeout, this silent musical melodrama stars Gray as an unhappy Piccadilly Club entertainer who feuds with her jealous partner, opening the way for a Chinese dishwasher at the nightspot to try her own unlikely rise to fame and fortune. Wong has acquired a loyal cult following over the years, and Dupont's exquisitely filmed episodes show why. The movie has been restored to its full visual glory, although the added music is sometimes disappointing.

Touching the Void (Not rated)

Director: Kevin Macdonald. With Joe Simpson, Simon Yates, Brendan Mackey, Nicholas Aaron. (106 min.)

Sterritt **** See review.

Win a Date With Tad Hamilton (PG-13)

Director: Robert Luketic. With Kate Bosworth, Josh Duhamel, Topher Grace, Nathan Lane. (96 min.)

Sterritt *** See review.

CURRENTLY IN RELEASE
Along Came Polly (PG-13)

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.

Big Fish (PG-13)

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.

Staff *** Shallow story, bizarre at times, longish.

Sex/Nudity: 3 innuendoes, 2 scenes of brief nudity. Violence: 4 scenes, including a fight. Profanity: 9 instances. Drugs: 2 scenes of drinking, 4 scenes of smoking.

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 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.

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.

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 directing gets ample assistance from superb dancing by the real-life Joffrey Ballet of Chicago.

Staff *** Documentary-like, slow, revealing, exhilirating.

Sex/Nudity: 5 instances of innuendo. 1 scene of toplessness. Violence: None. Profanity: 12 instances. Drugs: 10 scenes of drinking, 2 scenes of smoking.

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 model when he becomes fascinated by her beauty. What makes the movie distinctive is that it's photographed in imitation of Vermeer's style.

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.

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 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.

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 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.

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 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.

My Baby's Daddy (PG-13)

Director: Cheryl Dunye. With Eddie Griffin, Anthony Anderson, Michael Imperioli, Method Man. (99 min.)

Staff ** Three buddies live for nothing but the next party. They get a rude awakening when their dates from the last birthday bash inform them that they're all pregnant. Nothing new here, but what helps this flick rise above the old jokes is that not only do the new fathers develop a sense of responsibility, but the kids become the focus of their lives. By M. K. Terrell

Sex/Nudity: 10 instances of innuendo and implied sex. Violence: 10 scenes. Profanity: 72 profanities, some harsh. Drugs: 4 scenes of smoking, 11 instances of drinking, 1 scene with marijuana.

Paycheck (PG-13)

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.

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 is less interesting than her mother (Keaton). While it's a standard romantic comedy, 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.

Torque (PG-13)

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.

Staff ** Mind-numbing, unrealistic, rowdy.

Sex/Nudity: 1 instance of innuendo. Violence: 21 scenes. Profanity: 44 instances. Drugs: 7 scenes of drinking.

OUT ON DVD
Spellbound (G)

Director: Jeff Blitz. With children in the National Spelling Bee. (97 min.)

Sterritt **** The characters are a socially and culturally diverse group of kids who share a knack for spelling, and the event is the National Spelling Bee. This documentary would be more valuable if it explored the dark side of its subject by asking if competition for its own sake is a proper educational tool. But you won't find many films with more suspense. DVD extras include a "where are they now" update on the kids.

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