Movie Guide

NEW RELEASES
The Big Bounce (PG-13)

Director: George Armitage. With Owen Wilson, Morgan Freeman, Sara Foster, Charlie Sheen. (82 min.)

Sterritt *** See review.

The Perfect Score (PG-13)

Director: Brian Robbins. With Scarlett Johansson, Erika Christensen, Matthew Lillard, Chris Evans. (93 min.)

Staff * Five high-schoolers conspire to steal the SAT answers from the Princeton testing center with only a moderate amount of ability to ACT along the way. Writers Marc Hyman, Mark Schwahn, and Jon Zack must have done well on the math portion of their SATs, because they have no trouble locating the lowest common denominator and then catering to it. The film is not a Perfect Bore, however, as some legitimate points are (barely) raised about the drawbacks of the standardized testing system, but it still insults the intelligence of moviegoers. By Brad Rosenberg

The Trilogy: On the Run (Not rated)

Director: Lucas Belvaux. With Lucas Belvaux, Catherine Frot, Gilbert Melki, Ornella Muti. (117 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 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.

The Butterfly Effect (R)

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

Sterritt * See review, page 18. A troubled young man gradually learns he's been traveling back in time, inhabiting his body in earlier stages of his life, and altering events in ways that befuddle him when he returns to a present that's changed in ways he didn't expect. The premise is promising, nodding to Ray Bradbury's classic story "A Sound of Thunder," among other sources. Too bad the screenplay is as confused as the hero, and that heartthrob Kutcher isn't enough of an actor to make much of it seem plausible.

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.

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.

Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World (PG-13)

Director: Peter Weir. With Russell Crowe, Paul Bettany, Billy Boyd, James D'Arcy. (138 min.)

Sterritt **** During the Napoleonic Wars, Captain "Lucky Jack" Aubrey plays an oceanic cat-and-mouse game from Brazil to the Galápagos Islands as he tries to get the better of an enemy ship. Based on novels by Patrick O'Brian, this epic combines edge-of-your-seat battles with vivid historical details and more fascinating characters than most action movies dream of.

Staff *** Captivating, masterfully atmospheric, gory.

Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: 215 scenes of warfare, including amputation. Profanity: 9 profanities. Drugs: 11 scenes of drinking, 1 of 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.

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 nonstop action and outlandishly inventive effects.

Staff ** Mind-numbing, unrealistic, rowdy.

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

Touching the Void (Not rated)

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

Sterritt **** This is a riveting account of an actual 1985 mountaineering trip in the Peruvian Alps that went horribly wrong. Recreating the harrowing events with stunt doubles in similar locations, Macdonald punctuates the action with on-camera commentary from the real-life men who survived the ordeal. You won't find out why people undertake expeditions like this, but you'll have some idea what it's like to be frozen almost stiff, hardly able to breathe, and puzzled about why a Boney M pop song won't leave your mind even though you think you're about to expire.

Win a Date With Tad Hamilton (PG-13)

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

Sterritt *** Rosalee is a West Virginia girl who wins a glamorous Hollywood evening with her favorite star, a fast-living hedonist who falls in love with her, dismaying his greedy agent and the shy supermarket manager who's loved her all along. While the comedy doesn't pack many real laughs, it has a sheer pleasantness that never quits.

Staff ** Topher Grace scores, perky, utterly unoriginal.

Sex/Nudity: 3 instances of innuendo. Violence: 1 scene of comic violence. Profanity: 20 instances. Drugs: 11 scenes with alcohol, 5 scenes with smoking.

OUT ON DVD
Open Range (PG-13)

Director: Kevin Costner. With Kevin Costner, Robert Duvall, Annette Bening. (138 min.)

Staff *** For a good while, Kevin Costner's constant habit of spitting is the only action of note in this western about cattle-drivers who clash with a large landowner. Costner paces the film to match the unhurried rhythms of the prairie setting, interrupted only by terse dialogue and the simmering inevitability of a final confrontation. When the film does explode, its gunfight makes the OK Corral showdown seem like an episode of "Bonanza." The extras on the two-discs are outstanding. Costner's singular passion for his self-produced film is gripping to behold in the intimate featurettes, and he tips his hat to early pioneer settlers in a Ken Burns-style documentary. By Stephen Humphries

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