Movie Guide

NEW RELEASES
50 First Dates (PG-13)

Director: Peter Segal. With Adam Sandler, Drew Barrymore, Sean Astin, Dan Aykroyd. (99 min.)

Sterritt * See review.

Love Object (Not rated)

Director: Robert Parigi. With Desmond Harrington, Melissa Sagemiller, Rip Torn, Udo Kier. (84 min.)

Recommended: 'The Godfather': 10 behind-the-scenes stories about the making of the classic films

Sterritt *** A young writer becomes obsessed with an anatomically correct female doll he's modeled on a co-worker, and soon the artificial woman takes over his mind, with bloody results. Inspired by Alfred Hitchcock classics like "Psycho" and "Vertigo," the thriller also resembles horror movies like "Dead of Night," treating its plot elements with a violence Hitch would have found way beyond what's necessary. Horror fans will find effective shivers, though.

Monsieur Ibrahim (R)

Director: François Dupeyron. With Omar Sharif, Pierre Boulanger, Lola Naymark, Isabelle Adjani. (94 min.)

Sterritt ** The place is Paris, the time is the early 1960s, and the main characters are an elderly Turkish émigré (Sharif) and a Jewish adolescent (Boulanger) who befriend each other in an era when life seemed simpler, - and camaraderie more readily trumped differences of age, ethnicity, and faith. While the story is sentimental, heartfelt acting makes its impact less manipulative. Originally titled "Monsieur Ibrahim et les fleurs du Coran." In French with English subtitles.

Robot Stories (Not rated)

Director: Greg Pak. With Tamlyn Tomita, Wai Ching Ho, Sab Shimono, Greg Pak. (85 min.)

Sterritt *** Four stories with automatons as important characters: "My Robot Baby," about would-be adoptive parents practicing with an electronic doll; "The Robot Fixer," about an old woman who collects toy gizmos for her dying son; "Machine Love," about humans with a new robot in their office; and "Clay," about an elderly artist who's reluctant to transfer his brain from a fatally ill body to a computer bank. The last is the most touching, but all are skillfully made.

The Seagull's Laughter (Not rated)

Director: Ágúst Gudmundsson. With Margrét Vilhjálmsdóttir, Heino Ferch, Ugla Egilsdóttir. (102 min)

Sterritt ** Fresh from an American marriage that didn't last, an enigmatic woman returns in 1953 to the Icelandic fishing village she's from and perplexes her neighbors, particularly an 11-year-old girl who isn't sure whether to fear or admire her. Solid acting and an intriguing plot compensate for some dull spots. In Icelandic with English subtitles.

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 opposite of his. If you can swallow that premise, you may be able to tolerate the crass humor and weak acting.

Barbershop 2 (PG-13)

Director: Kevin Rodney Sullivan. With Ice Cube, Eve, Michael Ealy, Queen Latifah. (98 min.)

Staff **1/2 The crew from the original Barbershop comes back to cut hair, only this time a national chain is trying to shut them down. Sullivan brings forth a narrative that buzzes with energy and sharpness and the actors perform their lines with an earthy vigor, but the film's bare-boned script and mawkish ending keep it from achieving 'shear' brilliance. By Brad Rosenberg

Sex/Nudity: 9 scenes with innuendo. Violence: 5 scenes. Profanity: 77 instances, mostly mild. Drugs: 5 instances.

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, dying father (Finney) by sifting grains of truth from the mountains of tall tales he was forever telling. Burton spices it up with his trademarked surrealism, but it's swamped by John August's sentimental screenplay.

Staff *** Shallow story, bizarre, longish.

Sex/Nudity: 3 innuendoes, 2 scenes of brief nudity. Violence: 4 scenes. 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 * 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 unexpected ways. The premise is promising, nodding to Ray Bradbury's classic story, "A Sound of Thunder." Too bad the screenplay is as confused as the hero.

Catch that Kid (PG)

Director: Bart Freundlich. With Kristen Stewart, Corbin Bleu, Max Thieriot, Jennifer Beals. (92 min.)

Sterritt ** As her father lies ill, a young girl asks two of her preteen pals to get on their go-karts and help her steal money to pay medical bills - from the same bank where her mother is installing a new security system. There's a little humor, a little suspense, and not a hint of reality.

Staff * Unengaging, preposterous.

Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: 11 instances. Profanity: 8 instances. Drugs: 4 instances of drinking.

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. The story builds melodramatic momentum, but is interrupted by episodes of suffering that smack more of sensationalism than candor. The fine cast is also misused.

Staff *** Poetic, book is better, Zellweger adds verve.

Sex/Nudity: 5 instances. Violence: 19 scenes. Profanity: 14 instances. Drugs: 5 scenes of drinking.

Good Bye Lenin! (R)

Director: Wolfgang Becker. With Daniel Brühl, Katrine Sab, Maria Simon. (121 min.)

Staff *** Faithful Communist Party member Christiane Kerner wakes from a coma in 1990, having slept through the German reunification. Fearing this news will cause a relapse, her adult children come up with inventive ways to explain the changes going on outside her East Berlin window. A charming blend of satire and pathos. In German with English subtitles. By M.K. Terrell

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. This is one of the rare times when a trilogy's third chapter is the best of the bunch, thanks mostly to Gollum and 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.

Miracle (PG)

Director: Gavin O'Connor. With Kurt Russell, Patrick O'Brien, Patricia Clarkson, Noah Emmerich. (136 min.)

Sterritt ** A hard-driving coach (Russell) trains his hockey team for a difficult match against the Soviet squad in the Winter Olympics of 1980. The climactic game packs an action-filled wallop impossible to resist. But the movie doesn't convincingly meet its goal of turning a sports event - even this tantalizing match between cold-war foes - into an all-embracing metaphor for the American way. Let's face it, a hockey game is ... well, a hockey game.

Staff *** Gripping, inspiring, brings freshness to clichés.

Sex/Nudity: 1 innuendo. Violence: 8 instances. Profanity: 13 mild expressions. Drugs: 2 scenes of drinking.

Osama (PG-13)

Director: Siddiq Barmak. With Marina Golbahari, Arif Herati, Zubaida Sahar, Mohamad Haref Harati. (82 min.)

Sterritt **** To evade the poverty imposed by misogynistic Taliban rules, a 12-year-old Afghan girl dresses as a boy and takes a job, only to be plucked from the workplace and installed in a Taliban school where kids taunt "him" for being effeminate, endangering her secret and her life. Based on a true story and photographed with the only 35mm movie camera in Afghanistan, this is downright inspired cinema. In Dari with English subtitles.

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 that went horribly wrong. Recreating the harrowing events with stunt doubles, Macdonald punctuates the action with on-camera commentary from the 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 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.

Staff **** Gripping, exhausting, deeply profound.

Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: None. Profanity: 35 instances crammed into three scenes. Drugs: None.

You Got Served (PG-13)

Director: Christopher B. Stokes. With Marques Houston, Lil' Kim, Raz B, Steve Harvey. (93 min.)

Staff ** Hip-hop dance battles take the place of gang warfare in South Central L.A., as rival "crews" fight for choreographic and acrobatic dominance. The eye-popping originality and athleticism are crowd pleasers and almost make up for distracting camera tricks and the insipid "keep away from my sister" subplot. Good, clean fun - and loud. By M.K. Terrell

Sex/Nudity: 3 instances of mild innuendo. Violence: 6 scenes. Profanity: 13 instances. Drugs: 3 scenes.

OUT ON DVD
Under the Tuscan Sun (PG-13)

Director: Audrey Wells. With Diane Lane, Sandra Oh, Lindsay Duncan. (110 min.)

Staff *** In Hollywood, as in the Brothers Grimm, fairy tales usually star a dewy young thing. So, let's hear it for Audrey Wells for crafting a happily ever after - complete with fixer-upper castle - for a middle-aged woman. Loosely based on Frances Mayes's memoir, the film stars Diane Lane as a newly divorced woman who buys a villa in Tuscany on a whim. Lane is lovely, but even she can't compete with the stunning scenery. Extras are strictly de rigueur: a featurette, three deleted scenes, and a commentary by Wells in which we learn that Lane's unseen, sobbing San Francisco neighbor is played by Matthew Laborteaux, best known as Albert Ingalls on "Little House on the Prairie." By Yvonne Zipp

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