Movie Guide

NEW RELEASES
Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights (PG-13)

Director: Guy Ferland. With Romola Garai, Diego Luna, Sela Ward, Patrick Swayze. (86 min.)

Sterritt * A rich American girl learns love and dancing from a Latino boy during a family sojourn in Cuba just before the Castro regime takes over. At least the original "Dirty Dancing" had Jennifer Grey for Swayze to swing around. This belated "reimagining" is as beguiling as a dried-out palm tree.

The Passion of the Christ (R)

Director: Mel Gibson. With Jim Caviezel, Monica Bellucci, Sergio Rubini, Maia Morgenstern. (127 min.)

Recommended: Default

Sterritt ** An excruciatingly violent reenactment of Jesus' crucifixion. Gibson pays morbid attention to every gory detail, as if the suffering of the earthly Jesus were of central importance for its own sake rather than a precondition of his triumph over death, which occupies only the last few seconds of the film's highly selective account. He also leaves the door open to anti-Semitic interpretations of the Jewish role in the death sentence, although Gibson has disavowed such interpretations himself. Technically, the picture is strong, thanks to Caleb Deschanel's expert camera work and Caviezel's relentlessly focused acting. In Aramaic, Hebrew, and Latin with English subtitles.

Risk/Reward (Not rated)

Directors: Elizabeth Holder, Xan Parker. With Louise Jones, Carol Warner Wilke, Umber Ahmad. (87 min.)

Sterritt *** Informative, engrossing documentary about women working in high-powered Wall Street business firms where men traditionally hold the reins. To its credit, the movie has as little patience for nonessential nonsense as the women it portrays.

Twisted (R)

Director: Philip Kaufman. With Ashley Judd, Samuel L. Jackson, Andy Garcia, David Strathairn. (97 min.)

Sterritt * See review at right.

Currently in RELEASE
Against the Ropes (PG-13)

Director: Charles S. Dutton. With Meg Ryan, Omar Epps, Tony Shalhoub, Charles S. Dutton. (111 min.)

Sterritt * A boxing drama loosely inspired by the career of manager Jackie Kallen, showing how she profits from faith in an untried fighter and calms a hyperactive ego in the process. Ryan puts pert charm into her role as a pioneering woman in an all-male world, supported by Epps as her two-fisted protégé and Dutton as a crusty old trainer. Too bad the screenplay is full of simplistic stereotypes and empty clichés.

Staff *** Modest, crowd-pleasing, believable fiction.

Sex/Nudity: 5 scenes, 4 of them innuendo. Violence: 10 scenes. Profanity: 65 instances, mostly mild. Drugs: 10 instances.

Barbershop 2 (PG-13)

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

Staff **1/2 The crew from the original "Barbershop" comes back to cut hair, only this time a national chain tries to shut them down. Sullivan brings forth a narrative buzzing 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. Drugs: 5 instances.

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 changed in unexpected ways. A promising premise; too bad the screenplay is as confused as the hero.

City of God (R)

Director: Fernando Meireilles, Kátia Lund. With Matheus Nachtergaele, Alexandre Rodrigues, Seu Jorge, Leandro Firmino da Hora. (130 min.)

Sterritt ** Ferocious drama visits Rio de Janeiro's anarchic slums from the late 1960s to the early '80s. The characters are violent criminals ranging from 9 to 14 years old, so lacking in judgment and experience that they're at least as dangerous as the veteran thugs they imitate. The story and characters recall Brazil's great Cinema Novo movement of the '60s and '70s, combining stark realism with expressive atmosphere. Cinematically, the film is as slick as any Hollywood thriller. In Portuguese with English subtitles.

Staff ** Excessively violent, disturbing, compelling.

Sex/Nudity: 9 instances implied sex. Violence: 44 scenes of very graphic violence, including bullet-ridden bodies. Profanity: 137 harsh instances. Drugs: 2 scenes of smoking; 15 scenes with illicit drugs, mostly cocaine.

Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen (PG)

Director: Sara Sugarman. With Lindsay Lohan, Adam Garcia, Megan Fox, Alison Pill. (86 min.)

Staff * Lola Cep (Lohan) is a desperately spoiled "New York City doll" forced to move to a sleepy New Jersey suburb. She thinks everyone stands between herself and stardom, but she refuses to stop dreaming and lands the lead role in her school play and an invitation to her favorite rockstar's afterparty. The plot is as unbelievable as Lola (whose crush, Sam, pops in and out of scenes at random), and if the preteens this film is aimed at ever look up to Lola, the world won't be a better place. By Elizabeth Armstrong

Staff *1/2 No substance, Britney-esque.

Sex/Nudity: 1 instance of innuendo. Violence: 1 instance. Profanity: 1 mild expression. Drugs: 2 scenes with drinking.

The Dreamers (NC-17)

Director: Bernardo Bertolucci. With Michael Pitt, Eva Green. (112 min.)

Sterritt *** Amid the cultural and political turmoil of Paris in 1968, an American student grows close to a French brother and sister whose abnormally intimate relationship makes them both eager and hesitant to welcome him into their lives. The movie is strongest when it depicts the idealistic upheavals of the '60s and weakest when it retreats to the apartment that houses the story's explicit sexual adventures. In all, it's a middling-good chapter in Bertolucci's exploration of links between sexual and political liberty.

Staff *** Edgy, time-warped, a hazy, dreamlike plot.

Sex/Nudity: 17 scenes, with overtones of incest. Violence: 3 scenes or riots. Profanity: 16 instances. Drugs: 8 instances of drinking, 16 of smoking, one of marijuana.

Eurotrip (R)

Director: Jeff Schaffer. With Scott Mechlowicz, Jacob Pitts, Michelle Trachtenberg. (92 min.)

Staff *1/2 Four friends graduate from high school and run away to Europe for the summer. They travel to Berlin to find a beautiful pen pal one of had them lost contact with and to take advantage of the liberal drug, alcohol, and sex laws. They refuse to give up the quest even after landing in Bratislava with only $1.83 in their pockets. The appealing young cast helps make up for often raunchy humor. By M.K. Terrell.

Sex/Nudity: 23 instances. Violence: 11 minor instances. Profanity: 26 instances, most of them strong. Drugs: 12 scenes with smoking, drinking, and marijuana brownies.

50 First Dates (PG-13)

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

Sterritt * A womanizer (Sandler) falls for a woman (Barrymore) whose short-term memory has been destroyed by an injury, which means each time he woos her is the first time for her. Set in picturesque Hawaii, this could have been a tasty romantic comedy, but the filmmakers swamp the story with tasteless jokes, phony animal stunts, and bathroom humor.

Staff *** Lighthearted, fun, sweet but corny.

Sex/Nudity: 19 instances. Violence: 10 scenes. Profanity: 18 instances, mostly mild. Drugs: 10 instances.

Kitchen Stories (Not rated)

Director: Bent Hamer. With Tomas Nörstrom, Joachim Calmeyer, Reine Brynolfsson, Bjorn Floberg. (92 min.)

Sterritt *** Marvelously wry comedy about the odd relationship between a crusty Norwegian man and a snoopy Swedish researcher who's assigned to sit in his kitchen and chart his movements there. Acted and directed with a savvy understatement that perfectly matches the eccentric story. In Norwegian and Swedish with English subtitles.

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.

Mystic River (R)

Director: Clint Eastwood. With Tim Robbins, Sean Penn, Kevin Bacon, Laura Linney. (137 min.)

Sterritt **** The lives of a cop (Bacon) and a shopkeeper (Penn) intersect when the merchant's daughter is murdered and it appears that another boyhood friend (Robbins) may have committed the crime. Robbins is brilliant as a man who was sexually abused as a child. Best of all is Eastwood's decision to probe serious themes through a lingering sense of ambiguity.

Staff ***1/2Engrossing, great acting, complex.

Sex/Nudity: 1 scene of implied sex Violence: 11 scenes, including dead body, child abuse. Profanity: 30 instances. Drugs: 15 scenes of drinking, smoking.

Welcome to Mooseport (PG-13)

Director: Donald Petrie. With Gene Hackman, Maura Tierney, Ray Romano, Marcia Gay Harden. (110 min.)

Sterritt * Hackman plays a former president of the United States who retires to a small town, falls for a local woman, and vies for her with a handyman (Romano) who runs against him in a mayoral election. The best parts are the scenes of mass-media feeding frenzies, but these are closer to stark realism than sarcastic satire, making the unfunny film even more disheartening than it would be otherwise.

Staff ** Amiable, folksy, enjoyable cast.

Sex/Nudity: 8 instances Violence: 1 scene involving a punch. Profanity: 8 instances. Drugs: 7 instances of drinking.

OUT ON DVD
Matchstick Men (PG-13)

Director: Ridley Scott. With Nicolas Cage, Alison Lohman, Sam Rockwell, Bruce McGill. (116 min.)

Staff *** As con man Roy Waller, Nicolas Cage displays more compulsive-disorder tics than even TV's detective Monk. But when he meets a teenage daughter (Lohman) he never knew he had, Waller's regimented routines are shattered. And his conscience is tweaked when she wants to learn the tricks of his trade. Newcomer Lohman is, as director Scott notes, "brilliant." The making-of-documentary, too, is riveting from the preproduction process of casting right on through to the postproduction difficulties of composing a score that had the right tone for the movie. By Stephen Humphries

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