Director: Lars von Trier. With Nicole Kidman, Paul Bettany, Patricia Clarkson, Philip Baker Hall. (173 min.)
Sterritt **** A woman running from criminals arrives in a small American village of the 1930s, where the townsfolk shelter her and then make her a dehumanized servant - until the criminals show up, throwing everything into a more unsettling perspective. Von Trier sets the action on a theatrical stage, spotlighting the existential isolation that weighs on people who don't seek larger visions of life, individuality, and community. Challenging, dramatic, provocative.
Director: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen. With Tom Hanks, Irma P. Hall, Marlon Wayans, J.K. Simmons. (104 min.)
Sterritt ** See review.
Director: Gregor Jordan. With Heath Ledger, Naomi Watts, Geoffrey Rush, Rachel Griffiths, (110 min.)
Sterritt ** The saga of a real-life outlaw whose violent skirmishes with lawmen made him a folk hero to many downtrodden Australians in the late 19th century. The cast works hard, but Jordan's directing is too ponderous and slow to build dramatic energy.
Director: Ernest Dickerson. With DMX, David Arquette, Jennifer Sky, Michael Ealy. (82 min.)
Sterritt ** The rise and fall of an African-American drug dealer (DMX) as perceived by a white writer (Arquette) who reads his diary after witnessing his death. This throwback to the outmoded blaxploitation genre is skillfully filmed by Dickerson, but has little else to offer besides cheap, violent thrills.
Staff * Sloppy, retro, stylized.
Sex/Nudity: 7 instances. Violence: 13 instances. Profanity: 100-plus instances of strong language. Drugs: 10 instances of illicit drug use, 13 of smoking, 8 of drinking.
Director: Jacques Doillon. With Pascal Greggory, Najat Benssallem, Ahmed Akensouss. (112 min.)
Sterritt **** A wealthy, manipulative Frenchman living in Morocco does a dance of neocolonialist seduction around a poor Moroccan woman who can't decide whether she desires or despises him. Subtle filmmaking and true-as-life acting make this an acute psychological drama with an engrossing sociological subtext. It stands with Doillon's best work. In French and Arabic with English subtitles.
Director: Adam Elliot, Chris Hinton, Florian Baxmeyer, Lionel Bailliu, Stefan Arsenijevic. With an internationally diverse cast. (86 min.)
Sterritt *** These short movies were nominated in the Academy Award race. The best animated item is "Harvie Krumpet," a dark Australian comedy about a social misfit; the best live-action entry is "Squash," a French drama about two macho businessmen having a psychological duel on the squash court. Also here is the animated "Nibbles," about a Canadian fishing trip, the live-action Slovenian drama "(A) Torsion," about a farmer and a church choir, and "The Red Jacket," a German look at the vicissitudes of a coat that ends up in wartime Sarajevo. In English and other languages with English subtitles.
Director: Zack Snyder. With Sarah Polley, Ving Rhames, Mekhi Phife. (100 min.)
Sterritt ** Remake of George Romero's sardonic 1978 horror movie about terrorized humans hiding in a shopping mall from swarming zombies. The updated version is somewhat lighter on social satire, but even heavier on blood and gore than the grisly original. Neither is as biting or original as "Night of the Living Dead," the Romero classic that spawned these spinoffs. Horror buffs will find plenty of split-second suspense and in-your-face carnage; others will scramble for the exit as quickly as the characters run from apocalyptic foes.
Staff ** Grisly, nightmarish, intense.
Sex/Nudity: 4 instances. Violence: 30 instances, unnecessarily gory. Profanity: 52 instances of strong language. Drugs: 5 scenes.
Director: Michel Gondry. With Jim Carrey, Kate Winslet, Tom Wilkinson, Kirsten Dunst. (108 min.)
Sterritt **** A lonely man (Carrey) falls in love with a mercurial woman (Winslet) who decides to escape their affair by having a psychologist erase her memories of him; he decides to do the same but regrets it during the procedure, resulting in a cerebral cat-and-mouse game in which he hides his mental concept of her in ever-deeper layers of his mind. The story is wise and the filmmaking is witty. Standouts include Carrey in his best performance to date, Wilkinson as a not-so-mad scientist, Mark Ruffalo as his assistant, and the British Winslet doing an American better than most Americans can do.
Staff *** Trip down the rabbit hole, hilarious, believable.
Sex/Nudity: 4 instances of implied sex. Violence: 3 instances. Profanity: 16 instances, mostly mild. Drugs: 12 instances.
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 about love conquering disability, but the filmmakers swamp the story with tasteless jokes, phony animal stunts, and bathroom humor.
Staff *** Lighthearted, fun, corny.
Sex/Nudity: 19 instances. Violence: 10 scenes. Profanity: 18 instances, mostly mild. Drugs: 10 instances.
Director: Joe Johnston. With Viggo Mortensen, Omar Sharif, Zuleikha Robinson, Louise Lombard. (136 min.)
Sterritt ** A rough-riding cowboy (Mortensen) leaves a Wild West show to enter himself and his mustang in a high-stakes race across the Middle Eastern sands, hindered and helped by a sheikh (Sharif) who has an interest in the outcome. The action is often gorgeous, but the screenplay is a collection of clichés. You might expect "Seabiscuit" meets "Lawrence of Arabia," but overall, it's a big, beautiful bore.
Director: Dagur Kari. With Tomas Lemarquis, Throster Anna Fridriksdóttir, Leo Gunnarsson. (88 min.)
Sterritt *** The title character is a very bright, very discombobulated teen who seems unable to get along with his family, his teachers, or anyone in his frosty Icelandic town except a pretty new girl whose father doesn't like him one bit. Quirky, heartfelt acting makes this a superior entry in the perennial teenage-misfit genre. In Icelandic with English subtitles.
Director: Mel Gibson. With Jim Caviezel, Monica Bellucci, Sergio Rubini, Maia Morgenstern. (127 min.)
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, rather than a precondition of his triumph over death. He also allows for anti-Semitic interpretations of the Jewish role in the death sentence, though Gibson has disavowed such interpretations. Technically, the picture is strong, thanks to Caleb Deschanel's camera work and Caviezel's relentlessly focused acting. In Aramaic, Hebrew, and Latin with English subtitles.
Staff **1/2 Brutal, excrutiatingly detailed violence.
Sex/Nudity: 1 instance of nudity. Violence: 24 scenes of intense violence that are inappropriate for children. Profanity: No instances. Drugs: 4 scenes with drinking wine.
Director: David Koepp. With Johnny Depp, Maria Bello, John Turturro, Charles S. Dutton. (97 min.)
Sterritt *** Once again, a thriller based on a Stephen King story focuses on a writer whose work gives him big trouble - in this case, sinister visits from a stranger who accuses him of plagiarizing a hack horror story. Depp gives a smart, subtle performance, and Turturro is terrific as a foe who's both exactly what he seems and exactly the opposite.
Staff **1/2 Foreboding, unmoving, but splendidly cast.
Sex/Nudity: 2 instances. Violence: 15 scenes. Profanity: 18 instances. Drugs: 8 scenes of smoking or drinking.
Director: Todd Phillips. With Ben Stiller, Owen Wilson, Snoop Dogg, Juliette Lewis. (99 min.)
Sterritt ** Stiller and Wilson play an odd couple of cops - one so conscientious he's more of a menace than the criminals he's chasing, the other believing that if you can't beat the crooks you might as well join 'em. The stars make the most of their characters, borrowed from the '70s TV show, bumbling their way to success with a tenacity that would impress Inspector Clouseau. Dogg is a riot as Huggy Bear, their streetwise informant, and '70s icon Fred Williamson plays their long-suffering commander perfectly.
Staff ** Fun but not funny, forgettable, Stiller excels.
Sex/Nudity: 25 instance of innuendo. Violence: 7 scenes of violence. Profanity: 24 instances, often strong. Drugs: 7 scenes with drinking or smoking, 2 with cocaine.
Director: D.J. Caruso. With Angelina Jolie, Ethan Hawke, Gena Rowlands, Kiefer Sutherland. (101 min.)
Sterritt ** A female FBI agent (Jolie) hunts a serial killer (you have to guess) who takes over the identities of the victims, inhabiting them one after another like a human hermit crab. While not much is new is this umpteenth variation on a nasty theme, the Montreal locations are atmospherically filmed and Philip Glass's music score packs an occasional punch.