Movie Guide

NEW RELEASES
Connie and Carla (PG-13)

Director: Michael Lembeck. With Nia Vardalos, Toni Collette, David Duchovny, Stephen Spinella. (97 min.)

Staff DUD See review.

Johnson Family Vacation (PG-13)

Director: Christopher Erskin. With Cedric the Entertainer, Lil' Bow Wow, Shannon Elizabeth, Steve Harvey. (97 min.)

Recommended: Default

Staff ** To have any hope of winning the Family of the Year award, Nate Johnson (Cedric the Entertainer) must make peace with his estranged wife and pack everybody up for a three-day drive to the family reunion. "Family of Five in Search of a Script" might be a better title, but this road picture gets better as it goes along, and the upbeat ending redeems it considerably. By M. K. Terrell

Sex/Nudity: 6 instances of innuendo. Violence: 8 mild scenes. Profanity: 4 mild expressions. Drugs: 2 instances.

Kill Bill: Vol. 2 (R)

Director: Quentin Tarantino. With Uma Thurman, David Carradine. (96 min.)

Sterritt ***See review.

The Punisher (R)

Director: Jonathan Hensleigh. With John Travolta, Thomas Jane, Rebecca Romijn-Stamos, Will Patton. (123 min)

Sterritt ** A violent, well-acted vigilante tale about a muscleman (Jane) with a high IQ tracking down the suave psychopath (Travolta) who killed his family, calling it not "revenge" but "punishment," as if that makes his exploits morally admirable. The most entertaining scenes focus on the lovable louts and losers who share the boardinghouse where the protagonist - based on a comic-book character billed as a superhero without superpowers - prepares his grisly exploits. The rest is mayhem.

Young Adam (NC-17)

Director: David Mackenzie. With Ewan McGregor, Tilda Swinton, Peter Mullan, Emily Mortimer. (93 min)

Sterritt *** The setting is Glasgow in the 1950s, and the story centers on a young wanderer (McGregor) and his seasoned boss (Mullan) who find a woman's corpse floating in the water near the barge they operate. This leads to revelations about the drifter's past, his connection with the dead woman, and the steamy romance that's blooming between him and his boss's wife, played by Swinton with her usual finesse. Rich atmospherics and an all-star British cast make this a superior melodrama if you can handle the heavy-breathing sex scenes.

CURRENTLY IN RELEASE
The Alamo (PG-13)

Director: John Lee Hancock. With Billy Bob Thornton, Jason Patric, Dennis Quaid, Emilio Echevarría. (136 min.)

Sterritt * Yet another last stand for the beleaguered fortress, where Republic of Texas forces died in 1836 defending what they thought (wrongly, as the movie shows) was the last bastion between Mexican tyranny and good Texan "values," including slavery. Thornton is good as Davy Crockett, but overall the movie is dull, derivative, and as lifelike as a heap of historical figurines. Few will remember this "Alamo" for long.

Ella Enchanted (PG)

Director: Tommy O'Haver. With Anne Hathaway, Hugh Dancy, Cary Elwes, Minnie Driver. (95 min.)

Staff ** Fans of Gail Carson Levine will find little of her charming book in this big-screen version of the Cinderella tale. What does remain is Levine's clever twist: a curse of obedience that requires Ella to do everything that's asked of her. In the book she uses her wits to save her from ogres and evil stepsisters; in the movie, a prince often does it for her. "Ella" has energy enough, and will probably appeal to tweens, but adds too many gimmicks - including musical numbers, and a medieval mall - to a story that had plenty going for it already. By Kim Campbell

Sex/Nudity: none. Violence: 13 mild instances. Profanity: 1 mild instance. Drugs: 1 scene with drinking.

The Girl Next Door (R)

Director: Luke Greenfield. With Emile Hirsch, Elisha Cuthbert, Timothy Olyphant, James Remar. (110 min.)

Sterritt ** A porn actress (Cuthbert) moves in next-door to a geeky high-school student (Hirsch) who needs to loosen up a bit, and after many misadventures they affect each other's lives for the better. Olyphant steals the show as a cheeky porn producer. The rest is gimmicky and predictable, except for a clever surprise near the end.

Hellboy (PG-13)

Director: Guillermo Del Toro. With Ron Perlman, Selma Blair, John Hurt, Jeffrey Tambor. (122 min.)

Sterritt *** Yet another troubled superhero fights the forces of darkness, and he's just right for the job, since humans snatched him from an evil dimension when he was a baby. The first half is high-tech action; the second hour has marvelous moments. The screenplay has flashes of real wit, and Perlman is perfect in the title role.

Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: 26 instances of intense violence. Profanity: 26 instances, mostly mild. Drugs: 12 instances.

Home on the Range (PG)

Directors: Will Finn, John Sanford. With voices of Judi Dench, Roseanne Barr, Cuba Gooding Jr. (76 min.)

Sterritt *** A money-hungry villain wants to take over an old-fashioned dairy farm, and a nervy cow organizes fellow animals to save the day. Old-style animation slows down after a snappy start, but it's light and lively enough to keep little kids happy and older ones from fidgeting too much.

Staff *** Delightful, fresh, great songs.

Sex/Nudity: 2 mild instances. Violence: 10 scenes. Profanity: No instances. Drugs: 1 scene with drinking.

The Passion of the Christ (R)

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. 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, excruciatingly 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.

The Prince & Me (PG)

Director: Martha Coolidge. With Julia Stiles, Luke Mably, Miranda Richardson, James Fox. (111 min.)

Sterritt *** An ordinary Midwestern student works at getting good grades and dreams of going to medical school - until she meets an enticing guy who's really the Prince of Denmark, visiting her college incognito. The story has a few telling twists, but its best asset is from-the-heart acting by a lively cast under Coolidge's cool, calm directing.

Staff **1/2 Charming, handsome, should be PG-13.

Sex/Nudity: 4 instances of innuendo. Violence: 2 scenes. Profanity: 7 mild instances. Drugs: 6 scenes with alcohol.

Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed (PG)

Director: Raja Gosnell. With Sarah Michelle Gellar, Freddie Prinze Jr., Matthew Lillard. (88 min.)

Staff *1/2 A demented mastermind resuscitates monsters from the first film, and the gang from Mystery Inc. must put them all down again. Lively performances and special effects add to the nostalgia, but it's much ado about very little. By M. K. Terrell

Staff ** Loud, fast, inappropriate for small children.

Sex/Nudity: 2 instances of innuendo. Violence: 14 instances, mostly mild. Profanity: 1 instance. Drugs: 2 scenes with smoking and drinking, 1 scene with inhaling gas.

Walking Tall (PG-13)

Director: Kevin Bray. With The Rock, Johnny Knoxville, Neal McDonough, Barbara Tarbuck. (87 min.)

Staff ** A remake of the 1973 vigilante movie, about a he-man who discovers his hometown is controlled by a corrupt sheriff and a drug-dealing casino owner, and decides to straighten things out by walloping the bad folks into submission. Good of its B-movie kind if you can overlook its Neanderthal ideology.

Staff ** Entertaining, over the top, great fight scenes.

Sex/Nudity: 4 instances of innuendo and implied sex. Violence: 9 instances, including brutal fighting and use of firearms. Profanity: 17 harsh instances. Drugs: 5 scenes with smoking, 4 with drinking, 2 with drugs.

The Whole Ten Yards (PG-13)

Director: Howard Deutsch. With Bruce Willis, Matthew Perry, Amanda Peet, Natasha Henstridge. (97 min.)

Sterritt * Strenuously unfunny sequel to the 2000 hit "The Whole Nine Yards," about a suburban dentist mixed up with a mobster. Kevin Pollak has spunk as a Hungarian gang boss. The rest is unredeemed inanity.

Sex/Nudity: 16 scenes. Violence: 19 instances. Profanity: 48 instances, mostly mild. Drugs: 11 instances.

OUT ON DVD
Freaks and Geeks - The Complete Series (NR)

Creator: Paul Feig. With Linda Cardellini, John Francis Daley. (6 discs, 18 episodes)

Staff **** Of all the great shows I've seen die a premature death, this one was the most painful. "Freaks and Geeks" was the most hilarious - and harrowing - look at high school ever to slouch its way across the small screen. Set in Michigan circa 1980, the show centered on Lindsay Weir (Cardellini), a "mathlete" who finds herself hanging with the burnouts after the death of her grandmom, and her little brother Sam (Daley), who's firmly ensconced with the geeks. From the sadistic exercise known as dodgeball to a drummer's first tryout for a band, the camera never flinches - even when you really, really wish it would. The DVD set is a valentine for fans, and is accordingly stuffed with extras: a director's cut of the pilot, deleted scenes from every episode, auditions, outtakes, and a whopping 29 commentaries. (Subject matter and language in some episodes make the set inappropriate for under-12s.) By Yvonne Zipp

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