Movie Guide

NEW RELEASES
The Agronomist (PG-13)

Director: Jonathan Demme. With Jean Dominique, Michele Montas, Jean-Bertrand Aristide. (90 min)

Sterritt ***See review.

Close Your Eyes (R)

Director: Nick Willing. With Goran Visnjic, Miranda Otto, Paddy Considine, Shirley Henderson. (108 min)

Recommended: Could you pass a US citizenship test?

Sterritt ***A small-time psychotherapist takes time off from his stop-smoking practice to help a policewoman track down a serial killer, using what may be psychic powers to sense the thoughts of an escaped young victim who's lost her ability to speak. Strong acting and smartly tuned-in directing turn a run-of-the-mill detective story into a striking, sometimes harrowing blend of horror and suspense.

Man on Fire (R)

Director: Tony Scott. With Denzel Washington, Christopher Walken, Dakota Fanning, Giancarlo Giannini. (146 min)

Sterritt **An alcoholic, Bible-reading assassin (Washington) becomes the bodyguard of a little Mexican girl whose wealthy parents fear she might become a victim of kidnappers who are terrorizing their city. The first hour is sharply directed, character-driven drama that ranks with Scott's best work. Then he lapses into his usual mode - more a bombardier than an entertainer, filling the screen with sadistic violence and arbitrary plot twists. In all, a wasted opportunity.

13 Going on 30 (PG-13)

Director: Gary Winick. With Jennifer Garner, Mark Ruffalo, Kathy Baker, Andy Serkis. (98 min)

Sterritt **See review.

This So-Called Disaster (Not rated)

Director: Michael Almereyda. With Sam Shepard, Sean Penn, Nick Nolte, Woody Harrelson. (89 min)

Sterritt ****See review.

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.

Connie and Carla (PG-13)

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

Staff DUD Nia Vardalos and Toni Collette play Connie and Carla, two unsuccessful dinner-theater performers who leave Chicago for L.A. after witnessing a mob murder. Once there, they disguise themselves as drag queens who offer up camp renditions of "Don't Cry for Me Argentina" and "Mame" in a gay cabaret. (If you find these versions remotely enjoyable, you're probably pining for Fox to air more early auditions for "American Idol.") Connie develops a crush on a straight man (Duchovny) who's distinctly uncomfortable around men in drag. In short, Vardalos's script pilfers the plot from "Some Like It Hot" and "Victor/Victoria" with none of the wit or suspense required for the premise to work. By Stephen Humphries

Sex/Nudity: 1 scene, 2 instances of innuendo. Violence: 2 scenes. Profanity: 7 mild expressions. Drugs: 8 instances.

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.

Hellboy (PG-13)

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

Sterritt *** A 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 and raised him as an ally. The first half is high-tech action; the second hour has marvelous moments, especially when the lumbering hero moons over his ambivalent girlfriend and undertakes a dangerous mission with a government agent who does not like him one bit. 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.

Johnson Family Vacation (PG-13)

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

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 ***The vengeful heroine wiped out most of the people who massacred her wedding party in the first portion of the "Kill Bill" saga, and the second shows her going after instigator Bill himself. Although it has plenty of raging kung-fu violence, Vol. 2 is driven far more by character and dialogue, and eventually unveils gentle (!) and even endearing (!!) scenes of a sort not usually associated with Tarantino's imagination. Marvelous acting and large doses of ingenious style make this one of his most engrossing essays in pulp-fiction filmmaking. Definitely not for the squeamish, though.

Staff *** Inventive, exhilarating, much better than Vol. 1

Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: 13 scenes with extreme violence. Profanity: 32 instances, mostly harsh. Drugs: 9 instances of smoking, 5 with drinking, 1 with drugs.

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 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.

Sex/Nudity: 3 instances of innuendo, 1 of nudity. Violence: 18 instances of intense violence. Profanity: 27 instances, mostly harsh. Drugs: 11 scenes with smoking, 8 with drinking, 3 with both.

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.

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 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.

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

Director: Peter Weir. With Russell Crowe, Paul Bettany, James D'Arcy. (137 min.)

Staff *** As soon as the DVD loads, viewers are deftly transported to the dark belly of an old frigate, with its creaking boards and cramped quarters. The year is 1805 and the British Navy is up against Napoleon's forces. In the South Atlantic, naval hero Capt. Jack Aubrey (Crowe) takes his loyal crew on a cat-and-mouse chase with a French warship, despite various protestations from his friend and doctor (Bettany). The swashbuckling action is enhanced by the compelling characters and awe-inspiring battle tactics. The two-disc Collectors Edition features deleted scenes, two documentaries, and three featurettes, including battle-scene studies and an interactive cannon demonstration. By Marie Ewald

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