Movie Guide

NEW RELEASES
Control Room (Not rated)

Director: Jehane Noujaim. With Sameer Khader, Lt. Josh Rushing, Deema Khatib. (84 min.)

Sterritt **** See review.

Love Me If You Dare (Not rated)

Director: Yann Samuell. With Guillaume Canet, Marion Cotillard, Thibault Verhaeghe. (90 min.)

Recommended: Default

Sterritt *** Two kids play a nonstop game of daring each other to do impulsive things, then continue it as adults with complicated results for their could-be love affair. Much of the style strains too hard to be cute, but true romantics may shed copious tears of sympathy and empathy. Originally called "Jeux d'enfants." In French with subtitles

Shrek 2 (PG)

Directors: Andrew Adamson, Kelly Asbury, Conrad Vernon. With voices of Mike Myers, Cameron Diaz. (92 min.)

Sterritt *** The gentle ogre is dragged by his new spouse, Fiona, to meet her royal mom and dad, stirring up trouble with a fairy godmother who's furious with him for beating Prince Charming in the race for Fiona's hand. At its best, this "Shrek" sequel draws up a brilliant new blueprint for all-ages animation, blending fairy-tale whimsy with edgy social satire. Too bad it ends with worn-out homilies far less imaginative than the story as a whole.

S21: The Khmer Rouge Killing Machine (Not rated)

Director: Rithy Panh. With Vann Nath, and former guards in the S21 prison. (101 min.)

Sterritt **** The prison designated S21 was the scene of the torture and slaughter of some 17,000 victims after the Khmer Rouge took control of Cambodia in 1975. Panh's documentary explores its bloody history through statements and reenactments by former guards and the only two survivors he could find. The result is a history lesson both invaluable and horrific. In Khmer with subtitles

CURRENTLY IN RELEASE
Breakin' All the Rules

Director: David Taplitz. With Jamie Foxx, Morris Chestnut, Jennifer Esposito, Peter MacNicol. (85 min.)

Staff **1/2 Magazine editor Quincy Watson (Foxx) gets a shock at his engagement party: His fiancée is eloping to Paris with somebody else. Quincy's so upset he writes a sort of Breaking Up for Dummies manual, resulting in a romantic mix-up involving at least seven people, including his cousin Evan (Chestnut), who wants to dump his girlfriend Nicky. Snappy dialogue and a charming cast largely make up for lightweight material and scattered direction. By M.K. Terrell

Carandiru (R)

Director: Hector Babenco. With Luiz Carlos Vasconcelos, Ivan de Almeida, Milhem Cortaz. (146 min.)

Sterritt *** The inventive though uneven Brazilian filmmaker turns a fictionalized spotlight on an overcrowded São Paulo prison where more than 100 inmates were killed by police during a 1992 riot, picturing events that led up to the slaughter through the eyes of a sympathetic physician. Harrowing, realistic, humanistic. In Portuguese with subtitles

Coffee and Cigarettes (R)

Director: Jim Jarmusch. With Bill Murray, Cate Blanchett, Joie Lee, Steve Buscemi. (96 min.)

Sterritt *** A series of vignettes, starting with a "Saturday Night Live" sketch from 1986, about conversations taking place as people consume (or reject) the title substances. Some are weak, some are superb - there's a priceless one with Alfred Molina and Steve Coogan as Brits with different feelings about learning they're cousins - but they get better as they go along, ending with the most understated and touching of all, featuring Taylor Mead and Bill Rice as cultural rebels who've outlived their rebellions.

Laws of Attraction (PG-13)

Director: Peter Howitt. With Julianne Moore, Pierce Brosnan, Parker Posey, Michael Sheen. (87 min.)

Sterritt * Two top-notch divorce attorneys (Moore and Brosnan) fall for each other while battling in the courtroom. This sort of legal-eagle premise worked beautifully in the bygone Tracy and Hepburn days, declined when the Coen brothers made "Intolerable Cruelty," and hits rock bottom here. Poor writing and directing.

Sex/Nudity: 4 instances of innuendo, 2 of implied sex. Violence: Only threats. Profanity: 21 instances, nearly all mild. Drugs: At least 10 instances of drinking.

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. A wasted opportunity.

Sex/Nudity: 2 instances of innuendo, 2 of implied sex. Violence: 24 instances of violence. Profanity: 20 instances, mostly harsh. Drugs: 13 scenes with smoking, 8 with drinking, 3 with both.

Mean Girls (PG-13)

Director: Mark Waters. With Lindsay Lohan, Tina Fey, Rachel McAdams. (97 min.)

Sterritt *** "Clueless" meets "Election" in this sharp-eyed comedy about a girl (Lohan) who enters a regular high school after years of homeschooling, wangles her way into a snooty clique, and thereby betrays the nerds who have befriended her. Fey's screenplay is incredibly smart, and Lohan is captivating.

Staff *** Fun, fast-paced, with sly observations.

Sex/Nudity: 9 instances of innuendo. Violence: 3 scenes. Profanity: 49 instances, mostly mild. Drugs: 2 scenes with drinking.

New York Minute (PG)

Director: Dennie Gordon. With Ashley Olsen, Mary-Kate Olsen, Eugene Levy. (85 min.)

Sterritt ** The insanely popular Olsen twins play suburban teens having a wild Manhattan day. As one heads for a scholarship speech, the other sneaks off to a rock-video taping session, and both wonder if the boy of their dreams might be just around the next crowded corner. The cast is cute and the action is colorful, but the comedy isn't as captivating as it sets out to be.

Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: 7 slapstick scenes. Profanity: 4 expressions. Drugs: 1 scene with drinking.

The Saddest Music in the World (Not rated)

Director: Guy Maddin. With Isabella Rossellini, Maria de Madeiros, Mark McKinney, Ross McMillan. (99 min.)

Sterritt **** The time is 1933 and the heroine is a wealthy Canadian woman (Rossellini) who sponsors a contest to see which country can come up with the most melancholy tune. What brings brilliance to this zany premise is Maddin's mad style, which follows his frequent practice of making the movie look like a long-ago production that's been heedlessly stored under somebody's bed for the past few decades. Utterly artificial, outrageous, and enjoyable if you're as adventurous a moviegoer as Maddin is a filmmaker.

Staff **** Quirky, intriguing, hauntingly beautiful.

Sex/Nudity: 9 instances, none graphic. Violence: 10 scenes, including a leg amputation. Profanity: 3 mild expressions. Drugs: 5 scenes with drinking, 1 with smoking.

Super Size Me (Not rated)

Director: Morgan Spurlock. With Morgan Spurlock, Dr. Lisa Ganjhu, Dr. Daryl Isaacs. (96 min.)

Sterritt ** Spurlock wanted to test the claim that eating fast food is making Americans too fat, so he went on a medically charted diet of McDonald's products and found that - surprise! - he got fatter. He also recorded the experiment in this documentary, which is far from persuasive since Spurlock didn't scarf his McDiet the way ordinary people do, but relentlessly stuffed himself like the human equivalent of a force-fed goose. The results have more journalistic flab than scientific muscle.

Staff **** Unsettling, witty, not entirely convincing.

Sex/Nudity: 2 instances of innuendo. Violence: None. Profanity: 1 harsh expression. Drugs: 1 scene with smoking, 3 references to drugs.

13 Going on 30 (PG-13)

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

Sterritt **Snubbed by the cool chicks she envies, 13-year-old Jenna wishes she were 30 and flirty, and suddenly "wishing dust" makes her exactly that - editing a fashion magazine, sparring with a cool-chick rival, and hoping to capture the heart of a boy she spurned when she was too young to know better. The early scenes are full of too-familiar situations and stereotypes, but the story picks up steam when Jenna tackles a crisis at her magazine, and Ruffalo's laid-back manner helps maintain some plausibility and charm.

Staff *** Warm, winsome, fresh reworking of old ideas.

Sex/Nudity: 3 innuendos. Violence: None. Profanity: 23 instances, most mild. Drugs: 5 scenes of drinking, 2 of smoking.

A Slipping Down Life (R)

Director: Toni Kalem. With Lili Taylor, Guy Pearce, Sara Rue, John Hawkes. (109 min.)

Sterritt *** A modestly filmed drama about a small-town girl who goes crazy (literally) over a local rock singer with more pretensions than talent. Taylor is utterly believable even when the screenplay (from an Anne Tyler novel) is too self-consciously quirky, and Pearce nicely portrays the guy she obsesses over.

Troy (R)

Director: Wolfgang Petersen. With Brad Pitt, Diane Kruger, Eric Bana, Peter O'Toole, Orlando Bloom. (162 min.)

Sterritt *** Paris spirits his lover Helen from Sparta to Troy, sparking a decade-long war in which heroes like Achilles and Hector play leading roles. Pitt sports enough new musculature to make a credible Achilles if not a particularly imposing one, and O'Toole is just right as Priam, a dignified and melancholy monarch. The screenplay leaves out the fate-deciding Olympian gods and never quite decides whether war is glorious or not. Aside from these questionable aspects, the movie is old-fashioned fun in the venerable sword-and-sandal tradition.

Staff *1/2Handsome but hollow, macho, unsophisticated.

Sex/Nudity: 4 scenes with innuendo/implied sex, 4 with nudity. Violence: 18 scenes, mostly graphic. Profanity: 2 expressions. Drugs: 3 instances of drinking.

Van Helsing (PG-13)

Director: Stephen Sommers. With Hugh Jackman, Kate Beckinsale, David Wenham, Richard Roxburgh (131 min.)

Sterritt * Portrayed as a sort of James Bond of the supernatural, the famous vampire hunter (Jackman) goes after Dracula with help from a randy friar and a lovely Gypsy (Beckinsale). Along the way, they encounter everyone from Dr. Jekyll's alter ego to Frankenstein's monster. The touches of gothic horror are edited so quickly that no real atmosphere has a chance to develop, and there's not a shred of psychology in the characters, human or otherwise. This is yet another video game disguised as a wide-screen epic, and it deserves to have a box-office stake driven through its hokey Hollywood heart.

Staff ** Insubstantial, frenetic, fast-paced, campy.

Sex/Nudity: 3 scenes with innuendo/implied sex. Violence: 35 scenes, mostly graphic. Profanity: 10 mild expressions. Drugs: 2 instances of drinking, 2 of smoking.

OUT ON DVD
The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (PG-13)

Director: Peter Jackson. With Elijah Wood, Viggo Mortenson, and Ian McKellen. (201 min.)

Staff ***1/2 Marathoner alert! The final installment in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, "Return of the King," comes out on DVD next Tuesday, which means of course, that Memorial Day weekend is the time of the digital LOTR marathons - all three films in a row, popcorn and pizza for all. The extended edition of the film is yet to come, but for those who can't wait, the extras on this two-disc set are respectable: three in-depth programs, including a National Geographic Special, lots of behind-the-scenes commentary, and smaller featurettes. By Gloria Goodale

Miracle (PG)

Director: Gavin O'Connor. With Kurt Russell, Patricia Clarkson, and Noah Emmerich. (135 min., 2 discs)

Staff *** "If we play 10 times, they'll probably win nine," coach Herb Brooks (Russell) tells his ragtag US hockey players before they face the Soviets in the 1980 Olympic games. Anyone with sports sense knows how it ends, but the authenticity and intensity turn a predictable movie into a provocative one. The heart-stopping hockey action will win over any sports nut, and the riveting historical context will recruit the rest. In addition to outtakes and commentary by the filmmakers, extras include behind-the-scenes featurettes, footage of Coach Herb Brooks, and an ESPN round table with members of the 1980 team - a field day for hockey fans. By Marie Ewald

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