Movie Guide

NEW RELEASES
Bukowski: Born Into This (Not rated)

Director: John Dullaghan. With Charles Bukowski, Sean Penn, Barbet Schroeder, Bono. (113 min.)

Sterritt *** A documentary portrait of the late American author and poet Charles Bukowski, showing him as more introspective and emotionally vulnerable than you'd think from his rough-and-tumble writing. Excerpts from Schroeder's long video documentary about him, and from the flawed melodrama "Barfly" they made together, add more variety.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (PG)

Director: Alfonso Cuarón. WIth Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, Gary Oldman. (141 min.)

Recommended: Default

Sterritt *** See review.

The Story of the Weeping Camel (PG)

Directors: Byambasuren Davaa, Luigi Falomi. With Janchiv Ayurzana, Chimed Ohin, Zeveljamz Nyam. (93 min.)

Sterritt **** Blurring all the lines between fiction and documentary, this gentle and amusing movie blends real, unrehearsed material with delightful storytelling scenes focusing on a Mongolian family that faces a problem when a camel in its herd takes a dislike to a newborn calf and refuses to nurse it. The action takes place in Gobi Desert locations, which carry real expressive power in addition to providing a striking background for drama involving humans, animals, and nature itself. In Mongolian with subtitles

CURRENTLY IN RELEASE
Baadasssss! (R)

Director: Mario Van Peebles. With Mario Van Peebles, Ossie Davis, Nia Long, Bill Cosby. (108 min.)

Sterritt *** A docudrama account of how African- American film pioneer Melvin Van Peebles used a flash of Hollywood success to launch a production of his 1971 hit "Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song," recognized as a key event in modern independent moviemaking. This colorful time capsule of a movie was directed by Van Peebles's son, who doesn't minimize the difficulties his father's underfinanced dream entailed for his hard-pressed family and friends.

Control Room (Not rated)

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

Sterritt **** An inside look at the Qatar-based TV network Al Jazeera, bringing out the mixed feelings many of its journalists have toward aspects of conflict between the United States and the Middle East, and underscoring the deeper message that all media reportage is controlled by editors, producers, and ideologies before it gets to its audience. Although it enters a spin room of its own at times, the movie is generally fairer and more balanced than much day-to-day TV programming. In English and Arabic with subtitles

The Day After Tomorrow (PG-13)

Director: Roland Emmerich. With Dennis Quaid, Jake Gyllenhaal, Sela Ward, Ian Holm. (123 min.)

Sterritt ** Global warming disrupts Earth's heat-circulation patterns, causing a perfect storm that instantly goes global and creates Ice Age conditions. A climatologist (Quaid) makes a dangerous journey to his young-adult son (Gyllenhaal) for no reason except that death-defying treks are mandatory for science-fiction epics like this. The movie presents no scientific arguments - let alone evidence. The decade after next is too soon to see a picture as silly as this.

Staff ** Predictable plot, special-effects superstorm, wry.

Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: 16 scenes. Profanity: 12 expressions. Drugs: 1 instance 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. 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 mild expressions. Drugs: 2 instances of drinking.

Raising Helen (PG-13)

Director: Garry Marshall. With Kate Hudson, John Corbett, Joan Cusack, Helen Mirren. (119 min.)

Sterritt * Kate Hudson gets top billing in the role of Helen, a chic fashion-industry star whose carefree lifestyle is interrupted when a car crash kills her older sister. Entrusted with caring for her nephews and nieces, she finds the élan knocked right out of her. To her surprise, a dashing Lutheran pastor (Corbett) offers a hand. Great premise, but the ensuing trials and tribulations - not to mention hapless attempts at comedy - are as off-key as Hudson's karaoke scene. By Stephen Humphries

Saved! (PG-13)

Director: Brian Dannelly. With Jena Malone, Macaulay Culkin, Mandy Moore, Heather Matarazzo. (92 min.)

Sterritt *** A pupil at an evangelical high school (Malone) tries to reform a possibly gay friend by making love with him just once - and gets pregnant, earning the enmity of a hypocritical mean girl (Moore) and her gang, who aren't very strong in the Christian compassion department. Imaginative enough to explore a milieu off Hollywood's beaten path, this lively teen-pic is also open-minded enough to satirize its characters' foibles with creative wit and respect their ideals even as it shows how individuals may fall short.

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.

Staff *** Worthy sequel, playful, slam-dunk finish.

Sex/Nudity: 6 instances of innuendo. Violence: 12 scenes. Profanity: None. Drugs: 3 instances of drinking, 1 of drugs.

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 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 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 a reasonable degree of 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.

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 *1/2 Handsome 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
Field of Dreams

Director: Phil Alden Robinson. With Kevin Costner, Amy Madigan, Gaby Hoffmann, James Earl Jones. (107 min.)

Staff **** This two-disc edition of the classic "male weepie" film is packed with features that have been lovingly compiled with the sort of care that went into building that baseball field in an Iowa cornfield. It's still there, incidentally. One of the featurettes takes us to what is now a nonprofit tourist attraction. Best of all, star Kevin Costner invites three Hall of Famers to his home for an intimate discussion of the movie, the history of baseball, and the special bond of father-son relationships. By Stephen Humphries

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