Movie Guide

NEW RELEASES
Broadway: The Golden Age, by the Legends Who Were There (Not rated)

Director: Rick McCay. With Rex Reed, Gena Rowlands, Jeremy Irons, Anne Jackson. (111 min.)

Sterritt ** A documentary about Broadway theater before the '60s drastically changed it along with the rest of the American culture scene. The movie is mostly a megadose of good-old-days nostalgia. More archival footage and fewer talking heads would have made it more watchable, and most viewers under 60 will be mightily confused as to who many of these people are.

The Chronicles of Riddick (PG-13)

Director: David Twohy. With Vin Diesel, Thandie Newton, Colm Feore, Judi Dench. (115 min.)

Recommended: Could you pass a US citizenship test?

Sterritt * Riddick battles evil crusaders called Necromongers, helped by tips from a virtuous Elemental, and between them they save the galaxy and make Riddick supreme ruler of everything, which we're supposed to think is an excellent outcome. The special effects are extra special. The screenplay is idiotic, though, and Diesel speaks his dialogue like a Sylvester Stallone clone who never finished third grade.

Garfield (PG)

Director: Pete Hewitt. With Breckin Meyer, Jennifer Love Hewitt, Stephen Tobolowsky, voice of Bill Murray. (80 min.)

Sterritt * The cat from Jim Davis's popular comic strip copes with a new dog in the household while his owner woos a pretty veterinarian. The blend of live action and animation is competently done, but the subtly mean-spirited screenplay has more sour meows than hearty laughs. Shown with a short cartoon called "Gone Nutty," which also isn't funny.

The Hunting of the President (Not rated)

Directors: Nickolas Perry, Harry Thomason. With Paul Begala, James Carville, Morgan Freeman. (90 min.)

Sterritt **** A history of the Clinton presidency, emphasizing the question of whether there was a vast conspiracy - or a gaggle of little ones - to bring it down before its time. Riveting and revealing whatever views you have on the partisan issues involved. Based on the book by Joe Conason and Gene Lyons.

Napoleon Dynamite (Not rated)

Director: Jared Hess. With Jon Heder, Tina Majorino, Efren Ramirez, Sandy Martin. (86 min.)

Sterritt *** See review.

The Stepford Wives (PG-13)

Director: Frank Oz. With Nicole Kidman, Christopher Walken, Bette Midler, Matthew Broderick. (95 min.)

Sterritt * See review.

Word Wars (Not rated)

Directors: Eric Chaikin, Julian Petrillo. With Marlon Hill, Joel Sherman, Joe Edley, Matt Graham. (80 min.)

Sterritt *** A documentary portrait of four men who play Scrabble not only as a pastime in city parks but also in big-time tournaments with big-time money at stake. Light, lively, informative, fun.

CURRENTLY IN RELEASE
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.

Staff *** Riveting, visually pleasing, tragic yet inspiring.

Sex/Nudity: 12 scenes. Violence: 2 scenes. Profanity: 67 expressions. Drugs: 38 instances of smoking, 49 of drinking.

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.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (PG)

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

Sterritt *** The third installment of the series based on J.K. Rowling's novels is darker and scarier than its predecessors, with Harry stalked by a killer who's escaped from prison, and haunted by ghostly guardians called Dementors who may be more dangerous than the murderer. Add a werewolf, a magic map, and a hippogriff, and you have an imaginative horror movie for mature kids.

Staff *** Spellbinding, spooky, not for kids, visually striking, best yet.

Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: 12 scenes. Profanity: 8 mild expressions. Drugs: 3 instances of drinking.

Mean Girls (PG-13)

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

Sterritt *** "Clueless" meets "Election" in this comedy about a girl (Lohan) who enters a regular high school after years of homeschooling, wangles her way into a snooty clique, and 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.)

Staff * Helen (Hudson) is 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 are as off-key as Hudson's karaoke scene. By Stephen Humphries

Sex/Nudity: 2 instances of innuendo, 1 sex scene. Violence: 1 mildly violent scene. Profanity: 8 instances, mostly mild. Drugs: 6 instances of drinking, 5 of smoking.

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.

Soul Plane (R)

Director: Jessy Terrero. With Snoop Dogg, Kevin Hart, Method Man, Tom Arnold. (86 min.)

Staff * Growing up under the LAX glide path has resulted in Nashawn (Hart) being so enamored of planes that when he wins a huge lawsuit award, he can't wait to start an airline that the African-American community can call its own. Intermittent hilarity, courtesy of pilot Snoop Dogg and a host of comedic all-stars, almost gets the film off the runway, but excess baggage - profanity and vulgarities - drags it down. By M.K. Terrell

Sex/Nudity: 20 instances of innuendo, 2 instances of nudity, 3 sex scenes. Violence: 5 scenes. Profanity: 230 expressions, half of them harsh. Drugs: 6 instances of drinking, 2 of smoking, 3 of drugs.

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 provide a striking background for drama involving humans, animals, and nature itself. In Mongolian with subtitles

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, 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.

Valentin (PG-13)

Director: Alejandro Agresti. With Rodrigo Noya, Carmen Maura, Julieta Cardinali. (86 min.)

Staff ** Valentin, a cross-eyed 8-year-old version of Woody Allen, lives in Buenos Aires in the 1960s with a stern grandmother. Desperately in need of familial love and a spaceship, Valentin patrols the house in a clumsy homemade spacesuit and walks the sidewalk with "zero gravity" weights tied to his shoes. The movie explores some serious life issues but primarily waxes nostalgic about a boy who seems too lovable not to fall for. By Sheera Frenkel

Staff ***1/2 Modest, charming, realistic, poignant.

Sex/Nudity: 2 instances of innuendo. Violence: None. Profanity: 2 expressions. Drugs: 4 counts of smoking, 3 of drinking.

OUT ON DVD
Mystic River

Director: Clint Eastwood. With Sean Penn, Tim Robbins, Kevin Bacon, Marcia Gay Harden. (138 min.)

Staff *** Shakespeare meets "Law and Order" in "Mystic River," director Eastwood's fine adaptation of the tragic thriller by Dennis Lehane. A murder in working-class Boston reunites three childhood friends who have each chosen very different paths in life after a tragic incident during their youth. The DVD's bonus features include two overlapping making-of featurettes, as well as a listless commentary track by Tim Robbins and Kevin Bacon. Fortunately, the film's laconic director offers interesting insights in a Charlie Rose Show interview. By Stephen Humphries

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