Director: Adam McKay. With Will Ferrell, Christina Applegate, Steve Carell, Paul Rudd. (94 min.)
Sterritt * In the days before cable, a TV news host juggles infatuation and intolerance when a female reporter joins his journalistic team. Imagine a movie where every character is more self-centered than Ted Baxter in "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" of old, add a caboodle of idiotic jokes, and you have some idea of this ugly, unfunny farce. Its only interesting aspect is its willingness to dispense with even one competent, appealing character. Dumb, dumber, dumberest!
Director: Per Fly. With Ulrich Thomsen, Lisa Werlinder, Lars Brygmann, Ghita Norby. (110 min.)
Sterritt *** A man's life grows more complicated and less pleasant after he inherits his father's Danish factory and finds that firings and cutbacks are the only way to keep it profitable. The acting is fine, the filmmaking is honest, and the class-conscious story couldn't be more timely. In Danish, Swedish, Norwegian, and French with subtitles.
Director: Antoine Fuqua. With Clive Owen, Keira Knightley, Ioan Gruffud, Stellan Skârsgard. (129 min.)
Sterritt * The unflinching monarch leads his followers against the Saxons, the Roman Empire, and the Roman Catholic church. Focusing on what the filmmakers claim was the real Arthur, not the legendary king who flourished later in the medieval era, the movie gives us a Round Table and a flashing Excalibur but no magic, no mystery, no mythic resonance. Mostly there's a lot of slashing swordplay that should appeal to the picture's target audience of young males.
Directors: Bruce Sinofsky, Joe Berlinger. With James Hetfield, Lars Ulrich, Kirk Hammett, Robert Trujillo. (130 min.)
Sterritt ** A veteran team of nonfiction filmmakers turns its attention to heavy-metal rock, chronicling Metallica's effort to resurrect itself after various setbacks have taken a terrible toll. The quartet appears to be mightily lacking in the brains and judgment departments, but at least it tries to do something about its failings, employing a traveling psychotherapist whose interventions and ruminations provide some of the film's most unwittingly amusing moments.
Director: Joe Nussbaum. With Mika Boorem, Alexa Vega, Jane Lynch, Scout Taylor-Compton. (97 min.)
Sterritt * Mischief reigns as a pajama party turns into a scavenger hunt, with rewards that seem less than trivial to girls on the verge of high school. Viewers of that age may overlook the contrived situations and the awful acting, which consists mainly of frozen grins. Nobody else will.
Director: Richard Linklater. With Ethan Hawke, Julie Delpy, Vernon Dobtcheff, Mariane Plasteig. (80 min.)
Sterritt **** Richard Linklater's "Before Sunset" follows-up the 1995 comedy-drama "Before Sunrise," where aspiring American writer (Ethan Hawke) and French graduate student (Julie Delpy) get acquainted and take a nighttime walk together, only to part the next morning, leaving us to wonder if they'll ever meet again. "Before Sunset" takes place in Paris nine years later, where we learn that Jesse and Céline haven't been in touch since that special night. Linklater is one of today's most versatile American filmmakers, and "Before Sunset" finds his light shining as brightly as ever.
Staff **** Luscious, enjoyable, TK
Sex/Nudity: 11 mentions. Violence: none Profanity: 20 mild, 11 strong expressions. Drugs: 1 smoking scene.
Director: Rawson Marshall Thurber. With Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn, Christine Taylor, Rip Torn. (92 min.)
Sterritt * The owners of rival health clubs enter teams in a Las Vegas dodgeball tournament to win a cash prize. Stiller strives to be a wild and wacky villain, Vaughn endeavors to be a likable and average hero, and both fall flat on their faces, like everything else in this unspeakably stupid comedy.
Director: Pieter Jan Brugge. With Robert Redford, Helen Mirren, Willem Dafoe, Melissa Sagemiller. (94 min.)
Sterritt *** Redford gives one of his best performances ever in this taut, emotionally engrossing thriller about a wealthy businessman kidnapped by a small-time criminal (Dafoe) and held for ransom from his wife (Mirren) and family. Only a sentimental, strung-out ending mars the drama's momentum.
Staff **1/2 Modest, chilly, underplayed.
Sex/Nudity: 2 instances of innuendo. Violence: 6 scenes. Profanity: 10 strong expressions. Drugs: 2 scenes of drinking, 2 of smoking.
Director: Irwin Winkler. With Kevin Kline, Ashley Judd, Jonathan Pryce, Alanis Morissette. (125 min.)
Sterritt **** This music-filled biography portrays legendary songwriter Cole Porter, a bisexual scamp whose marriage became the most important anchor in his emotional life. The movie is remarkably touching and engrossing, with Kline's spot-on acting and realistically second-rate singing balancing Judd's one-note performance as his wife. The screenplay spends too long winding Porter's story up, but overall it is as de-lovely as its title promises.
Staff *** Rich, tragic, honest.
Sex/Nudity: 4 instances of innuendo. Violence: none. Profanity: 10 mild expressions. Drugs: 15 instances of drinking, 19 of smoking.
Director: Michael Moore. With George W. Bush, Lila Lipscomb, Michael Moore. (117 min.)
Sterritt **** Moore's most deeply felt documentary takes on the Bush administration's past and present positions from terrorism to the president's character, using a wide array of cinematic and journalistic techniques. The results pack a political wallop whether or not you agree with Moore, and they'd be even stronger if his narration didn't have a cloying quality that touches the heart more than the mind.
Staff **** Trenchant, caustic, revealing.
Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: 14 scenes Profanity: 8 instances. Drugs: 1 instance of smoking.
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 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 a horror movie for mature kids.
Staff *** Spellbinding, spooky, not for kids.
Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: 12 scenes. Profanity: 8 mild expressions. Drugs: 3 instances of drinking.
Director: Nick Cassavetes. With Gena Rowlands, James Garner, Rachel McAdams, Ryan Gosling. (115 min.)
Sterritt ** An aging man reads a lengthy love story to a debilitated old woman, and gradually we realize its profound relevance to their own former lives. Rowlands is superb, as usual, and Garner partners her with the grace of a dancer. Cassavetes's directing style is slow and stilted, indicating yet again that his notion of moviemaking is the opposite of everything his father, the great John Cassavetes, stood for.
Staff *** Nostalgic, slow, sentimental.
Sex/Nudity: 3 instances. Violence: 1 scene. Profanity: 13 mild expressions. Drugs: 6 scenes of drinking, 3 of smoking.
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.
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.
Director: Sam Raimi. With Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst, Alfred Molina, Rosemary Harris. (127 min.)
Sterritt *** Our hero (Maguire) takes on Doctor Octopus, a once-benign scientist (Molina), who's lost control of the artificial tentacles he's invented; and in his secret identity he continues his fitful courtship of would-be girlfriend (Dunst) who doesn't think she can wait for him much longer. The sequel is more exciting than the 2002 original, thanks largely to Molina's excellent acting. Only the strenuously comic scenes fall as flat as one of Spidey's leftover webs.
Staff *** Satisfying, pumped-up, melodramatic.
Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: 18 scenes. Profanity: 4 mild expressions. Drugs: 3 instances of drinking, 3 of smoking.
Director: Steven Spielberg. With Tom Hanks, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Stanley Tucci, Kumar Pallana. (128 min.)
Sterritt * Hanks plays an eastern European man whose visit turns sour when a coup topples his nation's government, making him a man without a country and forcing him to make his home in the New York airport he's forbidden by law to leave. Hanks's character is sentimentalized, Tucci's lacks all plausibility, and Zeta-Jones's has little to do. A totally false picture of human nature of what it's really like to be in a security-conscious airport. A Spielbergian bomb.
Staff *** Fresh, sleek, humanistic.
Sex/Nudity: 2 instances of innuendo. Violence: 2 scenes. Profanity: 10 mild expressions, 8 strong. Drugs: 3 instances of drinking, 2 of smoking.
Sterritt *** Titanic (Not rated)
Directors: Herbert Selpin, Werner Klingler. With Hans Nielsen, Sybille Schmitz, Otto Wernicke, Charlotte Thiele. (85 min)
Sterritt *** Münchausen (Not rated)
Director: Josef von Báky. With Hans Albers, Brigitte Horney, Hermann Speelmans, Marina von Ditmar. (111 min)
If you enjoy American epics like "Titanic," check out these 1943 spectaculars from Germany, released by Kino Video in restored editions. Just as Germany was plummeting towards defeat in World War II, culture minister Josef Goebbels was squirming with jealousy at Hollywood's domination of world movie markets via "The Wizard of Oz" and other entertainments. The result was would-be German blockbusters like "Titanic," whose original director (Selpin) was killed by the Gestapo for impolitic remarks, and "Münchausen," a tribute to the legendary Ufa studio's 25th anniversary. Extras on the "Titanic" disc include a largely faked 1912 newsreel about the ocean tragedy, while "Münchausen" offers an animated short and a demonstration of making a scratchy old picture look new.