Director: Takeshi Kitano. With Beat Takeshi, Michiyo Ogusu, Tadanobu Asano, Guadalcanal Taka. (116 min.)
Sterritt *** Kitano plays the sightless samurai who sustained many Japanese action pictures in the 1960s. The new adventure is stylishly directed and smartly acted, especially by the filmmaker-star, who gives one of his best performances as the unerring swordsman. He could have left out the splashy musical number at the end, though. In Japanese with subtitles.
Director: Paul Greengrass. With Matt Damon, Joan Allen, Brian Cox, Julia Stiles. (110 min.)
Sterritt ** Sequel to "The Bourne Identity," which at least had some psychological tension as the hero learns what his identity is - namely, a CIA assassin with amnesia. This time it's just chasing, fistfighting, and shooting. A disappointment from the director of "Bloody Sunday."
Director: Pitof. With Halle Berry, Benjamin Bratt, Sharon Stone, Lambert Wilson. (97 min.)
Sterritt * Sassy superheroine battles criminal cosmetics king. Cartoonish effects and overacting make this more corn than catnip.
Director: Federico Fellini. With Marcello Mastroianni, Anita Ekberg, Alain Cuny, Anouk Aimée. (175 min.)
Sterritt **** A jaded journalist observes and lives "the sweet life" of Rome in 1960. Fellini's dissection of modern decadence rings as true as ever today. A profound film by a legendary director in the greatest period of his career. In Italian with subtitles.
Director: Michael Mayer. With Colin Farrell, Robin Wright Penn, Dallas Roberts, Sissy Spacek. (97 min.)
Sterritt **** See review.
Directors: Deb Ellis and Denis Mueller. With Howard Zinn, Matt Damon, Alice Walker, Ray Mungo. (78 min.)
Sterritt ****Documentary celebrating the life and career of a longtime Boston University professor who feels intellectuals should be active, engaged citizens rather than repeaters of textbook truisms. Thoughtful, exciting, moving.
Director: Robert Kane Pappas. With Mark Crispin Miller, Michael Moore, Bernie Sanders. (84 min.)
Sterritt **** Ingenious, eye-opening documentary about the growing shallowness of American mass media as conglomerates buy news and entertainment outlets that effectively choke off most of their competition. Get ready for a cultural wake-and-shake you won't forget for a long, long time.
Director: Adam McKay. With Will Ferrell, Steve Carell, Paul Rudd, Christina Applegate. (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!
Staff **1/2 Silly, disjointed, crass.
Sex/Nudity: 20 instances. Violence: 5 scene. Profanity: 33 mostly mild expressions. Drugs: 28 scenes of drinking, smoking.
Director: Mark Rosman. With Hilary Duff, Jennifer Coolidge, Chad Michael Murray, Regina King. (97 min.)
Sterritt * The timeless fairy tale is updated into a cookie- cutter specimen of the teen-girl comedy about a mistreated high-schooler who goes to a dance despite her stepmother's wishes and lands the handsome boy. Even the delightful Duff disappoints.
Staff *1/2 Juvenile, clean, well-intentioned.
Sex/Nudity: 1 innuendo. Violence: 2 scenes. Profanity: 5 mild expressions. Drugs: none.
Director: Tod Williams. With Jeff Bridges, Kim Basinger, Elle Fanning, Mimi Rogers. (111 min.)
Sterritt *** The marriage of a writer (Bridges) and his beautiful wife (Basinger) falls apart under pressure from his philandering and her mourning for their sons, killed in a car accident. The screenplay is based on the first section of John Irving's, "A Widow for One Year," resulting in an oddly arbitrary film, since this part of the book sets the stage for later events. Bridges is fun to watch, Fanning emerges as Hollywood's best 6-year-old actress, and Rogers's talents are wasted.
Staff **1/2 Ambitious, underplayed.
Sex/Nudity: 24 instances. Violence: 4 scenes. Profanity: 27 expressions. Drugs: 13 scenes of drinking, smoking.
Director: Michael Moore. With George W. Bush, Lila Lipscomb, Michael Moore. (117 min.)
Sterritt **** Moore's deeply felt documentary takes on the Bush administration with regard to everything from terrorism to the president's character. 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.
I, Robot (PG-13)
Director: Alex Proyas. With Will Smith, Bridget Moynahan, James Cromwell, Chi McBride. (115 min.)
Sterritt *** In a future when robots have become standard equipment, a cop investigates a possible murder committed by one of them, even though the "laws of robotics" makes such violence impossible. Inspired by Isaac Asimov, the movie has a few ideas on its mind, but it's far more interested in high-octane action, much of which strains credibility. Still, science-fiction fans may find it an instant classic of its kind.
Staff *** Thoughtful, classy, engaging.
Sex/Nudity: 2 scenes. Violence: 15 scenes. Profanity: 34 expressions. Drugs: 2 scenes of drinking.
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, the movie gives us a Round Table and Excalibur but no magic, no mystery, no mythic resonance. Mostly there's a lot of slashing swordplay that should appeal to young males.
Staff *1/2 Melodramatic, cliche, gritty.
Sex/Nudity: 5 instances. Violence: 17 scenes. Profanity: 11 mild expressions. Drugs: 3 instances of drinking.
Director: Bart Everly. With Barney Frank, Henry Hyde, Michael Moore, Kenneth Starr. (75 min.)
Sterritt **** Documentary about Barney Frank, the openly gay Massachusetts congressman whose own sex scandal didn't prevent him from being a major figure in the fight over whether President Bill Clinton should be impeached. Feisty, funny, and smart.
Director: Joshua Marston. With Catalina Sandino Moreno, Jhon Alex Toro, Yenny Paola Vega, Patricia Rae. (101 min.)
Sterritt **** A young Colombian woman agrees to smuggle a large load of narcotics secreted in her stomach in order to reach the US and escape hardships back home. Timely, pointed messages about oppression and opportunity come poignantly through in strongly dramatic terms. In English and Spanish with subtitles
Director: D.J. Mendel. With Cynthia J. Hopkins, Fred Neumann, Justine Priestley, Lisa Hickman. (85 min.)
Sterritt **** Richard Foreman scripted this deliciously off-kilter comedy about a young woman whose experiences with a mad scientist blur the boundaries between reality and the realms of the imagination. One of a kind, turning Foreman trademarks such as self-satirical acting and out-of-nowhere music into powerful elements of an outlandish story.
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 awful acting, which consists mainly of frozen grins. Nobody else will.
Staff ** Juvenile, chaste, segregated.
Sex/Nudity: 1 instance. Violence: 5 scenes. Profanity: 1 mild expression. Drugs: 1 instance of drinking.
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; while 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 to Molina's excellent acting. Only the 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: Ian Iqbal Rashid. With Jimi Mistry, Kyle MacLachlan, Suleka Mathew, Kristen Holden-Ried. (91 min.)
Sterritt * A gay Pakistani-Canadian man discusses his dilemmas with his imaginary confidant, Cary Grant's ghost when his traditional Muslim mother comes to visit. You're on the right track if the title reminds you of "That Touch of Mink," the 1962 comedy with Grant and Doris Day, but the resemblance ends there. Even MacLachlan's surprisingly witty performance can't compensate for the trite screenplay and Mistry's lack of charisma.
Sherman's March (Not rated)
Director: Ross McElwee. With Ross McElwee, Charleen Swansea, Michael Moore, Burt Reynolds. (155 min.)
Staff ****Finally released on DVD just before McElwee's "Bright Leaves" heads for theaters, this wildly entertaining 1986 documentary is worth the wait. Revisiting his native South to explore a Civil War event, the filmmaker gets sidetracked by everything from romance to family affairs, winding up with a far more personal movie. Extras include a McElwee interview, and letters of William Tecumseh Sherman.