Movie Guide

NEW RELEASES
Cowards Bend the Knee (Not rated)

Director: Guy Maddin. With Darcy Fehr, Melissa Dionisio, Louis Negin, Amy Stewart. (64 min.)

Sterritt **** Canada's most rollicking and imaginative moviemaker does it again, setting a silent-movie plot about jealousy, insanity, and hands with a murderous mind of their own against backgrounds as different as a beauty salon and a hockey arena that houses a forgotten wax museum. There's a new visual idea every second, each teeming with energy, pitch-dark comedy, and inspired cinematic lunacy. Shown with two zany Maddin shorts, "Sombra Dolorosa" and "Sissy-Boy Slap-Party," and "The Phantom Museum," a typically eccentric stop-motion concoction from the Quay Brothers of England.

Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch's War on Journalism (Not rated)

Director: Robert Greenwald. With James Wolcott, Peter Hart, Al Franken, Eric Alterman. (77 min.)

Recommended: Could you pass a US citizenship test?

Sterritt **** Documentary arguing exactly what the title indicates. It's not "fair and balanced," but why should it be, at a time when that phrase so frequently captions material that's really the Orwellian opposite? This is an op-ed polemic, and it's refreshing to see one so skillfully produced by filmmakers with a shoestring budget and meager access to mainstream distribution. A must-see movie, no matter what your politics are.

The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement (PG)

Director: Garry Marshall. With Anne Hathaway, Julie Andrews, John Rhys-Davies, Hector Elizondo. (120 min.)

Staff ** Apart from a scene in which Julie Andrews sings - an all too rare occasion nowadays - this sequel holds few surprises. Princess Mia (Hathaway) is the princess of Genovia, a golf-course-size country on the Continent, which looks about as European as Disneyland Paris (the citizens speak in a SoCal dialect, too). She's set to inherit the throne from Queen Renaldi (Andrews), when Genovia's 10-member parliament rules that the princess must be married before her coronation. Soon Mia has to choose between an arranged marriage with a Prince Charles-like dweeb or a hottie who looks like Rob Lowe Jr. Hathaway is delightful, but this lazily plotted "Bachelorette" for tweens ends with the least dramatic wedding ceremony ever. By Stephen Humphries

Tom Dowd & the Language of Music (Not rated)

Director: Mark Moormann. With Tom Dowd, Ray Charles, Eric Clapton, Ahmet Ertegun. (82 min.)

Sterritt *** Documentary about a fabled pop-music producer who thought he'd be a nuclear physicist, helped develop nuclear weapons in the Manhattan Project of the 1940s, and then got permanently sidetracked into a technologically innovative career that made him a collaborator of everyone from '40s jazz greats John Coltrane and Dizzy Gillespie through '50s rock groups like the Coasters and the Drifters to Cream and the Allman Brothers in more recent years. Like its subject, the movie is a tad overzealous, but often fascinating and revealing.

We Don't Live Here Anymore (R)

Director: John Curran. With Laura Dern, Mark Ruffalo, Naomi Watts, Peter Krause. (109 min.)

Sterritt *** See review.

CURRENTLY IN RELEASE
The Bourne Supremacy (PG-13)

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 his identity - namely, a CIA assassin with amnesia. This time it's just chasing and shooting. A disappointment from the director of "Bloody Sunday."

Staff *** Intriguing, riveting, colorful.

Sex/Nudity: 9 scenes. Violence: 11 scenes. Profanity: 10 expressions. Drugs: 7 instances of drinking, 1 of smoking.

Catwoman (PG-13)

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.

Staff ** Stylish, simplistic, sassy.

Sex/Nudity: 9 scenes, innuendo. Violence: 16 scenes. Profanity: 4 mild expressions. Drugs: 11 instances of drinking.

A Cinderella Story (PG)

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 ** Juvenile, clean, well-intentioned.

Sex/Nudity: 1 scene of innuendo. Violence: 2 scenes. Profanity: 5 mild profanities. Drugs: None.

Code 46 (R)

Director: Michael Winterbottom. With Tim Robbins, Samantha Morton, Om Puri, Nina Fog. (92 min.)

Sterritt *** A couple feels romantic in a future society where pervasive human cloning makes some sexual relationships too risky to be allowed. Not always compellingly made, but intelligent and perhaps prophetic.

Collateral (R)

Director: Michael Mann. With Tom Cruise, Jamie Foxx, Jada Pinkett Smith, Mark Ruffalo. (120 min.)

Sterritt *** A hit man shanghais a cab driver to be his assistant for one long, bloody night. Stylishly made, if less intellectually resonant than first-rate Mann films like "Ali" and "The Insider."

Staff *** Thoughtful, classy, engaging.

Sex/Nudity: 2 scenes. Violence: 15 scenes. Profanity: 34 expressions. Drugs: 2 scenes.

Garden State (R)

Director: Zach Braff. With Zach Braff, Natalie Portman, Ian Holm, Jean Smart. (118 min.)

Sterritt *** A young actor returns to his New Jersey hometown for his mother's funeral, renewing old ties and learning to recognize the depths as well as the surfaces of his emotions. Braff makes a striking directorial debut while leading a superb ensemble cast.

Staff *** Bleak, visual wit, underplayed.

Sex/Nudity: 8 scenes including innuendo and implied sex. Violence: 1 scene. Profanity: 70 expressions, mostly harsh. Drugs: 7 scenes, including drug use.

Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle (R)

Director: Danny Leiner. With John Cho, Kal Penn, Brooke D'Orsay, Neil Patrick Harris. (88 min.)

Sterritt ** And along the way they have many adventures, mostly centered on drugs and sex. The multicultural cast gives a shred of substance to what's otherwise a standard adolescent gross-out flick.

I, Robot (PG-13)

Director: Alex Proyas. With Will Smith, Bridget Moynahan, James Cromwell, Chi McBride. (115 min.)

Sterritt *** In a future when robots are standard, a cop investigates a possible murder committed by a robot, although the "laws of robotics" makes it seemingly impossible. Inspired by Isaac Asimov, the movie has a few ideas, but it's more interested in action. Still, science-fiction fans may find it an instant classic.

Staff *** Thoughtful, classy, engaging.

Sex/Nudity: 2 scenes. Violence: 15 scenes. Profanity: 34 expressions. Drugs: 2 scenes.

Little Black Book (PG-13)

Director: Nick Hurran. With Brittany Murphy, Holly Hunter, Stephen Tobolowsky, Kathy Bates. (98 min.)

Sterritt ** A would-be TV producer uses her entry-level position as a lever for prying into her boyfriend's personal affairs. A spicy critique of tabloid TV is buried in romantic-comedy material that strains too hard for cuteness. Ditto for Murphy's acting.

Sex/Nudity: 6 scenes with innuendo. Violence: 1 scene. Profanity: 23 expressions, including harsh. Drugs: 6 scenes of smoking, drinking.

Open Water (R)

Director: Chris Kentis. With Blanchard Ryan, Daniel Travis, Saul Stein, Estelle Lau. (80 min.)

Sterritt **** Two vacationing scuba divers are stranded in a shark-infested sea when their companions inadvertently return to shore without them. A thrilling, tough-minded plunge into no-holds-barred storytelling and boldly minimalist filmmaking.

Sex/Nudity: 1 scene of nudity. Violence: 6 scenes. Profanity: 19 harsh expressions. Drugs: 1 instance of drinking.

Stander (R)

Director: Bronwen Hughes. With Thomas Jane, Ashley Taylor, Deborah Kara Unger, Dexter Fletcher. (111 min.)

Sterritt ** A cop in apartheid South Africa becomes a bank robber as a sideline. The story is so eager to highlight macho action scenes that it loses track of the important historical and political issues it raises.

The Manchurian Candidate (R)

Director: Jonathan Demme. With Denzel Washington, Meryl Streep, Liev Schreiber, Jeffrey Wright. (130 min.)

Sterritt *** Remake of the political thriller about a woman using a mind-controlled war veteran to manipulate an election through violence. Where the 1962 version had humor, the 2004 version has flat-out paranoia - a telling sign of the times. Washington is wonderful, as usual.

Spider-Man 2 (PG-13)

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. The sequel is more exciting than the 2002 original, thanks largely to Molina's excellent acting.

Staff *** Satisfying, pumped-up, melodramatic.

Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: 18 scenes. Profanity: 4 mild expressions. Drugs: 3 instances of drinking, 3 of smoking.

The Village (PG-13)

Director: M. Night Shyamalan. With Joaquin Phoenix, Adrien Brody, Sigourney Weaver, Bryce Dallas Howard, William Hurt. (106 min.)

Sterritt ** Hardships beset an isolated town that lives in fear of sinister creatures in the surrounding woods. Shyamalan remains a stilted screenwriter, but Roger Deakins's cinematography is spooky, creepy, eerie all the way.

OUT ON VIDEO
The Prince and Me (PG)

Director: Martha Coolidge. With Julia Stiles, Luke Mably, Miranda Richardson, James Fox. (111 min.)

Staff ** The prince of Denmark (no, not that one) decides to quietly enroll in a Wisconsin college to meet American girls after seeing a "Girls Gone Wild" type show on TV (yes, the PG rating is deceptive). But a no-nonsense Julia Stiles soon has him smitten, leaving her to question whether a royal wedding will cramp her style. This fairytale has a dash more gravitas and spark than the similiarly themed "Princess Diaries 2" now in cinemas. By Stephen Humphries

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