Director: Catherine Breillat. Amira Casar, Rocco Siffredi, voice of Catherine Breillat. (73 min.)
Sterritt * A lonely woman pays a man to watch her during intimate moments. Breillat is a smart, serious observer of sexuality's often disruptive role in human life, but this existential drama is sadly pretentious. In French with subtitles.
Director: István Szabó. With Annette Bening, Jeremy Irons, Michael Gambon, Juliet Stevenson. (103 min.)
Sterritt *** See review at right.
Director: Stanley Kubrick. With Peter Sellers, Sterling Hayden, George C. Scott, Keenan Wynn. (93 min.)
Sterritt **** Kubrick's great 1964 tragicomedy about superpowers on the nuclear brink continues to fascinate new generations of moviegoers, as its frequent reissues attest. A genuine classic.
Director: Chuck Parello. With C. Thomas Howell, Nicholas Turturro, Lin Shaye, Allison Lange. (96 min.)
Sterritt * Melodrama based on a real serial-killer case. Sordid and sleazy, although the lead performances are hard to fault.
Director: Antoine Fuqua. With Buddy Guy, Ruth Brown, B.B. King, Odetta. (103 min.)
Sterritt **** Concert documentary offering a history of the blues in a set of performances recorded at New York's legendary Radio City Music Hall on a single night. To point out that not all the music is blues just seems like quibbling, so see it with an open heart and a tapping toe.
Director: Ousmane Sembène. With Fatoumata Coulibali, Maimouna Helene Diarra, Aminata Dao, Salimata Traoré. (124 min.)
Sterritt **** The title means "protection," which is what an African woman tries to give a small group of girls due to be savagely circumcised according to tribal custom. Once again Sembène confirms his much-deserved reputation as Africa's greatest filmmaker, working this time in Burkina Faso instead of Senegal, where he's usually based. This sometimes harrowing, often delightful drama stands with his most compassionate, colorful, and artfully filmed works. In Wolof, Diola, Bambara, and French, with subtitles.
Director: Dylan Kidd. With Laura Linney, Topher Grace, Marcia Gay Harden, Gabriel Byrne. (97 min.)
Sterritt *** An admissions officer at an Ivy League university starts an affair with an arts-school applicant who reminds her uncannily of an old flame who died very young. Not as supercharged as Kidd's earlier "Roger Dodger," but the offbeat screenplay turns even the corny bits in unpredictable directions, and it's rare indeed to see such consistently superb ensemble acting.
Director: Peter Chelsom. With Richard Gere, Susan Sarandon, Stanley Tucci, Jennifer Lopez. (106 min.)
Sterritt * For inexplicable reasons, a middle-aged man decides to take dancing lessons but keep this secret from his wife, who suspects something worse is going on. The cast is promising, but this remake of the popular Japanese movie falls flat, with more "sound design" than delicious music, more slick film editing than graceful ballroom gliding.
Director: Trey Parker. With voices of Trey Parker, Matt Stone, Kristen Miller, Elle Russ. (98 min.)
Sterritt ** See review, page 13.
Director: Joseph Ruben. With Julianne Moore, Dominic West, Gary Sinise, Alfre Woodard. (91 min.)
Staff ** Telly Paretta (Moore) is a smart and independent freelance editor whose life seems to have no other purpose than to devotedly remember Sam, her 8-year old son, who passed away a little over a year ago. Grief, however, is quickly replaced by angry despair as she learns that even those closest to her deny her child ever existed. Telly's unrelenting search for the truth, although depressingly predictable at times, does deliver a few good jumps and allows Julianne Moore to display her acting prowess once again. By Gabino Villanueva
Sex/Nudity: 2 mild innuendos. Violence: 14 instances. Profanity: 20 expressions. Drugs: 4 instances of drinking.
Director: Peter Berg. With Billy Bob Thornton, Derek Luke, Garrett Hedlund. (117 min.)
Staff ***1/2 Every fall west Texans' fancy turns from the boom and bust oil economy to high-school football. Friday night's game makes a coach the town hero or a whipping boy. Thornton, in an unusually sympathetic role, is Coach Gaines of the Odessa-Permian Panthers, whose tough love and character-building pep talks mitigate the fanaticism pouring from the stands. Director Berg treats the usual sports-movie conventions with freshness and excitement. Based on H.G. Bissinger's nonfiction book on the Panthers' 1988 season. By M.K. Terrell
Sex/Nudity: 4 instances. Violence: 11 instances. Profanity: 34, mostly mild expressions. Drugs: 7 instances of drinking and smoking.
Director: Jay Russell. With Joaquin Phoenix, John Travolta, Morris Chestnut. (115 min.)
Staff *** As firefighter Jack Morrison (Phoenix) waits for his buddies to evacuate him from a collapsing warehouse, he relives his 10 years with the department. The clunky flashback storytelling doesn't detract much from the believable vignettes of fire fighting, rescues, and sudden death, as well as the job's pressures on home life. It may keep you asking why men and women choose this lifestyle. It will make you grateful they do. By M.K. Terrell
Director: Walter Salles. With Gael García Bernal, Rodrigo de la Serna, Mía Maestro, Mercedes Morán. (126 min.)
Sterritt **** Fictionalized version of the freewheeling travels around Latin America that gave young Ernesto "Che" Guevara, still a middle-class medical student, a glimpse of his future calling as a revolutionary fighter. Some will find this movie a whitewash, given the violence Guevara became famous for in Cuba and elsewhere, but from a psychological angle it's a fascinating study of an energetic personality hunting for a route to a meaningful life. Superbly acted. In Spanish with subtitles.
Director: Shane Carruth. With Shane Carruth, David Sullivan, Casey Gooden, Carrie Crawford. (78 min.)
Sterritt *** See review, page 15.
Director: Alexander B. Witt. With Jared Harris, Milla Jovovich, Thomas Kretschmann. (94 min.)
Staff ** Alice (Jovovich) wakes up in a hospital to find authorities have sealed off her city because a virus that turns creatures and humans into zombies has escaped a corporate lab. Banding together with survivors, Alice searches for a way to escape. The action is entertaining, but be prepared to be terrified. This film's true monster, however, is the ruthless Umbrella Corporation. By Tim Rauschenberger
Directors: Vicky Jenson, Rob Letterman, Eric Bergeron. With voices of Will Smith, Renée Zellweger, Robert De Niro, Angelina Jolie. (90 min.)
Sterritt ** Animated feature about a little fish who poses as a macho underwater dude after a shark's accidental death makes him look like a hero, pleasing the late shark's vegetarian brother but irking his Mafia boss- like dad. The screenplay isn't remotely as funny as it tries to be, and the visual style is equally unexciting.
Sex/Nudity: 2 instances of innuendo. Violence: 8 Profanity: 7 mild expressions. Drugs: 1 scene of drinking, 1 of smoking.
Director: Edgar Wright. With Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Kate Ashfield. (99 min.)
Staff *** Late 20something Shaun (Pegg) gets dumped by his girlfriend Liz (Ashfield), who doesn't want to spend the rest of her life at the pub with Shaun and his disgusting best friend Ed (Frost). Hungover the next day, Shaun takes a while to realize that the morning commute is filled with blood-spattered undead in full B-lot swagger. Shaun and Ed lead a zombie-bashing expedition to save Liz and Shaun's mum, and they all end up hiding out - where else? - at the pub. The film offers homage to zombie films with a Pythonesque lilt. Beware the makeup if you're the squeamish type. By J. Johnson
Sex/Nudity: 1 instances of innuendo. Violence: 22 scenes. Profanity: 64 instances. Drugs: 4 scenes of smoking and drinking.
Director: Kerry Conran. With Gwyneth Paltrow, Jude Law, Angelina Jolie. (107 min.)
Sterritt * A newspaperwoman and a pilot race across continents to find an evil scientist and stop a robot invasion in 1939. A combination of stilted acting and computer-generated effects, this piece of soulless merchandise is no less mechanical than its own automatons.
Staff *** Uneven pace, cold story, stunning effects.
Sex/Nudity: 3 innuendos. Violence: 13 scenes. Profanity: 6 mild expressions. Drugs: None.
Director: Richard Eyre. With Billy Crudup, Clair Danes, Richard Griffiths, Zoe Tapper. (110 min.)
Sterritt *** Crudup shines as the greatest female impersonator in the serious theatrical world of 17th-century London, but hits a crisis when King Charles II issues a decree allowing women's roles to be played by actual women. A clever story, good chemistry between Crudup and Danes, and first-rate acting make this a jolly good show.
Director: Tim Story. With Queen Latifah, Jimmy Fallon, Jennifer Esposito. (79 min.)
Sterritt ** She's a cab driver, he's a cop, and their adversaries are bank robbers who look like supermodels. Frivolous but fun, somewhere between a comic "French Connection" and the craziest Nascar race you never saw.
Staff **1/2 Idiotic plot, laughs aplenty, Latifah shines.
Sex/Nudity: 1 innuendo. Violence: 3 scenes. Profanity: 60 expressions. Drugs: 2 scenes with alcohol.
Director: Mike Leigh. With Imelda Staunton, Peter Wight, Lesley Manville, Jim Broadbent. (125 min.)
Sterritt **** Staunton plays a middle-aged cleaning woman in 1950s London who performs illegal abortions in her spare time, motivated not by money or ideology but by an intuitive conviction that she's providing a desperately needed service for desperately needy women. The acting is brilliant and Leigh's screenplay - developed through his usual process of improvisation and rehearsal - is very long on compassion, very short on preaching and politics.
Director: Roland Emmerich. With Dennis Quaid, Jake Gyllenhaal. (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.