Movie Guide

NEW RELEASES
Bad Education (Not rated)

Director: Pedro Almodóvar. With Gael García Bernal, Fele Martínez, Lluis Homar, Daniel Giménez Cacho. (105 min.)

Sterritt *** Reading a story by a childhood friend, a movie director relives a complicated past of love and sexual abuse at a Franco-era parochial school. Spain's most important living filmmaker isn't at his very best in this complicated tale, but it raises still-timely questions well worth pondering. In Spanish with subtitles.

The Big Red One (R)

Director: Samuel Fuller. With Lee Marvin, Mark Hamill, Robert Carradine, Stéphane Audran. (163 min.)

Recommended: Could you pass a US citizenship test?

Sterritt *** A crusty old sergeant herds his Army unit through a string of World War II adventures. Reissued with the addition of 50 minutes trimmed from the original 1980 cut, Fuller's only A-budget movie is still among the lesser works of this frequently brilliant filmmaker.

Chisholm '72: Unbought & Unbossed (Not rated)

Director: Shola Lynch. With Shirley Chisholm, Ronald Dellums, Susan Brownmiller, Amiri Baraka. (76 min.)

Sterritt **** Documentary about the only African-American woman to make a serious run for the US presidency. Hearing her speak her finely honed mind in unscripted, un-"handled" terms is worth the price of admission in itself.

Days of Being Wild (Not rated)

Director: Wong Kar-Wai. With Maggie Cheung, Tony Leung, Leslie Cheung, Andy Lau. (89 min.)

Sterritt **** A loose-living man, an ordinary waitress, and a wandering cop-turned-sailor are among the characters of this moody, brilliantly filmed Hong Kong drama. It's inexplicable that Wong's early masterpiece has been virtually absent from American screens since he completed it in 1991. In Cantonese with subtitles.

Go Further (Not rated)

Director: Ron Mann. With Woody Harrelson, Natalie Merchant, Steve Clark, Dave Matthews. (78 min.)

Sterritt ** Documentary about a Harrelson tour of West Coast colleges touting vegetarian food and yogic exercise. Meant to be a romp in the old Ken Kesey tradition, it's more like a dull drive with a bunch of leftover flower children.

National Treasure (PG)

Director: Jon Turteltaub. With Nicolas Cage, Diane Kruger, Harvey Keitel, Jon Voight. (131 min.)

Sterritt ** "The Da Vinci Code" meets "Raiders of the Lost Ark" in this slam-bang adventure about two teams, one good and one evil, scrutinizing patriotic artifacts for clues to a hidden Masonic treasure. Too bad the clever bits are swamped by no-brainer gunfights, rescues, and chases galore.

The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie (PG)

Directors: Sherm Cohen, Stephen Hillenburg, Mark Osborne. With voices of Tom Kenny, Alec Baldwin, Bill Fagerbakke, Jeffrey Tambor. (87 min.)

Sterritt **** See review.

CURRENTLY IN RELEASE
After the Sunset (R)

Director: Brett Ratner. With Pierce Brosnan, Salma Hayek, Woody Harrelson, Don Cheadle. (97 min.)

Sterritt ** A cop chases a crook who covets a huge, exotic diamond. This indirect rehash of "To Catch a Thief" trades Hitchcockian shrewdness for the slickest kinds of Hollywood glitz, gloss, and vulgarity.

Sex/Nudity: 9 instances of innuendo. Violence: 7 Profanity: 27 expressions, mostly mild. Drugs: 15 instances of drinking, 3 of smoking.

Alfie (R)

Director: Charles Shyer. With Jude Law, Susan Sarandon, Omar Epps, Marisa Tomei. (103 min.)

Sterritt *** Remake of the 1966 comedy-drama that put Michael Caine on the movie-world map with his portrayal of a womanizing scoundrel who eventually realizes he doesn't know "what it's all about," as the title song put it. Law is lively and Shyer keeps the action hopping with help from the movie's original gimmick of having Alfie keep up a running monologue to the audience.

Sex/Nudity: 14 Violence: 1 Profanity: 16 expressions, mostly mild. Drugs: 20 instances, 2 with illegal substances.

Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason (R)

Director: Beeban Kidron. With Renée Zellweger, Colin Firth, Hugh Grant, Gemma Jones. (108 min.)

Sterritt ** The sequel to the 2001 hit "Bridget Jones's Diary" is basically more of the same, with our weight-conscious heroine caught between snooty attorney Firth, cheeky journalist Grant, and her own indecisive nature. The movie catches occasional fire when Bridget suddenly says what's really on her mind. The rest is silliness.

Finding Neverland (PG)

Director: Marc Forster. With Johnny Depp, Kate Winslet, Dustin Hoffman, Julie Christie. (113 min.)

Sterritt *** Depp plays the Scottish playwright who dreamed up "Peter Pan" after befriending some real-life children. The story takes large liberties with Barrie's biography, and parents should know that the movie is surprisingly dark, dealing candidly with the death of a major character. The acting is excellent.

The Grudge (PG-13)

Director: Takashi Shimizu. With Sarah Michelle Gellar, Clea DuVall. (96 min.)

Staff *** When a young Japanese day-care volunteer responsible for nursing an elderly, demented woman fails to show up to work one day, an American exchange student (Gellar) is asked to take her place. The disturbing events that follow in the old woman's home will leave you hanging by a thread. The film is a beautiful blend of tension, good performances, and a shocking ending. By Gabino Villanueva

Sex/Nudity: 2 instances. Violence: 16 instances. Profanity: 3 mild expressions. Drugs: 3 instances of drinking and smoking.

The Incredibles (PG)

Director: Brad Bird. With voices of Craig T. Nelson, Holly Hunter, Samuel L. Jackson, Sarah Vowell. (115 min.)

Sterritt *** What would happen if the public turned against superheroes, seeing them as menaces whose pursuit of truth and justice wreaks havoc on innocent bystanders? That question energizes this ambitious animation from Disney and Pixar, and the answers, decked out with slam-bang action and witty dialogue, are great fun to discover.

Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: 25 Profanity: 1 mild theological expression. Drugs: 2 instances of drinking.

Kinsey (R)

Director: Bill Condon. With Liam Neeson, Laura Linney, John Lithgow, Oliver Platt. (118 min.)

Sterritt *** Fictionalized biography of Alfred Kinsey, a professor who switched his research from insects to human sexuality in the 1940s, opening controversial new doors for scientific inquiry. The movie's style is fairly staid, but it's hard to imagine how Neeson could be better, and the subject is handled with tact.

The Polar Express (G)

Director: Robert Zemeckis. With voices of Tom Hanks, Nona Gaye, Eddie Deezen, Peter Scolari. (100 min.)

Sterritt ** On its way to the North Pole, a magical train pauses on Christmas Eve to pick up kids who need more Christmas cheer. The movie is technically impressive, using high-tech "capture" methods that transform live action into animation. The story is too implausible even for a fantasy, though, and its message of "belief" refers entirely to yuletide gifts and decorations, never so much as nodding to the holiday's religious meanings.

Staff *** Charming, fantasically animated, holiday-spirited.

Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: None. Profanity: 1 mild expression. Drugs: None.

Ray (PG-13)

Director: Taylor Hackford. With Jamie Foxx, Kerry Washington, Clifton Powell, Regina King. (152 min.)

Sterritt *** Fictionalized biography of Ray Charles, the late singer, pianist, and songwriter. Foxx is just about perfect, allowing us to identify and empathize with Charles even as we experience his failings, including drug addiction that threatened to sabotage his career before he kicked the habit in the 1960s. Fine acting, a convincing view of the South in the Jim Crow era, and magnificent music compensate for simplified psychology and a schematic story line.

Sex/Nudity: 7 instances. Violence: 6 instances. Profanity: 76 mild expressions. Drugs: 52 instances, some with illegal substances.

Saw (R)

Director: James Wan. With Leigh Whannell, Cary Elwes, Monica Potter, Danny Glover. (103 min.)

Sterritt *** It's a hacksaw rather than a chain saw this time, but there's gore, gore, and more gore as two strangers find themselves trapped in a madman's scheme. Horror fans will find plenty to shriek about. Everyone else should keep their distance.

Sex/Nudity: 2 instances of innuendo. Violence: 21 scenes, mostly graphic. Profanity: 51 expressions, mostly strong. Drugs: 2 instances of smoking.

Seed of Chucky (R)

Director: Don Mancini. With Jennifer Tilly, John Waters, Redman, Tony Gardner. (87 min.)

Staff * The serial killer doll is back and the bodies - dismembered, disemboweled, decapitated, and incinerated - start to pile up. Tilly, whose character became doll-bride Tiffany in episode 4, again supplies Tiffany's voice and she also plays herself shooting a movie called "Chucky Goes Psycho." Saying this movie is deliberately bad is no excuse. Set in Hollywood, filmed in Romania. By M. K. Terrell

Shall We Dance? (PG-13)

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.

Sex/Nudity: 5 instances of innuendo. Violence: None. Profanity: 19 expressions, mostly mild. Drugs: 5 scenes of drinking.

OUT ON DVD
Elf (PG)

Director: Jon Favreau. With Will Ferrell, James Caan, Zooey Deschanel, Mary Steenburgen. (95 mins.)

Staff *** Will Ferrell's specialty is playing adult characters who haven't quite grown up, so he's pitch- perfect as Buddy, an orphan adopted by Santa's elves, who hasn't outgrown his childlike naiveté or his yellow tights. The hilarious story about Buddy's quest to find his father in New York is low on snarkiness and high on charm, making it perfect viewing for all ages. The extras include a look at the North Pole sets built by Hollywood's elves, but other bonus features - such as segment about a surfer who dons a Santa Claus suit - seem like filler not even fit for a Christmas stocking. By Stephen Humphries

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