Movie Guide

NEW RELEASES
Closer (R)

Director: Mike Nichols. With Julia Roberts, Jude Law, Natalie Portman, Clive Owen. (101 min.)

Sterritt *** See review on page 13.

Conspiracy of Silence (Not rated)

Director: John Deery. With Jonathan Forbes, Brenda Fricker, Hugh Bonneville, Hugh Quarshie. (87 min.)

Recommended: 10 best books of August 2013, according to Amazon's editors

Sterritt ** A student is expelled from his Roman Catholic seminary for almost no reason at all, and an idealistic reporter finds sinister links with a recent suicide and a history of scandal that's been hushed up all too well. The story meanders, but the subject is timely and important.

Deserted Station (Not rated)

Director: Alireza Raisian. With Leila Hatami, Mehran Rajabi, Nezam Manouchehri, Mahmoud Pak Neeyat. (93 min.)

Sterritt **** Gentle, human-scaled drama about a feisty Iranian jack-of-all-trades who enters the lives of a photographer and his wife when their car breaks down in the middle of nowhere. Intimate and engaging. In Farsi with subtitles.

Game Over: Kasparov and the Machine (Not rated)

Director: Vikram Jayanti. With Garry Kasparov, Joel Benjamin, archive material of Anatoli Karpov, Terry Wogan. (90 min.)

Sterritt **** The world's greatest chess player lost a match to IBM's gigantic Deep Blue computer in 1997, and this sensational documentary revisits the games - as well as charges that the IBM team played fast and loose with the rules. Gripping, suspenseful, and spiced with fascinating information about the long history of chess between human and mechanical opponents.

House of Flying Daggers (PG-13)

Director: Zhang Yimou. With Zhang Ziyi, Andy Lau, Takeshi Kaneshiro, Dandan Song. (119 min.)

Sterritt **** See review at right.

Sex/Nudity: 5 instances. Violence: 15 Profanity: None. Drugs: 3 scenes with drinking.

Lost Boys of Sudan (Not rated)

Directors: Megan Mylan, Jon Shenk. With Peter Kon Dut, Santino Majok Chuor. (87 min.)

Sterritt **** Documentary about Sudanese refugees who overcome the odds and move to the United States, go through difficult periods of adjustment, and wind up with doubts about how much better off they really are. A riveting movie. In English, Arabic, Dinka, and Swahili, with subtitles.

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.

Alexander (PG-13)

Director: Oliver Stone. With Colin Farrell, Angelina Jolie, Anthony Hopkins, Jared Leto. (172 min.)

Sterritt * The story of Alexander the Great, who wept when he realized there were no more realms for him to conquer. Stone may do the same when he realizes what a dull movie he's directed. It's astounding that the ingenious creator of "JFK" and "Wall Street" could make an epic on war and empire that's so utterly simplistic and unreflective.

Sex/Nudity: 8 instances. Violence: 21 Profanity: 3 mild expressions. Drugs: 10 scenes with drinking.

A Very Long Engagement (R)

Director: Jean-Pierre Jeunet. With Audrey Tautou, Tcheky Karyo, Jodie Foster. (133 min.)

Sterritt *** Refusing to believe her fiancé was killed in World War I, a disabled young woman undertakes a long odyssey to discover what really became of him and where he might actually be. The acting is marvelous, and Jeunet finally manages to put his overzealous style at the service of his story, instead of the other way around. In French with subtitles.

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.

Sex/Nudity: 12 instances. Violence: 1 Profanity: 58 expressions, mostly mild. Drugs: 16 instances of drinking and smoking, and 2 references to illegal substances.

Christmas With the Kranks (PG)

Director: Joe Roth. With Tim Allen, Jamie Lee Curtis, Dan Aykroyd, Cheech Marin. (99 min.)

Sterritt * Facing their first Christmas without their daughter at home, a middle-aged couple decide not to celebrate the holiday, sending their neighborhood into

shock. It's possible the comedy contains some secret allegory about the Protestant Reformation - the main character is named Luther, after all - but its main message is that everyone should believe and behave in exactly the same way. Groupthink wins again!

Sex/Nudity: 3 instances of innuendo. Violence: 5 Profanity: 3 mild theological expressions. Drugs: 6 instances of drinking, 1 of smoking.

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.

Sex/Nudity: 3 instances of innuendo. Violence: 1 Profanity: None. Drugs: 4 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.

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.

Sex/Nudity: 1 instance of innuendo. Violence: 11 Profanity: 5 mild theological expressions. Drugs: 1 instance of drinking.

Notre Musique (Not rated)

Director: Jean-Luc Godard. With Judith Lerner, Ramos Garcia, Olga Brodsky, Jean-Luc Godard. (79 min.)

Sterritt **** Godard's latest masterpiece takes a symbolic journey starting in hell, represented by modern war; moving to purgatory, set in Sarajevo, where a Jewish journalist hopes to confirm the possibilities of peace and reconciliation; and ending in paradise, a chunk of Swiss countryside with a varied population. Visually sublime and intellectually dense, this is one of the extremely rare movies that prove cinema can be as complex and profound as the very greatest art works in any form. The title means "Our Music." In English, French, and Spanish, with subtitles

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 and magnificent music compensate for a schematic story line.

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

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 **** Our absorbent hero and his starfish pal leave Bikini Bottom for sinister Shell City on a mission to retrieve King Neptune's stolen crown and save wrongly accused Mr. Krabs in the process. Imagine a Jerry Lewis movie designed by Salvador Dalí and you'll have some idea what this animation is like.

Sex/Nudity: 1 mild instance of innuendo. Violence: 24 cartoonish instances Profanity: None. Drugs: 2 instances of drinking.

OUT ON DVD
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (PG)

Director: Alfonso Cuarón. With Daniel Radcliffe, Michael Gambon, Alan Rickman, Emma Thompson. (142 min.)

Staff *** Harry and his Hogwarts classmates have matured - and so has the series, of which this film is the third and best. The atmosphere is murkier and the plot more complex. Sirius Black has escaped from wizards' prison with plans to murder Harry. Alarmed, Hogwarts staff recruit Dementors to guard the school, but these wraiths are almost worse than any evil they could keep at bay. And they prove adept at unhinging our hero. Potter fans will be happy that this time around Hermione is less whiny, Harry more brooding, and Ron is still as hapless as ever. The DVD's extras feel tacked on, and the cast interviews are of interest only to see Hagrid out of costume. By April Austin

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