Directors: Ross Kauffman, Zana Briski. With Zana Briski, children of Calcutta. (85 min.)
Sterritt *** Briski visited Calcutta to photograph sad children in the city's red-light district and stayed to become their friend and benefactor. This is a stirring documentary, and would be more so if it focused more on social problems than on Briski's own work.
Director: Wes Anderson. With Bill Murray, Cate Blanchett, Owen Wilson, Anjelica Huston. (118 min.)
Sterritt **** A media-minded oceanographer (Murray) and his could-be illegitimate son (Wilson) begin a "Moby-Dick"-style hunt for a so-called jaguar shark, running into everything from a rival operation to a gang of murderous pirates before they're through. What might have a self-consciously quirky comedy is deepened and humanized by its rich performances, especially from Murray, who keeps getting better and better. The director of "Rushmore" and "The Royal Tenenbaums" scores his most funny-sad movie to date.
Director: Steven Soderbergh. With George Clooney, Julia Roberts, Matt Damon, Catherine Zeta-Jones. (123 min.)
Sterritt *** See review.
Directors: Lorca Shepperd, Cabot Philbrick. With photograph collectors in New York. (56 min.)
Sterritt *** Documentary about people who collect snapshots they find in flea markets and similar venues. Modest, informative, engaging.
Director: Manoel de Oliveira. With John Malkovich, Catherine Deneuve, Irene Pappas. (93 min.)
Sterritt **** A respected Portuguese history professor takes her young son on a European cruise to teach him about the past; the movie's first half is dominated by her on-the-spot lessons, the second half by conversation among the ship's captain and three glamorous women from three different countries. As a nonagenarian, de Oliveira is the world's oldest working filmmaker, and still one of the best. This is a lovely, lively, timely treat for the eyes and mind. In English, Portuguese, French, and Italian, with subtitles.
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.
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.
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.
Director: Mike Nichols. With Julia Roberts, Jude Law, Natalie Portman, Clive Owen. (101 min.)
Sterritt *** Four characters - a photographer, a writer, a stripper, a physician - go through various permutations of lust, love, and combinations thereof as Patrick Marber's screenplay (which he adapted from his popular stage hit) shuffles and reshuffles their four-way relationship. Intense, engrossing, and extremely well acted. Also punctuated with sexually explicit dialogue.
Staff *** Complex, chamber play, highly sexual material.
Sex/Nudity: 15 scenes including frank talk and nudity. Violence: 4 scenes. Profanity: 68 harsh expressions. Drugs: 17 scenes of smoking and drinking.
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.
Director: Vikram Jayanti. With Garry Kasparov, Joel Benjamin. (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.
Director: Zhang Yimou. With Zhang Ziyi, Andy Lau, Takeshi Kaneshiro, Dandan Song. (119 min.)
Sterritt **** Love, treachery, and skulduggery zing like flashing blades through this thorny comedy-drama-romance, punctuated by some of the most inventive effects this side of "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon," which it often resembles. China's finest filmmaker is in stunning form. In Mandarin with subtitles.
Sex/Nudity: 5 instances. Violence: 15 Profanity: None. Drugs: 3 scenes with drinking.
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.
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.
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 to yuletide gifts, 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.
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 scenes, some with illegal substances.
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 innuendo. Violence: 24 cartoonish instances Profanity: None. Drugs: 2 instances of drinking.
Director: Peter Jackson. With Elijah Wood, Ian McKellen, Viggo Mortensen, Liv Tyler. (approx. 250 min.)
Staff **** The jewel in the crown, this final DVD with an extra 50 minutes tucked in, is an elegant conclusion to the Tolkien saga. The additions run the gamut from plot expansion to character clarification: Saruman's demise, the mouth of Sauron, Aragorn's direct challenge to Sauron, the relationship between Faramir and Eowyn and, oh, so much more. The extras are pure candy for all you "Ringers" - hours of interviews about the superb horse training, detailed weaponry, blacksmithing, even a bit on a visit to the set by famed mountain climber Sir Edmund Hillary. The only disappointment: the trilogy is finally over. There's always "The Hobbit." By Gloria Goodale