Mega Movie Guide 2004
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.
Director: Charles S. Dutton. With Meg Ryan, Omar Epps, Tony Shalhoub. (111 min.)
Sterritt * A boxing drama loosely inspired by the career of manager Jackie Kallen, showing how she profits from faith in an untried fighter. Ryan puts pert charm into her role as a pioneering woman in an all-male world, supported by Epps as her two-fisted protégé and Dutton as a crusty old trainer. Too bad the screenplay is full of simplistic stereotypes and empty clichés.
Staff *** Modest, crowd-pleasing, believable.
Sex/Nudity: 5 scenes, 4 of them innuendo. Violence: 10 scenes. Profanity: 65 instances, mostly mild. Drugs: 10 instances.
Director: Jonathan Demme. With Jean Dominique, Michele Montas, Jean-Bertrand Aristide. (90 min.)
Sterritt *** A nonfiction look at the late Dominique, an outspoken, often self-aggrandizing man who founded the dissident Radio Haiti Inter, a rare independent station that boldly opposed injustice under sundry Haitian regimes to the point where Dominique spent much of the 1990s in American exile. Best known for fiction films, Demme has a terrific story to tell here, tackling it with energy and economy.
Director: Oliver Stone. With Colin Farrell, Angelina Jolie, Anthony Hopkins. (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 creator of "JFK" and "Wall Street" could make an epic on war and empire that's so utterly simplistic.
Sex/Nudity: 8 instances. Violence: 21 Profanity: 3 mild expressions. Drugs: 10 scenes with drinking.
Director: Charles Shyer. With Jude Law, Susan Sarandon, 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.
Sex/Nudity: 14 Violence: 1 Profanity: 16 expressions, mostly mild. Drugs: 20 instances, 2 with illegal substances.
Director: Michel Deville. With Simon Abkarian, Clotilde Courau, Vincent Elbaz. (90 min.)
Sterritt *** The year is 1946 and the characters - employees in a tailor's shop - are mostly Jews concerned about the stability of their society and their still-uncertain place within it. The gently told comedy-drama is more colorful than you'd expect, using humor and lively music to keep sentimentality at bay. In French with subtitles.
Director: John Lee Hancock. With Billy Bob Thornton, Jason Patric, Dennis Quaid. (136 min.)
Sterritt * Yet another last stand for the beleaguered fortress, where Republic of Texas forces died in 1836 defending what they thought (wrongly, as the movie shows) was the last bastion between Mexican tyranny and good Texan "values," including slavery. Thornton is good as Davy Crockett, but overall the movie is dull, derivative, and as lifelike as a heap of historical figurines.
Director: John Hamburg. With Ben Stiller, Jennifer Aniston, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Debra Messing. (90 min.)
Sterritt * A neurotically cautious man (Stiller) gets cheated on by his wife (Messing) during their honeymoon, whereupon he starts chasing a woman (Aniston) whose life philosophy is the opposite of his. If you can swallow that premise, you may be able to tolerate the crass humor and weak acting, even by Hoffman.
Director: Dwight H. Little. With Johnny Messner, KaDee Strickland. (93 min.)
Staff ** An orchid in the Borneo jungles is the only source of a potential "fountain of youth" drug, and an intrepid band of pseudoscientists must rush to harvest it. There's nothing to stop them but inexperience, a swarm of people-eating snakes, and greed. Attractive cast and scenery help make up for the absurdity. By M.K. Terrell.
Sex/Nudity: 1 scene with innuendo. Violence: 17 instances. Profanity: 55 instances. Drugs: 9 scenes.
Director: Catherine Breillat. Amira Casar, Rocco Siffredi. (73 min.)
Sterritt * A lonely woman pays a man to watch her during intimate moments. Breillat is a serious observer of sexuality's often disruptive role in human life, but this existential drama is pretentious. In French with subtitles.
Director: Adam McKay. With Will Ferrell, Steve Carell, Christina Applegate. (94 min.)
Sterritt * In the days before cable, a TV news host juggles infatuation and intolerance when a female reporter joins his team. Imagine a movie where every character is more self-centered than Ted Baxter in "The Mary Tyler Moore Show," add idiotic jokes, and you have some idea of this unfunny farce.
Staff *** Silly, disjointed, crass.
Sex/Nudity: 20 instances. Violence: 5 scene. Profanity: 33 mostly mild expressions. Drugs: 28 scenes of drinking, smoking.
Directors: Juliano Mer Khamis, Danniel Danniel. With Arna Mer Khamis. (83 min.)
Sterritt **** Documentary about a Jewish woman who set up a theater center for Palestinian children in a West Bank refugee camp, and some of her pupils who later became suicide bombers in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Contains candid views behind the scenes of battle. In English, Hebrew, and Arabic with subtitles.
Director: Jordan Roberts, With Christopher Walken, Josh Lucas, Michael Caine. (85 min.)
Sterritt ** Three male relatives of three generations head off on a bittersweet journey to fulfill the terms of a deceased family member's eccentric will. The story is spotty, but the acting is fine, especially when Walken is around.
Sex/Nudity: 4 instances of innuendo. Violence: 3 instances. Profanity: 34 expressions. Drugs: 3 instances of drinking and smoking.
Director: Frank Coraci. With Jackie Chan, Steve Coogan, Jim Broadbent. (120 min.)
Sterritt ** Another adaptation of Jules Verne's novel about a 19th-century man circumnavigating the globe to win a wager and demonstrate the progress of modern science. While less ambitious than the 1956 release with David Niven, the film uses the same gimmick of famous faces in cameo roles. Coogan and Broadbent are agile and expressive, but too much time goes to Chan's stunts. A colorful disappointment.
Staff *** Light, kung-fu overload, colorful.
Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: 18 scenes. Profanity: 8 mild expressions. Drugs: 3 instances of drinking.
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.
Director: Martin Scorsese. With Leonardo DiCaprio, Cate Blanchett, Alec Baldwin, Kate Beckinsale. (170 min.)
Sterritt *** Large-scale epic about the life of Howard Hughes, focusing on his experiences as a filmmaker, flier, aircraft designer, and world-class eccentric. DiCaprio is excellent as Hughes and Blanchett is even better as movie star Katharine Hepburn, one of his lovers. The film largely lacks the personal touches that distinguish Scorsese's greatest work, though.
Director: Mario Van Peebles. With Mario Van Peebles, Ossie Davis, Nia Long, Bill Cosby. (108 min.)
Sterritt *** A docudrama account of how African-American film pioneer Melvin Van Peebles used a flash of Hollywood success to launch a production of his 1971 hit "Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song," recognized as a key event in modern independent moviemaking. This colorful time capsule of a movie was directed by Van Peebles's son, who doesn't minimize the difficulties his father's underfinanced dream entailed for his hard-pressed family and friends.
Sex/Nudity: 12 scenes, 2 with full-frontal nudity. Violence: 7 scenes. Profanity: 232 expressions, mostly strong. Drugs: 37 instances of smoking, 6 of drinking, 2 of drugs.
Director: Pedro Almodóvar. With Gael García Bernal, Fele Martínez. (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.
Director: Tanit Jitnukul. With Jaran Ngamdee, Theerayut Pratyabamrung. (119 min.)
Sterritt *** Siamese villagers fight Burmese invaders in the 18th century, led by the chief warrior of a distant tribe that agrees to help them. The story suggests a more violent "Seven Samurai," full of eloquently filmed suspense. In Thai with subtitles.
Director: Kevin Rodney Sullivan. With Ice Cube, Eve, Michael Ealy. (98 min.)
Staff **1/2 The crew from the original "Barbershop" comes back to cut hair, only this time a national chain tries to shut them down. Sullivan's film buzzes with energy and sharpness and the actors perform with vigor, but the film's bare-boned script and mawkish ending keep it from achieving 'shear' brilliance. By Brad Rosenberg
Sex/Nudity: 9 scenes with innuendo. Violence: 5 scenes. Profanity: 77 instances. Drugs: 5.
Director: Miguel Albaladejo. With José Luis García-Pérez, David Castillo. (92 min.)
Sterritt *** When his mother travels far from home and gets in trouble with the law, a 9-year-old boy is cared for by his uncle, a gay dentist, and the uncle's gaggle of unusual friends. A life-affirming Spanish comedy-drama. In Spanish with subtitles.
Director: Richard Linklater. With Ethan Hawke, Julie Delpy. (80 min.)
Sterritt **** Richard Linklater's "Before Sunset" follows-up the 1995 comedy-drama "Before Sunrise," where aspiring American writer (Hawke) and French graduate student (Delpy) get acquainted and take a nighttime walk together, only to part the next morning, leaving us to wonder if they'll ever meet again. "Before Sunset" takes place in Paris nine years later, where we learn that Jesse and Céline haven't been in touch since that special night. Linklater is one of today's most versatile American filmmakers, and "Before Sunset" finds his light shining as brightly as ever.
Staff **** Luscious, enjoyable
Sex/Nudity: 11 mentions. Violence: none. Profanity: 20 mild, 11 strong expressions. Drugs: 1 smoking scene.
Director: István Szabó. With Annette Bening, Jeremy Irons, Michael Gambon. (103 min.)
Sterritt *** Bening is beautiful as a 1930s actress in London who finds the overlaps between her art and her life tricky to cope with, especially when she starts an affair with an enthusiastic fan. Based on W. Somerset Maugham's novel "Theatre," this is a thoughtful, amusing romp.
Sex/Nudity: 20 instances of innuendo. Violence: 1 Profanity: 3 instances. Drugs: 20 scenes with drinking, 13 with smoking.
Director: Joe Camp. With Nate Bynam, Lincoln Hoppe, Chris Kendrick. (97 min.)
Staff **1/2 Colby's stepfather raises dogs in backyard cages. When his "prize breeder" gives birth to a mutt, dad leaves the pup to starve, but Colby raises it in the woods. Depiction of animal and family abuse takes the wicked stepparent plot beyond fairy tales for small children, but scenes of animal bonding show that director Camp has not lost his touch for charming dog stories. By M.K. Terrell
Director: Kevin Spacey. With Kevin Spacey, Brenda Blethyn, John Goodman, Kate Bosworth. (121 min.)
Sterritt ** The life of singer Bobby Darin, from his music-filled childhood to his untimely death, using the same kind of memoir storytelling as "De-Lovely," the recent Cole Porter biopic. Spacey is almost as swinging as Darin was, but his filmmaking leans toward tried-and-true formulas.
Sex/Nudity: 2 instances of innuendo. Violence: 2 scenes of tantrums. Profanity: 58 expressions. Drugs: 12 instances of smoking, 13 scenes with drinking.
Director: Jerzy Sturh. With Jerzy Stuhr, Anna Dymna, Blazej Wójcik. (73 min.)
Sterritt *** A Polish couple finds a lost circus camel in their yard and adopts it - at first pleasing their town, which enjoys its novelty value, but stirring trouble when neighbors resent what they see as the self-reliant airs of a creature and its masters. The drama is a witty parable of the mixed feelings people show toward free choice when it confronts them in everyday life. In Polish with English subtitles.
Director: Jonathan Glazer. With Nicole Kidman, Danny Huston, Lauren Bacall. (100 min.)
Sterritt **** A widow, about to remarry, meets a 10-year-old boy who insists he's the reincarnation of her late husband. The eerie tale is steeped in brooding atmosphere and psychological suspense thanks to Glazer's hugely imaginative visual style and creative use of music, sound, and silence. Huston gives a star-making performance and Kidman is better than ever. Brilliant.
Sex/Nudity: 4 instances. Violence: 3 instances. Profanity: 2 mild expressions. Drugs: 2 instances of smoking, 3 of drinking.
Director: David Goyer. With Wesley Snipes, Jessica Biel, Kris Kristofferson. (113 min.)
Staff ** Snipes is back once again as the human-vampire hybrid crusading to save Earth from the more bloodthirsty side of his family, with assistance from his mentor's daughter (Biel), who delights in archery, and an ex-vampire (Reynolds), who specializes in wisecracks. Goyer, who wrote all three "Blade" movies, fills this one with the usual gore and mayhem, but at least it's funnier than the first two. By M. K. Terrell
Sex/Nudity: 4 instances of innuendo. Violence: 30 scenes, often gory Profanity: 77 harsh expressions. Drugs: 3 scenes with smoking.
Director: Takeshi Kitano. With Beat Takeshi, Michiyo Ogusu, Tadanobu Asano. (116 min.)
Sterritt *** Kitano plays the sightless samurai who sustained many Japanese action pictures in the 1960s. The new adventure is stylishly directed and smartly acted, especially by the filmmaker-star, who gives one of his best performances as the unerring swordsman. He could have left out the splashy musical number at the end, though. In Japanese with subtitles.
Director: Apichatpong Weerasethakul. With Min Oo, Jenjira Jansuda. (125 min.)
Sterritt **** Thai filmmaking continues its renaissance with this offbeat drama about a Burmese refugee and two Thai women in a sleepy border town. Atmosphere reigns supreme. In Thai with subtitles.
Director: Albertina Carri. With Analía Couceyro, Jesica Suarez, Santiago Giralt. (89 min.)
Sterritt **** This documentary focuses on the filmmaker's effort to find out the fate of her parents, who "disappeared" and probably were killed during Argentina's notorious "dirty war." What distinguishes the movie is its inventive, multifaceted way of questioning whether the "truth" of past events can ever be separated from the memories, longings, and scanty evidence that inextricably surrounds it. Highly recommended.
Director: Roger Stigliano. With Michael Waite, Yelena Danova, Art Desuyo. (80 min.)
Sterritt ** A small-time salesman finds himself on a crime spree with a Russian femme fatale. Tries to be a new "Something Wild"; ends up being tamer than tame.
Director: Rowdy Herrington. With Jim Caviezel, Jeremy Northam, Claire Forlani. (120 min.)
Sterritt ** A fictionalized biography of the golfer, from his privileged childhood to his rivalry with champion Walter Hagen - neatly portrayed by Northam as the breeziest pro on the circuit - and his achievement as the only person ever to win golf's grand slam despite physical problems. Golf buffs should find it a treat. For others it's no deeper than a tin cup on a putting green.
Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: 1 scene. Profanity: 30 expressions, mostly mild. Drugs: 8 instances of drinking, 8 of smoking, and 4 of both.
Directors: Ross Kauffman, Zana Briski. With Zana Briski, children of Calcutta. (85 min.)
Sterritt *** Briski visited Calcutta to photograph 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: 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 what his identity is - namely, a CIA assassin with amnesia. This time it's just chasing and shooting.
Staff *** Intriguing, riveting, colorful.
Sex/Nudity: 9 scenes. Violence: 11 scenes. Profanity: 10 expressions. Drugs: 7 instances of drinking, 1 of smoking.
Director: David Taplitz. With Jamie Foxx, Morris Chestnut, Jennifer Esposito. (85 min.)
Staff **1/2 Magazine editor Quincy Watson gets a shock at his engagement party: His fiancée is eloping to Paris with somebody else. Quincy's so upset he writes a sort of Breaking Up for Dummies manual, resulting in a romantic mix-up involving at least seven people, including his cousin, who wants to dump his girlfriend. Snappy dialogue and a charming cast largely make up for lightweight material. By M.K. Terrell
Director: Beeban Kidron. With Renée Zellweger, Colin Firth, Hugh Grant. (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 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: Ross McElwee. With Ross McElwee, Charleen Swansea, Patricia Neal. (107 min.)
Sterritt **** McElwee returns to his Southern roots for a meandering look at all sorts of issues, including his family's former entanglement in the tobacco business and the ironic fact that his father became a physician treating that business's victims. Deeply personal, morally alert, and highly entertaining.
Director: Stephen Fry. With Emily Mortimer, Dan Akroyd, Peter O'Toole. (105 min.)
Sterritt *** Literate, bittersweet adaptation of Evelyn Waugh's grimly hilarious 1930 novel "Vile Bodies," skewering a segment of English society between the wars that staves off any temptation to make the world a better place by inhabiting as many merrymaking places as it can find. Fry makes a strong directorial debut, and Fenella Woolgar's acting is deliciously weird.
Sex/Nudity: 7 Violence: 5 instances. Profanity: 19 mild expression. Drugs: 24
Director: Rick McCay. With Rex Reed, Gena Rowlands, Jeremy Irons. (111 min.)
Sterritt ** A documentary about Broadway theater before the '60s drastically changed it along with the rest of the American culture scene. The movie is mostly a megadose of good-old-days nostalgia. More archival footage and fewer talking heads would have made it more watchable, and most viewers under 60 will be mightily confused as to who many of these people are.
Director: Nir Bergman. With Orli Zilbershatz-Banai, Maya Maron, Nitai Gvirtz. (86 min.)
Sterritt *** A teenage girl copes with her father's death, her mother's distraction from the family, and the needs of her younger siblings. Heartfelt acting and a sometimes tragic story make this an unusually touching Israeli production. In Hebrew with English subtitles.
Director: Paul Alexander. With John Kerry, members of a Vietnam-war boat crew. (68 min.)
Sterritt **** Documentary about a combat-boat crew led by Kerry, whose experiences are treated as neither more nor less important than those of his comrades. The movie's main contribution is its fresh look at the Vietnam War, being refought in the Kerry-Bush presidential campaign at the time of the film's release.
Director: Rodney Evans. With Anthony Mackie, Roger Robinson, Aunjanue Ellis. (94 min.)
Sterritt ** A young African-American writer meets an aging veteran of the Harlem Renaissance movement who's lost none of his hard-boiled intelligence since his glory days in the pre-War World II era. Interesting for its historical content.
Director: Vincent Gallo. With Vincent Gallo, Chloë Sevigny. (92 min.)
Sterritt ** A mournful young man drives endless miles to see his girlfriend for a sex scene that became notorious long before the movie's release. Gallo's earlier work suggests he has directorial talent, but here it's buried beneath too much ego to be detectible.
Director: John Dullaghan. With Charles Bukowski, Sean Penn, Bono. (113 min.)
Sterritt *** A documentary portrait of the late American author and poet Charles Bukowski, showing him as more introspective and emotionally vulnerable than you'd think from his rough-and-tumble writing. Excerpts from Schroeder's long video documentary about him, and from the flawed melodrama "Barfly" they made together, add more variety.
Staff *** Riveting, visually pleasing, tragic yet inspiring.
Sex/Nudity: 12 scenes. Violence: 2 scenes. Profanity: 67 expressions. Drugs: 38 instances of smoking, 49 of drinking.
Directors: Joseph Mealey, Michael Paradies Shoob. With Max Cleland, Molly Ivins, Richard C. Clark, Jacques Vroom. (89 min.)
Sterritt **** A skeptical view of George W. Bush's chief political strategist, Karl Rove, using argumentative strategies common to agenda-driven documentaries. You may not agree with its perspectives, but you'll always know where it stands, and it's amazing how many Republicans the filmmakers have found to spill the beans.
Directors: J. Mackye Gruber, Eric Bress. With Ashton Kutcher, Amy Smart. (113 min.)
Sterritt * A young man gradually learns he's been traveling back in time, inhabiting his body in earlier stages of his life and altering events in ways that befuddle him when he returns to a present changed in unexpected ways. A promising premise; too bad the screenplay is as confused as the hero.
Director: Hector Babenco. With Luiz Carlos Vasconcelos, Ivan de Almeida. (146 min.)
Sterritt *** The Brazilian filmmaker turns a fictionalized spotlight on an overcrowded São Paulo prison where more than 100 inmates were killed by police during a 1992 riot, picturing events that led up to the slaughter through the eyes of a sympathetic physician. Harrowing, realistic, humanistic. In Portuguese with subtitles.
Director: Bart Freundlich. With Kristen Stewart, Corbin Bleu, Jennifer Beals. (92 min.)
Sterritt ** As her father lies ill, a young girl asks two pals to get on their go-karts and help her steal money to pay medical bills - from the same bank where her mother is installing a new security system. There's humor, suspense, and not a hint of reality.
Staff * Unengaging, preposterous.
Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: 11 instances. Profanity: 8 instances. Drugs: 4 instances of drinking.
Director: Pitof. With Halle Berry, Benjamin Bratt, Sharon Stone. (97 min.)
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.
Director: David R. Ellis. With Kim Basinger, Chris Evans, William H. Macy. (94 min.)
Staff ** When Kim Basinger is kidnapped, she rigs a broken telephone - MacGyver style - and dials a cellphone belonging to Ryan (Evans). Fortunately he heeds her call for help. The story (think "Speed" meets "Phone Booth") may be hokum but it's undeniably fun. By Stephen Humphries.
Sex/Nudity: 2 instances of innuendo. Violence: 20 scenes. Profanity: 51 expressions. Drugs: 4 instances of drinking.
Director: Shola Lynch. With Shirley Chisholm, Ronald Dellums, Susan Brownmiller. (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.
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. 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: David Twohy. With Vin Diesel, Thandie Newton, Judi Dench. (115 min.)
Sterritt * Riddick battles evil crusaders called Necromongers. The special effects are extra special, but the screenplay is idiotic, and Diesel speaks his dialogue like a Sylvester Stallone clone who never finished third grade.
Sex/Nudity: 2 instances of innuendo. Violence: 25 scenes Profanity: 16 expressions. Drugs: 3 counts of smoking, 1 of drinking.
Director: Mark Rosman. With Hilary Duff, Jennifer Coolidge, 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 innuendo. Violence: 2 scenes. Profanity: 5 mild expressions. Drugs: none.
Director: Pieter Jan Brugge. With Robert Redford, Helen Mirren, Willem Dafoe. (94 min.)
Staff *** Redford gives one of his best performances ever in this taut, emotionally engrossing thriller about a wealthy businessman kidnapped by a criminal and held for ransom. Only a sentimental, strung-out ending mars the drama's momentum.
Staff ** Modest, chilly, underplayed.
Sex/Nudity: 2 instances of innuendo. Violence: 6 scenes. Profanity: 10 strong expressions. Drugs: 2 scenes of drinking, 2 of smoking.
Director: Robert Ramirez. With voices of John Ritter, Jenna Elfman, Wayne Brady. (74 min.)
Sterritt ** Capping a long career in children's books and TV, the much-loved Big Red Dog gets a frame large enough for his body. In his first feature film he runs away to a performing-animals show, hoping he'll win a lifetime supply of the dog food that bankrupts his owner because he eats so much. Great for little kids, if not for grownups.
Director: Nick Willing. With Goran Visnjic, Miranda Otto. (108 min.)
Sterritt *** A small-time psychotherapist takes time off from his stop-smoking practice to help a policewoman track down a serial killer, using what may be psychic powers to sense the thoughts of a young victim. Smartly tuned-in directing turns a run-of-the-mill detective story into a striking, sometimes harrowing blend of horror and suspense.
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 shuffles and reshuffles their four-way relationship. Intense, engrossing, and extremely well acted.
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: Richard Sylvarnes. With D.J. Mendel, Miho Nikaido, Thomas Jay Ryan. (83 min.)
Sterritt *** A physician, a fortune teller, and a possibly reincarnated wife are the main characters of this spooky, atmospheric tale. Beautifully photographed.
Director: Michael Winterbottom. With Tim Robbins, Samantha Morton, Om Puri. (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 compelling, but intelligent and perhaps prophetic.
Director: Jim Jarmusch. With Bill Murray, Cate Blanchett, Joie Lee, Steve Buscemi. (96 min.)
Sterritt *** A series of vignettes about conversations taking place as people consume (or reject) the title substances. Some are weak, some are superb - there's a priceless one with Alfred Molina and Steve Coogan - but they get better as they go along, ending with the most touching of all, featuring Taylor Mead and Bill Rice as cultural rebels who've outlived their rebellions.
Sterritt *** A hit man shanghais a cab driver to be his assistant for one long night. Stylishly made, if less intellectually resonant than Mann films like "Ali" and "The Insider."
Staff *** Thoughtful, engaging, classy.
Sex/Nudity: 2 scenes. Violence: 15 scenes. Profanity: 42 expressions. Drugs: 3 scenes.
Director: Sara Sugarman. With Lindsay Lohan, Adam Garcia, Megan Fox. (86 min.)
Staff * Lola Cep (Lohan) is a desperately spoiled "New York City doll" forced to move to a sleepy New Jersey suburb in this unbelievable comedy. She thinks everyone stands between herself and stardom, but she refuses to stop dreaming and lands the lead role in her school play. By Elizabeth Armstrong
Staff *1/2 No substance, Britney-esque.
Sex/Nudity: 1 instance of innuendo. Violence: 1 instance. Profanity: 1 mild expression. Drugs: 2 scenes with drinking.
Director: Michael Lembeck. With Nia Vardalos, Toni Collette, David Duchovny. (97 min.)
Staff DUD Nia Vardalos and Toni Collette play Connie and Carla, two unsuccessful dinner-theater performers who leave Chicago for L.A. after witnessing a mob murder. Once there, they disguise themselves as drag queens who offer up camp renditions of "Don't Cry for Me Argentina" and "Mame" in a gay cabaret. In short, the script pilfers the plot from "Some Like It Hot" and "Victor/Victoria" with none of the wit or suspense. By Stephen Humphries
Sex/Nudity: 1 scene, 2 instances of innuendo. Violence: 2 scenes. Profanity: 7 mild expressions. Drugs: 8 instances.
Director: John Deery. With Jonathan Forbes, Brenda Fricker, Hugh Bonneville. (87 min.)
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.
Director: Jehane Noujaim. With Sameer Khader, Lt. Josh Rushing. (84 min.)
Sterritt **** An inside look at the Qatar-based TV network Al Jazeera, bringing out the mixed feelings many of its journalists have toward aspects of conflict between the United States and the Middle East, and underscoring the deeper message that all media reportage is controlled by editors, producers, and ideologies. Although it enters a spin room of its own at times, the movie is generally fair and balanced. In English and Arabic with subtitles.
Director: Guy Maddin. With Darcy Fehr, Melissa Dionisio, Louis Negin. (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.
Director: Gregory Jacobs. With John C. Reilly, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Diego Luna. (87 min.)
Sterritt ** A fledgling con artist apprentices himself to a seasoned veteran and, as usual in movies like this, little is what it seems to be. This remake of the Argentine hit is effective at times but the main impression is of first-rate performers doing second-rate work.
Sex/Nudity: 1 implied sex scene. Violence: Profanity: 26 instances. Drugs: 4 scenes with drinking, 2 with smoking.
Director: Maryam Shahriar. With Altinay Ghelich Taghani, Soghra Karimi.(100 min.)
Sterritt **** A young Iranian woman dresses as a man and finds work as apprentice to an insensitive weaver. Acted as a drama, paced like a ritual, filmed as a slice of rural Iranian life. In Persian with subtitles.
Director: Zack Snyder. With Sarah Polley, Ving Rhames, Mekhi Phife. (100 min.)
Sterritt ** Remake of George Romero's sardonic 1978 horror movie about terrorized humans hiding in a shopping mall from swarming zombies. The updated version is somewhat lighter on social satire, but even heavier on blood and gore than the grisly original. Neither is as biting or original as "Night of the Living Dead," the Romero classic that spawned these spinoffs.
Staff ** Grisly, nightmarish, intense.
Sex/Nudity: 4 instances. Violence: 30 instances, unnecessarily gory. Profanity: 52 instances of strong language. Drugs: 5 scenes.
Director: Wong Kar-Wai. With Maggie Cheung, Tony Leung, Leslie Cheung. (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.
Director: Irwin Winkler. With Kevin Kline, Ashley Judd, Jonathan Pryce. (125 min.)
Sterritt **** This music-filled biography portrays legendary songwriter Cole Porter, a bisexual scamp whose marriage became the most important anchor in his life. The movie is remarkably touching and engrossing, with Kline's acting and realistically second-rate singing balancing Judd's one-note performance as his wife.
Staff *** Rich, tragic, honest.
Sex/Nudity: 4 instances of innuendo. Violence: none. Profanity: 10 mild expressions. Drugs: 15 instances of drinking, 19 of smoking.
Director: Alireza Raisian. With Leila Hatami, Mehran Rajabi. (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.
Director: Ondi Timoner. With Anton Newcombe, Courtney Taylor. (106 min.)
Sterritt **** Documentary about two rock bands, the Brian Jonestown Massacre and the Dandy Warhols, whose leaders are (usually) friendly rivals, and one of whom (Newcombe) seems bent on sabotaging his life as well as his career. What makes the movie powerful is Timoner's decision to structure it via Taylor's perspective on his competitor, with no holds barred.
Sex/Nudity: 2 instances. Violence: 5 instances. Profanity: 182 expressions, mostly stong. Drugs: 41 instances, mostly involving marijuana.
Director: Guy Ferland. With Romola Garai, Diego Luna, Sela Ward, Patrick Swayze. (86 min.)
Sterritt * A rich American girl learns love and dancing from a Latino boy during a family sojourn in Cuba just before the Castro regime takes over. At least the original "Dirty Dancing" had Jennifer Grey for Swayze to swing around.
Staff ** Terrific music, poor editing
Sex/Nudity: 3 instances. Violence: 3 scenes. Profanity: 5 instances. Drugs: 6 scenes with drinking, 5 with smoking.
Director: John Waters. With Tracey Ullman, Chris Isaak, Selma Blair, Johnny Knoxville. (88 min.)
Sterritt ** A bonk on the head turns a woman into a sex addict, so she joins a support group with other afflicted folks. The humor is more childish than raunchy.
Director: Nuri Bilge Ceylan. With Muzaffer Özdemir, Zuhal Gencer Erkaya. (109 min.)
Sterritt **** Already burdened with problems of his own, a Turkish man acquires an unwanted roommate when his cousin shows up in Istanbul. Mood, atmosphere, and character are more important than story twists in this acutely observant drama. In Turkish with English subtitles.
Director: Pearl Gluck. With Pearl Gluck, Amichai Lau Lavie, Michelle Miller. (77 min.)
Sterritt *** Gluck filmed this documentary during her quest for an old couch that rabbis reputedly slept on when it graced her family's home in Hungary, before the Holocaust drove her Hasidic relatives to Brooklyn. The film makes up in energy what it lacks in structure and style. In English, Yiddish, and Hungarian with English subtitles.
Director: Rawson Marshall Thurber. With Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn, Rip Torn. (92 min.)
The owners of rival health clubs enter teams in a dodgeball tournament to win a cash prize. Stiller strives to be a wild and wacky villain, Vaughn endeavors to be a likable hero in this stupid comedy.
Director: Lars von Trier. With Nicole Kidman, Paul Bettany, Patricia Clarkson. (173 min.)
Sterritt **** A woman running from criminals arrives in a small American village of the 1930s, where the townsfolk shelter her and then make her a dehumanized servant - until the criminals show up, throwing everything into a more unsettling perspective. Von Trier sets the action on a theatrical stage, spotlighting the existential isolation that weighs on people who don't seek larger visions of life, individuality, and community. Challenging, dramatic, provocative.
Director: Federico Fellini. With Marcello Mastroianni, Anita Ekberg, Alain Cuny. (175 min.)
Sterritt **** A jaded journalist observes and lives "the sweet life" of Rome in 1960. Fellini's dissection of modern decadence rings as true as ever today. A profound film by a legendary director in the greatest period of his career. In Italian with subtitles.
Director: Tod Williams. With Jeff Bridges, Kim Basinger, Mimi Rogers. (111 min.)
Sterritt *** The marriage of a writer (Bridges) and his beautiful wife (Basinger) falls apart under pressure from his philandering and her mourning for their sons, killed in a car accident. The screenplay is based on the first section of John Irving's, "A Widow for One Year," resulting in an arbitrary film, since this part of the book sets the stage for later events. Bridges is fun to watch. A likable drama within its limitations.
Staff **1/2 Ambitious, underplayed, sexual.
Sex/Nudity: 24 instances. Violence: 4 scenes. Profanity: 27 expressions. Drugs: 13 scenes of drinking, smoking.
Director: Bernardo Bertolucci. With Michael Pitt, Eva Green. (112 min.)
Sterritt *** Amid the cultural and political turmoil of Paris in 1968, an American student grows close to a French brother and sister whose abnormally intimate relationship makes them both eager and hesitant to welcome him into their lives. The movie is strongest when it depicts the idealistic upheavals of the '60s and weakest when it retreats to the apartment that houses the story's explicit sexual adventures.
Staff *** Edgy, time-warped, dreamlike plot.
Sex/Nudity: 17 scenes, with overtones of incest. Violence: 3 scenes or riots. Profanity: 16 instances. Drugs: 8 instances of drinking, 16 of smoking, one of marijuana.
Director: Tommy O'Haver. With Anne Hathaway, Cary Elwes, Minnie Driver. (95 min.)
Staff ** Fans of Gail Carson Levine will find little of her charming book in this big-screen version of the Cinderella tale. What does remain is Levine's clever twist: a curse of obedience that requires Ella to do everything that's asked of her. "Ella" has energy enough, and will probably appeal to tweens, but adds too many gimmicks to a story that had plenty going for it already. By Kim Campbell
Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: 13 mild instances. Profanity: 1 mild instance. Drugs: 1 scene.
Directors: Michael Gramaglia, Jim Fields. With The Ramones, Deborah Harry. (95 min.)
Sterritt *** Documentary about the rock group which has worked its way through an amazing number of members in its long career - not including anyone actually named Ramone, incidentally - while serving up music so free of thought that the best of it seems to crystallize our thoughtless, tightly wound era.
Director: Roger Michell. With Daniel Craig, Rhys Ifans, Samantha Morton. (100 min.)
Sterritt *** A professor is dogged by an eccentric loner who's convinced some kind of divine spark has passed between them. The story is intriguing but the substance of Ian McEwan's original novel has been reduced from a multifaceted exploration of human affection to a stalker yarn.
Sex/Nudity: 4 Violence: 8 Profanity: 65 expressions, mostly strong. Drugs: 10 instances of drinking and smoking.
Director: Barry Levinson. With Jack Black, Ben Stiller, Christopher Walken. (99 min.)
Sterritt *** A small-time businessman (Stiller) seethes with the title sin after his friend (Black) strikes it rich with a product he's dreamed up. The movie works fairly well as a dark comedy, and very well as a dead-on satire of upward mobility.
Staff *1/2 Overwrought, good for a few laughs.
Sex/Nudity: 2 instances of innuendo. Violence: 2 scenes. Profanity: 67 instances. Drugs: 7 scenes with drinking.
Director: Michel Gondry. With Jim Carrey, Kate Winslet, Tom Wilkinson. (108 min.)
Sterritt **** A lonely man (Carrey) falls in love with a mercurial woman (Winslet) who decides to escape their affair by having a psychologist erase her memories of him; he decides to do the same but regrets it during the procedure, resulting in a cerebral cat-and-mouse game in which he hides his mental concept of her in ever-deeper layers of his mind. The story is wise and the filmmaking is witty. Standouts include Carrey in his best performance to date and the British Winslet playing an American.
Staff *** Trip down the rabbit hole, hilarious, believable.
Sex/Nudity: 4 instances of implied sex. Violence: 3 instances. Profanity: 16 instances, mostly mild. Drugs: 12 instances.
Director: Jeff Schaffer. With Scott Mechlowicz, Jacob Pitts, Michelle Trachtenberg. (92 min.)
Staff *1/2 Four friends graduate from high school and run away to Europe for the summer. They travel to Berlin to find a beautiful pen pal and to take advantage of the liberal drug, alcohol, and sex laws. appealing young cast helps make up for often raunchy humor. By M.K. Terrell
Sex/Nudity: 23 instances. Violence: 11 minor instances. Profanity: 26 instances, most of them strong. Drugs: 12 scenes with smoking, drinking, and marijuana brownies.
Director: Michael Moore. With George W. Bush, Michael Moore. (117 min.)
Sterritt **** Moore's documentary takes on the Bush administration with regard to everything from terrorism to the president's character. The results pack a political wallop whether or not you agree with Moore, and they'd be even stronger if his narration didn't have a cloying quality that touches the heart more than the mind.
Staff **** Trenchant, caustic, revealing.
Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: 14 scenes. Profanity: 8 instances. Drugs: 1 instance of smoking.
Director: Ferzan Ozpetek. With Giovanna Mezzogiorno, Raoul Bova. (102 min.)
A couple's chance encounter with a disoriented old man leads to changes in their lives, the uncovering of the stranger's past, and the woman's new relationship with an attractive neighbor she's been watching through an apartment window. Gentle, if too sentimental. In Italian with subtitles.
Directors: Carlos Sandoval, Catherine Tambini. With residents of Farmingville, N.Y. (78 min.)
Sterritt **** Documentary about a Long Island town where violence flared when Mexican laborers moved there and waited for work on public streets and sidewalks. Illuminating and alarming. In English and Spanish with subtitles.
Director: Bob Smeaton. With Janis Joplin, The Grateful Dead, Buddy Guy. (90 min.)
Sterritt *** Documentary about a 1970 train tour that brought mini-Woodstocks to Canadian locales. Full of bright colors and tuneful sounds.
Director: Peter Segal. With Adam Sandler, Drew Barrymore, Sean Astin. (99 min.)
Sterritt * A womanizer (Sandler) falls for a woman (Barrymore) whose short-term memory has been destroyed, which means each time he woos her is the first time for her. This could have been a tasty romantic comedy but the filmmakers swamp the story with tasteless jokes, phony animal stunts, and bathroom humor. Forget it.
Staff *** Lighthearted, fun, sweet but corny.
Sex/Nudity: 19 instances. Violence: 10 scenes. Profanity: 18 instances, mostly mild. Drugs: 10 instances.
Director: Marc Forster. With Johnny Depp, Kate Winslet, Dustin Hoffman. (113 min.)
Sterritt *** Depp plays the Scottish playwright who dreamed up "Peter Pan" after befriending some children. The story takes 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: Forest Whitaker. With Katie Holmes,
Michael Keaton, Marc Blucas. (105 min.)
Staff *** Freshman Samantha Mackenzie (Holmes), the president's daughter, just wants to be accepted at college. But she keeps ending up in the tabloids, vexing Mom and Dad during an election year. This storybook tale shares a similar plot to "Chasing Liberty," but it's more believable and the father-daughter scenes are sometimes touching, with Keaton strict, but surprisingly laid-back, as president. By M.K. Terrell
Sex/Nudity: 7 instances of innuendo. Violence: 3 instances. Profanity: 7 mild expressions. Drugs: 5 scenes with drinking.
Director: John Moore. With Dennis Quaid, Giovanni Ribisi, Miranda Otto. (113 min.)
Sterritt *** The crash and rebuilding of an oil-company plane that goes down in the Gobi Desert, where constant threats range from sandstorms to smugglers, produces effective action, solid suspense, plus enough clichés to equal the grains of Gobi sand that fill the screen.
Director: Joseph Ruben. With Julianne Moore, Dominic West. (91 min.)
Staff ** Telly Paretta's grief over her son, who had passed away a little over a year earlier, is replaced by angry despair as she learns that even those closest to her deny that her child ever existed. Telly's unrelenting search for the truth delivers a few good jumps and allows Julianne Moore to display her acting prowess. By Gabino Villanueva
Sex/Nudity: 2 mild innuendos. Violence: 14 instances. Profanity: 20 expressions. Drugs: 4 instances of drinking.
Director: Lars von Trier. With Lars von Trier, Jorgen Leth, Patrick Bauchau. (90 min.)
Sterritt **** In one of his most ingenious cinematic stunts, Trier digs out an experimental short called "The Perfect Human," directed by Leth in 1967, and asks his former mentor to remake it five times in accord with instructions designed to guarantee bad outcomes, unless Leth manages to make a virtue of adversity. Funny, ornery, and ultimately inspiring. In English, Danish, French, and Spanish with English subtitles.
Director: Michael Pressman. With Michael Pressman, Lisa Chess. (95 min.)
Sterritt ** Comedy-drama based on Pressman's actual production of the play "Frankie and Johnny at the Clair de Lune" with his wife Chess in a leading role. Modest, amusing, unmemorable.
Director: Barbara Albert. With Kathrin Resetarits, Georg Friedrich, Ursula Strauss. (110 min.)
Sterritt *** Ties of family and friendship are tested in the aftermath of two awful accidents. The parallel stories don't always dovetail smoothly, but the atmosphere is powerful. In German with subtitles.
Director: Peter Berg. With Billy Bob Thornton, 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 plays Coach Gaines of the Odessa-Permian Panthers, whose pep talks mitigate the fanaticism pouring from the stands. Berg treats the sports-movie conventions with freshness. By M.K. Terrell
Sex/Nudity: 4 instances. Violence: 11 instances. Profanity: 34, mostly mild expressions. Drugs: 7 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. Spiced with fascinating information about the long history of chess between human and mechanical opponents.
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.
Director: Pete Hewitt. With Breckin Meyer, Jennifer Love Hewitt, voice of Bill Murray. (80 min.)
Sterritt * The cat from Jim Davis's popular comic strip copes with a new dog in the household while his owner woos a pretty veterinarian. The blend of live action and animation is competent, but the mean-spirited screenplay has more sour meows than laughs.
Director: Andrew Repasky McElhenny. With Melissa Elizabeth Forgione. (81 min.)
Sterritt * Very loose adaptation of the notorious 1928 novel about three lovers obsessed with one another. Bataille was a serious philosopher as well as a sensation-seeking writer, but you'd never guess his provocative ideas from this. Contains explicit sex.
Director: Mamoru Oshii. With voices of Akio Ôtsuka, Atsuko Tanaka. (99 min.)
Sterritt ** In the not-so-distant future, a cyborg - partly human, mostly machine - investigates bizarre events involving female robots manufactured for sexual purposes. Ingeniously crafted with flashes of intelligence, if not very memorable. In Japanese and Cantonese with subtitles.
Sex/Nudity: at least 1 innuendo. Violence: 26 instances of intense violence. Profanity: 10 instances. Drugs: at least 4 instances.
Director: Luke Greenfield. With Emile Hirsch, Elisha Cuthbert, Timothy Olyphant. (110 min.)
Sterritt ** A porn actress (Cuthbert) moves in next-door to a geeky high-school student (Hirsch) who needs to loosen up a bit, and after many misadventures they affect each other's lives for the better. Olyphant steals the show as a cheeky porn producer. The rest is gimmicky and predictable, except for a clever surprise near the end.
Director: Ron Mann. With Woody Harrelson, Natalie Merchant, Dave Matthews. (78 min.)
Sterritt ** Documentary about a Harrelson tour of West Coast colleges touting vegetarian food and yogic exercise. It's like a dull drive with a bunch of leftover flower children.
Director: Nick Hamm. With Greg Kinnear, Rebecca Romijn-Stamos, Robert De Niro. (102 min.)
Sterritt * Strange things happen when a couple's little boy dies and a scientist offers to replace him through an illegal cloning procedure. The most outlandish cloning in the picture is Hamm's attempt to reincarnate Stanley Kubrick, dressing up the evil-child plot with enough wide-angle shots and symmetrical framings to hammer home the message that "The Shining" needs no replication. How could such a high-octane cast produce such low-octane horror?
Sex/Nudity: 1 scene with innuendo. Violence: 14 graphic scenes. Profanity: 17 expressions, mostly mild. Drugs: 3 instances of drinking.
Director: Ishiro Honda. With Takashi Shimura, Sachio Sakai, Momoko Kochi. (98 min.)
Sterritt **** It took 50 years for this 1954 classic to reach American screens in its original Japanese version, deleting Hollywood scenes added in 1956 and restoring 40 minutes of previously trimmed material. The result is monster-movie mayhem with a serious message, explicitly suggesting that nuclear tests could stir up physical and psychological demons - symbolized by the title creature - uncontrollable by an ill-prepared humanity. In Japanese with English subtitles.
Director: George Butler. With John Kerry, Max Cleland, voice of Ben Affleck. (92 min.)
Sterritt **** Documentary about Kerry's experiences as a soldier and protester during the Vietnam era. The absorbing account reflects Butler's long experience with nonfiction film, going back to "Pumping Iron," the picture that put Arnold Schwarzenegger on the map in 1977.
Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: 11 war-related instances. Profanity: 7 instances, mostly mild. Drugs: 4 smoking, 2 drinking.
Director: Tsai Ming-liang. With Shiang-chyi Chen, Tien Miao, Kang-Sheng Lee. (81 min.)
Sterritt **** Customers and employees - and maybe a ghost or two - wander through a movie palace showing a huge historical epic. This is a funny, sad, stunningly smart movie about the end of movies, made in Tsai's inimitable style. No movie lover should miss it. In Mandarin and Taiwanese with subtitles.
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 will leave you hanging by a thread. By Gabino Villanueva
Sex/Nudity: 2 instances. Violence: 16 instances. Profanity: 3 mild expressions. Drugs: 3 instances of drinking and smoking.
Director: Robert Stone. With Patricia Hearst, Russ Little, Michael Bortin. (89 min.)
Sterritt **** Riveting documentary about the 1970s kidnapping of the young California newspaper heiress by the so-called Symbionese Liberation Army, a group of radical activists she was then accused of joining, aiding, and abetting. A must-see account that casts a harshly illuminating light on a key period of recent American history.
Director: Mike Bencivenga. With Anthony LaPaglia, Caroleen Feeney, Eric Stoltz. (93 min.)
Sterritt ** Bittersweet story of a man whose life and love affair are wrecked by alcoholism. The first hour is eloquent and true. Once the story takes its big turn toward tragedy, though, it becomes predictable.
Director: Danny Leiner. With John Cho, Kal Penn, 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.
Director: Alfonso Cuarón. WIth Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson. (141 min.)
Sterritt *** The third installment of the series is darker than its predecessors, with Harry stalked by a killer who's escaped from prison, and haunted by ghostly guardians called Dementors who may be more dangerous than the murderer. A horror movie for mature kids.
Staff *** Spellbinding, spooky, not for kids.
Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: 12 scenes. Profanity: 8 mild expressions. Drugs: 3 instances of drinking.
Director: John Duigan. With Charlize Theron, Penelope Cruz, Stuart Townsend. (120 min.)
Staff **1/2 A man and two women engage in a sexually hedonistic lifestyle in 1930s Paris until the Nazis begin to threaten Europe. This story of collaboration vs. resistance vs. just plain surviving in wartime is visually ravishing. But the cinema has often treated these themes, and with more originality - witness this year's "Bon Voyage." By M.K. Terrell
Sex/Nudity: 21 instances. Violence: 12 scenes. Profanity: 2 expressions. Drugs: 36 instances of smoking and drinking.
Director: Guillermo Del Toro. With Ron Perlman, Selma Blair, John Hurt. (122 min.)
Sterritt *** Yet another troubled superhero fights the forces of darkness, and he's just right for the job, since humans snatched him from an evil dimension when he was a baby. The screenplay has flashes of real wit, and Perlman is perfect in the title role.
Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: 26 instances of intense violence. Profanity: 26 instances, mostly mild. Drugs: 12 instances.
Director: Bret Wood. With Rick Prelinger, Mike Vraney, Martin Yant, Helena Reckitt. (91 min.)
Sterritt **** A nonfiction look at the history of scare-mongering "safety" films. The interviews with Prelinger are especially smart, discussing the ideological agendas frequently lurking in "educational" materials.
Director: Zhang Yimou. With Jet Li, Maggie Cheung Man-Yuk, Zhang Ziyi, Tony Leung. (99 min.)
Sterritt **** In ancient China a warrior visits an emperor to receive praise for killing the ruler's enemies. He describes his exploits, then faces unexpected questions that cast a new light on everything we've seen. Pure cinema. In Mandarin with subtitles.
Staff *** Rich, rewarding, intricately woven.
Sex/Nudity: 3 Violence: 15 scenes. Profanity: None. Drugs: 1 scene.
Director: Joe Johnston. With Viggo Mortensen, Omar Sharif, Zuleikha Robinson. (136 min.)
Sterritt ** A rough-riding cowboy (Mortensen) leaves a Wild West show to enter himself and his mustang in a high-stakes race across the Middle Eastern sands, hindered and helped by a sheikh (Sharif) who has an interest in the outcome. You might expect "Seabiscuit" meets "Lawrence of Arabia," but overall, it's a big, beautiful bore.
Director: Chuck Parello. With C. Thomas Howell, Nicholas Turturro, Lin Shaye. (96 min.)
Sterritt * Melodrama based on a real serial-killer case. Sordid and sleazy, although the lead performances are hard to fault.
Sterritt **** Director: Michael Mayer. With Colin Farrell, Robin Wright Penn, Dallas Roberts. (97 min.)
A gay cook discovers he's straight, a gay journalist stays gay, and both strive to form a stable, lasting family with an eccentric woman they've befriended. Michael Cunningham's screenplay is less complex than his novel but there is much compassion here, and Roberts's acting is excellent.
Director: Paola di Florio. With Sander Vanocur, Gloria Steinem, John Lewis. (75 min.)
Sterritt **** Amazing footage from the glory period of the civil rights movement energizes this documentary about Viola Gregg Liuzzo, a white woman whose 1965 murder by white supremacists in Alabama helped push Congress to pass voting rights legislation.
Directors: Will Finn, John Sanford. With voices of Judi Dench, Roseanne Barr. (76 min.)
Sterritt *** A money-hungry villain wants to take over an old-fashioned dairy farm, and a nervy cow organizes fellow animals to save the day. Old-style animation slows down after a snappy start, but it's lively enough to keep kids from fidgeting too much.
Staff *** Delightful, fresh, great songs.
Sex/Nudity: 2 mild instances. Violence: 10 scenes. Drugs: 1 scene with drinking.
Director: Terry George. With Don Cheadle, Nick Nolte, Joaquin Phoenix. (121 min.)
Sterritt ** Fact-based drama about a hotel manager who starts a sort of "Schindler's list" by giving shelter to displaced members of the Tutsi tribe under siege from Hutu fighters. The subject is crucially important, but the movie dilutes its impact with by-the-numbers filmmaking, and Cheadle's one-note performance displays few of his acting gifts.
Director: Zhang Yimou. With Zhang Ziyi, Andy Lau, Takeshi Kaneshiro. (119 min.)
Sterritt **** Love, treachery, and skulduggery zing like flashing blades through this thorny comedy-drama-romance, punctuated by 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.
Directors: Deb Ellis and Denis Mueller. With Howard Zinn, Matt Damon. (78 min.)
Sterritt **** Documentary celebrating the career of a longtime Boston University professor who feels intellectuals should be active, engaged citizens rather than repeaters of textbook truisms. Thoughtful, exciting, moving.
Directors: Nickolas Perry, Harry Thomason. With Paul Begala, James Carville. (90 min.)
Sterritt **** A history of the Clinton presidency, emphasizing the question of whether there was a vast conspiracy to bring it down. Riveting and revealing whatever views you have on the partisan issues involved.
Director: David O. Russell. With Dustin Hoffman, Naomi Watts, Jude Law, Lily Tomlin. (106 min.)
Sterritt ** A young environmentalist feuds with a corporate yuppie and gets involved with three "existential detectives" in an effort to unravel the random coincidences that appear to be dogging his trail. Russell's fourth feature has lots of characters, almost as many ideas, and not enough emotional power to make all this cohere.
Staff *** Quirky, frenetic, ambitious.
Sex/Nudity: 5 instances. Violence: 7 instances. Profanity: 97 expressions. Drugs: 2 drinking scenes.
Director: Dan Harris. With Sigourney Weaver, Emile Hirsch, Jeff Daniels. (111 min.)
Sterritt **** Harris's debut drama shows rare promise as it tracks the engrossing emotional life of a suburban family, which goes through a string of crises after a tragic event that has a shattering impact on all concerned. While the ultimate message is hopeful, Harris's screenplay pulls no punches in its tragicomic portrait of two generations facing challenges they'd assumed their all-too-comfortable circumstances would shield them from. Superbly acted.
Director: Gabriele Salvatores. With Mattia Di Pierro, Giuseppe Cristiano. (108 min.)
Sterritt *** Near the small Sicilian village where he lives, a boy stumbles on a dank earthen hole where another child is being forced to live - an enigma he starts to solve when he learns that others in his region may be playing a part in it. Excellent screenwriting and camera work join superb acting to make this a stirring story of mystery and the price some children pay for their innocence and trust. In Italian with English subtitles.
Director: Jessica Yu. With voices of Dakota Fanning, Larry Pine. (81 min.)
Sterritt **** Henry Darger was a troubled, secluded man who worked at menial jobs and spent his spare time creating extraordinary art works and a humongous novel, all about a mythical war between little girls and their evil opponents. Yu's documentary brings them to life via animation and voiceovers, which may not please Darger purists but contributes to a deeply felt love letter celebrating his astonishing work.
Director: Brad Bird. With voices of Craig T. Nelson, Holly Hunter. (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: Per Fly. With Ulrich Thomsen, Lisa Werlinder, Lars Brygmann, Ghita Norby. (110 min.)
Sterritt *** A man's life grows more complicated and less pleasant after he inherits his father's factory in Denmark and finds that firings and cutbacks are the only way to keep it profitable. The class-conscious story couldn't be more timely. In Danish, Swedish, Norwegian, and French with subtitles.
Director: John Crowley. With Cillian Murphy, Colin Farrell, Colm Meaney. (106 min.)
Sterritt ** Crime, romance, and uneasy friendship play roughly equal roles in this Irish comedy-drama about a long list of characters including an egotistical cop, a troubled bus driver, a May-December couple, and a gaggle of supermarket employees. It's surprising that such an interesting cast end up making such a small, unmemorable splash.
Director: Patrice Leconte. With Sandrine Bonnaire, Fabrice Luchini. (104 min.)
Sterritt *** A woman spills her soul to a new psychoanalyst, and then learns he's really an accountant whose office she entered by mistake. Leconte justifies his vaunted reputation by lending freshness and feeling to what could have been a gimmicky tragicomedy. In French with subtitles.
Director: Kristian Levring. With Janet McTeer, Olympia Dukakis, Brenda Fricker. (109 min.)
Sterritt ***The time is 1924, the place is a faraway jungle settlement, and the main characters are employees of an English company driving one another slowly bonkers as their passions and tempers rise. Imagine a sexually charged "Heart of Darkness" and you'll have an idea of what this melodrama is like.
Director: Alex Proyas. With Will Smith, Bridget Moynahan, James Cromwell. (115 min.)
Sterritt *** In a future when robots have become standard equipment, a cop investigates a possible murder committed by one of them, even though the "laws of robotics" makes such violence impossible. The movie has a few ideas on its mind, but it's far more interested in action, much of which strains credibility. Still, science-fiction fans may find it an instant classic of its kind.
Staff *** Thoughtful, classy, engaging.
Sex/Nudity: 2 scenes. Violence: 15 scenes. Profanity: 34 expressions. Drugs: 2 scenes of drinking.
Director: Valeria Bruni Tedeschi. With Valeria Bruni Tedeschi. (116 min.)
Sterritt *** Difficult facts, tempting fancies, and complicated memories affect the outwardly comfortable life of a French-Italian woman whose conscience is nagged by the unearned wealth she was born into. A diverting dramatic comedy. In French with subtitles.
Director: Ra'anan Alexandrowicz. With Siyabonga Melongisi Shibe, Sandra Schonwald. (87 min.)
Sterritt *** A young African makes a pilgrimage to Israel on behalf of the small, underdeveloped village he hails from, but falls into the clutches of a stranger who offers food and shelter in return for hard labor at menial jobs. Then he realizes he can play this game too, making money off unfortunate fellows like himself and running a risk of never reaching Jerusalem at all. The movie has multicultural insights. In English, Hebrew, and Zulu with English subtitles.
Director: Kevin Smith. With Ben Affleck, George Carlin, Liv Tyler, Jennifer Lopez. (102 min.)
Staff ** Ollie Trinke works as a public-relations executive in Manhattan, has a child on the way. But when his beautiful wife dies in the delivery room, Ollie is forced to leave behind his glamorous life and move in with his father in a New Jersey town. Not a life-changing movie, but it serves up some tender and lighthearted moments. By Lisa Connors
Staff **1/2 Funny, well acted, predictable.
Sex/Nudity: 2 instance of innuendo. Violence: 1 scene of a mother's death during labor. Profanity: 12 instances. Drugs: 18 scenes with drinking or smoking.
Director: Christopher Erskin. With Cedric the Entertainer, Lil' Bow Wow. (97 min.)
Staff ** To have any hope of winning the Family of the Year award, Nate Johnson (Cedric the Entertainer) must make peace with his estranged wife and pack everybody up for a three-day drive to the family reunion. "Family of Five in Search of a Script" might be a better title, but this road picture gets better as it goes along. By M. K. Terrell
Sex/Nudity: 6 instances of innuendo. Violence: 8 mild scenes. Profanity: 4 mild expressions. Drugs: 2 instances.
Director: Chris Delaporte. With voices of Kirsten Dunst, Anjelica Huston. (105 min.)
Sterritt ** France's first computer-animated feature follows the adventures of a young woman dwelling in a future world that may die if she doesn't learn to probe its secrets. The story is a standard science-fantasy fable, but the visual effects are impressive.
Director: Quentin Tarantino. With Uma Thurman, David Carradine. (96 min.)
Sterritt *** The vengeful heroine wiped out most of the people who massacred her wedding party in the first portion of the "Kill Bill" saga; in the second, she goes after Bill, the instigator. Although it has plenty of raging kung fu violence, Vol. 2 is driven far more by character and dialogue, and eventually unveils gentle and even endearing scenes.
Staff *** Inventive, exhilarating, better than Vol. 1. Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: 13 scenes with extreme violence. Profanity: 32 instances, mostly harsh. Drugs: 9 instances of smoking, 5 with drinking, 1 with drugs.
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 is fairly staid, but it's hard to imagine how Neeson could be better, and the subject is handled with tact.
Sex/Nudity: 48 instances. Violence: 4 Profanity: 13 expressions. Drugs: 4 instances of drinking and smoking.
Director: Bent Hamer. With Tomas Nörstrom, Joachim Calmeyer. (92 min.)
Sterritt *** Marvelously wry comedy about the odd relationship between a crusty Norwegian man and a snoopy Swedish researcher who's assigned to sit in his kitchen and chart his movements there. Acted and directed with a savvy understatement. In Norwegian and Swedish with English subtitles.
Director: Antoine Fuqua. With Clive Owen, Keira Knightley, Ioan Gruffud. (129 min.)
Sterritt * The unflinching monarch leads his followers against the Saxons, the Roman Empire, and the Roman Catholic church. Focusing on what the filmmakers claim was the real Arthur, the movie gives us a Round Table and Excalibur but no magic, no mystery, no mythic resonance.
Staff *1/2 Melodramatic, cliche, gritty.
Sex/Nudity: 5 instances. Violence: 17 scenes. Profanity: 11 mild expressions. Drugs: 3 instances of drinking.
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 from the believable vignettes of fire fighting and the job's pressures on home life. By M.K. Terrell
Director: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen. With Tom Hanks, Irma P. Hall, Marlon Wayans. (104 min.)
Sterritt ** This remake of the classic 1955 comedy focuses on a criminal who rents a room in a sleepy Mississippi town and assembles a team to steal a stash of cash from a local casino - unless his kindly but feisty landlady catches on. The Coen brothers expect us to laugh at bathroom humor and caricatures both coarse and unoriginal.
Staff **1/2 Well casted, amusing, long.
Sex/Nudity: 2 innuendos. Violence: 12 scenes. Profanity: 110 instances of strong language. Drugs: 16 scenes with drinking or smoking.
Director: Claude Miller. With Ludivine Sagnier, Jean-Pierre Marielle, Nicole Garcia. (104 min.)
Sterritt *** Modern retelling of Anton Chekhov's play "The Seagull," focusing on a would-be movie director, his actress girlfriend, and his mother's boyfriend, a famous filmmaker. Splendidly directed. In French with subtitles.
Director: Pen-Ek Ratanaruang. With Tadanobu Asano, Sinitta Boonyasak. (104 min.)
Sterritt **** A suicidal man shakes off his self-destructive urges after he meets a grief-stricken young woman. Moody, atmospheric, and bewitching. In Thai, Japanese, and English, with subtitles.
Director: Jeff Nathanson. With Matthew Broderick, Alec Baldwin, Joan Cusack. (93 min.)
Staff ** A clunky comedy based on the real-life 1980s tragedy of a Hollyweird hanger-on. Struggling writer Steven Schats gets hired to direct his screenplay by a "producer" who is really an undercover FBI agent bent on ensnaring the Mafia. By Maud Dillingham
Sex/Nudity: 7 instances. Violence: 9 scenes. Profanity: 78 Drugs: at least 10 scenes of smoking and drinking.
Director: Peter Howitt. With Julianne Moore, Pierce Brosnan, Parker Posey. (87 min.)
Sterritt * Two top-notch divorce attorneys fall for each other while battling in the courtroom. Poor writing and directing.
Sex/Nudity: 4 scenes of innuendo, 2 of implied sex. Violence: Only threats. Profanity: 21 instances, mostly mild. Drugs: 10 scenes of drinking.
Director: Brad Silberling. With Jim Carrey, Meryl Streep, Billy Connolly. (108 min.)
Sterritt * The fictional author narrates peril-filled adventures of the Baudelaire orphans and their guardians, none of whom guards them very well. You needn't be per-Snickety to find this an unfortunate lemon of a movie, flawed by Carrey's overacting. Great set designs, though.
Director: David Petersen. With members of a Washington, D.C., church. (87 min.)
Sterritt *** Documentary about a small church that helps its African-American members face the challenges of ghetto life. Affecting, though not very artistic.
Director: Bart Everly. With Barney Frank, Henry Hyde, Michael Moore. (75 min.)
Sterritt **** Documentary about Barney Frank, the openly gay Massachusetts congressman whose own sex scandal didn't prevent him from being a major figure in the fight over whether President Bill Clinton should be impeached. Feisty, funny, and smart.
Director: Bruce Weber. With Marleine Bastien, Bruce Weber, Julie Christie. (78 min.)
Sterritt **** True is Weber's dog, and in this documentary-style "letter" the filmmaker/photographer ruminates on everything from Elizabeth Taylor to the miseries of war. It's all deliberately homemade and raggedy, along with the old-music score.
Director: Wes Anderson. With Bill Murray, Cate Blanchett, Owen Wilson. (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 selfconsciously quirky comedy is deepened by its rich performances, especially from Murray, who keeps getting better and better.
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 at New York's legendary Radio City Music Hall on a single night. See it with an open heart and a tapping toe.
Sex/Nudity: Some innuendo. Violence: 1 instance. Profanity: 8 expressions. Drugs: 1 instance of drinking, 4 of smoking.
Director: Nick Hurran. With Brittany Murphy, Holly Hunter, Kathy Bates. (98 min.)
Sterritt ** A would-be TV producer uses her 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.
Director: Thom Andersen. With clips from Los Angeles movies. (169 min.)
Sterritt **** The history of Los Angeles as a movie character, focusing on the political implications as well as the entertainment values of the film scenes the director explores. Smart, funny, stimulating.
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.
Director: Larry Blamire. With Andrew Parks, Susan McConnell, Brian Howe. (96 min.)
Sterritt ** An interstellar husband and wife crash-land their spaceship on Earth. Intended as a parody of B-movie fantasies from the '50s, this satire is perilously close to the pop-culture trash it aims to mock.
Director: Shainee Gabel. With John Travolta, Scarlett Johansson, Gabriel Macht. (119 min.)
Sterritt *** Travolta reinvents his screen persona once again, playing a dissolute codger who lives with a former student from his English-professor days (Macht) in a ramshackle Louisiana house that takes on a new atmosphere when its new owner (Johansson) decides to reside there too. Rambling, meandering, likable.
Director: Yann Samuell. With Guillaume Canet, Marion Cotillard. (90 min.)
Sterritt *** Two kids play a nonstop game of daring each other to do impulsive things, then continue it as adults with complicated results for their could-be love affair. Much of the style strains too hard to be cute. In French with subtitles.
Director: Robert Parigi. With Desmond Harrington, Melissa Sagemiller, Rip Torn. (84 min.)
Sterritt *** A writer becomes obsessed with an anatomically correct female doll he's modeled on a co-worker, and soon the artificial woman takes over his mind. Inspired by Alfred Hitchcock classics like "Psycho" and "Vertigo," with a violence Hitch would have found way beyond what's necessary. Horror fans will find effective shivers, though.
Director: Brad Anderson. With Christian Bale, Jennifer Jason Leigh. (107 min.)
Sterritt *** Effectively weirded-out chiller about a factory worker who may - or may not - be a cold-blooded killer. Bale is brilliant.
Sex/Nudity: 6 instances. Violence: 11 instances. Profanity: 69 expressions, mostly strong. Drugs: 10 instances of drinking and smoking.
Director: Maryo J. de los Reyes. With Albert Martinez, Lorna Tolentino. (124 min.)
Sterritt ** A 9-year-old boy in the Philippines faces his dysfunctional family with an indomitable spirit. Amiable, though much too long. In Tagalog with subtitles.
Director: Tony Scott. With Denzel Washington, Christopher Walken. (146 min.)
Sterritt ** An alcoholic, Bible-reading assassin becomes the bodyguard of a little Mexican girl whose wealthy parents fear she might become a victim of kidnappers. The first hour is sharply directed, character-driven drama that ranks with Scott's best work. Then he lapses into his usual mode filling the screen with sadistic violence.
Sex/Nudity: 2 instances of innuendo, 2 of implied sex. Violence: 24 instances of violence. Profanity: 20 instances, mostly harsh. Drugs: 16 scenes with smoking, 11 with drinking.
Director: Jonathan Demme. With Denzel Washington, Meryl Streep. (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.
Director: Jim Van Bebber. With Marc Pitman, Marcelo Games, Michelle Briggs. (95 min.)
Sterritt ** Docudrama about the group of late-'60s murderers, emphasizing rank-and-file members usually obscured by Charles Manson's psychotic shadow. Harrowing and imaginatively made.
Director: Amir Naderi. With Sara Paul, Trevor Moore, Rebecca Nelson. (90 min.)
Sterritt ** Naderi completes his "New York City Trilogy" with a look at the life of a crossword-puzzle guru trying to break her record for the most squares filled in during a single day, working mostly on the subway. The drama is as obsessive as its heroine.
Director: Joshua Marston. With Catalina Sandino Moreno. (101 min.)
A young Colombian woman agrees to smuggle a large load of narcotics secreted in her stomach in order to reach the US and escape hardships back home. Timely messages about oppression and opportunity come poignantly through. In English and Spanish with subtitles.
Director: George Hickenlooper. With Rodney Bingenheimer, Courtney Love. (94 min.)
Sterritt **** Bingenheimer was famous for 15 minutes as a rock-scene fellow traveler in the '60s, and drew acclaim for his ability to discover new bands via his Los Angeles radio show. Like its star, this film is quietly sincere and compulsively watchable.
Director: Jacob Aaron Estes. With Rory Culkin, Joshua Peck, Scott Mechlowicz. (89 min.)
Sterritt *** An adolescent prank goes horribly wrong during a boy's birthday party near a small Pacific Northwest town. Imagine a bolder "Bully" blended with a more probing "River's Edge" and you'll have some idea of this little drama's dramatic power.
Director: Mark Waters. With Lindsay Lohan, Tina Fey, Rachel McAdams. (97 min.)
Sterritt *** "Clueless" meets "Election" in this sharp-eyed comedy about a girl who enters a regular high school after years of homeschooling, wangles her way into a snooty clique, and thereby betrays the nerds who have befriended her. Fey's screenplay is incredibly smart, and Lohan is captivating.
Staff *** Fun, fast-paced, sly observations.
Sex/Nudity: 9 instances of innuendo. Violence: 3 scenes. Profanity: 49 mild expressions. Drugs: 2 instances of drinking.
Director: Jay Roach. With Robert De Niro, Barbra Streisand, Ben Stiller, Dustin Hoffman. (115 min.)
Sterritt * Sequel to "Meet the Parents," with an engaged couple hoping their respective parents - including a tough-as-nails CIA retiree on one side, a touchy-feely sex therapist on the other - will get along. De Niro and Hoffman almost give comic life to this brainless, vulgar farce.
Director: Michael Radford. With Al Pacino, Jeremy Irons, Joseph Fiennes. (138 min.)
Sterritt ** Shakespeare's play about a Jewish moneylender has reached the screen many times, and in this exquisitely filmed adaptation Pacino is as vivid a Shylock as we're likely to see, flirting with over-the-top emotion - wholly appropriate for the character - while remaining insightful enough to avoid sins of overacting. Despite all the scholarly excuses for this drama, though, it's shot through with outrageously anti-Semitic attitudes, which raises the question of why Radford and company wanted to film it in the first place.
Directors: Bruce Sinofsky, Joe Berlinger. With James Hetfield, Lars Ulrich. (130 min.)
Sterritt ** A veteran team of nonfiction filmmakers chronicles Metallica's effort to resurrect itself after various setbacks. The quartet tries to do something about its failings, employing a traveling psychotherapist whose interventions and ruminations are the film's most amusing moments.
Director: Clint Eastwood. With Clint Eastwood, Hilary Swank, Morgan Freeman. (129 min.)
Sterritt **** Eastwood gives his deepest performance ever as an aging gym owner who reluctantly agrees to train a female prizefighter, played by Swank in excellent form. Going all the way with both triumph and tragedy, it's as bold as it is engrossing.
Director: Gavin O'Connor. With Kurt Russell, Patrick O'Brien, Patricia Clarkson. (136 min.)
Sterritt ** A hard-driving coach trains his hockey team for a difficult match against the Soviet squad in the Winter Olympics of 1980. The climactic game packs an action-filled wallop impossible to resist. But the movie doesn't convincingly meet its goal of turning a sports event - even this tantalizing match between cold-war foes - into an all-embracing metaphor for the American way.
Staff *** Gripping, inspiring, brings freshness to clichés.
Sex/Nudity: 1 innuendo Violence: 8 instances. Profanity: 13 mild expressions. Drugs: 2 scenes of drinking.
Director: Babette Mangolte. With Pierre Leymarie, Martin Lassalle. (89 min.)
Sterritt **** Documentary by cinematographer Mangolte about her effort to track down some of the actors in "Pickpocket," the 1959 masterpiece by Robert Bresson, who called his performers "models" because he didn't want regular acting to distract from the aesthetics of his films. Touching, wistful, and surprising. In French with subtitles.
Director: François Dupeyron. With Omar Sharif, Pierre Boulanger. (94 min.)
Sterritt ** The place is Paris, the time is the early 1960s, and the main characters are an elderly Turkish émigré and a Jewish adolescent who befriend each other in an era when camaraderie more readily trumped differences of age, ethnicity, and faith. While the story is sentimental, heartfelt acting makes its impact less manipulative. In French with English subtitles.
Director: Ousmane Sembène. With Fatoumata Coulibali, Aminata Dao. (124 min.)
Sterritt **** The title means "protection," which is what an African woman tries to give a small group of girls due to be circumcised according to tribal custom. Once again Sembène confirms his much-deserved reputation as Africa's greatest filmmaker. This sometimes harrowing, often delightful drama stands with his most compassionate works. In Wolof, Diola, Bambara, and French, with subtitles.
Director: Roger Michell. With Anne Reid, Daniel Craig, Peter Vaughan. (112 min.)
Sterritt ** An aging widow has an affair with a much younger man who's renovating the house of her married son. The drama is heartfelt but doesn't run very deep.
Director: Walter Salles. With Gael García Bernal, Mía Maestro. (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 violent activities Guevara became famous for in Cuba and elsewhere, but from a psychological angle it's a fascinating study. In Spanish with subtitles.
Staff **** Beautiful, compassionate, inspiring.
Sex/Nudity: 3 instances of innuendo. Violence: 3 scenes. Profanity: 50 expressions. Drugs:
Director: Charles Stone III. With Bernie Mac, Paul Sorvino, Angela Bassett. (104 min.)
Staff *** Milwaukee slugger Stan Ross (Mac) retires from baseball midseason after reaching 3,000 hits. Nine years later, statisticians discover that he scored only 2,997 hits. To be eligible for The Hall of Fame, Stan must shape up, return to the lineup as a real team player, and get three more hits - at age 47. The subtlety of Mac's acting in this coming-of-age comedy may surprise some fans. By M.K. Terrell
Director: Jared Hess. With Jon Heder, Tina Majorino, Efren Ramirez. (86 min.)
Sterritt *** Who would have guessed that a wildly refreshing take on the teenage-nerd genre would come from small-town Idaho, where the title character pushes for an equally uncharismatic friend to become president of their high-school student body? This minimalist comedy may not make you laugh out loud, but you'll be grinning with amazement at the quiet ingenuity of everyone concerned.
Director: Jon Turteltaub. With Nicolas Cage, Diane Kruger, Harvey Keitel. (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: Gregor Jordan. With Heath Ledger, Naomi Watts, Geoffrey Rush. (110 min.)
Sterritt ** The saga of a real-life outlaw whose violent skirmishes with lawmen made him a folk hero to many downtrodden Australians in the late 19th century. The cast works hard, but Jordan's directing is too ponderous to build dramatic energy.
Director: Ernest Dickerson. With DMX, David Arquette, Jennifer Sky, Michael Ealy. (82 min.)
Sterritt ** The rise and fall of an African-American drug dealer as perceived by a white writer who reads his diary after inadvertently witnessing his death. This throwback to the outmoded blaxploitation genre has little else to offer besides cheap and violent thrills.
Staff * Sloppy, retro, stylized.
Sex/Nudity: 7 instances. Violence: 13 instances. Profanity: 100 instances of strong language. Drugs: 10 instances of illicit drug use, 13 of smoking, 8 of drinking.
Director: Bilge Ebiri. With Kelly Miller, Tobi-Lyn Byers, Jonathan Uffelman. (85 min.)
Sterritt * A new employee is given a hard time from impish colleagues at the office. Alas, the movie is less clever than its characters.
Director: Dennie Gordon. With Ashley Olsen, Mary-Kate Olsen, Eugene Levy. (85 min.)
Sterritt ** The popular Olsen twins play suburban teens having a wild Manhattan day. As one heads for a scholarship speech, the other sneaks off to a rock-video taping session. The cast is cute, but the comedy isn't as captivating as it sets out to be.
Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: 7 slapstick scenes. Profanity: 4 expressions. Drugs: 1 scene with drinking.
Director: Hugo Rodríguez. With Diego Luna, Marta Belaustegui, Lucas Crespi. (90 min.)
Sterritt **** A diamond thief, a computer geek spying on the woman next door, and a barber with a dead customer in his chair are among the characters of this quick-moving Mexico City caper movie. Supercharged with an ingenuity that "Run Lola Run" once had a patent on. In Spanish with subtitles.
Director: Chazz Palminteri. With Susan Sarandon, Penélope Cruz, Robin Williams. (96 min.)
Sterritt * A lonely divorcee, an eccentric old man, and a squabbling couple are among the characters of this Christmas Eve comedy-drama. Santa Claus's bag couldn't hold as many clichés as the screenplay dishes out.
Director: Dagur Kari. With Tomas Lemarquis, Throster Anna Fridriksdóttir. (88 min.)
Sterritt *** The title character is a very bright teen who seems unable to get along with his family, his teachers, or anyone in his Icelandic town except a pretty new girl whose father doesn't like him. A superior entry in the perennial teenage-misfit genre. In Icelandic with English subtitles.
Director: Nick Cassavetes. With Gena Rowlands, James Garner, Rachel McAdams, Ryan Gosling. (115 min.)
Sterritt ** An aging man reads a lengthy love story to a debilitated old woman, and gradually we realize its profound relevance to their own former lives. Rowlands is superb, as usual, and Garner partners her with the grace of a dancer.
Staff ** Nostalgic, contrived, sentimental.
Sex/Nudity: 3 instances. Violence: 2 scenes. Profanity: 13 mild expressions. Drugs: 6 scenes of drinking, 3 of smoking.
Director: Jean-Luc Godard. With Judith Lerner, Ramos Garcia, 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 ending in paradise, a chunk of Swiss countryside. 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. In English, French, and Spanish, with subtitles.
Director: Steven Soderbergh. With George Clooney, Julia Roberts. (123 min.)
Sterritt *** Danny Ocean's gang expands to a dirty dozen when he decides to pull off three heists in three European cities - a twist on the "Ocean's Eleven" idea of robbing three casinos. The action is sparkling entertainment most of the way through. Too bad the picture indulges in occasional clichés to fill out its too-long running time.
Staff **1/2 Playful, improbable, fresh sequel.
Sex/Nudity: 1 scene of innuendo. Violence: 1 explosion. Profanity: 2 harsh expressions. Drugs: 6 scenes with cigarettes; 7 scenes with alcohol.
Director: Chris Kentis. With Blanchard Ryan, Daniel Travis, Saul Stein. (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.
Director: Robert Kane Pappas. With Mark Crispin Miller, Michael Moore. (84 min.)
Sterritt **** Eye-opening documentary about the growing shallowness of mass media as conglomerates buy news and entertainment outlets that choke off most of their competition. Get ready for a cultural wake-and-shake you won't forget for a long time.
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. Engaging.
Director: Robert Greenwald. With James Wolcott, Peter Hart, Al Franken. (77 min.)
Sterritt *** Documentary arguing exactly what the title indicates. 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.
Sex/Nudity: 1 instance of innuendo. Violence: 1 Profanity: 1 mild expression. Drugs: None.
Director: Adam Elliot, Chris Hinton, Florian Baxmeyer, Lionel Bailliu, Stefan Arsenijevic. With an internationally diverse cast. (86 min.)
Sterritt *** These short movies were nominated in the Academy Award race. The best animated item is "Harvie Krumpet," a dark Australian comedy about a social misfit; the best live-action entry is "Squash," a French drama about two macho businessmen having a psychological duel on the squash court. Also here is the animated "Nibbles," about a Canadian fishing trip, the live-action Slovenian drama "(A) Torsion," about a farmer and a church choir, and "The Red Jacket," a German look at the vicissitudes of a coat that ends up in wartime Sarajevo. In English and other languages with English subtitles.
Directors: Mark Brian Smith, Tony Montana. With Troy Duffy, Willem Dafoe. (81 min.)
Sterritt **** Documentary about filmmaker Duffy, a Boston bartender whose first screenplay got bought by Miramax, then dumped into "turnaround" limbo, and finally made by someone else, flopping at the box office. The fault appears to lie with Duffy, but the movie takes such a strong stance against him that it's hard to be sure of anything except that this movie is a hilarious and harrowing cautionary tale.
Sex/Nudity: 9 instances. Violence: 3 Profanity: 253 expressions, mostly strong. Drugs: 50 instances of drinking and smoking.
Director: Jennifer Elster. With Jennifer Elster, Gale Harold, Larry Pine. (101 min.)
Sterritt ** A young artist meets a troubled but attractive man, and it's clear they could change each other's lives if they could overcome the psychological problems that weigh them down. This uneven drama might have been more effective if someone with more charisma than writer-director Elster had played the main character.
Director: Mel Gibson. With Jim Caviezel, Monica Bellucci, Sergio Rubini. (127 min.)
Sterritt ** An excruciatingly violent reenactment of Jesus' crucifixion. Gibson pays morbid attention to every gory detail, as if the suffering of the earthly Jesus were of central importance, rather than a precondition of his triumph over death. He also leaves the door open to anti-Semitic interpretations of the Jewish role in the death sentence, though Gibson has disavowed such interpretations. Technically, the picture is strong. In Aramaic, Hebrew, and Latin with English subtitles.
Staff **1/2 Brutal, excrutiatingly detailed violence.
Sex/Nudity: 1 instance of nudity. Violence: 24 scenes of intense violence. Profanity: No instances. Drugs: 4 scenes with drinking wine.
Director: Joel Schumacher. With Gerard Butler, Minnie Driver, Simon Callow. (141 min.)
Sterritt ** Hollywood adaptation of the Broadway smash about a demented fiend who skulks, slays, and sings in the Paris Opera's mysterious underbelly. The acting and crooning are sadly uneven, making this a shaky comeback vehicle for the old-fashioned screen musical.
Director: D.J. Mendel. With Cynthia J. Hopkins, Fred Neumann, Justine Priestley. (85 min.)
Richard Foreman scripted this comedy about a young woman whose experiences with a mad scientist blur the boundaries between reality and the imagination. One of a kind, turning Foreman trademarks such as self-satirical acting into powerful elements of an outlandish story.
Director: Robert Zemeckis. With voices of Tom Hanks, Nona Gaye, Eddie Deezen. (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 story is too implausible even for a fantasy, though, and its message of "belief" refers to 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: Shane Carruth. With Shane Carruth, David Sullivan, Casey Gooden. (78 min.)
Sterritt *** Young businessmen concoct a sort of time machine in a garage, then test its power to change their lives without conjuring up paradoxes that might call reality itself into question. The screenplay is convoluted but fascinating, flawed less by its built-in complexity than by the limitations of the characters' psychological depth.
Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: 4 instances. Profanity: 11, mostly mild expressions. Drugs: 3 instances of smoking, 4 of drinking.
Director: Martha Coolidge. With Julia Stiles, Luke Mably, Miranda Richardson. (111 min.)
An ordinary Midwestern student works at getting good grades and dreams of going to medical school - until she meets an enticing guy who's really the Prince of Denmark, visiting her college incognito. Its best asset is from-the-heart acting by a lively cast under Coolidge's cool, calm directing.
Staff **1/2 Charming, handsome, should be PG-13.
Sex/Nudity: 4 instances of innuendo. Violence: 2 scenes. Profanity: 7 mild instances. Drugs: 6 scenes with alcohol.
Director: Garry Marshall. With Anne Hathaway, Julie Andrews, Hector Elizondo. (120 min.)
Staff ** Princess Mia, princess of Genovia, must marry to inherit the throne. This lazily plotted "Bachelorette" ends with the least dramatic wedding ceremony ever. By Stephen Humphries.
Staff ** Fun, naive, unchallenging.
Sex/Nudity: 1 innuendo. Violence: 3 mild scenes. Profanity: none. Drugs: 2 scenes.
Director: Marc de Beaufort. With Escobar family members and associates. (78 min.)
Sterritt *** Documentary about the honcho of Colombia's notorious Medéllin drug cartel, who became a major political figure before his violent death. Gripping. In Spanish with subtitles.
Director: Dylan Kidd. With Laura Linney, Topher Grace, Marcia Gay Harden. (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 screenplay turns even the corny bits in unpredictable directions, and it's rare indeed to see such consistently superb ensemble acting.
Sex/Nudity: 7 Violence: None. Profanity: 34 expressions, mostly strong. Drugs: 6 instances of drinking and smoking.
Director: Jonathan Hensleigh. With John Travolta, Thomas Jane, Will Patton. (123 min.)
Sterritt ** A violent, well-acted vigilante tale about a muscleman (Jane) with a high IQ tracking down the suave psychopath (Travolta) who killed his family, calling it not "revenge" but "punishment," as if that makes his exploits morally admirable.
Sex/Nudity: 3 instances of innuendo, 1 of nudity. Violence: 18 instances of intense violence. Profanity: 27 instances, mostly harsh. Drugs: 11 scenes with smoking, 8 with drinking, 3 with both.
Director: Garry Marshall. With Kate Hudson, John Corbett, Joan Cusack. (119 min.)
Staff * Helen is a fashion-industry star who is entrusted with caring for the children of her dead sister. To her surprise, a dashing Lutheran pastor offers a hand. Great premise, but the ensuing trials and tribulations are as off-key as Hudson's karaoke scene. By Stephen Humphries
Sex/Nudity: 2 instances of innuendo, 1 sex scene. Violence: 1 mildly violent scene. Profanity: 8 instances, mostly mild. Drugs: 6 instances of drinking, 5 of smoking.
Director: Jacques Doillon. With Pascal Greggory, Najat Benssallem. (112 min.)
Sterritt **** A wealthy, manipulative Frenchman living in Morocco does a dance of neocolonialist seduction around a poor woman who can't decide whether she desires or despises him. True-as-life acting make this an acute psychological drama with an engrossing sociological subtext. In French and Arabic with English subtitles.
Director: Taylor Hackford. With Jamie Foxx, Kerry Washington, 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.
Director: Paul McGuigan. With Willem Dafoe, Paul Bettany, Brian Cox. (110 min.)
Sterritt ** Running for his life after committing a transgression at his monastery, a medieval priest falls in with a group of traveling players who try to solve a mystery they've stumbled on. The story never gathers much dramatic momentum despite an impressive cast and a lot of dank Middle Ages atmosphere.
Director: Christoffer Boe. With Nikolaj Lie Kaas, Maria Bonnevie, Nicolas Bro. (90 min.)
Sterritt *** A young man leaves his girlfriend for an attractive strange and then finds his entire world turning so unfamiliar he literally can't recognize it. The movie's message is that stories can push our emotional buttons even though we know they're only fiction. In Danish with subtitles.
Director: Gabriele Muccino. With Monica Bellucci, Fabrizio Bentivoglio. (125 min.)
Sterritt *** The romantic and domestic tribulations of a family roiled by an illicit affair the husband and father is having. Well acted, if overlong. In Italian with subtitles.
Director: Alexander B. Witt. With 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. By Tim Rauschenberger
Director: Stacy Peralta. With Greg Noll, Dave Kalama, Jeff Clark, Titus Kinimaka. (105 min.)
Sterritt *** Documentary about the history of surfing, with emphasis on surfers who seek out the biggest waves they can find. Just when you thought you were fed up with surfing movies, along comes one that makes it worth taking another plunge.
Directors: Elizabeth Holder, Xan Parker. With Louise Jones, Carol Warner Wilke. (87 min.)
Sterritt *** Informative, engrossing documentary about women working in high-powered Wall Street business firms where men traditionally hold the reins. To its credit, the movie has as little patience for nonessential nonsense as the women it portrays.
Director: Rithy Panh. With Vann Nath, and former guards in the S21 prison. (101 min.)
Sterritt **** The prison designated S21 was the scene of the slaughter of some 17,000 victims after the Khmer Rouge took control of Cambodia in 1975. Panh's documentary explores its history through statements and reenactments by former guards and the only two survivors he could find. The result is a history lesson both invaluable and horrific. In Khmer with subtitles.
Director: Guy Maddin. With Isabella Rossellini, Maria de Madeiros, . (99 min.)
Sterritt **** The time is 1933 and the heroine is a wealthy Canadian woman (Rossellini) who sponsors a contest to see which country can come up with the most melancholy tune. What brings brilliance to this zany premise is Maddin's mad style, which follows his frequent practice of making the movie look like a long-ago production that's been heedlessly stored under somebody's bed for the past few decades. Staff **** Quirky, intriguing, hauntingly beautiful.
Sex/Nudity: 9 instances, none graphic. Violence: 10 scenes, including a leg amputation. Profanity: 3 mild expressions. Drugs: 5 scenes with drinking, 1 with smoking.
Director: Abigail Honor. With Edward DeBonis, Vincent Maniscalco. (80 min.)
Sterritt *** Documentary about the efforts of a profoundly religious gay couple to get married in the Roman Catholic church. The movie is sociologically rich, if not very memorable in the personalities it depicts.
Directors: Till Schauder, Chris Valentien. With Till Terror, Kristy Jean Hulslander. (85 min.)
Sterritt ** A sidewalk Santa finds romance with a Christmas angel he meets on the job. Forgettable fun.
Director: Brian Dannelly. With Jena Malone, Macaulay Culkin, Mandy Moore. (92 min.)
Sterritt *** A pupil at an evangelical high school tries to reform a possibly gay friend by making love with him just once - and gets pregnant, earning the enmity of a hypocritical mean girl and her gang, who aren't very strong in the Christian compassion department. This teen-pic is open-minded enough to satirize its characters' foibles with wit and respect their ideals even as it shows how individuals may fall short.
Director: James Wan. With Leigh Whannell, Cary Elwes, 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 multiple-murder 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 strong expressions. Drugs: 2 instances of smoking.
Director: Raja Gosnell. With Sarah Michelle Gellar, Freddie Prinze Jr.. (88 min.)
Staff *1/2 A demented mastermind resuscitates monsters from the first film and the gang from Mystery Inc. must put them all down again. Lively performances and special effects add to the nostalgia, but it's much ado about very little. By M. K. Terrell
Staff ** Loud, fast, inappropriate for kids.
Sex/Nudity: 2 instances of innuendo. Violence: 14 instances, mostly mild. Profanity: 1 instances. Drugs: 2 scenes with smoking and drinking.
Director: Alejandro Amenábar. With Javier Bardem, Belén Rueda. (125 min.)
Sterritt *** Fact-based story of an articulate Spanish man who fights for the right to die after almost 30 years of lying paralyzed in bed while his family, and two women in his life, take care of him. Bardem is brilliant. In Spanish with subtitles.
Director: Jean-Claude Brisseau. With Sabrina Seyvecou, Coralie Revel. (115 min.)
Sterritt *** Deciding that sex appeal is power, two Frenchwomen test their theory in the Parisian business world. The sensationalistic beginning and needless mumbo-jumbo ending aside, this is a female buddy film with bite. In French with English subtitles.
Director: David Koepp. With Johnny Depp, Maria Bello, John Turturro. (97 min.)
Sterritt *** Once again, a thriller based on a Stephen King story focuses on a writer whose work gives him big trouble - in this case, sinister visits from a stranger who accuses him of plagiarizing a horror story. Depp gives a smart, subtle performance.
Staff **1/2 Foreboding, unmoving, splendid cast.
Sex/Nudity: 2 instances of innuendo. Violence: 15 scenes of violence, some of it in detail. Profanity: 18 instances. Drugs: 5 scenes of smoking, 3 with drinking.
Director: Jean-François Pouliot. With Raymond Bouchard. (110 min.)
Sterritt *** A tiny French-Canadian village desperately wants a factory to set up shop - but the factory won't cooperate unless a physician opens a practice in the community, so the townsfolk devise ruses to lure a big-city plastic surgeon who'd rather stay in Montreal The story isn't as funny as it tries to be, but it grows increasingly winning. In French with subtitles.
Director: Don Mancini. With Jennifer Tilly, John Waters, Redman, Tony Gardner. (87 min.)
Staff * The serial killer doll is back and the bodies - dismembered, decapitated, and incinerated - start to pile up. Tilly 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
Sex/Nudity: 16 instances. Violence: 25 Profanity: 72 Drugs: 5 instances of drinking and smoking.
Director: Christian Johnston. With George Calil, Wali Razaqi. (95 min.)
Sterritt ** Documentary-style melodrama about a young man who heads for Afghanistan with hopes of finding and killing Osama bin Laden to avenge his wife's death in the 9/11 attacks. The movie's heart is in the right place, but it looks regrettably bogus.
Director: Catherine Breillat. With Anne Parillaud, Grégoire Colin, Roxane Mesquida. (92 min.)
Sterritt ** Making a movie, a filmmaker guides two young performers toward a sex scene that has everyone nervous. Talky and mostly humorless.
Director: Peter Chelsom. With Richard Gere, Susan Sarandon, 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.
Sex/Nudity: 5 instances of innuendo. Violence: None. Profanity: 19 expressions, mostly mild. Drugs: 5 scenes of drinking.
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 bosslike 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 20-something Shaun gets dumped by his girlfriend, who doesn't want to spend the rest of her life at the pub with him. Hung over the next day, Shaun takes a while to realize that the morning commute is filled with blood-spattered undead in full B-lot swagger. 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: Spike Lee. With Anthony Mackie, Kerry Washington, Monica Bellucci. (139 min.)
Sterritt *** Fired from his job, a businessman starts earning money by impregnating would-be single mothers. This intensely topical satire tackles a wide range of important issues, from corporate whistle-blowing to the toll sexual license takes on stable family structures. It would be better if Lee had made it 50 minutes shorter.
Directors: Andrew Adamson, Kelly Asbury, Conrad Vernon. With voices of Mike Myers, Cameron Diaz. (92 min.)
Sterritt *** The gentle ogre is dragged by his new spouse, Fiona, to meet her royal mom and dad, stirring up trouble with a fairy godmother who's furious with him for beating Prince Charming in the race for Fiona's hand. At its best, this sequel draws up a new blueprint for all-ages animation, blending whimsy with edgy social satire.
Staff *** Worthy sequel, playful, slam-dunk finish.
Sex/Nudity: 6 instances of innuendo. Violence: 12 scenes. Profanity: None. Drugs: 3 instances of drinking, 1 of drugs
Director: Alexander Payne. With Paul Giamatti, Thomas Haden Church. (123 min.)
Sterritt **** Two friends, a recently divorced writer and a marriage-bound actor, spend a weekend together in rural California, running into more complications of the heart than they ever expected. This bittersweet comedy-drama positively crackles with wit, intelligence, and flair, and Giamatti cements his status as the smartest, savviest actor of his generation. Bravo.
Sex/Nudity: 4 instances. Violence: 1 instance. Profanity: Drugs: 17 scenes of drinking, 1 of smoking.
Director: Sabiha Sumar. With Kirron Kher, Aamir Malik, Arshad Mahmud. (95 min.)
Sterritt *** After being raised as a Muslim in Pakistan following her abduction in 1947 when Pakistan became a nation, a woman is tracked down by her Sikh brother from India, with grave repercussions for a number of people. Stirring on religious and humanitarian levels. In Punjabi with subtitles.
Director: John Sayles. With Chris Cooper, Daryl Hannah, Maria Bello. (129 min.)
Sterritt **** The handlers of a dopey Colorado politician hire an investigator to find out whether political enemies are planning dirty campaign tricks against their candidate, and before long the private eye stumbles onto a secret that's more sinister than anything he expected. Leaving aside Danny Huston's bland acting and a few other flaws, Sayles's politically charged drama raises a rousing number of issues.
Director: Julie Bertucelli. With Esther Gorintin, Dinara Drukarova. (102 min.)
Sterritt **** Three generations of Georgian women cope with life in their run-down Tbilisi apartment and worry in different ways about Otar, the man of the family, who illegally emigrated to Paris and has suddenly died there - a tragedy the younger women decide to keep a secret from his mother even if this means sending her bogus letters to keep up the illusion that he's alive. Everything about this drama enhances its pathos and humor. In Georgian and French with English subtitles.
Director: Kerry Conran. With Gwyneth Paltrow, Jude Law. (107 min.)
Sterritt * A newspaperwoman and a pilot race across continents to find an evil scientist and stop a robot invasion in 1939. This 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: Joe Nussbaum. With Mika Boorem, Alexa Vega. (97 min.)
Sterritt * Mischief reigns as a pajama party turns into a scavenger hunt, with rewards that seem less than trivial to girls on the verge of high school. Viewers of that age may overlook the awful acting, which consists mainly of frozen grins. Nobody else will.
Staff ** Juvenile, chaste, segregated.
Sex/Nudity: 1 instance. Violence: 5 scenes. Profanity: 1 mild expression. Drugs: 1 scene of drinking.
Director: Toni Kalem. With Lili Taylor, Guy Pearce, Sara Rue, John Hawkes. (109 min.)
Sterritt *** A modestly filmed drama about a small-town girl who goes crazy (literally) over a local rock singer with more pretensions than talent. Taylor is utterly believable even when the screenplay is too self-consciously quirky, and Pearce nicely portrays the guy she obsesses over.
Director: Patrice Chéreau. With Bruno Todeschini, Eric Caravaca. (89 min.)
Sterritt **** A young gay man and his disabled brother, who's diagnosed with a disabling illness, renew their old affection. Beneath its surface of chronic suffering, Chereau's best drama etches a humane, sensitive, and richly moving portrait of fraternal love. In French with English subtitles.
Director: Jessy Terrero. With Snoop Dogg, Kevin Hart, Method Man. (86 min.)
Staff * Growing up under the LAX glide path makes Nashawn (Hart) so enamored of planes that he can't wait to start an airline that the African-American community can call its own. Intermittent hilarity almost gets the film off the runway, but excess baggage - profanity and vulgarities - drags it down. By M.K. Terrell
Sex/Nudity: 20 instances of innuendo, 2 instances of nudity, 3 sex scenes. Violence: 5 scenes. Profanity: 230 expressions, half of them harsh. Drugs: 6 instances of drinking, 2 of smoking, 3 of drugs.
Director: James L. Brooks. With Adam Sandler, Paz Vega, Téa Leoni. (131 min.)
Sterritt ** A likable, successful chef falls for a new maid hired by his hyperactive handful of a wife. The acting is enjoyable, but the movie cares more about feel-good formulas than anything that touches on real life. Why do we hardly ever see the maid doing a lick of work, for instance?
Director: David Mamet. With Val Kilmer, Derek Luke, William H. Macy. (104 min.)
Sterritt **** Kilmer does his best acting ever in this fast-moving suspense story about a Secret Service agent hunting for a powerful American politician's missing daughter, racing from New England to the Midwest, and ultimately the Middle East, on an endlessly twisting trail. Thrillers don't come more taut, tense, and terrific.
Staff *** Fast, provocative plot, involved.
Sex/Nudity: 1 instance of innuendo. Violence: 11 scenes, including murder. Profanity: 28 instances, often harsh. Drugs: 5 scenes with alcohol, 3 instances of smoking.
Director: Sam Raimi. With Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst, Alfred Molina. (127 min.)
Sterritt *** Our hero takes on Doctor Octopus, a once-benign scientist (Molina) who's lost control of the artificial tentacles he's invented; while in his secret identity he continues his fitful courtship of would-be girlfriend who doesn't think she can wait for him much longer. The sequel is more exciting than the 2002 original, thanks largely to Molina's excellent acting. Staff *** Satisfying, melodramatic, pumped up.
Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: 18 scenes. Profanity: 4 mild expressions. Drugs: 3 instances of drinking, 3 of smoking.
Directors: Sherm Cohen, Stephen Hillenburg, Mark Osborne. With voices of Tom Kenny, Alec Baldwin, 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 antic animation is like.
Sex/Nudity: 1 mild innuendo. Violence: 24 cartoonish instances Profanity: None. Drugs: 2 instances of drinking.
Director: Kim Ki-duk. With Kim Ki-duk, Oh Young-soo, Kim Young-min. (103 min.)
Sterritt **** Set mainly at a Korean monastery floating in a lake, the five episodes in this seasonal drama show an aging monk tutoring a child in fundamental moral values, losing him to the temptations of the world, and giving up his earthly existence when he feels the time has come. Kim's movie conjures a sense of spiritual discipline as suspenseful as it is stunning to watch. In Korean with English subtitles.
Director: Tian Zhuangzhuang. With Bai Qing Xin, Jingfan Hu, Jun Su. (116 min.)
Sterritt **** One of China's finest screen artists tells the gentle tale of a physician who visits a friend and finds him married to a woman he once loved. Exquisitely acted, subtly scripted, photographed to perfection. In Mandarin with subtitles.
Director: Richard Eyre. With Billy Crudup, Clair Danes, Richard Griffiths. (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.
Sex/Nudity: 15 instances. Violence: 5 instances. Profanity: 21 Drugs: 4 scenes of drinking.
Director: Bronwen Hughes. With Thomas Jane, Ashley Taylor, Deborah Kara Unger. (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.
Director: Todd Phillips. With Ben Stiller, Owen Wilson, Snoop Dogg, Juliette Lewis. (99 min.)
Sterritt ** Stiller and Wilson play an odd couple of cops. The stars make the most of their comic characters, borrowed from the popular TV show of the '70s, learning to respect each other as they bumble their way to success with a tenacity that would impress Inspector Clouseau himself.
Staff ** Not funny, forgettable, Stiller excels.
Sex/Nudity: 25 instance of innuendo. Violence: 7 scenes of violence. Profanity: 24 instances, often strong. Drugs: 7 scenes with drinking or smoking, 2 with cocaine.
Director: Frank Oz. With Nicole Kidman, Bette Midler, Matthew Broderick. (95 min.)
Sterritt * A remake of the 1975 science-fantasy fable about menfolk of a Connecticut community who battle the threats of "women's lib" by transforming their spouses into stereotypes of picture-perfect housewives. The message of Ira Levin's 1972 novel is drowned in a flood of cheap gags.
Sex/Nudity: 7 instances of innuendo, 1 of implied sex. Violence: 4 scenes, none too graphic. Profanity: 14 mild expressions. Drugs: 5 instances of smoking and drinking.
Directors: Byambasuren Davaa, Luigi Falomi. With Janchiv Ayurzana. (93 min.)
Sterritt **** Blurring all the lines between fiction and documentary, this amusing movie blends real, unrehearsed material with delightful storytelling focusing on a Mongolian family that faces a problem when a camel refuses to nurse a newborn calf. The Gobi Desert provideS a striking background for drama involving humans, animals, and nature itself. In Mongolian with subtitles.
Director: André Téchiné. With Emmanuelle Béart, Gaspard Ulliel. (95 min.)
Sterritt *** Béart plays a Parisian widow who rescues her children from the Nazi occupation and becomes unexpectedly close to a young stranger who helps them survive in the French wilderness. The story is dramatic and Béart gives one of her best performances. In French with subtitles.
Director: Morgan Spurlock. With Morgan Spurlock. (96 min.)
Sterritt ** Spurlock wanted to test the claim that eating fast food is making Americans too fat, so he went on a medically charted diet of McDonald's products and found that - surprise! - he got fatter. This documentary is far from persuasive since Spurlock didn't scarf his McDiet the way ordinary people do, but relentlessly stuffed himself like a force-fed goose. The results have more journalistic flab than scientific muscle.
Staff **** Unsettling, witty, not convincing.
Sex/Nudity: 2 instances of innuendo. Violence: None. Profanity: 1 harsh expression. Drugs: 1 scene with smoking, 3 references to drugs.
Director: Mike Mitchell. With Ben Affleck, Christina Applegate. (91 min.)
Sterritt ** Deciding not to spend Christmas alone, a spoiled yuppie pays a fortune to a family for pretending to be his own loving relatives during the yuletide season. There are a few amusing moments, but this is no "Bad Santa" despite its obvious ambition to play similar holiday tricks.
Director: D.J. Caruso. With Angelina Jolie, Ethan Hawke, Kiefer Sutherland. (101 min.)
Sterritt ** A female FBI agent (Jolie) hunts a serial killer (you have to guess) who takes over the identities of the victims, inhabiting them one after another like a human hermit crab. Not much is new is this umpteenth variation on a nasty theme.
Director: Ji-woon Kim. With Su-Jeong Lim, Geun-yeong Mun, Jung-ah Yum. (115 min.)
Sterritt *** Mysteries abound in this gothic fairy tale about Korean sisters who revisit their father and his wife, a wicked stepmother in the old tradition. Quite restrained for what's basically a horror movie, and very well acted. In Korean with subtitles.
Director: Manoel de Oliveira. With John Malkovich, Catherine Deneuve. (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 women from three different countries. This is a lovely, lively, timely treat for the eyes and mind. In English, Portuguese, French, and Italian, with subtitles.
Director: Jonathan Caouette, With Jonathan Caouette. Renée LeBlanc. (105 min.)
Sterritt **** An autobiographical documentary about Caouette's troubled life, featuring members of his unbelievably dysfunctional family. Harrowing, extremely disturbing at times, but brought to the screen in dazzling pop-art images that make the movie's grim content very much worth watching.
Director: Kollo Daniel Sanou. With Mamadou Zerbo, Raoul Bessani, Ai Keita. (90 min.)
Sterritt *** Tasuma is a Burkina Faso war veteran who's determined to get the pension he's earned, especially after he pays for a new mill to help out his neighbors. A feisty treat. In French with subtitles.
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. Frivolous but fun, somewhere between a comic "French Connection" and the craziest Nascar race you never saw.
Staff **1/2 Idiotic, laughs aplenty, Latifah shines.
Sex/Nudity: 1 innuendo. Violence: 3 scenes. Profanity: 60 expressions. Drugs: 2 scenes with alcohol.
Director: Trey Parker. With voices of Trey Parker, Matt Stone. (98 min.)
Sterritt ** A team of bumbling military heroes do battle with North Korea's dictator, who's enlisted a gaggle of Hollywood peaceniks as his dupes. With all the characters played by marionettes, this is an equal-opportunity satire, making fun of everyone from Michael Moore to flag-waving militarists. The only stand it appears to take is that all grownups are equally stupid.
Staff **1/2 Technical wonder, irreverent, brilliant satire.
Sex/Nudity: 11 instances. Violence: 21 instances. Profanity: 177 harsh expressions. Drugs: at least 13 scenes of smoking and drinking.
Director: Steven Spielberg. With Tom Hanks, Catherine Zeta-Jones. (128 min.)
Sterritt * Hanks plays an Eastern European man whose US visit turns sour when a coup topples his nation's government, forcing him to make his home in the New York airport he's forbidden to leave. Hanks's character is sentimentalized and Zeta-Jones's has little to do. A totally false picture of human nature, and of what it's really like to be in a security-conscious airport.
Staff *** Fresh, sleek, humanistic.
Sex/Nudity: 2 instances of innuendo. Violence: 2 scenes. Profanity: 10 mild expressions, 8 strong. Drugs: 3 instances of drinking, 2 of smoking.
Director: David Moreton. With Leonardo Brzezicki, Sonia Braga. (101 min.)
Sterritt ** A gay American man meets mercurial new acquaintances while scouring an Argentine city for his runaway boyfriend. Starts quirky, grows steadily darker, doesn't build much excitement.
Director: Gary Winick. With Jennifer Garner, Mark Ruffalo, Andy Serkis. (98 min.)
Sterritt ** Snubbed by the cool chicks she envies, 13-year-old Jenna wishes she were 30 and flirty, and suddenly "wishing dust" makes her exactly that - editing a fashion magazine, sparring with a cool-chick rival, and hoping to capture the heart of a boy she spurned when she was young. The early scenes are full of too-familiar situations, but the story picks up steam when Jenna tackles a crisis at her magazine.
Staff *** Warm, winsome, fresh reworking of old ideas.
Sex/Nudity: 3 innuendos. Violence: None. Profanity: 23 instances, most mild. Drugs: 5 scenes of drinking, 2 of smoking.
Director: Andreas Horvath. With Andreas Horvath and residents of the American Midwest. (106 min.)
Sterritt **** Interviews, conversations, and small talk filmed by an Austrian filmmaker in middle America, largely about war, terrorism, and other current affairs. It reveals an astounding degree of ignorance and apathy in a democracy that depends for its survival on informed voters.
Director: Jeff Santo. With Ron Santo, Joe Mantegna, Bill Murray. (86 min.)
Sterritt ** Documentary about baseball star and play-by-play commentator Ron Santo, devoting most of its time to his quest for a spot in the Baseball Hall of Fame, and to his difficult struggles with illness. Often harrowing, sometimes inspiring.
Director: Michael Almereyda. With Sam Shepard, Sean Penn, Nick Nolte. (89 min.)
Sterritt **** A documentary look at Shepard directing Nolte and Penn in a production of his play "The Late Henry Moss," featuring rare interviews with an actor-playwright-director who usually keeps his private self out of the public eye. First-rate viewing for theater buffs and movie fans alike.
Director: Michael Haneke. With Isabelle Huppert, Olivier Gourmet. (114 min.)
Sterritt *** A family struggles to survive in a Europe decimated by catastrophe sometime in the not-so-distant future. This is one of Haneke's least powerful films, although the excellent cast is interesting to watch. In French with subtitles.
Director: Mark Moormann. With Tom Dowd, Ray Charles, Eric Clapton. (82 min.)
Sterritt *** Documentary about a fabled pop-music producer who 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 John Coltrane through rock groups like Cream and the Allman Brothers. Like its subject, the movie is a tad overzealous, but often fascinating.
Director: Ian Iqbal Rashid. With Jimi Mistry, Kyle MacLachlan, Suleka Mathew. (91 min.)
Sterritt * A gay Pakistani-Canadian man discusses his dilemmas with Cary Grant's ghost when his traditional Muslim mother comes to visit. Even MacLachlan's surprisingly witty performance can't compensate for the trite screenplay.
Director: Jonathan Frakes. With Brady Corbet, Ben Kingsley, Bill Paxton. (94 min.)
Sterritt * An eager adolescent gets to join his family's super-high-tech rescue team. The action is snappy, but why does this youth-targeted adventure pit white male heroes against a trio of villains comprising a black man, an Asian man, and an ugly woman?
Director: François Girod. With Robinson Stévenin, Richard Bohringer. (106 min.)
Sterritt * Murder mystery centered on a transvestite prostitute. Dull despite its suspense-driven story. In French with subtitles.
Director: Wolfgang Petersen. With Brad Pitt, Diane Kruger, Eric Bana. (162 min.)
Sterritt *** Paris spirits his lover Helen from Sparta to Troy, sparking a decade-long war in which heroes like Achilles and Hector play leading roles. The screenplay leaves out the fate-deciding Olympian gods and never quite decides whether war is glorious or not. Aside from these questionable aspects, the movie is old-fashioned fun in the venerable sword-and-sandal tradition.
Staff *1/2 Handsome but hollow, macho, unsophisticated.
Sex/Nudity: 4 scenes with implied sex, 4 with nudity. Violence: 18 graphic scenes. Profanity: 2 expressions. Drugs: 3 instances of drinking.
Director: Bruno Dumont. With David Wissak, Yekaterina Golubeva. (119 min.)
Sterritt *** A two-character drama about an American photographer and his French girlfriend traveling through the Southwest, pausing for explicit sex. The tedious action leads to a conclusion as shocking as it is unexpected, underscoring Dumont's subtly philosophical warning about the traps of focusing on physical life at the expense of the mental and spiritual. In English and French with English subtitles.
Director: Philip Kaufman. With Ashley Judd, Samuel L. Jackson, Andy Garcia. (97 min.)
Sterritt * A policewoman hunts for a serial killer whose victims are men she's slept with, and starts to fear she may be the villain, eliminating former lovers in an alcoholic daze. The screenplay is hackneyed, the acting halfhearted, and the ending is no surprise if you've been paying attention.
Director: Jean-Jacques Annaud. With Guy Pearce, Philippine Leroy-Beaulieu. (109 min.)
Sterritt *** The brothers are Cambodian tigers forced by humans to take on very different lives, one in a circus and the other in a royal family's private zoo. The animal action is often gripping and suspenseful.
Director: Jim de Sève. With gay couples seeking marriage. (82 min.)
Sterritt **** Informative documentary about the recent history of efforts to legalize gay marriage, tying these in with the history of marriage as an institution.
Sex/Nudity: 4 instances of innuendo. Violence: 1 scene Profanity: 5 mild expressions. Drugs: at least 4 scenes of smoking and drinking.
Director: Robert Greenwald. With David Kay, Patrick Eddington, Scott Ritter. (86 min.)
Sterritt **** An astonishing, articulate parade of former intelligence analysts, Republican officials, and military officers reveal an astounding array of facts, figures, and perspectives relating to terrorism and the Iraq war that are downright invisible in newspapers, TV reports, and everywhere else. This documentary strives to fill the gap, and the result is memorable; viewing is mandatory.
Staff *** Striking, convincing, one-sided.
Sex/Nudity: 0 scenes. Violence: 6. Profanity: 1 expression. Drugs: 1 instance of smoking.
Director: David Gordon Green. With Jamie Bell, Josh Lucas. (107 min.)
Sterritt *** A young rural man flees his dysfunctional household but is followed by a dangerous uncle who'd be happy to kill him. Taking great artistic chances in storytelling and performance style, Green finally fulfills the promise he showed in his fine 2000 drama "George Washington" as a terrific builder of mood, atmosphere, and psychological suspense.
Director: Stephen J. Szklarski. With Mike Hatten, Cheyenne Webber. (90 min.)
Sterritt *** Nonfiction visits with seven young hard-drug addicts who hang around a large Manhattan park. The material is vivid and harrowing, although the movie provides little analysis or larger-scale context.
Director: Matthew Ryan Hoge. With Ryan Gosling, Kevin Spacey. (105 min.)
Sterritt ** This psychological mystery involves a murdered child, a troubled man, and his father - a renowned but cantankerous author. The screenplay aims high in terms of humanity, but director Hoge drains it of energy with listless meanderings.
Director: Alejandro Agresti. With Rodrigo Noya, Carmen Maura, Julieta Cardinali. (86 min.)
Staff ** Valentin, a cross-eyed 8-year-old version of Woody Allen, lives in Buenos Aires in the 1960s with a stern grandmother. Desperately in need of familial love and a spaceship, he patrols the house in a homemade spacesuit. By Sheera Frenkel
Staff ***1/2 Modest, charming, realistic, poignant.
Sex/Nudity: 2 instances of innuendo. Violence: None. Profanity: 2 expressions. Drugs: 4 counts of smoking, 3 of drinking.
Director: Stephen Sommers. With Hugh Jackman, Kate Beckinsale. (131 min.)
Sterritt * Portrayed as a sort of James Bond of the supernatural, the famous vampire hunter goes after Dracula with help from a lovely Gypsy. Along the way, they encounter everyone from Dr. Jekyll's alter ego to Frankenstein's monster. This is yet another video game disguised as a wide-screen epic, and it deserves to have a box-office stake driven through its Hollywood heart.
Staff ** Insubstantial, frenetic, campy.
Sex/Nudity: 3 scenes with innuendo/implied sex. Violence: 35 scenes, mostly graphic. Profanity: 10 mild expressions. Drugs: 2 instances of drinking, 2 of smoking.
Director: Mira Nair. With Reese Witherspoon, Jim Broadbent, Gabriel Byrne. (141 min.)
Sterritt ** Lavish adaptation of William Makepeace Thackeray's great novel, with a not-quite-convincing Witherspoon as social climber Becky Sharp. Nair calls attention to the social failings of 19th-century England but rarely explores them, choosing to stress nostalgic elements that fans of the "heritage" genre will enjoy.
Director: Mike Leigh. With Imelda Staunton, Peter Wight, 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.
Sex/Nudity: 2 instances of innuendo. Violence: Profanity: Drugs: 7 instances of drinking, 9 of smoking.
Director: Hiner Saleem. With Ivan Franek, Romen Avinian, Lala Sarkissian, Astrik Avaguian. (84 min.)
Sterritt ** Tragicomic story centering on tiny events that lend meaning to the largely bleak lives of residents in a snowbound Armenian village. Diverting but minor. In Armenian, Russian, Kurdish, and French, with subtitles.
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.
Director: Kevin Bray. With The Rock, Johnny Knoxville, Neal McDonough, Barbara Tarbuck. (87 min.)
Sterritt ** Remake of the popular 1973 vigilante movie, focusing on a he-man who returns to his home town after leaving the army, discovers the place is controlled by a corrupt sheriff and a drug-dealing casino owner, and decides to straighten things out by picking up a big stick and walloping the bad folks into submission. Good of its B-movie kind if you can overlook its Neanderthal ideology.
Staff ** Entertaining, over the top, great fight scenes.
Sex/Nudity: 4 instances of innuendo and implied sex. Violence: 9 instances, including brutal fighting and use of firearms. Profanity: 17 harsh instances. Drugs: 5 scenes with smoking, 4 with drinking, 2 with drugs.
Director: He Ping. With Wen Jiang, Xueqi Wang, Vicki Zhao, Yun Zhou. (119 min.)
Staff ** In ancient times, a Japanese warrior strives to defeat a Chinese mercenary so he'll earn the right to return home. Impressively filmed but not dramatic enough to justify its length. In Mandarin with subtitles.
Director: John Curran. With Laura Dern, Mark Ruffalo, Naomi Watts, Peter Krause. (109 min.)
Two suburban couples grow increasingly confused and upset as adulterous relationships complicate their households. Gracefully filmed, acted with heartfelt emotion, and skillfully written by Larry Gross, it is based on two Andre Dubus novellas.
Director: Donald Petrie. With Gene Hackman, Maura Tierney, Ray Romano, Marcia Gay Harden. (110 min.)
Sterritt * Hackman plays a former president of the United States who retires to a small town, falls for a local woman, and vies for her with a handyman (Romano) who runs against him in a mayoral election. The best parts involve mass-media feeding frenzies.
Staff ** Amiable, folksy, enjoyable cast.
Sex/Nudity: 8 instances Violence: 1 scene involving a punch. Profanity: 8 instances. Drugs: 7 instances of drinking.
Directors: William Arntz, Betsy Chasse, Mark Vicente. With Marlee Matlin, John Hagelin, Amit Goswami. (108 min.)
Sterritt *** The makers of this "hybrid documentary" interweave the story of a dissatisfied woman with monologues by scientists conveying their ideas about the nature of the cosmos and the meaning of life. There are many tantalizing bits, but the overall result is a simplistic story wrapped in barely explained quantum physics and new-age sound bites.
Staff ***1/2 Radical, stimulative, simplified
Sex/Nudity: 2 sex scenes without nudity. Violence: None. Profanity: 5 Drugs: 1 drinking scene, many with prescriptive drugs.
Director: James Toback. With Neve Campbell, Fred Weller, Karen Allen. (83 min.)
Sterritt *** The first portion, with Toback as an eccentric professor talking to people in the street, is out of control even by this filmmaker's kooky standards. Then the movie morphs into a deconstructed remake of "Indecent Exposure" and it's downright riveting, with Campbell doing her best acting to date.
Sex/Nudity: 10 strong instances. Violence: 1 Profanity: 40 instances, mostly strong. Drugs: 2 drinking, 1 smoking.
Director: Howard Deutsch. With Bruce Willis, Matthew Perry, Amanda Peet, Natasha Henstridge. (97 min.)
Sterritt * Strenuously unfunny sequel to the 2000 hit "The Whole Nine Yards," about a suburban dentist mixed up with a mobster. Kevin Pollak has spunk as a Hungarian gang boss. The rest is unredeemed inanity.
Sex/Nudity: 16 scenes. Violence: 19 instances. Profanity: 48 instances, mostly mild. Drugs: 11 instances.
Director: Lone Scherfig. With Jamie Sives, Shirley Henderson, Adrian Rawlins, Lisa McKinlay. (111 min.)
Sterritt *** The world-weary title character is a young Scottish bookseller whose longsuffering brother falls in love with a customer at the shop they've inherited, bringing the woman and her young daughter into a complex new relationship with both of them. Directed and cowritten by a veteran of Denmark's no-frills "Dogma 95" movement, this is a quiet, no-frills drama with simple human values at its core.
Director: Richard Loncraine. With Paul Bettany, Kirsten Dunst, Bernard Hill. (100 min.)
Staff ** A British tennis player in the twilight of his mediocre career (Bettany) meets Lizzie (Dunst), one of the best players on the women's circuit. She becomes his muse on the court, inspiring him to play the best tennis of his career. Bettany is in winning form but Dunst isn't a convincing match - either on or off the court. By Stephen Humphries
Staff **1/2 Playful, dodges clichés, uneven performances
Sex/Nudity: 11 instances. Violence: 2 instances. Profanity: 45 expressions. Drugs: 12 instances of smoking and drinking.
Director: Peter Gilbert. With Julian Bond, Barbara Johns, Vernon Jordan, Thurgood Marshall Jr. (101 min.)
Sterritt *** A documentary about the Supreme Court's history-changing decision in the Brown v. Board of Education case of 1954, contending that the phrase quoted in the title seriously delayed the hoped-for end of segregation in Southern schools. Straightforward and informative, but overlong and repetitious.
Director: Nicole Kassell. With Kevin Bacon, Kyra Sedgwick, Mos Def, Benjamin Bratt. (87 min.)
Sterritt **** A pedophile returns from prison hoping to live a decent, quiet life but still tormented by his obsessions. Written and directed with unfailing taste and tact, this topical drama is less a study of evil than a study in empathy and compassion. Bacon is brilliant, and courageous for taking on a role that could easily have been objectionable in less gifted hands.
Directors: Eric Chaikin, Julian Petrillo. With Marlon Hill, Joel Sherman, Joe Edley, Matt Graham. (80 min.)
Sterritt *** A documentary portrait of four men who play Scrabble not only as a pastime in city parks but also in big-time tournaments with big-time money at stake. Light, lively, informative, fun.
Directors: Chris Smith, Dan Ollman, Sarah Price. With members of The Yes Men. (83 min.)
Sterritt **** Documentary about a group of political pranksters who make their points against global corporate culture via public practical jokes. While it's not a great movie, it's a revealing study of how long it often takes for businesspeople to realize they're being freaked out, not flattered.
Sex/Nudity: Violence: 1 instance. Profanity: 24 instances. Drugs: at least two instances of drinking.
Director: Christopher B. Stokes. With Marques Houston, Lil' Kim, Steve Harvey. (93 min.)
Staff ** Hip-hop dance battles take the place of gang warfare in South Central L.A., as rival "crews" fight for choreographic dominance. The eye-popping originality and athleticism are crowd pleasers and almost make up for the insipid "keep away from my sister" subplot. Good, clean fun - and loud. By M.K. Terrell
Sex/Nudity: 3 instances of mild innuendo. Violence: 6 scenes. Profanity: 13 instances. Drugs: 3 scenes.
Director: Fabrice Cazeneuve. With Julien Baumgartner, Julia Maraval, Jérémie Elkàïm, François Comar. (90 min.)
Sterritt ** Outed as a homosexual, a 17-year-old swimming champ endures tough times in high school and ambivalence at home, where his parents are bewildered. The story's celebration of honesty is commendable, even if the treatment of homophobia is no deeper than the hero's swimming pool. In French with subtitles.
Director: David Mackenzie. With Ewan McGregor, Tilda Swinton, Peter Mullan, Emily Mortimer. (93 min.)
Sterritt *** The setting is Glasgow in the 1950s, and the story centers on a young wanderer (McGregor) and his seasoned boss (Mullan) who find a woman's corpse floating in the water near the barge they operate. This leads to revelations about the drifter's past and the steamy romance that's blooming between him and his boss's wife, played by Swinton with her usual finesse. Rich atmospherics and an all-star British cast make this a superior melodrama if you can handle the heavy-breathing sex scenes.
Director: Xan Cassavetes. With Robert Altman, James Woods, F.X. Feeney, Kevin Thomas. (122 min.)
Sterritt **** Riveting documentary about the early California cable outlet and its ingenious programmer, Jerry Harvey, whose unsettled life and tragic death provide a dramatic framework for the account.
Director: Ondrej Trojan. With Anna Geislerová, Gyorgy Cserhalmi. (150 min.)
Sterritt *** After working as a spy against the Nazis, a woman hides in a tiny Czechoslovakian village and marries a sympathetic worker to maintain her cover. Well acted, handsomely photographed, a bit too long. In Czech with subtitles.