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Movie Guide

January 14, 2005

About Baghdad (Not rated)

Director: InCounter Productions. With Sinan Antoon, assorted Iraqi citizens. (103 min.)

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Sterritt **** Harrowing, informative, conscientiously balanced documentary about the social, cultural, and economic welfare of Baghdad and environs after Saddam Hussein's fall. It's hard to decide which are more saddening - the film's accounts of torture and oppression under the Hussein regime or the evidence of tragedy and privation under American occupation. In English and Arabic with subtitles

The Chorus (PG-13)

Director: Christophe Barratier. With Gérard Jugnot, Marie Bunel, François Berléand. (97 min.)

Sterritt *** In the late 1940s, a failed musician grudgingly takes a job at a school for difficult boys and uses his musical gifts to engage and uplift them. Extremely goodhearted, if not exactly original or exciting. Based on the 1945 musical "La Cage aux rossignols." In French with subtitles

Coach Carter (PG-13)

Director: Thomas Carter. With Samuel L. Jackson, Ashanti, Robert Richard, Gwen McGee. (136 min.)

Sterritt ** Fact-based story of a high-school basketball coach who demands a great deal - some feel far too much - of the hard-boiled kids who play on his team. The movie's moral messages are all on target. Too bad the movie is much, much too long and Jackson gives one of his dullest performances ever.

The Leopard (Not rated)

Director: Luchino Visconti. With Burt Lancaster, Claudia Cardinale, Alain Delon, Pierre Clémente. (183 min.)

Sterritt **** Restored version of the Italian master's 1963 melodrama about the last days of a Sicilian prince who's had enough luxury and decadence to last two lifetimes and now longs only for a dignified exit from this world. Smart and sumptuous, although less nuanced and atmospheric than the brilliant Giuseppe Di Lampedusa novel it's based on. In Italian with subtitles. Playing in limited release.

Racing Stripes (PG)

Director: Frederik du Chau. With Hayden Panettiere, voices of Dustin Hoffman, Whoopi Goldberg. (93 min.)

Sterritt ** See review at right.

The Assassination of Richard Nixon (R)

Director: Niels Mueller. With Sean Penn, Naomi Watts, Don Cheadle. (95 min.)

Sterritt **** Fictionalized account of a real-life businessman named Samuel Byck, whose frustration with getting nowhere led him to a mental breakdown and a crazy plot to kill the president in 1974. This is one of the rare movies to explore American materialism through the eyes of an all-too-ordinary person who isn't up to the challenges of everyday life. Penn gives the most engrossing performance of his career to date.

The Aviator (PG-13)

Director: Martin Scorsese. With Leonardo DiCaprio, Cate Blanchett, Alec Baldwin, Kate Beckinsale. (170 min.)

Sterritt *** Large-scale epic about the life and times of Howard Hughes, focusing on his experiences as a filmmaker, flyer, 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, idiosyncratic touches that distinguish Scorsese's greatest work, though.

Beyond the Sea (PG-13)

Director: Kevin Spacey. With Kevin Spacey, Brenda Blethyn, John Goodman, Kate Bosworth. (121 min.)