Movie Guide

NEW RELEASES
Hitch (PG-13)

Director: Andy Tennant. With Will Smith, Eva Mendes, Kevin James, Amber Valletta. (118 min.)

Sterritt ** See review.

Inside Deep Throat (NC-17)

Directors: Fenton Bailey, Randy Barbato. With Camille Paglia, Norman Mailer, Gloria Steinem. (90 min.)

Recommended: Could you pass a US citizenship test?

Sterritt *** A documentary about the infamous 1972 movie that put film pornography into the mainstream, became a major pawn in the culture wars, and grew to be what's possibly the most profitable picture ever made. The doc is longer on historical interest than original insights or analysis, though.

The Letter: An American Town and the "Somali Invasion" (Not rated)

Director: Ziad H, Hamzeh. With residents of Lewiston, Maine. (76 min.)

Sterritt **** A nonfiction account of the racism - and reaction against racism - that erupted in a small Maine city when refugees from Somalia started moving there. Revealing and harrowing.

Masculine Feminine (Not rated)

Director: Jean-Luc Godard. With Jean-Pierre Léaud, Chantal Goya, Michel Debord, Marléne Jobert. (103 min.)

Sterritt **** Godard plunges into the sociology of "the children of Marx and Coca-Cola" in this 1966 tragicomedy about a young man smitten with a pop singer. Masterly by any measure. In French with freshly revised subtitles.

My Mother's Smile (Not rated)

Director: Marco Bellocchio. With Sergio Castellitto, Piera Degli Esposti. (103 min.)

Sterritt **** Old memories surface and family tensions rise when an Italian man learns that the Roman Catholic hierarchy is considering his late mother for sainthood. This superbly filmed Italian drama stands with Bellocchio's best work. Originally titled "Ora di religione." In Italian with subtitles

Pooh's Heffalump Movie (G)

Director: Frank Nissen. With voices of Jim Cummings, Brenda Blethyn, Jimmy Bennett, David Ogden Stiers. (68 min.)

Sterritt *** Pooh and his pals - except Roo, who's too young for the trip - set out to capture a mysterious new creature who's shown up in their neck of the woods. The gentle story, told via old-fashioned "flat" animation, is perfect for the very youngest viewers.

Uncle Nino (PG)

Director: Robert Shallcross. With Joe Mantegna, Anne Archer, Pierrino Mascarino, Trevor Morgan. (102 min.)

Sterritt ** A workaholic dad draws closer to his wife and kids when an eccentric Italian relative shows up for a prolonged visit to their midwestern home. The acting is endearing and the story has great charm before predictability and sentimentality eventually take over.

The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill (G)

Director: Judy Irving. With Mark Bittner, Judy Irving, many parrots. (83 min.)

Sterritt *** A nonfiction portrait of a West Coast eccentric who devotes his life to caring for a particular flock of wild parrots in his neighborhood. Lovely to look at, if not very deep in its thinking about relations between humans and their animal friends.

CURRENTLY IN RELEASE
Are We There Yet? (PG)

Director: Brian Levant. With Ice Cube, Nia Long, Jay Mohr, Aleisha Allen. (95 min.)

Sterritt ** You may ask yourself that question as you watch a kid-phobic man take a road trip with the kids of a single mom he wants to woo. Cube is cute and Long is lovely, but the youngsters are too smug to bear. At least there's a heartwarming end to the excursion.

Sex/Nudity: 2 instances of innuendo. Violence: 14 scenes of comic violence. Profanity: 4 mild profanities. Drugs: 1 scene with alcohol.

Alone In The Dark (R)

Director: Uwe Boll. With Christian Slater, Stephen Dorff, Tara Reid. (96 min.)

Staff DUD A demented archaeologist mutates humans into video-game monsters so poorly animated they wouldn't fool a 4-year-old. If the paranormal police don't stop him, he'll unleash forces to wipe civilization from the planet. If that means yawners like this will cease to be made, maybe it's not such a bad idea. By M. K. Terrell

Sex/Nudity: 1 instance of implied sex. Violence: 29 scenes. Profanity: 35 expressions. Drugs: At least one scene with alcohol.

Assisted Living (Not rated)

Director: Elliot Greenebaum. With Michael Bonsignore, Maggie Riley. (77 min.)

Sterritt *** Comedy-drama about a lackadaisical young man who works in a nursing home and develops a complicated friendship with a sadly disoriented old woman who lives there. Gently filmed, quietly thoughtful, sometimes almost heartbreaking.

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, 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, idiosyncratic touches that distinguish Scorsese's greatest work, though.

Coach Carter (PG-13)

Director: Thomas Carter. With Samuel L. Jackson, Ashanti, Robert Richard. (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.

Freak Weather (Not rated)

Director: Mary Kuryla. With Jacqueline McKenzie, John Carrol Lynch, Aida Turturro, John Heard. (89 min.)

Sterritt ** A young woman seeks a measure of emotional stability for herself and her young son during a turbulent two days. A promising feature-film debut.

Sex/Nudity: 4 instances of innuendo. Violence: 8 scenes. Profanity: 30 harsh profanities. Drugs: 2 scenes with alcohol, 2 scenes with smoking, 3 scenes with drugs.

Hide and Seek (R)

Director: John Polson. With Robert De Niro, Dakota Fanning, Elisabeth Shue, Famke Janssen. (101 min.)

Sterritt *** After his wife's violent death, a psychologist moves to a new country home with his daughter, who starts playing very sinister games. The acting is excellent in this gory psychological thriller.

Meet the Fockers (PG-13)

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.

Million Dollar Baby (PG-13)

Director: Clint Eastwood. With Clint Eastwood, Hilary Swank, Morgan Freeman, Margo Martindale. (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.

Staff *** Poignant, masterpiece, tender moments.

Sex/Nudity: 1 scene of innuendo. Violence: 13 fight scenes, often grisly. Profanity: 48 profanities, often harsh. Drugs: 2 scenes with drinking.

Racing Stripes (PG)

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

Sterritt ** The aptly named hero is a zebra who thinks he's a racehorse, and has the good fortune to be adopted by a teenage girl who's convinced he can outrun any thoroughbred on the track. Not as funny as it wants to be and anthropomorphic in ways that are too simplistic for comfort.

Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: 5 mild scenes. Profanity: 2 mild profanities. Drugs: 1 scene with drinking.

Rory O'Shea Was Here (R)

Director: Damien O'Donnell. With James McAvoy, Brenda Fricker, Steven Robertson, Romola Garai. (104 min.)

Sterritt *** Two disabled Irishmen, one too introverted and the other too extroverted, learn to live independent lives. Superbly acted.

Sideways (R)

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.

Swimming Upstream (PG-13)

Director: Russell Mulcahy. With Geoffrey Rush, Judy Davis, Tim Draxl, Jesse Spencer. (98 min.)

Sterritt *** Drama based on the early life of a real Australian swimming champion who rose to success despite domestic challenges posed by his alcoholic father, his abused mother, and his brother, who's his keenest competitor as well as his best friend. Rush and Davis shine, and the drama is engrossingly told until it turns sadly sentimental in the last minutes.

The Wedding Date (PG-13)

Director: Clare Kilner. With Debra Messing, Dermot Mulroney, Jack Davenport, Amy Adams. (89 min.)

Sterritt * Dismal romantic comedy about a young American woman who hires a male "escort" to pretend he's her boyfriend at her sister's wedding. Flatly written and directed, and whatever happened to old-fashioned screen chemistry between stars?

OUT ON DVD
The Notebook (PG-13)

Director: Nick Cassavetes. With Ryan Gosling, Rachel McAdams, James Garner, Gena Rowlands, Joan Allen. (124 min.)

Staff ** This romantic weepie about a rich girl who falls in love with a poor boy just prior to World War II is as clichéd as a Harlequin novel. Solid acting is the only yeast that plumps up this flat material, and it can barely overcome such formulaic elements as a schmaltzy sunset, a frolic on the beach, and a disapproving mother. The extras include a featurette on Nicholas Sparks, the bestselling book's author, who rose from an ordinary salesman into a literary star. Director Cassavetes also reveals how he created the illusion of summertime during a winter shoot. By Stephen Humphries

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