Movie Guide

NEW RELEASES
Be Cool (PG-13)

Director: F. Gary Gray. With John Travolta, Uma Thurman, Cedric the Entertainer, Christina Milian. (114 min.)

Sterritt *Sequel to the 1995 hit "Get Shorty," with crook Chili Palmer putting his muscle behind the career of a gifted African-American singer. The overlong comedy has few laughs and flirts far too much with racist, homophobic humor. A waste of a fine cast.

The Best of Youth (Not rated)

Director: Marco Tullio Giordana. With Luigi Lo Cascio, Alessio Boni, Adriana Asti, Sonia Bergamasco. (366 min.)

Recommended: Default

Sterritt **** The story of two smart and ornery Italian brothers, one of whom becomes a psychiatrist after a detour through radical politics, while the other copes with self-control problems by joining the police. Also present are the doctor's wife - a far-left activist with dangerous companions - and a mentally troubled young woman whom both brothers try to help. Don't be deterred by the movie's novelistic length. Stretching from the tumultuous 1960s to the start of the 21st century, it uses every moment to the fullest, bringing us so far inside the characters that you feel you know them as well as your family and friends. This is epic filmmaking on a profoundly human scale, directed to perfection and magnificently acted by everyone in sight. Not to be missed by anyone who cares about the joys, sorrows, and challenges of living in the modern world. In Italian with subtitles.

Dear Frankie (PG-13)

Director: Shona Auerbach. With Emily Mortimer, Jack McElhone, Sharon Small, Gerard Butler. (102 min.)

Sterritt **After years of pretending her estranged husband is just working far away, a Scottish woman hires a stranger to impersonate him so her deaf son and his "dad" can meet. Well acted, capably directed, not as substantial as it might have been.

Face (Not rated)

Director: Bertha Bay-Sa Pan. With Ling Bai, Kristy Wu, Kieu Chinh, Ken Leung. (89 min.)

Sterritt **A young Chinese-American gives birth to a daughter who grows up in New York and then meets her mother years afterward, while she's also coping with the highly traditional grandmother who raised her and who's not crazy about her African-American boyfriend. Well made, nice performances, very slowly paced.

Gunner Palace (R)

Directors: Michael Tucker, Petra Epperlein. With American soldiers in Baghdad. (86 min.)

Sterritt **** Documentary giving a grunt's-eye view of the Iraq war. Illuminating, disturbing, evenhanded.

Intimate Stories (Not rated)

Director: Carlos Sorin. With Antonio Benedicti, Javiera Bravo, Javier Lombardo, Julia Solomonoff. (92 min.)

Sterritt **** Three interwoven stories set among southern Argentina's poor - a young mother who wins a spot on a TV game show, an elderly peasant looking for his runaway dog, and a small-time businessman hoping to impress a woman with a birthday cake for her child. Gentle, humanistic, delicious. In Spanish with subtitles.

The Jacket (R)

Director: John Maybury. With Adrien Brody, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Kris Kristofferson, Keira Knightley. (102 min.)

Sterritt *** See review.

Walk on Water (Not rated)

Director: Eytan Fox. With Lior Ashkenazi, Caroline Peters, Knut Berger, Gideon Shemer. (105 min.)

Sterritt *** Assigned to track down a former Nazi who's now an elderly and elusive target, an Israeli agent infiltrates his family by becoming friendly with his grown grandchildren, leading to emotional complications all around. Compassionate and marvelously acted, although a subplot about the gay grandson slows the story down for a while. In English, Hebrew, and German, with subtitles.

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.

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, aircraft designer, and world-class eccentric. DiCaprio is excellent as Hughes and Blanchett is even better as Katharine Hepburn. The film largely lacks the personal, idiosyncratic touches that distinguish Scorsese's greatest work, though.

Bad Guy (Not rated)

Director: Kim Ki-duk. With Jo Jae-Hyeon, Seo Won, Choi Duek-mun. (100 min.)

Sterritt ** Bizarre affection blooms between a South Korean thug and a woman forced into prostitution. Certainly offbeat, but not on a level with director Kim's previous work about marginalized people. In Korean with subtitles.

Because of Winn-Dixie (PG)

Director: Wayne Wang. With Jeff Daniels, AnnaSophia Robb, Cicely Tyson, Eva Marie Saint. (106 min.)

Sterritt ** New to a small town where her father is the preacher, a young girl makes new friends including a couple of aging women and a friendly pooch she names after the grocery store where she finds him. Bland, amiable, innocuous.

Constantine (R)

Director: Francis Lawrence. With Keanu Reeves, Rachel Weisz, Peter Stormare, Tilda Swinton. (118 min.)

Sterritt ** Reeves plays a James Bond of the supernatural, tracking down demons and helping a mournful woman solve the mystery of her twin sister's suicide. The story is a retread of the old "Exorcist" and "Omen" formats, but it delivers as much action and spectacle as fans of the genre could want.

Sex/Nudity: 1 scene of innuendo.Violence: 34 instances Profanity: 33 instances.Drugs: 12; smoking in almost every scene.

Diary of a Mad Black Woman (PG-13)

Director: Darren Grant. With Tyler Perry, Kimberly Elise, Steve Harris, Cicely Tyson. (117 min.)

Sterritt * Angry, vengeful emotions arise when an abused African-American wife is unceremoniously dumped by her awful husband. The movie seesaws between crude comedy and sudsy melodrama, and it's hard to decide which aspect is more ineptly handled. Plenty of mad moviegoers will put this in their diaries as one of the worst pictures in ages.

Downfall (Not rated)

Director: Oliver Hirschbiegel. With Bruno Ganz, Alexandra Maria Lara, Ulrich Matthes, Corinna Harfouch. (149 min.)

Sterritt **** Fictionalized account of Adolf Hitler's last days, depicting his personal downfall as well as that of the Nazi movement he headed, and militarized Germany as a whole. Ganz reminds us why he's one of the world's great screen actors, and Hirschbiegel's straightforward style is riveting. In German with subtitles.

Emile (Not rated)

Director: Carl Bessai. With Ian McKellen, Deborah Kara Unger, Tygh Runyan, Theo Crane. (92 min.)

Sterritt *** On a visit to Canada to receive an honorary degree, an aging man copes with old memories while trying to forge new bonds with his estranged family.

Poignant and well acted, though not very memorable.

Hitch (PG-13)

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

Sterritt ** Smith is terrific as a "date doctor" who teaches klutzy men how to woo the women they fancy. But the screenplay is silly - anything for a laugh - and the comedy is far too long. Nice work from James and Valletta, perhaps inspired by Smith's refusal to let the material drag him down.

Staff ***Witty, sweet, fashionable.

Sex/Nudity: 6 scenes of innuendo. Violence: 6 scenes.Profanity: 31 profanities.Drugs: 8 scenes of drinking.

Million Dollar Baby (PG-13)

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.

Staff *** Poignant, masterpiece, sad.

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

Sexual Dependency (Not rated)

Director: Rodrigo Bellott. With Alexandra Aponte, Jorge Antonio Saavedra, Ronica V. Reddick. (105 min.)

Sterritt ** The mostly separate stories of several young people trying to find themselves in a socially and sexually confusing world. The pace of this Bolivia/US coproduction is slower than that of a snail, but it gathers some interest as the themes of the vignettes dovetail near the end. In Spanish and English, with subtitles.

Son of the Mask (PG)

Director: Lawrence Guterman. With Alan Cumming, Jamie Kennedy, Bob Hoskins, Ryan Falconer. (94 min.)

Sterritt * Cumming's antic acting is the only asset of this boisterous comedy about Loki, the mischievous Norse god, looking for a mislaid magical mask, which a young cartoonist has now stumbled on. The special effects are ubiquitous but not very special.

OUT ON DVD
Bambi (G)

Director: David Hand. With the voices of Hardie Albright, John Sutherland,Stan Alexander, Sam Edwards. (70 min.)

Staff ****The fifth animated Disney feature and the final film of the legendary animator's early period, "Bambi" has finally arrived in excellent shape for the digital generation. The colors have been scrubbed, but happily the lush texture of the original film has not been lost. "Bambi" fans will rejoice that it is still the breathtakingly joyful world in which the prince of the forest grows up. This classic children's film has lost none of its poignancy, despite its leisurely pace and simple story line. Among the best extras: a film-length audio commentary on the decisionmaking process behind the animation and casting, taken from actual transcripts of the creative sessions and voiced by actors to bring it alive. Four shining stars. By Gloria Goodale

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