Movie Guide

NEW RELEASES
The Ballad of Jack & Rose (R)

Director: Rebecca Miller. With Daniel Day-Lewis, Camilla Belle, Beau Bridges, Catherine Keener. (112 min.)

Sterritt *** Marvelously acted story about an aging anarchist, his teenage daughter, and their struggle to keep up a life of happy solitude despite the distractions of Jack's love life and a real-estate developer who wants houses to spring up around them. Smart and engrossing, if too heavy on the symbolism at times.

Beyond the Sea/Más allá del mar (Not rated)

Director: Lisandro Perez-Rey. With veterans of the Mariel Boatlift from Cuba. (80 min.)

Recommended: Default

Sterritt *** Documentary about the famous Cuban boatlift of the Jimmy Carter era. Full of fascinating eye-witness accounts. In English and Spanish with subtitles.

D.E.B.S. (PG-13)

Director: Angela Robinson. With Sara Foster, Jordana Brewster, Devon Aoki, Jill Ritchie. (91 min.)

Sterritt ** It turns out the SATs contain a secret test that detects your ability to lie and cheat, and if you score well you're drafted into this all-girl spy squad, where the latest assignment is to track down a femme fatale with fatal plans for her victims. Alas, the movie isn't nearly as amusing as its premise, but it's refreshingly different from most run-of-the-mill teenage fare.

Guess Who (PG-13)

Director: Kevin Rodney Sullivan. With Bernie Mac, Ashton Kutcher, Zoë Saldaña, Judith Scott. (106 min.)

Sterritt * See review, at right.

Lipstick & Dynamite (Not rated)

Director: Ruth Leitman. With Penny Banner, Ida May Martinez, Judy Grable, Gladys Gillem. (83 min.)

Sterritt *** Documentary about old women who were professional female wrestlers in their younger days. An entertaining look at a genuinely offbeat subject.

Mondovino (Not rated)

Director: Jonathan Nossiter. With Robert Parker, Aime Guibert, Neal Rosenthal, Jonathan Nossiter. (136 min.)

Sterritt *** Documentary about how wines are made, distributed, and sold in today's world. The real subject, though, is how globalization fosters a homogeneous, "same-old-stuff" conformity that molds almost everything on the planet into an ever-shrinking number of shapes, sizes, and varieties. In English, French, Italian, Spanish, and Portuguese, with subtitles.

Nina's Tragedies (Not rated)

Director: Savi Gabizon. With Aviv Elkabets, Ayelet July Zurer, Anat Waxman, Yoram Hatav. (110 min.)

Sterritt **** The place is Israel, and the hero is a 14-year-old boy who falls in love with his aunt, moving in with her as a sympathetic family member after her husband dies. This wry comedy drama has excellent acting and surprises galore. In Hebrew with subtitles.

Oldboy (R)

Director: Park Chanwook. With Choi Min-sik, Gang Hye-jung, Wu Ji-tae, Lee Seung-Shin. (118 min.)

Sterritt *** South Korean melodrama about a man held captive for years by an unseen abductor, then released only to become the victim in a cat-and-mouse game as mysterious as it is sinister. In Korean with subtitles.

16 Years of Alcohol (R)

Director: Richard Jobson. With Kevin McKidd, Laura Fraser, Ewan Bremner, Susan Lynch. (102 min.)

Sterritt ** Drama about a young Scottish man who discovers the downside of drinking the hard way - all the hard ways, in fact. Directed by former rock star Jobson in a leisurely, sometimes compelling style; but the pacing soon grows dull and the frequent narration is a nonstop string of clichés, platitudes, and truisms that should have been flung out the cutting-room window.

CURRENTLY IN RELEASE
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.

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. 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.

Staff ***1/2Realistic, enlightening, humane.

Violence: over 50 incidences. Profanity: 6 profanities. Drugs: 26 incidences of smoking and drinking.

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.

Hostage (R)

Director: Florent Siri. With Bruce Willis, Michelle Horn, Kevin Pollak, Serena Scott Thomas (113 min.)

Sterritt ** Newly arrived in the job of a small-town sheriff, a former hostage negotiator faces two awful situations at once. He has to rescue youngsters held by thugs in a fortified house and also save his own family from kidnappers. The action is dynamically filmed and Willis is at his best. Suspense is soon hijacked by outright gore and grisliness, though.

Ice Princess (G)

Director: Tim Fywell. With Michelle Trachtenberg, Joan Cusack, Kim Cattrall, Trevor Blumas. (98 min.)

Sterritt *** Should our high-school heroine stick with physics, which everyone says is her calling, or become a figure skater, which entices her when she tries to work out its aerodynamics in scientific terms? Trite but nice, this enjoyable comedy drama has good-spirited warmth toward almost all its characters, from the domineering moms to the daughters beginning to find themselves. And it's great to see so many smart girls in a Hollywood movie!

Melinda and Melinda (PG-13)

Director: Woody Allen. With Radha Mitchell, Will Ferrell, Chloë Sevigny, Wallace Shawn. (100 min.)

Sterritt *** During a friendly debate about optimism vs. pessimism, two writers work out the adventures of the title character(s) by imagining how differently the same person might behave with different circumstances and companions. Allen's view of life is limited to the urban middle class, as usual, but it's good to see his thoughtfulness back in action as he ponders the divide - or is it? - between comic and tragic perspectives.

The Pacifier (PG)

Director: Adam Shankman. With Vin Diesel, Lauren Graham, Brad Garrett. (91 min.)

Staff ** Hardened Navy commando Shane Wolf (Diesel) gets the most challenging assignment of his career: protecting the children of an assassinated scientist from agents seeking the top-secret program he was working on. Fortunately, the combination of the bodyguard's military discipline and hidden soft side give the family children the tough love they need. The Disney-like plotting is too predictable for most adults and teens, and violence puts it off-limits for young children, but 8- to 11-year-olds should find the slapstick amusing. By M.K. Terrell

The Ring Two (PG-13)

Director: Hideo Nakata. With Naomi Watts, Simon Baker, Sissy Spacek, David Dorfman. (111 min.)

Sterritt *** More about the insidious video that kills its viewers if they don't copy it and pass it to another victim. Subtler than "The Ring" and scarier than "Ringu," the Japanese thriller that started it all, this is sequel-spinning with a vengeance. Watts is wonderful, and the story's forsaken-child theme still has plenty of horrific power.

Robots (PG)

Director: Chris Wedge. With voices of Ewan McGregor, Halle Berry, Mel Brooks, Jennifer Coolidge. (89 min.)

Sterritt ** The animated adventures of a young robot with big ambitions, and an old robot who's been kicked out of his own business by a profit-hungry upstart. The visuals are spectacular at times, but the screenplay is trite, intermittently vulgar, and just not funny.

OUT ON VIDEO
Finding Neverland (PG)

Director: Marc Forster. With Johnny Depp, Kate Winslet, Julie Christie, Dustin Hoffman. (106 min.)

Staff *** The story of how Scottish author J.M. Barrie conceived the iconic children's fable, "Peter Pan," may not be rigorously accurate. In the film, Barrie meets Sylvia, a widowed mother of several children, with whom he forms a strong bond. His relationship with the children inspires him to pen his famous tale. The truth is that Sylvia's husband was alive when Barrie met the Davies family. Yet, Johnny Depp brings such humanity and charm to the lead role that, like Pan himself, the story takes fabulous flight. The extras, especially the outtakes which show Depp and Dustin Hoffman entertaining the children during an important giggling scene, make this DVD a real gem for family viewing. By Gloria Goodale.

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