Movie Guide

NEW RELEASES
Fever Pitch (PG-13)

Director: Bobby & Peter Farrelly. With Drew Barrymore, Jimmy Fallon, Jason Spevack, Kadee Strickland. (101 min.)

Staff *** See review on page 12.

In Satmar Custody (Not rated)

Director: Nitzan Giladi. With Yahia Jaradi, Lauza Jaradi, and members of their community. (70 min.)

Recommended: Default

Sterritt **** Eye-opening documentary about a family that undergoes an awful domestic tragedy after moving from Yemen to a New York community dominated by an ultraorthodox, ultrastrict Judaic sect that considers Israel a bitter enemy. Stranger than fiction, indeed.

Sahara (PG-13)

Director: Breck Eisner. With Matthew McConaughey, Steve Zahn, Penélope Cruz.. (120 min.)

Staff *** See review at right.

Winter Solstice (R)

Director: Josh Sternfeld. With Anthony LaPaglia, Allison Janney, Aaron Stanford, Michelle Monaghan. (93 min.)

Sterritt **** Gently told, beautifully acted tale about a widowed landscape gardener who's afraid his growing sons are making all the wrong starts in life. As quietly dazzling as a small, very precious stone.

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.

Beauty Shop (PG-13)

Director: Bille Woodruff. With Queen Latifah, Alfre Woodard, Alicia Silverstone, Andie MacDowell. (105 min.)

Staff ***1/2 Gina Norris (Queen Latifah) tries her own hand at beauty-shop bliss and far outshines and out-styles her counterparts from the hit movie, "Barbershop." Packed with clichés and all the regular plot twists and turns, the film's grander moments offer a real depth that overshadows the more formulaic elements. Beauty Shop is a laugh-out-loud, feel-good film that will endear viewers to its eclectic cast. By Elizabeth Owuor

Guess Who (PG-13)

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

Sterritt * Updated version of the 1967 hit "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner," which broke cultural ground by putting Hollywood's stamp of approval on interracial marriage. The trite and contrived remake, about an African-American woman whose father has trouble accepting her white fiancé, is almost too flat and stilted to sit through, much less be inspired by.

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!

Kontroll (R)

Director: Nimród Antal. With Sandór Csányi, Eszter Balla, Zsolt Nagy, Csaba Pindroch. (110 min.)

Sterritt **** The setting is the grungy depths of the Budapest subway system, where the main characters work, travel, hang out, and get into far-too-frequent trouble. Part mystery, part melodrama, part comedy, this genre-bender is fascinating from start to finish. In Hungarian with subtitles.

Lipstick & Dynamite (Not rated)

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

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

Look at Me (PG-13)

Director: Agnès Jaoui. With Agnès Jaoui, Marilou Berry, Jean-Pierre Bacri, Laurent Grévill. (110 min.)

Sterritt *** An aspiring singer attaches herself to a music teacher who, in turn, hopes her pupil's novelist dad might help her own husband succeed with the written word. The underlying theme is how gifted, famous people exert influences on others that nobody involved is fully aware of. Too bad the movie dawdles and meanders enough to lose its storytelling grip. In French with subtitles.

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 - if there is one - between comic and tragic perspectives.

Miss Congeniality 2: Armed and Fabulous (PG-13)

Director: John Pasquin. With Sandra Bullock, Regina King, William Shatner, Enrique Murciano. (115 min.)

Staff ** After posing as a beauty contestant, Agent Gracie Hart (Bullock) is too recognizable to work undercover so she becomes the FBI spokesmodel. She and her bodyguard (King) can't stand each other, but when the pageant's emcee (Shatner) and Miss United States fall into the hands of kidnappers, the agents must team up to save them. It's a variation on the buddy-film genre, but otherwise there's not much new here. It may be time for Bullock to swear off sequels. By M. K. Terrell.

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.

Odessa ... Odessa! (Not rated)

Director: Michale Boganim. With residents of New York, Israel, and Ukraine. (97 min.)

Sterritt *** A documentary voyage from the original Odessa, in Russia, to Little Odessa in New York, and on to Israel, where many Odessa emigrants have settled. This leisurely, transfixing movie is much more interested in nostalgic atmosphere than "educational" facts. In English, Russian, and Hebrew with subtitles.

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 the 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, but the screenplay is trite, intermittently vulgar, and not funny.

Sin City (R)

Director: Frank Miller & Robert Rodriguez. With Bruce Willis, Clive Owen, Jessica Alba. (126 min.)

Staff *** Welcome to Basin City, where there's only one honest cop, a stripper with a heart of gold, and an ex-con piling up bodies to find a murderer. Creeps, corruption, torture, and death lurk down every dark alley. Watching this adaptation of Frank Miller's graphic novels, you feel pulp pages turning under your fingers and taste grit as cars fly through the air. Directors Miller and Robert Rodriguez colorize blood, hair, and pupils in this black-and-white ode to violence. Add an A-list cast, plenty of hard-boiled dialogue, rivers of blood - and you're in Sin City. By J. Johnson.

The Upside of Anger (R)

Director: Mike Binder. With Joan Allen, Kevin Costner, Evan Rachel Wood, Mike Binder. (118 min.)

Sterritt ** A mother and her four daughters cope with bitterness and confusion after her husband abruptly vanishes from the household. Allen and Costner give admirably understated performances as the woman and her eccentric next-door neighbor, but the story feels more cleverly contrived than deeply felt.

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