Movie Guide

NEW RELEASES
Batman Begins (PG-13)

Director: Christopher Nolan. With Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Liam Neeson, Morgan Freeman. (141 min.)

Sterritt ** See review, at right.

Café Lumière (Not rated)

Director: Hou Hsiao-hsien. With Yo Hitoto, Tadanobu Asano, Kimiko Yo, Nenji Kobayashi. (104 min.)

Recommended: Default

Sterritt **** A pregnant young woman and a bookstore owner deal gently, if uncertainly, with life's vicissitudes. Hou, the best of today's Taiwanese filmmakers, dedicates this cinematic marvel to Yasujiro Ozu, the best of all Japanese filmmakers. Hou's sensitivity plus Ozu's inspiration equals sublimity of sight and sound. In Japanese with subtitles.

Caterina in the Big City (Not rated)

Director: Paolo Virzi. With Alice Teghil, Sergio Castellito, Federica Sbrenna, Antonio Carnevale. (90 min.)

Sterritt *** A teenage girl tries to adjust after her family moves to Rome from the Italian boondocks. This dramatic comedy is an Italian style "Mean Girls" when Castellito isn't stealing the show as a dysfunctional dad. In Italian with subtitles.

The Deal (R)

Director: Harvey Kahn. With Christian Slater, Selma Blair, John Heard, Robert Loggia. (108 min.)

Sterritt ** During a war between the US and the Arab world, a Wall Street wheeler-dealer gets seduced into a shady deal involving Russian money laundering. The subject is intriguing even if the dialogue is stilted and the acting is uneven.

Edvard Munch (Not rated)

Director: Peter Watkins. With Geir Westby, Gro Fraas, Gro Jarto, Gunnar Skjetne. (174 min.)

Sterritt **** The culturally astute Watkins used nonprofessional actors for this 1976 portrait of the troubled artist who painted "The Scream" and other works. A masterly biopic. In Norwegian with subtitles.

The Great Water (Not rated)

Director: Ivo Trajkov. With Saso Kekenovski, Maja Stankovska, Verica Nedeska. (93 min.)

Sterritt *** An old politician recalls his childhood at an indoctrination camp in Yugoslavia after World War II, run under Stalinist principles. This unusual Macedonian release is engrossing if not always nimbly directed. In English and Macedonian with subtitles.

Heights (R)

Director: Chris Terrio. With Glenn Close, Jesse Bradford, Elizabeth Banks, James Marsden. (93 min.)

Sterritt **** A young actor, a middle-aged actress, a snoopy journalist, a rising photographer, and her possibly gay fiancé are among the diverse characters of this psychological comedy-drama, which unfolds in New York in a 24-hour period. There's much subtle beauty in the last movie completed by Merchant Ivory Productions before Merchant's untimely death.

Joint Security Area (Not rated)

Director: Park Chan-Wook. With Lee Yeong-ae, Lee Byung-hun, Song Kang-ho, Shin Ha-kyun. (110 min.)

Sterritt *** Friendship vies with hostility among Korean soldiers of the north and south at the peninsula's demilitarized zone during a tense period. Suspenseful and psychologically rich. In English and Korean with subtitles.

Me and You and Everyone We Know (R)

Director: Miranda July. With Miranda July, John Hawkes, Ellen Geer, Hector Elias. (90 min.)

Sterritt *** In her first movie, performance artist July plays a performance artist with a sudden crush on a young shoe salesman. Many other characters also weave in and out of the story, which is sometimes sweet and ingenious, extremely explicit about adolescent sex. and occasionally too clever for its own good. A mixed package, but often fun to watch.

My Summer of Love (R)

Director: Pawel Pawlikowski. With Natalie Press, Emily Blunt, Paddy Considine, Dean Andrews. (85 min.)

Sterritt **** Fierce friendship blossoms between two lonely teenage girls alienated from their dysfunctional English families, one damaged by adultery, the other by religious zealotry. Superbly acted, movingly written, and directed with a tough-minded lyricism rarely found in today's films. A summer movie to love.

The Perfect Man (PG)

Director: Mark Rosman. With Hilary Duff, Chris Noth, Heather Locklear, Carson Kressley. (96 min.)

Sterritt * A teenage girl tries to comfort her lonely single mom by cooking up a fictitious male admirer who sends flowers, e-mails, and the like. Repetitious teen-targeted fluff.

The Talent Given Us (Not rated)

Director: Andrew Wagner. With Judy Wagner, Allen Wagner, Emily Wagner, Maggie Wagner. (100 min.)

Sterritt *** Wagner directs members of his own family playing characters just like them on a cross-country drive. This isn't a movie, it's a thingamajig - frequently as off-putting as can be, but unassailably one of a kind.

Wheel of Time (Not rated)

Director: Werner Herzog. With the Dalai Lama, Buddhist pilgrims in India and Austria. (80 min.)

Sterritt **** The legendary German filmmaker visits Buddhist initiation ceremonies in northern India and Graz, Austria, attempting to capture their inner spirituality through the outward signs his equipment can capture. Riveting and unique.

CURRENTLY IN RELEASE
The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl in 3-D (PG)

Director: Robert Rodriguez. With Cayden Boyd, Kristen Davis, David Arquette, George Lopez. (94 min.)

Sterritt ** You'll know who the target audience is when you discover the story's setting is called Planet Drool, and the hero is an imaginative schoolboy who joins the title characters to fight the evil Mr. Electric and save the world. Only part of it is in 3-D, but youngsters should enjoy pulling their special specs on and off.

Howl's Moving Castle (PG)

Director: Hayao Miyazaki. With voices of Emily Mortimer, Christian Bale, Lauren Bacall, Billy Crystal. (119 min.)

Sterritt **** Miyazaki outdoes his flamboyant "Spirited Away" with this imaginative fantasy about a vain prince, a fireplace with a talkative flame, and a girl trapped in an elderly body by a wicked witch. The story doesn't always make sense, but the visual effects are dazzling. You run across animation this ingenious about as often as a moving castle comes your way. One version in English with subtitles, the other dubbed into English.

Staff ***1/2 Grand, fantastical, wryly funny.

Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: 12 action scenes. Profanity: None. Drugs: 1 instance of smoking.

Mr. & Mrs. Smith (PG-13)

Director: With Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie, Vince Vaughn, Kerry Washington. (120 min.)

Sterritt * Pitt and Jolie play secret agents who don't know each other's line of work when they get married, then become rivals and eventually partners in the licensed-to-kill game. The movie is a mish-mash of action-adventure clichés, book-ended with lame attempts at psychological interest. Written, directed, and acted with ham-fisted heaviness.

Sex/Nudity: 5 scenes with innuendos, 2 sex scenes. Violence: 16 scenes. Profanity: 29 strong profanities. Drugs: 12 scenes with drinking, 3 scenes with smoking.

Cinderella Man (PG-13)

Director: Ron Howard. With Russell Crowe, Renée Zellweger, Paul Giamatti, Paddy Considine. (144 min.)

Sterritt **** Fact-based story of Jim Braddock, a 1930s prizefighter who suffered from Depression poverty as much as almost anyone, but captured the American imagination when he overcame injuries to take on Max Baer for the heavyweight title. The screenplay is a series of clichés, but Howard's rock-solid directing and superb acting by Crowe and Giamatti make this one of the all-time-great boxing films.

Sex/Nudity: 2 scenes with innuendos. Violence: 13 scenes, including fighting. Profanity: 71 strong profanities. Drugs: 9 scenes with drinking, 18 scenes with smoking.

The Longest Yard (PG-13)

Director: Peter Segal. With Adam Sandler, Chris Rock, James Cromwell, Burt Reynolds. (114 min.)

Sterritt * The wicked warden of a Texas prison engineers a rigged football game between guards and inmates, with the convicts led by a former pro who's been jailed. Lively but also rude, crude, and mean-spirited.

Sex/Nudity: 10 scenes of innuendo, 2 with minor nudity. Violence: 18 scenes, including fights and torture. Profanity: 130 harsh profanities. Drugs: 4 scenes with drinking, 7 scenes with drinking.

Lords of Dogtown (PG-13)

Director: Catherine Hardwicke. With Heath Ledger, Emile Hirsh, Rebecca De Mornay, William Mapother. (107 min.)

Staff **1/2 Three buddies in 1970s California revolutionize skateboarding when they put new polyurethane wheels on their boards and invade empty backyard swimming pools. Screenwriter Stacy Peralta, a member of this real-life trio, draws on material from his 2001 documentary "Dogtown and Z-Boys." Hardwicke's furiously paced directing doesn't measure up to the real thing in the earlier film. By M.K. Terrell

Madagascar (PG)

Directors: Eric Darnell, Tom McGrath. With voices of Chris Rock, Ben Stiller, Jada Pinkett Smith. (80 min.)

Sterritt * Bored with his life, a zoo animal takes himself and some friends on a quest for more agreeable climes. The animation is deft but the screenplay is stilted, the voice-performances are unimaginative, and the whole project is surprisingly clumsy in its efforts to please young and old alike. A major disappointment.

Sex/Nudity: 2 scenes of mild innuendo. Violence: 12 scenes, mostly for comic effect. Profanity: 2 mild expressions. Drugs: None.

The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants (PG)

Director: Ken Kwapis. With Amber Tamblyn, America Ferrara, Alexis Bledel, Blake Lively. (110 min.)

Sterritt *** The adventures of four 16-year-old girls who part for different summer vacations and stay in touch by mailing each other a special pair of jeans that mysteriously fit them all and may have magical powers - or perhaps just enhance the self-esteem of maturing young women who'll soon leave adolescence behind. Gorgeously filmed and nicely acted.

Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith (PG-13)

Director: George Lucas. With Ewan McGregor, Natalie Portman, Ian McDiarmid, Hayden Christensen. (142 min.)

Sterritt *** Lucas wraps up his second "Star Wars" trilogy, centering on Anakin Skywalker's secret marriage to Padme, his friendship with Obi-Wan Kenobi, and his temptation to use the Dark Side of the Force for personal gain. As spectacle this stands with the best, although it falls flat when corny dialogue takes over.

Staff *** Fitting finale, poorly written, dark, violent.

Sex/Nudity: 2 instances of mild innuendo. Violence: 26 scenes, often grisly. Profanity: None. Drugs: None.

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