Movie Guide

NEW RELEASES
Crónicas (R)

Director: Sebastian Cordero. With John Leguizamo, Leonor Watling, José Maria Yazpik. (98 min.)

Sterritt *** Leguizamo plays his first Spanish-language movie role (with English dialogue as well) in this timely thriller about journalists who come across a violent mob, a repentant prisoner, and a puzzling mystery while tracking down a serial killer. The film begins strongly and violently, then simmers down to a standard-issue suspense story. In English and Spanish with subtitles.

Dark Water (PG-13)

Director: Walter Salles. With Jennifer Connelly, Tim Roth, John C. Reilly, Pete Postlethwaite. (104 min.)

Recommended: Could you pass a US citizenship test?

Sterritt ** See review, at right.

Doing Time, Doing Vipassana (Not rated)

Directors: Eliona Ariel, Ayelet Menahemi. With Kiran Bedi, inmates of Tihar Prison. (52 min.)

Sterritt *** Documentary about Bedi's successful effort to transform a prison in India by introducing classes in meditation. Earnest, if not as informative as it might have been.

Fantastic Four (PG-13)

Director: Tim Story. With Ioan Gruffudd, Jessica Alba, Michael Chiklis, Kerry Washington. (106 min.)

Sterritt ** The Human Torch, the Invisible Woman, The Thing, and Mr. Fantastic himself join forces for the Marvel Comics tale of astronauts who gain exotic powers from a radiation storm in outer space. It's fun to watch superheroes who aren't quite at ease with their abilities, but "The Incredibles" - last year's similarly themed animated film - is livelier and funnier.

Murderball (R)

Directors: Henry Alex Rubin, Dana Adam Shapiro. With Keith Cavill, Joe Soares, Mark Zupan. (86 min.)

Sterritt **** The game of the title is a sort of rugby, and the players are quadriplegics tucked into wheelchairs customized for the sport. This is a lively, life-affirming documentary no viewer is likely to forget.

Saraband (R)

Director: Ingmar Bergman. With Liv Ullmann, Erland Josephson, Julia Dufvenius, Borje Ahlstedt. (107 min.)

Sterritt **** See review on page 15

A Sidewalk Astronomer (Not rated)

Director: Jeffrey Jacobs. With John Dobson, amateur astronomers. (78 min)

Sterritt ** Diverting documentary about Dobson, an ardent popularizer of astronomical ideas. Some of his theories seem cockamamie compared with current intellectual norms, though, so it's too bad the filmmakers don't give him time to make a coherent case.

Yes (R)

Director: Sally Potter. With Joan Allen, Simon Abkarian, Shirley Henderson, Sam Neill. (100 min.)

Sterritt *** A laboratory researcher has an affair with a Lebanese physician who's emigrated to London and become a chef. Ambitious as ever, the director of "Orlando" tackles everything from geopolitical conflict to relations between science and religion, with all the dialogue in verse. The results are visually striking, but conceptually they oscillate between poetic, pretentious, and philosophically dubious.

CURRENTLY IN RELEASE
Batman Begins (PG-13)

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

Sterritt ** How a young man became the Caped Crusader instead of just Bruce Wayne, millionaire playboy. Neeson plays a ninja, which shows how desperately the story stretches for angles. But you finally get good answers to the Joker's excellent question: "Where does he get those wonderful toys?!!?"

Staff *** Well plotted, dizzying, uneven, comical.

Sex/Nudity: 1 instance of innuendo. Violence: 29 intense scenes. Profanity: 11 mild profanities. Drugs: 4 scenes with drinking, 1 scene with drug dealing.

Bewitched (PG-13)

Director: Nora Ephron. With Nicole Kidman, Will Ferrell, Shirley MacLaine, Michael Caine. (95 min.)

Sterritt ** Launching a new version of the TV sitcom "Bewitched," an actor (Ferrell) with more ego than talent inadvertently fills the role of a witch with a real witch (Kidman) who's trying to give up hexes and become a normal person. Always whimsical, occasionally quite funny.

Staff ** Occasionally charming, predictable, nostalgic.

Sex/Nudity: 4 instances of innuendo. Violence: 1 mild scene. Profanity: 23 profanities. Drugs: 3 scenes with drinking, 1 scene with a cigarette.

Herbie: Fully Loaded (G)

Director: Angela Robinson. With Lindsay Lohan, Matt Dillon, Cheryl Hines, Michael Keaton. (95 min.)

Sterritt ** A teen who yearns for car-racing glory (Lohan) outwits her worried dad (Keaton) and leaves a smirky rival (Dillon) in the dust with the help of Herbie, the Volkswagen with a mind of his own who became a movie star in "The Love Bug" in 1968. Utterly predictable, but pleasant enough for its young target audience.

Sex/Nudity: 1 instance of innuendo. Violence: 7 comic scenes. Profanity: 4 profanities. Drugs: None.

Land of the Dead (R)

Director: George A. Romero. With John Leguizamo, Asia Argento, Dennis Hopper, Robert Joy. (94 min.)

Sterritt *** Humans fight zombies in a city where a cocky capitalist is profiting from the rampant supernatural chaos. There may never be another "Night of the Living Dead," the 1968 masterpiece to which this is yet another gore-filled sequel, but Romero remains the best maker of movies about, well, remains.

Sex/Nudity: 6 scenes, including nudity. Violence: 35 gory scenes. Profanity: 61 harsh profanities. Drugs: 7 scenes with drinking, 8 scenes with a cigarette, 1 with drugs.

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 smoking.

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 from the DreamWorks team.

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

March of the Penguins (G)

Director: Luc Jacquet. With plenty of penguins, voice of Morgan Freeman. (80 min.)

Sterritt ** Documentary about the mating and chick-raising routines of Emperor Penguins, whose Antarctic habitat makes almost every activity hazardous to their health and even their lives. As a zoological spectacle the movie is riveting. But the narration tries to make us think of these adorable animals as if they saw the world in human terms, which they obviously don't, and the images have been enhanced by digital effects, as if they wouldn't be impressive enough on their own.

Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: None. Profanity: None. Drugs: None.

Mr. & Mrs. Smith (PG-13)

Director: Doug Liman. 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.

Staff ** Charmingly cast, surprisingly slow, poorly edited.

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.

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 temptation to use the Dark Side of the Force for personal gain. As spectacle this stands with the best.

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

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

War of the Worlds (PG-13)

Director: Steven Spielberg. With Tom Cruise, Dakota Fanning, Tim Robbins, Justin Chatwin. (117 min.)

Sterritt *** Earthlings battle alien invaders who wreak deadly havoc until they're stymied by ... you know what, if you've read H.G. Wells's influential 1898 novel. Spielberg gives the story his full high-tech treatment, building great scariness with help from first-class music and camera work. The picture gets repetitive, though, since its terrors are pretty much the same from start to finish. Cruise is in good form and Fanning is still the best child actress around.

Staff **1/2 Believably acted, made for TV, wait for the video.

Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: 27 scenes. Profanity: 27 mild expressions. Drugs: 1 instance of drinking.

The World (Not rated)

Director: Jia Zhangke. With Chen Taisheng, Zhao Tao, Jing Jue, Jiang Zhong-wei. (139 min.)

Sterritt **** The place is the World Park entertainment center in Beijing, which contains scaled-down versions of international landmarks. The characters are people who've come from all over China to work there. The themes are the globalization and homogenization of Eastern and Western cultures. Brilliant, from the sensitively filmed dramatic scenes to the atmospheric animated sequences that fill the screen whenever someone's cell phone receives a text message. In Mandarin and Shanxi dialect with subtitles.

Out on DVD
Dear Frankie (PG-13)

Director: Shona Auerbach. With Emily Mortimer, Jack Elhoune, Gerard Butler, Sharon Small. (105 min.)

Sterritt *** A single mother secretly writes letters to her deaf son, posing as the boy's estranged father who lives at sea. But when the actual ship unexpectedly docks at port, the mother must hire someone to pose as the paternal scribe. The film is thought-provoking, and the brilliant actors portray strength, even in the victimized characters. DVD features, especially on the making of the film, add insight and richness. By Chelsea Waugaman

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