Director: Nick Cassavetes. With Bruce Willis, Justin Timberlake, Emile Hirsch. (117 min.)Skip to next paragraph
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When Jake Muzursky can't pay a drug debt to his teenage supplier Johnny Truelove (Hirsch), the young gangster takes Jake's teen brother hostage. The kid quickly falls in with the lifestyle and becomes a sort of mascot – and liability – to Johnny's gang. Director Cassevetes has a bit more than he can handle with this complex telling of a real-life tragedy, but he elicits believable performances from the young cast, with Justin Timberlake especially impressive as Johnny's tough-guy-with-a-heart lieutenant. Grade: B–
– M.K. Terrell
Sex/Nudity: 17. Violence: 12. Profanity: 543, mostly stronger expressions. Drugs/Alcohol/Tobacco: 53.
Director: Luc Besson. With David Bowie, Freddie Highmore, Madonna. (104 min.)
Desperate to save Grandma's farm from the debt collector, 10-year-old Arthur (Highmore), follows a string of clues left by his missing grandfather, hoping to find a cache of rubies. Some African warriors turn up and help him shrink into an inch-high animated character so he can go underground and save the kingdom of the Minimoys from the marauding despot who holds grandpa's treasure. This mix of computer animation and live action promises much but never really comes together. Haphazard voice dubbing and lack of originality don't help. Grade: D+
Sex/Nudity: mild innuendo. Violence: 8. Profanity: 3 mild theological expressions. Drugs/Alcohol/Tobacco: 3.
Director: Sylvain White. With Columbus Short, Ne-Yo, Meagan Good. (115 min.)
Step dancing has been a traditional source of pride and identity for African-American college fraternities and sororities since at least the 1920s. When DJ (Short), a hip-hop dancer from Los Angeles, goes to college in Atlanta, his skills soon attract attention from rival frats hoping to compete for the national championship. Groan-inducing plot twists and unnecessarily jazzed-up editing aside, this movie will serve as a rousing primer for a previously little known art form that's going mainstream at schools and even churches across the country. Grade: C+
Directors: Rolf Bickel, Dietrich Wagner. With surivors of the Holocaust. (180 min.)
Directed by Rolf Bickel and Dietrich Wagner, this is perhaps the fullest-scaled documentary on the Holocaust since "Shoah." Made in Germany in 1993, but only being released now in the US, it chronicles the mid-'60s trial of 22 SS men in Frankfurt and is divided into three parts: "The Investigation," which introduces the defendants, "The Trial," showcasing descriptions from camp survivors, and "The Verdict," where 20 of the SS, most of whom refused to testify, were found guilty. As both historical document and human document, this 180-minute epic is infinitely valuable. Grade: A
Director: Richard LaGravenese. With Hilary Swank, Patrick Dempsey. (123 min.)
Hilary Swank plays a high school teacher in Long Beach, Calif., who attempts to break through to her predominantly black and Latino students in this engaging but clichéd inspirational drama set during the time of the 1992 race riots in Los Angeles. On some level, just about any movie featuring never-say-die teachers is effective. But if you've seen "To Sir, With Love," "Dead Poet's Society," "The Corn is Green," or "Stand and Deliver" – to take a random sample – you've already seen much of this movie. Swank is good, though, and so is Patrick Dempsey as her suffering husband. Grade: B
– Peter Rainer
Sex/Nudity: one instance of innenudo. Violence: 17. Profanity: 32. Drugs/Alcohol/Tobacco: 5.