The Sixth Annual Monitor Mega Movie Guide

Ratings and comments by David Sterritt and Monitor staff. Staff comments reflect the sometimes diverse views of at least three other moviegoers. Information on violence (V), drugs (D), sex/nudity (S/N), and profanity (P) is compiled by the Monitor panel.

STAR RATINGS MEANING **** Excellent *** Good ** Fair * Poor DUD The Worst

Adrenaline Drive (Not rated)

Director: Shinobu Yaguchi. With Hikari Ishida, Masanobu Ando, Jovi Jova, Kazue Tsunogae, Yutaka Matushige. (111 min.)

Sterritt *** The heroes are a clerk and a health-care worker, both so bashful that it's hard to imagine them having an adventure, until a minor car accident and a gas-pipe explosion put them on a collision course with gangsters scrambling to recover a bag full of stolen loot. The movie is stronger in its first hour than its second, but its amiable acting and feisty visual humor make it a must for fans of Japanese film. In Japanese with English subtitles

VS/N: 1 very mild instance of innuendo. VV: 13 scenes with violence, including a deadly explosion. VP: 31 expressions, some harsh. VD: 4 scenes with alcohol and/or tobacco.

The Adventures of Rocky & Bullwinkle (PG)

Director: Des McAnuff. With Robert De Niro, Piper Perabo, Jason Alexander, Rene Russo, Randy Quaid, Kel Mitchell, Kenan Thompson, Janeane Garofalo, Carl Reiner, Whoopi Goldberg, Jonathan Winters, John Goodman, David Alan Grier, James Rebhorn. (90 min.)

Sterritt *** Hollywood pokes fun at itself as the animated squirrel and moose battle a trio of live-action villains who want to conquer America by flooding it with ultrarotten TV shows. The comedy is crammed with show-biz jokes that younger kids won't fathom, but the action is so quick and colorful that they probably won't mind. Older folks will find many chuckles, especially if they grew up watching the cartoon heroes' own great '60s series.

Staff *** Nostalgic, intermittently charming, good-natured.

VS/N: 1 mildly suggestive scene. Violence: 11 scenes of animated violence, including a brawl and an explosion. VP: 3 mild expressions. VD: 2 scenes with alcohol, 5 with tobacco.

An Affair of Love (R)

Director: Frederic Fonteyne. With Nathalie Baye, Sergi Lopez, Paul Pavel, Sylvie Van den Elsen. (80 min.)

Sterritt *** The romantic adventure of a couple who begin their relationship on a purely sensual basis but eventually develop some insight into each other as complex human beings. Baye and Lopez are excellent, as always. Also known as "A Pornographic Affair." In French with English subtitles

VS/N: 1 sex scene with nudity, 1 of implied sex, 1 suggestive scene, 7 instances of innuendo. VV: None. VP: 2 fairly mild expressions. VD: 8 scenes with alcohol, 1 with tobacco, 2 with both.

Agnes Browne (R)

Director: Anjelica Huston. With Anjelica Huston, Ray Winstone, Marion O'Dwyer, Arno Chevrier, Tom Jones. (92 min.)

Sterritt ** The place is Dublin in 1967, and the heroine is a good-natured widow striving to raise her seven young children, fend off a loan shark who's wormed his way into her life, and test the waters of romance with a French baker who appears to be casting an eye her way. The material is familiar and the ending is corny, but Huston's acting and directing keep it likable.

VS/N: 1 mild mother-son talk about sex, 4 instances of innuendo. VV: 3 scenes with violence, including kids scuffling. VP: 49 expressions, many harsh. VD: 1 scene with alcohol, 11 with tobacco (including children smoking), 4 with both.

Aimee & Jaguar (Not rated)

Director: Max Farberbock. With Maria Schrader, Juliane Kohler, Johanna Wokalek, Heike Makatsch. (125 min.)

Sterritt *** A love affair develops between two German women near the end of the Nazi era, adding to the danger and uncertainty brought into their lives by the social and historical situation around them. Much of the acting is splendid, and Farberbock has directed the story with a canny blend of liveliness and taste. In German with English subtitles

Alice and Martin (R)

Director: Andre Techine. With Juliette Binoche, Alexis Loret, Carmen Maura, Pierre Maguelon, Marthe Villalonga, Jeremy Kreikenmayer, Eric Kreikenmayer, Jean-Pierre Lorit, Mathieu Amalric. (123 min.)

Sterritt *** The love affair of an attractive musician and a young man with a troubled family history. Techine's tendency to exert tight control over every aspect of his movies can make them seem chilly, but this drama is richly photographed and enhanced by Binoche's steadily appealing performance. In French with English subtitles

Staff *** Well directed, stunning cinematography, a bit stiff, disjointed.

VS/N: 2 scenes with nudity; 1 with men kissing; 1 instance of innuendo. VV: 5 scenes with violence, including a scuffle with very serious consequences. VP: 30 expressions, some harsh. VD: 8 scenes with alcohol, 11 with tobacco, 5 with both.

All About Eve (Not rated)

Director: Joseph L. Manciewicz. With Bette Davis, George Sanders, Anne Baxter, Celeste Holm, Hugh Marlowe, Thelma Ritter, Marilyn Monroe. (138 min.)

Sterritt **** Heaped with Oscars in 1950, this classic show-business drama continues to hold up splendidly thanks to its savvy dialogue, indelible performances, and sardonic story about a clever young actress (Baxter) who worms her way into the life of a glamorous Broadway star (Davis) who's beginning to show her age. They don't make 'em like this anymore!

All I Wanna Do (PG-13)

Director: Sarah Kernochan. With Kirsten Dunst, Heather Matarazzo, Gaby Hoffmann, Rachael Leigh Cook, Monica Keena, Lynn Redgrave. (94 min.)

Sterritt *** The spirited pupils at Miss Godard's Preparatory School for Girls cope with the challenges of growing up, debate the advantages of female-only education, and decide to take action when their school heads toward a merger with an all-male academy. Lively acting lift this lightweight comedy up a notch.

Almost Famous (R)

Director: Cameron Crowe. With Billy Crudup, Kate Hudson, Patrick Fugit, Frances McDormand, Jason Lee, Fairuza Balk, Anna Paquin, Noah Taylor, Philip Seymour Hoffman. (122 min.)

Sterritt *** The adventures of a very young rock-music journalist who accompanies a second-rate band on tour in the early '70s, chasing his story through a maze of distractions ranging from groupies and parties to the group's insecurity about its future. Crowe's screenplay is loosely based on his past experiences, and a sense of authenticity and sincerity shines through the movie's Hollywood veneer. Fugit gives a starmaking performance as the teenage reporter, and Crudup and Lee are excellent as the band's lead guitarist and singer, respectively. Best of all is Hoffman as Lester Bangs, the legendary rock critic who sees gloomy prospects for a pop scene that's getting too grown- up for its own good.

Staff ***1/2 A valentine to '70s rock, poignant, funny.

VS/N: 1 sex scene, 2 with implied sex, 3 scenes with nudity. VV: 1 scuffle and 1 instance of a girl getting her stomach pumped for overdose. VP: 37 expressions, mostly harsh. VD: 18 scenes with alcohol, 12 with tobacco, 5 with drugs.

American Psycho (R)

Director: Mary Harron. With Christian Bale, Reese Witherspoon, Willem Dafoe, Chloe Sevigny, Jared Leto, Samantha Mathis, Matt Ross, Guinevere Turner. (100 min.)

Sterritt ** A crazed yuppie divides his time between power lunches on Wall Street and vicious murders in the streets and skyscrapers of a Manhattan suffering from its own hyperactive madness in the narcissistic '80s. Bret Easton Ellis's novel is a manic blend of incisive satire and repellent violence. Harron and screenwriter Guinevere Turner reduce it to a standard- issue slasher movie, stylishly shot, but with little to distinguish it from a long line of "Psycho"-spawned gorefests.

Staff **1/2 Grotesque, dark satire, eerily humorous.

VS/N: 13 scenes, including 2 graphic sex scenes, some shower scenes, and porn videos playing in the background. VV: 7 scenes, including a shooting spree, a scene with dead bodies, and a murder with an ax. VP: 47 expressions, mostly harsh. VD: 13 scenes with alcohol, 10 with tobacco, 5 with hard-drug use or implied hard-drug use.

Animal Factory (R)

Director: Steve Buscemi. With Willem Dafoe, Edward Furlong, Mickey Rourke, John Heard, Seymour Cassel, Steve Buscemi, Tom Arnold, Danny Trejo. (94 min.)

Sterritt *** Sent to prison by a politically ambitious DA who wants to make an example of him, a first-time felon tries to serve his time quietly with the help of a thick-skinned inmate who befriends him, but one misstep after another gets him entangled with the jail's worst elements. Buscemi's directing blends hard-hitting visual qualities with great emotional energy and a refusal to let the story's message - that potentially valuable lives can be lost rather than redeemed in the brutal penitentiary system - get lost in the gut-wrenching violence that runs through it.

The Art of War (R)

Director: Christian Duguay. With Wesley Snipes, Anne Archer, Maury Chaykin, Marie Matiko, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, Michael Biehn, Donald Sutherland. (117 min.)

Staff *1/2 An undercover United Nations agent assigned to help the US forward free trade with China is framed for a political murder. Not to get snippety with this Snipes movie that's just meant as a harmless, summertime diversion, but it falls flat. And the paint-by-numbers script oddly enough doesn't make all that much sense. A little heart, but no art. By Katherine Dillin

Staff *1/2 Uninspired, gimmicky, flimsy.

VS/N: 1 scene of implied sex, 3 with nudity in a strip club. VV: 27 scenes with violence, including 3 lengthy sequences, shooting, and a brutal fight. VP: 36 expressions, some harsh. VD: 4 scenes with alcohol, a few with tobacco, 1 with cocaine.

L'Atalante (Not rated)

Director: Jean Vigo. With Michel Simon, Dita Parlo, Jean Daste, Louis Lefevre. (99 min.)

Sterritt **** Reissue of a well-loved 1934 classic about a newly married Frenchwoman who joins her boat-captain husband on a barge dominated by a crusty old seaman with a dim regard for society's rules and conventions. Vigo became a legendary French director on the basis of a mere handful of films before his untimely death. And his lone feature-length work ranks with the anarchic short "Zero for Conduct" at the top level of his accomplishments. In French with English subtitles

The Autumn Heart (Not rated)

Director: Steven Maler. With Tyne Daly, Ally Sheedy, Jack Davidson, Davidlee Willson, Marla Sucharetza, Marceline Hugot. (110 min.)

Staff *** School bus driver Daly thinks she's dying and sends her three adult daughters (Sheedy, Hugot, Sucharetza) to find their brother who left with Dad 20 years before. Little brother (Willson, who wrote this delightful comedy- drama) is in grad school at Harvard and engaged to a socialite. A cultural storm blows up when his sisters meet the fiancee's hoity-toity family and their own rich father, but the winds stay fresh, and the sweethearts' tolerance and compassion provide much shelter. By M.K. Terrell

VS/N: 1 scene with strippers, 1 instance of innuendo. VV: 1 adult temper tantrum. VP: 76 expressions, mostly harsh. VD: 3 scenes with alcohol, 6 with smoking, 4 with both.

Autumn in New York (PG-13)

Director: Joan Chen. With Richard Gere, Winona Ryder, Anthony LaPaglia, Jillian Hennessey. (105 min.)

Staff * Richard Gere plays Will, an aging skirt-chaser who falls for Charlotte, a sweet 20-something woman (Ryder) who has a terminal illness. Already, this flat storyline has problems. There's no on-screen chemistry between Gere and Ryder, and the lines are so sappy you'll want to burst out in laughter. Gere's character also fathered a child - whom he abandoned - years ago. She's grown up now and pregnant. Will Charlotte live and will Gere reunite with his daughter? By the time this insipid melodrama ends, you'll either be asleep or you probably won't care. By Lisa Leigh Parney

Staff ** Harmless, romantic distraction, no sparks, done before.

VS/N: 1 suggestive scene and 2 of implied sex. VV: None. VP: 10 expressions, mostly harsh. VD: 6 scenes with alcohol and/or tobacco, 2 references to drug use.

Bait (R)

Director: Antoine Fuqua. With Jamie Foxx, David Morse, Kimberly Elise, Doug Hutchison, David Paymer, Mike Epps, Jamie Kennedy, Robert Pastorelli, Nestor Serrano. (120 min.)

Sterritt ** Feds use a petty thief to lure a killer into the open, manipulating the psychopath into thinking his small-time colleague knows the whereabouts of a hidden treasure trove. The comically tinged action is as lively as it is brainless, and it revels in violence a bit less eagerly than many thrillers of its ilk.

The Ballad of Ramblin' Jack (Not rated)

Director: Aiyana Elliott. With Ramblin' Jack Elliott, Pete Seeger, Dave Van Ronk, Arlo Guthrie, Odetta, Kris Kristofferson. (105 min.)

Sterritt *** The life and times of folk singer Ramblin' Jack Elliott, capturing his public persona - part cowboy, part hobo, part folkloric researcher, part barroom raconteur - and glimpses of the private individual who's been playing this self-invented role since the 1950s. Some of the archival and interview footage is priceless, and the documentary gains extra interest from the fact that Elliott's daughter directed it, using it as a way to gain some of the fatherly attention she didn't get while growing up.

Staff *** Winning, heartfelt, slow.

VS/N: Some innuendo. VV: None. VP: 19 expressions, a few harsh. VD: 3 scenes with alcohol, 6 with tobacco, 1 with marijuana.

Bamboozled (R)

Director: Spike Lee. With Damon Wayans, Jada Pinkett-Smith, Savion Glover, Michael Rapaport, Tommy Davidson, Susan Batson. Mos Def. (135 min.)

Sterritt *** Spurred by a mixture of personal and professional motives, an African-American writer dreams up an outrageous TV concept - a modern-day minstrel show - and contrary to his expectations it becomes a smash, making blatant racism the hottest thing in entertainment. The movie mixes in-your-face comedy with over-the-top plot twists and outspoken social commentary. It's a unique blend of history and hysteria, and there's no escaping the dead-serious ideas that run beneath its flamboyant surface.

VS/N: None. VV: 4 scenes, including a shootout. VP: At least 283 expressions, many harsh. VD: 9 scenes including 3 with smoking, 3 with drinking and some of both in advertisements.

Barry Lyndon (PG)

Director: Stanley Kubrick. With Ryan O'Neal, Marisa Berenson, Patrick Magee, Hardy Kruger, Stephen Berkoff. (183 min.)

Sterritt **** Revival of Kubrick's ravishingly beautiful historical epic, first released in 1975 and celebrated primarily for John Alcott's unprecedented feats of cinematography. Loving, gambling, spying, and dueling are among the activities of the eponymous 18th-century hero, drawn from the pages of William Makepeace Thackeray's amiably adventurous novel.

Battlefield Earth (PG-13)

Director: Roger Christian. With John Travolta, Barry Pepper, Forest Whitaker, Kim Coates. (117 min.)

Staff * It's the year 3000 and a race called the Psychlos have invaded Earth and enslaved mankind for a mining operation. The film starts well with interesting comic book-style camera angles, but it never generates enough tension due to preposterous plot holes and liberal borrowings from other movies. Worse, alien villain Travolta delivers the script's risible lines in an over-the-top "Rocky Horror Picture Show" performance that is completely at odds with the square-jawed approach of the hero (Pepper). It's like another awful "Planet of the Apes" sequel. By Stephen Humphries

VS/N: 1 instance of innuendo. VV: 14 scenes with violence, including shootings and beatings. VP: 12 mostly mild expressions. VD: 4 scenes with alcohol.

The Beach (R)

Director: Danny Boyle. With Leonardo DiCaprio, Tilda Swinton, Robert Carlyle, Virginie Ledoyen, Guillaume Canet. (119 min.)

Sterritt ** A young American and two French companions make their way to an exotic Thai island, known only to a feisty group of latter-day hippies, and they find more danger than they ever expected. The scenery is splendid and DiCaprio looks extra-cool amid the palm trees and waterfalls. But the story is less original than its setting - it knocks off everything from "Lord of the Flies" to "The Blair Witch Project" - and its unromantic moods may make DiCaprio's countless "Titanic" fans want to swim in the opposite direction.

Staff *1/2 Aimless, idyllic scenery but dull story line, poor character development.

VS/N: 2 scenes with sex and nudity, 1 is fairly graphic; 1 suggestive scene. VV: 13 scenes with violence, including fights and a dead body. VP: 87 expressions, mostly harsh. VD: 4 scenes with alcohol, 10 with smoking, 5 with marijuana.

Beau Travail (Not rated)

Director: Claire Denis. With Denis Levant, Gregoire Colin, Michel Subor. (90 min.)

Sterritt **** The setting is an outpost of the French Foreign Legion, the characters are tough-minded men having limited contact with the everyday world, and the themes cluster around the ultimately mysterious nature of human personality. Loosely based on Herman Melville's great novella "Billy Budd: Foretopman," this ravishingly filmed masterpiece is as emotionally stirring as it is dramatically enigmatic. It is must-see viewing for anyone interested in film's ability to transform musical rhythms and painterly images into cinematic art of the highest order. In French with English subtitles

Staff **1/2 Starkly beautiful, depressing, textured themes, restrained.

VS/N: 2 scenes with nudity. VV: 6 scenes with violence, including a deadly explosion. VP: 3 expressions, 1 harsh. VD: 1 scene with alcohol, 14 with tobacco, 2 with both.

Beautiful (PG-13)

Director: Sally Field. With Minnie Driver, Hallie Kate Eisenberg, Joey Lauren Adams. (112 min.)

Staff ** Driver is a woman so consumed with winning beauty pageants that she's failed to develop a heart, even having a devoted friend (Adams) raise her daughter (Eisenberg). Field's directorial debut assembles a marvelous cast, but is less a film than a sampler box of genres - nostalgia piece, buddy flick, satire, expose, coming-of-age story. Some of these morsels are tasty indeed. Others take a long time to chew. Fields has a heart. If she can emulate her heroine's focus and drive, she may make a great movie some day. By M.K. Terrell

VS/N: 1 instance of innuendo. VV: 3 scenes with violence, including suicide and a thwarted threat. VP: 17 expressions, mostly mild. VD: 2 scenes with alcohol, 2 with tobacco.

Bedazzled (PG-13)

Director: Harold Ramis. With Brendan Fraser, Elizabeth Hurley, Frances O'Connor (93 min.)

Staff ** Be careful what you wish for. Computer geek Elliot (Fraser) is granted seven wishes when he runs into a beautiful woman named the Devil (Hurley). Of course, every time he makes a wish, the Devil finds a way to mess things up. For instance, when Elliot wishes for money and power, he turns into a Colombian drug lord with an unfaithful wife. His funniest characters arrive in the form of an overly sensitive geek and an NBA star who has uncontrollable sweat glands. This remake of the 1967 movie starring Peter Cook and Dudley Moore is quite funny and eye-catching. By Lisa Leigh Parney

VS/N: 12 instances of innuendo. VV: 5 mild instances, all played for laughs. VP: 12 expressions, mostly mild. VD: 4 scenes with drinking, 3 with smoking, and 1 scene in a cocaine factory.

Before Night Falls (R)

Director: Julian Schnabel. With Javier Bardem, Olivier Martinez, Andrea Di Stefano, Johnny Depp, Michael Wincott, Sean Penn. (125 min)

Sterritt *** Politics and humanism find an engrossing balance in this ambitious drama based on the life of Reinaldo Arenas, a gay Cuban poet who was persecuted by the homophobic Castro regime. Bardem gives a star-making performance, but Schnabel's filmmaking doesn't have quite as much visual imagination as his previous bio-pic, the excellent "Basquiat."

Best in Show (PG-13)

Director: Christopher Guest. With Christopher Guest, Parker Posey, Michael Hitchcock, Jennifer Coolidge, Eugene Levy, Catherine O'Hara. (89 min.)

Sterritt *** A visit with the dog-show set as they prepare their pooches for competition, steeling themselves for the wagging tail of victory or the droopy eyes of defeat. There's no great cinema in this mock documentary, but there are so many uproarious laughs you'll hardly notice.

Staff *** Doggone funny, hysterical, buoyant.

VS/N: 8 instances of innuendo. VV: None. VP: 18 expressions, mostly mild. VD: 2 instances of drinking.

Better Living (Not rated)

Director: Max Mayer. With Roy Scheider, Olympia Dukakis, Deborah Hedwall, Catherine Corpeny, Wendy Hoopes, Edward Herrmann, James Villemaire. (95 min.)

Sterritt * An eccentric father returns to the family he once abandoned and enlists them in a cockamamie plan to improve their fortunes. Not even veteran talents like Dukakis and Scheider can surmount the artificial dialogue, arbitrary plot twists, and wan humor of this disappointing comedy-drama.

Beyond the Mat (R)

Director: Barry Blaustein. With Mick Foley, Terry Funk, Jack Roberts. (102 min.)

Sterritt **** Riveting, rambunctious documentary about the professional- wrestling scene, focusing on the personal experiences of the "athletes" who bash one another around in the ring. The movie reveals much about public and private aspects of this so-called sport. But stay far, far away unless you can handle the copious amounts of blood (some of it phony) and agonizing psychological problems (all of them real) that its participants face on what seems like a daily basis.

The Big Kahuna (R)

Director: John Swanbeck. With Kevin Spacey, Danny DeVito, Peter Facinelli. (90 min.)

Sterritt *** Three businessmen face uncomfortable questions about their lives during a long evening in a hotel hospitality suite where they've gathered to give a sales pitch. There's nothing cinematic about this transplanted stage play, but good acting and pungent dialogue - some of it about the place of religion in business and in life - lend it more than passing interest.

Staff *1/2 Slow, subtle, insightful.

VS/N: None. VV: 1 mild tussle. VP: 31 expressions, some harsh. VD: 3 scenes with alcohol, 4 with smoking.

Big Momma's House (PG-13)

Director: Raja Gosnell. With Martin Lawrence, Nia Long, Paul Giamatti, Terrence Dashon Howard. (105 min.)

Staff ** Lawrence makes his summer debut playing FBI agent Malcolm Turner. He heads down South to stakeout the house of Big Momma, whose soon-to-visit granddaughter used to date a recently escaped bank robber. When Big Momma has to leave town, Turner goes undercover as Big Momma. Although Lawrence brings his natural humor to the screen, and some moments are laugh-out-loud funny, most of the scenes are predictable, and, even for a wacked-out comedy like this one, a little too unrealistic. By Christy Ellington

Staff ** Funny, predictable, silly.

VS/N: 1 scene with nudity, 6 sexual situations. VV: 8 scenes with violence, including shooting and some comic fight sequences. VP: 25 expressions. VD: 4 scenes with alcohol.

Billy Elliot (R)

Director: Stephen Daldry. With Jamie Bell, Julie Walters, Gary Lewis, Jamie Draven, Adam Cooper. (110 min.)

Sterritt *** The sprightly tale of a feisty lad who lives in England's coal- mining country and wants to become a ballet dancer even though his family thinks that's no ambition for a real man. The movie does a fine job of integrating its political interests - a fierce 1984 mining strike - with a deeply felt love of dancing. It also trumpets the worthwhile message that ballet is just as manly and athletic as any other masculine activity - and maybe a touch more so, if you have to defy an uncomprehending community in order to pursue it.

Staff **** Year's best, contagious energy, sweet story, a pure joy.

VS/N: Quick flash of male backside. VV: 7 scenes, including angry union picketers throwing objects, and some scenes with domestic violence. VP: 57 mostly harsh expressions. VD: 17 scenes with cigarettes, 5 with alcohol.

Billy Liar (Not rated)

Director: John Schlesinger. With Tom Courtenay, Julie Christie, Wilfred Pickles, Mona Washbourne, Finlay Currie, Ethel Griffies, Leonard Rossiter, Rodney Bewes. (98 min.)

Sterritt **** Courtenay and Christie headed toward international stardom on the strength of this marvelous 1963 comedy about a young man whose fantasy life far outstrips his regrettably drab life as an English undertaker's assistant. A pungent pleasure from start to finish.

Bittersweet Motel (Not rated)

Director: Todd Phillips. With the rock band Phish. (84 min.)

Sterritt *** On tour with Phish, which prides itself on improvisational music that's unpredictable enough to satisfy the loyal fans who follow the group from gig to gig. The movie is as loose and lanky as the band's style, which should please groupies and newcomers alike.

Black and White (R)

Director: James Toback. With Brooke Shields, Robert Downey Jr., Mike Tyson, Stacy Edwards, Ben Stiller, Gaby Hoffman, Elijah Wood, Jared Leto, Claudia Schiffer, Marla Maples, Scott Caan, Joe Pantoliano, Bijou Phillips, Brett Ratner. (100 min.)

Sterritt *** Wishing to explore the influence of black hip-hop culture on white youngsters, a filmmaker and her husband start hanging around the Manhattan youth scene to see what revelations might pop up. The story is a mess, as usual with Toback's movies, but intricacies of contemporary urban culture are vividly illuminated by his insistence on blurring the boundaries between fiction and reality. Contains some very explicit sex.

Staff ** Angry, soulless, thought-provoking.

VS/N: 4 scenes with sex, implied sex, or suggestive content, 3 of them with nudity. VV: 5 scenes with violence, including gun threats and slaps. VP: 358 mostly harsh expressions. VD: 12 scenes with alcohol and/or tobacco, 3 with marijuana, 1 with marijuana and alcohol.

Bless the Child (R)

Director: Chuck Russell. With Kim Basinger, Jimmy Smits, Holliston Coleman, Rufus Sewell, Christina Ricci, Ian Holm, Dimitra Arlys, Lumi Cavazos, Angela Bettis. (105 min.)

Sterritt ** A little girl becomes a pawn in a Manhattan-based battle between forces of heavenly goodness and Satanic evil. This is an old-style supernatural thriller in the vein of "The Omen" and "The Exorcist," often trite and predictable but grudgingly likable in the end. If the eye-jolting shocks don't keep you awake, the patches of howlingly awful dialogue will certainly do the trick.

Staff * Worthless, scary, vivid, nicely cast.

VS/N: None. VV: 20 scenes of horror-movie style violence, including use of knives, guns, and explosions. VP: 8 expressions, some harsh. VD: 2 scenes with alcohol, 1 with tobacco, 3 with drug use or implied drug use.

Blood Simple (R)

Director: Joel Coen. With John Getz, Frances McDormand, M. Emmet Walsh, Dan Hedaya, Samm-Art Williams. (97 min.)

Sterritt *** A slightly reedited version of the 1984 thriller that put the Coen Brothers on the map - directed by Joel, produced by Ethan, and written by both. It's a grisly tale about a private eye hired by a jealous husband to kill his cheating wife, but if you can handle its horror-comic grotesquerie, you'll find an enormous amount of cinematic imagination at work. Even the Coens have only managed to top this one a couple of times, most successfully in "Fargo" and the great "Barton Fink."

VS/N: 1 sex scene, 1 of implied sex, 2 instances of innuendo. VV: 6 scenes with violence, including shooting and stabbing. VP: 31 expressions, mostly harsh. VD: 13 scenes with alcohol and/or tobacco, including instance with marijuana.

Boiler Room (R)

Director: Ben Younger. With Giovanni Ribisi, Vin Diesel, Ben Affleck, Jamie Kennedy, Nia Long, Tom Everett Scott. (110 min.)

Staff ** Young execs at a fraudulent brokerage house recruit similarly money- hungry young men who don't care whom they hurt by selling valueless stock as long as they reach their first mil by 30. Ribisi, as a son who always makes the wrong choices all the while trying to gain his hardhearted dad's respect, plays along with the scheme until his conscience gets the better of him. Vulgar language and some shaky logic take away from what could have been a more compelling tale. By Katherine Dillin

Staff **1/2 Tense, engaging, not totally believable.

VS/N: 1 instance of innuendo. VV: 4 scenes, including shoving and a beating. VP: 209 expressions, mostly harsh. VD: 9 scenes with alcohol and/or smoking, 2 with alcohol, smoking, and drugs.

BookWars (Not rated)

Director: Jason Rosette. With Jason Rosette, Rick Sherman, Pete Whitney, Al Mappo. (79 min.)

Sterritt ** A visit with streetside booksellers in Greenwich Village, hosted by a filmmaker who knows the territory from first-hand experience. His use of low- tech equipment gives the documentary a sense of spontaneity and intimacy that jibes nicely with its unassuming subject.

Boesman & Lena (Not rated)

Director: John Berry. With Danny Glover, Angela Bassett, Willie Jonah. (88 min.)

Sterritt ** An emotionally turbulent visit with a mixed-race couple wandering the roads outside Capetown during the bad old days of South Africa's reprehensible apartheid system. Glover and Bassett play the title characters with great energy, and Berry has invested the movie with the moral conscience that underpinned his entire career. Athol Fugard's dialogue seems written for the stage rather than the screen, though, and the stars are so eager to be interesting that they don't always manage to be convincing as well.

Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2 (R)

Director: Joe Berlinger. With Kim Director, Jeffrey Donovan, Erica Leerhsen, Stephen Baker Turner, Tristine Skyler. (90 min.)

Sterritt * This sequel to the hugely popular "Blair Witch Project" peeps at a group of adventurous young folks exploring the spooky woods where their ill- starred predecessors met a mysterious doom. The original was overrated but this follow-up is downright awful, acted and directed with a pumped-up clunkiness that makes the first film's deliberately amateurish air seem positively professional by comparison. Berlinger should stick with the moody documentaries that made him an important player on the independent-film scene.

Staff DUD Wake me when it's over, nightmarish, head for the exits!

VS/N: 6 scenes of nudity and 1 shot of nude male backside. VV: 28 scenes, including lots of gory stabbings, a miscarriage, a hanging, and a girl eating a dead owl with dripping blood. VP: 106 expressions. VD: 9 scenes with cigarettes, 3 scenes with marijuana, and 8 instances of alcohol.

Bossa Nova (R)

Director: Bruno Barreto. With Amy Irving, Antonio Fagundes, Alexandre Borges, Debora Bloch. (95 min.)

Sterritt *** Romantic comedy about an English teacher and an attorney who enter an unexpected love affair while assorted friends and associates search for their own happiness. The story is slender, but the Brazilian settings are exquisite and lilting tunes by Antonio Carlos Jobim cast a spell over the entire enterprise. In English and Portuguese with English subtitles

Staff ***1/2 Lush, romantic, witty.

VS/N: 2 brief sex scenes, 1 implied sex scene, 4 instances of innuendo. VV: 1 punch. VP: 42 expressions, mostly harsh. VD: 5 scenes with alcohol, 1 with tobacco, 1 with alcohol and tobacco.

Bounce (PG-13)

Director: Don Roose. With Ben Affleck, Gwyneth Paltrow, Natasha Henstridge, Jennifer Grey, Tony Goldwyn, David Paymer. (105 min.)

Staff *** Paltrow stars as Abby, a real estate agent who tries to "bounce back" after her husband dies in a plane crash. As it turns out, Buddy (Affleck), a self-absorbed advertising agent, switched his ticket with a stranger he met in Chicago (Abby's husband) at the last minute. Riddled with guilt, Buddy shows up on her Los Angeles doorstep a year later to see if she's all right. Buddy then falls for her, but his "secret" creates problems. The movie is well acted, deeply moving, and unlike some love stories, it doesn't feel forced or contrived. By Lisa Leigh Parney

Staff *** Naturalistic, Paltrow shows versatility, heartfelt, moral tale, slow- moving.

VS/N: 2 bedroom scenes with no nudity, and 1 instance of innuendo. VV: Aftermath of a plane crash; clothing is ripped in a dog attack. VP: 24 expressions, some harsh VD: 13 scenes with alcohol, 3 scenes with cigarettes.

Boy Meets Girl (Not rated)

Director: Leos Carax. With Denis Lavant, Mireille Perier, Carroll Brooks, Elie Poicard, Anna Baldaccini. (100 min.)

Sterritt *** Carax made his directorial debut with this 1984 tale of a young man who breaks up with his girlfriend, searches for a new love, and falls into a romance that's ill-starred from the start. Carax's effort to revivify France's revolutionary New Wave filmmaking movement has never quite panned out, but his early work shows great energy and imagination. In French with English subtitles

Boys and Girls (PG-13)

Director: Robert Iscove. With Freddie Prinze Jr., Claire Forlani, Jason Biggs, Amanda Detmer. (90 min.)

Staff * Once upon a time, boys and girls, there was a meandering, plotless teen romantic comedy with no antagonists to liven things up. A nice boy and a nice girl dislike one another passionately - a sure sign of budding romance - but after several chance encounters, a friendship blossoms anyway. The formula hasn't grown tired (fairy tales never fade in popularity), but, alas, this script is fatiguing. Bland dialogue and visibly frustrated actors turn this love story into a heartbreaking moviegoing experience. By Katherine Dillin

VS/N: 1 sex scene, 1 of implied sex, and many discussions of sex. VV: 5 scenes with violence, including slaps and a bar fight. VP: 17 expressions, mostly mild. VD: 4 scenes with alcohol, 1 with tobacco.

Breathless (Not rated)

Director: Jean-Luc Godard. With Jean-Paul Belmondo, Jean Seberg, Jean-Pierre Melville, Jean Douchet, Philippe de Broca, Andre-S. Labarthe, Jean Domarchi, Henry-Jacques Huet, Daniel Boulanger. (90 min.)

Sterritt **** Reissue of the 1960 classic that helped launch France's revolutionary New Wave filmmaking group with an imaginatively told story of a Paris gangster wooing his American girlfriend while scouting up the money he needs to get out of town after an impulsive crime. Godard's most popular movie is also his most influential, doing more to modernize the tone of world cinema than any other single picture of its time. In French with English subtitles

The Bridge (Not rated)

Directors: Gerard Depardieu, Fred Auburtin. With Gerard Depardieu, Carole Bouquet, Charles Berling. (92 min.)

Sterritt *** The gently told story of a married woman whose love affair with her husband's employer has considerable consequences for herself and her family. Sensitive acting and a detailed sense of location help distinguish this commendably modest production. The original French title is "Un Pont entre deux rives." In French with English subtitles

Bring It On (PG-13)

Director: Peyton Reed. With Kirsten Dunst, Jesse Bradford, Eliza Dushku, Gabrielle Union, Clare Kramer. (100 min.)

Sterritt ** High-schoolers hop and holler as they vie for the cheerleading championship and work out their rivalry with a competing inner-city team. The story is as simple as the average football cheer, but the dialogue has amusing echoes of "Clueless," and Dunst and Bradford make a mighty cute couple.

Staff ** Fresh-faced, predictable, harmless, upbeat.

VS/N: 6 instances of sexual innuendo. VV: 3 mild instances of violence, including slapping, a hard-hitting football sequence, and a bloody nose. VP: 62 expressions, mostly mild. VD: 1 instance of prescription-drug abuse.

The Broken Hearts Club: A Romantic Comedy (R)

Director: Greg Berlanti. With Zach Braff, Dean Cain, Andrew Keegan, John Mahoney, Matt McGrath, Timothy Olyphant, Nia Long, Mary McCormack. (105 min.)

Sterritt ** The romantic adventures of several gay friends in the Los Angeles area. Berlanti's filmmaking offers little that's fresh or original, and the story seems recycled from decades of heterosexual sitcoms that play with the same type of material. The performances are perky, though.

La Buche (Not rated)

Director: Daniele Thompson. With Emmanuelle Beart, Sabine Azema, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Claude Rich. (105 min.)

Sterritt *** The place is Paris, the time is Christmas season in high gear, and the main characters are members of a family coping as well as they can with issues of love, loss, parenthood, and infidelity. The fine cast helps an old- fashioned screenplay seem reasonably fresh most of the time. In French with English subtitles

The Bulls' Night Out (Not rated)

Director: Lindley Farley. With Jack Marnell, Steve Kasprzak, A.J. Johnson, J.J. Flash, Russ Romano. (90 min.)

Sterritt ** Hanging out in their favorite saloon, a group of retired cops decide to shake up the local drug scene with some vigilante action of their own. The movie has a sense of streetwise immediacy that works in its favor, but its effort to match the emotional urgency of John Cassavetes's great films quickly falls short of the mark.

But I'm a Cheerleader (R)

Director: Jamie Babbitt. With Natasha Lyonne, Cathy Moriarty, RuPaul, Clea DuVall, Bud Cort, Mink Stole, Eddie Cibrian, Michelle Williams, Kip Pardue, Richard Moll, Julie Delpy. (84 min.)

Sterritt ** A spunky teenager gets sent to a sex-education camp when her parents decide she might be gay. The movie is as featherweight as its title, but Lyonne gives a winning performance, and the mischievous story packs a few good laughs.

Staff *** Funny, poignant, nothing new.

VS/N: 1 sex scene, 1 suggestive scene, 5 scenes with homosexual kissing, 15 instances of sexual innuendo. VV: None. VP: 39 expressions, many harsh or obscene. VD: 1 scene with alcohol and tobacco, 3 with tobacco.

Butterfly (R)

Director: Jose Luis Cuerda. With Fernando Fernan Gomez, Manuel Lozano, Uxia Blanco, Gonzalo Uriarte, Guillermo Toledo. (96 min.)

Sterritt ** Friendship blossoms between a little boy and a gentle old schoolteacher whose political views are increasingly suspect as fascism tightens its hold on their Spanish province in the summer of 1936. A powerful ending lends a strong emotional charge to this prettily filmed drama, but too much of the story is taken up with romantic cliches about the everyday challenges of childhood. In Spanish with English subtitles

Staff *** Lyrical, unexpected, moving, tragic.

VS/N: 1 scene with sex and nudity, 2 with nudity only, 3 instances of innuendo. VV: 4 scenes with violence, including boys scuffling and prisoners showing signs of torture. VP: 14 expressions, mostly mild. VD: 9 scenes with alcohol and/or tobacco.

The Carriers Are Waiting (Not rated)

Director: Benoit Mariage. With Benoit Poelvoorde, Margane Simon, Bouli Lanners, Dominique Baeyens. (94 min.)

Sterritt **** Sensitive, imaginative comedy-drama about a man who grows tired of his ordinary life, starts yearning for a touch of fame, and coerces his teenage son into trying to set a world record - not by engaging in some useful task, but by opening and closing a door more times than anyone's managed before. At once dreamily surreal and socially acute, the Belgian production features a splendid cast headed by Poelvoorde, previously celebrated for his searing 1992 performance in "Man Bites Dog." In Flemish with English subtitles

Cast Away (PG-13)

Director: Robert Zemeckis. With Tom Hanks, Helen Hunt, Nick Searcy, Chris Noth, Lari White. (143 min)

Sterritt *** Marooned on an island in the middle of nowhere, a workaholic FedEx engineer looks within himself for the resources he needs to survive his physical, psychological, and spiritual ordeal. Hanks's extraordinary acting keeps the adventure involving even though the beginning is predictable, the middle is uneven, and the finale slips into Zemeckis's patented brand of "Forrest Gump" fuzziness.

Catfish in Black Bean Sauce (PG-13)

Director: Chi Muoi Lo. With Chi Muoi Lo, Sanaa Lathan, Paul Winfield, Mary Alice. (119 min.)

Staff ** The lives of a Vietnamese brother and sister and the African-American couple who raised them take an unexpected turn when the kids' birth mother turns up after a 20-year separation. Writer-director-star Lo's comedy addresses some poignant and relevant issues, but it would be better if he could have afforded a writer to help his script and a director to get his performance off the ground. Still, he deserves credit for trying to do it all himself. By M.K. Terrell

Cecil B. Demented (R)

Director: John Waters. With Melanie Griffith, Stephen Dorff, Alicia Witt, Ricki Lake, Patricia Hearst. (88 min.)

Sterritt *** A movie actress is kidnapped by a band of guerrilla filmmakers and forced to star in their latest no-budget epic, which they hope will expose Hollywood as a money-driven fraud and enshrine their anti-aesthetic in its place. The comedy is frantic and tasteless in the usual Waters mode, but it takes telling potshots at the Hollywood establishment, which isn't nearly so open about the tackiness of its products.

The Cell (R)

Director: Tarsem Singh. With Jennifer Lopez, Vincent D'Onofrio, Marianne Jean- Baptiste, Vince Vaughn, Dylan Baker, Jake Weber. (115 min.)

Sterritt ** Lopez plays a psychotherapist who makes a high-tech journey into the mind of a demented serial killer in a desperate effort to help the police figure out where he's stashed his latest victim. The action is as grisly as it is surrealistic, which is what you'd expect from a cinematic visit to a particularly loathsome subconscious. But the film's patches of lurid sensationalism are partly offset by the director's explosive visual imagination, which keeps the screen jumping when the plot and dialogue sag. Howard Shore's music adds a dose of pounding energy.

VS/N: 5 scenes with nudity, mostly autopsied bodies. VV: 24 scenes of gruesome violence, ranging from a child beating to a man being gutted. VP: 31 expressions, mostly mild. VD: 1 scene with alcohol, 5 with tobacco.

Center Stage (PG-13)

Director: Nicholas Hytner. With Amanda Schull, Peter Gallagher, Susan May Pratt, Donna Murphy, Debra Monk. (113 min.)

Sterritt *** The place is a Lincoln Center ballet school that's as competitive as it is prestigious, and the main characters are young dancers who learn the rules of their new home, scope out the strengths and weaknesses of their teachers and fellow students, and plunge into their designated tasks with all the enthusiasm - and anxiety - of people who'll end the process as either newly discovered stars or instant has-beens. Rarely has a dance movie done so many cinematic pirouettes with such a graceful sense of audience-pleasing fun.

Staff **1/2 Exuberant, beautiful dancing, formulaic.

VS/N: 1 scene of implied sex, a few instances of innuendo. VV: None. VP: 52 expressions, mostly mild. VD: 3 scenes with alcohol, 5 with tobacco, 2 with both.

Charlie's Angels (PG-13)

Director: McG. With Drew Barrymore, Cameron Diaz, Lucy Liu, Bill Murray, Tim Curry, LL Cool J, Crispin Glover, John Forsythe. (98 min.)

Sterritt ** The popular '70s television series inspired this campy romp, which has enough sassy lines - and enough of Diaz's radiant smile - to outclass most parodies of its ilk. Too bad the action scenes rarely rise above standard kung- fu comedy, diluting the film's otherwise considerable entertainment value.

Staff **1/2 Lively, humorous, kitsch fun, actresses let their hair down.

Sex/Nudity: 1 implied sex scene; 1 scene with brief nudity; and numerous scenes with scanty clothing. Violence: 3 scenes with violence, including a gun threat. Profanity: 4 expressions, mostly mild. Drugs: 16 scenes with drinking and smoking.

Chicken Run (G)

Directors: Peter Lord, Nick Park. With voices of Mel Gibson, Miranda Richardson, Jane Horrocks, Timothy Spall, Julia Sawalha, Imelda Staunton. (86 min.)

Sterritt *** It's a dark day for the poultry when their owner decides to switch from the egg industry to the chicken-pie business. Can they escape her automated oven with help from a flying rooster who recently landed in their coop? The suspense isn't exactly breathtaking, but there are some mighty fine laughs in this clever Claymation cartoon from the creator of England's hilarious Wallace and Gromit movies. Family fun for all.

Staff *** "Egg-cellent," sweet, top family fare.

VS/N: None. VP: None. VD: None. VV: 6 scenes of mild comic violence.

The Children of Chabannes (Not rated)

Directors: Lisa Gossels, Dean Wetherell. With Ruth Keller, Serge Klarsfeld, Peter Gossels. (91 min.)

Sterritt *** Documentary study of a French town whose residents saved and sheltered a large number of Jewish children during the Nazi era. History, human interest, and the overwhelming horror of the Holocaust are eloquently blended, thanks to the filmmakers' sensitive approach to a subject that one of them (Gossels) has heard about all her life from a parent who was a Chabannes child. In English and French with English subtitles

Chocolat (PG-13)

Director: Lasse Hallstrom. With Juliette Binoche, Alfred Molina, Lena Olin, Judi Dench, Carrie-Anne Moss, Johnny Depp, John Wood, Leslie Caron. (121 min.)

Sterritt ** A peaceful French village gets more excitement than it bargained for when a feisty newcomer sets up a shop devoted to chocolate and other simple pleasures, and a local curmudgeon decides to combat her immoral influence at any cost. Binoche and Molina are as magnetic as usual, but the unsubtle story is full of simplistic divisions between right and wrong, and the filmmaking is pretty but predictable. As the title inadvertently hints, the picture's aftertaste is more sugary than satisfying.

Chuck & Buck (R)

Director: Miguel Arteta. With Mike White, Chris Weitz, Paul Weitz, Lupe Ontiveros, Beth Colt, Paul Sand. (95 min.)

Sterritt *** A successful young man gets a surprise visit from a childhood friend - good fun at first, but less so when he realizes that his old pal has stayed as immature and dependent as he was when they were kids. The psychology of this likable comedy-drama is pretty shallow, especially when it gets into sexual matters. But the acting is excellent and there are amusing views of the independent arts scene when the childlike Buck decides to explore his feelings by writing a play about them.

Staff *** Disturbing, original, complex look at difficult issues, surprising.

VS/N: 3 sexually suggestive scenes, 2 of them between men; 2 instances of innuendo. VV: None. VP: 45 expressions, mostly harsh. VD: 6 scenes with alcohol, 4 with tobacco.

The Cider House Rules (PG-13)

Director: Lasse Hallstrom. With Tobey Maguire, Michael Caine, Charlize Theron, Delroy Lindo. (140 min.)

Sterritt ** An orphan grows up under the guidance of an eccentric physician, moves to a different sort of life in a community of African-American laborers, and undergoes a series of adventures that test his understanding of life's often-conflicting rules and assumptions. The movie leaves out portions of John Irving's novel that would have given it more balance and perspective, but the acting by Maguire and Caine is first-rate by any standard.

Staff *** Tender, lovingly photographed, captivating.

VS/N: 2 scenes with nudity, 1 brief sex scene. VV: 3 instances from a slap to a knifing. VP: 8 expressions, mostly mild. VD: 1 scene with alcohol, 7 with smoking, 4 with ether abuse.

Claire Dolan (Not rated)

Director: Lodge Kerrigan. With Katrin Cartlidge, Vincent D'Onofrio. (95 min.)

Sterritt *** The dark-toned tale of a young woman working as a prostitute to help her ailing mother and pay off an old debt. Kerrigan's style is too controlled and chilly to bring across the passion he clearly feels for his subject, which is ironic, since his earlier "Clean, Shaven" is a marvel of imaginative energy. He remains a screen artist of uncommon talent, however.

Collectors (Not rated)

Director: Julian P. Hobbs. With Rick Staton, Tobias Allen. (80 min.)

Sterritt ** Documentary look at a subculture of buyers and traders who specialize in artworks by murderers and other deviant personalities. The subject is disturbing, but the movie offers a rare glimpse at yet another way in which money has displaced morality in contemporary American life.

The Color of Paradise (PG)

Director: Majid Majidi. With Mohsen Ramezani, Hossein Mahjub, Salime Feizi, Elham Sharim. (90 min.)

Sterritt ** A blind eight-year-old boy learns valuable lessons about life despite the efforts of his uncaring father to push responsibility for his welfare into the hands of others. Although it has a good heart and a warm spirit, this prettily filmed drama is more sentimental and manipulative than earlier Iranian films on youth-related subjects. In Farsi with English subtitles

Staff ***1/2 Gentle, superb acting, thought-provoking.

VS/N: None. VP: None. VV: 1 scene with a natural disaster. VD: 2 scenes with tobacco.

Committed (R)

Director: Lisa Krueger. With Heather Graham, Casey Affleck, Luke Wilson, Patricia Velazquez, Alfonso Arau. (98 min.)

Staff *1/2 A young wife heads west to bring home her deserting husband in this fluffy comedy. She intuits his undisclosed whereabouts with the same strength of conviction she places in her marriage vows ("for better or for worse"). Sweet, but alas, mostly flaky, the story frustratingly skims across character and content without ever committing to a more substantial, and more knee- slappingly funny, script. By Katherine Dillin

VS/N: 1 scene implied sex, 4 instances of innuendo. VV: 8 scenes with violence, including punches thrown. VP: 49 expressions, many harsh. VD: 6 scenes with alcohol, 3 with tobacco, 5 with both, 1 with prescription-drug abuse.

Condo Painting (Not rated)

Director: John McNaughton. With George Condo, Allen Ginsberg, William S. Burroughs, Anna Condo. (87 min.)

Sterritt *** A lively portrait of contemporary painter George Condo, with cinematic sketches of his friends Allen Ginsberg and William S. Burroughs, colorful characters if ever there were any. The movie would be stronger if it stuck with its high-energy documentary style, though, instead of tacking on silly fantasy elements that are more distracting than diverting.

The Contender (R)

Director: Rod Lurie. With Jeff Bridges, Joan Allen, Gary Oldman, Christian Slater, William Petersen, Philip Baker Hall, Saul Rubinek, Sam Elliott. (125 min.)

Sterritt ** A well-meaning chief executive chooses a female senator to replace his deceased vice president, then discovers that her many assets are accompanied by a liability: an alleged sex scandal that surfaces from her distant past. Will the president stick to his convictions and help her refurbish her reputation? What will follow from the explosive event that opens the movie: A jolting accident that boosts yet another politician to prominence? The story is so calculated that it ultimately bears little relation to the real world.

VS/N: 4 scenes of explicit sex and 1 scene with graphic descriptions of sexual activity. VV: 1 car crash. VP: 95 expressions, mostly harsh. VD: Cigar smoking throughout; a few scenes with cigarette smoking.

Cotton Mary (R)

Director: Ismail Merchant. With Greta Scacchi, Madhur Jaffrey, James Wilby, Sakina Jaffrey, Neena Gupta. (125 min.)

Sterritt *** The arrival of a new baby sparks a conflicted relationship between a privileged British woman and her Anglo-Indian maid in south India during the 1950s. Although his directorial expertise doesn't yet match his brilliance as a movie producer, Merchant brings keen insight and rich humanity to this culturally revealing tale of psychological unease in a tense postcolonial world.

VS/N: 1 scene implied sex, 2 scenes with nudity. VV: 1 mild scene with violence. VP: 1 mild expression. VD: 2 scenes with alcohol, 4 with tobacco.

Coyote Ugly (PG-13)

Director: David McNally. With Piper Perabo, Adam Garcia, Maria Bello, Melanie Lynskey, John Goodman. (94 min.)

Staff ** A sweet New Jersey girl prone to stage fright strikes out on her own to break into the songwriting business in New York City. Until she makes it to the big time, she takes a job at a bar named Coyote Ugly where the crowds are wild and the bartenders (all of them leggy young women) wear tight clothing and dance raucously on the counter. Won't her dad (Goodman) be proud? No, and neither is her boyfriend, Kevin. No grand opus, but more fun than expected. By Katherine Dillin

Staff **1/2 Fairly innocent, sometimes sappy, silly.

VS/N: 1 instance of implied sex; 3 mildly suggestive scenes, including stages of undress; and lots of suggestive dancing at the bar. VV: 6 scenes with violence, including bar brawls. VP: 22 mostly mild expressions. VD: 13 scenes with alcohol, many of them long.

The Crew (PG-13)

Director: Michael Dinner. With Burt Reynolds, Richard Dreyfuss, Dan Hedaya, Seymour Cassel, Carrie-Anne Moss, Jennifer Tilly, Jeremy Piven. (88 min.)

Staff * Facing a rent increase, four retired thugs in Miami concoct a shady scheme to combat the hike. But watching this cast of middle-aged actors pretending to be nearly on their deathbeds (and working with a script riddled with old-folk jokes from 5 o'clock dinners to bodily functions) is just plain old depressing. A criminal use of some good actors. By Katherine Dillin

VS/N: 2 scenes with sex, 2 with nudity; 6 suggestive scenes, including innuendo and a strip club. VV: 15 scenes with violence, including baseball-bat beatings as well as more comic moments. VP: 50 expressions, mostly mild. VD: 5 scenes with alcohol, 8 with tobacco, 4 with both.

Criminal Lovers (Not rated)

Director: Francois Ozon. With Natacha Regnier, Jeremie Renier, Miki Manojlovic, Salim Kechiouche, Yasmine

Belmadi. (95 min.)

Sterritt ** A teenage girl persuades her boyfriend to kill a man she doesn't like. While disposing of the body, they fall into the clutches of a lascivious old hermit, who takes them both captive. Ozon generates a high charge of suspense at some points in the aggressively grisly story, but its eventual failure to make sense indicates that it's intended more as a surrealistic fable than an ordinary sex-and-violence adventure. The great Luis Bunuel, who appears to be a strong influence on Ozon, had a far deeper mastery of sardonic melodrama like this. In French with English subtitles

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (PG-13)

Director: Ang Lee. With Chow Yun Fat, Michelle Yeoh, Chang Chen, Zhang Ziyi, Lung Sihung, Cheng Pei Pei. (119 min.)

Sterritt *** A war-weary warrior, a legendary sword, a restless and romantic young girl, and a rascally bandit are among the main characters of this ambitious epic. But the movie's real interest lies in a series of fighting scenes that veer between comic-book violence and cinematic ballet. The film may be too talky for action-minded viewers and too fantastic for more serious spectators, but it brings appealing twists - including a feminist sensibility - to the venerable martial-arts genre. In Mandarin with English subtitles

Croupier (Not rated)

Director: Mike Hodges. With Clive Owen, Alex Kingston, Gina McKee, Nicholas Ball, Kate Hardie. (89 min.)

Sterritt *** The lean-and-mean story of a lean-and-mean casino employee who deals the cards and spins the wheel but never places a bet himself. Instead he writes a book about the experiences he observes and thinks about joining a crime scheme targeted at his gambling establishment. Hodges and screenwriter Paul Mayersberg fill the British production with Dostoevskian ironies, and Owen is perfect as the antihero.

Staff **1/2 A good mystery, cynical, retro, unemotional.

VS/N: 3 sex scenes or implied sex, 2 of nudity, 2 instances of innuendo. VV: 3 scenes with violence, including a brutal beating. VP: 45 expressions, mostly harsh. VD: 11 scenes with alcohol,18 with tobacco, 7 with both, 2 with marijuana.

The Cup (G)

Director: Khyentse Norbu. With Orgyen Tobgyal, Neten Chokling, Jamyang Lodro, Lama Chonjor. (94 min.)

Sterritt **** In an Indian monastery, exiled Tibetan Buddhists practice their religion, dream of returning to their homeland, and cook up a plan to watch the World Cup soccer match if they can only get hold of a TV set in time for the big event. The first feature-length movie from Bhutan tells its lighthearted story through smart performances, appealing images, and unfailing good humor. In Bhutanese with English subtitles

Staff *** Modest, innocent, beautifully filmed.

VS/N: None. VD: None. VV: 1 scuffle. VP: 3 mostly mild expressions.

Dancer in the Dark (R)

Director: Lars von Trier. With Bjork, David Morse, Catherine Deneuve, Peter Stormare, Cara Seymour, Udo Kier, Joel Grey, Jean-Marc Barr, Siobhan Fallon. (140 min.)

Sterritt *** Bjork is riveting as a single mother who labors in a factory even though she's gradually losing her sight, saves for a surgical procedure that might save her little boy from a similar future, and gets into a deadly dispute when a neighbor threatens to ruin her plans. The other stars are von Trier's highly imaginative directing and Robby Muller's explosive cinematography, using 100 cameras to shoot the song-and-dance numbers that make this musical tragedy a celebration of life despite its awfully grim climax.

Staff *** Groundbreaking, bleak, captivating, martyrdom for its own sake.

VS/N: None. VP: None. VD: None. VV: 4 scenes with varying degrees of violence, from a nicked finger to assault, battery, and murder.

The Decalogue (Not rated)

Director: Kyzysztof Kieslowski. With Krzysztyna Janda, Miroslaw Baka, Olaf Lubaszenko, Jerzy Stuhr, Grazyna Szaplowska. (600 min.)

Sterritt **** A towering Polish masterpiece of 1988, comprising 10 episodes loosely based on the Ten Commandments, whose meanings are teased out in subtle ways through the experiences of diverse characters living in a Warsaw housing complex. Kieslowski directed other shimmering works during his lifetime, including a couple of spin-off features from this TV-supported project, but no additional proof is needed to confirm his place among the world's great filmmakers. In Polish with English subtitles

Dark Days (Not rated)

Director: Marc Singer. With Marc Singer. (94 min.)

Staff ***1/2 For five years first-time director Singer took his camera under the streets of Manhattan to film people dwelling in a train tunnel, their shantytown built of surface dwellers' cast-off boards, furniture, and appliances. As we come to know the residents, we find their lives, and yearning for home and safety, as tragic, funny, and involving as anything in a scripted movie. What happens when Amtrak must evict them is no less amazing. By M.K. Terrell

The Decline of Western Civilization Part III (Not rated)

Director: Penelope Spheeris. With Rick Wilder, Keith Morris, Flea, Final Conflict, Naked Aggression, Litmus Green, The Resistance. (88 min.)

Sterritt ** Spheeris continues her examination of the punk-rock scene in this documentary visit with musicians and street kids in Los Angeles during the late '90s. There's lots of atmosphere and information to be gained, but stay away unless you can tolerate graphic plunges into the wildest kinds of youthful excess.

Deterrence (R)

Director: Rod Lurie. With Kevin Pollak, Sheryl Lee Ralph, Timothy Hutton, Sean Astin, Clotilde Courau. (103 min.)

Sterritt ** The year is 2008, the Iraqi army has just invaded Kuwait, and the president of the United States - stuck in a snowbound Colorado diner during a campaign swing - has only moments to decide whether he should unleash his nuclear arsenal or rely on conventional weapons and diplomacy. The setting is cramped and the story is illogical, but it's suspenseful as long as you don't think about it very hard.

Dinosaur (PG)

Directors: Eric Leighton, Ralph Zondag. With voices of D.B. Sweeney, Julianna Margulies, Joan Plowright, Ossie Davis, Max Casella, Alfre Woodard. (82 min.)

Staff **** Dinosaurs speak and show human emotion in this story of Aladar, a giant Iguanodon, raised by monkeylike lemurs. Aladar eventually meets up with his own kind when he joins a pack on a life-or-death march across a forbidding landscape where water is scarce and meat-eating Carnotaurs pursue them. Despite a touch of Bambi-style pathos, Disney goes for a ferocious amount of prehistoric realism in this animated tour de force. It combines computer- generated characters with real, digitally enhanced scenery. Visually, it's a treat. By Ross Atkin

Staff ***1/2 Classic Disney, predictable, tremendous fun.

VS/N: None. VP: None. VD: None. VV: 9 scenes with violence, mostly dinosaurs hunting or battling.

Diary of a Chambermaid (Not rated)

Director: Luis Bunuel. With Jeanne Moreau, Michel Piccoli, Georges Geret, Jean- Claude Carriere. (98 min.)

Sterritt **** Storytelling ingenuity, surrealistic imagination, and sheer cinematic mischief are brilliantly intertwined throughout this sardonic 1964 melodrama about a self-assured servant who takes a job in a peculiar and perhaps dangerous French household. Moreau is superb in every way, but top honors go to Bunuel's subtly dreamlike telling of the tale. In French with English subtitles

The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie (Not rated)

Director: Luis Bunuel. With Fernando Rey, Delphine Seyrig, Stephane Audran, Bulle Ogier, Jean-Pierre Cassel, Julien Bertheau, Paul Frankeur. (105 min.)

Sterritt **** Reissue of the 1972 classic about a group of allegedly refined French folks whose not-so-civilized urges surface too often for comfort as their dinner plans are endlessly postponed by a string of bizarre interruptions. Bunuel devoted his brilliant career to surrealistic cinema, and this uproariously imaginative tale brought his subversive style to its pinnacle of popularity, helped by a picture-perfect cast and a screenplay written with Jean-Claude Carriere, one of his most trusty collaborators. Movies don't come more original, inventive, or outlandishly entertaining. In French with English subtitles

VS/N: 1 scene of implied sex, 1 instance of innuendo. VV: 9 scenes with violence, including shooting. VP: 4 fairly mild expressions. VD: 9 scenes with alcohol and/or tobacco, 1 with both plus marijuana, 1 cocaine deal.

Don't Let Me Die on a Sunday (Not rated)

Director: Didier Le Pecheur. With Elodie Bouchez, Jean-Marc Barr, Martin Petitguyot, Patrick Catalifo, Jeanne Casilas. (86 min.)

Sterritt ** Restored to health after near-death from a drug overdose, a young woman enters an affair with the hedonistic man who saved her and finds herself drawn into a world of sensory and sexual excesses. The movie wants to appear bold and liberated, but it seems awfully solemn about the subculture it explores. In French with English subtitles

Double Parked (Not rated)

Director: Stephen Kinsella. With Callie Thorne, Noah Fleiss, William Sage, Rufus Read, Cassandra Morris. (97 min.)

Sterritt ** A single mother decides to become a meter maid just as her young son is learning how to break into parking meters for spare change. The plot of this dramatic comedy has a lot of other things going on as well, from the mom's romance with a local schoolteacher to the violent outbursts of her former husband, but too many cliches and too much uneven acting dilute its impact.

Down to You (PG-13)

Director: Kris Isacsson. With Freddie Prinze Jr., Julia Stiles, Selma Blair, Shawn Hatosy, Henry Winkler. (100 min.)

Staff *1/2 Al and Imogen fall in love at first sight in college, then face a little relationship turbulance. No matter what the previews may indicate, not much distracts these two from each other. One of the lines on the movie's soundtrack says, "Life should be fun for everyone," but this teen romance mopes an awful lot. There's too much focus on sex, and the dialogue is bland. Meant to act as a Prinze vehicle, but it's not nearly as much fun as "She's All That." By Katherine Dillin

VS/N: 4 instances of implied sex, 6 of innuendo. VV: 3 scenes with mild violence. VP: 13 expressions, mostly mild. VD: 12 scenes with alcohol, 6 with smoking, 5 with alcohol and smoking, 1 with drugs.

Dream of Light (Not rated)

Director: Victor Erice. With Antonio Lopez Garcia, Maria Moreno, Enrique Gran. (139 min.)

Sterritt **** This visually ravishing study focuses on nothing more adventurous or exotic than an artist painting a portrait of a fruit tree in his backyard. An exquisite movie, directed by one of Spain's most gifted and audacious filmmakers. In Spanish with English subtitles

Dr. T & the Women (R)

Director: Robert Altman. With Richard Gere, Shelley Long, Farrah Fawcett, Laura Dern, Kate Hudson, Liv Tyler, Helen Hunt, Matt Malloy, Tara Reid. (122 min.)

Sterritt *** Gere plays a Dallas doctor surrounded by women who seem determined to raise new challenges for him every time he thinks he's figured them out. The movie gets much of its emotional interest from Gere's fine performance. And it derives much of its personality from Altman's improvisational atmosphere and technically astute style. Some will dislike its shaggy-dog screenplay and restless camera work, and others may find its finale too postfeminist for comfort. But such debates only add to the picture's interest.

VS/N: A few scenes of partial nudity. VV: None. VP: 25 mostly mild expressions. VD: 12 scenes with drinking, 3 with smoking.

Drowning Mona (PG-13)

Director: Nick Gomez. With Danny DeVito, Bette Midler, Neve Campbell, Jamie Lee Curtis, Casey Affleck. (95 min.)

Staff *1/2 When Mona's car veers off a cliff and into a river, everyone in a small town is suspected of murder. After all, flashbacks of the bullying Mona (Midler), the town's least popular resident, make Lady Macbeth seem like a huggable Disney character by contrast. The few humorous moments that do succeed are the darkly comic sequences. Indeed, the movie would have benefited from following the potential of a darker path offered by the slight story line, rather than trying to make its unwholesome characters more likable. By Stephen Humphries

Staff ** Strained humor, unappealing characters, depressing at times.

VS/N: 3 sex scenes, 1 lesbian kiss. VV: 12 instances, some done for comic effect. VP: 62 expressions, many harsh. VD: 9 scenes with alcohol, 5 with smoking.

Dude, Where's My Car? (PG-13)

Director: Danny Leiner. With Ashton Kutcher, Seann William Scott, Kristy Swanson, Marla Sokoloff. (83 min.)

Staff * When Jesse and Chester wake up after a long night of partying, they realize they have no recollection of the night before, which brings up the question, "Dude, where's my car?" The search leads to encounters with beautiful women, bullies, and geeks in bubble wrap. The movie might have been funny if it were not for the absurd subplots that become too involved for this genre. Unless you're a fan of Kutcher ("That 70's Show"), the best thing about the movie is it's few catch-phrases that will surely be heard in high school halls across the nation. By Heidi Wilson

Duets (R)

Director: Bruce Paltrow. With Paul Giamatti, Gwyneth Paltrow, Andre Braugher, Maria Bello, Huey Lewis, Scott Speedman. (113 min.)

Sterritt ** A burned-out businessman, a gun-toting crook, an idealistic cab driver, and a hooker-turned-chanteuse are among the denizens of this meandering comedy-drama, which uses karaoke singing as a ready-made metaphor for the notion that life's true pleasures may have little to do with professional ambition. The movie is too crisp and calculated to match the moods of its wild and woolly characters, and its interwoven subplots lead to predictable outcomes. It has some lively performances and sprightly songs, though.

Staff ** Comical, surfacey, lacks character development.

Dungeons and Dragons (PG-13)

Director: Courtney Soloman. With Justin Whalin, Marlon Wayans, Thora Birch, Jeremy Irons, Zoe McLellan, Bruce Payne, Richard O'Brien, Tom Baker. (110 min.)

Staff *1/2 Computer games and board games used to be adapted from successful movies. Nowadays studios are turning to games like "Dungeons and Dragons" for story ideas. This tale revolves around two young thieves and a sorceress who must retrieve a magical scepter to thwart the evil plans of Profion (Irons). A troupe of British actors ham it up as if they are guests on "Sesame Street," while Birch ("American Beauty") turns in a shockingly inept performance. Adults will wince - or laugh - at the acting, but unfussy tweenies will overlook the film's liberal borrowings from "Star Wars," and "Indiana Jones," and lap up the fine effects and perfectly passable adventure. By Stephen Humphries

East Is East (R)

Director: Damien O'Donnell. With Om Puri, Linda Bassett, Jordan Routledge, Emil Marwa, Archie Punjabi, Chris Bisson, Raji James. (96 min.)

Sterritt ** The place is England in the early 1970s, and the main characters are members of a suburban family presided over by a Pakistani patriarch who can't understand why his thoroughly British children aren't just as Asian as he is. Puri's sensitive performance is the movie's best asset, but Ayub Khan-Din's irreverent screenplay packs a few clever surprises, too.

Staff ***1/2 Tender, hilarious, emotionally wrenching, uneven.

VS/N: 1 sex scene, 4 suggestive depictions of nudity. VV: 4 scenes with violence, including two with domestic abuse. VP: 177 expressions, some harsh. VD: 1 scene with alcohol, 17 with tobacco, 2 with both.

East-West (PG-13)

Director: Regis Wargnier. With Sandrine Bonnaire, Oleg Menchikov, Catherine Deneuve, Serguei Bodrov Jr. (120 min.)

Sterritt ** Hard times befall a Russian physician, his idealistic French wife, and their young son when they move to the Soviet Union after World War II and tumble into a much harsher environment than they'd expected. As in his earlier "Indochine," director Wargnier chooses a sweeping title and a sweeping topic, then turns everything into half-baked melodrama, heavy on over-the-top emotion but light on subtlety and ideas. In French and Russian with English subtitles

Staff ***1/2 Suspenseful, layered, atmospheric.

VS/N: 2 scenes of implied adultery, 1 discussion of sex. VV: 3 scenes with violence, including beatings. VP: 1 mild expression. VD: 5 scenes with alcohol, 2 with tobacco, 2 with both.

The Edge of the World (Not rated)

Director: Michael Powell. With John Laurie, Finlay Currie, Belle Chrystall, Eric Berry, Grant Sutherland. (81 min.)

Sterritt **** Reissue of an exquisite 1937 drama by one of the greatest filmmakers England has produced. The story is set on a small British island whose inhabitants are fighting a doomed battle to sustain their traditional way of life despite increasingly hard times and the reluctance of young folks to remain in such a remote and difficult place. Powell achieves a finely tuned balance of melancholy and nostalgia without injecting a hint of sentimentality. As a bonus, the cliff-climbing scenes provide as much spectacle and suspense as you'll find in Hollywood epics with many times the budget.

8 1/2 Women (R)

Director: Peter Greenaway. With John Standing, Matthew Delamere, Polly Walker, Amanda Plummer, Vivian Wu, Toni Collette, Shizuka Inoh, Barbara Sarafian, Natacha Amal, Kirina Mano. (120 min.)

Sterritt *** Reunited by a death in their family, a father and son decide to live out a series of sexual fantasies that begin with their shared interest in Federico Fellini's classic movie "8 1/2" and quickly veer in directions they didn't expect. Greenaway is a highly serious artist whose films have little to do with everyday entertainment. This visually intricate fantasia combines his extraordinary cinematic imagination with a story and characters less compelling than those in his best works.

VS/N: 15 scenes with nudity, 19 instances of innuendo, 2 suggestive scenes, 2 disturbing sexual situations. VV: 11 scenes with violence, including a suicide and a punch. VP: 47 expressions, including vulgar references to the anatomy. VD: 4 scenes with alcohol.

Erin Brockovich (R)

Director: Steven Soderbergh. With Julia Roberts, Albert Finney, Aaron Eckhart. (131 min.)

Sterritt *** Roberts plays a tough-talking but warm-hearted woman who wangles a job in a lawyer's office and becomes fascinated by a real-estate transaction involving a utility company and a family that's been dogged by a surprising amount of illness. Soon she's canvassing the community to organize its environmentally impacted residents into fighting for their rights. The acting is amiable and the story is crisply told. Still, the movie is less personal and inventive than Soderbergh's best pictures, and its love-interest subplot seems tacked on as an afterthought.

Staff **** Gripping, outstanding, explosive.

VS/N: 1 implied sex scene; plunging necklines throughout movie. VV: 1 telephone threat. VP: 88 expressions, mostly harsh. VD: 2 scenes with alcohol, 1 with smoking.

Eve (Not rated)

Director: Joseph Losey, With Jeanne Moreau, Stanley Baker, Virna Lisi, Giorgio Albertazzi, James Villiers, Checco Rissone, Alex Revides. (120 min.)

Sterritt **** Reissue of a legendary 1962 melodrama with 20 minutes of restored footage (included in a recently discovered Scandinavian print) previously unseen in American theaters. Moreau plays a French charmer who makes emotional mincemeat of a celebrity author (Baker) while a fiancee waits for him offscreen and a humiliating secret threatens to pop up from his past. Losey's exalted reputation is more convincingly confirmed by masterpieces like "The Servant" and "Accident," but this near-operatic yarn demonstrates his dazzling ability to balance over-the-top storytelling with serious social and psychological concerns. In English with Swedish and Finnish subtitles

The Exorcist (R)

Director: William Friedkin. With Linda Blair, Max von Sydow, Ellen Burstyn, Jason Miller, Kitty Winn, Lee J. Cobb, Jack MacGowran. (130 min.)

Sterritt ** In both its original 1973 version and its expanded 2000 edition, this hugely popular horror yarn is less a cleverly spun story than a disjointed collection of shockeroos, surrounding a few ghoulishly effective moments with overcooked plot twists and in-your-face vulgarity. More impressive than the narrative logic are the impressively earnest performances from Burstyn as the mother of a little girl possessed by an evil spirit, Cobb as a friendly cop investigating the situation, and Von Sydow, perfectly cast as the title character, a Roman Catholic priest called in to cast the demon out.

Eye of the Beholder (R)

Director: Stephan Elliott. With Ewan McGregor, Ashley Judd, Patrick Bergin, Jason Priestley, Genevieve Bujold. (109 min.)

Staff DUD Finally released after two years, this irritating film promises to leave movie theater managers besieged by mutinous patrons demanding refunds. A British agent falls in love with a serial killer and follows her across America. There is no rhyme, reason, or coherence to this tale about a loss of moral focus and obsession. It even has the audacity to recreate the church tower scene in homage to the definitive film on the subject, Hitchcock's "Vertigo." By Stephen Humphries

Staff * Boring, depressing, plot holes aplenty.

VS/N: 1 sex scene, 1 sexual situation, 1 instance of nudity. VV: 8 scenes, mostly graphic, including murders and car accidents. VP: 23 expressions, mostly harsh. VD: 7 scenes with alcohol, 8 with smoking, 1 with heroin.

The Eyes of Tammy Faye (PG-13)

Directors: Fenton Bailey, Randy Barbato. With Tammy Faye Bakker Messner, Jim Bakker, RuPaul Charles, Pat Boone. (79 min.)

Sterritt *** Entertaining documentary about the life and times of Tammy Faye Bakker, who helped her husband Jim Bakker construct a televangelist empire that ultimately crashed amid a storm of corruption, rivalry, and betrayal. Riveting stuff.

Staff **1/2 Soap-operaesque, nonjudgmental, optimistic.

VS/N: 1 instance of nudity, 2 with innuendo. VV: None. VP: 2 mild expressions. VD: 1 scene with alcohol, 1 with a prescription-drug overdose.

Fantasia/2000 (G)

Directors: Pixote Hunt, Hendel Butoy, Eric Goldberg, James Algar, Francis Glebas, Gaetan Brizzi, Paul Brizzi. With Steve Martin, Bette Midler, James Levine, James Earl Jones, Angela Lansbury, Itzhak Perlman, Quincy Jones, Penn & Teller. (75 min.)

Sterritt *** This ambitious Disney production opened on giant-size IMAX screens before moving to regular theaters. Although it's less novel and feisty than the original "Fantasia" of 1940, the collection of music-filled animations is highly entertaining at times, especially when Al Hirschfeld's drawing style teams with George Gershwin's music for a jazzy "Rhapsody in Blue," and when Donald and Daisy Duck take a trip on Noah's ark accompanied by Sir Edward Elgar's usually stuffy "Pomp and Circumstance" marches. Best of all, "The Sorcerer's Apprentice" is recycled from the earlier film, and it's still the highlight of the show.

VS/N: None. VP: None. VD: None. VV: 8 scenes of mild violence, including a couple of fights and an avalanche.

The Films of Jay Rosenblatt (Not rated)

Director: Jay Rosenblatt. With clips from pre-existing movies. (80 min.)

Sterritt **** Rosenblatt is an avant-garde filmmaker who takes "found footage" from other movies and assembles it into dreamlike collages of his own. His visual style is brilliantly creative, recalling works by Bruce Conner and other masters of this genre. His voice-over narrations often impose an overly literal quality, though, making the movies more accessible but preventing them from reaching full imaginative freedom. Included in this collection are the brief "Restricted," the surreal "Short of Breath," an essay on male childhood called "The Smell of Burning Ants," a memoir about religion and movie mania called "King of the Jews," and the recent "Human Remains," about a gallery of 20th-century dictators.

The Filth and the Fury (R)

Director: Julien Temple. With John Lydon, Paul Cook, Steve Jones, Malcolm McLaren, Sid Vicious. (105 min.)

Sterritt *** Energetic documentary about the Sex Pistols pop group, the punk- rock movement they spearheaded, and the '70s sociocultural scene they both reflected and scandalized. Efficiently and imaginatively directed by a filmmaker who knows this material to his bones.

Final Destination (R)

Director: James Wong. With Devon Sawa, Kerr Smith, Tony Todd, Ali Larter, Amanda Detmer. (105 min.)

Staff * When a high school student has a premonition that the airline he has boarded will explode in midair, he and a group of friends leave the plane before its fateful takeoff. The group soon realizes, however, that they cannot cheat death which is killing them off one-by-one. The premise of this horror movie - that we are fated to die at a particular time - is pernicious. Worse, it delights in concocting the most elaborately gruesome deaths. Hopefully this movie is destined to die at the box office. By Stephen Humphries

VS/N: 1 nude photo. VV: 11 scenes with violence, including a gory one in a mortuary. VP: 57 expressions, mostly strong. VD: 2 scenes with alcohol.

Finding Forrester (PG-13)

Director: Gus Van Sant. With Sean Connery, Rob Brown, Anna Paquin, F. Murray Abraham, Busta Rhymes. (136 min)

Sterritt ** Unlikely friendship develops between a gifted black high-school student and a curmudgeonly old author who won a youthful Pulitzer Prize and then slipped into sullen seclusion. The premise is more interesting than the movie, which takes several wrong turns on its way to an unconvincing conclusion. Brown gives a smartly understated performance, though, and Paquin's talent continues to blossom.

The Five Senses (R)

Director: Jeremy Podeswa. With Mary-Louise Parker, Pascale Bussieres, Molly Parker, Gabrielle Rose. (105 min.)

Sterritt **** The disappearance of a little girl in a Toronto park has an effect on several loosely connected tales - about a lovestruck baker, a music- loving physician, a masseuse with a teenage daughter, and others - organized around the roles our physical senses play in shaping our social and psychological lives. Traveling from the tragic to the comic, this multifaceted film is richly acted and imaginatively directed, reflecting the special interest many Canadian filmmakers have in weaving together lives and experiences as prismatically diverse as the country itself.

Staff **1/2 Visually stunning, palatable, thought provoking.

VS/N: 4 scenes of sex or implied sex, 1 scene with nudity, 2 of men kissing, some innuendo. VV: None. VP: 12 expressions, some harsh. VD: 5 scenes with alcohol.

The Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas (PG)

Director: Brian Levant. With Mark Addy, Stephen Baldwin, Jane Krakowski, Kristen Johnston, Joan Collins, Alan Cumming. (90 min.)

Staff ** Fred and Barney, two hopeless Neanderthal bachelors, just want a quiet yabba-dabba-do life with a couple of nice cave girls like Betty and Wilma. But how can a Stoneage fella compete with the likes of Mick Jagged, Chip Rockefeller, and their fleets of Maserockis and Cadirocks disrupting their plans like a T-Rex in a tulip bed? The live-action, pun-loaded comedy based on the 1960s animated series good-naturedly recounts the anxious days of courtship. By Katherine Dillin

VS/N: 3 instances of mild innuendo. VV: 6 scenes with cartoonish violence. VP: 3 mild expressions. VD: 2 scenes with alcohol.

The Freelancers (Not rated)

Director: Denis Dercourt. With Pierre Lacan, Marc Citti, Marie-Christine Laurent, Serge Renko. (91 min.)

Sterritt ** An amiable visit with a group of French musicians who ply their tuneful trade any way they can, happy to earn a no-frills living through an art they dearly love. The comedy is more likable than memorable, but it makes for pleasant viewing most of the way. The original title is "Les Cachetonneurs." In French with English subtitles

Frequency (PG-13)

Director: Gregory Hoblit. With Dennis Quaid, Jim Caviezel, Daniel Henson. (121 min.)

Sterritt ** A young man discovers an old ham-radio hookup that allows him to communicate with his dead father in the past. He uses this miracle - caused by an unusual solar storm - to help his dad avoid the accident that killed him, thereby altering their family's history. This event has negative consequences too, putting another loved relative into the path of a serial killer whom only they can track down. Toby Emmerich's screenplay gains emotional punch from its sincere concern for family values, but science-fiction fans may be disappointed by the limited exploration of its fascinating time-travel premise.

Staff *** Intelligent plot, touching, creepy, occasionally very violent.

VS/N: None. VV: 12 scenes of fairly graphic violence, including explosions and use of shotguns. VP: 37 expressions, mostly mild. VD: 18 scenes with alcohol, 25 with tobacco.

Gendernauts (Not rated)

Director: Monika Treut. With Annie Sprinkle, Susan Stryker, Sandy Stone. (86 min.)

Sterritt ** Nonfiction study of people who have changed their gender through surgical and other means. While the documentary won't appeal to general audiences, it opens up interesting suggestions that human selfhood isn't a simple matter of biological destiny.

George Washington (Not rated)

Director: David Gordon Green. With Donald Holden, Candace Evanofski, Curtis Cotton III, Eddie Rouse, Paul Schneider. (89 min.)

Sterritt **** Set in a rural corner of the American South, this utterly original comedy-drama spins the meandering story of several poor kids going through familiar routines of growing up: exploring their interests, falling in love, and figuring out the adult world they're about to enter. Among them is the title character, an African-American boy with a physical handicap and a gallant spirit that makes him a hero in ways he never expected. Green tells the tale through leisurely, eye-catching shots that allow the young cast members to imbue their characters with striking credibility and intensity.

Get Carter (R)

Director: Stephen T. Kay. With Sylvester Stallone, Miranda Richardson, Rachael Leigh Cook, Alan Cumming, Mickey Rourke, Michael Caine. (104 min.)

Staff ** Stallone opens his new movie with the line, "I'm Jack Carter. And you don't want to know me." He should have continued: "And you don't want to see my movie." Carter's a thug who drives from sunny Las Vegas to drizzly Seattle to mourn his brother's death and make amends with his estranged family. His mission to uncover the truth about his brother's untimely end leads Carter to a seedy array of cliched villains. The movie's production is as slick as Carter's Regis suits, but the final answer is that "Get Carter" won't get any Oscars. By Stuart S. Cox Jr.

Staff *1/2 An empty shell, overstylized, violent.

VS/N: 4 instances of innuendo. VV: 12 scenes with violence, including car chases, a rape, and fistfights. VP: 76 expressions, many harsh. VD: 2 scenes with alcohol, 10 with tobacco, 2 with drugs.

Getting To Know You (Not rated)

Director: Lisanne Skyler. With Heather Matarazzo, Zach Braff, Bebe Neuwirth, Chris Noth, Tristine Skyler, Michael Weston, Mary McCormack, Mark Blum, Bo Hopkins. (91 min.)

Sterritt * An inflexible father, a gambler's new girlfriend, a pair of parents who'd rather be professional dancers, and several lonely teenagers are among the characters of this meandering movie based on three stories from "Heat," a collection of Joyce Carol Oates stories. The underlying ideas are promising, but droopy screenwriting drains the passion from Oates's tales, and lackluster acting polishes off what little energy is left. If the filmmakers wanted to tell a set of emotionally wan anecdotes, why did they turn to such relentlessly pungent stories for material?

Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai (R)

Director: Jim Jarmusch. With Forest Whitaker, Cliff Gorman, Tricia Vessey, Gary Farmer, Isaach de Bankole, John Tormey, Henry Silva. (116 min.)

Sterritt *** The title character is a modern-day hit man who bases his life and work on codes of honor derived from centuries-old Japanese traditions. Whitaker's acting is highly creative and Jarmusch's filmmaking is as elegant and original as ever, although his attitude toward violence in this movie sometimes loses its philosophical edge and veers into a dubious brand of mystical nostalgia.

VS/N: 1 suggestive living arrangement with a teen girl and an old man. VV: 16 scenes with violence, including beatings. VP: 103 expressions, mostly harsh. VD: 2 scenes with alcohol, 5 with tobacco.

The Gift (R)

Director: Sam Raimi. With Cate Blanchett, Keanu Reeves, Hilary Swank, Giovanni Ribisi, Greg Kinnear, Katie Holmes, Michael Jeter, J.K. Simmons, Gary Cole, Chelcie Ross, Kim Dickens, Lynnsee Provence, Hunter McGilvray, David Brannen. (120 min)

Sterritt ** A clairvoyant woman gives information and advice to neighbors in her rural Southern community, but danger looms when an enraged husband threatens her family and one of her clients mysteriously disappears. Blanchett leads a solid cast and Raimi gives the story a fair amount of atmosphere. Still, there's too much hokum and too little suspense in the screenplay by Billy Bob Thornton and Tom Epperson.

Gimme Shelter (R)

Directors: Albert Maysles, David Maysles, Charlotte Zwerin. With the Rolling Stones. (91 min.)

Sterritt *** Reissue of the widely viewed 1970 documentary about a free concert given by the Rolling Stones at the Altamont Racetrack in San Francisco, which erupted into violence when fans scuffled with motorcycle-gang members who'd been drafted as security guards. The topic is well-suited to the Maysles brothers, who helped pioneer reality-centered "direct cinema" techniques in their 1968 masterpiece "Salesman" and other documentaries. Here they allow the more sensationalistic aspects of their subject to affect the movie's pace and structure, though, unwittingly demonstrating the impossibility of unadulterated realism in nonfiction film.

The Girl on the Bridge (R)

Director: Patrice Leconte. With Daniel Auteuil, Vanessa Paradis. (92 min.)

Sterritt *** Wishing she could bring her sensuality under better control, a young woman falls in love with a circus knife-thrower who introduces her to an eccentric and suspenseful new life. Although the story slips into cliches despite its offbeat subject, Leconte's cinematic style is fresh and vigorous, and Auteuil remains one of France's most engaging actors. In French with English subtitles

Girlfight (R)

Director: Karyn Kusama. With Michelle Rodriguez, Jaime Tirelli, Paul Calderon, Santiago Douglas. (110 min.)

Sterritt ** A teenage girl uses prizefighting as an escape route from her domineering dad and oppressive working-class home. Rodriguez's acting almost scores a knockout even though the movie's directing and dialogue are fairly routine.

Staff *** Great story, powerful, impressive directorial debut.

VS/N: 1 mildly suggestive scene. VV: 11 scenes with violence, including 1 domestic incident, the rest of boxing but nothing graphic. VP: 66 expressions, many harsh. VD: 2 scenes with alcohol and tobacco.

Gladiator (R)

Director: Ridley Scott. With Russell Crowe, Joaquin Phoenix, Oliver Reed, Richard Harris, Connie Nielsen, Derek Jacobi, Djimon Hounsou. (150 min.)

Sterritt ** Sold into slavery by an emperor's jealous son, a Roman general spends his time slaying fellow gladiators before bellowing crowds and dreaming of revenge against you-know-who. Scott's filmmaking is as blunt and bullying as the mayhem it portrays, but Crowe and Reed lend touches of intermittent class to the bone-crunching spectacle.

Staff *** Ambitious, bloody, grand, crowd-pleasing, moving.

VS/N: An instance of incestuous kissing. VV: 17 scenes of mostly gory violence, including gladiator spectacles and a lengthy war episode. VP: 1 expression, somewhat harsh. VD: 2 scenes with alcohol.

God's Army (PG)

Director: Richard Dutcher. With Richard Dutcher, Matthew Brown, Jacque Gray. (108 min.)

Sterritt ** The adventures of a young Mormon who signs up for two years of door- to-door missionary work in Los Angeles, guided by a mentor whose life turns out to be unexpectedly complex. At heart, this is more a Mormon recruiting film than a three-dimensional drama, but it provides fascinating glimpses of a subject that Hollywood hardly ever touches.

VS/N: Some mild innuendo. VV: 1 instance of implied violence. VP: 3 mild expressions. VD: 2 scenes with tobacco.

Godzilla 2000 (PG)

Director: Takao Okawara. With Takehiro Murata, Naomi Nishida, Mayu Suzuki, Hiroshi Abe, Shiro Sano. (97 min.)

Staff ** You want campy? Look no further than that great beast from Japan, Godzilla. The thick-skinned fella from the Toho film company swats away military missiles and tangles ferociously with an alien spacecraft. Only a scientist and his daughter who make up the Godzilla Prediction Network side with the radioactive lizard. The dubbed dialogue is as off-cue as ever, and the intentionally (we hope) terrible lines and super-fake special effects are side- splittingly funny. Amazingly, this movie stirs up some monster-size fun. By Katherine Dillin

Staff *1/2 Vintage Godzilla, hokey, better on TV.

VS/N: None. VV: 24 scenes of campy, bloodless violence. VP: 8 instances, mostly mild. VD: 2 scenes with alcohol and tobacco.

Gone in 60 Seconds (PG-13)

Director: Dominic Sena. With Nicolas Cage, Angelina Jolie, Robert Duvall, Giovanni Ribisi, Will Patton, Delroy Lindo, Christopher Eccleston, Chi McBride. (117 min.)

Sterritt * A reformed thief has to steal 50 autos in three days or an evil thug will murder his brother. Car-chase fans may enjoy the story's action-crazy formulas, but there's no excusing its bone-crunching violence, barbaric language, and smirky sexuality. How did a dignified pro like Duvall get stuck in this fender-bender?

Staff ** Surfacey, juvenile morality, fast-paced.

VS/N: 1 instance of innuendo. VV: 17 violent scenes, including car chases and gunplay. VP: 25 expressions. VD: 3 scenes with alcohol, 1 with smoking.

A Good Baby (Not rated)

Director: Katherine Dieckmann. With Henry Thomas, Cara Seymour, David Strathairn. (89 min.)

Sterritt *** In a rural Southern community, an abandoned baby becomes a pawn in complicated relationships involving the melancholy young man who finds her, a thick-skinned woman who takes a liking to him, and a sinister traveling salesman who's deeply involved in the mystery. Dieckmann's debut film is skillfully acted, and builds a sense of true menace when Strathairn's salesman drifts onto the screen.

Gossip (R)

Director: Davis Guggenheim. With James Marsden, Lena Headey, Norman Reedus, Kate Hudson, Joshua Jackson, Edward James Olmos. (100 min.)

Staff *1/2 Have you heard about "Gossip"? Did you know it's about three college friends who start a vicious rumor to study its effects for a class project? Did word arrive that this not-so-innocent idea ends up bringing out the worst in most involved? Did news reach you that it's a creepy, uncomfortable story with unlikable characters, but that the concept and plot twists are rumored to be intriguing enough to keep you in your seat? But, that's just what I heard. By Katherine Dillin

Goya in Bordeaux (Not rated)

Director: Carlos Saura. With Francisco Rabal, Jose Coronado, Dafne Fernandez, Maribel Verdu. (100 min.)

Sterritt ** The aging painter spends his final days remembering his youth and pining for long-ago romance. Saura evokes the chilling power of Goya's own artistry at times, but the meandering story doesn't gather much momentum and Vittorio Storaro's camera work is less awesome than usual.

Grass (Not rated)

Director: Ron Mann. With Woody Harrelson. (79 min.)

Sterritt *** A revealing, often amusing, sometimes disturbing look at the history and politics of marijuana use in American society. Much of the footage comes from heavy-handed government films on the subject, which undermine their own effectiveness so consistently that Mann's bemused skepticism toward them seems almost superfluous.

The Great Dance: A Hunter's Story (Not rated)

Directors: Craig Foster, Damon Foster. With !Nqate Xqamxebe, Xlhoase Xlhokhne. (75 min.)

Sterritt ** Picturesquely filmed documentary about hunters in the Kalahari region of Africa, focusing on the amazing skill and endurance they bring to the demanding task of providing food for their community. The film also suggests that their way of life is endangered and may even be dying out, although the reasons for this are left regrettably vague.

Grizzly Falls (PG)

Director: Stewart Raffill. With Bryan Brown, Tom Jackson, Oliver Tobias, Daniel Clark, Richard Harris. (94 min.)

Sterritt ** Adventurers get distracted from their goal of trapping a grizzly bear when their prey kidnaps a 13-year-old member of the expedition and treats him as her cub, protecting him from harm but preventing his rescue by the others. While the story and acting are the opposite of subtle, young moviegoers may enjoy the action and suspense. Don't go unless you can handle a fair amount of strongly implied violence, though.

Gun Shy (R)

Director: Eric Blakeney. With Liam Neeson, Sandra Bullock, Oliver Platt, Mary McCormack, Jose Zuniga, Richard Schiff, Mitch Pileggi. (102 min.)

Sterritt ** Neeson plays an undercover cop who decides psychotherapy is the answer when his job starts to drive him crazy - and no wonder it does, given his various brushes with death and his current association with a lunatic Mafioso who shoots anyone he finds annoying. The story isn't nearly as funny or suspenseful as it would like to be, although the solid cast gives it occasional dashes of pizazz.

Hamlet (R)

Director: Michael Almereyda. With Ethan Hawke, Kyle MacLachlan, Sam Shepard, Diane Venora, Bill Murray, Liev Schreiber, Julia Stiles, Steve Zahn. (111 min.)

Sterritt **** Updated versions of Shakespeare are common, but there's amazingly sharp creativity in this New York-based interpretation of the timeless tragedy about a young man driven to desperation by his father's murder. The acting is smart and gritty, Almereyda's visual style has a raw immediacy found in few films with Shakespearean pedigrees, and an eclectic music score adds atmosphere and surprise every step of the way.

Staff **1/2 Royalty meets a New York minute, innovative, tragic, entertaining.

VS/N: 2 sexual situations. VV: 5 scenes with violence, 2 of them somewhat graphic. VP: 13 expressions from the Bard's script. VD: 12 scenes with alcohol or tobacco.

Hanging Up (PG-13)

Director: Diane Keaton. With Diane Keaton, Meg Ryan, Lisa Kudrow, Walter Matthau, Adam Arkin, Cloris Leachman, Edie McClurg, Jesse James. (92 min.)

Sterritt ** Three sisters cope with the declining mental state of their elderly father, trying to help him but finding that their own busy lives - and complex relationships with each other - interfere with their good intentions. There's lots of lively acting, but Keaton doesn't have quite enough filmmaking savvy to balance the story's heart-wrenching and smile-coaxing aspects.

Staff **1/2 Tiresome, dark comedy, some good laughs, not memorable.

VS/N: 1 brief, suggestive scene. VV: None. VP: 31 expressions, mostly mild. VD: 8 scenes with alcohol.

A Hard Day's Night (G)

Director: Richard Lester. With John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Ringo Starr, Wilfred Brambell, Victor Spinetti, Anna Quayle. (94 min.)

Sterritt **** Wit, joy, imagination, and sensational mid-'60s music spark this 1964 classic, starring the Beatles and providing a slyly fictionalized look at the skyrocketing fame that discombobulated their hitherto normal lives. Lester's filmmaking was never more inventive, and the fabulous foursome never made another movie that so perfectly suited their extraordinary talents.

Held Up (PG-13)

Director: Steve Rash. With Jamie Foxx, Nia Long, Jake Busey, John Cullum, Barry Corbin. (91 min.)

Staff *1/2 Wise-acre Mike Dawson gets trapped in a convenience store hold-up in a dusty western town before he's able to stop his angry fiancee from cutting short their vacation. A local-yokel law-enforcement band only compounds his troubles. Some lines capably produce chuckles, but for the most part this lame movie is lost beyond its puny plot. By Katherine Dillin

Here on Earth (PG-13)

Director: Mark Piznarski. With Chris Klein, Leelee Sobieski, Josh Hartnett, Michael Rooker, Annie Corley. (110 min.)

Staff *1/2 Romantic teen drama revolves around a rich prep-school boy who falls in love with a small-town girl, and then finds out she has a terminal illness. The movie begins entertainingly enough - two enemies must set aside their differences to help rebuild the town's diner. Meanwhile, both have eyes for the same girl. But it suffers from a weak script and an overly sentimental and predictable plot. Sobieski's expressionless face doesn't help either. By Lisa Leigh Parney

VS/N: Implied teen sex. VV: 4 mild scenes including a shoving match, a fist fight, and a scuffle. VP: 12 mild expressions. VD: 1 scene of beer drinking.

High Fidelity (R)

Director: Stephen Frears. With John Cusack, Iben Hjejle, Joan Cusack, Jack Black, Todd Louiso, Lisa Bonet, Sara Gilbert, Lily Taylor, Catherine Zeta- Jones, Tim Robbins. (107 min.)

Sterritt ** Cusack plays a record-store proprietor who tries to end his string of romantic failures by tracking down his former girlfriends - back to junior high - and asking why they dumped him. Along the way he finds time to banter with his goofy shop assistants and strike up a new affair with a gorgeous singer. Music fans and Cusack admirers will find much to enjoy, but the comedy's meandering story and channel-surfing style prevent it from gathering the emotional momentum it would need to get below the hero's skin and let us know what really makes him tick.

Staff *** Clever, hip, intelligent, very funny, refreshing.

VS/N: 2 sex scenes, 2 of implied sex, 1 sexual situation. VV: 2 instances, both in comical context. VP: 79 expressions, mostly harsh. VD: 10 scenes with alcohol, 11 with smoking, 4 with both.

Highlander: Endgame (R)

Director: Douglas Aarniokoski. With Christopher Lambert, Adrian Paul, Bruce Payne, Ian Paul Cassidy. (100 min.)

Sterritt * This is the 4th (and last?) movie in the Highlander series that also included a successful syndicated television program. Unfortunately, it is also an obvious attempt to wring the last drop of revenue from fans of what was originally a very entertaining concept. The plot is nothing new: a dangerously strong nemesis of the MacLeod clan has surfaced, intent on exacting revenge for some centuries-old offense, and the two MacLeod immortals must combine strengths to defeat him. This is a film for diehard Highlander fans only. By Phelippe Salazar

Staff *1/2 Confusing narrative, ultra-violent, preposterous.

VS/N: 1 explicit sex scene, 2 scenes with nudity. VV: 9 scenes with violence, including decapitations and bloody sword fights. VP: 7 fairly mild expressions. VD: 3 scenes with alcohol, 1 with tobacco.

Highway/Paradise (Not rated)

Director: Sergey Dvortsevoy. With members of two Kazakhstani families. (82 min.)

Sterritt *** "Highway" is a visually striking nonfiction portrait of a family circus traveling along a rural highway between Russia and Central Asia, performing their ragtag tricks for small amounts of money. "Paradise" is an equally imaginative 25-minute documentary by Dvortsevoy about the daily life of a nomadic family. In Kazakh with English subtitles

Hollow Man (R)

Director: Paul Verhoeven. With Kevin Bacon, Elisabeth Shue, William Devane, Mary Randle. (114 min.)

Sterritt * A scientist experiments on himself in this violent new version of the old "Invisible Man" formula, overstuffed with high-tech effects that turn Bacon into a living "Gray's Anatomy" illustration. Verhoeven was once an interesting director, but this is fatuous twaddle with a nasty, misogynistic edge.

Staff ** Unrepentant voyeurism, bad dialogue, gory, efficient thriller.

VS/N: 1 scene of implied sex, 3 suggestive scenes, 9 with nudity, some innuendo. VV: 27 scenes with violence, often with gore, including electrocution and an implied rape. VP: 99 expressions, many harsh. VD: 1 scene with alcohol, 1 with a pipe.

Homo Sapiens 1900 (Not rated)

Director: Peter Cohen. With narration by Steven Rappaport. (85 min.)

Sterritt *** Fascinating documentary about the eugenics movement, a pseudoscientific effort to "improve" the human race by making procreation a matter of political policy rather than personal choice. The film traces this intermittently successful crusade through several countries, from Nazi Germany to the United States, moving at a leisurely pace that gives viewers plenty of time to study its images, ponder its ideas, and draw their own conclusions.

The House of Mirth (PG)

Director: Terence Davies. With Gillian Anderson, Dan Aykroyd, Laura Linney, Eric Stoltz, Elizabeth McGovern, Anthony LaPaglia, Eleanor Bron, Jodhi May, Terry Kinney. (124 min)

Sterritt *** Anderson shines with dark beauty and somber intelligence in this sensitive adaptation of Edith Wharton's riveting novel about a socially ambitious young woman who falls prey to her own miscalculations and the unforgiving nature of foes and friends alike. Wharton's old-school compassion and Davies's taste for artfully wrought melodrama make an unusual but ultimately successful combination.

House of Wax (Not rated)

Director: Andre de Toth. With Vincent Price, Carolyn Jones, Phyllis Kirk, Frank Lovejoy. Paul Picerni. (88 min.)

Sterritt *** Price launched his illustrious career as a horror-movie icon with this 1953 chiller about a deranged artist who uses unfortunate victims to make attractions for his wax museum. The plot is corny, but the acting is fun and the visual effects are uproarious when the movie is shown in its original 3-D format.

How the Grinch Stole Christmas (PG)

Director: Ron Howard. With Jim Carrey, Molly Shannon, Jeffrey Tambor, Christine Baranski, Bill Irwin. (105 min.)

Sterritt *** A lavishly produced adaptation of Dr. Seuss' classic children's book about a mountain-dwelling monster who decides to make the residents of nearby Whoville as grouchy as he is in the Yuletide season. Carrey is excellent, making the most of his comic gifts even in a cumbersome Grinch outfit, and the eye-spinning color scheme is dazzling to behold. The movie ultimately seems more entranced by its own effects than by the Christmas spirit itself, though.

Staff *** A holiday classic, Jim Carrey's perfect, great for kids, fantastic visuals.

Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: 11 extended scenes of comic mischief. Profanity: 75 expressions, a mix of harsh and mild. Drugs: 1 mild instance.

Human Resources (Not rated)

Director: Laurent Cantet. With Jalil Lespert, Jean-Claude Vallod, Chantal Barre, Veronique de Pandelaere, Michel Begnez, Lucien Longueville. (100 min.)

Sterritt **** A young man becomes a front-office intern at a factory in provincial France where his father and sister work, sparking a series of events that lead to family strife and serious moral dilemmas. This superbly acted, expressively filmed story offers a rare blend of compelling drama, ethical awareness, and sheer human emotion. In French with English subtitles

Staff *** Convincingly acted, wrenching, low-key.

VS/N: None. VV: 3 minor shoving incidents, 1 scene with a window being broken. VP: 22 expressions, many harsh. VD: 6 scenes with alcohol, 1 with tobacco.

L'Humanite (Not rated)

Director: Bruno Dumont. With Emmanuel Schotte, Severine Caneele, Philippe Tullier, Ghislain Ghesquiere, Ginette Allegre. (148 min.)

Sterritt *** A small-town French detective investigates the murder of a young girl, confronting horrors of the human condition yet sensing a possibility of spiritual transcendence that may lie just beyond his grasp. Dumont's cinematic style is aggressively physical and philosophical at the same time. It irritates as many viewers as it inspires, but it prompts more thought than ordinary movies ever do. In French with English subtitles

I Dreamed of Africa (PG-13)

Director: Hugh Hudson. With Kim Basinger, Vincent Perez, Eva Marie Saint, Garrett Strommen, Daniel Craig, Winston Ntshona, Lance Reddick, Liam Aiken. (112 min.)

Sterritt * Fact-based tale of a woman who moves from Italy to Kenya with her husband and young son, and faces more daunting and varied challenges than she ever expected. The story is inspirational in a superficial way, but the filmmakers focus so exclusively on their attractive heroine that the picture loses any real connection with Africa beyond its value as a beautiful background and a source of jolting plot twists. This is Hollywood in full star- centered, tunnel-vision mode.

VS/N: 1 scene of implied sex with nudity. VV: 4 scenes, including a lion attack and a car crash. VP: 5 mild expressions. VD: 4 scenes with alcohol, 3 with tobacco, 3 with both.

The Idiots (R)

Director: Lars von Trier. With Bodil Jorgensen, Jens Albinus, Louise Hassing, Bjarup Riis. (115 min.)

Sterritt * Depressed by recent events in her life, a young woman joins a group of antisocial rebels who like to gross out their middle-class neighbors by posing as mentally retarded "idiots" in public places. Filmed in the no-frills style of Denmark's much-publicized Dogma 95 group, which von Trier helped establish, the movie tries to be daring and iconoclastic but winds up seeming as spoiled and childish as its main characters. In Danish with English subtitles

Staff *1/2 Self-indulgent, boring, depressing.

VS/N: 1 lengthy, graphic sex scene; 6 scenes with nudity; 8 instances of innuendo. VV: 3 scenes of violence, including hitting. VP: 86 expressions, many harsh. VD: 12 scenes with alcohol and/or tobacco; 1 scene with marijuana.

If You Only Understood (Not rated)

Director: Rolando Diaz. With Aline Jerez, Joanni Fernandez, Flor Araujo, Anais Brunet, Belkis Vasallo. (87 min.)

Sterritt *** This genre-bending "documentary musical" focuses on a Cuban filmmaker's travels through Havana in search of a talented black woman to star in his next picture. It also looks in on his interviews with a series of women who talk candidly about how racism, sexism, and poverty affect their everyday experiences. The movie will appeal most to people with a special interest in Cuban society, but anyone can appreciate its warmly sympathetic vision of ordinary people living ordinary lives. In Spanish with English subtitles

The In Crowd (PG-13)

Director: Mary Lambert. With Susan Ward, Lori Heuring, Matthew Settle, Ethan Erickson, Nathan Bexton, Daniel Hugh Kelly, Tess Harper. (100 min.)

Staff * Downtrodden Adrien wants to keep secret her recent release from a mental hospital when she starts a new life and a new job at Cliffmont Country Club. But not all those who make up the "in crowd" (rich, scantily clad 20- something country-clubbers with not a hangnail among them but perhaps a murder or two under their belts) are willing to let sullied histories remain hidden. Dark and twisted, with sexually suggestive undercurrents, this one's as safe to miss as a sunburn by the club poolside. By Katherine Dillin

Staff * Flimsy, boring, plastic characters.

VS/N: 6 scenes of a sexual nature, including nudity, implied sex, and a lesbian kiss. VV: 14 scenes with violence, including grisly murders and fights. VP: 18 expressions, some harsh. VD: 8 scenes with alcohol, 1 with alcohol and smoking.

Into My Heart (Not rated)

Directors: Anthony Stark, Sean Smith. With Jayne Brook, Rob Morrow, Claire Forlani, Jake Weber, Sebastian Roche. (93 min.)

Sterritt *** The story of two young couples whose close friendship - perhaps too close - leads to emotional complications of increasing seriousness. The plot isn't very original, but the acting and dialogue have a low-key realism that packs more emotional punch than a dozen of the standard-issue romantic dramas crowding the independent-film scene.

Isn't She Great (R)

Director: Andrew Bergman. With Bette Midler, Nathan Lane, Stockard Channing, John Cleese, David Hyde Pierce, Amanda Peet, John Larroquette, Paul Benedict. (90 min.)

Sterritt *** Midler preens, prances, pouts, and generally kicks up a storm as notorious novelist Jacqueline Susann. Paul Rudnick's screenplay keeps feeding her the rude laughs and boisterous situations she needs to sustain the story's precarious balance between comedy and pathos. The results are unexpectedly entertaining, if you're willing to put up with the picture's stagy look, over- the-top moods, and heavy doses of vulgarity.

VS/N: 1 sexual situation, 5 instances of innuendo. VV: None. VP: 40 expressions, some harsh. VD: 7 scenes with alcohol, 2 with smoking, 4 with both, 1 with prescription-medicine abuse.

It All Starts Today (Not rated)

Director: Bertrand Tavernier. With Philippe Torreton, Maria Pitarresi, Nadia Kaci. (117 min.)

Sterritt *** An understated look at the quietly heroic activities of a provincial French schoolteacher who refuses to let his underprivileged pupils suffer at the hands of an overburdened social-welfare system. Tavernier's compassionate views and long filmmaking experience shine through this eloquently acted drama. In French with English subtitles

It's the Rage (R)

Director: James D. Stern. With Jeff Daniels, Joan Allen, Robert Forster, Anna Paquin, Gary Sinise, Andre Braugher, Giovanni Ribisi, Bokeem Woodbine, David Schwimmer. (90 min.)

Sterritt ** Cops, crooks, and ordinary citizens are among the weapon-toting characters in this ferocious satire of the American love affair with violence, which develops its antigun message through multiple story lines. Its ideas are worth pondering, but as a movie it's less memorable than its interesting cast suggests.

Jesus' Son (R)

Director: Alison Maclean. With Billy Crudup, Samantha Morton, Dennis Hopper, Holly Hunter, Will Patton, Jack Black, Denis Leary, Greg Germann. (100 min.)

Sterritt *** Dazed and confused in the drugged-up 1970s, a young man lurches through a series of misadventures, including an on-and-off sexual affair with a troubled woman. He stumbles into more than his share of disasters but finds a measure of redemption when he discovers that caring for others is a pathway to a meaningful life. The latter element joins with Crudup's excellent acting to make this deliberately scruffy tale a worthwhile experience if you can handle its explicitly sordid subplots.

VS/N: 1 sex scene with nudity, 3 of implied sex, 2 of nudity, 1 suggestive scene. VV: 10 scenes with violence, including an explicitly portrayed crash. VP: 52 expressions, mostly harsh. VD: 13 scenes with alcohol and/or tobacco, 4 with both plus drugs, 8 with hard drugs to prescription-drug abuse.

Joe Gould's Secret (R)

Director: Stanley Tucci. With Ian Holm, Stanley Tucci, Hope Davis, Susan Sarandon, Steve Martin. (104 min.)

Sterritt *** Bittersweet drama based on journalist Joseph Mitchell's real-life friendship with an eccentric writer of the 1940s who lived a hand-to-mouth existence in Greenwich Village while claiming to be at work on an epic history of modern life. The subject is fascinating and Holm is riveting as the title character, but the film never equals the pictures that appear to have influenced it, from newspaper dramas like "Citizen Kane" to studies of mental instability like "A Fine Madness" and even "The Shining."

VS/N: 2 scenes with nudity. VV: 2 mild tantrum scenes. VP: 26 expressions, some harsh. VD: 6 scenes with alcohol, 8 with tobacco, 6 with both.

Judy Berlin (Not rated)

Director: Eric Mendelsohn. With Barbara Barry, Bob Dishy, Edie Falco, Aaron Harnick, Madeline Kahn, Julie Kavner, Anne Meara. (97 min.)

Sterritt *** The residents of a Long Island town while away the hours during a solar eclipse, and we get revealing glimpses into their lives as discontented spouses, well-meaning schoolteachers, and younger folks including a man who's returned home with broken dreams and a woman who's leaving home with great expectations. The comic and dramatic scenes are consistently low-key, but the strikingly original movie has a dreamlike spell that gets farther under your skin as the eclipse stretches beyond the bounds of astronomical possibility.

VS/N: 1 mild instance of innuendo. VV: 1 slap. VP: 38 expressions, some harsh. VD: 1 scene with tobacco.

Just One Time (Not rated)

Director: Lane Janger. With Joelle Carter, Jennifer Esposito, David Lee Russek, Lane Janger. (111 min.)

Sterritt * A young woman agrees to act out her fiance's fantasy of a menage a trois if he'll reciprocate by indulging her own sexual whims. The comedy isn't quite as crude as it sounds, but there's not much of value here beyond a little lively acting.

Kadosh (Not rated)

Director: Amos Gitai. With Yael Abecassis, Yoram Hattab, Meital Barda, Uri Ran Klausner. (110 min.)

Sterritt **** Personal emotions intersect with religious and political ideas in this pungent, poignant drama about a young Israeli woman whose marriage to an ultra-Orthodox man is endangered by her inability to bear children. Gitai reconfirms his reputation as today's most widely respected Israeli filmmaker, helped by an excellent cast. In Hebrew with English subtitles

Staff *** Powerful, sad, too long.

VS/N: 1 instance of implied sex, 1 of implied adultery, some innuendo. VV: 2 scenes with violence, including man beating his wife. VP: None. VD: 5 scenes with alcohol and/or tobacco.

Keeping the Faith (PG-13)

Director: Edward Norton. With Edward Norton, Jenna Elfman, Ben Stiller, Eli Wallach, Anne Bancroft, Ron Rifkin, Milos Forman. (129 min.)

Sterritt *** The plot sounds like a joke: A rabbi woos a non-Jewish woman while their best friend, a Roman Catholic priest, juggles his own set of contradictory romantic feelings. Norton gives the comedy unexpected sparkle in his directorial debut, matching the perky performances of his cast (and himself) with smartly timed editing and colorful camera work. But what made the filmmakers think this lightweight fare could chug along for more than two hours without losing steam?

Staff ***1/2 Heartwarming, super, romantic, original, witty.

VS/N: 13 suggestive scenes or implied sex. VV: 5 instances of mild violence, mostly for comic effect. VP: 39 expressions, mostly mild. VD: 9 scenes with alcohol and/or tobacco.

Kestrel's Eye (Not rated)

Director: Mikael Kristersson. With a family of Swedish falcons. (86 min.)

Sterritt *** Atmospheric documentary about kestrels who nest among the rocks of an old Swedish church. There's no attempt at storytelling, but few movies have plunged their viewers more energetically into the world of nature.

The Kid (PG)

Director: Jon Turteltaub. With Bruce Willis, Spencer Breslin, Emily Mortimer, Lily Tomlin, Jean Smart, Chi McBride, Dana Ivey, Susan Dalian, Juanita Moore. (104 min.)

Sterritt *** Willis plays an egotistical image consultant who gets a needed dose of self-knowledge from an unexpected visitor: himself as a nine-year-old, equally puzzled by their time-warping encounter but loaded with clues as to how he became the creep he is today. Turteltaub makes the most of a solid screenplay and talented cast, rarely forcing the humor but letting it emerge from situations in its own good time. The result is fine fantasy fun.

Staff **1/2 Light summer flick, adorable, artificial.

VS/N: None. VV: 1 mild schoolyard fistfight. VP: 5 mild expressions. VD: 6 scenes with alcohol.

Kikujiro (PG-13)

Director: Takeshi Kitano. With "Beat" Takeshi, Yusuke Sekiguchi. (116 min.)

Sterritt ** A nine-year-old boy turns to a gangster for help in finding the mother he's never met, and they embark on a summertime journey with little money in their pockets and even less good sense in their heads. Kitano's first major comedy is loose and likable, but rarely as memorable as its Chaplinesque ambitions lead one to hope. Still, his laid-back acting style grows on you, if you give it a chance.

VS/N: 1 scene with nudity, 1 mild instance of innuendo. VV: 7 scenes with violence, a beating and the results of 2 other beatings. VP: 27 expressions, mostly mild. VD: 1 scene with alcohol, 3 with tobacco, 1 with both.

Kippur (Not rated)

Director: Amos Gitai, With Liron Levo, Tomer Ruso, Uri Ran Klauzner, Yoram Hattab, Guy Amir, Juliano Merr. (123 min.)

Sterritt *** A meticulously directed look at the Yom Kippur war of 1973, focusing on the fictionalized exploits of a small military unit assigned to remove the wounded from Golan Heights combat areas. This ingeniously directed drama is both a blood-churning war movie and a mind-stirring antiwar movie, focusing not on guts and glory but on the stark realities of real battlefield experience. It confirms Gitai as the finest filmmaker Israel has ever produced. In Hebrew with English subtitles

Kirikou and the Sorceress (Not rated)

Director: Michel Ocelot. With voices of Theo Sebeko, Antoinette Kellermann, Kombisile Sangweni, Mabuto Sithole, Fezele Mpeka. (74 min.)

Sterritt *** Animated fantasy about a very small but very wise little boy who overcomes a frightening witch by ridding her of the inner pain that's been distorting her life. Based on a West African folk tale, the richly drawn movie employs nudity that suits its African setting without diminishing the dignity or propriety of the characters. It's hard to remember a more highly entertaining and thoroughly original feature-length cartoon.

Kiss Me Kate (Not rated)

Director: George Sidney. With Howard Keel, Kathryn Grayson, Ann Miller, Bob Fosse, Carol Haney, Bobby Van, Tommy Rall. (120 min.)

Sterritt *** Revival of the classic 1953 musical in its original 3-D format. Grayson and Keel are just right as a feuding showbiz couple who reunite for a Broadway musical version of "The Taming of the Shrew" and find themselves quarreling as much in real life as on the stage. Fun all around.

The Ladies Man (R)

Director: Reginald Hudlin. With Tim Meadows, Karyn Parsons, Billy Dee Williams, Kevin McDonald, Tiffani-Amber Thiessen. (84 min.)

Staff * Tim Meadows brings his SNL character Leon Phelps, aka "The Ladies Man," to the big screen. After Phelps loses his job as a radio show host and gets hunted by a band of outraged husbands - whose wives he slept with - he realizes his life as a player is not so cool. There are moments of hilarious comedy, but for the most part, it's "kinky and disgusting." By Stuart S. Cox Jr.

Staff * Silly, juvenile, offensive, meritless.

VS/N: Sexual innuendo and dialogue in almost every scene. VV: 4 scenes. VP: 49 instances. VD: 12 instances of alcohol and smoking; both served as "background" elements for entire movie.

The Last September (R)

Director: Deborah Warner. With Maggie Smith, Michael Gambon, Jane Birkin, Fiona Shaw, Keeley Hawes, David Tennant, Richard Roxburgh, Gary Lydon, Jonathan Slinger. (104 min.)

Sterritt *** Picturesque adaptation of Elizabeth Bowen's intelligent 1929 novel, centering on a group of Anglo-Irish aristocrats shortsightedly trying to maintain their way of life despite the growing instability of Ireland after the Republican uprising of 1916. The movie doesn't have much more get-up-and-go than the characters, but solid performances and richly textured camera work keep it involving most of the way through.

VS/N: 1 instance of nudity, some innuendo. VV: 6 scenes with violence, including torture, gunshots, and threats of rape. VP: 3 expressions, including 1 harsh expression. VD: 2 scenes with alcohol, 10 with tobacco, 1 with both.

Left Luggage (Not rated)

Director: Jeroen Krabbe. With Laura Fraser, Maximilian Schell, Isabella Rossellini, Jeroen Krabbe, Marianne Saegebrecht, Chaim Topol, Adam Monty. (99 min.)

Sterritt ** A young Jewish woman who's never cared about her religion learns to broaden her horizons when she takes a nanny job in a strict Hasidic household. The drama has compelling moments and touches of imagination, but it relies more on sentiment than sense in conveying its messages about faith, family, and tradition.

The Legend of Bagger Vance (PG-13)

Director: Robert Redford. With Matt Damon, Will Smith, Charlize Theron, Jack Lemmon, Bruce McGill, Joel Gretsch, J. Michael Moncrief, Lane Smith, Harve Presnell. (127 min.)

Sterritt ** Traumatized by World War I, a young Southern golfer travels a downward path until he meets a mysterious black caddy who cloaks wise words in a humble disposition. Few would argue with the film's message about being true to your own best instincts. The trouble lies in its stereotypical style, its schmaltzy emotionalism, and its romanticized view of a white man's world in which it's taken for granted that even the most enlightened African-American must be a servant as well as a sage. The movie aims only at our heartstrings and tear ducts, when it could have touched our minds and consciences as well.

Lies (Not rated)

Director: Jang Sun Woo. With Lee Sang Hyun, Kim Tae Yeon. (105 min.)

Sterritt * A married artist embarks on a kinky love affair with a younger woman. This sexually explicit South Korean drama aims more to jolt than to illuminate, but it illustrates an aspect of Asian cinema that globally minded moviegoers should know about as films from that region take on more international prominence. In Korean with English subtitles

The Life and Times of Hank Greenberg (Not rated)

Director: Aviva Kempner. With Hank Greenberg, Walter Matthau, Alan Dershowitz, Ira Berkow. (95 min.)

Sterritt *** A highly entertaining look at the career of major-league baseball's first Jewish star, tracing the ways anti-Semitism attacked him inside and outside the ballpark but never losing sight of baseball's sheer fun or Greenberg's warm humanity. You don't have to be a sports fan to enjoy this finely crafted documentary.

VS/N: None. Violence: None. VD: None. VP: 11 expressions, including some ethnic slurs.

Life is to Whistle (Not rated)

Director: Fernando Perez. With Luis Alberto Garcia, Isabel Santos, Coralia Veloz, Rolando Brito, Bebe Perez, Claudia Rojas, Joan Manuel Reyes, Monica Guffanti. (110 min.)

Sterritt *** High drama, low comedy, and experimental storytelling techniques distinguish this Cuban production, which centers on a teenage narrator whose hyperactive imagination churns out a number of loosely linked tales about a woman prone to fainting spells, a ballerina who vows to give up men if she can dance a cherished role, and many others. Lively all the way. In Spanish with English subtitles

Little Nicky (PG-13)

Director: Steven Brill. With Adam Sandler, Harvey Keitel, Patricia Arquette, Rhys Ifans, Kevin Nealon, Dana Carvey, Ozzy Osbourne. (84 min.)

Staff * Adam Sandler plays Nicky, the soft-hearted son of Satan who is forced to save the world from evil. Sandler's humor has worked well before in "Happy Gilmore" and "The Waterboy," but his schtick is tiresome. Throughout the entire movie, he uses his well-known cajun accent and contorts his face into one of pain (the movie explains that he got hit in the face with a shovel as a child). Stoner jokes, awful gags, and just stupid stuff equate to one bad movie. By Lisa Leigh Parney

The Little Thief (Not rated)

Director: Erick Zonca. With Nicolas Duvauchelle, Yann Tregouet, Martial Bezot, Jean-Jerome Esposito, Ingrid Preynat. (65 min.)

Sterritt *** The hard-hitting story of a young French worker whose aimless, self-centered existence leads him into criminal activity with a group of like- minded punks. Zonca tells this socially revealing tale through the same documentary-style techniques that made his debut feature, "The Dreamlife of Angels," such a memorable experience. Shown with "Alone," a 34-minute Zonca short about a teenage girl who finds herself without a home, a job, or a reliable friend. In French with English subtitles

The Little Vampire (PG)

Director: Ulrich Edel. With Jonathan Lipnicki, Richard E. Grant, Jim Carter, Alice Krige. (95 min.)

Staff **1/2 We humans have gotten it all wrong lo these many centuries. Vampires just want to be like us. The movie's eight-year-old hero, Tony (Lipnicki) and his friendship with a vampire his own age, make this all apparent. The first Harry Potter knock-off is a mixed bag of great special effects, endearing innocence, and some realistic vampire scenes (albeit cows replace humans as the object of the blood-suckers) and the usual Hollywood backhand at Christianity. Do you bring your eight-year- old to this movie? Only if you already let him or her watch the full melange of horror flicks on late night TV. Be ready for nightmares if you do. By Jim Bencivenga

Live Nude Girls Unite! (Not rated)

Directors: Julia Query, Vicky Funari. With Julia Query. (70 min.)

Sterritt *** A highly personal documentary about Query's participation in a movement to unionize the striptease trade. The ambience is often squalid, but the movie has much to reveal about the exploitation of women in this sleazy corner of the show-business world.

Long Night's Journey Into Day (Not rated)

Directors: Frances Reid, Deborah Hoffmann. With Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Peter Biehl, Linda Biehl, Cynthia Ngewu, Eric Taylor. (94 min.)

Sterritt *** Nonfiction study of South Africa's ambitious Truth and Reconciliation Commission and its efforts to cast a healing spotlight on the injustices that scarred the nation during its oppressive years of apartheid rule. The film emphasizes the historical facts and legal complexities of the four cases it examines in depth, rather than their individual outcomes, rightly suggesting that no single process or institution can bring a neat conclusion to so many decades of racial hostility and oppression. In English, Xhosa, and Afrikaans with English subtitles

Loser (PG-13)

Director: Amy Heckerling. With Jason Biggs, Mena Suvari, Greg Kinnear, Thomas Sadoski, Dan Aykroyd. (100 min.)

Staff ** College freshman Paul dangles precariously on the losing end of things - he's too nice to be hip, his party-addicted roommates won't let him study, and he's got to woo the girl of his dreams from their snappy-dressing English professor. Can nice guys finish first? A lighthearted winner. By Katherine Dillin

Staff ** Sweet, pretty wholesome, spunky.

VS/N: 4 mildly suggestive scenes, 5 instances of innuendo. VV: 1 fistfight. VP: 15 expressions, some harsh. VD: 7 scenes with alcohol, 3 with tobacco, 1 instance of doping fruit juice.

Lost Souls (R)

Director: Janusz Kaminski. With Winona Ryder, Ben Chaplin, John Hurt, Philip Baker Hall. (102 min.)

Sterritt * A young woman discovers that the Antichrist is about to appear in the body of a popular New York author, and all creation will be doomed if she can't prevent this transformation from occurring. Kaminski is a gifted cinematographer, but his directorial debut suffers from a preposterous plot, bad acting by both stars, and dialogue that provokes more laughs than shivers. Even schlock like "The Exorcist" shines alongside this silly stuff.

VS/N: None. VV: 14 scenes, including exorcisms and punches. VP: 9 expressions, some harsh. VD: 9 scenes with smoking and drinking.

Love and Basketball (PG-13)

Director: Gina Prince-Bythewood. With Sanaa Lathan, Omar Epps, Alfre Woodard, Dennis Haysbert. (124 min.)

Staff **1/2 First-time feature writer and director Prince-Bythewood makes an impressive debut with a story about a girl and boy who grow up to pursue their own hoop dreams. Young Monica competes with the boy next door, Quincy, in a nice Los Angeles neighborhood, but when the two enter high school and then college, the tension between them eventually disappears and they fall in love. The story is a bit overlong, but it's refreshing to see a woman portrayed as headstrong and opinionated as Monica is - a great role model for women. By Lisa Leigh Parney

Staff *** Refreshing, cute, cliched.

VS/N: 3 scenes with sexual content, including one fairly graphic sex scene; some innuendo. VV: 1 mild scene with shoving. VP: 33 expressions, some harsh. VD: 3 scenes with alcohol.

Love and Sex (Not rated)

Director: Valerie Breiman. With Famke Janssen, Jon Favreau, Noah Emmerich, Cheri Oteri. (82 min.)

Staff **1/2 Janssen writes for a women's magazine that specializes in mushy articles about how to catch and keep a man. When her editor assigns her to write such a piece from her own experience, she can only remember a long trip down a path littered with short, demeaning relationships. Janssen's fans will rejoice to see her in a big and meaningful part. By M.K. Terrell

Love's Labour's Lost (PG)

Director: Kenneth Branagh. With Kenneth Branagh, Alicia Silverstone, Timothy Spall, Carmen Ejogo, Nathan Lane, Natascha McElhone, Alessandro Nivola, Emily Mortimer, Matthew Lillard, Adrian Lester. (95 min.)

Sterritt ** William Shakespeare's comedy about a King and three friends who take a pledge to give up partying for philosophizing, updated to the 1930s era and spiced with musical numbers featuring songs of that period. It's all very colorful, but the movie's diverse elements clash as often as they cooperate.

Staff *** Cheery, Bard-lite, intelligent, no Fred Astaires here.

VS/N: 2 mildly suggestive scenes. VV: 5 scenes of mostly slapstick violence, except for one series of WWII clips. VP: None. VD: 11 with alcohol and/or tobacco.

Lucky Numbers (R)

Director: Nora Ephron. With John Travolta, Lisa Kudrow, Tim Roth, Michael Moore, Michael Rapaport, Ed O'Neill, Bill Pullman. (105 min.)

Sterritt * A debt-ridden meteorologist cooks up a scheme to rig a state lottery drawing in cahoots with the oversexed TV personality who pulls the numbers out of the lottery machine. A few mildly amusing gags don't outweigh the trite situations and mean-spirited attitude of this comedy, which relies too often on condescending jokes aimed at unattractive characters.

Luminarias (R)

Director: Jose Luis Valenzuela. With Evelina Fernandez, Scott Bakula, Cheech Marin, Liz Torres, Robert Beltran, Sab Shimono. (100 min.)

Sterritt *** The lives and loves of a small group of Mexican-American women, named after the Los Angeles restaurant where they gather to talk about their experiences and ideas. The movie is very small in scale, but the performances are appealing and Fernandez's screenplay casts an interesting light on the main characters' self-images as Latina women.

VS/N: 1 sex scene, 1 of implied sex, 10 instances of innuendo. VV: 1 slap, 2 descriptions of abuse. VP: 94 expressions, many harsh. VD: 8 scenes with alcohol, 2 with tobacco, 2 with both.

Luminous Motion (Not rated)

Director: Bette Gordon. With Deborah Kara Unger, Eric Lloyd, Jamey Sheridan, Terry Kinney. (94 min.)

Sterritt *** A little boy struggles to retain a close relationship with his mother as her irresponsible lifestyle carries them from one temporary home to another. Fine acting and creative directing lend three-dimensional life to this absorbing story, which blends dreamlike elements with sharply etched drama and touches of pure cinematic ingenuity.

Mad Max (R)

Director: George Miller. With Mel Gibson, Joanne Samuel, Hugh Keays-Byrne, Steve Bisley. (93 min.)

Sterritt ** Reissue of the 1979 cult hit, with its original Australian dialogue track replacing the American-dubbed version previously heard in US theaters. Gibson provides the only cuteness in the savage tale of a moody cop chasing down a viciously violent gang, but action fans will find the helter-skelter action as energetic as ever.

Madadayo (Not rated)

Director: Akira Kurosawa. With Tatsuo Matsumura, Kyoko Kagawa, Hisashi Igawa, Joji Kokoro. (134 min.)

Sterritt ** Completed in 1993, this is the final work of a towering Japanese director whose later films unfortunately didn't equal his early masterpieces. The title means "not yet," reflecting the spirited attitude of the main character, an elderly teacher who uses those words to refute any suggestion that his life is drawing to a close. In the story, former students organize a tribute to their beloved mentor, but director Kurosawa's warm humanism isn't strong enough to generate a similar degree of affection in the audience watching this wordy, wearying drama.

VS/N: None. VV: None. VP: 3 mild expressions. VD: 5 scenes with alcohol, 5 with tobacco, 2 with both.

Mauvais Sang (Not rated)

Director: Leos Carax. With Denis Lavant, Juliette Binoche, Michel Piccoli, Julie Delpy, Carroll Brooks, Serge Reggiani, Hans Meyer, Hugo Pratty. (105 min.)

Sterritt *** Carax assembled an excellent cast for this dark 1987 fantasy about a young man who joins a scheme to steal the cure for a new illness that only attacks lovers who don't really care about each other. Also present is Carax's cinematic verve and a love for pop-culture detritus that gives the story much of its distinctive feel. Also known as "Bad Blood" and "The Night Is Young." In French with English subtitles

Me, Myself & Irene (R)

Directors: Bobby Farrelly, Peter Farrelly. With Jim Carrey, Renee Zellweger, Chris Cooper, Robert Forster, Richard Jenkins, Anthony Anderson, Mongo Brownlee. (116 min.)

Sterritt ** The protagonist is a policeman with two personalities: One is sweeter than apple pie, the other is lecherous enough to make Mr. Hyde look like a gentleman, and both are in love with Irene, a new acquaintance who's never quite sure which one she's dealing with. Carrey gives an awesome comic performance with little help from cinematic trickery, recalling Jerry Lewis's legendary acting in the 1963 version of "The Nutty Professor," which this farce frequently resembles. Look out for huge amounts of deliberately disgusting, gross-out humor, though.

Staff ***1/2 Hilarious, absurd, over-the-top, hollow.

VS/N: 2 instances of implied sex, 3 suggestive scenes, some innuendo. VV: 14 scenes of mostly slapstick violence, but includes two gunshot wounds. VP: 114 expressions, mostly crude. VD: 4 scenes with alcohol, 7 with tobacco.

Me Myself I (R)

Director: Pip Karmel. With Rachel Griffiths, David Roberts, Sandy Winton, Yael Stone, Shaun Loseby. (104 min.)

Sterritt ** Having a premature midlife crisis in her early 30s, a successful woman fears she lost her opportunity for true happiness when she decided not to marry her boyfriend years ago - but she gets a second chance when a magical time-warp allows her to travel down the path she once refused to take. Griffiths is fun to watch and the treatment of might-have-been fantasy is less sappy than that of "Sliding Doors," which this comedy-drama resembles. Still, it doesn't add up to very much in the end.

VS/N: 6 sexual scenes, including a sex scene, nudity, and a porn clip. VV: 2 scenes with violence, including a car-pedestrian accident. VP: 36 expressions, mostly mild. VD: 7 scenes with alcohol, 3 with tobacco, 1 with both.

Meet the Parents (PG-13)

Director: Jay Roach. With Ben Stiller, Robert De Niro, Nicole DeHuff, Blythe Danner, Owen Wilson. (108 min.)

Staff ***1/2 Pam's dad (De Niro): ex-CIA, a character somewhat reminiscent of the cat-loving James Bond nemesis Ernst Blofeld, absolutely paranoid, not likely to smile or chuckle. Try asking his permission for his daughter's hand in marriage. But smitten Greg (Stiller) tries when he realizes his beloved prefers the traditional route to the altar. Many belly laughs and sweet moments. By Katherine Dillin

Staff *** Well cast, nonstop laughs, Stiller rules as the underdog.

VS/N: 1 mildly suggestive scene, 4 instances of innuendo. VV: 3 scenes with mostly cartoonish violence. VP: 15 expressions, mostly mild. VD: 3 scenes with alcohol, 2 with tobacco, 1 scene with implied use of marijuana.

Men of Honor (R)

Director: George Tillman Jr. With Cuba Gooding Jr., Robert De Niro, Charlize Theron, Michael Rapaport. (127 min.)

Sterritt ** An old-fashioned melodrama inspired by the life of an African- American man who rose from a sharecropper's family in the segregated South to become a master Navy diver despite the bigotry he encountered in the newly integrated military. Gooding and De Niro bring their characters to vivid life despite the unsubtle screenplay and hyperactive music score.

Staff *** Hollywoodized story, impassioned storytelling, lots of male bonding, inspiring tale.

Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: 8 scenes, including a graphic accident. Profanity: 75 expressions, a mix of harsh and mild. Drugs: 13 scenes with tobacco and smoking; 3 scenes of alcohol.

Mifune (R)

Director: Soren Kragh-Jacobsen. With Iben Hjejle, Anders W. Berthelsen, Jesper Asholt. (99 min.)

Sterritt ** An ambitious Copenhagen businessman becomes the reluctant guardian of his older brother, a mentally slow fellow whose eccentricities include a huge enthusiasm for Toshiro Mifune, the Japanese movie star. Made in the stripped-down style of Denmark's offbeat Dogma 95 movement, the picture makes up in solid acting what it lacks in Hollywood-type frills, even if it isn't very memorable in the end. In Danish with English subtitles

Staff *** Some genuinely touching moments, eye-pleasing locales, sensual.

VS/N: 1 sex scene, 3 of implied sex, 5 instances of innuendo. VV: 5 scenes with violence, including beatings and a tussle. VP: 68 expressions, many harsh. VD: 5 scenes with alcohol, 7 with tobacco, 4 with both.

Mission: Impossible 2 (PG-13)

Director: John Woo. With Tom Cruise, Thandie Newton, Anthony Hopkins, Ving Rhames, Brendan Gleeson, Rade Sherbedgia, Dougray Scott, Richard Roxburgh, John Polson. (120 min.)

Sterritt ** Our dashing hero enlists a beautiful but devious thief in his assignment to track down the power-mad holders of a deadly new virus and its equally rare antidote. Woo's patented pyrotechnics - intricate editing, acrobatic camera movements, slow-motion mayhem - lend intermittent sparks to the violent action sequences, but the two-dimensional characters have little personality. Robert Towne's screenplay takes the easy route of blending elements from the first "M:I" movie and Woo's own "Face/Off" with Hitchcockian touches (the classic "Notorious" is a major source) as well as every James Bond movie ever made.

Staff **1/2 Action-packed, entertaining, unoriginal, impressive stunts.

VS/N: 1 scene of implied sex, 2 sexually suggestive scenes. VV: 58 scenes with violence, including shooting and hand-to-hand combat. VP: 11 expressions, mostly mild. VD: 1 cigar.

Mission to Mars (PG)

Director: Brian De Palma. With Gary Sinise, Don Cheadle, Connie Nielsen, Jerry O'Connell, Tim Robbins, Peter Outerbridge. (113 min.)

Sterritt ** A group of astronauts meets a mysterious end when they encounter an enigmatic structure nestled in the desolate Martian landscape. A second group rockets off to find out what happened, finding the same puzzling object but responding in a different way that brings very different results. The picture is equally long on eye-dazzling camera work and New Age sentimentality. Even viewers who find it soggy can enjoy spotting the ideas and effects borrowed from a gaggle of earlier science-fiction epics, though, from "This Island Earth" to "Close Encounters of the Third Kind."

Staff ** Lacked mystery, slow, cardboard characters, corny, good concept.

VS/N: None. VV: 5 scenes with violence, including an explosion. VP: 32 expressions, mostly mild. VD: 3 scenes with alcohol and/or smoking.

My Dog Skip (PG)

Director: Jay Russell. With Frankie Muniz, Diane Lane, Kevin Bacon, Luke Wilson, Caitlin Wachs, Bradley Coryell, Harry Connick Jr. as narrator. (95 min.)

Staff *** This moving, coming-of-age story stars Muniz ("Malcolm in the Middle") as Willie Morris, an only child growing up in a small Mississippi town in the early 1940s. His father (Bacon) - an overprotective but good-hearted man - feels his son is too young to have a dog, but his mother (Lane) opens up Willie's world with a Jack Russell terrier puppy on his ninth birthday. This fact-based tale is about the bond between a father and son and the realities of war. A wonderful and meaningful family film. By Lisa Leigh Parney

Staff *** Rich family entertainment, endearing, contrived.

VS/N: None. VV: 9 scenes with violence, including a hunting scene and some bullying. VP: 12 very mild expressions. VD: 4 scenes with alcohol, 2 with cigars.

The New Eve (Not rated)

Director: Catherine Corsini. With Karin Viard, Sergi Lopez, Pierre-Loup Rajot, Catherine Frot, Mireille Roussel, Valentine Vidal, Nozha Khouadra, Laurent Lucas. (94 min.)

Sterritt ** A freethinking Frenchwoman wavers between her love of independence and her hankering for romantic attachment. When she steers toward the latter, she enters a new dilemma involving a married man and a worker seeking a relationship with real commitment. Viard's energetic acting is the French production's most memorable asset. In French with English subtitles

New Waterford Girl (Not rated)

Director: Allan Moyle. With Liane Balaban, Tara Spencer-Nairn, Mary Walsh, Nicholas Campbell, Cathy Moriarty, Andrew McCarthy. (97 min.)

Sterritt *** Feeling emotionally suffocated in her Nova Scotia town, a teenager cooks up an unlikely plan to escape - pretending to be a tramp when she's really quite the opposite, and fleeing the community on the excuse of a (bogus) pregnancy. Balaban's superb performance blends with Moyle's mostly understated directing to produce an uneven but sometimes enchanting comedy-drama.

The Next Best Thing (PG-13)

Director: John Schlesinger. With Madonna, Rupert Everett, Benjamin Bratt, Illeana Douglas, Josef Sommer, Malcolm Stumpf, Lynn Redgrave. (107 min.)

Sterritt * Madonna plays a not-quite-young woman who's afraid family life will pass her by if she doesn't have a child soon, then discovers she's pregnant after a one-night fling with her best friend, a gay man who finds fatherhood quite agreeable once the little boy is born. The movie has a well-meaning message about love and loyalty being the bedrock of real family values, but its good intentions sag as the story trades its air of mischievous comedy for trite sentimentality, arbitrary plot twists, and enough maudlin melodramatics to sustain a tabloid TV series.

Staff *1/2 Lacks focus, disappointing, poor story line.

VS/N: 2 scenes with nudity, 1 of implied sex, some instances of sex-related dialogue. VV: None. VP: 22 expressions, mostly mild. VD: 6 scenes with alcohol, 4 with smoking.

Next Friday (R)

Director: Steve Carr. With Ice Cube, John Witherspoon, Don "DC" Curry, Tom 'Tiny' Lister Jr., Mike Epps. (92 min.)

Staff DUD Did we really need a sequel to the 1995 sleeper hit "Friday"? Of course not. The pointless story revolves around the aimless and chunky Craig (played by Ice Cube, who also produced), who goes to live with his Uncle Elroy ("DC" Curry) and cousin Day-Day (Epps) in the L.A. suburbs, where they used their lottery winnings to buy a house. Meanwhile, Craig and Day-Day must deal with neighborhood bullies and their attack dog. Expect lame jokes and really bad dialogue. By Lisa Leigh Parney

Staff 1/2 Raunchy language, awful, grossly offensive.

VS/N: 7 scenes, including implied sex and photos with partial nudity; 10 instances of innuendo. VV: 21 instances of violence, from slapstick to one graphic scene. VP: 312 expressions, mostly harsh. VD: 4 scenes with alcohol, 1 with smoking, 6 with marijuana, 3 with alcohol and marijuana.

Nightmare Alley (Not rated)

Director: Edmund Goulding. With Tyrone Power, Joan Blondell, Helen Walker, Colleen Gray. (111 min.)

Sterritt **** Reissue of an utterly original "film noir" from 1947, about an ambitious young conniver who starts as a sideshow worker in a small-time carnival, becomes a showbiz star with a knack for manipulating the rich and famous, then reaches too far and precipitates his own wildly ironic downfall. Jules Furthman's screenplay is packed with surprises, Lee Garmes's camera work is subtly expressive, and Power's performance is as persuasive as it is surprising, given his usual persona as a sympathetic leading man. Truly a one- of-a-kind classic.

The Nightmare Before Christmas (PG)

Director: Tim Burton. With voices of Danny Elfman, Chris Sarandon, Catherine O'Hara, Paul Reubens, William Hickey. (75 min.)

Sterritt ** Not content to reign over Halloween, a domineering Pumpkin King tries to make Christmastime part of his domain. The visual effects of this quirky 1993 animation are sometimes stunning, but you may head for the exit if the nonstop pop-music score isn't your cup of witch's brew.

The Ninth Gate (R)

Director: Roman Polanski. With Johnny Depp, Lena Olin, Frank Langella, Emmanuelle Seigner, Barbara Jefford. (133 min.)

Sterritt *** An unscrupulous rare-book expert scavenges Europe for two obscure volumes penned by the devil himself. Polanski returns to the supernaturally tinged territory he explored so memorably in "The Tenant" and "Rosemary's Baby," punctuating the old-fashioned yarn with an occasional self-satirizing touch to show he's as aware as we are that it doesn't make a bit of sense. The spooky proceedings go on too long and don't have much of a payoff, but Polanski's directing is marvelously assured and Depp is always fun to watch.

Non-Stop (Not rated)

Director: Sabu. With Diamond Yukai, Tomoro Taguchi, Shinichi Tsutsumi. (82 min.)

Sterritt ** Three low-life men - a gangster, a bank robber, and a drug-abusing clerk - pursue one another down Tokyo streets until their brains are so scrambled they can hardly remember who's chasing whom and for what. This tragicomic tale doesn't have the supercharged brilliance of "Run Lola Run," which it occasionally resembles, but it's certainly fast-moving and action fans should enjoy it. In Japanese with English subtitles

Not of This World (Not rated)

Director: Giuseppe Piccioni. With Margherita Buy, Silvio Orlando, Carolina Freschi, Maria Cristina Minerva, Sonia Gessner. (104 min.)

Sterritt *** A fledgling nun and a dry-cleaning entrepreneur strike up an unexpected friendship when she asks his assistance in finding the mother of an abandoned infant who's come under her care. Piccioni weaves this unpredictable tale into a personality-filled tapestry, blending vivid Italian settings with emotions that moviegoers anywhere will recognize. In Italian with English subtitles

Not One Less (G)

Director: Zhang Yimou. With Wei Minzhi, Zhang Huike, Tian Zhenda, Gao Enman, Sun Zhimei. (106 min.)

Sterritt ** In a rural Chinese village, a 13-year-old girl becomes the teacher in a school where she's hardly older than the pupils, and faces a crisis when a mischievous 10-year-old abruptly runs away to a nearby city. The theme recalls one of Zhang's greatest films, "The Story of Qiu Ju," but his use of a loosely written screenplay and a nonprofessional cast in this picture weakens its dramatic appeal even as it lends authenticity and local color. In Mandarin with English subtitles

Staff *** Charming, touching, innocent, real.

VS/N: None. VP: None. VV: 1 mild scene of kids scuffling. VD: 2 scenes with smoking.

Nurse Betty (R)

Director: Neil LaBute. With Renee Zellweger, Morgan Freeman, Chris Rock, Greg Kinnear, Aaron Eckhart, Crispin Glover, Pruitt Taylor Vince. (112 min.)

Sterritt ** Traumatized by a horrific event she's witnessed, a woman gets the deluded idea that her favorite soap opera is real and she's the main character in it; others on hand include a loathsome husband and a pair of hitmen. Zellweger is as charming as ever, and it's good to find LaBute working with a script by writers who don't fully share his crabbed, cramped view of human nature. His directorial personality still shows through in the story's wide- eyed fascination with confusion and humiliation.

Staff *** Enchanting whimsy, shocking torture scene, fresh.

VS/N: 1 sex scene. VV: 8 scenes with violence, more graphic than expected, including shooting. VP: 114 expressions, mostly harsh. VD: 8 scenes with alcohol, 2 with tobacco.

Nutty Professor II: The Klumps (PG-13)

Director: Peter Segal. With Eddie Murphy, Janet Jackson, Larry Miller, Jamal Mixon, John Ales. (105 min.)

Sterritt * Murphy returns as a brilliant but bashful savant whose exotic elixir has created a foul-mouthed alter ego who wants to sabotage his marriage plans. The star's over-the-top energy isn't enough to make this hopelessly vulgar, numbingly repetitious farce worth watching.

Staff ** Crass, sloppy, unoriginal, amusing.

VS/N: 6 scenes either with nudity or of a suggestive nature, rather coarse; 12 instances of innuendo. VV: 7 scenes of mostly cartoonish violence. VP: 83 expressions, some harsh. VD: 8 scenes with alcohol and/or tobacco.

O Brother, Where Art Thou? (PG-13)

Director: Joel Coen. With George Clooney, John Turturro, Tim Blake Nelson, Holly Hunter, John Goodman, Charles Durning, Daniel von Bargen, Michael Badalucco. (143 min)

Sterritt ** Three small-time crooks escape from a Southern chain gang and embark on a quest for adventure, romance, and buried treasure. The screenplay by director Coen and producer Ethan Coen borrows from sources as varied as "The Odyssey" and Preston Sturges's brilliant 1941 comedy "Sullivan's Travels," about a movie director who longs to make a picture called "O Brother, Where Art Thou?" to prove what a serious guy he is. For all its ambitions, though, the Coens' odyssey is a scattershot affair with too many tricks and twists for its own good.

On the Run (Not rated)

Director: Bruno de Almeida. With Michael Imperioli, John Ventimiglia, Drena De Niro, Joaquim de Almeida, Anna Kohler, Agnes Jaoui. (94 min.)

Sterritt ** A travel agent who never travels has an unexpected adventure when an old pal shows up in town, fresh from breaking out of prison two weeks before the end of his sentence. The action is fast, furious, and occasionally quite funny. Imperioli takes the acting honors, but the others have impressive moments too, especially when De Niro enters the picture as a possible love interest for the jailbird.

One (Not rated)

Director: Toni Barbieri. With Kane Picoy, Jason Cairns, Autumn Macintosh, Ed Lynch. (86 min.)

Sterritt *** The troubled friendship of two young men -an ex-convict with a strong moral sense and a lackadaisical small-time athlete - who can't seem to get a foothold in life. The understated story gains surprising emotional strength from Barbieri's sensitive camera work, delicately written dialogue, and thoughtful performances by just about everyone. This is a truly superior debut film, marking all concerned as highly promising talents.

100% Arabica (Not rated)

Director: Mahmoud Zemmouri. With Khaled, Cheb Mami, Mouss, Majim Laouriga, Farid Fedjer. (86 min.)

Sterritt ** Set in an Algerian neighborhood in the Paris suburbs, this lively comedy focuses on a pop-music group that captivates its fans. But it also earns the hostility of a crooked religious leader and a cowardly mayor who hope to win community support with a crackdown on pop culture. The plot isn't always original, but along with its laughs the movie has much to reveal about multicultural tensions in Western Europe today. In French with English subtitles

102 Dalmatians (G)

Director: Daniele Thompson. With Glenn Close, Ioan Gruffudd, Alice Evans, Gerard Depardieu. (94 min.)

Staff *** "Ella De Vil (Close) is unleashed from prison and instead of stealing cute canines, she helps a rundown animal shelter - simply because she absolutely loves dogs! OK, let's get real. Ella's perfectly coiffed black and white bun soon pings out of control and she returns to her former self as Cruella. She teams up with furrier Jean Pierre Le Pelt (Depardieu) and tries to steal 102 "poopies" for her dreamcoat. Close is perfectly cast as the overly dramatic and evil Cruella and the dalamatian puppies are just doggone cute. By Lisa Leigh Parney

Staff *** Some hilarious moments, Glenn Close is marvelous, predictable, romantic.

Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: 8 scenes with comic violence, including slapping and fighting. Profanity: None. Drugs: 2 scenes with cigarettes.

The Opportunists (R)

Director: Myles Connell. With Christopher Walken, Peter McDonald, John Ortiz, Donal Logue, Cyndi Lauper, Tom Noonan. (89 min.)

Staff **1/2 A safecracker, who's done jailtime, finds life as a law-abiding car mechanic doesn't pay the bills. When some local dim bulbs equally desperate for cash propose a scheme for unearned dough, the ex-con considers taking another crack at the crooked path. Not a whole lot happens here, but the gentle and humorous story is ultimately about charity. Walken makes this movie's little engine purr. By Katherine Dillin

Staff *** Amiable, modest, fun casting.

VS/N: None. VV: 3 mild scenes of violence, including 1 scuffle with punches thrown and 2 instances of breaking and entering. VP: 22 expressions, some harsh. VD: 8 scenes with alcohol.

Orfeu (Not rated)

Director: Carlos Diegues. With Toni Garrido, Patricia Franca, Murilo Benicio, Zeze Motta, Milton Goncalves. (110 min.)

Sterritt ** This modern-day telling of the ancient Orpheus myth, set in Rio de Janeiro during the carnival season, chronicles the ill-starred love of a gifted pop singer and a woman whisked away from him by death. There's more seductive acting and streetwise grittiness here than in the 1959 musical "Black Orpheus," which this version responds to with a comparatively high measure of social and political consciousness; but Diegues's approach doesn't escape its own lapses into artificiality and cliche. Caetano Veloso's music is mighty pleasant, though. In Portuguese with English subtitles

The Original Kings of Comedy (R)

Director: Spike Lee, With Steve Harvey, D.L. Hughley, Cedric the Entertainer, Bernie Mac. (117 min.)

Sterritt ** A session with four popular African-American comedians, filmed during the North Carolina portion of an enormously well-attended tour. Sometimes they're truly hilarious; sometimes they're lazy enough to milk laughs from nonstop vulgarity; and sometimes they try to pummel the audience into submission with humor so belligerent you don't know whether to give a nervous laugh or hide under your seat. It's hard to say which moments the on-screen spectators love most, since they appear to be howling with amusement from beginning to end.

Staff **1/2 Profane, a scream, in-your-face comedy.

VS/N: 10 instances of innuendo and descriptions of sexual activity. VV: Some talk of violence. VP: 504 expressions, mostly harsh. VD: One instance of smoking and drinking offstage.

Orphans (Not rated)

Director: Peter Mullan. With Douglas Henshall, Stephen McCole, Rosemarie Stevenson, Gary Lewis. (95 min.)

Sterritt *** The gloomy, sometimes violent adventures of three Scottish brothers and their disabled sister, who endure various forms of emotional upheaval during the night before their mother's funeral. The atmosphere is realistic and the acting is vivid, but look out for explicit vulgarity and much extremely foul language. In Scottish dialect with English subtitles

VS/N: 1 sexual situation; some innuendo. VV: 7 scenes with violence, including 1 graphic knife wound. VP: 266 expressions, mostly harsh. VD: 3 scenes with alcohol, 3 with smoking, 2 with both.

The Other Conquest (R)

Director: Salvador Carrasco. With Damian Delgado, Jose Carlos Rodriguez, Elpidia Carrillo, Inaki Aierra, Honorato Magaloni, Zaide Silvia Gutierrez. (105 min.)

Staff *** In the aftermath of Spain's 1519 conquest of the Aztec nation, a friar comes to see the folly and tragedy of forcing one's religion and customs on a society with its own deep-rooted traditions. Although this film's tight budget occasionally shows through, the use of native language and striking Mexican locations give it a feel of authenticity. A pointed reminder of the incalculable harm that ethnic cleansing wreaks upon the perpetrators as well as the victims. In Spanish and Nahuatl with English subtitles. By M.K. Terrell

VS/N: 1 incestual sex scene with nudity, 5 scenes with nudity. VV: 12 scenes with violence, including the aftermath of a battle. VP: 5 mild expressions. VD: 1 scene with alcohol.

Outlaw! (Not rated)

Director: Enzo Monteleone. With Stefano Accorsi, Emilio Solfrizzi, Giovanni Esposito, Fabrizia Sacchi. (91 min.)

Sterritt *** Italian comedy-drama about a bank robber who sees his mostly nonviolent crimes as a way of emulating his father's anarchist exploits during the fascist era. Focusing primarily on a hostage standoff that develops during one of the outlaw's attempts to break out of jail, the movie has touches of gentle humanity that set it apart from the usual run of prison and caper films. In Italian with English subtitles

Paragraph 175 (Not rated)

Directors: Rob Epstein, Jeffrey Friedman. With Rupert Everett, Klaus Muller, Annette Eick, Heinz Dormer, Pierre Seel, Gad Beck, Albrecht Becker. (81 min.)

Sterritt *** An informative documentary about how the Nazi regime used a 19th- century German law to initiate persecution of homosexuals in the Third Reich. Victimization of homosexuals during the Holocaust era has often been overlooked. Epstein and Friedman lucidly recount this woeful history, with help from Everett's articulate narration.

Passion of Mind (PG-13)

Director: Alain Berliner. With Demi Moore, Stellan Skarsgard, Sinead Cusack, William Fichtner, Peter Riegert. (105 min.)

Sterritt ** Moore plays a woman with a double life as a high-powered Manhattan literary agent and a home-loving mother in provincial France, uncertain which existence is real and which - if either - is just a vivid dream. The acting is sincere and the camera work is pretty, but this art-movie variation on "The Sixth Sense" doesn't have enough energy to fulfill the high promise of Berliner's previous picture, the enchanting "Ma vie en rose."

VS/N: 3 sex scenes, 1 mild innuendo. VV: None. VP: 11 expressions, mostly mild. VD: 2 scenes with alcohol, 3 with tobacco, 6 with both.

The Patriot (R)

Director: Roland Emmerich. With Mel Gibson, Joely Richardson, Chris Cooper, Tcheky Karyo, Heath Ledger, Rene Auberjonois, Tom Wilkinson, Jason Isaacs. (165 min.)

Sterritt ** The hero is a South Carolina farmer who becomes a reluctant fighter in the Revolutionary War after English soldiers kill his little boy. The movie pays lip service to the idea that war breeds violence, but it works more crudely on an emotional level, suggesting that the Colonial lads are basically decent sorts while the Redcoats harbor more than their share of monsters. What might have been a treat for history buffs and a refresher course for the rest of us turns into just another occasion to watch Gibson shoot guns, swing tomahawks, and wreak other kinds of havoc on enemies we've been primed to hate.

Staff *** Rousing, earnest, brutal, big.

VS/N: 1 instance of mild innuendo. VV: 15 scenes of violence, including 6 long battle sequences. VP: 12 mild expressions. VD: 5 scenes with alcohol, 1 with alcohol and tobacco.

Pay It Forward (PG-13)

Director: Mimi Leder. With Kevin Spacey, Helen Hunt, Haley Joel Osment, James Caviezel, Jon Bon Jovi, Jay Mohr, Angie Dickinson. (115 min.)

Sterritt ** Challenged by an innovative schoolteacher who wants his pupils to stretch their minds in new directions, a bright 11-year-old devises a scheme to encourage kindness among strangers, and it spreads by leaps and bounds even as his own hopes run into various obstacles. You'll enjoy this sentimental drama if you feel good intentions are their own reward, at least where movies are concerned; but it'll exasperate you if you want your entertainment to have some connection with the world we actually live in.

Staff **1/2 Emotionally manipulative, excellent message, Spacey rules.

VS/N: 1 sex scene, no nudity. VV: 5 instances, including a fatal knifing, a robbery, and a hostage situation. VP: 33 expressions, mostly mild. VD: 19 scenes, including homeless people drinking excessively, some smoking, and the main character is an alcoholic.

The Perfect Storm (PG-13)

Director: Wolfgang Petersen. With George Clooney, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, Mark Wahlberg, Diane Lane, John C. Reilly, Karen Allen, William Fichtner. (127 min.)

Sterritt *** The crew of a New England swordfishing boat battles the Worst Weather Ever while their friends and spouses wait anxiously on shore. Fish elsewhere if you want originality, creativity, or a tale dignified enough to match the real-life tragedy that inspired it; but dive right in if you're looking for an old-fashioned entertainment that delivers corny romance, turbulent action, and enough wave-churning seascapes to make "Titanic" seem landlocked.

Staff *** An emotional ride, definitely worth seeing, terrifying water scenes.

VS/N: 2 mildly implied sex scenes. VV: 6 instances, including a bar fight and a fishing accident. VP: 63 expressions, some harsh. VD: 4 scenes with alcohol and tobacco, 8 with tobacco.

Pitch Black (R)

Director: David Twohy. With Vin Diesel, Rhada Mitchell, Keith David. (107 min.)

Staff **1/2 When a crew's spaceship crashes on a desolate planet, they have to trust a convicted killer to help them escape a plague of nasty nocturnal indigenous creatures. Director David Twohy's second foray into sci-fi, after the underrated "The Arrival," keeps schlock to a minimum, while incisive editing builds suspense via the dictum that "less is more." Of the countless films to plagiarize the "Alien" series, this atmospheric, meager-budgeted Australian film is actually one of the better efforts, though it lacks the requisite grand climax that the genre demands. By Stephen Humphries

Staff ** Good sci-fi concept, low-budget style, preposterous.

VS/N: 1 sexually charged scene. VV: 16 scenes, many gory. VP: 52 expressions, mostly harsh. VD: 7 scenes with alcohol, 2 with tobacco, 2 with morphine.

Place Vendome (Not rated)

Director: Nicole Garcia. With Catherine Deneuve, Jean-Pierre Bacri, Emmanuelle Seigner, Jacques Dutronc, Francois Berleand, Laszlo Szabo. (105 min.)

Sterritt ** The emotionally troubled widow of a shady jewel dealer gets involved with a motley group of wheeler-dealers after an unexpected discovery reawakens her interest in gems and the human interactions that take place around them. The story is slow but the atmosphere is convincing, Richard Robbins's music is haunting, and Deneuve doesn't get older, she just gets better. In French with English subtitles

VS/N: 1 scene implied sex, 1 instance of innuendo. VV: 1 slap and 1 tussle. VP: 6 expressions, a couple harsh. VD: 4 scenes with alcohol, 12 with tobacco, 5 with both.

Play It to the Bone (R)

Director: Ron Shelton. With Woody Harrelson, Antonio Banderas, Lolita Davidovich, Tom Sizemore. (124 min.)

Sterritt * Two washed-up boxers head for Las Vegas with a mutual girlfriend, hoping a sudden opportunity there will revive their careers or at least put some cash in their pockets. The movie is as dopey as its heroes, and the cast's admirable energy isn't enough to keep the story punching through the final round.

Staff *1/2 Sluggish, brutal fight scenes, empty-headed, often base.

VS/N: 13 scenes with sex and/or nudity, 3 sexual situations, 8 instances of innuendo. VV: 10 instances, including a vivid boxing match. VP: 147 expressions, often harsh. VD: 4 scenes with alcohol, 7 with tobacco products, 2 with drug overdoses.

Pokemon: The Movie 2000 (G)

Directors: Kunihiko Yuyama, Michael Haigney. With voices by Eric Stuart, Veronica Taylor, Philip Bartlett, Rachel Lillis, Addie Blaustein. (84 min.)

Staff *** When the powers of fire, ice, and lightning (represented by three large birds) are captured and earth's harmony is thereby disturbed, Pokemon trainer, Ash, discovers that only he can save the day. The challenge of weaving the gazillion Pokemon characters together in one story is met with ease, including threads of subtle, moral lessons and clean, simple jokes. Where other movies seem bound to treat kids like adults, "Pokemon" allows kids to be kids, and just enjoy a wholesome, entertaining, well thought-out animation. By Christy Ellington

VS/N: None VP: None VD: None. VV: 13 scenes with mild violence, including lightning bolts and big waves.

Pola X (Not rated)

Director: Leos Carax. With Guillaume Depardieu, Katerina Golubeva, Catherine Deneuve. (134 min.)

Sterritt ** After meeting a half-sister whose existence has been kept secret from him, a young man moves from his idyllic country life to the big city, striking up an affair with his newly discovered sibling and writing a book meant to plumb the depths of his increasingly confused soul. This ambitious melodrama uses a hyperactive visual style to evoke the explosively romantic prose of "Pierre, or, The Ambiguities," the delirious Herman Melville novel that inspired it. The results are often derivative and incoherent, but Carax's cinematic imagination makes it worth viewing by movie buffs with a sense of adventure and a tolerance for explicit sex. In French with English subtitles

Pollock (R)

Director: Ed Harris. With Ed Harris, Marcia Gay Harden, Jeffrey Tambor, Tom Bower, Jennifer Connelly, Bud Cort, John Heard, Amy Madigan, Val Kilmer, Robert Knott. (117 min.)

Sterritt *** Harris was born to play Jackson Pollock, the legendary artist who revolutionized modern painting in the 1940s before losing his life in a tragic accident brought about by his own weaknesses. The filmmaking sinks into cliches at times, as when Pollock's breakthrough into "drip painting" is announced with portentous close-ups of the artist's eyes and the blank canvas he's about to fill. The movie is enriched by its fine acting, though, and by its creative respect for an innovator whose influence still permeates contemporary art.

Price of Glory (PG-13)

Director: Carlos Avila. With Jimmy Smits, Jon Seda, Clifton Gonzalez Gonzalez, Maria del Mar. (118 min.)

Staff ** A father tries to manage his sons' boxing careers, hoping to spare them the exploitation that cheated him out of success. As the kids advance through juvenile and teen competitions to the pros, their father's growing obsessiveness leads to tragedy as well as triumph. The filmmakers go for realism and a positive message, but some audiences may wish they had picked a sport with less physical damage, backstage manipulation, and crime. By M.K. Terrell

VS/N: Some mild innuendo. VV: 13 scenes with mostly boxing violence, some brutal. VP: 42 expressions, some harsh. VD: 7 scenes with alcohol and/or smoking, 1 with alcohol and cocaine.

Proof of Life (R)

Director: Taylor Hackford. With Meg Ryan, Russell Crowe, David Morse, David Caruso, Pamela Reed. (135 min.)

Staff ** No one does brooding stoicism like Russell Crowe. He's perfectly cast as Terry Thorne, an Australian K&R (kidnap and ransom) mercenary hired by an American woman (Ryan) whose engineer husband has been kidnapped by political rebels in South America. On one level, the film works well as a thriller with stunning action sequences in a lush jungle. The film is less successful as a drama, however, even though Crowe's presence lifts Ryan's performance. Subplots, a whiff of political commentary, character motivations, and relationships are all left dangling unsatisfactorily by the film's end. By Stephen Humphries

The Quarry (Not rated)

Director: Marion Hansel. With John Lynch, Jonny Phillips, Sylvia Esau, Oscar Petersen, Jody Abrahams. (112 min.)

Sterritt ** A drifter kills a clergyman, assumes his identity, and takes over his new job in a rural South African church, where he gets involved in a feud between the local lawman and a couple of petty crooks. The drama's brooding atmosphere outpaces its murky story, but there's a degree of interest in the multicultural credentials of the picture, which was directed in South Africa by a Belgian filmmaker with an Irish star. In English and Afrikaans with English subtitles

Quills (R)

Director: Philip Kaufman. With Geoffrey Rush, Kate Winslet, Michael Caine, Joaquin Phoenix, Billie Whitelaw, Patrick Malahide. (120 min.)

Sterritt ** A melodramatic visit with the infamous Marquis de Sade, set in the Charenton asylum where he was imprisoned in the later part of his life. In many respects the movie is an exercise in Grand Guignol grotesquerie, presenting de Sade in the sort of self-consciously lurid manner associated with horror and exploitation pictures. At the same time it's a deliberately toned-down account of his outrageous ideas. The acting is passionate, but the film would be more effective if it presented a more thoroughgoing lesson in the raging horrors that swept through European culture during the era of the French Revolution.

Staff **1/2 Not for the timid, Stunningly performed, intelligent.

Sex/Nudity: 23 instances, often very graphic, including nudity. Violence: 12 intensely violent scenes ranging from suicide to beheadings. Profanity: 14 expressions, mostly pornographic descriptons. Drugs: 5 scenes with alcohol.

Raging Bull (R)

Director: Martin Scorsese. With Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci, Cathy Moriarty, Frank Vincent, Nicholas Colasanto. (128 min.)

Sterritt **** Revival of the hugely respected 1980 drama about the life and times of prizefighter Jake LaMotta, whose turbulent career touched the greatest heights and lowest depths of his profession. De Niro gives an overwhelmingly physical performance in this overwhelmingly physical film, directed by Scorsese from Paul Schrader's gut-punching screenplay with the skill and imagination that have characterized all of his major works.

Ran (Not rated)

Director: Akira Kurosawa. With Tatsuya Nakadai, Satoshi Terao, Jinpachi Nezu, Daisuke Ryu. (160 min.)

Sterritt **** Reissue of Kurosawa's hugely respected 1985 epic, which blends a lot of "King Lear" and a little of "Macbeth" into the story of a 16th-century lord who divides his territory among three sons with disastrous results. This isn't Kurosawa's most memorable film, but it stands with the most colorful and action-packed achievements of his extraordinary career. In Japanese with English subtitles

Ratcatcher (Not rated)

Director: Lynne Ramsay. With William Eady, Tommy Flanagan, Mandy Matthews. (94 min.)

Sterritt *** The bittersweet story of a 12-year-old boy who lives in a Glasgow tenement and dreams of moving to a suburban housing project where his dysfunctional family has applied for a new home. Meanwhile he contends with a difficult memory: the accidental death of a young neighbor, which he witnessed and has been haunted by ever since. The acting is strong and sympathetic, but the movie's most striking aspect is the lifelike sense of place captured by Ramsay in her directorial debut. In Glaswegian dialect with English subtitles

Ready to Rumble (PG-13)

Director: Brian Robbins. With David Arquette, Oliver Platt, Scott Caan, Martin Landau. (104 min.)

Staff *1/2 When an ambitionless duo's wrestling hero, Jimmy King, gets the boot from World Championship Wrestling, their mission is clear: They must help King regain his kingdom. Some fun moments with energetic acting and impressive acrobatics by real WCW wrestlers, but many a crude moment. By Katherine Dillin

VS/N: 2 scenes of implied sex, 1 with nudity; some innuendo. VV: 19 scenes of mostly wrestling-related violence. VP: 80 expressions, some harsh. VD: 6 scenes with alcohol, 2 with smoking.

Rear Window (PG)

Director: Alfred Hitchcock. With James Stewart, Grace Kelly, Thelma Ritter, Wendell Corey. (114 min.)

Sterritt **** A freshly restored version of the 1954 masterpiece about a wheelchair-bound photographer who discovers a murder while snooping on neighbors across the courtyard from his Greenwich Village apartment. One of Hitchcock's most ingenious movies - many of the suspense scenes take place in long-distance shots with little comprehensible sound - is also one of his most personal, exploring the power of vision in our lives, thoughts, and fantasies. Add superlative acting by Stewart and Kelly, not to mention the superb supporting cast, and you have one of the most memorable entertainments ever made in a Hollywood studio.

VS/N: 4 mild instances of innuendo. VV: 5 scenes with violence, including murder behind closed blinds. VP: None. VD: 11 scenes with alcohol, tobacco, or both.

Red Planet (PG-13)

Director: Antony Hoffman. With Tom Sizemore, Val Kilmer, Carrie Anne Moss, Terence Stamp. (110 min.)

Sterritt * Astronauts visit Mars in 2050 to find out why Earth's preparations for colonizing the planet have mysteriously failed, but an emergency landing wrecks their plans, deluging them with deadly threats. The screenplay spices its science-fiction cliches with occasional pop-theology cliches, but what the filmmakers really care about is creepy-crawly aliens and a runaway robot that looks like a dog and acts like a ninja warrior. In short, the picture crash- lands as disastrously as the heroes and never quite recovers its wits.

Reindeer Games (R)

Director: John Frankenheimer. With Ben Affleck, Charlize Theron, Gary Sinise, Clarence Williams III, James Frain, Dennis Farina, Donal Logue, Isaac Hayes. (104 min.)

Sterritt ** Affleck plays a freshly released jailbird who's determined to go straight until he meets the girlfriend of a former cellmate - and her psychopathic brother, who's planning a robbery that won't succeed unless his reluctant new acquaintance gets involved. The wildly implausible story twists every expectation into the shape of a particularly gnarled reindeer horn, but what you'll remember most vividly is the sadistic violence that breaks out almost every time Sinise's evil character enters a scene. A director of Frankenheimer's stature deserves less-sensationalistic material, and so does his audience.

Staff *1/2 Mindlessly violent, passes the time, mean, despicable characters.

VS/N: 2 sex scenes with nudity, somewhat graphic. VV: 27 scenes, many graphic. VP: 79 expressions, mostly harsh. VD: 7 scenes with alcohol, 6 with smoking.

Remember the Titans (PG)

Director: Boaz Yakin. With Denzel Washington, Will Patton, Donald Faison, Nicole Ari Parker, Wood Harris, Kate Bosworth, Ryan Hurst, Ethan Suplee. (113 min.)

Sterritt *** Washington is excellent as an African-American coach hired to train a high-school football team in Virginia as part of a 1971 integration effort. He turns his racially divided players into champions on and off the gridiron. The story is based on real events, but it's been Hollywoodized so completely - the coach is a saint, the victories don't stop coming, the music swells with schmaltz every chance it gets - that it can hardly be called a real- world history lesson. It has a good heart, though, and makes an amiable introduction to the integration battles of the '60s and '70s.

Staff *** Feel-good, inspiring, keeps moving.

VS/N: None. VV: 9 scenes with violence, including football injuries and a shocking car crash, but nothing excessive. VP: 9 expressions, mostly mild, including some racial slurs. VD: 1 scene in a bar, but no alcohol consumed.

The Replacements (PG-13)

Director: Howard Deutsch. With Gene Hackman, Keanu Reeves, Brooke Langton, Jack Warden. (115 min.)

Sterritt * The heroes are a bunch of strike-breaking athletes who agree to replace a picketing football team. The movie is so vulgar and incoherent that even Hackman's gifts can't score a touchdown. Add the grotesque racial stereotypes, the irresponsible gunplay, the treatment of a bitter strike as an occasion for smirks and mockery, and the demeaning depiction of women, and you have a losing package all around.

Staff *** Energetic, earnestly sweet, lightweight.

VS/N: 3 instances of innuendo. VV: 14 scenes with roughhousing, punches, and bar fights. VP: 88, mostly harsh. VD: 6 instances of drinking, 8 with smoking.

Requiem for a Dream (R)

Director Darren Aronofsky. With Ellen Burstyn, Marlon Wayans, Jennifer Connelly, Jared Leto. (102 min.)

Sterritt ** This deliberately disturbing melodrama focuses on New Yorkers with different kinds of addictions: an aging woman hooked on fantasies of being thin and famous, and two young men hooked on drug dealing. Solid acting helps the story stay earthbound when Aronofsky's filmmaking gets addicted to its own flashy cynicism, but the picture sometimes seems as dazed and confused as the situations it wants to criticize. Based on Hubert Selby Jr.'s fierce novel "Last Exit to Brooklyn."

Return to Me (PG)

Director: Bonnie Hunt. With David Duchovny, Minnie Driver, Carroll O'Connor, David Alan Grier, Joely Richardson, Robert Loggia, James Belushi, Bonnie Hunt. (116 min.)

Sterritt * A widower falls in love with a woman he's just met, not realizing she's the recipient of his late wife's transplanted heart. The picture goes for sentimentality rather than substance every chance it gets, and the cast falls right into its syrupy trap.

Staff *** Refreshing, genuine, slow at times, Belushi was great.

VS/N: Mild innuendo. VV: 2 instances, including a fairly graphic hospital scene. VP: 27 expressions, mostly mild. VD: 13 scenes with alcohol, 2 with tobacco, 2 with alcohol and tobacco.

Rififi (Not rated)

Director: Jules Dassin. With Jean Servais, Carl Mohner, Marie Sabouret, Robert Manuel, Perlo Vita. (118 min.)

Sterritt **** Reissue of the French thriller that caper films were measured against for years after its 1954 release. The title is street-slang for "rough stuff," and there's plenty of that as a tough-as-leather ex-con puts together a jewel heist with various shady pals, including an Italian safecracker pseudonymously played by director Dassin himself. Among the picture's many surprises is a superb robbery scene filmed in a near-total silence that contrasts exhilaratingly with the noisy flamboyance of more recent films in this venerable genre. In French with English subtitles

The Road to El Dorado (PG)

Directors: Eric "Bibo" Bergeron, Don Paul. With voices of Kevin Kline, Kenneth Branagh, Rosie Perez, Armand Assante, Edward James Olmos. (89 min.)

Sterritt ** Animated tale of two Spanish adventurers who find a mythical land of gold and beauty, pose as gods in order to get their hands on the kingdom's wealth, and run into trouble when their human limitations raise suspicions about their real identities. The cartooning is stylish and the action is spiced with a few good laughs. But the package would be more enticing if it didn't fall so squarely into overused Hollywood formulas, from its standard-issue songs to its simplistic portrait of lovable white rascals surrounded by silly dark-skinned natives. Aren't animation fans ready for something a little more original?

Staff *** Vibrant, fun, some adult themes.

VS/N: 1 instance of backside nudity, 1 instance of implied sex. VV: 5 scenes, including a sword fight. VP: 3 mild expressions. VD: 1 scene with alcohol and smoking, 1 with an unlit cigar.

Road Trip (R)

Director: Todd Phillips. With Breckin Meyer, Seann William Scott, Amy Smart, Paulo Costanzo, DJ Qualls. (91 min.)

Staff * An Ithaca University student accidentally sends an incriminating video to his girlfriend in Texas. He and three buddies hit the road to intercept it. The highlight, if there is one, comes when the all-white group of guys tries to talk their way into a Tennessee frat house for the night, and press gamely on after they realize it's all-black. But overall, this sophomoric combination of college high jinks and road movie is about as lame as its title. By M.K. Terrell

VS/N: 5 sexually suggestive scenes, 2 of them with nudity; 15 instances of raunchy innuendo. VV: 7 scenes, including implied cruelty to animals and a car explosion. VP: 69 expressions, mostly mild. VD: 6 scenes with alcohol, smoking and/or marijuana use.

Romeo Must Die (R)

Director: Andrzej Bartkowiak. With Jet Li, Isaiah Washington, Russell Wong, Edoardo Ballerini, Aaliyah. (130 min.)

Staff **1/2 A martial-arts expert (Li), wrongly framed for a crime, breaks out of a Hong Kong prison and comes to the US to find his brother's killer. He lands in the middle of a gangland war between Chinese and black mobsters. Young R&B singer Aaliyah makes a winning film debut as his cross-cultural love interest. The stunts are spectacular, Li is a modest and genial hero, and the gunplay is mostly bloodless. By Gregory M. Lamb

Rugrats in Paris: The Movie (G)

Directors: Stig Bergqvist and Paul Demeyer. With John Lithgow, Debbie Reynolds, Susan Sarandon. (105 min.)

Staff ** The Rugrats are back, this time traveling to a Japanese theme park in Paris to repair (and hijack) a mechanical Godzilla - and to find a new mom for Chuckie. Potty jokes will amuse small children and dismay some parents. But some gags are for the grown ups: a karaoke chorus line of sumo wrestlers singing "Who Let the Dogs Out?" and takeoffs on other films, most notably "The Godfather." The animation is good, but the movie isn't terribly original. By M.K Terrell

Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: 9 scenes of cartoonish violence. Profanity: 1 mild expression. Drugs: None.

Rules of Engagement (R)

Director: William Friedkin. With Samuel L. Jackson, Tommy Lee Jones, Guy Pearce, Blair Underwood, Ben Kingsley, Philip Baker Hall, Kim Delaney, Anne Archer. (127 min.)

Sterritt * A military lawyer defends an old friend who's being court-martialed on charges of killing civilians while they demonstrated outside the United States embassy in a Middle Eastern country. The grimly compelling plot builds toward a gripping courtroom climax. But the movie is spoiled by its simplistic portrait of people from the Mideast as incorrigibly violent and untrustworthy, and by its jingoistic suggestion that self-protective ends justify murderous means when American soldiers are at risk.

Staff ** Macho, stiff, dry, plot-heavy, sincere.

VS/N: None. VV: 11 scenes of violence, including 2 very long scenes and 3 with images of gore. VP: 69 expressions, many harsh. VD: 1 scene with alcohol, 1 with smoking, 1 with both.

Sasayaki (Moonlight Whispers) (Not rated)

Director: Akihiko Shiota. With Kenji Mizuhashi, Tsugumi, Kota Kusano, Harumi Inoue. (100 min.)

Sterritt ** A teenage boy develops an obsessive crush on a girl who's not very interested in him, and her scorn has the perverse effect of increasing his infatuation all the more. Good acting and understated filmmaking turn off- putting material into a mildly engrossing drama, if not a particularly compelling one. In Japanese with English subtitles

Saving Grace (R)

Director: Nigel Cole. With Brenda Blethyn, Craig Ferguson, Martin Clunes, Tcheky Karyo, Phyllida Law, Bill Bailey, Valerie Edmond, Jamie Foreman, Tristan Sturrock, Clive Merrison, Leslie Phillips. (93 min.)

Sterritt ** Faced with overwhelming debts after her husband's untimely death, a feisty widow puts together her remaining assets -a flair for gardening and a few shady friends - and starts a marijuana farm in her greenhouse, hoping for a quick profit that will end her woes. Blethyn's lively acting and some visually amusing moments lend spice to this minor but engaging comedy, which takes several twists on its way to a happy ending that restores the heroine's basic decency and provides a last-minute endorsement of traditional values.

Staff *** Likable characters, unexpected, chuckle-filled.

VS/N: 1 scene with nudity, 3 instances of innuendo. VV: 4 scenes with violence, including a threat with a knife. VP: 28 expressions, many harsh. VD: 9 scenes with alcohol and/or tobacco, 6 with marijuana.

Scary Movie (R)

Director: Keenen Ivory Wayans. With Jon Abrahams, Carmen Electra, Shannon Elizabeth, Cheri Oteri. (88 min.)

Staff 1/2 A supposedly comic succotash of the horror-movie genre, this movie pushes beyond the limits of taste. It is extremely vulgar, coarse, crude, crass, gross, graphic, disgusting, odious, reprehensible, nasty, and unnecessary. Many in the media are wondering how it got away with its "R" rating rather than a much-deserved "NC-17" due to its endless sexual innuendo and images of male nudity. The few detergent-clean funny moments are overwhelmed by those that are desperately in need of washing. By Katherine Dillin

Staff *1/2 Insult to one's intelligence, disgusting, no sequel please.

VS/N: 7 graphic sex scenes, 6 scenes with nudity, 14 with sexual references. VV: 29 scenes with violence, many graphic in the horror-movie style, including stabbings, a broken leg, and a suicide. VP: 40 expressions, many harsh. VD: 7 scenes with alcohol, 4 with smoking, 2 with drugs.

Scream 3 (R)

Director: Wes Craven. With David Arquette, Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox Arquette, Patrick Dempsey, Scott Foley, Jenny McCarthy, Parker Posey, Carrie Fisher. (116 min.)

Sterritt ** A killer is terrorizing the cast and crew of a Hollywood horror picture called "Stab 3." As usual in the "Scream" movies, the only way to scramble for safety is to remember the rules of the horror-film genre - which isn't as easy as it sounds, since the rules may vary depending on whether the murderer thinks this is a trilogy or an ongoing series! Craven hasn't forgotten how to pile on the shocks and thrills, but the screenplay is more clever than convincing, and it's not clear that "Scream 3" is any better than "Stab 3" would be if it ever reached your local multiplex.

Staff *** Great fun, scary, what a scream!, playful sequel.

VS/N: 1 scene of nudity through a steamy shower glass. VV: 29 scenes of horror- related violence. VP: 74 expressions, mostly harsh. VD: 2 scenes with alcohol, 3 with smoking, 1 with marijuana.

Screwed (PG-13)

Directors: Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski. With Norm Macdonald, David Chappelle, Danny DeVito. (81 min.)

Staff *1/2 A female Scrooge loves only her poodle. Her much-abused chauffeur (Macdonald) tries to hold the dog for ransom, but he and his pal (Chappelle) mess up so badly the boss thinks he's the kidnap victim. It's hard to believe this disappointment is the directorial debut of the writers of "Man on the Moon" and "Ed Wood." By M.K. Terrell

Set Me Free (Not rated)

Director: Lea Pool. With Karine Vanasse, Nancy Huston, Alexandre Merineau, Miki Manojiovic, Charlotte Christeler, Pascale Bussieres. (94 min.)

Sterritt *** Sensitively told, coming-of-age tale about an adolescent French- Canadian girl, her very different parents, and a teacher who strikes her as a life-changing role model. Beautifully acted and richly filmed, with superb use of an excerpt from Jean-Luc Godard's classic drama "My Life to Live." In French with English subtitles

Staff *** Charming heroine, resists easy answers, creative.

VS/N: 3 kissing scenes suggesting incest or homosexuality, some innuendo. VV: 7 scenes, including the rape of a young girl. VP: 10 expressions, mostly mild. VD: 8 scenes with tobacco, 4 with alcohol, 2 with prescription-drug abuse.

Shaft (R)

Director: John Singleton. With Samuel L. Jackson, Jeffrey Wright, Christian Bale, Vanessa Williams, Richard Roundtree, Toni Collette, Dan Hedaya, Busta Rhymes, Josef Sommer, Philip Bosco. (98 min.)

Sterritt * The original "Shaft," a stylish 1971 crime drama, touched off the craze for "blaxploitation" movies. This follow-up retains little but the name, race, and no-nonsense attitude of the African-American hero, pitted here against crooked cops and a psychotic drug dealer as he tracks down the lone witness to a racially charged murder. Singleton does his best directing since his powerful "Boyz N the Hood," and Wright's brilliant acting almost makes his vicious character worth watching. But the plot is a shameless plea for vigilante violence, and the dignity of the black hero is outweighed by the ethnically marked evil of his Hispanic antagonist. Beneath its crisp veneer, much of the movie is a high-energy hymn to hate.

Staff **1/2 Flashy, style conscious, funny, cliched.

VS/N: 1 sex scene, 1 scene with scanty clothing, some sexual banter. VV: 14 scenes, including gunplay, stabbing, and a car chase. VP: 197 expressions, mostly harsh. VD: 4 scenes with alcohol, 1 of a drug lab.

Shanghai Noon (PG-13)

Director: Tom Dey. With Jackie Chan, Owen Wilson, Lucy Alexis Liu, Brandon Merrill, Roger Yuan. (110 min.)

Staff *** Chinese Imperial Guard Chon Wang (Chan) must corral some John Wayne- style savvy to save a kidnapped princess in America's Wild West. He gets help and hindrance from bumbling bandit Roy O'Bannon (a great comic turn by Wilson). While playing off the name of Gary Cooper's classic 'High Noon,' this action- comedy doesn't try to imitate or spoof it. It's just smart and loads of fun. By Katherine Dillin

Staff *** A good time, action-packed, comical.

VS/N: 2 fairly mild suggestive scenes. VV: 25 scenes with violence, some long, mostly for comic effect. VP: 8 expressions, some harsh. VD: 6 scenes with alcohol, tobacco, and/or mild drug use.

Shower (PG-13)

Director: Zhang Yang. With Pu Cun Xin, Zhu Xu, Jiang Wu. (92 min.)

Sterritt **** A broken-down Beijing bathhouse is the setting for this richly filmed comedy-drama about the clash between tradition and modernity, embodied by the attitudes of the sweet old proprietor and his citified young son. The movie is superbly acted, cleverly written, sensitively directed, and garnished with everything from sly humor to a hearty rendition of "O Solo Mio" with a Chinese accent. Zhang has only directed one previous feature, but it's hard to think of a more promising talent in contemporary Asian cinema. In Mandarin with English subtitles

Staff ***1/2 Gentle, culturally insightful, original, humanistic.

VS/N: 6 scenes with nudity, mostly mild bathing shots. VV: 4 instances of violence, including a thug threatening to beat up a man. VP: 13 expressions, some harsh. VD: 2 scenes with alcohol, 3 with tobacco.

Simpatico (R)

Director: Matthew Warchus. With Nick Nolte, Sharon Stone, Jeff Bridges, Catherine Keener, Albert Finney. (90 min.)

Sterritt ** Three young friends plan a criminal escapade involving a race horse named Simpatico, but they stop being so friendly after their scheme falls apart. The story shuttles between the crime itself and a much later time when the reunited trio must come to terms with its past. While the cast is terrific, a forgettable screenplay prevents director Warchus from making the most of the occasion.

The Sixth Day (PG-13)

Director: Roger Spottiswoode. With Arnold Schwarzenneger, Robert Duvall, Michael Rapaport. (125 min.)

Staff ** Arnie's got his groove back in this sci-fi thriller, his best movie since "True Lies" in 1994. The Austrian hero plays an average suburbanite (try to suppress your laughter) who discovers he's been cloned by an evil corporation. There's a tad more discussion of the pros and cons of cloning than you'd expect from a shoot'em-up like this one, and the movie has a lot of fun designing plausible technology of the near future. Duvall steals the show as a genetic scientist, but with two Arnies causing mayhem, you get more bang for your buck. By Stephen Humphries

The Skulls (PG-13)

Director: Rob Cohen. With Joshua Jackson, Paul Walker, Leslie Bibb, Craig Nelson, Hill Harper. (107 min.)

Staff * In his feature film debut, Jackson ("Dawson's Creek") stars as Luke McNamara, a student at Yale University who works in the cafeteria and aspires for something better. Then one night, he is invited to join The Skulls, a secret society that "lives by the rules and dies by the rules." It's a silly little thriller that will make you laugh more than it will make you tremble. By Lisa Leigh Parney

Staff ** Frightening, unbelievable, half-baked plot.

VS/N: None. VV: 5 scenes, including a hanging. VP: 12 expressions, some harsh. VD: 7 scenes with alcohol and/or smoking.

Small Time Crooks (PG)

Director: Woody Allen. With Woody Allen, Tracey Ullman, Tony Darrow, Hugh Grant, George Grizzard, Jon Lovitz, Elaine May, Michael Rapaport. (94 min.)

Sterritt *** Allen and Ullman play a married couple who fail at crime, bumble into success the honest way, and then quarrel over how they should use their newfound wealth - to live a lowbrow version of the good life, or barge into high society despite their lack of welcome there. The plot is lively and the dialogue packs many good laughs. But the entertainment is marred by a lingering sense that Allen rarely portrays working-class characters except to make fun of them.

Staff *** Classic Allen, surprisingly wholesome, witty.

VS/N: None. VV: 1 scene with a policeman pointing a gun. VP: 13 fairly mild expressions. VD: 11 scenes with alcohol, 1 with alcohol and tobacco.

Smiling Fish and Goat on Fire (R)

Director: Kevin Jordan. With Derick Martini, Steven Martini, Christa Miller, Bill Henderson. (90 min.)

Sterritt *** A small-scale comedy about two Los Angeles brothers with different personalities - the title comes from nicknames their grandmother gave them - and varying solutions to the challenges they face when new girlfriends enter their lives. Henderson steals the show as an elderly African-American man befriended by one of the main characters.

Staff *** Subtle, refreshingly honest characters, new twist on typical story.

VS/N: 4 scenes with implied sex, 2 instances of innuendo. VV: 3 scenes with violence, including a scuffle. VP: 81 harsh expressions. VD: 3 scenes with alcohol, 2 with tobacco, 1 with marijuana.

Snow Day (PG)

Director: Chris Koch. With Chevy Chase, Mark Webber, Zena Grey, Schuyler Fisk, Emmanuelle Chriqui, Chris Elliott, Jean Smart. (88 min.)

Staff ** Get out your snow boots. Several feet of the white stuff lands in Syracuse, N.Y., closing down everything, including … school! Siblings Hal and Natalie plan to make this snow day count: Hal wants the popular girl to know he exists and Natalie tries to stop Snowplowman from finishing his route so school closings will be extended for another day. Some thin ice, but a pretty cute family show nonetheless. Stars Chase as the siblings' weatherman dad, and teenager Fisk, who is the real-life daughter of Sissy Spacek. By Katherine Dillin

Staff **1/2 Better than expected, lighthearted, clean humor, predictable.

VS/N: None. VD: None. VV: 3 mild instances, including a tussle. VP: 3 mild expressions.

Solas (Not rated)

Director: Benito Zambrano. With Maria Galiana, Ana Fernandez, Paco De Osca, Carlos Alvarez-Novoa. (98 min.)

Sterritt *** Splendidly acted, sensitively directed tale of an aging Spanish woman who moves in with her loose-living daughter when her husband falls ill. Only an overly sentimental ending mars the story's strong emotional impact. In Spanish with English subtitles

Solomon and Gaenor (R)

Director: Paul Morrison. With Ioan Gruffudd, Nia Roberts, Sue Jones Davies, William Thomas. (105 min.)

Sterritt ** A young Welsh woman falls in love with a Jewish worker who hides his ethnicity from her prejudiced family, sparking a series of melancholy events. Set in the early 20th century, this variation on "Romeo and Juliet" gains energy from Gruffudd's sensitive performance and a no-nonsense ending that has more dramatic punch than much of the action preceding it. In English and in Welsh and Yiddish, with English subtitles

The Sorrow and the Pity (Not rated)

Director: Marcel Ophuls. With Pierre Mendes-France, Albert Speer, Sir Anthony Eden, and residents of Clermont-Ferrand. (270 min.)

Sterritt **** Reissue of the legendary 1971 documentary, subtitled "Chronicle of a French City Under the Occupation," about resistance and collaboration in Nazi-occupied France during World War II. Divided into two parts, "The Collapse" and "The Choice," it remains the classic cinematic study of its immensely important and disturbing subject. In French with English subtitles

Sound and Fury (Not rated)

Director: Josh Aronson. With Heather Artinian, Peter Artinian, Nita Artinian. (112 min.)

Sterritt **** Riveting documentary about two Long Island families debating the best way to raise their deaf children. One considers a surgical procedure that promises to provide normal hearing and facilitate a normal life, while the other contends that deafness is neither a handicap nor a limitation. Rarely does a movie combine so much genuine human drama with such vivid exemplifications of "identity politics" and other sociocultural issues. In English with English subtitles

Southpaw (Not rated)

Director: Liam McGrath. With Francis Barrett, Chick Gillen, Kathleen McDonagh. (77 min.)

Sterritt *** Documentary about the life and times of a young Irish boxer who used prizefighting as a temporary escape route from poverty, almost achieving stardom along the way. The picture is more sociologically instructive than emotionally involving, serving as a document of contemporary Irish life rather than an ordinary inspirational story.

VS/N: None. VD: None. VV: Clips of amateur boxing throughout. VP: 18 expressions, many harsh.

Space Cowboys (PG-13)

Director: Clint Eastwood. With Clint Eastwood, Donald Sutherland, Tommy Lee Jones, James Garner, Marcia Gay Harden, William Devane, Courtney B. Vance, James Cromwell, Loren Dean. (126 min.)

Sterritt *** Three aging test pilots undertake a NASA mission to repair a Soviet space satellite in orbit, uncovering a cold-war secret along the way. The story takes a while to get started, but the acting is lively, the special effects are snazzy, and the picture's last couple of minutes pack a bittersweet punch. It's not "Grumpy Old Astronauts," and that alone is cause for gratitude!

Staff *** Classy, fun, engaging, intelligent.

VS/N: 1 instance of mild nudity. VV: 2 mild fistfights. VP: 83 expressions, only 1 of them harsh. VD: 4 scenes with alcohol.

The Specialist (Not rated)

Director: Eyal Sivan. With Adolf Eichmann, Giddeon Hausner, Robert Servatius. (128 min.)

Sterritt **** Riveting documentary about the 1961 trial of Nazi officer Adolf Eichmann, whose chief line of defense - that he was merely following the orders of his superiors - has become a classic illustration of "the banality of evil," in philosopher Hannah Arendt's inspired phrase. Compiled from 350 hours of videotape shot in the courtroom by American filmmaker Leo Hurwitz, this is an astonishing human, political, and historical document. In English, Hebrew, German, and French, with English subtitles

Spectres of the Spectrum (Not rated)

Director: Craig Baldwin. With Sean Kilkoyne, Caroline Koebel, Beth Lisick. (94 min.)

Sterritt **** An exhilarating "activist science-fantasy collage" blending new material, clips from vintage movies, and high-energy narration into the often- hilarious tale of a telepathic woman who thinks a global catastrophe can be avoided through clues embedded in old TV signals wafting through the cosmos. At once politically charged and wildly imaginative, this unique extravaganza confirms director Baldwin as an avant-garde superstar.

Spring Forward (R)

Director: Tom Gilroy. With Liev Schreiber, Ned Beatty, Campbell Scott, Bill Raymond, Catherine Kellner, Hallee Hirsh, Ian Hart, Peri Gilpin. (110 min.)

Sterritt *** Fresh out of jail, a basically decent young man takes a job with the parks and recreation department of a New England town and strikes up an increasingly close relationship with his older, more conservative partner. The movie's seven scenes were filmed in real time (as opposed to condensed editing- room time) over the course of a year, giving the drama an extra touch of realism and humanity.

Stardom (R)

Director: Denys Arcand. With Jessica Pare, Dan Aykroyd, Frank Langella, Thomas Gibson. (103 min.)

Sterritt * Mock documentary about a pretty young woman who's plucked from obscurity by a photographer who thinks he's found the next supermodel destined for international fame. The satire is intermittently amusing, but Arcand adds little to the arsenal of standard mockumentary tricks, and the interesting cast doesn't get many interesting things to do.

Steal This Movie (R)

Director: Robert Greenwald. With Vincent D'Onofrio, Janeane Garofalo, Donal Logue, Jeanne Tripplehorn, Kevin Pollak, Kevin Corrigan, Troy Garrity. (108 min.)

Sterritt * D'Onofrio plays 1960s radical Abbie Hoffman, whose talent for guerrilla theater and love of left-wing causes made him one of the most colorful and influential members of the countercultural scene. Hoffman's ideas and exploits are certainly important enough to merit Hollywood's attention, but this superficial treatment makes so many dubious decisions - oversimplifying issues, for instance, so there'll be more time for high-flying emotion - that '60s veterans may be moved to protest rather than praise.

Staff ** Sympathetic, shallow, sensationalized.

VS/N: 4 scenes of implied sex, 3 scenes with nudity. VV: 13 scenes with violence, many of police aggression during protests. VP: 112 expressions, many harsh. VD: 3 scenes with alcohol, 7 with tobacco, 4 with both, 5 with marijuana.

State and Main (R)

Director: David Mamet. With William H. Macy, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Rebecca Pidgeon, David Paymer, Julia Stiles, Alec Baldwin, Sarah Jessica Parker, Charles Durning, Patti LuPone, Clark Gregg. (102 min)

Sterritt *** A movie crew barges into a New England village with a lot of problems to solve before their production can take wing: How do you make a picture called "The Old Mill" in a town with no old mill? Will the idealistic screenwriter change his script to meet the producer's crassly commercial expectations? Will the lecherous leading man keep a respectful distance from the local schoolgirls? And what will become of the nude scene now that the star refuses to get nude? Mamet's screenplay is full of savvy satire and the cast couldn't be better.

The Stendhal Syndrome (Not rated)

Director: Dario Argento. With Asia Argento, Thomas Kretschmann, Luigi Diberti. (113 min.)

Sterritt ** Grisly horror yarn about a female detective hunting for a murderous rapist while fighting a psychological condition that leads her to confuse artistic works with reality. Argento directs this sort of thriller with cinematic flair, but at heart it's just another voyage into violence and misogyny.

Such a Long Journey (Not rated)

Director: Sturla Gunnarsson. With Roshan Seth, Om Puri, Ranjit Chowdhry, Soni Razdan, Naseeruddin Shah. (110 min.)

Sterritt *** As tensions build toward war between India and Pakistan in the early 1970s, a mild-mannered Parsee banker finds himself facing multiple challenges as his neighborhood declines in cleanliness and character, his son rebels against his career advice, and an old friend asks him for a secret, and possibly dangerous, favor. The dialogue and acting are stagy at times, especially in the early scenes, but the characters are compelling and the Indian atmosphere is vividly sketched.

Staff **1/2 Compassionate, intriguing, sometimes shocking.

VS/N: 3 scenes with sex, 1 of them with nudity; 5 instances of innuendo. VV: 5 scenes with violence, including a fairly graphic rock-throwing crowd scene. VP: 14 expressions, mostly mild. VD: Some social drinking.

Sunshine (R)

Director: Istvan Szabo. With Ralph Fiennes, Deborah Kara Unger, William Hurt, Jennifer Ehle, John Neville, Rosemary Harris, James Frain, Rachel Weisz, Molly Parker. (180 min.)

Sterritt ** The epic story of a Hungarian Jewish family coping with convulsive events of 20th-century history along with the problems of life and love that households face in good and bad times alike. The filmmaking is uninspired and Fiennes inexplicably plays three different characters with exactly the same acting style. Still, the frequently grim story takes on an emotional momentum that carries the picture past its plentiful dull spots.

Staff *** Sweeping, powerful, too long.

VS/N: 2 sex scenes with nudity, 1 of them involving incest; 1 instance of nudity; 3 instances of implied or explicit adultery. VV: 9 scenes with violence, including rape and torture. VP: 18 expressions, some harsh. VD: 6 scenes with alcohol, 4 with tobacco.

Supernova (PG-13)

Director: Walter Hill. With James Spader, Angela Bassett, Robert Forster, Lou Diamond Phillips. (101 min.)

Staff DUD "Supernova" will likely be a staple of Film 101 courses for many years to come as it's a perfect encapsulation of exactly what to avoid when writing, editing, directing, or shooting a feature film. The plot, liberally borrowed from "Alien" and "2001," concerns a deep-space crew who encounter a mysterious alien object and a nasty human killer endowed with superhuman strength. Despite passable effects, the film is so utterly boring that it isn't even worth catching when it comes to television - unless you're a budding film student, of course. By Stephen Humphries

Staff * Cliched, so bad it's amusing, good special effects.

VS/N: 4 scenes with sex and nudity, 4 with just nudity. VV: 8 scenes, including a brutal fight and a cartoon clip. VP: 2 mild expressions. VD: 2 scenes with alcohol.

Suzhou River (Not rated)

Director: Lou Ye. With Zhou Xun, Jia Hongsheng, Nai An, Yao Anlian, Hua Zhongkai. (83 min.)

Sterritt *** A young man finds himself in mysterious waters when he enters a kidnapping scheme, falls in love with the victim, loses her in a moment of violence, and becomes fixated on a young woman who may or not be not be his vanished lover. Adding more layers to the story is the fact that it's narrated by a videomaker who might have lived these events, or might be spinning them from his imagination even as we watch them. Clearly influenced by Alfred Hitchcock's masterpiece "Vertigo," this offbeat Chinese production is at once an innovative art film, a traditional suspense yarn, and a moody voyage through Shanghai's gritty back roads. In Mandarin with English subtitles

Taboo (Gohatto) (Not rated)

Director: Nagisa Oshima. With Beat Takeshi, Ryuhei Matsuda, Shinji Takeda, Tadanobu Asano. (100 min.)

Sterritt *** The irony-tinged tale of a 19th-century warrior whose entrance into a samurai legion sparks multiple rivalries among colleagues who court his affections. The movie's most striking assets are its lyrical visual style, which forms a silky counterpoint to the plot's turbulent emotions, and Beat Takeshi's smooth and expressive performance as a senior warrior. What dominates the picture, though, is its surprising and revealing look at gay impulses in the ferocious samurai world. In Japanese with English subtitles

The Tao of Steve (R)

Director: Jenniphr Goodman. With Donal Logue, Greer Goodman, David Aaron Baker. (87 min.)

Sterritt *** The hero is a self-indulgent kindergarten teacher who calls his hedonistic philosophy the Tao of Steve, named after a pair of his favorite inspirations - the Eastern concept of harmony with the world, and the Western worship of ultracool celebrities like Steve McQueen. But his ideas start changing when he meets a mature new girlfriend who gets under his skin and encourages him to grow up a little. Logue's magnetic performance is the movie's main virtue, supported by a good secondary cast and a sharply written screenplay.

Staff *** Hip, witty, likable characters.

VS/N: 2 sex scenes, 2 suggestive scenes, 4 instances of innuendo. VV: 1 punch. VP: 31 expressions, some harsh. VD: 3 scenes with alcohol, 4 with tobacco, 3 with both, 3 with marijuana.

The Terrorist (Not rated)

Director: Santosh Sivan. With Ayesha Dharkar. (95 min.)

Sterritt *** After her brother is killed in a revolutionary uprising, a young woman agrees to carry out a suicide mission, but then discovers that she's pregnant and will be sacrificing the life of her unborn child as well as her own. This lushly filmed drama looks sensitively at a wrenching conflict between personal and political impulses, raising philosophical questions in a poignantly human way. In Tamil with English subtitles

VS/N: 1 scene of mildly implied sex. VV: 10 scenes with violence, including shooting in guerrilla warfare. VP: None. VD: None.

Third World Cop (Not rated)

Director: Chris Browne. With Carl Bradshaw, Paul Campbell, Audrey Reid, Mark Danvers. (98 min.)

Sterritt ** The title character spars with an old friend who's become a dangerous gun smuggler and wants to recruit him into Jamaica's illicit underworld. There's not much depth to the slam-bang story, but it's worth viewing as one of the rare Caribbean films to hit the international market. In Jamaican dialect with English subtitles

30 Days (Not rated)

Director: Aaron Harnick. With Ben Shenkman, Arija Bareikis, Alexander Chaplin, Jerry Adler, Barbara Barrie, Bradley White, Thomas McCarthy. (88 min.)

Sterritt ** After a blind date that works out surprisingly well, a young man finds himself juggling a new romance, his best friend's wedding, and family complications. Shenkman is a likable lead and Harnick makes a competent directing debut. The comedy as a whole is very slight, though.

Thirteen Days (PG-13)

Director: Roger Donaldson. With Kevin Costner, Bruce Greenwood, Steven Culp, Dylan Baker, Len Cariou, Michael Fairman, Henry Strozier, Frank Wood, Kevin Conway, Tim Kelleher, Bill Smitrovich. (120 min)

Sterritt *** This impeccably produced docudrama revisits the Cuban missile crisis of 1962, with Costner as a White House aide who coaches the Kennedy brothers through the worst of it. The subject is so gripping that you almost forgive the filmmakers for skewing their material in order to keep Costner's pretty face at the center of everything that happens. Greenwood and Culp are excellent as the President and his brother.

This Is Not an Exit: The Fictional World of Bret Easton Ellis (Not rated)

Director: Gerald Fox. With Bret Easton Ellis, Will Self, Jay McInerney, Rachel Weisz, Morgan Entrekin, Blake Morrison, John Bryan, Dechen Thurman. (80 min.)

Sterritt ** Mildly informative documentary about the author of "American Psycho" and other books, touching on everything from his high-school moodiness to the threats he's received from outraged readers. In the spirit of its subject, the movie has excesses of its own, via dramatizations of a few scenes from Ellis's sometimes sensationalistic work.

This Is Spinal Tap (R)

Director: Rob Reiner. With Christopher Guest, Michael McKean, Harry Shearer, Billy Crystal, Fran Drescher, Rob Reiner. (83 min.)

Sterritt **** The rock scene hasn't been the same since this hilarious 1984 comedy about a British heavy-metal band spilling its collective soul to a filmmaking team during an American tour. Labeled a "rockumentary" but really a "mockumentary," this classic parody skewers every cliche ever coined about the pop-music scene, not to mention the pop-movie scene that feeds on it.

Thomas and the Magic Railroad (G)

Director: Britt Allcroft. With Peter Fonda, Mara Wilson, Alec Baldwin, Didi Conn, Russell Means. (84 min.)

Staff *** "Thomas and the Magic Railroad" is a delightful way to spend an afternoon with a preschooler. Gently funny and uplifting - but not preachy - the movie chronicles the adventures of Thomas, a very useful engine, and Mr. Conductor (played with genuine enthusiasm and a hint of mischievousness by Alec Baldwin) as they try to prevent the villain, a train called Diesel Ten, from destroying Lady, the special engine that makes Thomas's universe possible. Only one warning - very young children might be a bit scared by Diesel Ten's fumbling attempts to capture Thomas and Lady. By Tom Regan

VS/N: None. VP: None. VD: None. VV: 5 scenes of mild violence, including Diesel Ten threatening folks with his mechanical pincer.

3 Strikes (R)

Directed by D.J. Pooh. With Brian Hooks, N'Bushe Wright, Faizon Love, E40, Starletta DuPois, George Wallace, David Alan Grier. (83 min.)

Staff DUD Two-time offender Rob Douglas can't afford to land in prison again (a third strike under California state law will get him an automatic 25 years). But mere moments after his release, he inadvertently gets in trouble when a friend picks him up in a stolen car. There's some commentary on the distrust of police held by the Los Angeles black community, but mostly what ensues is a chase that is only occasionally funny and an endless stream of degrading sexual humor. First-time director, rapper D.J. Pooh, can't beat that rap. By Katherine Dillin

VS/N: 5 scenes of implied sex or sexual situations, 7 instances innuendo, several video games featuring graphic sex. VV: 14 scenes, ranging from slaps to shootouts. VP: 321 expressions, mostly harsh. VD: 4 scenes with alcohol, 3 with smoking, 2 with both, 5 with marijuana.

The Tic Code (R)

Directed by Gary Winick. With Gregory Hines, Polly Draper, Chris Marquette, Desmond Robertson. (91 min.)

Staff *** Marquette turns in a luminous and utterly convincing performance as a gifted 12-year-old victim of Tourette's syndrome. It's difficult to watch him battle his uncontrollable tics associated with this disease, but they disappear when he sits at the keyboard to play jazz. Hines is a strong presence as a musician with Tourette's who takes a shine to the boy. The filmmaking may clunk a bit at times, but its courage and love will make you glad you saw it.By M.K. Terrell

The Tigger Movie (G)

Director: Jun Falkenstein. With voices of Jim Cummings, John Hurt, Nikita Hopkins, Ken Sansom. (77 min.)

Sterritt *** He looks like Tony the Tiger, he sounds like old-time comedian Ed Wynn, and his story - lonely Tigger searches for his family, hoping he's not the only one of his kind - recalls one of the Muppets movies. Yet this lively new take on A.A. Milne's classic characters still manages to seem fresh, funny, and original from start to finish. Fans of Winnie-the-Pooh and his friends will have a ball.

Staff ***1/2 Bouncy, delightful, a good moral.

VS/N: None. VP: None VD: None. VV: 4 mild action sequences, including an avalanche.

Time Code (R)

Director: Mike Figgis. With Salma Hayek, Jeanne Tripplehorn, Kyle MacLachlan, Stellan Skarsgard, Holly Hunter, Julian Sands, Saffron Burrows, Laurie Metcalf, Suzi Nakamura, Mia Maestro, Xander Berkeley, Leslie Mann. (93 min.)

Sterritt *** The plot focuses on an aspiring actress, her jealous lover, and film-industry executives she panders to for the sake of her career. But what matters more is the picture's radical style, with different aspects of the story - photographed in digital video and uninterrupted by shot-to-shot cuts - unfolding at the same time on four adjacent portions of the screen. It's a daring experiment, taking cinema into areas usually associated with music, theater, and multimedia. It would be even more impressive if the story and characters lived up to the inventive techniques, though.

Staff **1/2 Avant-garde, pointless, one big cliche, too much for one viewing.

VS/N: 1 graphic sex scene and 1 mild, 2 lengthy scenes with women kissing, 3 instances of innuendo. VV: 3 scenes with violence, including a shooting. VP: 41 expressions, mostly harsh. VD: 4 scenes with alcohol, 11 with tobacco, 4 with drugs.

A Time for Drunken Horses (Not rated)

Director: Bahman Ghobadi. With Ayoub Ahmadi, Rojin Younessi, Ameneh Ekhtiar- Dini, Mehdi Ekhtiar-Dini. (77 min.)

Sterritt **** The poignant story of a poverty-stricken family's quest to find medical attention for a child during a harsh winter on the Iran-Iraq border. The tale is simply told but stunningly photographed and superbly acted in the best tradition of modern Iranian cinema. In Kurdish and Farsi with English subtitles

Time Regained (Not rated)

Director Raoul Ruiz. With Catherine Deneuve, John Malkovich, Emmanuelle Beart, Vincent Perez, Chiara Mastroianni, Marcello Mazzarella. (158 min.)

Sterritt ** Lavishly filmed adaptation of Marcel Proust's monumental novel about a man whose disillusionment with wealth and social status eventually leads him to embrace the aesthetically inclined joys of memory and introspection. The movie's ambitions are commendable and Mazzarella makes a perfect Proust, but the particularities that lend "Remembrance of Things Past" its enduring fascination still elude translation to the screen, even in Ruiz's ever-inventive hands. In French with English subtitles

The Times of Harvey Milk (Not rated)

Director: Robert Epstein. With Harvey Milk, Harvey Fierstein, Anne Kronenberg, Tory Hartmann, Tom Ammiano. (90 min.)

Sterritt **** Gripping, chilling, revealing 1984 documentary about the 1978 assassination of two San Francisco officials - the mayor and the first openly gay member of the Board of Supervisors - by a bigoted fellow politician. This is a valuable social document that's also a steadily absorbing movie.

Titan A.E. (PG)

Directors: Don Bluth, Gary Goldman. With voices of Matt Damon, Drew Barrymore, Bill Pullman, Janeane Garofalo, John Leguizamo, Nathan Lane. (95 min.)

Sterritt ** Animated science-fiction yarn about a fight between evil aliens and Earth's last surviving spaceship 10 centuries from now. Young moviegoers may love the fast-moving action of this unabashed "Star Wars" clone, but their horizons will hardly be broadened by its portrait of a 31st century where people have exactly the same interests, hopes, and slang expressions as teenagers of 2000.

Staff **1/2 Stunningly animated, lackluster story, diverting.

VS/N: 2 scenes with nudity. VV: 14 scenes with violence, including raygun blasts and battles in space. VP: 1 mild expression. VD: 1 scene with alien alcohol.

Titanic Town (Not rated)

Director: Roger Michell. With Julie Walters, Ciaran Hinds, Nuala O'Neill, James Loughran, Barry Loughran. (96 min.)

Sterritt *** Outraged by the sectarian violence that's disrupting her neighborhood, a middle-aged Irish mother decides to take matters into her own hands and wage a war for peace, even as she copes with domestic challenges, including her teenage daughter's first love affair. Michell treats the Irish troubles of the 1970s with clear-eyed compassion, and Walters's performance ranks with her best.

VS/N: Some innuendo. VV: 12 scenes with violence, including mob violence. VP: 48 expressions, mostly harsh. VD: 2 scenes with alcohol, 10 with tobacco, 2 with both, 1 valium overdose.

Trans (Not rated)

Director: Julian Goldberger. With Ryan Daugherty, Justin Lakes, Michael Guinac, Jon Daugherty, Elijah Smith, Charles Walker, Jeremiah Robinson, Vince Kelly, Stephanie Davis, Edge Edgerton. (80 min.)

Sterritt ** A trouble-prone teenager impulsively escapes from a detention center just before the end of his sentence, and spends the next hours drifting through his small-town Florida community wondering what in the world he should do next. The drama has a certain gritty realism, but in the end it's as aimless as its unlikable hero.

Trash (Not rated)

Director: Paul Morrissey. With Joe Dallesandro, Holly Woodlawn, Jane Forth, Bruce Pecheur, Andrea Feldman. (110 min.)

Sterritt ** Reissue of Andy Warhol's deliberately outrageous 1970 production about a Greenwich Village drug addict who's beginning to realize the awful toll his dissolute habits are taking on his mind and body, but can't bring himself to do anything about the situation. The movie is a vivid time capsule of the era when it was made, a flamboyant exercise in motion-picture excess, and a nonstop avalanche of exactly what the title says. Give it four stars if you appreciate all-stops-out cinema that stops at nothing to realize its proudly scandalous vision, zero stars if its realistic record of amoral behavior strikes you as utterly beyond the pale.

The Trench (Not rated)

Director: William Boyd. With Paul Nicholls, Daniel Craig, Julian Rhind-Tutt, James D'Arcy, Tam Williams. (98 min.)

Sterritt ** A company of young British soldiers wait to play their parts in the bloody Battle of the Somme in this compassionate yet rather uninvolving World War I drama. The acting is solid, but Tony Pierce-Roberts's unimaginative camera work falls short of his highest standard.

The Trial (Not rated)

Director: Orson Welles. With Anthony Perkins, Jeanne Moreau, Orson Welles, Romy Schneider, Akim Tamiroff, Elsa Martinelli, Madeleine Robinson. (119 min.)

Sterritt **** Reissue of Welles's controversial 1963 adaptation of Franz Kafka's novel about an ordinary man who's forced to defend himself in a labyrinthine criminal-justice system without being told what he's accused of or why the charges have been brought. Welles puts the tale through an enormous number of changes, some more thought-provoking than others. What he loses in Kafkaesque complexity he gains in dark, visual brilliance, reaching levels of cinematic ingenuity that rank with his finest achievements.

Trixie (R)

Director: Alan Rudolph. With Emily Watson, Nick Nolte, Will Patton, Lesley Ann Warren, Nathan Lane, Brittany Murphy, Matt Dillon, Dermot Mulroney. (117 min.)

Sterritt ** Watson plays a security guard whose new job in a gambling casino puts her in contact with a klutzy womanizer, a crooked businessman, and a corrupt politician, among other unsavory sorts. The acting is solid and the heroine's quirky dialogue is amusing for a while. But repetitious writing and a weakly constructed story turn the promising premise into a disappointing mishmash of crime, politics, and show business.

VS/N: 1 sex scene, 2 scenes with nudity, 2 suggestive scenes, 7 with innuendo. VV: 12 scenes with violence, including a murder victim. VP: 41 expressions, a few harsh. VD: 6 with alcohol, 1 with tobacco, 3 with both, 1 with prescription- drug abuse.

28 Days (PG-13)

Director: Betty Thomas. With Sandra Bullock, Viggo Mortensen, Dominic West, Diane Ladd, Elizabeth Perkins, Steve Buscemi. (103 min.)

Staff ** When alcoholic city girl Gwen Cummings (a luminous Bullock) wrecks her sister's wedding - and a limousine - while inebriated, she is sentenced to a month in rehab. The audience sees the clinic through Gwen's eyes as a nightmarish adult version of a happy summer camp. Given the formulaic story, it's no surprise that Gwen's cynicism diminishes as she learns to bond with fellow addicts and reevaluate her life. If the recovery seems too easy, at least the sporadic humor works well and Thomas doesn't overload the film with sentiment. By Stephen Humphries

Staff * Bleak yet humorous, predictable, enlightening.

VS/N: 5 scenes with sex and/or nudity. VV: 2 scenes, including a self-inflicted wound and a punch. VP: 25 mostly mild expressions. VD: 22 scenes with alcohol and/or tobacco, 3 with prescription-drug abuse.

Twilight: Los Angeles (Not rated)

Director: Marc Levin. With Anna Deveare Smith. (85 min.)

Sterritt **** Smith recorded interviews with a wide variety of Los Angeles residents after the riots ignited by the Rodney King trial in 1992, and based this one-woman performance piece on words taken directly from these conversations. The film version is relentlessly vivid, intense, and poignant, brilliantly performed and shot through with insights into the current status of American race relations. A must-see for anyone who cares about the ability of serious art to explore complex and urgent social issues.

Two Family House (R)

Director: Frank De Felitta. With Michael Rispoli, Katherine Narducci, Kelly MacDonald, Kevin Conway. (104 min.)

Sterritt *** Longing for a more exciting life, a would-be singer buys a run- down house big enough to set up his own neighborhood saloon where his friends can congregate, his income can swell, and he can provide the entertainment. But he and his wife have to deal with the couple who already live there, one of whom is an abused (white) woman who gives birth to an adorable (black) baby, sparking eruptions of bigotry in almost everyone they know. De Felitta dodges the temptations of sentiment and preachiness.

Two-Lane Blacktop (R)

Director: Monte Hellman. With James Taylor, Dennis Wilson, Warren Oates. (101 min.)

Sterritt *** Two men race souped-up cars across the Southwestern landscape in this 1971 drama, which tries so hard for existential profundity that it almost forgets to be entertaining. The movie's reputation would certainly be less lofty if not for the visceral impact of its final moments, and Taylor is so icily hip you expect him to freeze up altogether. It crisply sums up an influential brand of ultracool '70s cinema, though.

Two Women (Not rated)

Director: Tahmineh Milani. With Niki Karimi, Marila Zare'i, Atila Pesiani, Mohammad Reza Forutan. (96 min.)

Sterritt **** A gifted young woman excels in her studies at a Tehran university, but her progress is interrupted when a mentally disturbed man begins stalking her -a difficult situation in any culture, and intensified here by prejudice against women who go into the world instead of remaining cloistered at home. This gripping Iranian production shows unflinching concern for the plight of talented women in a male-dominated society, making serious sociological points through episodes driven by heart-pounding melodrama. In Farsi with English subtitles

U-571 (PG-13)

Director: Jonathan Mostow. With Matthew McConaughey, Harvey Keitel, Bill Paxton, Jon Bon Jovi, Jake Weber, David Keith. (120 min.)

Sterritt *** You can't keep a good submarine story down. Our heroes are American sailors ordered to pose as Germans and capture a top-secret encryption device from a Nazi U-boat. Things get interesting when they find themselves stuck on the enemy vessel, unsure how it works and sitting ducks for any genuine Germans who happen to steam their way. The movie is full of old tricks - cuts between worried faces and overheated gauges inching into the red zone - but director Mostow pulls most of them off with conviction and pizazz.

Staff *** Sheer entertainment, not much subtext, action-packed.

VS/N: None. VV: 9, often prolonged, scenes with violence, including gunfights, fistfights, and torpedo attacks. VP: 50 expressions, mostly mild. VD: 3 scenes with alcohol, 2 with tobacco.

Unbreakable (PG-13)

Director: M. Night Shyamalan. With Bruce Willis, Samuel L. Jackson, Robin Wright Penn. (110 min.)

Sterritt ** How did an ordinary man survive a train crash that killed everyone around him? Why does another man suffer from an illness that makes his bones as breakable as glass? Do they occupy different positions on the same physiological spectrum, and is there a supernatural purpose to their increasingly complex relationship? The plot has a fascinating premise, and Shyamalan's visual style is even more insinuating than in "The Sixth Sense," his previous picture. But the story grows sillier as it goes along, culminating in a final switcheroo that's about as deep as the comic-book ideas that inspired the plot.

Staff **1/2 Unpredictable ending, half-baked, off-beat humor, slow but interesting.

Sex/Nudity: 1 implied date rape offscreen. Violence: 3 scenes with violence, including a gun threat. Profanity: 4 mild expressions. Drugs: 2 scenes with alcohol.

Under Suspicion (R)

Director: Stephen Hopkins. With Gene Hackman, Morgan Freeman, Monica Bellucci, Thomas Jane. (110 min.)

Sterritt ** A conscientious police officer (Freeman) interrogates a wealthy and powerful friend (Hackman) who might be involved with a series of brutal, sordid crimes. Good acting and an effectively claustrophobic mood compensate for a story that doesn't add up to much in the long run.

Up at the Villa (Not rated)

Director: Philip Haas. With Kristin Scott Thomas, Sean Penn, Anne Bancroft, James Fox, Derek Jacobi, Jeremy Davies, Massimo Ghini. (120 min.)

Sterritt *** Seeking a last romantic adventure before her marriage to a boring British aristocrat in Italy during the late 1930s, a young woman spends a night with an impoverished Austrian refugee, then faces violent and scandalous consequences. Based on a W. Somerset Maugham novella, the story has old- fashioned characters and situations, and Haas has sensibly filmed it in an old- fashioned way, stressing visual appeal rather than the story's sordid undertones. The acting is excellent, too.

Staff **1/2 Seamless, typical upper-class angst, superb acting.

VS/N: 1 scene implied sex. VV: 5 scenes with violence, including slaps and aftermath of torture. VP: 2 mild expressions. VD: 4 scenes with alcohol, 3 with tobacco, 3 with both.

Urban Legends: Final Cut (R)

Director: John Ottman. With Jennifer Morrison, Matthew Davis, Hart Bochner, Loretta Devine. (98 min.)

Staff * Morrison is a film student at a school that pays lip service to the "master of suspense" ("What would Hitchcock do?") but practices the art of making bad pictures (like this one). As Morrison directs her thesis film, someone keeps bumping off her cast and crew. This mess of a movie occasionally works as a satire of film schools and moviemaking, but someone should have pushed "delete" before it got out of the word processor. By M.K. Terrell

VS/N: 2 sex scenes. VV: 13 scenes with violence, including clubbing and stabbing. VP: 52 expressions, some harsh. VD: 5 scenes with alcohol and/or tobacco, 1 with alcohol and drugs.

Urbania (Not rated)

Director: Jon Shear. With Dan Futterman, Alan Cumming, Matt Keeslar, Barbara Sukowa, Lothaire Bluteau, Josh Hamilton, Gerry Bamman. (105 min.)

Sterritt ** City life and urban legends as seen through the eyes of a gay man wandering the streets of New York, where he encounters an assortment of friends and foes. The story evokes a lot of varied emotions, but none runs more than an inch below skin deep.

Venus Beauty Institute (Not rated)

Director: Tonie Marshall. With Nathalie Baye, Bulle Ogier, Audrey Tautou, Micheline Presle, Emmanuelle Riva. (105 min.)

Sterritt *** The romantic adventures of several very different women who work at a Paris beauty parlor. Baye gives a stunning performance in the central role, backed by a first-rate supporting cast. The movie waits until its sublime finale before achieving greatness, though. In French with English subtitles

Vertical Limit (PG-13)

Director: Martin Campbell. With Chris O'Donnell, Robin Tunney, Bill Paxton, Scott Glenn, Temuera Morrison, Izabella Scorupco, Stuart Wilson. (123 min.)

Sterritt ** A team of mountaineers scale impossible heights to rescue a trio of trapped colleagues after an accident just below the world's second-highest peak. The movie has moments of breathtaking suspense, at least until it lapses into cartoonish implausibility in the second half. With good acting and good dialogue it might actually have been a good picture.

The Virgin Suicides (R)

Director: Sofia Coppola. With Kirsten Dunst, James Woods, Kathleen Turner, Hanna Hall, Chelse Swain, A.J. Cook, Leslie Hayman, Josh Hartnett, Scott Glenn, Danny DeVito. (96 min.)

Sterritt *** Is suicide the only escape route from an obsessively proper middle- class home? The question arises when an adolescent girl kills herself for no clear reason, and her sisters may be drifting in the same direction as they try to steer a course between their unbending parents and the neighborhood boys who'd like to become part of their lives. An artful blend of '70s detail and dreamlike moodiness makes Coppola's first movie an exceptionally promising directorial debut.

Staff **1/2 Lacks fluidity, superficial, mysterious, a bit of a downer.

VS/N: 2 instances of statutory rape, 3 of sexual innuendo. VV: 4 instances, all involving suicide. VP: 4 expressions, 1 of them harsh. VD: 6 scenes with alcohol, 6 with tobacco, 2 with marijuana.

Waking the Dead (R)

Director: Keith Gordon. With Billy Crudup, Jennifer Connelly, Janet McTeer, Sandra Oh, Hal Holbrook, Molly Parker, Paul Hipp. (103 min.)

Sterritt *** A bright young man pursues a political career in the 1980s, hoping to translate the idealism of the 1960s and '70s into better lives for his fellow citizens; but he feels himself literally haunted by visions of his former girlfriend, an activist killed in a terrorist bombing. Gordon is a serious and gifted filmmaker, and he takes interesting artistic risks in this offbeat tale, which tackles weighty themes. But sentimentality overtakes intelligence. And there's a shallow, simplistic edge to the implication that the ideals of the '60s era have become an irksome ghost that must be exorcised before society can improve.

The Watcher (R)

Director: Joe Charbanic. With James Spader, Marisa Tomei, Keanu Reeves, Ernie Hudson, Chris Ellis. (93 min.)

Sterritt * A cop plagued by unhappy memories plays cat-and-mouse with a serial killer who torments him with hints about his future victims. The story builds occasional suspense and Michael Chapman's gritty-glossy cinematography gives it a certain oomph. The picture's real interest lies in detailing the villain's sadistic crimes, though, and this is rarely fun or edifying to watch.

Water Drops on Burning Rocks (Not rated)

Director: Francois Ozon. With Bernard Giraudeau, Malik Zidi, Ludivine Sagnier, Anna Thomson. (90 min.)

Sterritt *** Based on a play by the great German filmmaker Rainer Werner Fassbinder. This sardonic drama illustrates the destructive nature of superficial sexual gamesmanship through the tale of a young man caught between his beautiful fiancee and a self-absorbed male lover. The best scenes capture the blend of irony, melodrama, and real emotion that distinguishes Fassbinder's most memorable pictures. In French with English subtitles

The Way of the Gun (R)

Director: Christopher McQuarrie. With Benicio Del Toro, Ryan Phillippe, James Caan, Juliette Lewis, Taye Diggs, Nicky Katt, Scott Wilson. (118 min.)

Staff **1/2 Parker and Longbaugh don't feel the 9-to-5 world is their destiny. So the two drifters try the nontraditional route to building their nest egg - kidnap a surrogate mother from a wealthy couple for a hefty ransom. Packaged with solid acting, an edgy western setting, and a complex yet intriguing weave of stories, this movie ends up being pretty entertaining. There's some disturbing gore. By Katherine Dillin

Staff ** Neo-noir, dysfunctional relationships, tries to out-Coen the Coen brothers.

VS/N: 1 instance of nudity on magazine covers, 3 mild instances of innuendo. VV: 21 scenes with violence, including 2 very lengthy shootouts and some gruesome birth scenes. VP: 98 expressions, mostly harsh. VD: 4 scenes with alcohol, 12 with tobacco.

What Lies Beneath (PG-13)

Director: Robert Zemeckis. With Michelle Pfeiffer, Harrison Ford, Diana Scarwid, Joe Morton, Miranda Otto, James Remar, Wendy Crewson, Ray Baker. (130 min.)

Sterritt *** Pfeiffer plays a woman who has good reasons for thinking her New England house is haunted, but can't figure out who the ghost might be, or how to persuade her scientist husband that something sinister is in the air. A few scenes indulge in overstated hokum or thriller cliches, but Pfeiffer is first- rate and several sequences are suspenseful enough to deserve that overused adjective, Hitchcockian.

Staff **1/2 Bloodcurdling, relentless pace, well done.

VS/N: 1 scene implied sex, 1 suggestive scene. VV: 7 scenes with violence, including chilling attempts at murder. VP: 2 expressions, 1 mild and 1 harsh. VD: 5 scenes with alcohol.

What Planet Are You From? (R)

Director: Mike Nichols. With Garry Shandling, Annette Bening, John Goodman, Ben Kingsley, Linda Fiorentino, Greg Kinnear. (100 min.)

Sterritt ** Lightweight farce about an alien who arrives on Earth with orders to get a woman pregnant so his all-male race can spread to this corner of the galaxy. The lively cast and occasionally bright dialogue can't overcome the movie's large doses of vulgar silliness. Goodman's comic delivery gets maximum mileage from a few amusing situations, though.

Staff **1/2 Shallow, funny first half, polished.

VS/N: 2 scenes of implied sex, 3 with nudity, at least 17 instances of innuendo. VV: 3 scenes, including a gunshot. VP: 68 expressions, some harsh. VD: 3 scenes with drinking, 3 with smoking, 1 with both.

What Women Want (PG-13)

Director: Nancy Meyers. With Mel Gibson, Helen Hunt, Marisa Tomei, Ashley Johnson, Lauren Holly, Mark Feuerstein, Alan Alda, Aviva Gale, Delta Burke, Valerie Perrine, Judy Greer. (123 min.)

Sterritt ** Gibson makes an energetic entrance into romantic comedy with his alternately sweet and swaggering portrayal of a self-centered advertising man who acquires the ability to read women's thoughts. He's skillfully supported by Hunt as his pretty new boss and Johnson as his neglected teenage daughter, and director Meyers keeps the action bright and bouncy. Still, the dialogue isn't quite as sparkling and the plot twists aren't quite as snappy as you want them to be. And the story keeps rambling on after its oomph runs wearisomely thin.

What's Cooking? (PG-13)

Director: Gurinder Chadha. With Alfre Woodard, Kyra Sedgwick, Julianna Margulies. (106 min.)

Sterritt *** A warm and winning Thanksgiving visit with several families in an American neighborhood as they celebrate the holiday in the spirit of their diverse ethnic backgrounds. Splendid acting, a screenplay as likable as it is unpredictable, and an undercurrent of deep human generosity make this a particularly engaging comic-dramatic experience.

Sex/Nudity: 2 sex scenes. 1 scene of innuendo. Violence: 1 scene. A man is daubed with paint. Profanity: 23 instances, mostly mild. Drugs: 7 instances of drinking.

Whatever It Takes (PG-13)

Director: David Hubbard. With Shane West, Marla Sokoloff, James Franco, Jodi Lyn O'Keefe, Aaron Paul. (92 min.)

Staff 1/2 Two high school seniors from different cliques strike a deal to help each other get their dream dates for the prom. Catchy premise, but whatever it took to make teen-movie hits like "Sixteen Candles" isn't here. Sidekick Floyd (Paul) provides the movie's few laughs. Overall, a tasteless and cheap approach to the genre. By Katherine Dillin

VS/N: 2 sexual situations, 11 instances of innuendo, 2 graphic visuals. VV: 1 rough football scene. VP: 44 profanities, mostly mild. VD: 6 scenes with alcohol, including 1 long party scene; 1 with smoking.

Where the Heart Is (PG-13)

Director: Matt Williams. With Natalie Portman, Ashley Judd, Stockard Channing, Sally Field, Joan Cusack. (120 min.)

Sterritt ** Alone and penniless, a young woman gives birth to her baby in a shopping mart, then accepts help from an eccentric couple with generous hearts and a slightly older friend with numerous kids of her own. The story shows commendable interest in women's issues and the challenges of single motherhood. But it covers so many events over such a long stretch of time that its meaningful moments fly away from each other when they should be working together for dramatic effect. Ultimately, it's more an emotional hodgepodge than a compassionate look at real human problems.

Staff *** Positive, Portman's best, tasteful, fairy-tale like, endearing.

VS/N: 1 mild sex scene. VV: 4 scenes, including aftermath of a beating and a prison scuffle. VP: 33 expressions, mostly mild. VD: 5 scenes with alcohol, 3 with tobacco.

Where the Money Is (PG-13)

Director: Marek Kanievska. With Paul Newman, Linda Fiorentino, Dermot Mulroney, Susan Barnes, Anne Pitoniak. (89 min.)

Sterritt ** Where the excitement isn't. A crafty old crook fakes a chronic illness to facilitate a jailbreak, then plans a new crime with his nurse and her suspicious husband. Newman's magnetic face isn't enough to raise this intermittently amusing thriller above the ordinary caper-comedy crowd.

Staff *** Entertaining, some surprises, Newman was terrific.

VS/N: 3 instances of implied sex; 1 scene with brief nudity; some innuendo. VV: 6 scenes, including a car crash and an armed robbery. VP: 23 mostly mild expressions. VD: 11 scenes with alcohol and/or tobacco.

Whipped (R)

Director: Peter M. Cohen. With Amanda Peet, Brian Van Holt, Judah Domke, Jonathan Abrahams. (85 min.)

Staff * Three buddies meet Sunday mornings to report on the week's victories in their favorite sport: scamming women into having sex with them. Things disintegrate when they all fall in love with the same woman (Peet). New York settings, Peet's lively performance, and a cute twist at the end can't save this one from ineptitude and lack of originality. Non-stop profanity, obscene sexual talk, and a demeaning of women and relationships don't help either. By M.K. Terrell

VS/N: 2 sex scenes, 2 of implied sex, 41 instances of innuendo and frank descriptions of sexual situations. VV: 2 scuffles. VP: 257 expressions, mostly harsh. VD: 6 scenes with alcohol, 2 with tobacco, 4 with both.

The Whole Nine Yards (R)

Director: Jonathan Lynn. With Bruce Willis, Matthew Perry, Rosanna Arquette, Michael Clarke Duncan, Amanda Peet, Natasha Henstridge, Kevin Pollak. (97 min.)

Sterritt ** Perry plays a mild-mannered dentist whose marriage is so miserable that he welcomes the distraction when a notorious killer (Willis) moves in next door and strikes up a neighborly friendship with him. But things get complicated when various others - murderers, cops, and our hero's ill-tempered wife - barge into their relationship with different agendas. The story is amusing when the stars deadpan their way through the early scenes, and Peet is terrific as a psychopathic dental assistant. But the picture runs out of good ideas long before it's over, falling below "Prizzi's Honor" and "The Freshman" in the dubious genre of contract-killer comedies.

Staff **1/2 Funny tale, unexpected twists, well-done hamming by actors, hollow.

VS/N: 7 scenes with sex and/or nudity; 1 suggestive scene; 1 instance of innuendo. VV: 6 scenes with violence, including punching and shooting. VP: 27 expressions, mostly mild. VD: 9 scenes with alcohol, 5 with smoking, 3 with both.

The Wind Will Carry Us (Not rated)

Director: Abbas Kiarostami. With Behzad Dourani and inhabitants of Siah Dareh, Iran. (118 min.)

Sterritt **** A filmmaker visits a small village to document a funeral rite that will take place after the death of an ailing old woman, but the woman has too much life in her to die on schedule, so the visitor must stay longer than expected. The movie draws its power from the subtle tension between the main character's modernized mentality and the more tranquil rhythms of his rural surroundings. Additional fascination comes from Kiarostami's habit of leaving gaps in the story so each viewer's own imagination can come into play. The result is a full-fledged masterpiece. In Farsi with English subtitles

Winter Sleepers (Not rated)

Director: Tom Tykwer. With Ulrich Matthes, Marie-Lou Sellem, Heino Ferch, Floriane Daniel, Josef Bierbichler. (124 min.)

Sterritt *** A road accident near a small German village changes the lives of several loosely connected people including an apathetic ski instructor, a nurse who'd rather be an actress, a movie projectionist with a passion for photography, and a father seeking vengeance for the loss inflicted on him by the crash. The drama is vividly filmed and articulately acted, but it lacks the energy and flair that cascade through "Run Lola Run," the instant classic that Tykwer directed immediately after this longer, less inspired production. In German with English subtitles

The Wisdom of Crocodiles (R)

Director: Po Chih Leong. With Jude Law, Elina Lowensohn, Timothy Spall, Kerry Fox, Jack Davenport. (98 min.)

Sterritt *** This brooding British drama follows a modern-day vampire who strikes up intense and possibly redemptive relationships with an affectionate girlfriend and a compassionate cop. The picture is a little too pretentious to achieve its artistic and emotional goals, but its ambition and imagination are impressive at times.

Woman on Top (R)

Director: Fina Torres. With Penelope Cruz, Murilo Benicio, Harold Perrineau Jr., Mark Feuerstein, John de Lancie. (91 min.)

Staff ** Cruz stars as a chef who flees marital slavery in Brazil to become a TV personality in San Fransisco. Husband Benicio follows her to the US and will do anything to get her back. Director Torres, seeking the magic of "Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands," loses it by trying to be too magical - and why do these Brazillians sing in Portuguese but talk to each other in English? By M.K. Terrell

Staff ** Weak writing, frothy, nice bossa nova score.

VS/N: 2 sex scenes, 1 with nudity, neither scene is very graphic. VV: 3 scenes with violence, including a brawl and a scuffle. VP: 11 expressions, some harsh. VD: 6 scenes with alcohol, 1 with tobacco.

Wonder Boys (R)

Director: Curtis Hanson. With Michael Douglas, Tobey Maguire, Frances McDormand, Rip Torn. (112 min.)

Sterritt ** Douglas and Maguire play writers at opposite ends of their careers, and both are apprehensive about what will happen when (and if) they finish the books they're working on. Douglas gives a nicely relaxed performance as the world-weary professor, but Maguire delves into a too-familiar bag of tricks that grows tiring after the first few scenes. While the story takes some clever turns, its psychology is far from convincing and its momentum flags long before the finale.

Staff **1/2 Drug-hazed, wicked and wacky, good acting, somewhat a downer.

VS/N: Implied adultery, 2 instances of implied sex. VV: 3 scenes with violence, including a gun threat. VP: 31 expressions, mostly mild. VD: 17 scenes with alcohol, smoking, and/or marijuana.

Wonderland (R)

Director: Michael Winterbottom. With Gina McKee, Molly Parker, Ian Hart, Shirley Henderson, Kika Markham, Jack Shepherd, John Simm, Stuart Townsend, Enzo Cilenti, Peter Marfleet, Sarah-Jane Potts, David Fham, Ellen Thomas. (109 min.)

Sterritt *** Tangled family ties are at the center of this comic-dramatic visit with three generations of a working-class London clan. The story is always lively, if not always appealing; the ensemble acting is impressively in tune; and Michael Nyman's surging score adds an extra measure of emotional power.

X (Not rated)

Director: Rintaro. With voices of Alan Marriot, Adam Henderson, Larissa Murray, Denica Fairman, Stacey Jefferson. (97 min.)

Sterritt ** The future of civilization depends on a young man caught between two supernatural armies and two rival sisters working to ensure different outcomes to the imminent battle. This is an imaginative and well-produced example of Japan's popular anime animation style, but it isn't likely to tempt moviegoers not already fans of the genre. Leave the younger kids at home, in any case.

VS/N: 1 scene with nudity. VV: 17 scenes with seemingly nonstop violence, including battles. VP: 2 mild expressions. VD: 1 scene with tobacco.

X-Men (PG-13)

Director: Bryan Singer. With Patrick Stewart, Halle Berry, Ian McKellen, Famke Janssen, Hugh Jackman, Anna Paquin, Bruce Davison. (105 min.)

Sterritt ** Based on a popular comic book, this action-packed adventure takes its cue from the idea that people with exotic powers don't always become superheroes, but may turn bitter and hostile when ordinary folks find their special qualities too "weird" and "different" to tolerate. Stewart is solid as the leader of a school for constructive mutants, McKellen is equally strong as his destructive counterpart, and the screenplay takes a commendably dim view of bias and bigotry. The mood is awfully dark for an escapist fantasy, though, and the high-tech mayhem gets repetitious. Singer made a smashing impression with "The Usual Suspects" in 1995 but he has yet to match that triumph.

Staff ** Fun, creative, random, roughdraft quality, aimed at teens.

VS/N: None. VV: 12 scenes of violence, including a bar fight and special effects with a bullet. VP: 3 mild expressions. VD: 2 scenes with alcohol, 2 with tobacco.

The Yards (R)

Director: James Gray. With Mark Wahlberg, Joaquin Phoenix, Ellen Burstyn, Charlize Theron, James Caan, Faye Dunaway. (115 min.)

Sterritt *** Determined to live an honest life after serving a prison sentence for a crime he didn't commit, a young man finds himself drawn into a network of criminal activity that grows more dangerous and violent. The cast is just right for this mini-"Godfather" yarn, and Gray's filmmaking is generally on target even if it does tend to dawdle along the way.

Yi Yi (A One and a Two) (Not rated)

Director: Edward Yang. With Wu Nienjen, Issey Ogata, Elaine Jin, Kelly Lee, Chen Xisheng. (173 min.)

Sterritt **** The insightful story of a Taiwanese family facing various challenges: a grandmother is seriously ill, a granddaughter fears she contributed to this crisis, her father's computer company is considering a risky venture, and touches of jealousy are affecting the household's moods. These ingredients could have added up to a heated domestic melodrama, but Yang favors a gentle and introspective style that shows how deep and strong everyday emotions can run. A memorable treat. In Taiwanese, Mandarin, Japanese, and English with English subtitles

You Can Count on Me (R)

Director: Kenneth Lonergan. With Laura Linney, Mark Ruffalo, Matthew Broderick, Rory Culkin. (109 min.)

Sterritt *** This deftly directed comedy-drama focuses on the infrequently examin.ed subject of emotional relations between a grown-up brother and sister - in this case, a successful businesswoman and an immature drifter whose lives take on new complexity when he wanders back to where they grew up. Wittily written and deliciously acted, Lonergan's debut film is a cut above the average.

Sex/Nudity: 5 nongraphic scenes. Violence: 2 scenes including a bloody fistfight. Profanity: 49 instances, both harsh and mild. Drugs: 12 instances of smokin; 11 scenes with alcohol; 3 scenes with marijuana.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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