New Releases The Curse of the Jade Scorpion (PG-13)
Director: Woody Allen. With Woody Allen, Helen Hunt, Dan Aykroyd, Charlize Theron, David Ogden Stiers, Brian Markinson, Elizabeth Berkley, Wallace Shawn. (93 min.)
Sterritt ** Allen falls back on fast-talking comedy and old-movie nostalgia in this parody of 1940s melodrama, with Woody as an insurance investigator trying to unravel a crime that he committed himself after a session with a sinister nightclub hypnotist. There are lots of plot twists and romantic angles. What's lacking is laughs.
Director: John Carpenter. With Ice Cube, Natasha Henstridge, Jason Statham, Pam Grier, Clea Duvall, Joanna Cassidy. (98 min.)
Sterritt * Earthlings living in a Martian colony battle hostile forces who resent this alien invasion of their desolate red planet. Carpenter pulls out all the action-adventure stops, but he and coscripter Larry Sulkis forgot to write dialogue the audience could listen to without howling in disbelief. Henstridge is fun to watch as the Martian cop, though, and Ice Cube still has a powerful screen presence, even when he isn't bothering to act.
Director: Kevin Smith. With Kevin Smith, Jason Mewes, Shannon Elizabeth, Ben Affleck, Chris Rock, Jason Lee, Matt Damon. (99 min.)
Sterritt * The title characters have appeared regularly in Smith comedies like "Dogma" and "Chasing Amy," and they take over the story here, traveling to Hollywood to register their protest that Miramax is making a movie about them without giving them a cut of the profits. There are enough four-letter words and smarmy sex gags to stock a dozen ordinary movies, but even fans of Jay and Silent Bob may find the story too slender and the jokes too repetitive to be much fun.
Director: D.A. Pennebaker. With Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, The Who, Jefferson Airplane, The Mamas and the Papas, Simon and Garfunkel. (78 min.)
Sterritt *** This nonfiction visit to the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival, first released in 1969 to great acclaim, documents high-energy performances by a wide range of top-ranking '60s rock musicians. It captures their magic with a freewheeling spontaneity that became a model for later pop-music movies and made Pennebaker a directorial star of the cinéma-vérité documentary movement.
Director: Michael Tolin. With Freddie Prinze Jr., Jessica Biel, Bruce Davidson, Brian Dennehy. (108 min.)
Staff ** Blue-collar hometown boy and pro lawn mower Ryan Dunne (Freddie Prince Jr.) has big-league aspirations. It's summertime on Cape Cod, and when he's not mowing the lawn of his rich girlfriend, Tenley Parish (Jessica Biel), he's playing on a Cape League baseball team. Saddled with troubles in his family and a huge lack of belief in himself, Ryan strives to take Tenley's advice, "allow yourself to succeed," and make his dreams come true. This story about falling in love and finding yourself has its share of bad acting. But "Summer Catch" turns out to be a well-meaning, light, and fluffy comedy with plenty of good giggles. By Deborah Henderson
Director: Lukas Moodysson. With Lisa Lindgren, Michael Nyqvist, Gustav Hammarsten, Anja Lundqvist. (106 min.)
Sterritt *** The setting is a commune near Stockholm in the 1970s, the characters are aspiring nonconformists of assorted ages and genders, and the story is a loosely strung series of incidents geared more to conveying an atmosphere than absorbing us in situations. The result is an amiable look at a bygone time and a set of ideas about the world that once held far more power and magic than it does today. In Swedish with English subtitles.
Director: Les Mayfield. With Colin Farrell, Scott Caan, Ali Larter, Timothy Dalton, Kathy Bates. (90 min.)
Staff DUD This depiction of the rise of notorious outlaw Jesse James wasn't meant to be overly serious, but Colin Farrell and his dastardly gang have all the screen presence of a bunch of frat boys playing cowboys and learning how to ride horses. Comparing the film to "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid," as Warner Brothers has done, is like comparing "Rambo" to "Apocalypse Now." This dud will be forgotten by fall. By Matthew MacLean
Director: J.B. Rogers. With Jason Biggs, Shannon Elizabeth, Chris Klein, Alyson Hannigan. (104 min.)
Sterritt ** It's summer vacation, the "American Pie" alumni are now college kids, and all they can think of is still - you guessed it - sex, sex, sex. This energetic sequel moves from one gross-out set piece to another, with occasional moments of teen-pic sentimentality to cleanse the palate.
VS/N: 19 scenes of graphic innuendo or implied sex, 1 sex scene with nudity. VV: 2 scenes of comic violence. VP: 124 very harsh expressions. VD: 20 scenes with alcohol, 1 with smoking.
Director: John Madden. With Nicolas Cage, Penélope Cruz, Christian Bale, Irene Papas, John Hurt. (125 min.)
Sterritt ** Cage plays a music-loving Italian officer who's garrisoned on a lovely Greek island during World War II, where he falls for a young woman (Cruz). While this romantic fantasy has a fair amount of shooting and killing, its heart is in the ill-starred love affair that dominates most of the plot. This would be fine, if the romance were well-enough written, directed, and acted to capture our hearts.
Staff ***1/2 Beautiful, miscast, heavy hearted, jerky, beautiful scenery.
VS/N:4 scenes of nudity, 1 scene of implied sex. VV: 8 gory war scenes. VP: 5 harsh expressions. VD: 9 scenes with alcohol, 3 with cigarettes.
Director: Joel Hershman. With Clive Owen, Helen Mirren, David Kelly. (91 min.)
Staff *** Good conduct gets a British felon (Owen) into an experimental "open" prison, where he discovers a flair for gardening. When a horticultural maven (Mirren) sees what he and his buddies have wrought, she soon has them in a national competition. The pro-rehabilitation message may be a bit obvious and the story a little pat (wouldn't you know, the botanical guru has a pretty daughter?), but the characters are charming.
By M.K. Terrell
Director: Joe Johnston. With Sam Neill, William H. Macy, Téa Leoni, Alessandro Nivola. (90 min.)
Sterritt ** After their 14-year-old son disappears into an island jungle inhabited by Jurassic Park's prehistoric critters, a couple shanghais mild-mannered paleontologist Alan Grant into helping their rescue effort. The cast is solid and the special effects are impressive, but the screenplay is so stale that fans of the previous "Jurassic" installments might think this is one clone too many.
Staff *1/2 Poorly paced, summer fun, empty theme park ride, blessedly short.
VS/N: None. VV: 11 scenes of dinosaur attacks. VP: 5 mild instances. VD: 1 scene with drinking.
Director: Alejandro Amenábar. With Nicole Kidman, Christopher Eccleston, Eric Sykes. (104 min.)
Sterritt ** A war widow, her little boy, and their new servants dwell amid the mysteries of what may be a very haunted house. This is a subdued and sometimes subtle exercise in ghostly doings, going against the horror-movie grain by relying on understatement. Kidman is a bit stiff as the increasingly anxious matriarch, though, and Amenábar's filmmaking is sadly short on surprises.
Director: Tim Burton. With Mark Wahlberg, Helena Bonham Carter, Tim Roth. (119 min.)
Sterritt ** Wahlberg crash-lands his spaceship on a world where supersmart simians have all the power and human beings are their slaves. Burton is an imaginative director, but his originality is nowhere to be seen in this by-the-numbers retread of a science-fiction premise that seemed much fresher in 1968, when the original "Planet" was released. And what's the point of having gifted actors like Carter and Roth, when it's hard to savor their talents under all that monkey makeup?
Staff *1/2 One-dimensional, Burton succeeds again, never dull, terrific sets and makeup.
VS/N: 1 scene of innuendo. VV: 22 scenes, including gore. VP: 10 mild expressions. VD: 2 scenes with smoking, 2 scenes with drinking.
Director: Garry Marshall. With Julie Andrews, Anne Hathaway, Heather Matarazzo, Hector Elizondo. (114 min.)
Sterritt ** Andrews is excellent as the queen of an itsy-bitsy European principality who decides the nation's next ruler should be her granddaughter, a San Francisco teenager. With its leisurely pace and unfancy filmmaking, this is a likable throwback to an old tradition of family-friendly comedies from Disney, spinning its unpretentious yarn with a quiet but inventive sense of humor. The problem is that it goes on much too long.
Staff *** Benign, whimsical, endearing, bland.
VS/N: None. VV: None. VP: None. VD: 2 scenes with drinking.
Director: Jerry Zucker. With John Cleese, Whoopi Goldberg, Cuba Goldberg, Seth Green. (112 min.)
Staff *1/2 When a millionaire gambling magnet (Cleese) sets up a cross-country race between a group of contestants, they have little idea of the mishaps that will ensue as they strive to beat the others for a $2 million prize. "Naked Gun" director Zucker adds plenty of energy to the madcap episodes the all-star cast find themselves in, but the laughs are scattershot. The gags that do work are fantastic, but mostly this is an uninspired affair. By Stephen Humphries
Director: Bret Rattner. With Jackie Chan, Chris Tucker, Zhang Ziyi, Chris Penn, Don Cheadle. (88 min.)
Staff **1/2 Just put Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker together for 90 minutes, and you've got a hit movie. Here, the detectives chase Triad counterfeiters from Hong Kong to Las Vegas. Never mind that the sequel's stunts and fight-scene choreography aren't as impressive as that of the first movie - the amped-up comedy more than compensates to carry the day. By Matthew MacLean
Staff *** Flashy, nonsensical, simplistic, cocky.
VS/N: 4 scenes of innuendo. 3 scenes male posterior nudity. VV: 11 scenes, including martial arts. VP: 40 expressions, many harsh. VD: 3 scenes with alcohol, 3 scenes with smoking.
Director: Brad Anderson. With David Caruso, Peter Mullan, Josh Lucas, Brendan Sexton.
Staff * Director Anderson made a name for himself with "Next Stop Wonderland," a quirky and fun romantic comedy. Here, he brings us a disturbing, creepy horror film set in an abandoned mental institution. When a crew of asbestos workers arrive on the scene, they split up and start, well, removing asbestos. During this time, one of the members finds some old tapes of sessions - yes, nine - with a former patient with multiple personalities. Talented actors are wasted on an empty and aimless plot. By Lisa Leigh Parney
Director: Rob Sitch. With Sam Neill, Tom Long, Kevin Harrington, Patrick Warburton. (104 min.)
Sterritt *** Fact-based comedy about the triumphs and tribulations of the men who ran the enormous Australian broadcast receiver that transmitted live pictures around the world when American astronaut Neil Armstrong became the first human being to set foot on the moon. The acting and screenplay are amusing, but director Sitch might have taken a more adventurous approach to a tale with such an adventurous subject.
Director: Andrzej Bartkowiak. With Steven Seagal, DMX, Anthony Anderson, Jill Hennessey. (117 min.)
Staff ** Pandemonium reigns in Seagal movies. Here he's a Detroit detective who saves the US vice president from a kidnapping plot. His extreme tactics don't amuse the department's top brass, however, and they reduce him to daytime traffic details. But when he sniffs out a drug ring on his beat, he's right back to his old tricks. Plot twists and unusual casting keep this one from being a total cliché. By M.K. Terrell
Director: John Whitesell. With David Arquette, Michael Clarke Duncan, Leslie Bibb, Paul Sorvino. (93 min.)
Staff * Arquette plays Gordon, a letter carrier who has a problem with dogs and is clueless when it comes to kids. Suddenly he finds himself in charge of a beautiful neighbor's little boy and an FBI dog. Arquette shows a flair for physical comedy and warm male bonding scenes. Sadly, the director's uneveness of tone and poor sense of comic timing thwart the cast's efforts. By M.K. Terrell