New Releases Hardball (PG-13)
Director: Brian Robbins. With Keanu Reeves, Diane Lane, John Hawk, D.B. Sweeney. (90 min.)
**1/2 His life threatened by bookies, Connor O'Neill (Reeves) agrees in desperation to coach Little League. In a world where "don't nobody's father come back," O'Neill earns the boys' trust by showing up. Initially, O'Neill's only reason for coaching is to collect his weekly check. But the harsh realities of life in the projects won't let him, or the viewer, remain callous for long. Meanwhile, the young cast of "Hardball" pitches laughs and tears, making sure both you and O'Neill think twice about how to live. By Nathan Smith
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.
Directors: Gary Trousdale and Kirk Wise. With the voices of Michael J. Fox, James Garner. (96 min.)
**1/2 "Atlantis" is an attempt at an action-adventure tale set in the early 1900s - part "Indiana Jones" and part Jules Verne. Milo Thatch is a nerdish academic invited to join a submarine mission to find the lost city of Atlantis, but unforeseen dangers lurk. Fairly entertaining, but this is hardly a classic Disney cartoon.
By Stephen Humphries
Sterritt **1/2 Exciting, heartening, energetic.
VS/N: None. VV: 7 scenes. VP: None. VD: 6 scenes with smoking.
Director: Hassan Yektapanah. With Rashid Akbari, Valiollah Beta, Mahbobeh Khalili. (94 min.)
Sterritt **** The title character, an Afghani immigrant who works at a small Iranian dairy farm, falls in love with an Iranian woman and needs help winning her affection - no easy matter, given the strictness of Iranian courtship customs and the fact that he doesn't fit the local profile for a desirable catch. The performances of this quiet Iranian drama are utterly genuine, and the story is a delicate blend of slice-of-life realism and soft-spoken social commentary. In Farsi with English subtitles
Director: John Carpenter. With Ice Cube, Natasha Henstridge, Jason Statham, Pam Grier, Clea Duvall. (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.
S/N: 4 instances of nudity. VV: 24 gory scenes. VP: 65 harsh expressions. VD: 2 scenes with cigarettes, 4 scenes with drugs.
Director: Kevin Smith. With Kevin Smith, Jason Mewes, Shannon Elizabeth, Ben Affleck, Chris Rock. (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. 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 jokes too repetitive to be much fun.
Director: Victor Salva. With Gina Philips, Justin Long, Jonathan Breck, Eileen Breenan.
* Trish (Philips) and her brother, Darry (Long) are heading home from college. The first half is pretty intense, as Darry and his sister investigate an abandoned church. But then it just turns silly. They soon encounter a hideous and evil creature that's part bird, who likes to sniff laundry, spread his huge wings, and eat people. Many scenes caused this reviewer to laugh out loud. The filmmakers seem to be making fun of the horror genre itself. By Lisa Leigh Parney
VS/N: 1 scene of naked dead bodies. VV: 10, including bloody scenes of bodies torn apart, and head decapitations. VP: 40 expressions, sometimes harsh. VD: None.
Director: Michael Cuesta. With Brian Cox, Paul Franklin Dano, Bruce Altman, Billy Kay. (100 min.)
Sterritt ** Living with his self-absorbed father after his mother's death on the Long Island Expressway, a 15-year-old boy gets involved with troublemaking friends and then becomes the prey of an aging pedophile who lives undetected in their town. The subject matter is deeply troubling, and the treatment is harrowingly candid, but the movie paints a sincere and serious portrait of the seductiveness of evil and the self-destructive nature of depravity. Cox is chillingly brilliant as the repugnant villain.
Director: Peter Hyams. With Justin Chambers, Stephen Rea, Tim Roth, Mena Suvari, Catherine Deneuve. (106 min.)
** Great swordplay; terrible wordplay. That's the lowdown on the latest movie adaptation of the Alexander Dumas tale in which D'Artagnan, a valiant swordsman, rallies France's musketeers to protect the throne from the political machinations of Cardinal Richelieu (Rea). Unfortunately, newcomer Justin Chambers shows not one iota of charisma in the lead role, and Mena Suvari isn't very interesting as the obligatory love interest. The supporting cast, meanwhile, have more accents than you could cram into a tower of Babel. The fencing choreography, however, does manage to out-Zorro "Zorro." By Stephen Humphries
Director: Tim Blake Nelson. With Julia Stiles, Josh Hartnett, Mekhi Phifer, Martin Sheen. (91 min.)
*** A chain of tragic events is set in motion by the duplicitous conniving of high-schooler Hugo (Hartnett). Envious of the attention his father (Sheen), a basketball coach, bestows on African-American basketball star Odin (Phifer), Hugo deceives Odin into believing that his girlfriend (Stiles) has been unfaithful to him. In a time when school violence is often explained away in the media by superficial pop psychology, the deft script and top-rate cast invite audiences to reexamine the complexity of teenage behavior. By Stephen Humphries
Sterritt **1/2 Disappointing adaptation, well-acted, dark, brutal.
VS/N: 9 scenes including sex, innuendo and rape. VV: 7 scenes, including school shooting and graphic strangulation. VP: 56 harsh expressions. VD: 4 scenes with underage drinking, 2 with drugs, 1 with steroids.
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 sometimes subtle exercise in ghostly doings. Kidman is a bit stiff as the increasingly anxious matriarch, though, and Amenábar's filmmaking is sadly short on surprises.
Staff *1/2 Unoriginal twist, great ghost story, slow.
VS/N: 1 scene of implied sex. VV: 10 scary scenes. VP: 2 mild expressions. VD: 2 scenes of pilltaking.
Director: Garry Marshall. With Julie Andrews, Anne Hathaway, Heather Matarazzo. (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, 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.)
*1/2 When a millionaire (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 to 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. By Stephen Humphries
Sterritt *1/2 Flashy, nonsensical, simplistic, cocky.
S/N: 5 instances of innuendo. VV: 12 comic scenes, one fairly unpleasant. VP: 33 occasionally harsh expressions. VD: 5 scenes with alcohol, 1 with cigarettes.
Director: Stephen Herek. With Mark Wahlberg, Jennifer Aniston, Jason Flemyng, Timothy Spall. (104 min.)
Sterritt *** The hero is a wannabe pop singer (Wahlberg) who fronts a "tribute band" that slavishly imitates a far more famous group. It looks like he's going nowhere until the famous group summons him to replace their ousted leader - which makes him an overnight sensation and lures him into the rock scene's dark side of drugs and promiscuity. Herek pushes the sex-and-drug material too far, threatening to exploit the dangers that the overall story deplores. The acting is excellent, though, and the movie has a good-natured spirit to match its ultimate faith in the hero's deep-down goodness.
Staff **1/2 Top entertainment, cartoonish, like watching VH1's "Behind the Music."
VS/N: 8 scenes, including sex, nudity, and innuendo. VV: 5 scenes, including fighting. VP: 56 harsh expressions. VD: 18 scenes with alcohol, 7 with smoking, 2 with drugs.
Director: Bret Rattner. With Jackie Chan, Chris Tucker, Zhang Ziyi, Chris Penn, Don Cheadle. (88 min.)
**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
Sterritt *** Flashy, nonsensical, simplistic, cocky.
VS/N: 4 scenes of innuendo; 3 scenes of male posterior nudity. VV: 11 scenes, including martial arts. VP: 40 expressions, many harsh. VD: 3 scenes with alcohol, 3 scenes with smoking.
Director: Michael Tolin. With Freddie Prinze Jr., Jessica Biel, Bruce Davidson, Brian Dennehy. (108 min.)
** Blue-collar hometown boy Ryan Dunne (Freddie Prinze Jr.) has big-league aspirations playing on a Cape League baseball team. Saddled with troubles in his family and a huge lack of belief in himself, Ryan strives to make his dreams come true. This story 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: Simon Wincer. With Paul Hogan, Linda Kozlowski. (92 min.)
* You'll sooner find snow on Ayers Rock than you will laughs in this third outing of the Crocodile Dundee series. The flimsiest plot device sends Dundee, his girlfriend, and child from the Australian outback to Los Angeles. Dundee then wanders about L.A. from one flat episode to another. By Stephen Humphries
Director: Tony Goldwyn. With Ashley Judd, Greg Kinnear, Hugh Jackman, Marisa Tomei. (93 min.)
*1/2 Judd plays a single woman who gets dumped by a Lothario in sheep's clothing (Kinnear). Stung, she adopts a pseudonym for a woman's magazine and begins to serialize her theories about why men can't commit by observing her roommate, a king of one-night stands. Judd is winsome, but wearisome ruminations about relationships are no substitute for plot and they drain the movie of dramatic tension.
By Stephen Humphries
Sterritt ** Sweet, never quite gells, no chemistry.
Director: Robert Rodriguez. With Antonio Banderas, George Clooney, Alan Cumming, Teri Hatcher. (93 min.)
** Billed as a spy caper for all ages, "Spy Kids," is indeed that. Carmen and Juni Cortez are two ordinary kids who must save their parents - and the world - from the evil techno-wizard, Floop. They are thrust into a high-tech world of spies and skullduggery, complete with a movie full of imaginative hardware.
By Gloria Goodale
Sterritt***1/2 Multicultural, fast-pace, creative.