New Releases The Iron Ladies (Not rated)
Director: Yongyoot Thongongtoon. With Sahapap Virakamin, Pormasith Siticharoengkul, Jojo Mioxshi, Jessadaporn Pholdee. (104 min.)
Sterritt *** A team of gay volleyball players gets a chance at fame when a more macho team stages a walkout because they don't like their female coach, and flamboyant history is made on Thailand's athletic scene. The subject is certainly offbeat, and the movie has enough color and spirit to make lively viewing, aside from the interest of seeing one of the most popular movies ever produced by Thailand's modest film industry.
Director: Olivier Assayas. With Emmanuelle Béart, Charles Berling, Isabelle Huppert, Olivier Perrier, Dominique Reymond. (180 min.)
Sterritt ** After his marriage in the early 1900s, a French clergyman gives up his religious calling and devotes himself to running his family's porcelain business. Covering a 30-year time period and etching a large number of characters, this historical drama is literate and ambitious. But its novelistic sweep doesn't suit Assayas's idiosyncratic talent, and much of it is duller and talkier than one expects from the director of adventurous pictures like "Irma Vep," still his best movie. Originally titled "Les Destineés Sentimentales." In French with English subtitles
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 harsh expressions. VD: 20 scenes with alcohol, 1 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 blend of slice-of-life realism and soft-spoken social commentary. In Farsi with English subtitles
Director: Daniel Sackheim. With Leelee Sobieski, Diane Lane, Stellan Skarsgard, Trevor Morgan. (111 min.)
Staff * When Ruby and Rhett Baker's parents die in a mysterious car accident, they are taken under the legal guardianship of Erin and Terry Glass, who happen to live in a home constructed of glass. It isn't long before Ruby - played by the ever-sullen Leelee Sobieski - begins to realize that there's something creepy about their adoptive parents. This is one of those thrillers where lightning flashes ominously in a dark house; where the girl drops the car keys just as the killer is approaching the vehicle; where there's a false ending because the killer has to be killed twice. 'The Glass House' is too transparent to be effective. By Stephen Humphries
Director: Brian Robbins. With Keanu Reeves, Diane Lane, John Hawk, D.B. Sweeney. (90 min.)
Staff **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: 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 sex gags to stock a dozen ordinary movies, but even fans may find the jokes too repetitive to be much fun.
Director: Victor Salva. With Gina Philips, Justin Long, Jonathan Breck, Eileen Breenan.
Staff * 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. 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, 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.
Director: Peter Hyams. With Justin Chambers, Tim Roth, Mena Suvari, Catherine Deneuve. (106 min.)
Staff ** 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.)
Staff *** 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
Staff **1/2 Disappointing, 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.
The Others (PG-13)
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.
u1/2 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.)
u1/2 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
u1/2 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.)
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 those 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 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: Lee Tamahori. With Morgan Freeman, Monica Potter, Michael Wincott, Jay O. Sanders. (104 min.)
Staff **1/2 Morgan Freeman is back as Washington detective Dr. Alex Cross in this well-paced thriller, which is technically the prequel to "Kiss the Girls." He's on the trail of an intelligent and cunning villain who has kidnapped the daughter of a US senator. "Along Came a Spider" is filled with surprising twists, which often evoke a smile. By Steven Savides
Staff * Stale dialogue, ridiculous twists, Morgan Freeman is the only redeeming aspect.
Director: Alejandro González Iñárritu. With Gael Garcia Bernal, Goya Toledo. (153 min.)
Sterritt *** Dogs and a cataclysmic car accident play key roles in this sometimes enticing, frequently savage Mexican drama, which weaves three stories into a sustained look at the complicated lives of a canine named Cofi and his human companions. González Iñárritu is a highly promising new talent, although his depictions of animal travails will put this movie way off-limits for many viewers. In Spanish with English subtitles
Director: Brian Helgeland. With Heath Ledger, Mark Addy, Alan Tudyk, Paul Bettany. (132 min.)
Staff **1/2 A kid from the wrong side of town (Ledger) makes his dream of becoming a knight a reality by posing as royalty. The only thing holding him back from winning the heart of a beautiful princess is his status in society. The blood and violence may be too intense for smaller kids, but this is fine family entertainment. By Heidi Wilson
Staff **1/2 Gorgeous costumes, not quite Shakespeare, alarming at times.