Director: Barry Levinson. With Bruce Willis, Cate Blanchett, Billy Bob Thornton, Troy Garity. (109 min.)
Staff ** Mildly amusing is probably not what veteran director Barry Levinson was going for when he teamed macho-man Bruce Willis with chatterbox-hypochondriac Billy Bob Thornton as odd-couple bank robbers in this quirky caper. The talented Cate Blanchett adds spice to the proceedings in her role as a runaway wife who falls for both men at once. But the Billy Bob hypochondriac jokes and Willis's omnipresent wry grins wear thin pretty fast, and the film runs out of gas. Newcomer Troy Garity, who plays the getaway driver and master of pyrotechnics, is a delight, but ultimately it's an offbeat comedy that's a few beats off. By John Kehe
Director: Catherine Breillat. With Anais Reboux, Roxane Mesquida, Libero de Rienzo. (93 min.)
Sterritt *** During a family vacation, an attractive 15-year-old falls in love with a seductive older man, sparking complicated feelings in her younger sister, an overweight girl whose ability to cope with sibling rivalry may eventually reach its limits. Breillat has probed issues of youthful sexuality before, most notably in her excellent "36 Fillette," and she's an expert at coaxing strong performances from actors with little experience. This disturbing drama has many telling moments, but it ends with an out-of-the-blue shock episode that raises more questions than it answers about the story's overall psychological perspective. Originally titled "A Ma soeur!" In French with English subtitles
Director: David Lynch. With Laura Herring, Justin Theroux, Naomi Watts, Robert Forster, Ann Miller. (147 min.)
Sterritt *** After losing her memory in a Los Angeles car crash, a young woman comes under the care of a wannabe actress who agrees to help her discover who she is and figure out why her purse is crammed with cash. That's just the bare bones of the plot, which also includes a cynical cop, a hit man who can't shoot straight, and others too numerous to mention. The movie is closer to a delirious dream than a conventional thriller. It will frustrate viewers who like stories to make instant sense, but fans of provocative puzzles will have mind-teasing fun if they can stomach Lynch's trademarked outbursts of sex and violence.
Director: Béla Tarr. With Lars Rudolph, Hanna Schygulla, Peter Fitz. (145 min.)
Sterritt **** Apocalypse is in the air as the residents of a poor Hungarian town cope with their unhappy lives, engage in petty disputes, and await the arrival of an enigmatic prince who travels with a wandering circus and may have a redeeming message to reveal. Tarr wants to stir the imagination and awaken the conscience of his audience rather than divert us with easy entertainment, so be ready for another of his dense, meditative parables filmed in long, slow-moving shots. This is as challenging as movies come, alluding to everything from philosopher Thomas Hobbes to the history of Western music. But compared with Tarr's legendary "Sátantángo," which clocks in at seven hours, it's almost a quickie. In Hungarian with English subtitles
Director: Gary Fleder. With Michael Douglas, Brittany Murphy, Sean Bean, Famke Janssen. (110 min.)
Sterritt ** Douglas plays a New York psychiatrist treating a troubled teenager who's been faking most of her afflictions for years; then his daughter gets kidnapped by a twisted criminal who's after a crucial number buried in the teen's memory. The movie has promise as a psychological thriller, but the filmmakers show far more interest in chases and shoot-outs than characters and ideas.
Director: Daniel M. Cohen. With Robert Forster, Donnie Wahlberg, Bess Armstrong, Jasmine Guy. (100 min.)
Sterritt ** An aging diamond dealer (Forster) goes on the road with a protégé (Wahlberg), who insists on behaving like the hero of a sleazy traveling-salesman joke. This modest comedy-drama begins as a mildly engaging tale of two conflicting but basically decent personalities, then loses its way in a crime-movie subplot and a less-than-believable love affair. Forster is always a pleasure to watch, though.
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. 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. "Hardball" pitches both laughs and tears. By Nathan Smith
Director: Scott Hicks. With Anthony Hopkins, Hope Davis, Anton Yelchin, Mika Boorem, David Morse. (98 min.)
Sterritt *** A mysterious stranger (Hopkins) rents a room above the home of an 11-year-old boy and his self-absorbed mother, then asks the child to keep an eye out for menacing enemies who want to capture him. The movie takes on a lot of material, from the boy's problems with bullies and romance to the stranger's clairvoyant powers. Hicks doesn't always keep the story clear and compelling, but Hopkins is in top form.
VS/N: 3 instances of innuendo, including implied rape. VV: 6 scenes including beatings. VP: 13 expressions. VD: 6 scenes with smoking, 2 scenes with drinking.
Director: John Dahl. With Steve Zahn, Leelee Sobieski, Paul Walker, Walt Goggins. (97 min.)
Staff ** A stylish but ultimately cheap thrill, "Joy Ride" is a skillful production in the service of nothing better than your average teen fright- flick experience. Two brothers play a practical joke on a truck driver, who turns out to be Freddy Kreuger on 10 wheels as he pursues his revenge to its noisy, gory conclusion (and, of course, beyond). Fasten your seat belts if you must take this ride, but as every patron of the teen genre knows, you're better off if you don't get in the car.
By Gloria Goodale
Director: Paul Cox. With Julia Blake, Charles Tingwell, Terry Norris, Robert Menzies. (94 min.)
Staff ***1/2 Yearning for the Englishwoman he loved in his youth, an aging Belgian widower finds her in Australia 45 years later where she is enduring a comfortable but thankless marriage. Director Cox draws remarkably low-key performances from his cast, suggesting the would-be lovers' mental state with deft flashback glimmers of romance and separation. By M.K. Terrell
VS/N: 4 scenes, including nudity. VV: 2 scenes, including a minor tussle. VP: 3 expressions. VD: 8 scenes of drinking.
Director: Tim Hill. With Alex Linz, Clifton Davis, Amy Hill, Orlando Brown. (86 min.)
Staff **1/2 Will Max survive his first week of junior high? Bullies take his money and toss him in a dumpster. He's also tormented by a crazed ice cream vendor, a bulldozer-driving principal, and a ninth-grader trying to make him her pet. Under the impression that he's about to move to another town, Max decides to strike back. This scattered production, which seems more like a Nickelodeon cartoon than a live action movie, often loses positive messages in the shuffle, but Linz's savvy performance as Max almost compensates. Fifth-graders may find it funny - or terrifying. By M.K. Terrell
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: Bret Rattner. With Jackie Chan, Chris Tucker, Chris Penn, Don Cheadle, Zhang Ziyi. (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. VP: 40 expressions, many harsh. VD: 3 scenes with alcohol, 3 scenes with smoking.
Director: Peter Chelsom. With John Cusack, Kate Beckinsale, Molly Shannon, Eugene Levy. (100 min.)
Sterritt ** A young man meets the woman of his dreams, but she wants a sign that destiny means them to be together, and destiny doesn't quite come through. Several years later, they're both due to marry other people, and since neither can forget the magical evening they once shared, they independently decide to give destiny one more chance. This exceedingly romantic comedy begins with flair but lapses into clichés long before the sentimental (and predictable) finale. The stars are fetching, though, and Levy is great fun in his too-small role.
Staff *** Great chemistry, stylish, no depth.
VS/N: 1 scene of implied sex, 2 instances of innuendo. VV: 1 mild instance. VP: 21 expressions. VD: 6 scenes of alcohol, 2 scenes with cigarettes.
Director: Antoine Fuqua. With Denzel Washington, Ethan Hawke, Scott Glenn, Macy Gray, Snoop Dogg. (120 min.)
Staff *** The first day on any job can be a nerve-wracking experience for anyone, but nothing can prepare ordinary cop Jake Hoyt (Hawke) for what he endures on his "training day" as he shadows a veteran narcotics cop (Washington) through the underbelly of Los Angeles. Aided by superb performers, director Fuqua has fashioned a gripping thriller in which both moral and immoral actions have consequences. By Stephen Humphries
Director: Ben Stiller. With Ben Stiller, Owen Wilson, Christine Taylor, Will Ferrell, Jerry Stiller. (95 min.)
Staff ** Imagine a collision between "Austin Powers" and "Dumb and Dumber" inside the world of fashion catwalks, and you'll have a fair idea of the tone of "Zoolander." The loose plot - it's more of a concept, actually - has Ben Stiller starring as the world's most famous supermodel who becomes unwittingly embroiled in a plot to kill the Prime Minister of Malaysia. The hit-and-miss jokes play like a "Saturday Night Live" sketch, but there are laughs aplenty. By Stephen Humphries
uu1/2 Zany, juvenile, uneven.
VS/N: 2 scenes of implied sex, 1 scene with innuendo. VV: 13 scenes of cartoonish violence. VP: 19 expressions, sometimes harsh. VD: 6 scenes with drinking, 1 scene with smoking, 2 scenes with drugs.
Director: Lawrence Guterman. With Jeff Goldblum, voices of Tobey Maguire, Susan Sarandon. (87 min.)
Sterritt **The action centers on wicked cats who want to take over the world and resourceful dogs who want to save us all. The plot pants so hard to please all conceivable tastes - touching every base from "Babe: Pig in the City" and "101 Dalmatians" - that it makes less sense than the average pet-food commercial.
uu1/2 A Casual joy, not quite purrfect, witty in parts.
Director: Peter Chelsom. With Warren Beatty, Diane Keaton, Gary Shandling, Goldie Hawn (106 min.)
Staff **1/2 Mona and Griffin, Ellie and Porter are the "oldest friends." But when Mona (Hawn) discovers her husband is cheating on her with a redhead, she sets off a domino effect of midlife crises within the group of friends. There are so many twists and turns in this light-hearted, sometimes hilarious, comedy that it's a wonder they are untangled by the movie's end.
By Katie Nesse
Director: Gerard Stembridge. With Kate Hudson, Stuart Townsend, Frances O'Connor. (105 min.)
Staff **1/2 Adam doesn't mean any harm as he woos a bookworm and a bored housewife Bradley - both of them sisters of his fiancée. In a storytelling technique dating back to at least to "Citizen Kane" and "Rashomon," we see each sister's version of the tale. Writer-director Stembridge's light touch and his comedy ensemble work to keep things fresh. By M.K. Terrell