Director: Jean-Pierre Jeunet. With Audrey Tautou, Mathieu Kassovitz, Rufus, Arthus de Penguern, Yolande Moreau. (121 min.)
Sterritt *** See review, page 15.
Director: Laurent Firode. With Audrey Tautou, Faudel, Eric Feldman, Irene Ismailoff, Eric Savin. (96 min.)
Sterritt ** A department-store clerk, an elderly woman, and a sidewalk philosopher are among the diverse characters of this French fantasy-romance about lives that intersect by chance, in keeping with the notion that a hurricane in the Pacific might be caused by a butterfly beating its wings on the Atlantic days before. The movie has magical moments, but it's too contrived to gather much comic or dramatic power. Originally titled "Le battement d'aile du papillon." In French with English subtitles
Director: Joel Coen. With Billy Bob Thornton, Frances McDormand, James Gandolfini. (116 min.)
Sterritt **** See review, page 15.
Director: Pete Docter. With voices of John Goodman, Jennifer Tilly, Billy
Crystal, Mary Gibbs, Steve Buscemi, James Coburn, Frank Oz. (90 min.)
Sterritt *** See review, page 15.
Director: Hal Ashby. With Warren Beatty, Julie Christie, Goldie Hawn, Lee Grant, Jack Warden, Carrie Fisher. (112 min.)
Sterritt ** Beatty plays a woman-chaser who goes into the hairdressing business for its romantic possibilities, but manages to lose all his favorite lovers on a single fateful night. He and Robert Towne cowrote the screenplay for this popular 1975 comedy, aiming for an ambitious blend of sexual and political satire that the finished product doesn't quite pull off.
Director: Richard Linklater. With Ethan Hawke, Uma Thurman, Robert Sean Leonard. (86 min.)
Sterritt *** A small-time filmmaker, a self-deluded drug dealer, and a rising young lawyer meet in a motel room 10 years after their high-school graduation, and smoldering old conflicts soon disrupt their friendly get-together. This offbeat comedy-drama is written like a play - three characters, one setting - but Linklater keeps it lively with imaginative camerawork and razor-sharp editing. There's little to like about the trio of people he lays bare for us, but their secrets have a morbid fascination that's hard to resist.
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. Cate Blanchett adds spice in her role as a runaway wife who falls for both men at once. Ultimately, it's an offbeat comedy that's a few beats off. By John Kehe
Director: Gary Fleder. With Michael Douglas, Brittany Murphy, Sean Bean, Jennifer Esposito, Oliver Platt, 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.
Directors: The Hughes Brothers. With Johnny Depp, Heather Graham, Ian Holm, Robbie Coltrane. (137 min.)
Sterritt *** Depp plays a 19th-century police inspector whose hunt for Jack the Ripper smokes out an enormous number of complications. The movie works well as a straight-out horror yarn, proving that the Hughes Brothers are more versatile than their previous "ghetto pictures" suggest. But it lacks far more interesting speculations on mysteries of myth and history, space and time, good and evil, life and death.
VS/N: 7 scenes, including sex and nudity. VV: 26 highly gory scenes. VP: 24 harsh expressions. VD: 15 scenes with alcohol, 7 scenes with cigarettes, 5 scenes with drugs.
Director: John Fawcett. With Emily Perkins, Katharine Isabelle, Mimi Rogers, Kris Lemche. (108 min.)
Sterritt *** Ginger and Brigitte are sisters who pride themselves on being different, so when other teens head for the dating and party scenes, they sit around the house thinking up gory ways to die. Then a mysterious creature invades their neighborhood, biting Ginger and turning her into a budding werewolf. (Hence the title.) This sardonic thriller blends teen-pic satire with finely tuned fright and a dark-toned view of teenage sexuality. If you can take its explicit violence, it's a monsterfest that rarely loses it bite.
Director: Patrice Chereau. With Kerry Fox, Mark Rylance, Timothy Spall, Clare Wayland. (119 min.)
Sterritt ** A man and woman meet every Wednesday in London for quick sessions of impersonal sex, and this murky drama explores the effects these escapades have on their otherwise separate lives. Based on fiction by Hanif Kureishi, the movie plays like a warmed-over "Last Tango in Paris," with more explicit sex but a lower level of originality and acting skill.
Director: Iain Softley. With Kevin Spacey, Jeff Bridges, Alfre Woodard, Mary McCormack. (120 min.)
Sterritt * Spacey plays Prot, an amiable oddball who claims to be from a planet called K-PAX and is promptly whisked off to a mental hospital. There, he helps other patients - he's the Patch Adams of the extraterrestrial set-until psychiatrist Bridges uses hypnosis and sleuthing to investigate his life and uncover his past. The story acknowledges suffering and grief, but the filmmakers soften every hard fact with slick camera work, silky-smooth editing, and syrupy music. The result is exactly the kind of starry-eyed escapist fantasy that Prot is suspected of having. There's a difference between movies that lift our thoughts and movies that put our heads in the clouds.
Staff **1/22 Lacks courage, confused, puts a smile on your face, intriguing.
VS/N: 1 scene with slight nudity. VV: 2 scenes, including a mugging. VP: 1 expression. VD: 3 scenes with alcohol, some scenes with prescription drugs.
Director: Rod Lurie. With Robert Redford, James Gandolfini, Mark Ruffalo, Delroy Lindo. (120 min.)
Staff ** Film critic-turned-director Rod Lurie seems to be trying to create a prison drama that recalls "The Shawshank Redemption." The prisoners this time are soldiers, including a legendary three-star general (Redford) serving a 10-year sentence. He soon finds himself rallying the men to oppose the ruthless colonel who runs the military prison. The film is often entertaining, but it's hampered by an unmerited sense of self-importance. By Stephen Humphries
Director: Irwin Winkler. With Kevin Kline, Kristen Scott Thomas, Hayden Christensen. (124 min.)
Staff *** "Life as a House" has a predictable story line, but it's compelling with fresh twists. A lonely, eccentric architect (Kevin Kline) is diagnosed with terminal cancer. To atone for a lifetime of mistakes, he builds his dream home, enlisting his estranged and rebellious teenage son (Christensen), and the help of his ex-wife (Scott Thomas). Building the house becomes a metaphor for a life rebuilt and relationships restored. The lead actors give credible, real, meaningful performances, and moments of delightful humor offset the drama. The subject matter, sexual content, and language probably make this film better suited to a more mature audience. By Steven Savides
Staff *** Enriching, sad but inspiring, preachy.
VS/N: 9 scenes of sex and graphic innuendo. VV: 2 scenes. VP: 31 harsh expressions. VD: 1 scene of alcohol, 4 scenes with cigarettes, 4 scenes with substance abuse.
Director: Charles Laughton. With Robert Mitchum, Shelley Winters, Lillian Gish, James Gleason. (93 min.)
Sterritt **** Mitchum gives one of cinema's greatest performances as a demented man who's one part preacher, one part murderer, and totally determined to track down a stash of stolen loot in the possession of two kids. First released in 1955, this is the only film Laughton ever directed, and he packed it with a mixture of eerie chills, ingenious suspense, and absurdist humor. It's a genuine classic.
Director: Penny Marshall. With Drew Barrymore, Steve Zahn, Brittany Murphy, Adam Garcia. (132 min.)
Staff **1/2 Beverly Donofrio (Drew Barrymore) is an ordinary teenager with an extraordinary sense of destiny. When she becomes pregnant at the age of 15 and reluctantly marries her young lover (Steve Zahn), she embarks on a 20-year quest to be a good mother and assert herself as a formidable writer. Based on the 1990 memoir of Beverly Donofrio, this film is a touching look at the relationships and events that shaped one woman's life. By Steven Savides
Staff *** Full of pathos, satisfying, well-acted.
VS/N: 2 scenes innuendo. VV: 4 scenes, including a mild fight. VP: 15 expressions. VD: 7 scenes with alcohol, 7 scenes with cigarettes, 3 scenes with drugs.
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. This exceedingly romantic comedy begins with flair, but lapses into clichés before the sentimental finale.
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: Steve Beck. With Tony Shalhoub, Embeth Davitz, F. Murray Abraham, Shannon Elizabeth. (90 min.)
Sterritt * A single dad with two kids inherits a house populated with multiple spooks, each trapped its own chamber by magic spells. Pandemonium soon breaks out. The thriller's one good performance is given by the house, full of ominous inscriptions, inscrutable corridors, and fiendish machines that stump even the ghost-friendly experts who join the family there.
Director: Antoine Fuqua. With Denzel Washington, Ethan Hawke, Scott Glenn, Macy Gray. (120 min.)
Staff *** Nothing can prepare ordinary cop Jake Hoyt for what he endures on his "training day" as he shadows a veteran narcotics cop in 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
Staff *** Sweaty, disturbing, a moral struggle.
VS/N: 3 scenes of implied sex, 1 scene with nudity. VV: 12 often gory scenes. VP: 268 harsh expressions. VD: 4 scenes of alcohol, 9 scenes with cigarettes, 2 scenes with drugs.
After running in theaters, foreign and independent films may be available on home video. Good sources include Facets Multimedia at www.facets.org; Kino International at www.kino.com; and www.Reel.com.
Directors: Andrew Adamson, Vicky Jenson. With voices of Mike Myers, Cameron Diaz, Eddie Murphy. (90 min.)
Sterritt *** An amiable ogre, a talkative donkey, and a domineering princess set off on a fairy-tale quest that brings out the hidden decency of the monster. The story has rollicking moments and animation fans will find a generous amount of fun.
Staff *** Irreverent, fairy tale turned inside out.
Director: Robert Luketic. With Reese Witherspoon, Luke Wilson, Selma Blair, Victor Garber. (94 min.)
Sterritt ** When her boyfriend proposes breaking up instead of getting married, a ditsy sorority girl follows him to Harvard Law School and continues her courtship on his own turf. Witherspoon fills the screen with bright-eyed bounce. The rest of the cast is as forgettable as the flimsy story.
Staff **1/2 Light-hearted, perky, delightful.
Director: John Stockwell. With Kirsten Dunst, Jay Hernandez, Bruce Davison. (95 min.)
Staff ** This tale is about a love affair between a rebellious rich girl and a Hispanic boy who travels four hours a day to attend her school. The film avoids overplaying their cultural differences and there's a pleasing naturalistic feel throughout. Dunst also impresses with the energy and the nuances she brings to a surprisingly sexually explicit role. It's a pity there isn't enough of a compelling plot to capitalize on a promising premise.
By Stephen Humphries