Director: Charles Shyer. With Hilary Swank, Jonathan Pryce, Adrien Brody, Simon Baker, Christopher Walken, Brian Cox, Joely Richardson. (120 min.)
Sterritt ** Check off the ingredients for an old-fashioned historical melodrama: an orphan with noble blood, a secretly sinful churchman, an imperious queen, a mystic who may or may not know the future, and a piece of spectacular jewelry that becomes the center of an explosive 18th-century scandal. This sort of material goes back to D.W. Griffith and beyond, and Swank's persona seems too modern to compete with Lillian Gish on her own turf. The movie has almost enough corny appeal to offset its lack of originality, though, and Walken is fun as Cagliostro, the court's great prognosticator and all-around weirdo.
Director: John Moore. With Gene Hackman, Owen Wilson, David Keith, Joaquim de Almeida. (105 min.)
Staff ** See review, page 15
Director: Peter Weir. With Richard Chamberlain, David Gulpilil, Olivia
Hamnett. (106 min.)
Sterritt **** A corporate lawyer in Sydney, Australia, agrees to defend a group of Aboriginal men against a murder charge, only to find that his clients are reluctant to discuss some aspects of their lives. Probing deeper, he learns that tribal mysteries aren't as absent from the modern Australian city as he thought, and before long his findings take on increasingly apocalyptic implications. Weir had a truly magical touch in early films like this 1977 masterpiece, which offers a transfixing excursion into the "dream time" of Australian myth.
Directors: Charles Broune Jr., Joel Holt. With Jayne Mansfield, Mickey Hargitay. (90 min.)
Sterritt * Oddity alert! Made in 1968, not long after Mansfield's death, this tacky exploitation flick combines promotional footage shot during the actress's career - most of it during a European sightseeing tour - with coy shots of
"shocking" material (stripteases, drag queens) and a minidocumentary about the car crash that ended her life. The results are unbelievably tedious, but Mansfield buffs may find it intermittently worthwhile.
Director: Jean-Pierre Jeunet. With Audrey Tautou, Mathieu Kassovitz, Rufus, Arthus de Penguern. (121 min.)
Sterritt *** Amélie is a waitress who anonymously becomes an eager do-gooder for people who never asked her to barge into their lives. Jeunet is never happy with a scene until he's directed it half to death with manic camera work and editing. But Tautou's acting is amiable enough to shine through any cinematic fuss. In French with English subtitles
Staff ***1/2 Unconventional, delightful, mischievous, visually stunning.
VS/N: 8 scenes with implied sex, innuendo and brief nudity. VV: 4 mild scenes of comic violence. VP: None. VD: 9 scenes with alcohol, 1 scene with a cigarette.
Director: Gil Junger. With Martin Lawrence, Tom Wilkinson, Marsha Thompson, Vincent Regan. (95 min.)
Staff ** Jamal (Martin Lawrence), a dispirited worker at Medieval World, a run-down amusement park, reaches for a medallion in the park's moat and hurtles back in time to 14thcentury England. There, his street smarts and a previously hidden streak of courage mobilize a ragtag bunch of rebels to depose the corrupt king. The movie is a lot better than you think it's going to be, thanks to Lawrence's energy, witty lines, and a good-natured take on old clichés. By M.K. Terrell.
Director: Chris Columbus. With Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Robbie Coltrane, Maggie Smith. (150 min.)
Sterritt *** This richly produced fantasy stays true to the letter and spirit of J.K. Rowling's novel about an 11-year-old boy who discovers he's a natural-born wizard. The picture's best assets are its marvelous special effects and superbly chosen cast. Its worst liabilities are John Williams's bombastic music and a too-long running time that could have used an extra wave of the film editor's wand.
Staff **1/2 Stirs childhood memories, a bit ordinary, enchanting, top-notch effects.
VS/N: None. VV: 8 scenes, quite intense for small children. VP: 1 mild expression. VD: 1 scene with alcohol.
Director: David Mamet. With Gene Hackman, Rebecca Pidgeon, Delroy Lindo, Danny DeVito. (107 min.)
Sterritt *** An aging thief (Hackman) assembles his accomplices and wife for an ambitious crime. It's fun watching the master criminal turn his worst mistakes into crafty comebacks, just as Mamet turns the most familiar ingredients into unpredictable jolts and reverse-twist surprises.
Staff **1/2 Inscrutable, crisply directed, tired plot.
VS/N: 1 scene of implied sex. VV: 2 scenes. VP: 92 harsh expressions. VD: 15 scenes with cigarettes, 3 scenes with alcohol.
Director: Irwin Winkler. With Kevin Kline, Kristen Scott Thomas, Hayden Christensen. (124 min.)
Sterritt *** 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 and the help of his ex-wife. Building the house becomes a metaphor for a life rebuilt and relationships restored. The lead actors give credible, real, meaningful performances. 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: Joel Coen. With Billy Bob Thornton, Frances McDormand, James Gandolfini. (116 min.)
Sterritt **** Thornton gives an Oscar-worthy performance as a 1940s barber who's unhappy about the affair his wife is having. The plot thickens when he arranges a blackmail scheme to take revenge. This is an affectionate homage to the "film noir" genre, acted to near-perfection by a choice cast.
Staff ***1/2 Sustained tension, well-paced, impeccable acting, atmospheric.
VS/N: None. VV: 3 scenes, including graphic violence. VP: 38 mostly mild expressions. VD: 5 scenes with alcohol, 32 scenes with cigarettes.
Director: Pete Docter. With voices of John Goodman, Jennifer Tilly, Billy Crystal, Steve Buscemi. (90 min.)
Sterritt *** The setting is a monster-populated city where the monsters are more scared of kids than kids are of them. The characters are as sweet as they are ridiculous, and the story is told with gentleness and tact. But many of the story's grownup touches - a monster love affair, references to old movies - are more calculated than clever.
Staff ***1/2 Warm and fuzzy, Not as good as "Toy Story," inventive, well-voiced.
VS/N: None. VV: 10 scenes, of comic violence. VP: None. VD: None.
Director: David Atkins. With Steve Martin, Laura Dern. Helena Bonham Carter. (95 min.)
Staff **1/2 There is comedy in "Novocaine," a film-noir tale about a dentist who becomes a murder suspect, but it's pitch black. One immediately empathizes with him during his plight as he runs from both cops and the real murderer. This is an unconventional film, but director Atkins manages to get the difficult tone right. By Stephen Humphries
Director: Penny Marshall. With Drew Barrymore, Steve Zahn, Brittany Murphy. (132 min.)
Staff **1/2 Barrymore plays an ordinary teenager who becomes pregnant at 15 and reluctantly marries her young lover. The 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 of innuendo. VV: 4 scenes, including a mild fight. VP: 15 expressions. VD: 7 scenes with alcohol, 7 scenes with cigarettes, 3 scenes with drugs.
Directors: Peter Farrelly, Bobby Farrelly. With Jack Black, Gwyneth Paltrow. (110 min.)
Staff ** The main character judges women by their physical beauty, until a self-help guru makes him blind to everything but a person's inner worth. Under this spell, Hal thinks overweight Rosemary is gorgeous until reality kicks in again. Usually we view her through Hal's idealizing eyes, contradicting the movie's effort to convey an enlightened message. In all, this comedy is sheer compromise, only half as funny and constructive as it wants to be.
Director: Edward Burns. With Edward Burns, Heather Graham, Stanley Tucci, Brittany Murphy. (107 min.)
Staff * Edward Burns's latest film lacks an anchor and a rudder as he follows the romantic liaisons and infidelities of an assorted group of New Yorkers. It's all meant to give an insight into the complexities of love, but, by the film's end, even Burns admits that he doesn't have any answers. So why bother? By Stephen Humphries
Director: Tony Scott. With Brad Pitt, Robert Redford, Catherine McCormack, Omid Jalili. (126 min.)
Staff ** On the verge of retirement, veteran CIA man Nathan Muir (Redford) discovers that his protégé Tom Bishop (Pitt) is about to be executed in China. Worse, the CIA aren't going to save their operative. While trying to mount a covert rescue operation, Muir stalls for time by telling his superiors about how he trained Bishop. These flashback scenes, though an intriguing indictment of the CIA's methods and assassinations, detract from the tension of the main story. But Redford's old-school, Cary Grant-like charm will keep audiences engaged. By Stephen Humphries
Director: James Wong. With Jet Lee, Carla Gugino, Delroy Lindo, Jason Statham. (80 min.)
Staff **1/2 According to the plot of "The One," there is a parallel version of each one of us in 125 parallel universes. A megalomaniac decides to gain power by killing his alter egos. As the action hurtles toward a predictable conclusion, you may have to look hard for a spiritual dimension, but it's there. By M.K. Terrell
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 in its own chamber by magic spells. Pandemonium soon breaks out. The thriller's one good performance is given by the house.
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. This is 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.
Director: Michael Tolin. With Freddie Prinze Jr., Jessica Biel, Bruce Davidson, Brian Dennehy. (108 min.)
Staff ** When Ryan Dunne isn't mowing the lawn of his rich girlfriend, Tenley Parish (Jessica Biel), he's playing on a Cape Cod League baseball team. 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: Michael Bay. With Ben Affleck, Kate Beckinsale, Cuba Gooding Jr., Josh Hartnett. (182 min.)
Sterritt * Two high-flying pilots and a spirited nurse are among the Americans whose lives are disrupted by the Japanese air attack that brought the United States into World War II. This complex historical subject is played entirely for action, romance, and spectacle, reducing cataclysmic world events to guts-and-glory clichés.
Staff *** Disappointing, overlong, engrossing.
Director: Jafir Panahi. With Fereshteh Sadr Orafai, Maryiam Parvin Almani. (91 min.)
Sterritt **** A pregnant woman in despair, two women running from a prison sentence, and a grandmother who dreads her family's reaction to the birth of a baby girl are among the main characters of this suspenseful and ingeniously directed drama about problems of women in Iran today. In Farsi with English subtitles
Staff *** Naturalistic, unsettling, unsentimental.