Mega Movie Guide 2001
Director: Steven Spielberg. With Haley Joel Osment, Frances O'Connor, Jude Law, William Hurt. (140 min.)
Sterritt *** The time is the distant future, and 11-year-old David is a new kind of android whose "artificial" intelligence is programmed with "authentic" emotions. But what if David's human love proves incompatible with his robotic nature? Spielberg took over this fantasy from the late Stanley Kubrick, but his own approach favors the pure fantasy styles of "E.T." and "Pinocchio," bringing the results closer to a high-tech joyride than a thought-provoking parable. Be warned that the violence-prone Spielberg of "Saving Private Ryan" and "Schindler's List" is also on display.
Staff ** Pointless, shallow characters, stale.
VS/N: 1 scene of implied sex. VV: 20 scenes, one quite violent torture scene. VP: 1 expression, mild. VD: None.
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.
VS/N: 10 scenes, half innuendo. VV: 8 scenes. VP: 10 mostly mild expressions. VD: 12 scenes with alcohol, 1 with drugs.
Director: Sydney McCartney. With Nicole Bohan, Melissa Bolger, Sarah Bolger, Orla Brady. (98 min.)
Staff *** A Protestant woman marries into a Catholic family in a small Irish village, and consequently agrees to raise her daughter Catholic. But when the village priest insists that their eldest daughter attend a Catholic school, the woman flees with both her little girls. The family's strife soon seeps into the town and the undercurrent of tension between the two groups comes to the surface. While the plot is nothing new, the genuine acting in this true story brings a freshness to an old problem. By Lane Hartill
Staff *** Nuanced, inspiring, overwrought.
VS/N: 1 implied sex scene. VV: 6 mild scenes. VP: 16 mild and harsh expressions. VD: 3 scenes with cigarettes, 7 with alcohol.
Director: Gerard Stembridge. With Kate Hudson, Stuart Townsend, Frances O'Connor. (105 min.)
Staff **1/2 Adam (Townsend) doesn't mean any harm as he woos bookworm O'Connor and bored housewife Bradley - both of them sisters of his fiancee (Hudson). In a storytelling technique dating back to at least '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. But what this movie says about infidelity will prove more than a little dismaying to viewers. By M.K. Terrell.
VS/N: 6 sex scenes, brief nudity. VV: None. VP: 48 often-harsh expressions. VD: 13 scenes of drinking, 4 scenes with smoking.
Director: Billy Bob Thornton. With Matt Damon, Henry Thomas, Penélope Cruz, Rubén Blades, Robert Patrick, Sam Shepherd, Lucas Black. (116 min.)
Staff **1/2 An all-but-orphaned Texan (Damon) who hungers for horses and a land without borders, flees to Mexico with his childhood pal where he finds lessons in love, death, and revenge. Or perhaps they find him, in this morally wrought drama. At times, the themes loom like Plato's absolutes, larger than the vast expanses. Occasional surprises in the camerawork and direction barely keep the adventure from slipping into tiresome epic formula. Lucas Black shines in his role as the young and pesty tagalong. By Samar Farah
VS/N: 3 scenes, no nudity. VV: 10 scenes, including torture, stabbing, fights. VP: 42 expressions, mostly mild. VD: 3 scenes with drinking, 12 scenes with smoking.
Director: Lee Tamahori. With Morgan Freeman, Monica Potter, Michael Wincott, Jay O. Sanders, Dylan Baker, Raoul Ganeev. (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 - Gary Soneji (Michael Wincott) - who has kidnapped the daughter of a US senator. "Along Came a Spider" is filled with surprising twists, which often evoke a smile. It contains scenes of fairly graphic violence, including one car crash and several shootings. By Steven Savides
Staff * Stale dialogue, ridiculous twists, Morgan Freeman is about the only redeeming aspect of this film.
VS/N: 1 reference to sex. VV: 9 instances, with mostly brief gun shots. VP: 9 harsh expressions. VD: 1 cigarette.
Director: Jean-Pierre Jeunet. With Audrey Tautou, Mathieu Kassovitz, Rufus, Arthus de Penguern. (121 min.)
Sterritt *** Amélie is a waitress who anonymously helps a stranger, observes the happiness this brings him, and 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 the lighthearted plot of this romantic French comedy balances his overeager style, and Tautou's acting is amiable enough to shine through any amount of 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: Piyush Dinker Pandya. With Deep Katdare, Purva Bedi, Ronobir Lahiri, Anil Kumar, Kal Penn. (100 min.)
Sterritt ** A loosely knit group of Indian-American students pursue learning, chase romance, and come to terms with their Indian heritage in this boisterous comedy set in an American university. The subject is likable and the story has possibilities, but why does every single performance sink into a self-indulgent mess of hammy overacting?
Director: Les Mayfield. With Colin Farrell, Scott Caan, Ali Larter, Timothy Dalton, Kathy Bates. (90 min.)
Staff DUD This depiction of the rise of notorious outlaw Jesse James wasn't meant to be overly serious, but Colin Farrell and his dastardly gang have all the screen presence of a bunch of frat boys playing cowboys and learning how to ride horses. Comparing the film to "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid," as Warner Brothers has done, is like comparing "Rambo" to "Apocalypse Now." Except that "Rambo" actually made a splash. This dud will be forgotten by fall. By Matthew MacLean
Director: J.B. Rogers. With Jason Biggs, Shannon Elizabeth, Chris Klein, Alyson Hannigan, Mena Suvari, Natasha Lyonne, Tara Reid, Seann William Scott. (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 teenpic sentimentality to cleanse the palate. It delivers all the raunch and ribaldry its designated audience could hope for, but others may find it more deliberately disgusting than effervescently outrageous.
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.
Director: Joe Roth. With Julia Roberts, John Cusack, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Billy Crystal, Christopher Walken, Alan Arkin, Hank Azaria, Stanley Tucci. (109 min.)
Sterritt * To build enthusiasm for an expensive production, a Hollywood publicist (Crystal) asks a feuding movie-star couple (Cusack and Zeta-Jones) to fake a reconciliation, helped by an assistant (Roberts) who has her own personal stakes in the situation. This story is complicated enough to look interesting on paper, but it falls flat on screen, weighed down by far-fetched plot twists and touches of needlessly crude comedy. Not even the stellar cast can sweeten this sour-hearted satire.
Staff ** Formulaic, funny (at times), half-baked.
VS/N: 6 scenes of innuendo, 1 scene of implied sex. VV: 3 scenes, including a fight. VP: 31 harsh expressions. VD: 1 scene with smoking, 9 scenes with drinking, 2 scenes with pilltaking.
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: Barry Levinson. With Barry McEvoy, Brian O'Byrne, Anna Friel, Billy Connolly, Ruth McCabe, Pauline McLynn. (103 min.)
Staff *** Two barbers (McEvoy and O'Byrne) meet while cutting hair in an asylum and hatch a plan to sell hairpieces. Before they can get the exclusive franchise for Northern Ireland, however, they must get past their religious differences, a rival outfit (Toupee or Not Toupee), the Royal Constabulary, the IRA, a wig-hungry rottweiler, and a spunky girlfriend (Friel). McEvoy's understated screenplay is full of wit and subtle surprises. By M.K Terrell
VS/N: 2 scenes, including male backside nudity. VV: 6 scenes including man biting an ear. VP: 126 mostly harsh expressions. VD: 4 scenes with drinking, 9 scenes with smoking.
Director: Luis Mandoki. With Jennifer Lopez, Jim Caviezel, Sonia Braga, Shirley Knight. (104 min.)
Staff ** When a stranger (Caviezel) saves South Chicago cop (Lopez) from a dangerous situation, she thinks she may have met the perfect man until she tries to find out about his past. This unconventional love story captivates early on, but even Lopez's surprisingly good acting can't rescue this slow-paced yarn. By Joshua S. Burek
Staff ** Contrived, emotional, sweet moments.
VS/N: 1 mild sex scene. 3 instances of innuendo and several sexual references. VV: 7 scenes, including a fistfight. VP: 62 often- harsh expressions. VD: 3 scenes of smoking, 3 scenes of drinking.
Director: Luke Greenfield. With Rob Schneider, Colleen Haskell, Edward Asner, Cloris Leachman. (77 min.)
Sterritt * After a car crash, a mad doctor patches up a bumbling young man with spare parts from animals, and the patient starts reacting to human situations with beastly behavior. This comic fantasy has amusing bits of social satire, but they're crowded out of the stable by lots of bathroom and barnyard humor.
Staff * Lazy humor, featherweight, bananas, base.
VS/N: 7 scenes of innuendo. VV: 13 scenes of comic violence. VP: 18 expressions. VD: 4 scenes with drinking, 2 with smoking.
Directors: Alan Cumming and Jennifer Jason-Leigh. With Alan Cumming, Jennifer Jason-Leigh, Jennifer Beals, Kevin Kline, Phoebe Cates. (115 min.)
Staff ** A successful young novelist (Cummings) and his actress wife (Jason-Leigh) celebrate their sixth wedding anniversary by inviting a few select guests, welcome and unwelcome, to their home. Prodded by alcohol and drug-taking, they all reveal their hidden hopes and fears. Cumming and Jason-Leigh codirect themselves and a passel of stars in effective cameo roles. Contains brutally frank and sexually explicit talk, but also some worthwhile insights into the contemporary male-female dynamic. By Gregory M. Lamb
Staff ** Drags a bit, baroque, actor's picnic.
VS/N: 3 scenes of innuendo, 4 scenes with female nudity, 2 nongraphic sex scenes. VV: 2 scenes. VP: 85 mostly harsh expressions. VD: 1 scene with marijuana, 8 with drinking.
Director: Peter Howitt. With Tim Robbins, Ryanne Phillippe, Claire Forlani, Rachael Leigh Cook. (120 min.)
Staff **1/2Robbins (the man you love to mistrust) plays a Bill Gates-type computer magnate fending off the Federal Trade Commission while creating a new system to monopolize global communications. When his newly recruited programming whiz (Phillippe) realizes his boss is more sinister than even the government suspects, he sets out to expose him. Flashy editing and visuals make this a fun ride, but can't overcome the sheer unbelievability of it all. Still, it's refreshing to see young computer geniuses portrayed as something resembling normal people. By M.K. Terrell
Director: Francis Ford Coppola. With Martin Sheen, Marlon Brando, Robert Duvall, Dennis Hopper, Harrison Ford, Laurence Fishburne, Christian Marquand. (196 min.)
Sterritt **** Coppola has restored 53 minutes of material trimmed from the original 1979 release of "Apocalypse Now," his legendary drama about the Vietnam War, and reedited the movie as a whole. The story, based on Joseph Conrad's haunting 1898 novella "Heart of Darkness," hasn't changed: A young soldier (Sheen) travels up a jungle river to find and assassinate a renegade military officer (Brando) who's gone insane and established a private kingdom ruled by terror. The film is episodic and uneven, but it has moments of great emotional power and stands as a key document for anyone hoping to understand American ambivalence toward the Vietnam War and its soul-searching aftermath.
Director: Bruno de Almeida. With Amalia Rodrigues, David Byrne. (90 min.)
Sterritt *** Rock star Byrne introduces this tuneful look at the life of singer Rodrigues, an internationally renowned interpreter of Portugal's impassioned "fado" songs, so called because of their preoccupation with melancholy turns of fate. A wide range of concert and media clips lend vigor and variety to the documentary. In English and Portuguese with English subtitles
Directors: Gary Trousdale and Kirk Wise. With the voices of Michael J. Fox, James Garner. (96 min.)
Staff **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 hardly a classic Disney cartoon. By Stephen Humphries
Staff **1/2 Exciting, heartening, energetic.
VS/N: None. VV: 7 scenes. VP: None. VD: 6 scenes with smoking.
Director: Miike Takashi. With Ryo Ishibashi, Eihi Shiina, Jun Kunimura, Tetsu Sawaki. (115 min.)
Sterritt ** A middle-age widower takes a cue from the entertainment media and "auditions" women who might make good romantic partners. His selection turns out to be a very strange candidate, however, whose behavior grows more ominous the more he learns about her. The most startling aspect of this slow-building horror movie is how unexpectedly it morphs from a quietly romantic suspense yarn to a flat-out tale of terror that may have some viewers hiding under their seats. Stay far away unless you're in the mood for very violent surprises. In Japanese with English subtitles
Director: John Singleton. With Tyrese Gibson, Ving Rhames, Taraji P. Henson, Omar Gooding, Snoop Dogg. (132 min.)
Sterritt *** This melodrama centers on a young African-American named Jody who lives with his 36-year-old mother and her new boyfriend. The movie begins on an intellectual note, stating a psychologist's theory that years of racism have made many black men see themselves as overgrown children. This gives us a clue to Jody's way of life, and kicks off the Oedipus theme that gallops through the story. Singleton still has a keen eye for harrowing details of urban life.
Staff **1/2 Insightful, compassionate, grave.
VS/N: 13 quite graphic instances. VV: 11 scenes including fights and shootings. VP: 451 very harsh expressions. VD: 20 scenes with smoking, 8 scenes with drinking, 5 scenes with marijuana.
Director: Jean-Luc Godard. With Anna Karina, Sami Frey, Claude Brasseur. (97 min.)
Sterritt **** "All you need to make a movie is a girl and a gun," quipped French filmmaker Jean-Luc Godard, but in this mercurial crime-tragicomedy-romance he shows that exhilarating doses of style, imagination, and sheer energy also come in handy. Made in 1964, this isn't a legendary Godard masterpiece like "Breathless" and "Contempt," which have also been successfully reissued. It offers 10 times more pleasures than the average picture, though. Originally titled "Bande à parte." In French with English subtitles
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: Dariush Mehrjui. With Ezatollah Entezami, Gohar Kheirandish, Bita Farrahi, Ferdos Kaviani. (113 min.)
Sterritt *** After learning that her husband has taken a second wife, a young Iranian woman seeks spiritual comfort by helping a series of strangers with illnesses and other challenges in their lives. This well-produced Iranian drama has a poignant story and a fascinating theme, but it doesn't scale the emotional heights or plumb the psychological depths that Mehrjui reached in his earlier "Leilah," a richer and more engrossing film. In Farsi with English subtitles
Director: Majid Majidi. With Hossein Abedini, Mohammad Reza Naji, Zahra Bahrami, Hossein Rahimi. (105 min.)
Sterritt **** The unglamorous setting is an Iranian construction site, and the unlikely hero is a young Iranian man who falls in love with an Afghan woman after a string of misadventures with an illegal immigrant who works alongside him. Majidi became one of Iran's most internationally famed filmmakers with "Children of Heaven" and "The Color of Paradise," but he far surpasses those sappy melodramas with this expressively filmed story of rivalry, romance, and cultural conflict. In Farsi with English subtitles
Director: John Moore. With Gene Hackman, Owen Wilson, David Keith, Joaquim de Almeida. (105 min.)
Staff ** Comedian Owen Wilson in the role of a naval navigator whose plane is shot down over Bosnia? You'd be forgiven for thinking that there was a casting-agent strike going on in Hollywood. Fortunately Wilson's likeability goes a long way toward tempering the film's Rambo-like heroics as he evades Serbs on his way to a rendevouz with a rescue team. First-time director Moore does a sterling job with stylish camerawork, but cartoonish characterization and the score's unsubtle attempts to elicit a patriotic response from the audience are a liability. By Stephen Humphries
Staff **1/2 "The Fugitive" goes to war, gripping, melodramatic end, well-acted.
VS/N: None. VV: 6 gory scenes. VP: 18 mild expressions. VD: 7 scenes with smoking.
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.
VS/N: 9 scenes of innuendo, 1 with implied sex. VV: 8 scenes. VP: 42 harsh expressions. VD: 2 scenes with drinking.
Director: Abel Ferrara. With Matthew Modine, Claudia Schiffer, Dennis Hopper, Béatrice Dalle. (100 min.)
Sterritt ** A movie star relocates from Hollywood to Miami, develops contrasting relationships with two different women named Annie, and suffers the consequences of a night so dissolute that he retains no memory of what happened. This isn't a Ferrara classic like "King of New York," but even his less- memorable pictures carry an eccentric kick no other director could duplicate.
Director: Ted Demme. With Johnny Depp, Penelope Cruz, Ray Liotta, Paul Reubens, Rachel Griffiths, Franka Potente. (119 min.)
Sterritt ** The fact-based story of George Jung, a small-time California crook who became a big-time associate of Pablo Escobar's notorious Colombia drug cartel. The story is inherently stale, especially since Martin Scorsese did it better in the 1990 hit "GoodFellas," but Depp evokes surprising emotional depth with a characteristically subtle performance, and Demme elicits fine acting from the strong supporting cast.
Staff *** Realistic, compelling, thought-provoking.
VS/N: Brief nude shots in a photo collage, topless women in a pool, and backside shots of nude women. VV: Graphic fighting scenes with guns and 1 slap to a woman. VP: 134 harsh expressions. VD: 31 scenes with alcohol and 39 with drugs.
Directed by Paddy Breathnack. With Alan Rickman, Natasha Richardson, Rachael Leigh Cook, Josh Hartnett, Rachel Griffiths. (105 min.)
Staff **1/2 In the quirky style of 'Strictly Ballroom,' Simon Beaufoy, writer of 'The Full Monty,' brings us 'Blow Dry,' the outrageous yet simple story of the competitively hair-obsessed. When the National Hairdressing Competition comes to a small town in England, a hair-styling family, long ago broken by a 'mom-gone-lesbian' relationship, must decide to come together to win back the championship. It's bizarre, but the use of odd-shock humor keeps it fun as the story of the never-ending relationship process unfolds. By Christy Ellington
S/N: 4 scenes of implied sex; including 1 scene with nudity. V: None. P: 22 harsh and mild expressions. D: 5 instances of alcohol; 5 scenes with smoking.
Director: Josef von Sternberg. With Marlene Dietrich, Emil Jannings, Kurt Gerron, Hans Albers. (98 min.)
Sterritt **** A fussy old schoolteacher named Professor Unrath falls in love with a slinky nightclub singer named Lola Lola, whereupon his life falls apart in ways that are poignant as they are predictable. First released in 1930, this great masterpiece of German film is evocative and inventive from its first shot to its last, with brilliant use of sound and astonishing performances from two of Europe's most gifted stars. Dietrich's acting here is what made her a motion-picture legend. In German with English subtitles
Director: Jean-Pierre Melville. With Roger Duchesne, Isabelle Corey, Daniel Cauchy, Guy Decomble. (100 min.)
Sterritt **** Set in Montmartre's nightclub district, this 1955 comedy-drama follows the adventures of a high-rolling gambler who gets tired of losing money at the casino and decides to rob the place instead. This isn't one of the greatest French crime dramas, like Melville's own "Le Doulos" and "Le Samuraï," both made in the '60s. But its dark-toned cinematography by Henri Decaë still packs a wallop, and the screenplay has a refreshing sense of humor, reflecting Melville's concept of the picture as less a straightforward cops-and-robbers story than a scruffy comedy of manners. In French with English subtitles.
Directors: Phillip Bartel, Duncan Tucker, Dan Castle, Carl Pfirman. With Ema A. Tuennerman, Brett Chukerman, John Sloan, Paul Dawson, Wayne Danner. (75 min.)
An anthology of four short films about gay-related subjects. "Crush" is a gentle but ordinary coming-of-age story. Neither "The Mountain King" nor "...lost" has much of interest to say. By contrast, "The Confession," about a man returning to religion late in his life, is extraordinarily sensitive and original, marking Pfirman as a highly promising talent.
Director: Ken Loach. With Pilar Padilla, Adrien Brody, Elpidia Carrilo, George Lopez, Alonso Chavez.(110 min.)
Sterritt *** Pitting his moral ideals against hard realities, a young American social worker helps two Mexican immigrant sisters and their freinds with a strike they hope will improve their lives as economically exploited office-building janitors. This socially alert drama is Loach's first production shot in the United States and while it doesn't measure up to his best British movies, it continually strives to do the ethically right thing.
Staff *** Inspiring, whimsical, impassioned.
Director: Silvio Soldini. With Licia Maglietta, Bruno Ganz, Giuseppe Battiston, Antonio Catania. (104 min.)
Sterritt *** A new life blossoms for a 40-year-old Italian housewife when she misses a bus, gets separated from her husband and children, and decides she'd rather explore the wonders of Venice - and the friendship of offbeat new acquaintances - than return to her old routine of worn-out domesticity. Maglietta gives a magical performance in this lightweight but flavorsome comedy. In Italian with English subtitles.
Director: Sharon Maguire. With Renée Zellweger, Hugh Grant, Colin Firth, Jim Broadbent. (94 min.)
Sterritt ** A romantic Englishwoman searches for a man who won't mind her slightly bulky figure and slightly dissolute habits, and finds herself dallying with her cocky boss while dodging the company of a lawyer who'd be a duller but more dignified partner. This lightweight comedy evidently sees itself as a Jane Austen spinoff in the "Clueless" vein, and fans of the genre will enjoy it if they're not distracted by trite plot twists, Firth's one-note formality, or Zellweger's on-and-off English accent.
Staff ***1/2 Exaggerated, v.g. (very good), very British.
VS/N: 3 sex scenes, no nudity. 3 instances of innuendo and several sexual references. VV: 1 scene with a fistfight. VP: 35 including many harsh expressions. VD: 15 scenes of smoking and drinking.
Director: Richard Dutcher. With Richard Dutcher, Matthew A. Brown, Carrie Morgan, Wilford Brimley. (118 min.)
Sterritt ** A brutal crime is investigated by a Utah sheriff who's also a Mormon bishop. He wants to solve the case, but he cares as much about protecting the psychological serenity of his flock as ferreting out the evildoer, and there are signs that naiveté may be blinding him to hard realities. Few movies have sought this particular blend of detective-story melodrama and religious sensitivity, but the result would be more impressive if its ideas matched its sincerity, and if Dutcher had cast a more compelling actor than himself as the crime-solving clergyman.
Director: Takeshi Kitano. With Beat Takeshi, Omar Epps, Claude Maki. (112 min.)
Sterritt ** On the run from murderous rivals, a Tokyo thug relocates to Los Angeles, takes over a relative's drug racket, and strikes up a complex relationship with a new African-American crony. As usual, Kitano's deadpan style serves him better as an actor than a director. Kitano stars in this melodrama under the name Beat Takeshi, which he uses in his popular Japanese television shows - but his first production made outside Japan has enough odd twists to be mildly interesting. Look out for a good deal of stinging violence, though. In Japanese with English subtitles
Director: Gary Hardwick. With Bill Bellamy, Morris Chestnut, D.L. Hughley, Shemar Moore. (103 min.)
Staff ** Commitment suddenly becomes an issue in the lives of four 30-ish African-American buddies when it dawns on them that they could be taking a more mature approach to relationships with women. The results for them and their loved ones are dramatic and sometimes hilarious. Despite predictable plotting, uneven acting and direction, and sexual banter more raunchy than necessary, positive values shine through. By M.K. Terrell
VS/N: 11 scenes of innuendo and frank talk; 4 scenes of implied sex. VV: 5 scenes, including a fight and shooting. VP: 146 mostly harsh expressions. VD: 10 instances of drinking; 2 scenes with smoking.
Director: Sharon Maguire. With Renée Zellweger, Hugh Grant, Colin Firth, Jim Broadbent. (94 min.)
Sterritt ** A romantic Englishwoman searches for a man who won't mind her slightly bulky figure and slightly dissolute habits, and finds herself dallying with her cocky boss while dodging the company of a lawyer who'd be a duller but more dignified partner. This lightweight comedy evidently sees itself as a Jane Austen spinoff in the "Clueless" vein, and fans of the genre will enjoy it if they're not distracted by trite plot twists, Firth's one-note formality, or Zellweger's on-and-off English accent.
Staff ***1/2 Exaggerated, v.g. (very good), very British.
VS/N: 3 sex scenes, no nudity. 3 instances of innuendo and several sexual references. VV: 1 scene with a fistfight. VP: 35 including many harsh expressions. VD: 15 scenes of smoking and drinking.
Director: Blair Hayes. With Jake Gyllenhaal, Swoosie Kurtz, Marley Shelton, John Lynch. (84 min.)
Staff * You've probably heard the controversy. Protesters say that "Bubble Boy," a tale of an immunity deficient boy quarantined for life inside his home, makes fun of the disabled. They're wrong. The boy is portrayed as a resourceful role-model. It's racial minorities who ought to be offended by their portrayal. When the boy builds a hermetically sealed bubble so he can leave the home to find the girl of his dreams, everyone he encounters on his road trip is a freak. The story would have been more interesting if the main character had emerged into something approximating the real world. By Stephen Humphries
VS/N: 6 instances of innuendo. VV: 10 scenes, including gory killing of a cow. VP: 29 occasionally harsh expressions. VD: 2 scenes with smoking, 2 scenes with drinking.
Director: Larry Clark. With Brad Renfro, Rachel Miner, Nick Stahl, Bijou Phillips, Michael Pitt, Kelli Garner. (106 min.)
Sterritt *** Beset by verbal and physical abuse from a relentlessly aggressive friend, a group of teenagers decide to solve their problem by taking the bully out of town and killing him. Based on a real-life incident, this grim drama follows in the footsteps of Clark's notorious "Kids," combining information and titillation by showing a youthful cast enacting youth-culture behavior at its most destructive. The movie's somber message is worth heeding, and the acting is mostly excellent.
Director: John Madden. With Nicolas Cage, Penélope Cruz, Christian Bale, Irene Papas, John Hurt. (125 min.)
Sterritt ** Cage plays a music-loving Italian officer who's garrisoned on a lovely Greek island during World War II, where he falls for a young woman (Cruz) who resists him at first, but eventually succumbs to his mischievous yet manly charm, dismaying the simple fisherman she's engaged to marry. While this romantic fantasy has a fair amount of shooting and killing, its heart is in the ill-starred love affair that dominates most of the plot. This would be fine, if the romance were well enough written, directed, and acted to capture our hearts as well. But the only aspect that emerges a winner is the gorgeous Mediterranean scenery.
Staff ***1/2 Beautiful, miscast, heavy hearted, jerky, beautiful scenery.
VS/N:4 scenes of nudity, 1 scene of implied sex. VV: 8 gory war scenes. VP: 5 harsh expressions. VD: 9 scenes with alcohol, 3 with cigarettes.
Director: Lawrence Guterman. With Jeff Goldblum, Elizabeth Perkins, Alexander Pollock, voices of Tobey Maguire, Susan Sarandon, Alec Baldwin. (87 min.)
Sterritt * Goldblum plays a scientist working on an anti-allergy medicine, but the real 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" to "Chicken Run" and the "Austin Powers" pictures - that it makes less sense than the average pet-food commercial.
Staff **1/2 A casual joy, not quite purrfect, witty.
VS/N: None. VV: 16 scenes of cartoon-like violence. VP: 4 very mild. VD: None.
Director: Kasi Lemmons. With Samuel L. Jackson, Aunjanue Ellis, Colm Feore, Ann Magnuson, Sean MacMahon, Tamara Tunie, Anthony Michael Hall. (103 min.)
Sterritt ** Jackson gives a lively and generally credible performance as the unlikely hero: a homeless man with a deranged mind, a talent for music, and enough clues to solve a murder if the world would just pay attention to him. More psychological realism and less showy cinema would have made this offbeat melodrama more memorable, though.
Director: Wayne Wang. With Peter Sarsgaard, Molly Parker, Carla Gugino. (88 min.)
Staff * A young millionaire pays a stripper to accompany him to Las Vegas for the weekend in this grim and ultimately flat attempt to dissect the difference between money, sex, emotions, and what's really real. Director Wayne Wang relies on a self-consciously arty digital film style and brutally direct sex scenes - some of which border on pornographic - to make his film appear groundbreaking, but it ultimately leaves its audience as cold as its lifeless characters. By Amanda Paulson
Staff * Devoid of passion, pretentious, sophomoric script, hollow.
VS/N: 14 scenes, often exceptionally graphic. VV: 1 instance of beating. VP: 48 harsh expressions. VD: 2 scenes with smoking; 8 scenes with alcohol.
Director: Im Kwon Taek. With Lee Hyo Jung, Cho Seung Woo, Kim Sung Nyu. (120 min.)
Sterritt **** The mythic tale of a courtesan's daughter who falls in love with a ruler's son, then suffers a thousand torments when a selfish governor decides he wants her for himself. Told through an imaginative blend of ravishing camera work and chanted "pansori" storytelling, this astoundingly beautiful Korean production is poignant, original, and engrossing. In Korean with English subtitles
Director: Lucrecia Martel. With Mercedes Moran, Martin Adjemian, Graciela Borges, Leonora Balcarce. (103 min.)
Sterritt ** The lives of two dysfunctional households in a small Argentine town during the hottest, stickiest summer anyone can remember. Martel shows great promise as a visual stylist and a director of strong performances, vividly etching her characters and condensing the experiences of three generations into a single economical story. But her screenplay gives little of interest, once the novelty of meeting these people has worn off. The title means "The Swamp," and you may feel you're in one after 103 minutes with such a generally unlikable gang. In Spanish with English subtitles
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. Banned in its own country, the film stands with the most compelling movies ever made about specifically female challenges and tribulations. In Farsi with English subtitles
Staff *** Naturalistic, bare-bones acting, unsettling, not sentimental.
VS/N: 5 mild inferences. VV: None. VP: 4 mild. VD: 1 instance of smoking.
Director: Michael Winterbottom. With Peter Mullan, Sarah Polley, Wes Bentley, Nastassja Kinski. (120 min.)
Sterritt ** An offbeat adaptation of Thomas Hardy's great novel, "The Mayor of Casterbridge," about a self-made man whose privileged existence masks two secrets: a sordid episode in his past, and an unstable personality that threatens to reemerge when his protégé turns into a rival. It's not clear why Winterbottom has moved the story to California in 1869. In any case, his version seems more clever than heartfelt, and whether you enjoy it may depend on how much you like Robert Altman's eccentric western "McCabe and Mrs. Miller," which it uncannily resembles.
Staff **1/2 Atmospheric, epic, a snowed-in western.
VS/N: 7 scenes of implied sex and partial or full nudity. VV: 9 scenes including a brawl, gunfights and a suicide. VP: 7 including many harsh expressions. VD: 9 scenes of smoking. 7 scenes of drinking.
Director: Francis Veber. With Gerard Depardieu, Daniel Auteuil, Michel Aumont, Jean Rochefort. (84 min.)
Staff *** Brian Francois Pignon's life is falling apart. Not only has his wife left him, but he is about to lose his job in a condom factory. Desperate, he pretends he's gay to save his job. And thus begins his trajectory from superbly dull, utterly conventional bore to a man suddenly more interesting to his co-workers, his family, and himself. Daniel Auteuil and Gerard Depardieu star in this delightful farce, in the tradition of "La Cage Aux Folles," which, at its best, is laugh-out-loud funny and incredibly warm-hearted. In French with English subtitles. By Amanda Paulson
Director: Michael Haneke. With Juliette Binoche, Alexandre Hamidi, Ona Lu Yenke, Luminita Gheorghiu, Thierry Neuvic. (117 min.)
Sterritt *** Two émigrés and a Frenchman have a streetside scuffle in Paris, and this fragmented drama traces the far-reaching ramifications of what might have seemed a fleeting, if unfortunate, encounter. Haneke brings his usual dark sensibility to bear on the multifaceted story, expressing the fractured quality of modern city life through scenes that wander through a labyrinth of missing links and lost connections. The overall effect is sometimes powerful, often puzzling, and generally less robust than single-minded Haneke films such as "The Seventh Continent" and the indelible "Funny Games." Originally titled "Code Inconnu." In French with English subtitles
Director: John Stockwell. With Kirsten Dunst, Jay Hernandez, Bruce Davison. (95 min.)
Staff ** Here's an antidote to the Freddie Prinze Jr. teen films. 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 suprisingly sexually explicit role. It's a pity there isn't enough of a compelling plot to capitalize on a promising premise. By Stephen Humphries
Director: Simon Wincer. With Paul Hogan, Linda Kozlowski. (92 min.)
Staff * 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. Stay home and watch the real crocodile hunter, Steve Irwin, on the cable's "Animal Planet" instead. By Stephen Humphries
Director: Young Man Kang. With Susan Petry, Everardo Gil, Toya Cho, Ken Yasuda, Young Man Kang. (70 min.)
Sterritt * Los Angeles lovers pair off with one another on the rebound in this contemporary version of the old "La Ronde" idea. The acting is uneven and most of the romancing seems so mismatched that it's not surprising when things fall apart time after time. But there are appealing moments along the way, and the director gets impressive mileage with a budget that can only be called minuscule.
Director: Kiyoshi Kurosawa. With Koji Yakusho, Masato Hagiwara, Anna Nakagawa, Tsuyoshi Ujiki. (115 min.)
Sterritt *** A police officer tries to figure out the mystery behind a series of savage murders perpetrated by a widely varying group of people who have no memory of the crimes they've committed. The story dawdles and meanders, but Kurosawa's visual imagination keeps it cinematically stimulating. Be warned that, like some other Japanese productions of the late '90s and early '00s, it contains quite a few grisly and ghastly images. In Japanese with English subtitles
Director: Woody Allen. With Woody Allen, Helen Hunt, Dan Aykroyd, Charlize Theron, David Ogden Stiers, Brian Markinson, Elizabeth Berkley, Wallace Shawn. (93 min.)
Sterritt ** Allen falls back on fast-talking comedy and old-movie nostalgia in this parody of 1940s melodrama, with Woody as an insurance investigator trying to unravel a crime that he committed himself after a session with a sinister nightclub hypnotist. There are lots of plot twists and romantic angles. What's lacking is laughs.
Staff *** Superb period detail, Slow start but great finish, good fun.
VS/N: 11 instances of innuendo. VV: 1 comic scene. VP: 13 mild expressions. VD: 10 scenes with alcohol, 21 with cigarettes.
Director: Marziyeh Meshkini. With Fatemeh Cheragh, Shabnam Toloui, Azizeh Seddighi. (75 min.)
Sterritt **** This exquisitely filmed Iranian drama tells three separate stories focusing on women's lives. One heroine is a nine-year-old girl deciding how to spend the last remaining hour before she officially becomes a woman by the standards of her culture; another is a wife who decides to assert her independence despite opposition from her husband, and the third is an elderly woman trying for a different kind of independence by making whimsical use of money that's fallen into her hands. Every episode is charged with humanity and compassion. In Farsi with English subtitles
Directors: Scott McGehee, David Siegel. With Tilda Swinton, Goran Visnjic, Jonathan Tucker, Peter Donat. (99 min.)
Sterritt ** Trying to protect her teenage son from the sinister influence of an ill-chosen older friend, a woman finds herself covering up a death and negotiating with a tenacious blackmailer. Swinton has some affecting moments as the mom, but the rest of the acting is second-rate, and the directors (previously known for "Suture," which also promised more than it delivered) give it little originality or oomph. The same story was told vastly better in the 1949 melodrama "The Reckless Moment," directed by the Max Ophuls and starring James Mason in one of his most indelible roles.
Director: Guillermo del Toro. With Eduardo Noriega, Marisa Paredes, Federico Luppi, Inigo Garces. (106 min.)
Sterritt *** Sent to a boarding school for orphans during the Spanish Civil War, a homeless boy deals with intrigues among students and teachers, and confronts two dark mysteries: Is there lurking danger in an undetonated bomb standing like a grim statue just outside the school's doors, and is there more menace in the ghost of a murdered pupil who haunts its rooms and corridors? This moody ghost story follows generally familiar lines despite its unusual historical setting, but it's imaginatively filmed and builds a sense of brooding emotional power.
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: Rob Sitch. With Sam Neill, Tom Long, Kevin Harrington, Patrick Warburton, Genevieve Mooy. (104 min.)
Fact-based comedy about the triumphs and tribulations of the men who ran the enormous Australian broadcast receiver that transmitted live pictures around the world when American astronaut Neil Armstrong became the first human being to set foot on the moon. The acting and screenplay are amusing, but director Sitch might have taken a more adventurous approach to a tale with such an adventurous subject.
Director: Jan Hrebejk. With Bolek Polivka, Csongor Kassai, Jaroslav Duslek, Anna Siskovà. (123 min.)
Staff ** "You wouldn't believe what abnormal times can do to normal people," says one character in this film. Well maybe you can. There's no time for heroes in this small Czech town torn apart by Nazi occupation. This is a typical tale of an unexceptional couple, risking their lives for the Jew hiding out in the basement, while they desperately try to hold onto a sense of normalcy in unusually troubled times. With a tasteless combination of horror and humor, "Divided We Fall" is a semi-successful, but unoriginal, portrayal of the strength of human character. By Deborah Henderson
VS/N: None. VV: 8 scenes, extremely violent. VP: 11 expressions. VD: None.
Director: Hassan Yektapanah. With Rashid Akbari, Valiollah Beta, Mahbobeh Khalili. (94 min.)
Sterritt **** The title character is an Afghani immigrant who works at a small Iranian dairy farm, where he shares his memories and hopes with his sympathetic boss. Their relationship grows more complicated when Djomeh 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 short, it's as smart and entertaining as they come. In Farsi 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: George Gallo. With Orlando Jones, Eddie Griffin, Gary Grubbs, Daniel Roebuck. (88 min.)
Staff **1/2 Hardly anything is what it seems in this Hitchcock spoof (call it "South by Southwest"). A New York banker (Jones) wrongly suspected of murder, trades identities with a crazy con artist from the streets (Griffin) and flees the city for Mexico, pursued by drug dealers, police, FBI, and a little dog with sharp teeth. Not a good picture, but the two leads often rise above the convoluted plot, sloppy continuity, ethnic stereotyping, and excessive violence to provide some genuinely funny moments. By M.K. Terrell
Directors: Chris Weitz, Paul Weitz. With Chris Rock, Chazz Palminteri, Greg Germann, Regina King. (95 min.)
Staff ** Lance (Rock), a bike messenger and aspiring comedian, is hit and killed by a truck when on his route while ogling a beautiful woman at the cross-walk. When the angels in heaven discover that it wasn't "his time" yet, they offer him a temporary body (that of an old, wealthy white man), until they can find a more appropriate one for him. With this "second chance," good-hearted Lance takes advantage of the opportunities this new body allows him, also proving that it's not what someone looks like, it's who they are that is important. There is a good moral message to this movie, but it's too crude for younger viewers and Rock's comedy is a little on the weak side. By Heidi Wilson
VS/N: 4 scenes with innuendo. VV: 8 instances, including a suicide and attempted murder. VP: 75 expressions, mostly mild. VD: 7 scenes with alcohol, 1 scene with smoking.
Director: Edo Bertoglio. With Jean Michel Basquiat, Deborah Harry, Walter Steding. (77 min.)
Sterritt ** A young artist looks for money, security, and affection during a long day when he almost gets evicted from his New York apartment. This scruffy, streetwise drama was shot in the early 1980s, but wasn't released for 20 years because of financial and technical problems. Its main value is the prolonged look it gives of the late artist Basquiat, who was 19 when he played the leading role, and looks uncannily like the actor Jeffrey Wright, who played him in the later bio-pic "Basquiat."
Director: Steve Carr. With Eddie Murphy, Kristen Wilson, and voices of Steve Zahn, Lisa Kudrow. (90 min.)
Staff *1/2 The writers must have thought, "Hey, if we can feature a mafia-type raccoon, a drinking monkey, and a Latino chameleon that can talk, this movie will write itself!" They were so wrong. Murphy reprises his 1998 role as Dr. Dolittle who must help save a forest from money-hungry loggers. It delivers a few laughs with contemporary phrases such as "whaazzzuuuup," "Hasta la vista, baby," and "Hello, Clarice," but that's about it. The writers rely on crude humor for cheap laughs. By Lisa Leigh Parney
Staff *** Family fun, rapid-fire humor, upbeat.
VS/N: None. VV: None. VP: 10 mild expressions. VD: 2 with alcohol.
Director: Renny Harlin. With Sylvester Stallone, Burt Reynolds, Estelle Warren, Gina Gershon. (120 min.)
Sterritt **1/2 Actor, writer, and producer Sylvester Stallone and director Renny Harlin hope to re-create the success they had with "Cliffhanger" in this well-done, but flat, action-drama. The story of this racing-car tale is pure formula: A young rookie beats all odds to come out on top, and finds out what he's made of. But it's the racing scenes that take center stage, and the crashes are among the most realistic ever put on film. By Alex Kaloostian
Staff DUD Predictable, insipid, hokey, overwrought, belongs on the scrap heap.
VS/N: 4 instances of innuendo and numerous shots of scantily clad women. VV: 7 scenes of video game-like car crashes, no gore. VP: 11 mild expressions. VD: 3 scenes with alcohol.
Director: Jean-Jacques Annaud. With Ed Harris, Rachel Weisz, Jude Law, Eva Mattes, Joseph Fiennes, Bob Hoskins. (133 min.)
Sterritt * Rivalry flares between a Soviet sniper and his Nazi counterpart as they hone their skills, stalk their prey, and ultimately turn their sights on each other during World War II's cataclysmic Battle of Stalingrad. Annaud seems more interested in epic visual sweep than deep-rooted human emotion, though, and interesting troupers like Harris and Law just go through the motions. Add a megadose of bombastic James Horner music and a perfunctory love-affair subplot and you have a movie that's its own worst enemy.
Staff ** Shallow, authentic-feeling, suspenseful.
VS/N: 1 scenes with partial nudity. VV: 15 instances, including gory war scenes. VP: 6 mild expressions. VD: 11 scenes with smoking. 4 scenes with alcohol.
Director: Shinji Aoyama. With Yakusho Koji, Miyazaki Aoi, Miyazaki Masaru, Saitoh Yohichiroh. (217 min.)
Sterritt **** After surviving a violent crime, two youngsters set off on a meandering odyssey through the Japanese countryside with an eccentric bus driver they've befriended, only to discover that ongoing eruptions of violence are traveling in their wake. Filmed in a style at once intimate and expansive, with understated acting and brilliant use of wide-screen black-and-white cinematography, Aoyama's celebrated movie is an ambitious psychological drama and a probing look at the intersections of kinship and friendship. In Japanese with English subtitles
Director: Dominique Deruddere. With Josse de Pauw, Werner De Scmedt, Victor Low, Thekla Reuten. (97 min.)
Staff *** Suddenly out of work when a factory closes down, a Belgian bottle inspector hatches a plan to launch his career as a songwriter and make his unprepossessing daughter a singing star. His scheme is to hold the country's top singer hostage until her manager gives him the backing he needs. This perfectly cast dig at fame and the entertainment industry, filled with misfits, look-alikes and wannabes, takes its potshots gently, with subtle delights and surprises at every fun. In Flemish with English subtitles. By M.K. Terrell
VS/N: 4 scenes of implied sex, with nudity; 2 instances of innuendo. VV: 2 mild scenes. VP: 15 harsh expressions. VD: 4 scenes with smoking, 4 scenes with drinking, 1 scene with pilltaking.
Director: Mike Aransky. With Philip Guerette, Thomas Edward Seymour, Mike Aransky. (100 min.)
Sterritt * A young man moves to a small town, makes a couple of unlikely friends, and finds himself involved in a bizarre quarrel between his new acquaintances. This comedy-drama means well, but it'll be a long time before you see more self-indulgent screenwriting and unpersuasive acting in a single movie.
Director: Ivan Reitman. With David Duchovny, Julianne Moore, Orlando Jones, Seann William Scott. (105 min.)
Sterritt *** Two scholars from a community college discover a microscopic horde of newly arrived aliens. They have to stop the menace once the cute little critters become ugly big critters. At its best, this unevenly paced comedy is an amusing parody of monster movies.
Staff ** "Ghostbusters" redux, dumb, good video rental.
VS/N: 3 scenes of innuendo, 1 with partial male nudity. VV: 7 scary scenes, but not too gory. VP: 40 mostly mild expressions. VD: 2 scenes with smoking, 2 with drinking.
Director: Andrzej Bartkowiak. With Steven Seagal, DMX, Anthony Anderson, Jill Hennessey. (117 min.)
Pandemonium reigns in Seagal movies. Here he's a Detroit detective who saves the US vice president from a kidnapping plot. His extreme tactics don't amuse the department's top brass, however, and they reduce him to daytime traffic details and nighttime rage-management classes. But when he sniffs out a drug ring on his beat, he's right back to his old tricks. Plot twists (when plot intrudes on anarchy) and unusual casting (rapper DMX's compassionate drug dealer) keep this one from being a total cliché. Occasional flashes of humor offer respite from the havoc. By M.K. Terrell
VS/N: 3 scenes of innuendo; 2 scenes with nudity. VV: 12 scenes. VP: 136 mostly harsh expressions. VD: 5 instances of drinking; 1 scene with smoking; 4 scenes with drug deals.
Director: Ousmane Sembene. With Venus Seye, Mame Ndumbe Diop, Ndiagne Dia, Mariame Balde. (118 min.)
Sterritt **** This gently told Senegalese comedy-drama centers on an ordinary woman who works in a service station and devotes her spare time to her college-age children and aging mother. The story touches on an enormously wide range of subjects - some personal, like the challenges of marriage in a society where men often have multiple wives, and others cultural or political, like the influence of Islamic traditions and the social uncertainties of a postcolonial African country. Sembene has opened up a whole new world of African cinema during his illustrious career, and this intelligent yet easy-going masterpiece ranks close to his best work. In French and Wolof with English subtitles
Director: Liv Ullmann. With Erland Josephson, Lena Endre, Krister Henriksson, Thomas Hanzon, Michelle Gylemo, Johan Rabaeus, Stina Ekblad, Juni Dahr, Philip Zanden, Marie Richardson. (155 min.)
Sterritt *** An intense, claustrophobic drama of love and infidelity, as seen through the eyes of an actress whose seemingly contented life as a wife and mother is tragically tested by romantic temptations touched off by her husband's closest friend. The film's tone is so intimate that one of the characters is screenwriter Ingmar Bergman himself, who sets the story in motion by having a conversation with the female protagonist he's conceived in his imagination. On one level, "Faithless" is a probing look at love, marriage, loyalty, and other emotional issues. On other levels, it's about the complex relationships between bedrock human feelings and the process of exploring these through art.
Director: Ossama Fawzi. With Mahmoud Hemida, Lebleba, Caroline Khalil, Safwa. (79 min.)
Sterritt ** The death of a low-life drug dealer sets his accomplices scheming to profit from his demise, but then his family gets into the act, sparking unexpected revelations about his surprisingly respectable early life. It's rare for an Egyptian movie to look so closely and unflinchingly at class conflict and other forms of social disarray, but lively acting keeps the story engaging even when it wanders and meanders. In Arabic with English subtitles
Director: Brett Ratner. With Nicholas Cage, Téa Leoni, Don Cheadle, Jeremy Piven. (125 min.)
Staff *** This film, about a high executive businessman (Cage) given the opportunity to catch a glimpse of what his life would be like had he married his college sweetheart (Leoni), is pure Christmas. Not one offbeat word, glance, or gesture falls from their charming performances. They remain two snowflakes among holiday performances, which can oftentimes be more Scrooge than Kringle. By Christy Ellington
Staff **1/2 Slow, nice message, mushy.
Director: Rob Cohen. With Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Jordanna Brewster, Michelle Rodriguez. (140 min.)
Staff **1/2 Faster than "Gone in 60 Seconds," flashier than "Driven," and more supercharged race cars and actual driving than both put together. What has to go? Well, plot and characterization, but you'll be too busy tapping your feet and gripping your seat to notice. Here's the deal: Brian, a not-so-hot rookie detective goes undercover to get to the bottom of a rash of truck hijackings. But will Brian learn how to double-pump the clutch before he blows out another set of piston rings? And did I mention there are lots of neat car chases? By Alex Kaloostian
VS/N: 3 instances of innuendo. VV: 11 scenes, including fighting. VP: 58 harsh expressions. VD: 3 scenes with smoking, 3 scenes with drinking.
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: Federico Fellini. With Martin Potter, Hiram Keller, Max Born. (129 min.)
Sterritt **** One of Italy's greatest filmmakers dreamed up this flamboyantly uninhibited visit to ancient Rome, and the results of his whimsy have been startling, shocking, and engrossing moviegoers ever since its 1969 release. See it if your most outrageous dream is to see your most outrageous dreams made visible on the wide screen. Stay far away if that prospect seems too daring or daunting for comfort.
Director: Alex Winter. With Henry Thomas, David O'Hara, Bill Duke, Teri Hatcher, John Tracy. (93 min.)
Sterritt ** A murder in a rundown apartment building sparks a series of strange events in the life of a psychologically unsteady man. This offbeat drama has more atmosphere than logic, but a few sequences are strikingly well acted and filmed.
Director: John Herzfeld. With Robert De Niro, Edward Burns, Kelsey Grammer, Karel Roden, Oleg Taktarov, Avery Brooks. (120 min.)
Sterritt ** A homicide cop and an arson investigator get into a New York tussle with two thugs from Eastern Europe who think their violent schemes will bring fame and fortune as long as the media play into their hands. The premise is promising, but Herzfeld cares more about sensationalism than substance, and portions of the picture are far nastier than they had to be.
Staff ** Uneven tone, well edited, silly.
VS/N: 1 scene of implied sex with nudity. VV: 17 often gruesome scenes. VP: 90 mostly harsh expressions. VD: 10 instances of alcohol; 14 scenes with smoking.
Director: Hironobu Sakaguchi. With the voices of Alec Baldwin, Ming Na, James Woods, Donald Sutherland, Steve Buscemi, Ving Rhames. (106 min.)
Sterritt ** It's the distant future (yet again) and Earth has been decimated by aliens. The military wants to blast them into oblivion, but the brainy and beautiful Dr. Aki Ross thinks she can solve things with a more high-minded approach. The movie is noteworthy because it's the first major Hollywood release to feature an entire cast of human characters generated completely through computer animation. While this is a striking technical feat, it poses an artistic problem. On one hand, the movie abandons the anything-goes imaginativeness of animation by slavishly imitating real-life human traits. On the other, it abandons the expressive power of genuine human performances by artificially creating all its images. Skeptics may feel that in its own small way, this sort of cinema is as dehumanizing as the aliens who serve as its intergalactic bad guys.
Staff ** Creative, pantheistic, Digitally sophisticated, intense.
VS/N: None. VV: 14 instances, quite intense. VP: 18 harsh expressions. VD: 1 instance of drinking.
Director: Gus Van Sant. With Sean Connery, Rob Brown, Anna Paquin, F. Murray Abraham. (136 min.)
Sterritt ** Unlikely friendship develops between a gifted black high school student and a curmudgeonly old author who won a youthful Pulitzer Prize and then slipped into sullen seclusion. The premise is more interesting than the movie, which takes several wrong turns on its way to an unconvincing conclusion. Brown gives a smartly understated performance, though, and Paquin's talent continues to blossom.
Staff *** Gentle, predictable, inspiring.
VS/N: 5 incidences of innuendo. VV: 2 scenes with youths tussling. VP: 54 expressions, both mild and harsh. VD: 8 scenes with drinking, 3 scenes with smoking.
Directors: Richard Glatzer, Wash West. With Michael Cunio, Roxanne Day, Scott Gurney. (96 min.)
Sterritt ** A young man goes to work in the porn-movie business and gets more involved with his favorite star than he expected or intended. This satirical drama tries to be an updated "Boogie Nights," but it would have more heft if the filmmakers had been supplied with talented stars, original ideas, and a barely adequate budget. A wry peek at the porn industry is all it has to offer.
Director: Neal Slavin. With William H. Macy, Laura Dern, David Paymer, Meat Loaf Aday. (100 min.)
Sterritt *** Macy plays a 1940s businessman who doesn't worry much about anti-Semitism until some people get the idea that he looks sort of Jewish himself, sparking events that cause him to lose his job. Neighbors are also angry at a local Jewish shopkeeper, and he's tempted to regain their trust by joining in their attacks. Slavin treats the tale as a philosophical fable about the never-ending struggle between good and evil. The result would be an important drama if the screenplay (based on an early Arthur Miller novel) didn't lapse into preachiness and imprecision at times.
Director: John T. Ryan. With Jackie Beat, Justin Bond, Michael Musto, Jayne County. (74 min.)
Sterritt * A survey and celebration of New York City's underground rock scene, interviewing small-time celebrities and providing brief glimpses of their often outrageous acts. Traditional music fans won't find much to enjoy here, but the movie has value as an anthropological visit to a strange and thriving milieu.
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 the near-cosmic resonance of the book it's based on, a "graphic novel" by Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell that makes far more interesting speculations on mysteries of myth and history, space and time, good and evil, life and death.
Staff *** Amazing ambience, gritty, gory.
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: Tommy O'Haver. With Kirsten Dunst, Ed Begley Jr., Sisqo, Martin Short, Swoosie Kurtz. (90 min.)
Staff *1/2 Berke tries out for the school play, "A Midsummer Night's Dream," hoping to win his ex-girlfriend back from her new boyfriend/costar. His best friend's little sister (Dunst), also in the play, helps him with his acting, but secretly loves him too. Thus their on-stage roles oddly mirror their off-stage lives. Short's over the top drama teacher, Sisqo's stagehand dancing, and Begley and Kurtz as ultra-'70's parents lend their support, but this grab bag of dreams, fantasies, and musical numbers, though amusing at times, never really falls together. By M.K. Terrell
VS/N: 7 scenes of innuendo. VV: 8 scenes, including car accident. VP: 46 expressions, mostly mild. VD: 4 instances of drinking; 1 scene with marijuana.
Director: Terry Zwigoff. With Thora Birch, Steve Buscemi, Scarlett Johansson, Brad Renfro. (111 min.)
Sterritt *** Reluctant to enter the ordinary adult world, which they find shallow and tedious, two girls just out of high school strike up a smirky relationship with an older man who has antisocial tendencies of his own, leading to various emotional complications. Zwigoff's first fiction film recalls his 1994 documentary "Crumb" in the sympathy it shows for marginalia of American life that most people overlook and undervalue. While this isn't a showy or flashy movie, it has social, psychological, and ultimately mystical overtones that raise it leagues above most other teen-centered comedies.
Staff **1/2 Realistic coming-of-age tale, engagingly cast, intelligent humor.
VS/N: 1 scene of implied sex, 4 scenes of innuendo. VV: 2 scenes. VP: 89 harsh expressions. VD: 6 scenes with drinking.
Director: John Carpenter. With Ice Cube, Natasha Henstridge, Jason Statham, Pam Grier, Clea Duvall, Joanna Cassidy. (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. Henstridge is fun to watch as the Martian cop, though, and Ice Cube still has a powerful screen presence, even when he isn't bothering to act.
VS/N: 4 instances of nudity. VV: 24 gory scenes. VP: 65 harsh expressions. VD: 2 scenes with cigarettes, 4 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: 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: Agnès Varda. With Agnès Varda. (82 min.)
Sterritt **** A fascinating nonfiction voyage into rural and urban France, focusing on idiosyncratic individuals who live off things the rest of us throw away, from food to furniture. Varda carries this concept a step further by recognizing that she herself has been a gleaner during her long filmmaking career, capturing images and situations that usually go unnoticed by people living busy lives. Originally called "Les Glaneurs et la glaneuse." In French with English subtitles
Director: James Ivory. With Nick Nolte, Kate Beckinsale, Jeremy Northam, Uma Thurman, James Fox, Anjelica Huston. (130 min.)
Sterritt *** Henry James's psychologically dense novel inspired this introspective drama about an American businessman and his daughter, who discover that their new spouses share a hidden past. Written by Ruth Prawer Jhabvala and produced by Ismail Merchant, the film will be too staid and stolid for audiences on the hunt for easy entertainment. Ivory gives it a sumptuous visual style and an exquisitely crafted early-20th-century milieu, though, offering fine pleasures for the eye and the imagination.
Elegantly opulent, self-consciously arty, more surface than subtlety.
VS/N: 1 sex scene, no nudity. VV: None. VP: 2 mild. VD: 9 instances of smoking, 6 instances of drinking.
Director: Mark Steensland. With Robert Anton Wilson, Paul Williams, Miriam Lloyd, Ray Nelson. (80 min.)
Admirers of "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?" and other Dick literature will enjoy this nonfiction look at the writer, his career, and his eccentricities, some of which were as bizarre as his fiction. Don't expect much depth in this brief portrait, though.
Director: Joel Hershman. With Clive Owen, Helen Mirren, David Kelly. (91 min.)
Staff *** Good conduct gets a British felon (Owen) into an experimental "open" prison, where he discovers a flair for gardening. When a horticultural maven (Mirren) sees what he and his buddies have wrought, she soon has them in a national competition. The pro-rehabilitation message may be a bit obvious and the story a little pat (wouldn't you know, the botanical guru has a pretty daughter?), but the characters are charming. 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 lively novel about an 11-year-old boy who discovers he's a natural-born wizard, enrolls in a school to learn magic and enchantment, and finds himself battling the sinister sorcerer who killed his parents when he was a baby. Columbus fills the screen with colorful images that make a world of spells seem as solid as the one we travel every day. What you won't find are qualities a truly great movie adaptation might have offered - new layers of meaning, perspectives on the story that only film images could provide, and fresh insights into the tale's moral and ethical questions.
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: Ridley Scott. With Anthony Hopkins, Julianne Moore, Ray Liotta, Giancarlo Giannini, Frankie R. Faison, Francesca Neri. (131 min.)
Sterritt *** Hopkins returns as Hannibal Lector, the brilliant psychiatrist with a sadistic personality, a weakness for cannibalism, and an odd affection for FBI agent Clarice Starling, this time played by Moore in a performance as inventive as Jodie Foster's in "The Silence of the Lambs" a decade earlier. Scott has directed the picture with his usual heavy touch - even the boisterous "Lambs" seems subtle by comparison - and much of the action is as ponderous as it is predictable. Lector fans will get their fill, but be warned that the menu contains at least two scenes with over-the-top excesses that Hannibal himself might not want to swallow.
Staff **1/2 Extremely gory, good sequel, intelligent dialogue, opulent sets.
VS/N: 15 scenes with innuendo. VV: 15 exceptionally violent scenes including cannibalism. VP: 5 expressions, mostly mild. VD: 9 scenes with smoking; 8 scenes with alcohol.
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: 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: Mark Waters. With Monica Potter, Freddie Prinze Jr., Brendan Beiser, Sarah O'Hare, China Chow. (127 min.)
Staff DUD An art-restoration expert (Potter), moves into an apartment with "the last four models in New York who don't smoke." She soon develops a crush on Jim (Prinze) who lives in an adjacent building across the way, until, in a "Rear Window"-ish twist, she thinks she sees him commit a murder. This romantic comedy is so awfully misjudged and ineptly executed in every department that, while it isn't quite a contender for the "so bad it's good" category, this critic was nonetheless dabbing tears of laughter from his eyes. By Stephen Humphries
VS/N: 3 scenes of implied sex; 5 incidences of innuendo. VV: 6 scenes, including fistfights. VP: 15 harsh expressions, 14 mild expressions. VD: 6 scenes with alcohol.
Director: David Mirkin. With Sigourney Weaver, Jennifer Love Hewitt, Gene Hackman, Ray Liotta, Jason Lee, Anne Bancroft. (124 min.)
Staff ** A mother (Weaver) and daughter (Hewitt) use their looks and low-cut dresses to scam their way through life. The senior partner marries millionaires and then, before the marriage can be consummated, gets the daughter to tempt the groom to ensure a speedy divorce with a big payoff. The cast is better than the material, especially Gene Hackman as a chain-smoking tobacco company executive in constant self-denial about the dangers of cigarettes. At over two hours long, you may be left feeling a little bit conned by the end. By Stephen Humphries
Staff ** Predictable, not funny, unoriginal, vapid
VS/N: 11 scenes of mostly innuendo and frank talk. VV: 11 scenes of slapstick violence. VP: 53 expressions, some harsh. VD: 6 instances of drinking; 25 scenes with smoking.
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 Cameron Mitchell. With John Cameron Mitchell, Miriam Shor, Stephen Trask. (94 min.)
Sterritt *** The hero was named Hansel during his East Berlin childhood. But after changing his sex and moving to the United States, he's become Hedwig the transgendered rock singer, playing in small-time restaurants and dreaming of revenge against Tommy Gnosis, a protégé who stole his songs. Cameron's imaginative directing and screen-shaking performance give this rock musical plenty of oomph, although some may find it a coolly calculated effort at instant cult-film fame.
Director: David Mamet. With Gene Hackman, Rebecca Pidgeon, Delroy Lindo, Patti LuPone, Danny DeVito, Ricky Jay. (107 min.)
Sterritt *** An aging thief (Hackman) assembles his accomplices (Lindo, Jay) and wife (Pidgeon) for an unusually ambitious crime. Complicating the job is the cantankerous crook they work for (DeVito) and the sleazy young thug (Rockwell) he forces them to team up with. At once a purebred caper movie and a loving tribute to that popular genre, the picture has plenty of tried-and-true elements, from its "one last job" scenario to the untried youngster who messes up the scam. 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.
Directors: Gerard Ungerman, Audrey Brohy. With John Hurt, Ramsey Clark, Norman Schwarzkopf. (64 min.)
Sterritt *** An informative look at the Persian Gulf conflict, with emphasis on its cost in human lives and suffering, its roots in prior American involvement with the Middle East, the effect of subsequent economic sanctions on Iraqi citizens, and the possibility that the enigmatic Persian Gulf syndrome might be linked to munitions made of depleted uranium. Made by two investigative journalists, this concise documentary is worth viewing by anyone concerned about world events.
Director: Eric Stanze. With DJ Vivona, Ramona Midgett, Angela Zimmerly, Todd Tevlin. (117 min.)
Sterritt ** A young woman is recruited to battle a mysterious presence that threatens humanity with violence and malevolence. Imaginatively filmed on what was obviously a shoestring budget, this underground shocker has moments of real visual creativity, along with a surprisingly talky screenplay and a general disregard for anything resembling old-fashioned good taste.
Director: Lindsay Anderson. With Malcolm McDowell, Richard Warwick, Christine Noonan. (111 min.)
Sterritt**** Revolution strikes a repressive school for boys in this 1968 classic, which both embodies and critiques the rebellious atmosphere of the '60s era. At once comic, surrealistic, and outrageous, the movie marks a high point in Anderson's filmmaking career.
Director: Wong Kar-wai. With Maggie Cheung, Tony Leung-Chiu-wai, Rebecca Pan, Lai Chin, Siu Ping-lam, Chin Tsi-ang. (97 min.)
Sterritt *** A journalist and a receptionist spend inordinate amounts of time in their lonely apartments, maintaining a polite distance between themselves until the man begins to suspect their spouses are having an affair with each other. The story gains most of its dramatic impact from superbly understated acting and Christopher Doyle's atmospheric camera work. Kudos also go to Nat King Cole's haunting renditions of Spanish-language songs on the proudly multicultural soundtrack. In Cantonese and Shanghainese with English subtitles
Director: Paul Cox. With Julia Blake, Charles Tingwell. (95 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 comforable 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: 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: Adam Brooks. With Cameron Diaz, Jordana Brewster, Christopher Eccleston, Blythe Danner, Patrik Bergin. (112 min.)
Staff ** This lightweight look at '70's activism has 18-year old Phoebe (Brewster) traveling across Europe in 1976 trying to unravel the mystery of the suicide of older sister Faith (Diaz) 6 years earlier. In flashback we see Faith's progress from non-violent protest to terrorism to guilt, as Phoebe has a gratuitous affair with Faith's ex-boyfriend. Blythe Danner shines in a small part as the young women's widowed mother, but the postcard pretty settings and an earnest young cast fail to overcome the detached storytelling - we just don't care about these people. La guerre est l'ennui. (After the film, the woman behind this reviewer woke her companion out of a deep sleep. When he came to, he said, "that was good." He must have meant his nap.) By M.K. Terrell
VS/N: 6 instances including 4 brief scenes of sex, 2 of them with nudity. VV: 6 scenes including a suicide. VP: 20 mostly harsh expressions. VD: 9 scenes with smoking, 6 scenes with drinking and 2 scenes with drugs.
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: Terry Gilliam. With Michael Palin, Annette Badland, Max Wall. (105 min.)
Sterritt *** Palin, one of the most gifted members of England's fabled Monty Python comedy troupe, plays a mud-spattered medieval peasant whose life turns adventurous when a monster starts stalking the countryside. Gilliam's first solo flight as a director is more notable for its inspired visual ideas than for the frequency of its laughs, but Python devotees will have fun. First released in 1977.
Director: Michael Polish. With Jon Gries, Daryl Hannah, Garrett Morris, Adam Baldwin. (96 min.)
Sterritt *** The adventures of a would-be country singer who makes up in tenacity - and obliviousness to his own lack of talent - what he lacks in musical gifts and upward mobility in what he finds to be a very ungenerous business. Gries and Morris act up a storm as the optimistically named Sunny Holiday and his long-suffering manager. Kudos also go to director Polish and his co-writer Mark Polish, who give the comedy-drama a bittersweet quirkiness that recalls their earlier and even better feature, "Twin Falls Idaho."
Director: Kevin Smith. With Kevin Smith, Jason Mewes, Shannon Elizabeth, Ben Affleck, Chris Rock, Jason Lee, Matt Damon. (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 without giving them a cut of the profits. 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 story too slender and 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. But this is no ordinary road trip. Instead of taking a shortcut, the siblings opt for the scenic route - on a never-ending country road. 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. There's also a psychic who sings "Jeepers creepers, where'd you get those peepers?" 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 eating flesh, bodies torn apart, and head decapitations. VP: 40 expressions, sometimes harsh. VD: None.
Director: Hiroyuki Okiura. With voices of Michael Dobson, Moneca Stori, Doug Abrahams, Colin Murdock. (102 min.)
Sterritt ** What if World War II had pitted Japan against Germany, and the Nazis had won? This offbeat animation in Japan's colorful "anime" style takes place a decade after such a conflict, depicting the sometimes violent adventures of a policeman and a young woman in a Tokyo torn by fighting between cultlike terrorists and high-tech security forces. The story's emphasis is on action, but there are some sensitive moments and interesting ideas along the way.
Directors: Deborah Kaplan, Harry Elfont. With Rachael Leigh Cook, Rosario Dawson, Tara Reid. (98 min.)
Sterritt *** Our heroines are wannabe rock stars who stumble on a scheme for selling pop-culture products through subliminal messages. The action is perky, but it's ironic that this satire of commercialism sets a record for product-placement plugs.
Director: Yesim Ustaoglu. With Newroz Baz, Nazmi Quirix, Mizgin Kapazan. (104 min.)
Sterritt *** Friendship arises between a young Turkish man and a Kurdish rebel, but their lives darken when the law-abiding Turk is mistaken for his companion and placed under surveillance by the authoritarian police. This is only Ustaoglu's second film, but smart performances and expressive camera work mark her as a talent to watch in the future. In Turkish with English subtitles
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: Federico Fellini. With Giuletta Masina, Mario Pisu, Valentina Cortese, Sandra Milo. (148 min.)
Sterritt **** A woman must come to terms with moral, personal, and domestic challenges posed by her husband's infidelity. Masina gives one of her most expressive performances in the rerelease of this 1965 masterpiece, which explores psychological and cinematic ideas first unveiled in Fellini's classic "8 1/2," an even greater excursion into the borderline area where fantasy and reality intertwine.
Director: Joel Hopkins. With Tunde Adebimpe, Hippolyte Girardot, Natalie Verbeke, James Wilby. (97 min.)
Staff ** Strait-laced George (Adebimpe), a Manhattan office worker from Nigeria, hopes to honor his departed parents and please an overbearing uncle by going through with an arranged marriage. En route to the ceremony, he encounters a suicidal Frenchman (Girardot) and a free-spirited Latina (Verbeke), whose passionate family threatens to set George's buttoned-down lifestyle on a new path. This feature film debut by writer-director Hopkins suffers a bit from its low budget, but its witty script and multicultural cast never fail to delight. By M.K. Terrell
VS/N: 2 instances of mild innuendo; 1 scene of implied sex. VV: None. VP: 20 harsh expressions. VD: 4 scenes with alcohol.
Director: Joe Johnston. With Sam Neill, William H. Macy, Téa Leoni, Alessandro Nivola, Laura Dern. (90 min.)
Sterritt ** After their 14-year-old son disappears into an island jungle inhabited by Jurassic Park's prehistoric critters, an unhappy couple shanghais mild-mannered paleontologist Alan Grant into helping their rescue effort. The cast is solid, and the special effects are as impressive as executive producer Steven Spielberg's bottomless resources can make them. But the screenplay is so stale that even fans of the previous "Jurassic" installments might think this is one clone too many.
Staff *1/2 Poorly paced, summer fun, empty theme park ride, blessedly short.
VS/N: None. VV: 11 scenes of dinosaur attacks. VP: 5 mild instances. VD: 1 scene with drinking.
Director: Jean Marie-Poiré. With Jean Reno, Christian Clavier, Christina Applegate, Malcolm McDowell. (93 min.)
Staff **1/2 A faulty potion sends a 13th-century French knight and his valet down "the tunnels of time" to wake up in a Chicago museum, touching off a romp through the city. The wizard (McDowell), realizing his mistake, comes after them, adding to the confusion. Director Poiré's English-language remake of his 1993 French hit brings back original stars Reno and Clavier. Not a great film, but high energy, good clean fun, and dumb humor keeps you laughing. By M.K. Terrell
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: Jean-Luc Godard. With Jean-Luc Godard, Jane Birkin, Jacques Villeret. (82 min.)
Sterritt *** This minor work by a major filmmaker tells three intertwined stories about a rock-music band, an eccentric worker, and a suicidal airplane pilot with a group of very worried passengers. Godard lends the comedy-drama an extra measure of offbeat charm with his own appearance as a sort of cinematic court jester, and the film's images grow more radiantly beautiful as it goes along. Everyday moviegoers may find its complicated structure more impenetrable than enticing, though. Made in 1987 and originally called "Soigne ta droite." In French with English subtitles
Directors: Diane Doniol-Valcroze, Arthur Flam. With Emmanuel Salinger, Christopher Zach. (85 min.)
Sterritt * Fascinated by women and the art of measuring them for clothes, a troubled young tailor escalates from bizarre behavior to outright murder. This dark psychological story falls short in terms of filmmaking and acting, but it's original enough to stand out from the crowd.
Director: Kristian Levring. With Jennifer Jason Leigh, Bruce Davison, Janet McTeer, Miles Anderson. (118 min.)
Struggling with loneliness and anxiety while waiting to be rescued from the African desert where their bus has broken down, a group of very different people decide to while away the time with a bare-bones staging of "King Lear," which stirs up more passions and apprehensions than expected. Levring was a founder of Denmark's innovative Dogma 95 movement, which tries to bring filmmaking back to its roots by forbidding artificial or extraneous effects. This unconventional character study is distinguished less by its elements of melodrama and psychodrama than by its intense acting and the vivid immediacy of Levring's powerful imagery.
Director: Chris Nahon. With Jet Li, Bridget Fonda, Tchéky Karyo, Burt Kwouk. (100 min.)
Staff ** Don't go to this martial arts movie expecting "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon." There's none of that movie's nuanced acting or genteel violence on display in this tale about a Chinese policeman (Li) framed for murder while on assignment in Paris. Stylish production values and inventive choreography fail to paper up the cavernous cracks in the story, but Li's karate chops are impressive as he somehow takes on more bad guys than Rambo did in three movies. By Stephen Humphries
VS/N: 4 scenes of implied sex. VV: 79 scenes, extremely violent. VP: 48 harsh expressions. VD: 4 scenes with smoking, 4 scenes with drinking, 2 scenes with drugtaking of cocaine and heroin.
Director: Brian Helgeland. With Heath Ledger, Mark Addy, Alan Tudyk, Paul Bettany. (132 min.)
"A Knight's Tale" is a familiar story in which a kid from the wrong side of town (Ledger) makes his dream of becoming a knight a reality by posing as royalty. Trained as a child by the best knight in England, the only thing holding him back from rivaling the best competitors from Europe - and winning the heart of a beautiful princess - is his status in society. This quest for personal triumph is accompanied by a surprising array of classic rock-music favorites and other light-hearted comic relief. It's good family entertainment, but the jousting is bloody and violent. By Heidi Wilson
Staff **1/2 Gorgeous costumes, Not quite Shakespeare, alarming at times.
VS/N: 2 scenes of partial male nudity. VV: 28 scenes, but no blood or gore. VP: 14 mild expressions. VD: 2 scenes with drinking.
Director: Rod Lurie. With Robert Redford, James Gandolfini, Mark Ruffalo, Delroy Lindo. (120 min.)
Staff ** In his follow-up to "The Contender," former film critic-turned-director Rod Lurie seems to be trying to create a prison drama that recalls "The Shawshank Redemption" and "The Great Escape." 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 a ruthless colonel who runs the military prison. The film is often entertaining, but it's hampered by an unmerited sense of self-importance, too-obvious gestures, and ludicrous plot holes. By Stephen Humphries
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.
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. How does she get into such a prestigious institution? This doesn't make much sense, even by the movie's own sitcom logic, but part of the answer is a videotaped application essay featuring our heroine in a bikini - a good example of what the movie as a whole is like. 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.
VS/N: None. VV: None. VP: 15 mild expressions. VD: 4 scenes with alcohol.
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: Stephanie Black. With Belinda Becker, Michael Manley, various residents of Jamaica. (82 min.)
Sterritt *** A nonfiction look at poverty and inequality in Jamaica, and at globalized forces that drive and sustain these hardships, often for the benefit of privileged people in faraway places. The documentary blends compassion for individuals with explanations of the socioenonomic factors that influence them, never forgetting that historical forces are anything but abstract when they manifest themselves in people's lives.
Director: Irwin Winkler. With Kevin Kline, Kristen Scott Thomas, Hayden Christiansen. (124 min.)
Staff *** "Life as a House" has a predictable story line, yet the telling is 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 (Christiansen), 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: Jamie Thraves. With Aidan Gillen, Kate Ashfield, Tobias Menzies. (96 min.)
Sterritt ** Our hero is a young Londoner who can't decide whether to find a nice girlfriend and settle down, as even his wilder friends are starting to do, or to stay with the day-to-day emotional drifting that has characterized his life so far. This comedy-drama has touches of quirky style to match its slightly edgy content, but its main audience will be 20-something audiences who haven't seen this kind of coming-of-age tale many times before.
Director: Raoul Peck. With Eriq Ebouaney, Theophile Moussa Sowie, Alex Descas, Maka Kotto. (115 min.)
Staff ** The true story of Patrice Lumumba, who helped the Congo escape from Belgian colonialism but fell victim to assassins after two months into the Congolese presidency. Ebouaney's performance combines a great sense of dignity with a failure to bring out the psychologically complex man or his political ideas. The film fails to explain why he became a flashpoint of controversy for many Western observers. In French with English subtitles
Director: Marleen Gorris. With John Turturro, Emily Watson, Stuart Wilson, Geraldine James. (108 min.)
Sterritt ** Turturro plays a chess master whose brilliance with knights and pawns is offset by an insecure, even bumbling approach to other aspects of life. Visiting an Italian resort to play an important match, he gets romantically involved with a beautiful Russian woman, and has trouble coping with the situation - partly because he's so unworldly, and partly because his childhood was disrupted by his own parents' unhappy marriage. The story (based on a Vladimir Nabokov novel) has promise, but it fails to score a checkmate because of Gorris's failure to build dramatic momentum or elicit first-rate performances.
Director: Jon Favreau. With Jon Favreau, Vince Vaughn, Sean Combs, Famke Janssen, Peter Falk. (95 min.)
Staff ** "Made" reunites Vince Vaughn and Jon Favreau, stars of the 1996 cult hit "Swingers." Bobby (Favreau) and Ricky (Vaughn) are small-time thugs sent to New York to help a deal go down. But professionals they're not, and do their best to (unintentionally) screw things up. Vaughn's comic talents shine with brilliant delivery and timing, while writer/director Favreau shows his skill with strong characterization and snappy dialogue. The pair's chemistry is dynamic, but a more seasoned director may have told a better story. By David S. Hauck
Staff ** Pointless, 'Not very money,' waste of time.
VS/N: 5 scenes of innuendo, 2 scenes with nudity, 1 scene of implied sex. VV: 6 scenes, including fight VP: 368 extremely harsh expressions. VD: 14 scenes with smoking; 9 scenes with drinking, 2 scenes with cocaine.
Director: Kamel Saleh, Akhenaton. With Kamel Saleh, Akhenaton, Brahim Aimad, Malek Brahimi. (100 min.)
Sterritt ** Love and crime are preoccupations of the main characters, ethnic-minority Frenchmen coping with poverty, discrimination, and their own self-created problems. The story and filmmaking are only sporadically interesting, but the movie deserves credit for exploring little-seen aspects of life in an increasingly multicultural France. Originally called "Comme un aimant." In French with English subtitles
Director: Giuseppe Tornatore. With Monica Bellucci, Luciano Federico, Giuseppe Sulfaro, Matilde Piana, Pietro Notarianni. (94 min.)
Staff **1/2 A love-struck teenager (Sulfaro) in 1940s Sicily watches in horror as his town, lacking Jews or any other convenient scapegoats, turns against the object of his obsession, a pretty but chaste war widow (Bellucci). Prevented from earning a decent living by jealousy and cowardice of the villagers, she becomes a prostitute. Striking photography, period detail, screen-filling crowd scenes, and veteran composer Morricone's score make this one worth seeing, but the sheer nastiness of the town's people drags it down. By M.K Terrell
Director: Joseph Bullman. With Colin Tennant, Nicholas Courtney, Princess Margaret. (78 min.)
Sterritt *** This hugely entertaining documentary etches a lively portrait of the elderly Lord Glenconner, a Scottish aristocrat who purchased a Caribbean island in the 1950s, touted it as a resort for the rich and famous, then sold it in the '70s when the investment went sour for him. The movie accompanies him on a rare visit to his former domain, where he prepares a luncheon for a royal friend while sparring with neighbors and servants over their occasional reluctance to let him have absolutely everything his own way. Must-see viewing if you're not quite sure the sun really set over the British Empire.
Director: Sally Potter. With Johnny Depp, Christina Ricci, Cate Blanchette, John Tuturro. (99 min.)
Staff **1/2 Stalinist troops arrest a little girl's grandmother and burn their shtetl. Escaping to England, she grows up in foster care as 'Suzie,' always longing to find her father in American. Grown Suzie (Ricci) joins a Paris cabaret act to raise boat fare and learns about life from a passionate gypsy (Depp), just as Hitler invades. Tuturro plays a vain tenor who sings gloriously, but turns out to be a facist bafoon. The film never quite gels, but the music (Verdi and Pucell) and Paris night views sometimes make it an aural and visual treat.
VS/N: 4 brief sex scenes. VV: 7 scenes. VP: 3 mild expressions. VD: 1 scene with cigarettes, 5 with alcohol
Director: Joel Coen. With Billy Bob Thornton, Frances McDormand, James Gandolfini, Tony Shalhoub. (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 meets a fast-talking entrepreneur looking for investors and arranges a blackmail scheme to raise money and take revenge on his cheating spouse. From its ominous title to its black-and-white cinematography, this is an affectionate homage to the shadowy "film noir" genre of old, written with gusto by Coen with his brother Ethan, and acted to near-perfection by a well-chosen cast. Haunting use of Beethoven music puts a crowning touch on the nostalgic package.
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: Nicholas Kendall. With David Bowie, Bill Switzer, Teryl Rothery, Garwin Sanford, Richard de Klerk. (93 min.)
Sterritt ** A mysterious ring plays a pivotal role in this youth-centered tale about a boy who's helped by an enigmatic man as he copes with challenges of illness and growing up. The drama is likably low-key but builds little excitement, and Bowie's star billing says more about the power of his agent than the number of scenes he appears in.
Director: Ted Bonnitt. With David Friedman, Dan Sonney. (80 min.)
Sterritt ** A wry documentary visit with two showmen who devoted their careers to developing, expanding, and profiting from the exotic world of exploitation movies. The title comes from their realization that a movie called "Mau Mau" will sell a lot more tickets if you add "Sex Sex" to the poster. Bonnitt provides some insights into issues of censorship and mass-culture morality, but the picture would have benefited from more flamboyant film clips and fewer folksy conversations with the garrulous old-timers it focuses on.
Director: Leos Carax. With Denis Lavant, Juliette Binoche, Michel Piccoli, Julie Delpy, Carroll Brooks, Serge Reggiani, Hans Meyer, Hugo Pratty. (116 min.)
Carax assembled a sensational cast for this moody 1987 fantasy about a man who joins a scheme to steal the cure for a new illness that only afflicts lovers who don't really care about each other. Also present is Carax's cinematic verve and a love for pop-culture detritus which gives the story much of its distinctive feel. Also known as "Bad Blood" and "The Night Is Young." In French with English subtitles
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: Rob Morrow. With Rob Morrow, Laura Linney, Robert Hogan, Craig Sheffer, Rose Gregorio. (97 min.)
Sterritt ** Morrow plays the title character, an artist diagnosed with a syndrome that gives him patterns of involuntary speech and movement. His condition doesn't stop him from becoming infatuated with his best friend's lover, touching off a string of unexpected events and raising questions about his capacities for love and loyalty. Although this is a likable comedy-drama, it never quite balances its humanitarian message (disabled people fall in love like everyone else) with its standard-issue romantic angles. Moviegoers interested in how people cope with Maze's syndrome would do better to see the witty 1993 documentary "Twitch and Shout," which included the real-life Lyle Maze among its subjects.
Director: Christopher Nolan, With Guy Pearce, Carrie-Ann Moss, Joe Pantoliano. (118 min.)
Sterritt *** A young man hunts the criminal who murdered his wife, hampered by a physical condition that obliterates his short-term memory on a day-by-day basis. How do you conduct a life-or-death quest under such circumstances? You write yourself endless notes, tattoo crucial information on your skin, and hope your cause is just enough to succeed. This unconventionally structured thriller moves at an energetic pace, spurred by a string of clever variations on conventional film narrative.
Staff *** A reel-ful of Polaroid moments, fresh, intricate, long.
VS/N: None. V: 9 scenes of violence, including a rape. VP: 143 harsh expressions. VD: 6 instances of drinking; 1 scene with smoking.
Director: Gore Verbinski. With Julia Roberts, Brad Pitt, James Gandolfini, Bob Balaban, J.K. Simmons, David Krumholtz, Gene Hackman. (123 min.)
Sterritt *** Pressured by mobsters, a small-time crook takes on one last job - retrieving an exotic pistol from a Mexican village - which places him in very hot water and lands his estranged girlfriend in the hands of an eccentric kidnapper. Lively acting and stylish directing make this an engaging comedy-drama, although its attitude toward guns and violence is disconcertingly romantic.
Staff **1/2 Edgy, disappointing, quirky, Gandolfini shines.
VS/N: 3 scenes of innuendo. VV: 14 scenes, including suicide and gunshots wounds. VP: 15 harsh expressions. VD: 4 scenes with smoking.
Director: Henry Selick. With Brendan Fraser, Brigette Fonda, Rose McGowan, Whoopi Goldberg. (87 min.)
Staff * Stu (Fraser) is a meek cartoonist whose saucy comic strip has just been picked up as a TV series. But when he smashes his Karmann-Ghia into a building and falls into a deep coma, he finds himself in a kind of purgatory filled with not-so-scary monsters. What's scary is that Monkeybone, his sex-crazed cartoon character, takes over Stu's body when he wakes up. An enormous cadre of animators, puppeteers, and technicians try for all they're worth but can't get this unfunny flick to wake up. By M.K. Terrell
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 energy is generated from children's screams, helped by a company that employs professional kiddie-scarers to frighten tykes in their beds. The monsters are more scared of kids than kids are of them, however. The characters of this animated comedy 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: D.A. Pennebaker. With Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, The Who, Jefferson Airplane, The Mamas and the Papas, Simon and Garfunkel. (78 min.)
Sterritt *** This nonfiction visit to the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival, first released in 1969 to great acclaim, documents high-energy performances by a wide range of top-ranking '60s rock musicians. It captures their magic with a freewheeling spontaneity that became a model for later pop-music movies and made Pennebaker a directorial star of the cinéma-vérité documentary movement.
Director: Baz Luhrmann. With Nicole Kidman, Ewan McGregor, Jim Broadbent, John Leguizamo. (120 min.)
Sterritt *** The setting is Paris a century ago. The heroine is a can-can dancer caught between the love of a poor poet and the lust of a wealthy count who could help her career. Kidman and McGregor make a fetching couple and some will find it exhilarating fun. Others will pine for the days when musicals cared more about singing and dancing than cinematic shenanigans for their own sake.
Staff **1/2 Visual delight, uneven, good songs.
VS/N: Several scenes of innuendo. VV: 2 scenes, one with attempted rape. VP: None. VD: 8 scenes of smoking, 11 with alcohol.
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.
VS/N: 7 scenes of explicit sex and innuendo. VV: 9 instances, often disturbing. VP: 9 harsh expressions. VD: 2 scenes with alcohol, 2 scenes with cigarettes.
Director: Stephen Sommers. With Brendan Fraser, Rachel Weisz, Patricia Velasquez, John Hannah, Arnold Vosloo, Alun Armstrong, The Rock. (125 min.)
Sterritt ** A handsome adventurer and his Egyptologist wife dash through an Indiana Jones-style story about the resurrection of a three-millennium-old nemesis, the lurking danger of a long-buried warrior, and the appearance of a very ominous bracelet on their son's arm. Writer-director Sommers serves up rousing visual effects, smart-alecky dialogue, and sword-swinging action. But there's more emphasis on computer-generated gimmickry than on persuasive acting and ideas, and there's not a moment of real feeling in this expensive but empty-hearted epic.
Staff **1/2 Good romance, witty references to other films, over the top.
VS/N: None. VV:16 scenes, intense and scary, but not too gory. VP: 6 very mild expressions. VD: None.
Director: Peter Hyams. With Justin Chambers, Stephen Rea, 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. It's up to Tim Roth's hissable villain and Deneuve's twinkle-eyed queen to liven up things in between fencing choreography that manages to out-Zorro "Zorro." By Stephen Humphries
Director: Christine Lahti. With Albert Brooks, Leelee Sobieski, Desmond Harrington, Carol Kane. (109 min.)
Staff ***1/2 Leelee Sobieski and Albert Brooks play odd-couple opposites in this unconventional romantic comedy. He's a prim 49-year-old haberdasher, she's a heavily-pierced goth just out of high school. While there are significant taboos in this pairing - she's underage at 17, and he's her boss - the movie ultimately displays that true love is about positive transgressions. As their love-interest turns from flirtation to familial love, the triumph of trust between the characters remains utterly convincing and upliftingly funny. By Ben Arnoldy
Staff *** Touching, modest, tear-jerking
VS/N: 6 scenes of implied sex and innuendo. VV: 4 instances of self-inflicted wounds. VP: 64 expressions. VD: 2 scenes with alcohol, 1 scene with marijuana.
Director: Betsy Blankenbaker. With Dan Wakefield, Nat Hentoff, Joan Didion, Robert Redford, William F. Buckley Jr., Gay Talese. (72 min.)
Sterritt *** A collective memoir of the hip Manhattan life of a half-century ago, when artists and thinkers like the bebop musicians, the New York School painters, and the Beat Generation writers were shaking and waking the cold-war conformity of their era. The verbal recollections and photographic memorabilia don't go very deep, but they suggest the energy and complexity of what is truly an underrated decade.
Director: Cesc Gay. With Fernando Ramallo, Jordi Vilches, Marieta Orozco, Esther Nubiola, Chisco Amado. (90 min.)
Sterritt ** Two teenage boys, one straight and one gay, come of age during a romantic Spanish summer. The acting is amiable but the story isn't much deeper than the callow main characters. In Spanish with English subtitles
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: Owsley Brown III. With Paul Bowles, Phillip Ramey, Abdelouahaid Boulaich, Joseph A. McPhillips III, Karim Jihad Achouatte. (80 min.)
Sterritt *** Bowles is known mainly as the author of "The Sheltering Sky" and other evocative fiction, but he started his career as a composer trained and influenced by Aaron Copland and other major musical figures. This finely tuned documentary outlines his career and devotes a commendably large portion of the soundtrack to his compositions, accompanying them with poetic footage of New York City and Tangiers, the places where he spent his most productive years. Some of the footage was shot by the great Rudy Burckhardt and by Nathaniel Dorsky, who also edited the film.
Directors: Sophie Calle, Greg Shephard. With Sophie Calle, Greg Shephard. (65 min.)
American photographer Shephard and French artist Calle made a video and photographic record of a drive they took across the United States, starting in New York and ending in Las Vegas at a drive-through wedding chapel. With its skillful blend of documentary, confessional, and comic moods, this is one of the infrequent avant-garde movies that's as amusing and entertaining as it is artful and sophisticated.
Director: David Atkins. With Steve Martin, Helena Bonham Carter, Laura Dern, Scott Caan. (95 min.)
Staff **1/2 Steve Martin returns to the screen in the role of a dentist for the second time in his career (the first was in "Little Shop of Horrors"), but this is one of Martin's rare non-comedic roles. Well, almost. There is comedy in "Novocaine," a film-noir tale about a dentist who becomes a murder suspect after one of his patients scams him for prescription drugs, but it's pitch black and only reveals itself gradually. Martin is excellent in the role: 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.(But stay away if you're the type who gets squeamish in the dentist's chair!) By Stephen Humphries
Staff ** Ridiculous plot twist, entertaining, improbable.
VS/N: 10 scenes including implied sex and nudity. VV: 10 grisly scenes. VP: At least 40 harsh expressions. VD: 11 scenes with smoking, 3 scenes with alcohol, 1 with drugs.
Director: Tim Blake Nelson. With Julia Stiles, Josh Hartnett, Mekhi Phifer, Martin Sheen, Rain Phoenix. (91 min.)
Staff *** Adapting Shakespeare's "Othello" into a modern-day high-school tragedy sounds gimmicky on paper. Thankfully, though, "O" has deeper concerns. 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 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: Joel Coen. With George Clooney, John Turturro, Tim Blake Nelson, Holly Hunter, John Goodman. (143 min.)
Sterritt ** Three small-time crooks escape from a Southern chain gang and embark on a quest for adventure, romance, and buried treasure. The screenplay by director Coen and producer Ethan Coen borrows from sources as varied as "The Odyssey" and Preston Sturges's brilliant 1941 comedy "Sullivan's Travels," about a movie director who longs to make a picture called "O Brother, Where Art Thou?" to prove what a serious guy he is. For all its ambitions, though, the Coens' odyssey is a scattershot affair with too many tricks and twists for its own good.
VS/N: 2 scenes of implied sex. VV: 11 scenes, including beating a man. VP: 57 mostly mild expressions. VD: 3 scenes with alcohol, 2 instances of smoking
Director: Steven Soderbergh. With George Clooney, Matt Damon, Brad Pitt, Julia Roberts, Andy Garcia, Carl Reiner, Elliott Gould. (105 min.)
Sterritt *** Flimsy but amusing remake of the 1960 comedy-thriller about a gang of rascally thieves who decide to burgle a trio of Las Vegas casinos. Clooney and company aren't as self-consciously stylish as Frank Sinatra and his Rat Pack pals of yore, but they have good-natured fun with Soderbergh's blend of heist-movie suspense and smart-alecky dialogue, and Reiner and Gould are uproarious as old-timers helping with the job. Add the beguiling Roberts as a very wild card in the deck, and you have a caper that rarely goes wrong.
Staff *** Crowd-pleaser, slick, big-budget caper.
VS/N: None. VV: 3 scenes, plus several explosions. VP: 21 expressions, some harsh. VD: 17 scenes with drinking and smoking.
Directors: Liz Mermin, Jenny Raskin. With Richard Stuntz, Susan Cahill, Morris Wortman. (73 min.)
Sterritt *** A nonfiction study of abortion practices and politics in the United States today, stressing the personal and professional dangers faced by abortion providers who draw the attention and anger of sometimes fanatical opponents. The film doesn't dig very deep into the social or moral history of its subject, but it contains much instructive and eye-opening material.
Director: James Wong. Jet Lee, Carla Gugino, Delroy Lindo, Jason Statham. (80 min.)
Staff **1/2According to the plot of "The One," there are 125 parallel universes. And in each there is a parallel version of each one of us. A megalomaniac (Jet Lee) is killing off his alter egos, knowing that those who remain will inherit the victims' strength and intelligence. Kill them all off, and he'll be a godlike creature: "The One." The bad guy comes to Los Angeles to kill number 124. It's to give us the ultimate battle: Li vs. Li. As the non-stop action hurtles toward a rather predictable conclusion, you may have to look hard for a spiritual dimension, but it's there. By M.K. Terrell
Director: Harald Zwart. With Liv Tyler, Matt Dillon, Michael Douglas, John Goodman, Paul Reiser. (93 min).
Sterritt ** Tyler plays a loose-living woman whose beauty bedazzles every romance-starved man who takes a look at her - which might bode well for her future if the men weren't such a sorry lot: a lawyer who lusts for her, a barfly whose house she decides to rob, and a policeman trying to crack a murder she's bumbled her way into. There's plenty of sex and violence in this "Pulp Fiction"-style comedy, but it's all so fast and frenetic that you may notice its MTV-style energy more than its gross-out moments. What you can't miss is Tyler's ability to look tantalizing in every outfit the hyperactive costume designer could dream up.
Staff ** Funny but no story, aimless, Tyler vamps it up well.
VS/N: 12 instances of sexual activity, no nudity. VV: 9 scenes, including gory deaths. VP: 49 harsh expressions. VD: 12 scenes with alcohol and 10 with drugs.
Director: Michael Cristofer. With Antonio Banderas, Angelina Joie, Joan Pringle (112 min).
Staff * This steamy 19th-century love story begins its tale behind bars with a pair of lips. These lips tell us of a mysterious tale of shameless love and obsessive betrayal. It is a story with many twists of attraction and deception between a Gullible Cuban coffee merchant (Banderas) and his mail-order American bride (Jolie) who is not quite what she seems. Although it is deliciously filmed around stunning scenery, 'Original Sin' turns out to be another tedious melodrama simply reminding us of the unfortunate fate that awaits those consumed by lustful love.
Directors: Peter Farrelly, Bobby Farrelly. With Bill Murray, Molly Shannon, Chris Elliott, voices of Chris Rock, Laurence Fishburne, William Shatner, David Hyde Pierce. (90 min.)
Sterritt ** Our hero has poor health habits - heavy on the snacks, light on the exercise - and we see the physiological fallout of his irresponsibility in animated sequences set at different times of day in different parts of his distressed innards, where a talkative white blood cell and an officious patent-medicine pill work to cure him. This mixture of cartooning and live action has antecedents as different as the science-fiction adventure "Fantastic Journey," old educational TV specials like "Hemo the Magnificent," and "Who Framed Roger Rabbit," which was far more ambitious. But the Farrelly brothers inevitably steer toward gross-out farce, and little they cook up here amounts to more than smart-alecky parody with an intermittently sour smell. Young viewers may guffaw, but seasoned fans of "There's Something About Mary" will be disappointed.
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 subdued and sometimes subtle exercise in ghostly doings, going against the horror-movie grain by relying on quietude and understatement. 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 ending, great ghost story, too slow.
VS/N: 1 scene of implied sex. VV: 10 scary scenes. VP: 2 mild expressions. VD: 2 scenes of pilltaking.
Director: Barbet Schroder. With German Jaramillo, Anderson Ballesteros. (101 min.)
Staff *** A middle-aged intellectual (Jaramillo), returns to Medellin, Colombia, after 30 years, to find that his sleepy home town has grown to 4 million people, many existing in crushing poverty and drug trade-related anarchy. He is strangely drawn to a teenager (Ballesteros), who murders at the slightest provocation and is himself the target of frequent drive-by shootings. Director Schroeder used non-professional youths from the actual barrios we see on screen. By M.K. Terrell
VS/N: 7 scenes with nudity. VV: 5 scenes, sometimes gory. VP: 56 harsh expressions. VD: 6 scenes with drinking, 1 scene with smoking, 2 scenes with drugs.
Director: Henry Bromell. With William H. Macy, Neve Campbell, Donald Sutherland, Tracey Ullman, John Ritter. (88 min.)
Sterritt ** A professional killer worries about his little boy, converses with his father and his psychiatrist, and starts an affair with a younger woman in this brooding, understated thriller. The atmosphere is more compelling than the plot, but the story does pack a surprise or two.
Director: Michael Bay. With Ben Affleck, Kate Beckinsale, Josh Hartnett, Cuba Gooding Jr. (178 min.)
The friendship of two pilots is threatened when they both fall for the same woman on the eve of America's defeat at Pearl Harbor. The script of this self-important epic is about as well-structured as a scrambled egg, and the acting is cartoonish. Even the much-vaunted depiction of the Japanese attack, while often visually arresting, still suffers from over-frenetic editing and more emphasis on adventure thrills than befits the tragedy of Pearl Harbor. By Stephen Humphries
Staff *** Disappointing, overlong, thrilling, engrossing, shallow.
VS/N: 1 sex scene, 11 scenes with partial nudity. VV: 274 scenes. VP: 40 harsh expressions. VD: 5 scenes with cigarettes, 3 scenes with alcohol.
Directors: Nicolas Roeg, Donald Cammell. With Mick Jagger, James Fox, Anita Pallenberg. (105 min.)
The personalities of a psychopathic gangster and a faded rock musician appear to mingle and fuse after unplanned events bring the unlikely pair together. This unorthodox 1970 psychological thriller from England includes one of Jagger's few successful appearances in a fiction film, and it remains the best-known effort completed by Cammell before his death. More importantly, it put Roeg's powerful cinematic style on the cultural map for the first time.
Director: Ingmar Bergman. With Liv Ullmann, Bibi Andersson, Margaretha Krook, Gunnar Bjornstrand. (81 min.)
Sterritt **** This great Swedish masterpiece from 1966 explores the mysteries of identity and personality through the story of a psychologically afflicted actress and a well-meaning nurse who develop an intricate relationship while sojourning together in an isolated house. The radically unusual style Bergman employs here suggests fascinating new ideas about the mysteries of cinema, as well. In Swedish with English subtitles
Director: Chen Kuo-fu. With Rene Liu, Chin Shih-chieh, Chen Chao-jung, Wuu Bai, Gu Bao-ming. (104 min.
Sterritt *** Looking for a suitable husband, a young physician places a personal ad in the newspaper and sets about interviewing a wide assortment of mostly unsuitable men for the position. Liu is dazzling as the heroine, and the movie as a whole strikes a lovely balance between comedy and compassion.
Director: Tim Burton. With Mark Wahlberg, Helena Bonham Carter, Tim Roth, Michael Clarke Duncan. (119 min.)
Sterritt ** Wahlberg crash-lands his spaceship on a world where supersmart simians have all the power and human beings are their slaves. Burton is an imaginative director with a distinctive artistic vision, but his originality is nowhere to be seen in this by-the-numbers retread of a science-fiction premise that seemed much fresher in 1968, when the original "Planet" was released. And what's the point of having gifted actors like Carter and Roth, when it's hard to savor their talents under all that monkey makeup?
Staff *1/2 One-dimensional, Burton succeeds again, never dull, terrific sets and makeup.
VS/N: 1 scene of innuendo. VV: 22 scenes, including gore. VP: 10 mild expressions. VD: 2 scenes with smoking; 2 scenes with drinking.
Director: Sean Penn. With Jack Nicholson, Helen Mirren, Benicio Del Toro, Robin Wright Penn, Tom Noonan, Vanessa Redgrave, Sam Shepard, Lois Smith, Harry Dean Stanton, Aaron Eckhart, Mickey Rourke. (123 min.)
Sterritt *** An aging cop postpones his retirement to find the murderer of a little girl, fighting the odds against tracking down the killer and facing skeptical colleagues who think the psychopath has already been caught and killed. The acting is excellent and Penn reconfirms his remarkable talent for muted, understated filmmaking that focuses on character and dialogue rather than spectacle and sensationalism. The film's weak point is the screenplay by Jerzy Kromolowski and Mary Olson-Kromolowski, which lapses into clichés far more often than Penn's visual style does.
Staff ***1/2 Existential, slow-paced, taut, sometimes difficult to watch, haven't stopped thinking about it.
VS/N: 1 sex scene, no nudity, 5 verbal references. VV: 6 extremely gory scenes including murder and suicide. VP: 23 mainly harsh expressions. VD: 17 scenes with smoking, 5 with drinking
Director: Harry Sinclair. With Danielle McCormack, Karl Urban, Willa O'Neill. (90 min.)
Sterritt * Concerned that the relationship with her boyfriend might be cooling off as they move toward their impending marriage, a young woman takes a friend's advice and devises a series of tests to prove the strength of her fiancé's affection. This amiable New Zealand comedy would be more fun if it accompanied its imaginative plot with imaginative acting and filmmaking. If a mildly magical story is what you're after, it'll be worth the price of admission. Otherwise save your milk money for something more substantial.
Director: Garry Marshall. With Julie Andrews, Anne Hathaway, Heather Matarazzo, Hector Elizondo. (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 who's never been told she has royal blood. With its leisurely pace and unfancy filmmaking, this is a likable throwback to an old tradition of family-friendly comedies from the Disney studio, spinning its unpretentious yarn with a quiet but inventive sense of humor. The problem is that it goes on much too long, stretching a modest story into a marathon that outlasts its welcome by about 30 minutes.
Staff *** Benign, whimsical, endearing, fluffy, bland.
VS/N: None. VV: None. VP: None. VD: 2 scenes with drinking.
Director: Tom Tykwer. With Franka Potente, Benno Fürmann, Marita Breuer, Joachim Kröl. (130 min.)
Sterritt *** When she's hit by a speeding truck, a reserved young nurse is saved from perishing by a stranger who vanishes as soon as the crisis is over - only to reappear later when she happens to be in a bank he's decided to rob. Are these events just coincidence, or is there some larger destiny that wants their lives to intertwine? This dramatic look at questions of time and fate is less explosive than Tykwer's explosive "Run Lola Run," but it offers much food for thought. In German with English subtitles
Director: Jerry Zucker. With John Cleese, Whoopi Goldberg, Cuba Goldberg, Seth Green. (112 min.)
Staff *1/2 When a millionaire gambling magnet (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 for 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. The gags that do work are fantastic, but mostly this is an uninspired affair. By Stephen Humphries
Staff *1/2 Flashy, nonsensical, simplistic, cocky.
VS/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: Chuck Sheetz. With voices of Dabney Coleman, Melissa Joan Hart, Peter MacNichol. (84 min.)
Staff **1/2 Another brats-to-the-rescue fable. This time the TV gang from Disney's "Recess" must stop a renegade school principal who kidnaps the real principal, and makes a school his lab for turning Earth into a snowball. Eliminate summer, he reasons, and kids will study all year round. Good fun for the K-5 set with some good chuckles for parents. The story is lively enough to overcome its TV-style animation, but the final battle (water balloons, condiment squirting, cafeteria soup) may be a bit too much for some preschoolers. By M.K. Terrell
Staff **1/2 Spunky, punchy, chuckle-worthy.
VS/N: None. VV: 6 scenes of comic violence. VP: None. VD: None.
Director: Jule Gilfillan. With Catherine Kellner, David Wu. (98 min.)
Sterritt ** An unusual relationship develops between an American woman visiting Beijing in search of adventure and a Chinese-American man who doesn't feel much more at home there than she does. The movie is likable and well acted, but it doesn't make a very strong or lasting impression.
Director: John Farrell. With Matte Osian, Kadina Delejalde, Deb Snyder, Tom Turbiville, Ellen Zachos. (93 min.)
Sterritt * A modern-dress version of William Shakespeare's minor history play about a smart but ineffectual monarch who finds his supporters shrinking in number, while a rival tries to engineer his downfall and death. Shot with nondigital video equipment on an island in Boston Harbor, this ultra-low-budget production has a scruffy cinematic interest, but isn't photographed or acted with enough imagination to carry much weight as Shakespearean drama.
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), her dreams are shattered by new - sometimes nasty - realities. 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 takes a touching, humorous look at the relationships and events that shaped one woman's life, and the lives of those closest to her. It's an enjoyable journey, though at times it loses its way and drags a bit. 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: Tsai Ming-liang. With Lee Kang-sheng, Miao Tien, Lu Hsiao-ling, Chen Chao-jung, Ann Hui. (115 min.)
Sterritt *** This moody domestic drama centers on a father and mother, both of whom have secret sex lives outside their marriage, and their grown-up son, who starts to experience a mysterious ailment after floating in a polluted river. Tsai has made greater films, like "The Hole" and "What Time Is It Over There?" but his distinctive style is present as this atmospheric story unfolds through leisurely shots that invite us not just to watch the characters, but to live and breathe along with them. In Mandarin with English subtitles
Director: Zhang Yimou. With Zhang Ziyi, Honglei Sun, Hao Zheng, Yuelin Zhao. (89 min.)
As he prepares for his father's funeral, a man recalls the stories he's heard about the long-ago love affair between his parents, a young peasant woman and a village schoolmaster, during the 1950s - a time of transition in China between ancient folkways and new-fangled ideas like romantic love. Zhang Yimou has directed much greater films, like "Ju Dou" and "The Story of Qiu Ju," but this effort has a graceful simplicity that many will find hard to resist. Ditto for the starring performance by Zhang Ziyi, who earned fame in "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon."
Staff ***1/2 Luminous, moral, poetic, compassionate.
VS/N: None. VV: None. VP: None. VD: None.
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, endangering his relationship with the girlfriend and manager (Aniston) who's been with him since the beginning. 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 in a room together for 90 minutes, and you've got a hit movie. Here, the odd-couple detectives chase evil Triad counterfeiters from Hong Kong to Las Vegas. But never mind all that. The plot is full of holes anyway. And never mind that the sequel's stunts and fight-scene choreography aren't quite as impressive as that of the first movie - the amped-up comedy more than compensates to carry the day. Actor chemistry matters. By Matthew MacLean
Staff *** Flashy, nonsensical, simplistic, cocky.
VS/N: 4 scenes of innuendo. 3 scenes male posterior nudity. VV: 11 scenes, including martial arts. VP: 40 expressions, many harsh. VD: 3 scenes with alcohol, 3 scenes with smoking.
Director: Thomas Carter. With Julia Stiles, Sean Patrick Thomas, Vince Green, Terry Kinney. (110 min.)
Staff ** For Sara Johnson (Stiles), ballet is her life. But when her mom dies in a car accident, her life pirouettes out of control. Sara must move in with her estranged father in a rough neighborhood of Chicago and attend a mostly black high school. There, she meets a handsome black teen who inspires her to step back into the groove and put some hip-hop in her moves. It's a decent enough movie, but it tries to incorporate too many ideas at once - overcoming adversity, succeeding in ballet, an interracial relationship, life on the street. It would have been stronger had it zeroed in on one theme. By Lisa Leigh Parney
Staff *** Good values, credible characters.
VS/N: 7 scenes with innuendo, scantily clad women and male nudity. VV: 20 scenes of mostly comic violence, including fighting. VP: 53 expressions, mostly mild, but some sexual references. VD: 7 scenes with smoking.
Director: Dennis Dugan. With Steve Zahn, Amanda Peet, Frank Black, Jason Biggs, R. Lee Ermey (90 min.)
Staff **1/2 Domineering psychologist (Peet) captures the heart of an obsequious, Neil Diamond-loving 20-something (Biggs), forcing him to answer one of life's toughest questions: pals before gals? Rising funnymen Jack Black and Steve Zahn are terrific as the kidnap-scheming, jealous pals, but the raunchy gags borrow heavily from "There's Something About Mary" and overacting make for some flat scenes. If audiences can stomach sloppy editing, bawdy humor, and an awkward Neil Diamond cameo, this movie could quickly become a GPC (guilty pleasure classic). By Josh Burek
Staff **1/2 Kinda sweet, hit-and-miss comedy, one for Farrelly Brother fans.
VS/N: 7 scenes with innuendo, scantily clad women and male nudity. VV: 20 scenes of mostly comic violence, including fighting. VP: 53 expressions, mostly mild, but some sexual references. VD: 7 scenes with smoking.
Director: Damon Wayans. With Carmen Electra, Shannon Elisabeth, Hector Elizondo, Tim Curry. (88 min.)
Staff 1/2 The original Scary movie was a rather smart, funny riff on horror movies, in the "Naked Gun" vein. Well that vein has apparently run dry, for all this sequel can offer is lots of clichés and bathroom humor. You won't laugh and you won't be scared, but you may be embarrassed for the group of teenagers trapped in an archetypical haunted house for a weekend with Tim Curry. They're forced to deliver such terrible one-liners rather than simply get killed off one by one. By Alex Kaloostian
Director: Frank Oz. With Robert De Niro, Edward Norton, Marlon Brando, Angela Bassett. (124 min.)
Staff ** Any movie poster boasting De Niro, Norton, and Brando - three great actors from three different generations - is sure to generate excitement. But this heist movie is also third-rate material. De Niro plays a safecracker who, you guessed it, accepts one last job before he retires to help out an in-debt Brando. Norton, as De Niro's partner, is a pleasure to watch, but like the other actors he's hardly stretching himself here. The final robbery arrives a little too late after a tortoise-paced beginning. Like the movie itself, the sequence is amiable fun, but too low-key. By Stephen Humphries
Staff *** Intelligent, no emotional drive, thrilling.
VS/N: None. VV: 5 scenes, including beating. VP: 79 harsh expressions. VD: 2 scenes with smoking; 6 scenes with drinking.
Director: Daniel Anker. With Mills Thornton, James Goodman, Wayne Flynt, Dan Carter. (84 min.)
Sterritt *** This articulate documentary takes a clear-eyed look at the dismaying events that enveloped nine African-American youngsters who were arrested, prosecuted, and persecuted in Alabama for the 1931 rape of two white women, a crime that probably didn't happen and was certainly not committed by any of them. Their ordeals captured the attention of everyone from racial bigots, more interested in sustaining white supremacy than obtaining justice, to Communist idealists, eager to seize on American inequities to bolster their cause. All emerge as vivid historical figures in this lucid account.
Director: John Whitesell. With David Arquette, Michael Clarke Duncan, Leslie Bibb, Paul Sorvino. (93 min.)
Staff * Arquette plays Gordon, a letter carrier who has a problem with dogs and is clueless when it comes to kids. Suddenly he finds himself in charge of a beautiful neighbor's little boy and an FBI dog that a drug lord wants to bump off. The bungling hit men provide some laughs, Jones is marvelous as the kid, and Arquette shows a flair for physical comedy and warm male bonding scenes. Sadly, the director's uneveness of tone and poor sense of comic timing thwart the cast's efforts. By M.K. Terrell
VS/N: 1 incident with innuendo. VV: 12 scenes of comic violence. VP: 10 mild expressions. VD: None.
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: 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: Brad Anderson. With David Caruso, Peter Mullan, Josh Lucas, Brendan Sexton.
Staff * Director Anderson made a name for himself with "Next Stop Wonderland," a quirky and fun romantic comedy. Here, he brings us a disturbing, creepy horror film set in an abandoned mental institution. When a crew of asbestos workers arrive on the scene, they split up and start, well, removing asbestos. During this time, one of the members finds some old tapes of sessions - yes, nine - with a former patient with multiple personalities. Talented actors are wasted on an empty and aimless plot. By Lisa Leigh Parney
Director: Daniel Minahan. With Brooke Smith, Mark Woodbury, Michael Kaycheck, Marylouise Burke, Richard Venture, Donna Hanover. (85 min.)
Sterritt *** This ferocious satire of "reality television" presents a marathon of episodes from a (bogus) show that arms ordinary people with deadly weapons and then videotapes them as they hunt and kill one another. Too cynical and savage to believe? Have another look at the TV listings in your local newspaper, project your imagination into the future, and ponder the possibilities.
Directors: Jonathan Glazer. With Ben Kingsley, Ray Winstone, Ian McShane, Amanda Redman. (88 min.)
Staff *** In this smart, funny British caper, Gal (Ray Winstone) is an ex-mobster enjoying a quiet retirement in Spain. He has an easy life relaxing with his wife and another couple - until, that is, his ex-boss Don Logan (Ben Kingsley) arrives on the scene. Against his will, Gal gets sucked back into another heist. It's hardly a new premise, but Glazer's snappy direction and fine acting by all the cast (particularly Kingsley, in the most un-Ghandi-like role imaginable) put this film at the top of its genre. By Amanda Paulson
Staff *** Brutal, wickedly funny, Kingsley shines.
VS/N: 1 sex scene with nudity. VV: 8 scenes, extremely violent. VP: 138 harsh expressions. VD: 17 scenes with smoking, 12 scenes with drinking.
Director: E. Elias Merhige. With Willem Dafoe, John Malkovich, Catherine McCormack, Udo Keir, Eddie Izzard, Cary Elwes. (91 min.)
Sterritt *** This inventive comic nightmare looks at the making of the 1921 horror classic "Nosferatu," but instead of taking a straightforward historical approach, it posits the whimsical idea that the Dracula character was portrayed by a real vampire whose price for taking the part was a bite of the leading lady's neck. Malkovich is wryly amusing as German director F.W. Murnau, and Dafoe steals the show as a vampire playing an actor playing a vampire.
Staff *** Dark, witty, nostalgic, Dafoe is best Dracula in decades.
VS/N: 3 scenes, including nudity. VV: 5 scenes, not terribly graphic. VP: 13 expressions both harsh and mild. VD: 9 scenes with smoking, 3 with drinking, and 4 scenes with drugs.
Directors: Peter Farrelly, Bobby Farrelly. With Jack Black, Gwyneth Paltrow. (110 min.)
Sterritt ** The main character is a self-absorbed businessman who 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, causing him to see her as others do. He hurts her badly, decides he loves her anyway,... and you can guess the rest. Paltrow wears a fat suit for some of Rosemary's scenes, but usually we view her through Hal's idealizing eyes, contradicting the movie's effort to convey an enlightened message about seeing people for what they are instead of how they look. In all, this comedy is sheer compromise, only half as funny and constructive as it wants to be.
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.
Directors: Andrew Adamson, Vicky Jenson. With voices of Mike Myers, Cameron Diaz, Eddie Murphy, John Lithgow, Vincent Cassel. (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 ugly-looking monster and the inner beauty of his royal companion. The story has rollicking moments and the visuals are amazingly realistic, filling the screen with authentic effects - eagerly dancing flames, smoothly flowing water, finely detailed facial expressions - that animators could only approximate before computer-generated imagery entered their tool kit. Don't expect a great cartoon on the level of "Toy Story" or the old Disney classics, but animation fans will find a generous amount of fun.
Irreverent, fairytale turned inside out, fabulous animation.
VS/N: None. VV: None. VP: 4 mild. VD: None.
Director: Edward Burns. With Edward Burns, Heather Graham, Stanley Tucci, Brittany Murphy. (107 min.)
Staff * Edward Burns is a charming actor and colorful writer, but his latest film lacks an anchor and a rudder. The aimless film drifts between the confusions, romantic liaisons, and infidelities of an assorted group of New Yorkers - a waitress, an unfaithful husband, an egotistical TV show host, and a hotel doorman. 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
VS/N: 46 scenes with frank sex talk, 4 scenes with sex. VV: 1 mild scene. VP: 99 harsh expressions. VD: 6 scenes with alcohol, 1 scenes with smoking.
Director: Jonathan Nossiter. With Stellan SkarsgÃƒÂ¥rd, Charlotte Rampling, Debra Kara Unger. (108 min.)
Sterritt *** Portents and premonitions play important parts in the life of the main character, a Danish businessman living in Athens with his Greek-American wife, but they cause more confusion than enlightenment when an illicit love affair starts wreaking havoc with his marriage. The director of "Sunday" has crafted another unusual and imaginative drama.
Director: Bahman Farmanara. With Bahman Farmanara, Roya Nonahali, Reza Kianian, Valiyollah Shirandami, Hossien Kasbian (93 min.)
Sterritt *** Farmanara plays the hero of this semiautiobiographical drama about a filmmaker who's gloomy because censorship pressures are preventing him from making a new film. So he embarks on a documentary about funeral customs, which makes him gloomier than ever until the satisfaction of energizing his imagination brings rewards that renew his affection for the world. Like the experiences of its hero, this understated Iranian drama affirms life as vigorously as it provokes thought. In Farsi with English subtitles
Director: Guy Ritchie. With Brad Pitt, Benicio Del Toro, Dennis Farina, Vinnie Jones, Jason Statham. (104 min.)
Staff **1/2 He's known as "the husband of Madonna," but can Guy Ritchie direct? Yes! Ritchie's flashy command of the film medium is used to audacious effect in this gangster comedy which centers around attempts to snatch a 65-carat diamond. If the film is too similar to Ritchie's first movie, "Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels" with its multiple story lines, complex plotting, and double-crossing antics, it's at least colorfully told with dialogue that shines with the inventive slang of Ritchie's screenplay. Violent, but Quentin Tarantino fans will enjoy it. By Stephen Humphries
Staff *** A motley crew of characters, fast-paced, great cinematography, dizzying.
VS/N: 2 scenes with nudity. 1 incident of innuendo. VV: 23 brutal scenes including amputation and boxing matches. VP: 171 mostly harsh expressions. VD: 5 scenes with smoking, 3 with drinking.
Director: Claude Lanzmann. With Yehuda Lerner.(95 min.)
Sterritt **** A feature-length interview with a Holocaust survivor who escaped from no fewer than eight Nazi strongholds and then participated in a Jewish rebellion against the overlords of the lethal Sobibor death camp. The conversation was shot in 1979 as part of Lanzmann's research for "Shoah," his nine-hour masterpiece on the Holocaust, and has now been fashioned into a rigorous and riveting stand-alone film. In Hebrew, French, and German with English subtitles
Director: Wang Xiaoshuai. With Wang Tong, Shi Yu, Guo Tao, Wu Tao. (90 min.)
Sterritt *** Shanghai is the setting of this sociologically revealing tale about two rural men who move to the big city, take different paths toward what they hope will be happy lives - one as a worker, the other as a crook - and find themselves at odds when a kidnapping scheme goes in wildly unexpected directions. Strong acting and no-nonsense filmmaking lend interest and impact to the dramatic story. In Mandarin with English subtitles
Director: Tony Goldwyn. With Ashley Judd, Greg Kinnear, Hugh Jackman, Marisa Tomei, Ellen Barkin. (93 min.)
Staff *1/2 Any attempt to reinvent the romantic comedy is welcome, but this Ashley Judd vehicle can't quite wrest itself from the genre's conventions. 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 (Jackman), a king of one-night stands. Judd is winsome, but wearisome ruminations about relationships are no substitute for plot. By Stephen Humphries
Staff ** Sweet, singles-esqe, refreshing, believable, never quite jells, lacks chemistry
VS/N: 4 sex scenes of mostly innuendo and frank talk. VV: None. VP: 23 expressions, mostly harsh. VD: 7 instances of drinking.
Director: Kate Davis. With Robert Eads, Lola Cola, Max Eads. (90 min.)
Sterritt *** Nonfiction portrait of a Georgia farmer who gave birth to and raised two children, then became a male through sex-change surgery and settled down to a quiet life in a rural community where transgendered people aren't exactly common. This capably made HBO documentary takes an understated and compassionate look at a subject that is often sensationalized in other contexts.
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, detract from the tension of the main story. But Redford's old-school charm will keep audiences engaged. By Stephen Humphries
Staff **1/2 Well edited, engaging, fast.
VS/N: 2 scenes of innuendo. VV: 13 scenes, fairly intense. VP: 34 harsh expressions. VD: 7 scenes with smoking, 7 scenes with alcohol.
Director: Robert Rodriguez. With Antonio Banderas, George Clooney, Alan Cumming, Carla Gugino, Teri Hatcher, Cheech Marin, Robert Patrick, Tony Shaloub. (93 min.)
Staff ** 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 goofy but imaginative hardware, including cars that can both float and fly and the niftiest jetpack of any recent spy flick. With bright colors and child-friendly names and settings, the movie definitely skews toward the under-10 set. By Gloria Goodale
VS/N: None. VV: 12 scenes of comic violence. VP: None. VD: 2 instances with drinking.
Director: Jehane Noujaim. With Chris Hedegus. (103 min.)
This fast-paced documentary follows the mercurial partnership of two longtime friends as they found a dotcom during the height of the internet gold rush. Startup.com epitomizes the Icarus mentality of the late 1990s, with numerous dotcom clichés becoming exquisite dark humor for the audience that knows the stock market "correction" is just around the corner. The film is ably edited and has a superb soundtrack, though the handheld camerawork can be dizzying. By Ben Arnoldy
Dark humor, makes you forget you're watching a documentary, well-edited.
VS/N: None. VV: None. VP: 28 harsh. VD: None.
Director: David Mamet. William H. Macy, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Rebecca Pidgeon, David Paymer, Julia Stiles, Alec Baldwin, Sarah Jessica Parker. (102 min.)
A movie crew barges into a New England village with a lot of problems to solve before their production takes wing. How do you make a picture called 'The Old Mill' in a town with no old mill? Will the lecherous leading man keep a respectful distance from the local schoolgirls? And what will become of the nude scene now that the star refuses to get nude? Mamet's screenplay is full of savvy satire and the cast couldn't be better.
Thoroughly entertaining, it's like 'Day for Night' but with love, scattered.
VS/N: 8 instances of innuendo and drawings of nudes. VV: 2 scenes, fish hook caught in finger and car crash VP: 33 expressions, both mild and harsh. VD: 7 scenes with drinking, 6 scenes with smoking.
Director: Zack Winestine. With Jennifer van Dyck, John Cunningham, Ellen Greene, Stephen Bogardus. (85 min.)
Married to a sexually dysfunctional man and discontented with her work as a small-time actress, a woman mulls over increasingly radical ideas for some explosive gesture that will change the course of her life. The acting is ordinary and the story's basic idea is naive, but Winestine conjure up enough involving moments to create some drama.
Director: Elise McCredie. With Michela Noonan, Mitchell Butel, Samuel Johnson. (80 min.)
The title comes from an 18th-century poem by William Wordsworth, which is fitting, since the main character is a literature fan who works in a bookstore while plotting ways to bring some romance into her life. This modest comedy-drama relies too much on stereotypes, from the self-absorbed modern poet to the gay best friend, but Noonan's earnest performance makes much of it worth watching.
Director: Francine McDougall. With Mena Suvari, Sean Young, James Marsden, Marla Sokoloff, Rachel Blanchard. (76 min.)
Staff *1/2 When head cheerleader Diane (Shelton) meets the new quarterback, it's love at first sight. Soon they find themselves in a family way, and their parents disown them. To help their now-impoverished captain, the pep squad agrees to a "crafts project," robbing Diane's after-school employer, a bank. Spirited performances move the plot along briskly. But it's disappointing to see a movie written, produced, and directed by women who give only farcical treatment to teen pregnancy and crime. Also, the all-white casting displays an amazing lack of social awareness. By M.K. Terrell
VS/N: 6 incidents of innuendo. VV: 4 scenes including a tussle and gunfire. VP: 67 expressions, both harsh and mild. VD: 3 scenes with smoking, 1 with drinking.
Director: Michael Tolin. With Freddie Prinze Jr., Jessica Biel, Bruce Davidson, Brian Dennehy. (108 min.)
Staff ** Blue-collar hometown boy and pro lawn mower Ryan Dunne (Freddie Prince Jr.) has big-league aspirations. It's summertime on Cape Cod, and when he's not mowing the lawn of his rich girlfriend, Tenley Parish (Jessica Biel), he's playing on a Cape League baseball team. Saddled with troubles in his family and a huge lack of belief in himself, Ryan strives to take Tenley's advice, "allow yourself to succeed," and make his dreams come true. 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: Eric Rohmer. With Melvil Poupaud, Amanda Langlet, Aurélia Nolin, Aimé Lefèvre. (114 min.)
Sterritt *** A young musician and three enticing romantic opportunities are at the center of this amiable comedy about love and youth. Rohmer's screenplay is on the slender side, but the seaside settings and summer-struck cinematography are ravishing, and the director shows his usual blend of affection and compassion for his footloose characters. In French with English subtitles
Director: Pat O'Connor. With Charlize Theron, Keanu Reeves, Greg Germann, Lauren Graham. (120 min.)
Staff ** The sweetest thing about "Sweet November" (a remake of the 1968 movie) is the on-screen magic between Charlize Theron and Keanu Reeves. But that's pretty much where the magic ends. Although Theron gives one of her most credible performances to date, neither actor can completely drop his/her Hollywood image and internalize a character. The actress portrays the role of charming Sara Deever who is dying of a diagnosed disease. Committed to an alternative lifestyle, she convinces emotionally void workaholic Nelson Moss (Reeves) to live with her for 30 days, and the agreement quickly progresses into an unlikely romance. By Steven Savides
Staff ** Charming performers, anti-climactic, banal, sappy, uninvolving.
VS/N: 3 scenes of innuendo, 3 scenes of implied sex, no nudity. VV: None. VP: 36 expressions, mostly mild. VD: 7 scenes with alcohol.
Director: Dominic Sena. With John Travolta. Hugh Jackman, Halle Berry, Don Cheadle. (97 min.)
Staff * "Swordfish" is an action-thriller of the car-chase/gunplay/misogynistic variety. Travolta plays the head of an organization of ruthless terrorists trying to rob a bank. Hackman plays a computer hacker who can stop them. It all ends with a bus dangling precariously from a helicopter. (Don't ask!) By Stephen Humphries
Staff * Mindless, ridiculous plot, weak dialogue.
VS/N: 2 scenes with nudity, 1 with sex, 4 with innuendo. VV: 14 scenes, including bullet wounds. VP: 61 harsh expressions. VD: 11 scenes with smoking, 5 scenes with drinking.
Director: Luis Buñuel. With Fernando Rey, Carole Bouquet, Angela Molina, Andre Weber. (103 min.)
Sterritt **** A wealthy businessman, a beautiful maid who stays just outside his reach, and a background of revolutionary rumblings are among the ingredients of this 1977 masterpiece. Cinema's greatest surrealist is at the peak of his powers in the last movie of his unparalleled career, telling a deliciously dreamlike tale with the ease and wit of a master stylist who knows how to entertain us, unsettle us, and astonish us at the same time. His most celebrated gambit here is having the servant Conchita played by two different actresses, not to reveal different sides of her personality, but to discombobulate the notion that personalities can be comprehended in the first place. This is a classic in the fullest sense. In French with English subtitles
Director: John Boorman. With Geoffrey Rush, Pierce Brosnan, Jamie Lee Curtis, Brendon Gleeson. (110 min.)
Sterritt ** Brosnan plays a spy who's sent to Panama and Rush plays a con artist who uses his profession - tailor to the rich and famous - as a front for more slippery activities. The movie strains too hard to seem smart and savvy, though, with touches of offbeat filmmaking that suggest a mood of unpredictable fun but prove to be a momentary sideshow.
Staff ** Implausible plot, too heavy, Rush is great.
VS/N: 12 scenes, including some innuendo and brief sex scenes with seminudity. VV: 4 scenes, including some beatings and rioting. VP: 48 mostly harsh expressions. VD: 18 scenes with smoking and/or drinking.
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: Agnès Jaoui. With Agnès Jaoui, Alain Chabat, Anne Alvaro, Gérard Lanvin, Jean-Pierre Bacri. (112 min.)
Sterritt *** Why does affection sometimes grow between people who seem to have little or nothing in common? That's the tantalizing question running through this capably acted comedy-drama about a jaded businessman who falls in love with an actress the first time he sees her onstage. The movie doesn't reach any startling conclusions, but it takes an entertaining look at the social and romantic issues its story brings up. In French with English subtitles
Director: Roger Donaldson. With Kevin Costner, Bruce Greenwood, Steven Culp, Dylan Baker, Henry Strozier, Len Cariou, Frank Wood. (120 min.)
Sterritt *** This impeccably produced docu-drama revisits the Cuban missile crisis of 1962, with Costner as a White House aide who coaches the Kennedy brothers through the worst of it. The subject is so gripping that you almost forgive the filmmakers for skewing their material in order to keep Costner's pretty face at the center of everything. Greenwood and Culp are excellent as the president and his brother.
Staff *** Awful Boston accent by Costner, Greenwood is phenomenal as JFK, gripping.
VS/N: None. VV: 3 war scenes including plane being shot down. VD: 15 scenes with cigarettes. 5 scenes with alcohol.
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: Demian Lichtenstein. With Kevin Costner, Kurt Russell, Christian Slater, Courtney Cox-Arquette, Howie Long, David Kaye. (115 min.)
Staff * Kevin Costner trades in his good-guy image to play an evil-minded criminal who's obsessed with Elvis. What better way to use it than as a disguise to steal millions of dollars? During a national Elvis convention in Las Vegas, ex-cons Costner and Kurt Russell (and a few thugs) dress up as the King, pull guns from their bag, and shoot everyone in sight. They get the loot, but it's a bloody mess. And the movie's twists and turns are nonsensical and mindless. If you make it to the end, you'll laugh at how bad it is. The movie's comical moments with the young David Kaye as Cox-Arquette's streetwise son save it from being a "dud." By Lisa Leigh Parney
Director: Joel Schumacher. With Colin Farrell, Matthew Davis, Clifton Collins Jr., Tom Guiry. (100 min.)
Staff *** "Tigerland," the nickname of a harrowing training ground in Louisiana, is an unconventional war movie. It takes place late in the Vietnam War (1971) and never even leaves the United States. The story revolves around rebel soldier Bozz - played by dazzling newcomer Colin Farrell - who helps a few troubled souls get discharged from the military. Director Schumacher, known for slick Hollywood flicks like "Batman and Robin," employs a handheld camera technique which creates a memorable, involving, and in-your-face movie. By Lisa Leigh Parney
Director: Tsui Hark. With Nicholas Tse, Wu Bai, Anthony Wong, Candy Lo, Joventino Couto Remotigue. (111 min.)
A young bodyguard and a former mercenary soldier cope with challenges of marriage and impending parenthood, as well as a murder plot that ensnares them in complicated ways. Tsui is a legendary leader of Hong Kong's internationally popular action-movie scene, which thrives more on visual pyrotechnics than on the depth of its stories. Its visual strengths and dramatic weaknesses are on clear display in this flashy but uninvolving crime thriller. In Cantonese and Mandarin with English subtitles
Director: Lukas Moodysson. With Lisa Lindgren, Michael Nyqvist, Gustav Hammarsten, Anja Lundqvist. (106 min.)
Sterritt *** The setting is a commune near Stockholm in the 1970s, the characters are aspiring nonconformists of assorted ages and genders, and the story is a loosely strung series of incidents geared more to conveying an atmosphere than absorbing us in situations. The result is an amiable look at a bygone time and a set of ideas about the world that once held far more power and magic than it does today. In Swedish with English subtitles.
Director: Simon West. With Angelina Jolie, Jon Voight, Daniel Craig, Iain Glenn. (80 min.)
Staff DUD Are Hollywood movies being dumbed down? On the evidence of "Tomb Raider," the answer would have to be in the affirmative. The plotline has young British archaeologist Lara Croft (Jolie) traversing the planet's ancient temples in search of keys that control time and space. The story stays true to the movie's video-game roots - but that's not a compliment. "Tomb Raider" isn't a story as much as it is a show reel of circus stunts inside elaborate sets. Jolie is charismatic and looks the part of the video-game heroine, but she does little more than fight robots and ancient mummies that come alive. (Yes, the movie is that derivative.) By Stephen Humphries
VS/N: 2 scenes of partial nudity - male and female. VV: 11 scenes. VP: 10 mostly mild expressions. VD: 1 scene with smoking.
Director: Gregory Poirer. With Jerry O'Connell, Shannon Elizabeth, Jake Busey, Horation Sanz. (92 min.)
Staff DUD If you dig deep through the garbage of sexist jokes and other forms of movie 'ick' that you'll find in the dumpster called "Tomcats," you may smell the excuse for fitting so much nastiness into 90 minutes. In the story, seven simple-minded friends set aside prize money for the last man to resist marriage. When Michael (O'Connell) needs to pay off a debt, he tries to get his pig of a friend to commit first. Given the standards of his friend, you can imagine those of the movie. By Christy Ellington
VS/N: 32 scenes of very graphic innuendo and sex scenes. VV: 6 scenes. VP: 77 expressions, many harsh. VD: 10 instances of drinking.
Director: David Maquiling. With Marc Palmieri, Nicol Zanzarella, Pasquale Gaeta. (88 min.)
A highly embarrassed security guard mounts a furtive search for his stolen gun, and learns more than he wanted to know about the sleaze and silliness lurking within his outwardly bland New Jersey town. The movie's concept is amusing, but much of the acting and dialogue is as uninspired as the story's deliberately bland suburban setting.
Director: Peter Chelsom. With Warren Beatty, Diane Keaton, Gary Shandling, Goldie Hawn, Andie McDowell. (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. Marital commitments are thrown to the wind as the two couples draw the battle lines for the kind of nasty divorce settlements that result when Fifth Avenue apartments and Sun Valley hallets are at stake. 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: 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
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.
Directed by Richard Smith. With the voices of Jason Alexander, Mary Steenburgen, Seth Green. (75 min.)
In a newly animated version of the E.B. White children's classic, an all-star cast of voices, including the legendary Little Richard, brings jazzy new life to the story of a mute swan who finds his voice through music. For those whose memory of the book renders the story in gentle hues and tones, the animation may be a bit bouncy. But the jazz soundtrack by well-known jazz producer Marcus Miller will appeal to the next generation, who deserves to become familiar with this story of adolescent triumph over adversity. By Gloria Goodale
Director: Allan Miller. With Zhang Yimou, Zubin Mehta. (87 min.)
Sterritt ** Renowned conductor Mehta and celebrated filmmaker Zhang combined their talents to create a unique production of Puccini's opera "Turandot," first in Italy and then in China, where they ran into artistic and bureaucratic challenges they hadn't anticipated. Things worked out well in the end, and this attractively shot documentary of the production tells how the gifted duo managed to pull it off. Music buffs may wish there were a lot more Puccini and a little less talking-head chitchat, though. In English and in Mandarin and Italian with English subtitles
Director: François Ozon. With Charlotte Rampling, Bruno Cremer, Alexandra Stewart, Jacques Nolot. (95 min.)
After her husband tragically vanishes during a vacation trip, a middle-aged woman sustains her loss by imagining him as an ongoing presence in her everyday life. Rampling's superb performance and Ozon's unexpectedly subtle cinematic style lend emotional power and psychological depth to this gently filmed French drama. In French with English subtitles
Director: Jacques Rivette. With Jeanne Balibar, Jacques Bonaffé, Hélène de Fougerolles, Sergio Castellitto, Catherine Rouvel, Claude Berri. (150 min.)
Sterritt **** Back in Paris after three years with an Italian theater group, a French actress wavers between an old flame and her current boyfriend, who's obsessed with finding the manuscript of a long-lost play. Lots more happens in this magical movie, which has brilliant fun with the contrasts between film and theater, love and infatuation, reality and fantasy. Don't let the 2-1/2-hour running time put you off. It's a delight from beginning to end, and a triumphant return to glory for Rivette, one of French film's most towering talents. In French with English subtitles
Director: Jamie Blanks. With Denise Richards, David Boreanaz. Jessica Capshaw, Marley Shelton, Katherine Heigl. (96 min.)
Sterritt * A masked murderer stalks a series of women, and if you can't figure out the killer's identity at least 20 minutes before the end, pay more attention to "Scream" the next time you see it. The slasher-movie genre may never die, but can't its perpetrators think up variations more clever than this by-the-numbers rehash?
Staff 1/2 The victims refuse to follow common sense in these movies, gruesome, no-brainer
VS/N: 4 scenes with nudity on a TV screen, partial nudity through a shower curtain and 2 scenes with innuendo. VV: 14 scenes including multiple gory murders by a serial killer. VP: 41 expressions, mostly harsh. VD: 10 scenes with alcohol.
Director: Roland Jaffe. With Gerard Depardieu, Uma Thurman, Timothy Spall, Arielle Dombasle, Julian Sands, Julian Glover. (119 min.)
Sterritt ** An aristocrat's servant gets the assignment of a lifetime - honoring King Louis XIV with a personally prepared banquet - and complications ensue in every area from food and drink to love and money. Depardieu gives the story a firm center of gravity aided by Joffe's eye for colorful settings and period detail.
Director: Tran Anh Hung. With Tran Nu Yen-Khe, Nguyen Nhu Quynh, Le Khanh, Ngo Quang Hai. (112 min.)
Sterritt *** The emotional dynamics of a Vietnamese family are the focus of this exquisitely filmed drama about two married women, their unsettled young sister, and the challenges of living an individualistic life in a closely intertwined clan. Tran is Vietnam's most internationally respected filmmaker, and here he taps once more into a long tradition of richly understated Asian cinema stretching from Yasujiro Ozu to Hou Hsiao-hsien and beyond. The cinematography is gorgeous from first frame to last, but the story occasionally rings false, and Tran repeats the tendency he showed in "Cyclo" and "The Scent of Green Papayas" to favor artful images over dramatic momentum. In Vietnamese with English subtitles
Director: Jordan Walker-Pearlman. With Hill Harper, Rae Dawn Chong, Obba Babatunde, Marla Gibbs, Billy Dee Williams, Phylicia Rashad. (107 min.)
Sterritt ** Diagnosed with illness and imprisoned for a crime he swears he didn't commit, an African-American man copes with visits from ambivalent relatives, an old friend with her own problems to conquer, and a psychiatrist who wants to help him come to terms with his difficult life. The film's touches of unconventional style interfere with its emotional effectiveness at times, and some of the eclectic music score is downright distracting. The drama has a welcome air of seriousness and sincerity, though.
Director: Abraham Finkiel. With Shulamit Adar, Liliane Rovére, Esther Gorintin, Natan Cogan. (111 min.)
Sterritt *** Three aging women in three different countries come to grips with their heritage as Jews from Eastern Europe, where the Holocaust decimated their early lives. Finkiel's filmmaking is so careful and cautious that it becomes plodding at times. The theme is powerful, though, and the movie's sincerity overrides its heavy-handed tendencies. In Yiddish and French with English subtitles
Director: Richard Linklater. With Wiley Wiggins, Julie Delpy, Ethan Hawke, Steven Soderbergh. (99 min.)
Sterritt *** This offbeat animation centers on a young man who's having the most vivid dream you can imagine - and possibly a permanent one, since every time he wakes up, this turns out to be part of the dream. Will he ever find his way back to waking life? Or is human existence a dream in the first place, with so-called sleep a gateway to liberating mental alternatives? The screenplay is crammed with conversations, often invoking philosophy and theology. Linklater is better at playing with concepts than synthesizing them. But few American filmmakers put more faith in the ability of words to stimulate mind and heart.
Director: Adam Schankman. With Jennifer Lopez, Matthew McConaughey, Bridgette Wilson-Sampras, Kevin Pollack. (102 min.)
Staff DUD A professional wedding planner (Lopez) despairs that she will never find the right man, until, that is, she finds herself drawn to the groom (McConaughey) of a nuptial celebration that she is organizing. Does the girl get the guy? Well, of course. But the truly dreadful dialogue, absurd plot contrivances, heavy-handed direction, and a score that sounds like an amateur high school pep band stifle any potential that this courtship might have had of succeeding. As long as audiences settle for sloppy and substandard fare like this, Hollywood will keep spoon-feeding them more pap like it. Vote with your wallet. By Stephen Humphries
Staff ** Romance-lite, predictable but romantic, mildly diverting.
VS/N: 3 scenes of innuendo, one of them fairly graphic. VV: None. VP: 27 expressions, a few of them harsh. VD: 1 scene with smoking, 8 with drinking.
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
Staff ** Crooked millionaire Max Fairbanks (DeVito) catches Kevin Caffrey (Lawrence) burglarizing his beach front mansion. Max persuades the police that Kevin's "lucky" ring is his own. The rest of the movie charts Kevin's dogged attempts to retrieve his ring, but the filmmakers run out of ideas long before the final freeze frame. By M.K. Terrell
Staff * Unoriginal, poorly written, loses its way.
VS/N: 1 scene of implied sex, 10 with innuendo. VV: 4 scenes of comic violence. VP: 86 expressions. VD: 6 scenes with drinking, 5 scened with smoking.
Director: Kieron J. Walsh. With Peter McDonald, Flora Montgomery, Marie Mullen, Pauline McLynn, Don Wicherley. (95 min.)
Sterritt ** He's a quiet schoolteacher who spends his time singing hymns and watching old movies, and she's a lively young woman with a secret life that takes her new boyfriend totally by surprise. McDonald and Montgomery are fun to watch in this mildly amusing Irish romantic comedy.
Director: Patrice Leconte. With Juliette Binoche, Daniel Auteuil, Emir Kusturica, Philippe Magnan. (108 min.)
Sterritt *** A condemned man develops a complex relationship with a mid-18th-century military commander and his wife as they wait for a guillotine to arrive on their tiny French-controlled island, so that his death sentence can be carried out. Leconte reconfirms his growing importance to French cinema with this precisely crafted, marvelously acted drama, which makes a powerful statement on capital punishment.
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: Dominik Moll. With Laurent Lucas, Sergi López, Mathilde Seigner, Sophie Guillemin. (117 min.)
Sterritt *** With a friend like Harry you don't need enemies, and with a foreign movie like this - a startling, suspenseful ride few will forget in a hurry - you don't need Hollywood pictures. López is perfect as an off-kilter old friend who barges into the life of a high-school pal and starts doing shady, violent favors that nobody ever asked him for. Moll mingles mystery with humor in just the right proportions. The result is a pitch-dark tragicomedy that deserves the often-abused adjective "Hitchcockian."
In French with English subtitles
Staff **1/2 Often funny, intense, absorbing.
Director: James Ryan. With Terry Kinney, Ellen Muth, Milio Avital, Domenick Lombardozzi. (90 min.)
Sterritt ** A well-meaning photojournalist and his 13-year-old child navigate the challenges of single fatherhood and adolescent insecurity. The dad tries to be a sophisticated New Yorker while hiding his mercurial love life from his impressionable kid, and the daughter wonders how she's supposed to learn about life when her father would rather evade her questions than soothe her uncertainties. This likable comedy-drama gets most of its oomph from acting that reveals the psychological shortcomings of the characters with wit and insight.
Directors: Mike Lyddon, Will Frank, Karl DeMolay. With Matt James, Lorelei Fuller, Jason Deas. (75 min.)
Sterritt * You guessed it, zombies wreak havoc on the New Oreleans festival, which is photographed in grainy black-and-white images that make it hard to distinguish from the movie's pure fantasy elements. Fans of unregenerate underground moviemaking will have a ball, and there's a creepy charm to the picture's proudly homemade quality. Look for lots of sex and gore, but it's shot with such deliberate amateurishness that viewers will spend less time being shocked than trying to figure out what's on screen.
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
Staff **1/2 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.