Movie Guide

Collateral Damage (R)

Director: Andrew Davis. With Arnold Schwarzenegger, Francesca Neri, John Leguizamo, Cliff Curtis. (110 min.)

Sterritt *See review, page 15.

Sex/Nudity: 2 instances innuendo. Violence: 16 scenes. Profanity: 33 expressions, including 21 mild. Drugs: At least 4 scenes with drinking and smoking.

Salaam Bombay! (Not rated)

Director: Mira Nair. With Shafiq Syed, Nana Patekar, Chanda Sharma, Raghubir Yadav. (113 min.)

Sterritt *** Nair made a highly acclaimed feature-filmmaking debut with this 1988 drama about an 11-year-old Indian boy who's abandoned by the circus troupe he works for, makes his way to the city, and sustains a precarious existence in a wildly crowded, utterly unpredictable, poverty-stricken urban jungle. The story sometimes seems hesitant to confront the most harrowing implications of the harsh realities it portrays. But it benefits greatly from Syed's close-to-the-bone performance as the boy - he was an urban refugee himself when Nair discovered him - and from its vivid depiction of Bombay's teeming community of homeless children and adults. In English and Hindi with English subtitles.

Beijing Bicycle (PG-13)

Director: Wang Xiaoshuai. With Cui Lin, Li Bin, Shou Xun, Gao Yuanyuahn, Zhao Yiwel. (113 min.)

Sterritt *** See review, page 15.

Sex/Nudity: 1 brief scene. Violence: 6 scenes. Profanity: 8 expressions. Drugs: At least 7 scenes smoking.

Birthday Girl (R)

Director: Jez Butterworth. With: Nicole Kidman, Ben Chaplin, Vincent Cassel. (93 min.)

Staff ** It must have taken Nicole Kidman months to learn this script. For her role as Nadia, an Internet-order bride from Russia, the actress spends half the movie speaking Russian. Arriving in England, Nadia is met by her intended, John, a lonely, crushing bore of a banker wanting to spice up his life. Nadia isn't all she seems; John soon finds his British reserve punctured as his life spirals out of control. The movie, alas, isn't as lively as Kidman's performance. A quirkier sensibility and a fleshed-out plot are the missing ingredients. By Stephen Humphries

Staff **1/2 Odd, forgettable, edgy, lots of plot twists, ultimately shallow.

Sex/Nudity: 10 scenes, including 4 with innuendo. Violence: 17 scenes. Profanity: 19 expression, 10 of which are mild. Drugs: At least 16 scenes of smoking and drinking.

Black Hawk Down (R)

Director: Ridley Scott. With Josh Hartnett, Sam Shepard, Tom Sizemore. (148 min.)

Sterritt * The fact-based story focuses on US troops sent to Mogadishu in 1993 to disable a powerful Somali warlord by kidnapping high lieutenants who've helped him rule by terror. Their obstacles include aggressive enemy soldiers and hostile civilians, and the nightmare grows worse when two helicopters are shot down, sparking a hard-fought battle to rescue crash survivors. The screenplay lauds the resolute spirits of the troops, and Scott uses hard-hitting images. But the nature of warfare merits more thoughtful examination at this precarious time. Since the filmmakers offer no insights, their motives must be to sensationalize war's horrors and capitalize on its thrills. We deserve better.

Staff ***Gut-wrenching, extremely violent, savage, lacks content, well directed.

Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: Most of the film is violent with at least 45 battle scenes, many very gory. Profanity: 22 expressions. Drugs: 10 scenes.

Brotherhood of the Wolf (R)

Director: Christophe Gans. With Jean Yanne, Emilie Dequenne, Vincent Cassel. (142 min.)

Sterritt **In the time of Louis XV, a French detective and a native American mystic uncover a web of skullduggery as they probe a series of killings thought by local peasants to be the work of a supernatural monster. Gans tries to match "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" with a mix of action, romance, and mythic overtones, but much of the horrorfest is more frenetic than fascinating. In French with English subtitles.

Staff ***Good monster movie, excessive, dark, mystical.

Sex/Nudity: 6 scenes. Violence: 18 scenes. Profanity: None. Drugs: 8 scenes with drinking, smoking; 2 with drugs.

The Count of Monte Cristo (PG-13)

Director: Kevin Reynolds. With Jim Caviezel, Richard Harris, Dagmara Dominczyk, Guy Pearce. (113 min.)

Sterritt *** Edmond Dantes is a French sailor who hits hard times when his best friend steals his girlfriend, a corrupt magistrate brands him as a courier for Napoleon, and he's thrown into an island prison. Things look up when he escapes, finds buried treasure, and sets about revenging himself on his treacherous enemies. The filmmakers focus more on personalities than on action and violence. But don't worry swordfighting fans, there's plenty of flashing steel. It's a nifty comeback for 19th-century novelist Alexandre Dumas.

Staff ***Campy, clever, punctuated with comic relief, beautiful scenery.

Sex/Nudity: 2 scenes implied sex. Violence: 14 scenes, mostly swordfighting. Profanity: 1 instance. Drugs: 15 scenes of drinking or smoking.

Gosford Park (R)

Director: Robert Altman. With Eileen Atkins, Bob Balaban, Alan Bates, Charles Dance. (137 min.)

Sterritt ****Altman visits England for the first time in this peek at the British class system about 70 years ago, focusing on masters and servants at a rural estate during a shooting-party weekend roiled by a murder. This is familiar territory if you recall BBC miniseries "Upstairs Downstairs," but this great US filmmaker gives it new twists with an incisively satirical approach.

Staff **1/2 Too many characters, predictable, well-composed, witty, suspenseful.

Sex/Nudity: 5 scenes with implied sex. Violence: 2 scenes. Profanity: 7 harsh expressions. Drugs: 34 scenes with smoking, 14 with drinking.

I Am Sam (PG-13)

Director: Jessie Nelson. With Sean Penn, Michelle Pfeiffer, Laura Dern. (124 min.)

Sterritt * Penn's bravura performance is the only reason to watch this wildly sentimental comedy-drama about a mentally retarded man trying to regain custody of his daughter after social workers decide she needs a better home. The film means well, but scenes get clobbered by sappy screenwriting.

Staff **1/2 Creaky, mostly well-acted, trite.

Sex/Nudity: 3 scenes implied sex. Violence: None. Profanity: 8 expressions. Drugs: 1 scene with drinking.

In the Bedroom (R)

Director: Todd Field. With Tom Wilkinson, Sissy Spacek, Nick Stahl, Marisa Tomei. (138 min.)

Sterritt *** A small-town doctor and his wife aren't sure how to take their college-age son's romance with an unhappily married woman. The climax suggests drastic measures may be needed in drastic circumstances and, more subtly, that the lines between "moral" and "immoral" people may be more slender than we'd like to believe. The acting is excellent.

Staff *** Humanistic, dark, absorbing.

Sex/Nudity: 8 scenes, mostly innuendo. Violence: 7 scenes, 1 graphic. Profanity: 20 expressions. Drugs: 12 scenes with drinking or smoking.

Italian for Beginners (R)

Director: Lone Scherfig. With Anders W. Berthelsen, Annette Stovelbaek. (118 min.)

Sterritt *** A widowed minister takes a post in a small Danish town and starts attending weekly Italian lessons to pass the time, meeting new acquaintances more concerned with figuring out their problems than practicing their verbs and prepositions. Scherfig has made the movie in line with Denmark's distinctive Dogma 95 movement, avoiding extravagant effects. The story and performances have a low-key charm. In Danish with English subtitles.

Staff ***Witty, romantic, quirky, uplifting.

Sex/Nudity: 2 implied instances. Violence: None. Profanity: 8 expressions, mostly mild. Drugs: 8 scenes.

Kandahar (Not rated)

Director: Mohsen Makhmalbaf. With Nilofaur Pazira, Sadou Teymour. (82 min.)

Sterritt *** Clad in a full-length veil that hides her identity and intentions, an Afghan woman tries to enter her homeland from Iran on a rescue mission to her sister. During the journey she witnesses suffering but sees the strength of people who assist her, including a US medical worker. This drama by one of Iran's great filmmakers casts a light on fundamental human conflicts.

Staff **1/2 Stunning images, weak acting, amateurish, impressionistic.

Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: 1 robbery scene. Profanity: None. Drugs: 1 scene with smoking.

Lantana (R)

Director: Ray Lawrence. With Anthony LaPaglia, Barbara Hershey, Geoffrey Rush, Rachael Blake. (110 min.)

Sterritt ***A grieving mother, an adulterous police officer, and the hunt for a missing person are among the multifaceted ingredients of this detective thriller, which explores the doubts and insecurities dogging the lives of four married couples. While the movie is well acted and creatively written, its story and style are too self-consciously clever to build a high degree of emotional power.

Sex/Nudity: 4 scenes; 4 scenes with innuendo. Violence: 3 scenes. Profanity: At least 40 expressions.Drugs: 8 scenes with alcohol, 11 scenes with smoking, and 1 with illegal drugs.

Maelström (Not rated)

Director: Denis Villeneuve. With Marie-Josée Croze, Jean-Nicolas Verreault, S. Morgenstern. (86 min.)

Sterritt *** Bibiane is a French-Canadian woman whose comfortable life starts to go sour while she's still shy of 30. Things get bleakest when she runs down a stranger with her car; hope returns when she meets his son, who likes her but could turn against her if he discovers her connection with his late father. This melodrama would be more effective if it weren't decked out with so many self-conscious directorial touches. Villeneuve added surrealistic touches like a series of fish who narrate. It's deftly acted, though. In French with English subtitles.

The Mothman Prophecies (PG-13)

Director: Mark Pellington. With Richard Gere, Laura Linney, Will Patton, Alan Bates. (120 min.)

Sterritt **After his wife's death in a mysterious car accident, a hotshot Washington reporter finds himself stranded in a small town plagued by enigmatic incidents, weird visions, and auguries of catastrophes to come. The first third of this overambitious horror yarn builds an ominous mood of menace and suspense; the rest is drained of dramatic energy by uneven acting and a too-long running time.

Staff **Unsatisfying thriller, creepy, gimmicky direction, plot drags, run-of-the-mill.

Sex/Nudity: 2 scenes implied sex, 1 innuendo. Violence: 5 scenes. Profanity: 8 mild expressions. Drugs: 3 scenes with drinking.

Storytelling (R)

Director: Todd Solondz. With John Goodman, Heather Matarazzo, Paul Giamatti, Selma Blair. (90 min.)

Sterritt *** The maker of "Happiness" and "Welcome to the Dollhouse" tells two tales in this deliberately outrageous comedy-drama. The first, "Fiction," probes the psychosexual tensions between a disabled student, his fickle girlfriend, and their creative-writing teacher. The second, "Nonfiction," follows the exploits of a wannabe filmmaker who decides to shoot a documentary on a teenage boy who's almost as pallid as he is. Solondz is a thoughtful writer-director who has an affinity for pathetic specimens of humanity he frequently portrays; he's also a canny provocateur who loves to spark debate.

A Walk to Remember (PG)

Director: Adam Shankman. With Mandy Moore, Shane West, Daryl Hannah. (100 min.)

Staff **1/2 An initiation prank seriously injures a high school student trying to join a clique. The principal thinks their leader needs new friends and orders him to tutor underprivileged kids on weekends and act in the spring play. Both jobs throw him in with Jamie, the highly ethical minister's daughter (Moore). He begins to learn some character while also drawing Jamie out of her shell. The film may be trite or weepy in spots, but it's a celebration of purity and decency. By M.K. Terrell

Sex/Nudity: 5 with innuendo. Violence: 2 scenes. Profanity: 13 expressions. Drugs: 3 drinking scenes.

Wannabees (R)

Directors: Charles Addessi, William DeMeo. With William DeMeo, Ray Serra. (110 min.)

Sterritt *Two tough-talking Brooklyn brothers seek wealth and self-improvement by dabbling in a string of illegal enterprises, dealing with unsavory friends and formidable foes along the way. The plot is predictable, the characters are cliches, and all the actors look and sound like refugees from a movie Martin Scorsese would have made better 30 years ago. Where are the "GoodFellas" when we need them?

Captain Corelli's Mandolin (R)

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 who eventually succumbs to his mischievous yet manly charm. While this romantic fantasy has a fair amount of shooting and killing, its heart is in the ill-starred love affair. This would be fine if the romance were written, directed, and acted well enough to capture our hearts. The only aspect that emerges a winner is the gorgeous Mediterranean scenery.

Staff ***1/2 Beautiful, miscast, heavy hearted, jerky, beautiful scenery.

Sex/Nudity: 4 scenes of nudity, 1 with implied sex. Violence: 8 gory scenes. Profanity: 5 harsh expressions. Drugs: 12 scenes with alcohol or smoking.

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