Directors: Paul Weitz, Chris Weitz. With Hugh Grant, Toni Collette, Nicholas Hoult, Rachel Weisz. (101 min.)
Sterritt * See review, page 15.
Director: Henry Bean. With Ryan Gosling, Summer Phoenix, Billy Zane, Theresa Russell. (92 min.)
Sterritt **** See review, page 15.
Director: Matthew Barney. With Barney, Aimee Mullins, Richard Serra. (182 min.)
Sterritt ** Barney has moved from hot young artist to hot indie filmmaker with his "Cremaster" series, but the last of the five movies (despite the 3 in its title) is far from the best, even though it's the longest and most ambitious. Like the others, it spins a storyless web of images and sounds, organized around the human need for myths and fables to make sense of an ultimately senseless world. Few of its loosely linked vignettes have enough visual or emotional power to be very memorable.
Director: Dover Kosashvili. With Lior Loui Ashkenazi, Ronit Elkabetz, Moni Moshonov, Lili Kosashvili. (100 min.)
Sterritt **** After an unpromising start, this unpredictable comedy-drama becomes a dazzlingly funny-sad account of a young man's attempt to avoid an arranged marriage despite his family's insistence on keeping old traditions alive. The acting is superb, the filmmaking is imaginative, and the story never goes quite where you expect. In Georgian and Hebrew with English subtitles.
Director: George Lucas. With Hayden Christensen, Natalie Portman, Ewan McGregor, Samuel L. Jackson. (136 min.)
Sterritt ** Anakin Skywalker is now a fledgling Jedi knight who helps Senator Padmé, his former Tatooine playmate, hide from assassins while Obi-Wan Kenobi investigates a threat from Dark Side enemies. The movie has a broader range of emotions and visual effects than any "Star Wars" installment since "The Empire Strikes Back," but the writing and acting are as stiff as R2-D2's metal torso. If clones are so scary, why does Lucas keep cloning pop-culture clichés he's latched onto from other films, including his own? (See full review in May 16 issue.)
Director: Majid Majidi. With Hossein Abedini, Mohammad Reza Naji, Zahra Bahrami. (105 min.)
Sterritt **** The unglamorous setting is an Iranian construction site, and the unlikely hero is an 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: Roger Michell. With Samuel L. Jackson, Ben Affleck, Amanda Peet, Sidney Pollack. (96 min.)
Sterritt *** A corporate lawyer and an insurance salesman become adversaries after a highway fender-bender, sparking a day-long ordeal of threats and counter-threats. The filmmakers meant to whip up a high-tension thriller. What they ended up with is a psychological satire that's quite engrossing if you regard it as an absurdist morality tale rather than a straight-ahead suspense yarn. It loses its bite in a last-minute happy ending, but much of the way it's a refreshingly novel ride.
Sex/Nudity: 3 instances innuendo. Violence: 5 scenes, including assault. Profanity: 13 strong expressions. Drugs: 3 instances drinking.
Director: Scott Kalvert. Cast: Stephen Dorff, Brad Renfro, Fairuza Balk. (93 min.)
Staff ** It's 1958, and tensions are high on the streets of Brooklyn. Marco, ex-con and leader of The Vipers, wants to deal drugs in the neighborhood, but Leon and The Deuces will have none of it. Threats, violence, and 90 minutes of tough-guy clichés ensue. It's full of sound and fury, and the ensemble tries hard, but mob boss Fitzy has it right: They're just kids who need to grow up. By Alex Kaloostian.
Director: Michael Apted. With Dougray Scott, Kate Winslet, Jeremy Northam. (117 min.)
Staff ***1/2"A Beautiful Mind" meets "The Longest Day" as a brilliant mathematician leads a team of British scientists desperately trying to break the Nazi's enigma code and stop their U-boats before they cut off the North Atlantic shipping routes and win the war. But the mathematician's sanity is close to breaking: Is the beautiful blonde he's in love with a spy? And is the dapper British secret agent shadowing him (played with his usual delightful elegance by Northam) a friend or foe? There's romance and suspense aplenty before several puzzles are solved and the war won. By Gregory M. Lamb
Staff *** Intelligent thriller, riveting, beautiful scenery, multi-faceted.
Sex/Nudity: 1 sex scene with partial nudity. Violence: 9 scenes, a few of mass graves, but mostly not graphic. Profanity: 13 harsh expressions. Drugs: 26 scenes with smoking and drinking.
Director: Woody Allen. With Allen, Téa Leoni, Mark Rydell, George Hamilton, Debra Messing. (114 min.)
Sterritt *** Allen plays a once-lauded film director who tries for a comeback via a project bankrolled by the Hollywood exec his exwife dumped him for; then his subconscious goes haywire, rendering him temporarily blind, and since he can't reveal this secret, he has to put on an act and pretend he knows what's in front of the camera. This cheerfully absurd comedy isn't brilliantly written, but it takes many amusing shots at the filmmaking scene.
Sex/Nudity: 2 instances innuendo. Violence: 2 mild scenes.Profanity: 4 mild expressions. Drugs: 10 scenes of drinking and smoking.
The Lady and the Duke (PG-13)
Director: Eric Rohmer. With Lucy Russell, Jean-Claude Dreyfus, Francois Marthouret, Caroline Morin. (129 min.)
Sterritt **** A courtly account of the skittish friendship between an Englishwoman living in France during the French Revolution and a curmudgeonly French aristocrat who confronts his tumultuous age with an unsteady set of divided loyalties. An old master with young ideas, Rohmer shot the movie with digital video, lending a sense of exquisitely crafted artifice that enhances the tale's historical atmosphere. It's deliciously acted, too. Originally titled "L'Anglaise et le duc." In French with English subtitles.
Director: Stephen Herek. With Angelina Jolie, Edward Burns, Stockard Channing. (103 min.)
Sterritt ** An ambitious TV newswoman takes a fresh look at life and love after a sidewalk psychic tells her she has a week to live. This slickly produced romantic comedy takes its creaky premise down the most predictable, sentimental pathways it can find. If the heroine really had seven days left, she wouldn't waste it watching stuff like this.
Sex/Nudity: 9 instances, including innuendo and 2 scenes implied sex. Violence: 1 shooting scene. Profanity: 13 expressions. Drugs: 13 scenes with drinking and smoking.
Director: Barbet Schroeder. With Sandra Bullock, Ryan Gosling, Michael Pitt, Ben Chaplin.
Staff ** Bullock stars as a brilliant, wise-cracking crime-scene investigator whose own dark past is a mystery in itself. She quickly figures out who has committed a horrifying crime (shown with lingering shots of the corpse), but can she prove it? The murderers are daring her to outwit them. Gosling and Pitt shine as her troubled-teen suspects, and Chaplin is fine as a low-key partner and potential love interest. Some entertaining plot twists ensue, but it's a must-see only for Bullock fans. By Gregory M. Lamb
Sex/Nudity: 2 sex scenes, 1 scene with sounds of TV pornography (unseen). No nudity. Violence: 16 scenes, including some with severed body parts. Profanity: 33 expressions. Drugs: At least 16 scenes with alcohol and smoking.
Director: Ismail Merchant. With Aasif Mandvi, Om Puri, Ayesha Dharker, Zohra Segal. (117 min.)
Sterritt **** A little knowledge can be a wonderful thing, or so it seems to the hero of this delightful comedy-drama. He's an Indian man living in Trinidad, where his smattering of book learning brings him enough local prestige to become first a masseur and healer, then a small-time book writer, and then an aspiring politician although each step up the ladder of success doesn't necessarily bring more of the personal happiness he's always in search of. Merchant usually works as the producing half of the Merchant Ivory filmmaking team, but his skills as a director have grown by leaps and bounds. This delicious fable reflects his great love of language, his delicate visual sense, and his ability to make you think and laugh out loud, often at the very same time.
Director: Edward Decter. With D.J. Qualls, Lyle Lovett, Eddie Griffin, Eliza Dushku. (100 min.)
Staff *1/2 Dizzy Gillespie Harrison (Qualls) is a high school senior who stretches the boundaries of geekiness, until a convict teaches him you don't need a magic wand, a spider bite, or divine intervention to be cool you just need an attitude. His newfound charisma inspires a whole school to greatness. Now all he needs is a little humility. Original gags, an earnest young cast, lots of cameos, and even compassionate moments bring welcome freshness to the genre, but rationality and cohesiveness skipped class today. By M.K. Terrell
Sex/Nudity: 6 instances, mostly innuendo. Violence: 12 scenes with violence. Profanity: 44 harsh expressions. Drugs: 1 scene with alcohol.
Director: Samuel Raimi. With Tobey Maguire, Willem Dafoe, Kirsten Dunst, James Franco. (121 min.)
Staff ***The long-awaited "Spider-Man," finally swings and soars his way across Gotham City, marking the 40th anniversary of the Marvel Comics creation. The teen turned superhero after being bitten by a mutant spider, delivers a visually impressive turn, saving damsels and confronting his own demons in a satisfying high-tech action flick. Parents will appreciate the emphasis on responsibility, duty, and sacrifice while teens will enjoy the coming-of-age struggles of an extra-ordinary kid trying to get the girl and oh, by the way, saving the world from super-villains. By Gloria Goodale
Staff ***1/2 Best superhero film, exhilarating, action galore.
Sex/Nudity: 1 wet T-shirt scene. Violence: Cartoonish violence in most scenes, but few are graphic. Profanity: 2 harsh expressions. Drugs: 3 scenes with alcohol, 1 with cigar.
Director: Adrian Lyne. With Richard Gere, Diane Lane, Olivier Martinez, Erik Per Sullivan.
Staff ** This movie is loosely based on the 1968 French film "La Femme Infidèle." Lane and Gere play an affluent couple living in a New York City suburb with their 8-year-old son and dog. Their lifestyle is as comfortable as the V-neck sweaters that Gere sports daily. But the mood suddenly changes when Lane falls for a sexy French book dealer (Martinez) in SoHo. The movie's flaw lies in the screenplay it fails to shed light on why she wants to have an affair. OK, she's bored, he's great-looking, but that doesn't seem to be enough in this story. What does work is Lane's performance. She moves from being happy to sad and confused without saying a word.By Lisa Leigh Parney
Staff **1/2 Lacks depth, tragic, suspenseful, very few clichés.
Sex/Nudity: 9 scenes with sex/nudity. Violence: 2 scenes, 1 is bloody. Profanity: 28 harsh expressions. Drugs: 7 scenes with alcohol, 3 with smoking.
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, great ghost story, too slow.
Sex/Nudity: 1 scene of implied sex. Violence: 10 scary scenes. Profanity: 2 mild expressions. Drugs: 2 scenes of pilltaking.
Director: Brian Levant. With Cuba Gooding Jr., James Coburn, Joanna Bacalso. (99 min.)
Staff **1/2 A successful Miami dentist learns he is adopted when he inherits his birth mother's Alaskan sled dogs. Amid predictable slapstick episodes, the film champions courage and tenacity, and raises surprisingly serious issues: racial harmony, appreciation of adoptive parents despite the yearning for biological roots, and the worth of every child irrespective of parents' marital status. City kids will appreciate all the snow and mountains. By M.K. Terrell