Director: Mark Christensen. With Adam Cooper, Jenny Kim. (87 min.)
Sterritt ** Denizens of a distant planet dream of freedom from their tyrannical rulers after a wayward US spacecraft brings them an unexpected shipment of rock 'n' roll music. The story is almost incoherent, but there's a weirded-out charm to Christensen's visual style part German Expressionism, part "Captain Video," part early David Lynch all as hazy as a half-remembered dream.
Director: Kim Ki-Duk. With Kim Yoo-Suk, Suh Jung, Park Sung-Hee. (89 min.)
Sterritt * Affection blooms between a fisherman and a prostitute in an isolated setting. This atmospherically filmed South Korean melodrama uses a unique location, dominated by fishermen's floating huts, as the background for an overheated story that grows steadily more grotesque and unpleasant as it proceeds. In Korean with English subtitles.
Director: Blair Treu. With Evan Rachel Wood, Michael Angarano, Vivica A. Fox. (100 min.)
Sterritt ** See review, page 15.
Director: Mark Romanek. With Robin Williams, Connie Nielsen. (98 min.)
Sterritt ** See review, page 15.
Director: Raja Amari. With Hiyam Abbas, Hend El Fahem. (100 min.)
Sterritt *** A single mom adds spice to her life by taking gigs as a nightclub belly dancer and striking up a romance with a younger man, bringing complications to her relationship with her teen daughter. Sincere acting and heartfelt filmmaking add energy to this unassuming Tunisian drama. In Arabic with English subtitles.
Director: Reginald Hudlin. With Matthew Perry, Elizabeth Hurley, Bruce Campbell. (100 min.)
Sterritt * While trying to serve a subpoena on a winsome wife in a divorce case, a scruffy exlawyer takes her side against the arrogant spouse who tries to dump her. Perry and Hurley don't have much chemistry, and the story is so dumb you might want to sue it for stupidity. But it moves at a lively clip, and the actors don't take it more seriously than it deserves.
Director: Andrew Niccol. With Al Pacino, Catherine Keener, Winona Ryder, Evan Rachel Wood. (117 min.)
Sterritt * See review, page 15.
Director: Ron Underwood. With Eddie Murphy, Randy Quaid, Rosario Dawson, Joe Pantoliano. (95 min.)
Staff *1/2 It's 2087, and reformed smuggler Pluto Nash (Murphy) gets out of the slammer and opens the moon's most popular nightclub. When he refuses to sell out to a gangster who covets the site for a casino, the kingpin blows up the club and sends his goons to kill Nash. With colossal sets, a remarkable cast, and hundreds of extras, this sci-fi comedy-adventure spoof of '30s movies should be funny and adventuresome, but it falls flat. A sign outside the moon colony says it all: "Prepare for full gravity." By M.K. Terrell
Sex/Nudity: 4 instances innuendo. Violence: 12 scenes, including shootings, explosions. Profanity: 29 strong expressions. 10 scenes of drinking and smoking.
Director: Jay Roach. With Mike Myers, Michael Caine, Beyoncé Knowles, Robert Wagner, Michael York. (98 min.)
Sterritt * Our hero battles Dr. Evil and a villain he's recruited from 1975 to help him destroy the world. The third Powers movie wants to be a flashy, funny satire on the swinging '70s and the science-fiction spy stories that embodied the era's fashions and foibles. What's really on filmmakers' minds is how much box-office power they can tap into by blitzing viewers with even larger doses of repetitive sex jokes and insipid scatological gags than before.
Staff ** Sophomoric, funny, repetitive
Sex/Nudity: 19 instances of innuendo. Violence: 11 scenes, including fighting. Profanity: 32 mostly mild expressions. Drugs: 2 instances drinking.
Director: Clint Eastwood. With Eastwood, Anjelica Huston, Jeff Daniels. (115 min.)
Sterritt *** An aging cop tracks down the serial killer who murdered the donor of his newly transplanted heart. Eastwood plays the sleuth a sort of geriatric Dirty Harry with the same physically taut, emotionally walled-up personality that has typified most of his characters. He still gets the girl, too. In the director's chair, Eastwood takes a conservative approach, telling the tale efficiently but with few of the imaginative touches that have made some of his films so memorable.
Staff **1/2 Spotty acting, utterly predictable, well-crafted.
Sex/Nudity: 1 scene implied sex. Violence: 13 scenes, including shootouts. Profanity: 24 strong expressions. Drugs: 5 scenes with drinking.
Director: John Stockwell. With Kate Bosworth, Michelle Rodriguez, Matthew Davis, Mika Boorem. (103 min.)
Sterritt ** They're chambermaids by night, surfin' girls by day, and one of them has the makings of wave-riding stardom. Moviegoing tip: Skip the first hour or so, but grab a seat in time for the surfing contest that climaxes the picture, complete with mile-high waves and the most graceful ocean-gliding this side of "The Endless Summer."
Staff **1/2 Stunning surf footage, exhilarating, insipid dialogue.
Sex/Nudity: 6 instances innuendo; 1 scene implied sex. Violence: 12 scenes, including near drownings and surfing injuries. Profanity: 22 expressions. Drugs: 4 scenes with drinking and smoking.
Director: Karim Dridri. With Miguel Del Morales, Pepin Vaillant, Mirta Gonzales, Anibal Avila. (96 min.)
Staff *** On a more modest grassroots level than "The Buena Vista Social Club," this documentary explores the Cuban musical heritage. We follow veteran singer-guitarist Miguel del Morales, better known as "El Gallo" (The Rooster), across Cuba. Along the way, he stays with musician friends and joins their impromptu sidewalk and rooftop jam sessions, often just to listen. Director Dridi supplies no narration beyond titles naming the cities, leaving us to see and hear for ourselves how an oppressed and impoverished island finds freedom and riches in its culture. By M.K. Terrell
Sex/Nudity: 1 scene with sexual dancing. Violence: None. Profanity: 5 expressions. 13 scenes with drinking or smoking.
Director: Miguel Arteta. With Jennifer Aniston, John C. Reilly, Tim Blake Nelson. (93 min.)
Sterritt **** What's a well-meaning young woman to do when she's stuck in a miserable marriage, a tedious town, and a boring job, and the only chance for escape is a love affair she can't resist? Aniston and Reilly give the best of many excellent performances. A few plotty scenes aside, this quietly directed drama paints a sensitive, sympathetic portrait of modern malaise, and has a smart sense of humor as a bonus.
Staff ***1/2 Well-acted, thoughtful, sad, nuanced.
Sex/Nudity: 6 scenes with innuendo, several explicit, adulterous sex scenes. Violence: 6 including fighting. Profanity: 14 expressions. Drugs: 14 scenes with illegal drugs, alcohol, smoking.
Director: Edouardo de Oliveira. With Michel Piccoli, Catherine Deneuve, John Malkovich. (90 min.)
Sterritt **** An aging actor relies on work to balance his life after a family tragedy takes a great toll on him, but he eventually finds himself facing the end of his career with mingled nostalgia and regret. Piccoli gives one of the most nuanced performances of his distinguished career, but the primary star of the movie is de Oliveira, who unfolds the story with unfailing skill and sensitivity.
Director: Mirra Bank. With Maurice Sendak, Pilobolus Dance Theatre. (84 min.)
Sterritt *** Documentary about the collaboration between children's-book author Sendak and the Pilobolus dance troupe to create "A Selection," an internationally successful dance dealing with Holocaust themes. The film is hardly a blistering look behind the scenes, but it gives a more balanced account of the creative process including dissension and disagreement than most arts-related movies of its ilk.
Director: Fritz Lang. With Gustav Fröhlich, Brigitte Helm, Alfred Abel, Rudolf Klein-Rogge. (120 min.)
Sterritt **** Lang's science-fiction classic was shortened by its distributors after its 1927 première, and this restoration is probably the closest we'll ever come to the original 153-minute version. The movie still packs a visual wallop with its portrait of a future world that breeds hatred among oppressed workers, self-centered leaders, and a bizarre scientist whose newest invention a seductive robot sparks catastrophe. Lang was one of cinema's great stylists, and today's directors could learn invaluable lessons from his economical editing, masterly framing, and vivid special effects.
Director: Neil LaBute. With Gwyneth Paltrow, Aaron Eckhart, Jennifer Ehle, Jeremy Northam. (102 min.)
Sterritt * Two scholars (Paltrow, Eckhart) unearth a long-ago love affair between two Victorian poets (Ehle, Northam) whose strait-laced morality supposedly ruled out illicit adventures like this. The movie is based on A.S. Byatt's novel, which presents a kaleidoscopic array of Victorian-style prose and poetry alongside lively accounts of modern-day literary sleuthing. LaBute's adaptation extracts the bare bones of her plot for purposes of bland Hollywood romance, filmed and acted with lots of glamour but precious little depth of thought or emotion.
Staff ***1/2 Captivating, elegant, romantic.
Sex/Nudity: 6 instances innuendo. 2 sex scenes. No nudity. Violence: 2, including a fistfight and implied suicide. Nothing graphic. Profanity: 6 expressions. Drugs: 4 scenes with alcohol.
Director: M. Night Shyamalan. With Mel Gibson, Joaquin Phoenix, Rory Culkin. (106 min.)
Sterritt * A clergyman who's lost his faith regains it while undergoing an attack by aliens in the farmhouse he shares with his brother and kids. The film raises important issues of religion and the meaning of life, but every time it promises to get thoughtful, Shyamalan douses it with overwrought emotion, family-values clichés, tepid space-monster suspense, and humor that's never, ever funny. Think "Roswell" meets "Father Knows Best."
Staff *** Scary, clichéd, pseudo-philosophical.
Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: At least four violent scenes, including animal brutality. Profanity: 11 mild expressions. Drugs: None.
Director: Robert Rodriguez. With Antonio Banderas, Carla Gugino, Alexa Vega, Daryl Sabara. (100 min.)
Staff *** Rodriguez crafts an imaginative sequel for kids that reflects his own creative urge to play. There are enough nifty gadgets to make 007 drool, like RALPH, a bug robot that can tie a bow tie and crawl his way into secret meetings, and a snazzy dragon fly submarine. The story picks up with the Cortez family as part of a global spy organization. Amid stiff competition and sibling bickering, a vital mission arises: to find a device that could destroy the world. The trail leads to an island filled with hybrid animals a genetically re-engineered Jurassic Park of sorts. At times this colorful adventure causes sensory overload. But it teaches valuable lessons, like the importance of family and integrity. By Stephanie Cook
Staff ***1/2Refreshingly childlike, strong sequel, funny.
Sex/Nudity: None. Profanity: 1 mild expression. Violence: 8 scenes with mostly mild violence. Some fighting. Drugs: 2 scenes with alcohol.
Director: Michael Winterbottom. With Steve Coogan, Chris Coghill, Paddy Considine. (115 min.)
Sterritt **** This lively look at the rock scene in Manchester, England, begins with impresario Antony Wilson's discovery of the Sex Pistols in 1976 and ends with the demise of his influential Factory Records label in the early '90s. Coogan is dazzling as Wilson, and candid treatment of the era's problem with drugs and violence keeps the film from partying too much for its own good. Winterbottom gives it an edgy MTV-look that should please young moviegoers who see the Sex Pistols epoch as ancient history.
Director: Rob Cohen. With Vin Diesel, Asia Argento, Samuel L. Jackson. (120 min.)
Sterritt * Extreme sports meet cold-war politics as our hero gets recruited by the government to battle an anarchist gang in Eastern Europe. If your idea of star power is "buff to the max" with "attitude to spare," as the publicity puts it, then Diesel is your man. But do we really need a warmed-over James Bond adventure with 007 transformed into the movie-poster version of a village idiot?
Sex/Nudity: 4 scenes. Violence: 18 scenes, including shootings. Profanity: 15 strong expressions. Drugs: 12 scenes with smoking, drinking, drugs.