Director: Michael Snow. With Kim Plate, Greg Hermanovic, John Massey, Joanne Tod. (93 min.)
Sterritt *** Named after the part of the brain that passes signals between the two hemispheres, this avant-garde extravaganza uses digital techniques to morph, twist, and generally slice and dice every object and person it can find, destabilizing every known category of time, place, and gender along the way. Snow is a full-fledged genius who enlarged the fundamental horizons of cinema with his classic "Wavelength," but here his aesthetic and philosophical ideas don't quite keep pace with his technological boldness.
Director: Akira Kurosawa. With Toshiro Mifune, Takashi Shimura, Yoshio Inaba, Seiji Miyaguchi. (207 min.)
Sterritt **** Kurosawa has always been the West's favorite Japanese filmmaker, and this 1954 epic is one of his most popular crowd-pleasers, spinning the action-filled tale of trouble-plagued villagers who hire a gaggle of unemployed warriors to defend them against lawless thugs in the area. The legendary Mifune leads a superb cast, and Kurosawa's kinetic camera keeps the adventure sizzling with energy and wit from start to finish.
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, 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: 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.
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: 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.
Sex/Nudity: 7 instances, including full nudity. Violence: 2 instances. Profanity: 10 strong expressions. Drugs: 14 None.
Director: Blair Treu. With Evan Rachel Wood, Michael Angarano, Vivica A. Fox. (100 min.)
Sterritt ** Emily is a gifted and disciplined adolescent who may succeed as a budding violinist if she doesn't get distracted by the new boy in her neighborhood, and if she can come to terms with an innocent secret she carries bottled up inside her. This easygoing comedy-drama is gentle and wholesome, if not very realistic or convincing in the long run.
Director: Sandra Nettelbeck. With Martina Gedeck, Sergio Castellitto. (107 min.)
Staff ***1/2 Martha is a perfectionist chef in Hamburg who can't quite cope when her 8-year-old niece unexpectedly comes to live with her. There's no recipe for raising Lina, but slowly Martha finds a new rhythm especially when she gets over feeling threatened by a free-spirited chef who joins the staff at her restaurant, and accepts his help. Not to be seen on an empty stomach, this beautiful film is equal parts drama and humor, seasoned with a hint of romance. By Stacy A. Teicher
Sex/Nudity: 1 instance innuendo. Violence: 1 scene with slapping. Profanity: 5 mild expressions. Drugs: 3 smoking scenes. 9 scenes with drinking or cooking with alcohol.
Director: Mark Romanek. With Robin Williams, Connie Nielsen. (98 min.)
Sterritt ** Williams plays a seemingly bland photo-booth clerk who's become dangerously obsessed with a local family whose pictures he's been processing for years. Williams's acting is as chilling as it is restrained, but Romanek's directing damps down the drama's psychological impact, making it look as glossy and two-dimensional as the snapshots that run through the photo man's finely calibrated machines.
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 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.
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: Benoit Jacquot. With Daniel Auteuil, Isild Le Besco, Grégoire Colin, Marianne Denicourt. (100 min.)
Sterritt ** Imprisoned in an asylum at the height of the French Revolution, the aging Marquis de Sade refines his subversive philosophy, plans his latest theatrical production, and works his seductive wiles on an aristocrat's daughter. Auteuil is a superb actor. Still, the real-life Sade would be dismayed to see himself portrayed more as an eccentric old codger than the world-changing firebrand he worked hard to be. In French with 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, an ex-lawyer takes her side against the arrogant spouse who dumps 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.
Sex/Nudity: 6 instances innuendo. Violence: 10 scenes, including shootings. Profanity: 8 harsh expressions. Drugs: 6 scenes drinking, smoking.
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, pretentious camera work, 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: Andrew Niccol. With Al Pacino, Catherine Keener, Winona Ryder, Evan Rachel Wood. (117 min.)
Sterritt * A has-been director tries to restart his career by creating a computer-generated cyberstar and passing her off as an elusive flesh-and-blood actress. This might have been a savvy satire on today's celebrity-struck media culture, but Niccol unfolds the story at a lumbering pace, peppered with not-funny gags and dramatic scenes that build little emotional power. The deliberately bogus sets of "The Truman Show," which Niccol wrote, look like cinéma-vérité next to the ersatz Hollywood he's cooked up here. In all, it's a sadly missed opportunity.
Staff *** Inventive but falls short of potential, witty, predictable, shallow in parts.
Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: 4 instances, nothing severe. Profanity: 2 mild expressions. Drugs: 13 scenes of drinking or smoking.
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 into secret meetings. 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 may destroy the world. The trail leads to an island filled with hybrid animals. 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.
Sex/Nudity: None. Profanity: 1 mild expression. Violence: 8 scenes with mostly mild violence. Drugs: 2 scenes with alcohol.
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.
Director: Carl Franklin. With Ashley Judd, Morgan Freeman, Amanda Peet. (115 min.)
Sterritt ** When her husband is charged with a wartime atrocity he never told her about and says he never committed, an attorney (Judd) teams with an old-time military lawyer to clear his name, soon encountering threats from forces that want to hush up the affair. The story has potential, but you'll spot the plot twists long before they happen, and the acting by Judd and Cavaziel is strictly by the numbers. Ditto for the filmmaking.
Staff ** Vacuous, gripping, formulaic.
Sex/Nudity: 7 instances of innuendo, including a few scenes implied sex. Violence: 13 scenes. Profanity: 29 strong expressions. Drugs: 16 scenes of drinking, smoking.
Director: John Lee Hancock. With Dennis Quaid, Rachel Griffiths, Jay Hernandez. (129 min.)
Staff ***1/2 Quaid plays a teacher-turned-Major League Baseball player in this Disney film based on the true story of Jim Morris. While coaching another losing season of high school baseball, Morris cuts a deal: If his players start winning, he'll try out for the majors. By now an older father, Morris defies skeptics with his uncanny 95-m.p.h. fastball. Quaid's intense performance will convince adults who believe "G" stands for "goofy" to take this film seriously. By Ben Arnoldy
Staff ***1/2 Home run, avoids clichés, inspiring.
Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: None. Profanity: None. Drugs: 5 scenes with alcohol.