Director: Betty Thomas. With Eddie Murphy, Owen Wilson, Famke Janssen, Malcolm McDowell, Gary Cole. (96 min.)
Staff *1/2 See review.
Director: Godfrey Reggio. (89 min.)
Sterritt **** See review.
Director: Michael Lembeck. With Tim Allen, Elizabeth Mitchell, Judge Reinhold, Wendy Crewson. (105 min.)
Sterritt ** See review.
Director: Hilary Birmingham. With Anson Mount, Julianne Nicholson, Bob Burrus, Glenn Fitzgerald. (102 min.)
Sterritt **** This is a quietly told drama of two young men, their troubled father, and their efforts to carve out a satisfying life on their modest farm as financial and emotional problems loom. Such understated storytelling, sensitive directing, and avoidance of easy filmmaking tricks are all too rare in American movies. This is truly one from the heart.
Director: Stephen Gaghan. With Katie Holmes, Benjamin Bratt, Charlie Hunnam. (99 min.)
Staff ** A promising college senior (Holmes), under pressure to win a plum job after graduation, is being harassed by a former boyfriend, who has been missing and presumed dead for two years. This first directing effort by screenwriter Gaghan ("Traffic") generates a few suspenseful moments, but its leaps between past, present, and future are more confusing than artful. The student's romance with a much older cop (Bratt) is unconvincing, and the muddled surprise ending lacks much punch. By Gregory M. Lamb
Sex/Nudity: 6 scenes of implied sex and innuendo. Violence: 3 instances, including drowning. Profanity: 7 harsh expressions. Drugs: 1 scene with drugs; 4 with alcohol, 2 with smoking.
Director: Mike Leigh. With Timothy Spall, Lesley Manville, Alison Garland, James Corden. (127 min.)
Sterritt *** A downbeat portrait of Britain's working poor, focusing on an unhappy cab driver, his common-law wife, and their two grown kids, who make up in girth what they lack in civility. Leigh is at his best when etching their daily experiences and showing how a sudden catastrophe delivers a crushing blow to their meager amount of hard-won comfort, and then encourages them toward new levels of loyalty and understanding. Unfortunately, the last portion isn't quite convincing in its elements of uplift and redemption.
Director: Paul Schrader. With Greg Kinnear, Willem Dafoe, Rita Wilson, Ron Leibman. (107 min.)
Sterritt *** This movie documents the rise and fall of Bob Crane, popular star of the '60s TV sitcom "Hogan's Heroes," who ruined his life and career when he befriended a technology wonk and participated in living-room orgies recorded by his sleazy companion with then-innovative video equipment. Kinnear gives a pitch-perfect performance as the self-destructive actor, and Schrader offers one of his most harrowing explorations of the temptations and dangers of sensuality, a theme that has fascinated him throughout his career.
Director: Michael Moore. With Moore, Charlton Heston, Marilyn Manson. (120 min.)
Sterritt *** Contemporary film's most freewheeling documentarymaker turns his sights on the longtime American love affair with guns, including a living-room confrontation with National Rifle Association leader Heston and a discussion with goth-rocker Manson that's amazingly articulate. Moore turns the camera on himself too often for comfort, but he provides an eye-opening array of revelations.
Staff ***1/2Biting, intelligent, relevant, polemic.
Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: 38 scenes, nearly all are brief news clips of violence. Profanity: 8 harsh expressions. Drugs: 1 scene smoking.
Director: Julie Taymor. With Salma Hayek, Alfred Molina, Geoffrey Rush, Ashley Judd. (120 min.)
Sterritt * The legendary Mexican artist Frida Kahlo had a colorful life great achievements in painting, a turbulent marriage with fabled muralist Diego Rivera, even a close relationship with Leon Trotsky, the communist leader. This biopic gets the facts on screen, but that's about it. Perhaps intimidated by the strength of Kahlo's own artistic personality, Taymor shows isolated flashes of the storytelling inventiveness she brought to "Titus." Hayek doesn't have the acting skills such a multifaceted character calls for.
Director: Tim Blake Nelson. With David Arquette, Daniel Benzali, Steve Buscemi, David Chandler. (108 min.)
Staff **1/2 Based on true events, this is the first mainstream Holocaust movie to highlight Jewish prisoners who worked in the crematoriums at Auschwitz and who daily faced the wrenching moral dilemma of prolonging their own lives in exchange for disposing of others' lives. It focuses on the men of Auschwitz's 12th Sonderkommando, the only group of its kind to foment a rebellion in the camp. This difficult, heartrending film ultimately doesn't slow down enough to greatly illumine or enlighten. By Jen McLaughlin
Staff *** Heavy, well-acted, horrendous, grim
Sex/Nudity: 9 scenes nudity, all of prisoners in gas chambers. Violence: 20 graphic scenes, including mass executions, torture. Profanity: 31 expressions. Drugs: 13 instances smoking, drinking.
Director: Jean-Luc Godard. With Bruno Putzulu, Cécile Camp, Jean Davy, Françoise Verny. (98 min.)
Sterritt **** For the first hour, a movie director named Bruno works on a film about the four stages of love meeting, passion, quarreling, reconciliation in the lives of couples in different stages of life; the last portion takes place two years earlier, as Bruno visits an elderly couple mulling a Hollywood offer for the rights to their story as anti-Nazi resisters. Godard's masterpiece is as densely layered and intricately structured as the subjects of memory and history that it explores. It's also witty, contemplative, and sublimely beautiful. Originally called "Éloge de l'amour."
Director: Mike Nawrocki, Phil Vischer. With (voices): Vischer, Nawrocki, Tim Hodge, Lisa Vischer. (83 min.)
Staff *** Squabbling families run their van off a road and wind up in a seafood cafe, where strangers teach them about compassion and mercy through a delightfully updated telling of the Jonah story. Aimed at children, but filled with gags for adults, this is the first theatrical film based on the popular VeggieTales video series. Especially engaging are the angelic choir's Gospel number inside the whale, and "The Credits Song," about music that has nothing to do with the movie you just saw. Oh, and almost all the characters are vegetables. By M.K. Terrell
Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: 5 scenes cartoonish violence. Profanity: None. Drugs: None.
Director: Charles Stone III. With Wood Harris, Mekhi Phifer, Kevin Carroll, Esai Morales. (93 min.)
Staff *** Ace (Harris) is unhappy behind the counter of his uncle's dry-cleaning business, but holds out against friends' enticements to deal drugs with them. Finally, the lure of fancy cars and promise of a better life are too great, and he succumbs. The story, based on real-life dealer A.Z. Alpo, barely touches on drug users, concentrating rather on the trade's devastating effect on the pushers themselves. As Ace loses associates and family to kidnapping, murder, and prison nearly dying himself he realizes there is no love in this business, and its promises are illusory. By M.K. Terrell
Sex/Nudity: 3 instances innuendo, sex. Violence: 17 scenes, including beating, shootings. Profanity: 212 strong expressions. Drugs: 27 instances of smoking, drinking, and drug use.
Director: Paul Thomas Anderson. With Adam Sandler, Emily Watson, Philip Seymour Hoffman. (95 min.)
Sterritt *** A small-time businessman copes with a nagging family, eludes a con artist, woos a woman who's as kooky as he is, and wonders how he can attain a happy life when he knows he's nerdy and whiny to his bones. Anderson's filmmaking is quirky and original, but his biggest creative coup is drawing on submerged aspects of Sandler's usual screen persona a wounded insecurity, a sense of repression that's almost violent in its emotional effects to give the comedy an edgy undertone that's one of a kind.
Staff *** Quirky, light, original, spicy.
Sex/Nudity: 2, including phone sex. Violence: 9 scenes, including car crash. Profanity: 28 strong expressions. Drugs: 3 drinking scenes.
Director: Gore Verbinski. With Naomi Watts, Martin Henderson, Brian Cox, David Dorfman. (109 min.)
Staff ***1/2 Rachel, a no-compromise reporter for a Seattle paper, is asked to investigate the deaths of four teens, all seven days after watching a haunted video tape. Urban legend, or deadly curse? Rachel must watch and find out. But soon, her own family is in danger. Will she solve the mystery in time, or will haunting visions from the tape overcome her? This is one of the most intelligent and genuinely scary ghost stories to come around in a long time. By Alex Kaloostian
Sex/Nudity: 1 instance innuendo. Violence: 12 instances, some quite violent, including killings. Profanity: 9 harsh expressions. Drugs: At least 3 scenes with drinking, smoking.
Director: Dylan Kidd. With Campbell Scott, Isabella Rossellini, Jesse Eisenberg, Jennifer Beals. (105 min.)
Sterritt **** After getting dumped by his latest girlfriend, a 40-ish womanizer named Roger gets an unexpected visit from his 16-year-old nephew Nick, and together they set off on a quest for seduction and romance in the bars and byways of Manhattan, where Roger's temerity and Nick's timidity prove a predictably poor combination. As shaggily comical as it often is, this sharply directed satire deals with two serious themes the age-old clash between innocence and experience, and the amazing powers of self-delusion. Scott is excellent, and so is everyone else. See this with a date ... if you dare.
Director: Jonathan Demme. With Thandie Newton, Mark Wahlberg, Tim Robbins, Lisa Gay Hamilton. (104 min.)
Sterritt *** The widow of a recently deceased adventurer learns she's the heiress to millions of hidden dollars and meets threatening people who believe they have a right to it. Newton and Wahlberg are well cast as main characters, but there's little chemistry between them, and the story is so busy springing surprises that it forgets to develop much feeling. Ultimately this remake of 1963's "Charade" is just a razzle-dazzle chase picture, not the heart-stirring romantic thriller it might have been. Film buffs will enjoy its tributes to France's New Wave filmmaking movement of the '60s, though.
Staff **1/2 Stylish, jumpy, OK remake, artistic.
Sex/Nudity: 9 scenes, including innuendo, implied sex and partial nudity. Violence: 14 scenes, including shootings, fighting. Profanity: 2 expressions. Drugs: At least 8 scenes of drinking, smoking.
Director: Jay Russell. With Alexis Bledel, William Hurt, Sissy Spacek, Ben Kingsley, Amy Irving. (90 min.)
Sterritt *** A teen girl is abducted by a backwoods family that fears she's discovered a closely guarded treasure the secret of human immortality, available to anyone who drinks from a nearby spring. Meanwhile, she's sought by her parents and an enigmatic stranger. The story is engrossing after a slow start. Kingsley is perfect as the menacing outsider.
Staff **1/2 Good cast, dark, predictable.
Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: 10 scenes, including kidnapping. Profanity: None. Drugs: 1 bar scene.
Director: Peter Kosminsky. With Alison Lohman, Michelle Pfeiffer, Renée Zellweger. (110 min.)
Sterritt ** A 15-year-old shuttles through a series of foster homes after her strong-willed mother is imprisoned for killing her abusive boyfriend. She stays under her mom's sway during their jailhouse visits but realizes she has to chart her own course in life. The acting is heartfelt and Kosminsky directs with quiet assurance. The story is too schematic, though, watching the heroine take on the coloration of each new environment as if she had almost no mind at all, not the unformed but promising mind of a smart, creative youngster.
Staff *** Probing, great cast, crisp, moving.
Sex/Nudity: 8 instances, including implied sex. Violence: 11 scenes, including shootings. Profanity: 4 expressions. Drugs: 13 scenes smoking and drinking.
Director: Samuel Raimi. With Tobey Maguire, Willem Dafoe, Kirsten Dunst, James Franco. (121 min.)
Staff *** "Spider-Man," 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 duty, while teens will enjoy the coming-of-age struggles of an extraordinary kid trying to get the girl and save the world. By Gloria Goodale
Staff ***1/2 Best superhero film, exhilarating.
Sex/Nudity: 1 wet T-shirt scene. Violence: Cartoonish violence; some is graphic. Profanity: 3 harsh expressions. Drugs: 3 scenes with alcohol, 1 with cigar.