Director: Spike Lee. With Edward Norton, Rosario Dawson, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Brian Cox. (134 min.)
Sterritt **** A young drug dealer tries to come to terms with his past on the day before he leaves for a seven-year prison term. The movie is flawed by implausible psychology and moments of weak acting. But it's more than redeemed by Lee's passionate ideas about America today, which he sees as plagued by evils of violence and materialism, yet unbounded in its possibilities and unquenchable in its spirit. He's a unique filmmaker, and this uneven drama is truly one of a kind.
Director: Denzel Washington. With Derek Luke, Joy Bryant, Washington. (117 min.)
Sterritt ** This is a fact-based drama about a Navy psychiatrist (Washington) who treats a violence-prone sailor (Luke) by encouraging him to probe the abusive childhood that he has long repressed. Although it's touching and sincere, Washington's directorial debut is weakened by a too-slow pace and a story that offers few real surprises.
Director: Steven Spielberg. With Tom Hanks, Leonardo DiCaprio, Nathalie Baye, Christopher Walken. (140 min.)
Sterritt *** See review, page 14.
Director: Rob Marshall. With Renée Zellweger, Richard Gere, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Queen Latifah. (113 min.)
Sterritt ** See review, page 14
Director: Stephen Daldry. With Nicole Kidman, Julianne Moore, Meryl Streep, Ed Harris. (120 min.)
Sterritt **** See review, page 14.
Director: Todd Louiso. With Philip Seymour Hoffman, Kathy Bates, Jack Kehler, Sarah Koskoff. (93 min.)
Sterritt **** A desperately unstable man copes with his wife's suicide by doping himself up and letting his life fall to pieces. Hoffman's acting is poignant and compassionate, etching a profoundly sad character with no trace of compromise, and Bates gives one of her most controlled performances ever. Louiso is a hugely talented new filmmaker.
Director: Douglas McGrath. With Charlie Hunnam, Anne Hathaway, Jim Broadbent. (133 min)
Sterritt *** See review, page 15.
Director: Alexander Payne. With Jack Nicholson, Hope Davis, Dermot Mulroney, Kathy Bates. (125 min.)
Sterritt *** After his wife's unexpected death, a retired man rethinks his future and reevaluates his past while traveling across the Midwest to his daughter's wedding, where his discontents grow greater than ever. Nicholson's acting is awesome, and Payne and cowriter Jim Taylor haven't lost their ear for the empty aphorisms of middle-class speech.
Staff *** Jack truly is back, bittersweet, touching.
Sex/Nudity: 1 scene of partial nudity. Violence: 1 instance of a brief tussle. Profanity: 12 expressions, sometimes harsh. Drugs: 8 scenes with drinking; 1 with prescription drugs.
Director: Spike Jonze. With Nicolas Cage, Meryl Streep, Chris Cooper, Brian Cox. (114 min.)
Sterritt *** A fictional doppelganger of real-life screenwriter Charlie Kaufman struggles to write the screenplay of this film, dogged by the success of his (totally fictional) twin brother and spurred by his bashful admiration for the journalist who wrote the nonfiction book he's trying to adapt, about a man who's obsessed with tracking down rare orchids. The film is less confusing than it sounds, and it's great mazelike fun until it bogs down in familiar chase-picture conventions near the end.
Director: Lee Tamahori. With Pierce Brosnan, Halle Berry, John Cleese, Judi Dench. (132 min.)
Sterritt ** The suave British agent starts his 20th screen adventure by falling into enemy hands and getting kicked out of Her Majesty's Secret Service. But don't fret - he wows everyone with fast escapes, jaunty wisecracks, and amorous escapades. Brosnan is in top form, making the 007 role more his own than anyone since Sean Connery.
Staff **1/2 Predictable but entertaining, Berry is a tough match, action galore.
Sex/Nudity: 13 instances of innuendo or implied sex. Violence: 18 scenes of extended violence, including explosions and shootings. Profanity: 1 harsh expression. Drugs: 11 scenes of drinking, smoking; several bar scenes.
Director: Charles Stone III. With Nick Cannon, Orlando Jones, Zoe Saldana. (118 min.)
Staff *** Hotshot drumming earns a young African-American a full scholarship to a Southern college, but he must learn humility and teamwork if he's to succeed in music and life. What drives this feel-good film is not the plot, but the drumming performances. It's mostly good, clean fun. By M.K. Terrell
Sex/Nudity: 2 instances of innuendo. Violence: 1 minor fight scene. Profanity: 37 expressions. Drugs: None.
Director: Bruce Beresford. With Pierce Brosnan, Julianna Margulies, Aidan Quinn. (94 min.)
Sterritt ** An Irish single father battles to get custody of his children from the parochial boarding school where they've been sent according to Irish law. He is helped by a crusty old attorney who invokes the Irish Constitution in ways never tried before. The facts of this true-life story are highly dramatic, and they'd have much more power without the sappy sentimentality Beresford needlessly adds to the movie. But Brosnan's potent acting reminds us his range stretches beyond Agent 007.
Director: Martin Scorsese. With Leonardo DiCaprio, Daniel Day-Lewis, Cameron Diaz, John C. Reilly. (155 min.)
Sterritt *** See review, page 16.
Staff *** Stunning sets, Daniel Day-Lewis is superb, starts strong but loses its way.
Sex/Nudity: 11 scenes, including partial nudity and sex scenes. Violence: 36 instances of graphic violence of punches, beatings, and battle scenes. Drugs: 35 scenes with smoking and/or drinking; 1 scene with opium.
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (PG)
Director: Chris Columbus. With Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Kenneth Branagh, Robbie Coltrane. (160 min.)
Sterritt ** Harry returns for his second school year at Hogwarts, where an unseen enemy is casting an evil spell on students, leading some to think Harry may be the culprit. The film hews closely to J.K. Rowling's novel, decking it out with lavish settings and effects. These are impressive in an ostentatious way, but their cumulative impact has a lumbering spirit different from that of Rowling's easygoing prose.
Staff ***1/2 Magical, scary, better than first film.
Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: 12 scenes of "magical" violence. Some kicking, shoving, and scary images. Profanity: 2 expressions. Drugs: None.
Director: Peter Jackson. With Elijah Wood, Liv Tyler, Ian McKellen, Christopher Lee. (179 min.)
Sterritt ** Frodo and Sam head for the dark land of Mordor to destroy the ring of power before evil Sauron can use it to enslave Middle Earth forever. The second installment in Jackson's trilogy of J.R.R. Tolkien's marvelous novels is more effective than "The Fellowship of the Ring" partly because it isn't weighed down with plodding exposition. But its greatest asset is Gollum, almost as creepy on the screen as he was in Tolkien's pages.
Staff *** Visually stunning, action-packed.
Sex/Nudity: None. Profanity: None. Violence: Relentless graphic violence including hacked limbs, submerged corpses, and impaled heads. Drugs: 2 scenes with a pipe.
Director: Wayne Wang. With Jennifer Lopez, Ralph Fiennes, Stanley Tucci, Bob Hoskins. (105 min.)
Sterritt ** Lopez plays a single mom who cleans hotel rooms while dreaming of a better life, and Fiennes plays the handsome politico who sweeps her into his arms. The stars of this toned-down "Pretty Woman" clone don't exude much romantic chemistry, but Wang moves the action along smoothly and has the good sense to make Manhattan itself one of the most prominent attractions.
Staff **1/2 Breezy, fun, touching.
Sex/Nudity: 1 scene of implied sex; innuendo. Profanity: 12 expressions. Violence: 1 mild scene. Drugs: 1 scene with smoking; 2 with drinking.
Director: Joe Carnahan. With Jason Patric, Ray Liotta, Chi McBride, Busta Rhymes. (105 min)
Sterritt * A young cop with a bad career history (Patric) rejoins the force, teaming with a violence-prone colleague (Liotta) who's under investigation for a list of abuses. The movie is designed to show off Liotta's acting skills, but pointless mayhem and sheer nastiness crowd out any virtues it might have had.
Director: Roman Polanski. With Adrien Brody, Maureen Lipman, Frank Finlay, Emilia Fox. (148 min)
Sterritt *** Fact-based drama about the experiences of concert pianist Wladislaw Szpilman in Warsaw, where he survived in hiding as Nazis occupied the city after Germany's defeat of Poland in 1939. Polanski has personal links with Polish suffering in the Nazi era, and his movie has a sense of emotional urgency and deep-dwelling grief.
Director: Michael Lembeck. With Tim Allen, Elizabeth Mitchell, Judge Reinhold, Wendy Crewson. (105 min.)
Sterritt ** Allen reprises his 1994 role as an ordinary guy who's taken over Santa's job. This time he has to marry a Mrs. Claus, get his misbehaving son off the "naughty" list, and save his workshop from a malfunctioning Santa robot, all before Christmas Eve.
Staff *** Funny, playful, romantic.
Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: 5 scenes of cartoonish violence. Profanity: 1 mild expression. Drugs: 2 mild scenes with alcohol.
Director: Stuart Baird. With Patrick Stewart, Tom Hardy, Jonathan Frakes, Brent Spiner, LeVar Burton. (116 min.)
Staff *1/2 The crew from "Star Trek: The Next Generation" pilot the 10th Star Trek movie to the screen. But the warp drive is offline, and this alleged adventure never picks up much speed. Captain Picard must face an evil younger version of himself, with Earth and the Federation at stake. But the lack of fresh ideas leave viewers with something closer to Star dreck. By Gregory M. Lamb
Staff **1/2 Slow trek, tense, time to retire the fleet.
Sex/Nudity: 1 implied sex scene. Violence: 11 scenes, including combat and impalement. Profanity: 2 expressions. Drugs: 2 drinking scenes.
Director: Ron Clements, John Musker. With (voices) Emma Thompson, Martin Short. (95 min.)
Staff **1/2 Disney's latest animated film launches Robert Louis Stevenson's "Treasure Island" into outer space. Emma Thompson's voice is put to excellent use as the modern, feminine Captain Amelia, but the most valuable gem in this film is the combination of handrawn and computer-generated animation. By Stephanie Cook Broadhurst
Staff *** Triumphant, inventive, visually stunning.
Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: 10 scenes of cartoon violence. Profanity: None. Drugs: 1 scene with smoking.
Director: Marc Lawrence. With Sandra Bullock, Hugh Grant, Dorian Missick, Katheryn Winnick. (100 min)
Sterritt *** She's an idealistic lawyer, he's the devil-may-care businessman who hires her, and you know love sparks will fly before the final credits roll. Bullock is cute. Grant is even cuter. They have the timing and panache of a first-rate comedy team. They should make a million movies together.
Directors: Cathy Malkasian, Jeff McGrath. With (voices) Ian Abercrombie, Brenda Blethyn. (79 min.)
Sterritt **** Eliza can talk with animals, which is handy in the African wild, where she lives with her eccentric parents, a chimpanzee named Darwin, and a self-absorbed sister. It's less handy when she's sent to a British boarding school where neither she nor Darwin fits in, and worse yet, poachers are threatening her elephant friends back home. Lively characters, snappy dialogue, and snazzy visuals make this an uncommonly fine animation.
Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: 9 scenes, mostly with the poachers. Profanity: None. Drugs: None.
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 with the same physically taut, emotionally walled-up personality that typifies his characters. In the director's chair, Eastwood takes a conservative approach, telling the tale efficiently but with few imaginative touches.
Staff **1/2 Spotty acting, predictable, well-crafted.
Sex/Nudity: 1 scene of implied sex. Violence: 13 scenes, including shootouts. Profanity: 24 expressions. Drugs: 5 scenes of drinking.