Director: David Gordon Green. With Paul Schneider, Zooey Deschanel, Patricia Clarkson. (108 min.)
Sterritt ** See review.
Director: Im Kwon-taek. With Choi Min-sik, Yoo Ho-jung, Ahn Sung-ki, Kim Yeo-jin. (117 min.)
Sterritt **** This color-drenched Korean drama takes its visual and narrative inspiration from the life and work of a 19th-century Korean painter who captivated art lovers while battling personal demons at a time of great social and cultural change. Im has made almost 100 movies, and while this isn't a masterpiece on the level of his great "Chunhyang," it packs a sophisticated cinematic punch.
Directors: Michael Galinsky, Suki Hawley. With James Hatfield, Sander Hicks, Mark Crispin Miller. (90 min.)
Sterritt **** This is a chilling and engrossing documentary about an author whose life took wild turns when his biography of George W. Bush lost its berth with a mainstream press, leading him to team up with a maverick publisher instead. The movie should fascinate anyone interested in politics, publishing, and the uneasy marriage between big money and mass communication.
Director: David Cronenberg. With Ralph Fiennes, Miranda Richardson, Gabriel Byrne, Lynne Redgrave. (98 min.)
Sterritt **** See review.
Director: Mark Steven Johnson. With Ben Affleck, Colin Farrell, Jennifer Garner. (96 min.)
Staff * Batman, Superman, Spidey, and now Daredevil? Yes, Daredevil, the comic-book hero created in 1964 by Stan Lee. Ten minutes into it, you won't need superhuman senses to realize it won't be a great movie. Affleck plays Matt Murdock, a blind lawyer by day, action hero by night. He lost his sight as a young boy in a freak accident. Suddenly, he has heightened senses, can leap from building to building, and fight expertly with his walking stick. There's plenty of action - almost too much - but the characters aren't likable, the plot is thin, and the acting is robotic. This is no "Spider-Man." It's a dark, gritty world, and the violence is exhausting. By Lisa Leigh Connors
Staff **1/2 Violent, mindless, comic-bookish.
Sex/Nudity: 1 instance of innuendo; 1 scene of implied sex. Violence: 20 scenes, including bloody fights. Profanity: 11 expressions. Drugs: 10 scenes of drinking and smoking.
Director: Ron Shelton. With Kurt Russell, Lolita Davidovich, Scott Speedman, Ving Rhames. (116 min.)
Sterritt *** Russell plays a Los Angeles cop who sees bending the rules as an everyday aspect of bringing the bad guys down. Speedman plays his partner, a rookie who isn't fully indoctrinated into this hard-boiled mind-set. Also present are Brendan Gleeson as an LAPD commander who sees cops and crooks as his personal puppets, and Rhames as an assistant chief driven by political ambition. This could have been a routine police- corruption drama, but it gains dramatic energy from Russell's passionate acting and from James Ellroy's idea of setting the tale when four real-life crooked cops are about to be acquitted in the beating of Rodney King.
Staff **1/2 Gritty, predictable, rough.
Sex/Nudity: 1 sex scene. 1 scene of partial nudity. Violence: 15 scenes, including murders, beatings, and riots. Profanity: 192 harsh expressions. Drugs: 14 scenes of smoking and drinking.
Director: Gus Van Sant. With Matt Damon, Casey Affleck. (103 min.)
Sterritt **** Two young men embark on a hike in a lonely patch of wilderness, then discover they're deeply and dangerously lost. This bravely offbeat drama is a radical experiment in stripping a story to its bare essentials, then pushing those essentials as far as they'll go, asking spectators to be as intrepid and tenacious as the characters. It reconfirms Van Sant as one of today's most original filmmakers, and Damon as a star who's not afraid to take box-office risks.
Director: Ronald F. Maxwell. With Robert Duvall, Jeff Daniels, Stephen Lang, Mira Sorvino. (225 min.)
Sterritt * An amazingly dull reenactment of the early stages of the Civil War, written and directed with a stunning lack of historical context, cultural insight, and dramatic credibility. The technical quality is inexcusably lax and the acting is consistently weak - even Duvall sounds like he's reading from cue cards. This is arguably the sorriest of the many Hollywood films about the Civil War.
Staff **1/2 Wooden at times, educational, too long.
Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: 6 big battle scenes, including a bloody hospital scene. Profanity: 5 expressions. Drugs: 15 scenes of drinking, smoking.
Director: Daisy von Scherler Mayer. With Jimi Mistry, Heather Graham, Marisa Tomei. (95 min.)
Sterritt * An Indian immigrant goes to work for a porn-movie outfit and then starts impersonating a new-age mystic, becoming a star on the inspirational circuit. Instead of getting us emotionally involved with the characters, the comedy invites us to sneer at society snobs, giggle at tepid sex jokes, sniffle at sentimental interludes, and congratulate ourselves for being sophisticated enough to watch the unconventional kisses (biracial, gay) that climax the picture. What are talents like Tomei and Graham doing in a wafer-thin fizzle like this?
Staff ** Colorful, flat, almost works.
Sex/Nudity: 20 instances, including innuendo throughout, implied sex, and partial nudity. Themes deal with porn industry. Violence: 1 scene of wrestling. Profanity: 28 harsh expressions. Drugs: 11 scenes of smoking and drinking.
Director: Laetitia Colombani. With Audrey Tautou, Samuel Le Bihan, Isabel Carré. (92 min.)
Sterritt **** A bright-eyed art student dreams of a wonderful future with the handsome doctor who's stolen her heart - but halfway through the movie we start seeing things through the doctor's eyes, and they don't look quite the same. Tautou's fame in the popular fantasy "Amélie" lends a deftly ironic underpinning to the anti-Amélie she plays here. Colombani's directorial debut is smart, gripping, and suspenseful. In French with English subtitles.
Director: Donald Petrie. With Kate Hudson, Matthew McConaughey, Adam Goldberg. (114 min.)
Staff *1/2 The title of this film would more accurately read: "How to Lose an Audience in 10 Minutes." Some scenes will make you laugh out loud, but the movie's formula for comedy gets old faster than you can say, "Let's just be friends." Andie (Hudson) is the "how to" girl for a women's magazine who writes a feature on how to ditch a clingy guy. But her subject has his own agenda. Ben (McConaughey) bets his friends that he can make a woman fall in love with him in 10 days. The setup allows filmmakers to stage all sorts of slapstick scenarios. By Stephanie Cook Broadhurst
Staff **1/2 Silly, biting, insipid, funny at times.
Sex/Nudity: 2 sexually suggestive scenes. Innuendo throughout. Profanity: 39 harsh expressions. Drugs: 7 scenes of drinking. 1 with smoking.
Director: Steve Trenbirth. With John Goodman, Haley Joel Osment, Tony Jay. (72 min.)
Staff ** "The Jungle Book 2" takes more than just "The Bare Necessities" from the original film. The story line feels like a modern-day version of the first installment, including many of the same jigs, jokes, and jingles. The film picks up with Mowgli trying to adjust to life in a human village. He longs for his old stomping grounds in the jungle, where he and Baloo held their jam sessions, and soon finds himself back there. Instead of recycling so many former hits, Disney ought to make inventive films. But the animation is classically beautiful. And, like its predecessor, it will inspire children to tap their feet to the jungle rhythms. By Stephanie Cook Broadhurst
Staff *** Adorable, good music, lovely to watch.
Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: 9 scenes of cartoonish violence. Profanity: None. Drugs: None.
Director: Alan Parker. With Kevin Spacey, Kate Winslet, Gabriel Mann, Laura Linney. (130 min.)
Sterritt ** The title character is a troubled philosophy professor whose life goes downhill when he loses his job because of a trumped-up rape charge and then gets convicted of murdering a fellow political activist who protested capital punishment at his side for years. The subject is timely and some of the acting is strong, but as usual, Parker cares more about quickening our pulses than enlightening our minds. The surprise ending isn't much of a surprise, either.
Staff ***1/2 Gripping, well acted, superb.
Sex/Nudity: 2 graphic sex scenes. 3 scenes of a nude body. Innuendo throughout. Violence: 6 scenes, including flashbacks of a murder scene. Profanity: 22 expressions. Drugs: 7 scenes of alcohol, including drunkeness. 5 scenes of smoking. 1 scene with illegal drug use.
Director: Phillip Noyce. With Michael Caine, Brendan Fraser, Do Thi Hai Yen. (101 min.)
Sterritt **** Caine plays a jaded British journalist covering the French Indochina War in the early '50s. Fraser plays an American who claims to be on a charity mission but is really scheming to help a renegade Vietnamese general gain control. Based on Graham Greene's 1955 novel, this thoughtful drama deals with a host of timely issues including terrorism, international strife, and the use and abuse of American power. Caine and Fraser are superb.
Staff ***1/2 Intricate, well acted, thought- provoking, suspenseful.
Sex/Nudity: 3 scenes of implied sex and several scenes with prostitutes and innuendo. Violence: 8 scenes, including battles, bloody bombings, and dead bodies. Profanity: 14 expressions. Drugs: 12 scenes with smoking and drinking.
Director Todd Phillips. With Will Ferrell, Luke Wilson, Vince Vaughn, Juliette Lewis. (90 min.)
Staff * Ferrell, Wilson, and Vaughn play middle-aged men who yearn to return to the frolics of student life. What better solution than to purchase a house and set up a fraternity next to an institution of higher learning. "Old School," then, is another entry in the oddly enduring genre spawned by "Animal House": the campus comedy. The conventions are all too familiar: booze, sex, ribald hijinks, and coming-of-age moments. In this case, the latter element is noticeably absent. So is the comedy. The men are capable comics but the material is so weak that it makes one almost yearn for the inadequacy of a Police Academy sequel. "Old School" flunks on every level. By Stephen Humphries
Staff **1/2 Juvenile, falls short, fun cast.
Sex/Nudity: 17 scenes, including implied group sex, nudity, and innuendo. Violence: 12 scenes, including tussles. Profanity: 17 expressions. Drugs: 16 scenes of drinking, smoking.
Russian Ark (Not rated)
Director: Alexander Sokurov. With Sergey Dreiden, Maria Kuznetsova, Leonid Mozgovoy. (96 min.)
Sterritt **** A somewhat bewildered time traveler and a cynical 19th-century aristocrat ponder the vicissitudes of Russian and European history as they wander the galleries of a monumental Russian palace, witnessing scenes from the country's turbulent past. Filmed in a single 90-minute-plus shot that makes cinema history, this sumptuous masterpiece is an unforgettable treat for the eyes, ears, and mind. In Russian with English subtitles.
Director: David Dobkin. With Jackie Chan, Owen Wilson, Fann Wong. (114 min.)
Staff *** Watching the Buster Keatonesque action in this superior sequel to "Shanghai Noon," one wonders whether Kung Fu maestro Jackie Chan was a Looney 'toon in his previous life. Just as animated is Owen Wilson, the other member of the odd couple, whose surf-dude persona offers up plenty of laughs as the duo venture to Victorian London. The mechanical plot entails avenging a murder and preventing an aristocrat from assassinating the royal family. The journey is more important than the destination - as long as there are fight sequences along the way. By Stephen Humphries
Staff ***Hilarious, amazing stunts, colorful.
Sex/Nudity: 12 sexually suggestive scenes. Violence: 17 scenes, including karate fights. Profanity: 23 expressions. Drugs: 9 scenes of smoking, drinking.
Director: Sam Mendes. With Tom Hanks, Paul Newman, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Jude Law. (119 min.)
Sterritt ** Hanks plays a 1930s hit man seeking revenge against the mobsters who killed his wife and son. Mendes surrounds the slow-moving plot with a lonely, dreary view of middle America in the Depression era. The cinematography provides a moody atmosphere, and Law is terrific as an enticingly weird thug; but the plot has huge holes, and it's hard to swallow the notion that we should love an assassin because his heart is full of family values.
Staff ***1/2 Well-acted, dark, visually stunning.
Sex/Nudity: 1 instance. Violence: 16 extremely violent scenes. Profanity: 20 expressions. Drugs: About 20 scenes with drinking and smoking.