Director: Adam Shankman. With Steve Martin, Queen Latifah, Eugene Levy, Joan Plowright. (105 min.)
Sterritt * See review, interview.
Violence: 7 scenes, including brawls and shootings. Drugs: 13 scenes of drinking, smoking.
Director: Gaspar Noé. With Vincent Cassell, Monica Bellucci, Albert Dupontel, Jo Prestia. (95 min.)
Sterritt *** This is a story about a brutal murder, a horrifying rape, and the events leading up to them, all revealed in reverse chronology and eye-churning camera work. Noe's despairing view of human nature is as thoughtful as it is grim, limning the most appalling aspects of earthly experience in terms recalling Dante and Bosh, among other apocalyptic artists. Only moviegoers who can tolerate extreme violence should venture near this corrosive film. In French with English subtitles.
Sex/Nudity: 10 scenes, including 5 with male and female nudity. Violence: 8 scenes, including an extended, brutal rape scene and a graphic beating. Profanity: 99 harsh expressions. Drugs: 6 scenes of smoking, drinking. 2 scenes with drugs.
Director: Lisa Cholodenko. With Frances McDormand, Christian Bale, Kate Beckinsale. (103 min.)
Sterritt *** See review.
Director: Caroline Link. With Karoline Eckertz, Merab Ninidze, Juliane Köhler, Regine Zimmermann. (141 min.)
Sterritt *** See review.
Director: Rose Troche. With Glenn Close, Dermot Mulroney, Patricia Clarkson, Robert Klein. (120 min.)
Sterritt ** A lonely father, an insecure woman, a comatose young man, and an adolescent infatuated with a doll are among the diverse characters of this multifaceted drama, based on A.M. Homes stories. The overall effect is imaginative but overambitious, though Troche unquestionably has cinematic talent.
Director: Robert M. Young. With Bruce Davison, Luis Guzmán, Curtis Mayfield, Jose Perez. (100 min.)
Sterritt *** A man accused of pedophilia is incarcerated in New York City's notorious Tombs prison, a volatile and perilous place where men charged with this particular crime are relegated to the most despised position of all, by guards and inmates alike. Davison gives one of his many bravura performances in this 1977 adaptation of Miguel Pinero's hard-hitting play, adapted to the screen by Pinero himself, who also appears in the picture.
Director: Antoine Fuqua. With Bruce Willis, Monica Bellucci, Cole Hauser, Tom Skerritt. (105 min.)
Sterritt ** See review.
Director: Abbas Kiarostami. With Mania Akbari, Amin Maher. (94 min.)
Sterritt **** Iran's greatest filmmaker is fond of stripping personalities bare through conversations they have while riding in cars. Here he pushes his favorite dramatic device to its limit - filling a whole movie with close-ups of a smart, independent-minded Tehran woman and a series of passengers in her front seat including her sister, a religious old woman, a prostitute, and her preteen son. The results are dramatic. In Farsi with English subtitles.
Director: David Gordon Green. With Paul Schneider, Zooey Deschanel, Patricia Clarkson. (108 min.)
Sterritt ** This film is about a hesitant love affair of an oversexed young man and an inexperienced young woman in a sleepy Southern town. Green cares more about atmosphere than story, and he never overuses a technique or flaunts his cinematic skills. But, sadly, he never builds much dramatic interest, either. This is a letdown after his fascinating and original "George Washington" in 2000.
Staff *** True-to-life, beautifully filmed, edgy.
Sex/Nudity: 2 sexual scenes. Violence: 3 scenes, including pushing, punches. Profanity: 29 expressions. Drugs: 18 scenes with tobacco, drinking.
Directors: André Heller and Othmar Schmiderer. With Traudl Junge. (90 min.)
Sterritt **** This documentary presents a long interview with a personal assistant to Adolf Hitler who lived in his bunker during his final days. She candidly admits her failure to recognize the profound evil of a man she found personable and even kind during their daily interactions. Her testimony is a salutary reminder that Hitler was a person - not a supernatural monster whose malevolence sprang from inexplicable sources - and that the evil he manifested could visit us again if more civilized humans don't remain watchful.
Director: Andrzej Bartkowiak. With Jet Li, DMX, Mark Dacascos, Anthony Anderson. (100 min.)
Staff * DMX plays Tony Fait, the leader of a gang of thieves who enlists the help of Taiwanese Intelligence Agent, Jet Li, when his young daughter is kidnapped by vicious thugs seeking his latest booty. Perhaps paying homage to DMX's rap style, the film plays like a music video with bright colors, pounding music, and dizzying camera moves. But even a father's love for his daughter cannot justify the stomach-churning, relentless violence. If the gore does not make you look away, then the "been there, done that" plot will. By Sasha Brown
Sex/Nudity: 4 instances of innuendo. Violence: 18 scenes, including beatings and dead bodies. Profanity: 73 harsh expressions. Drugs: At least 7 scenes of smoking and drinking.
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. 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. 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 men embark on a hike in a lonely patch of wilderness, then discover they're deeply 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 viewers to be as intrepid and tenacious as the characters. It reconfirms Van Sant as one of the most original filmmakers, and Damon as a star who's not afraid to take risks.
Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: 1 scene of strangulation. Profanity: 39 harsh expressions. Drugs: Smoking throughout.
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, educational, too long.
Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: 6 extended bloody battle scenes. Profanity: 5 expressions. Drugs: 15 scenes of drinking, 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, and soon finds himself back there. Instead of recycling former hits, Disney ought to make inventive films. But the animation is classically beautiful. And, like its predecessor, it will inspire kids 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. And the surprise ending isn't much of a surprise.
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 absent. So is the comedy. The men are capable comics but the material is so weak 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.
Staff ***Rich costumes, technically brilliant, obscure, too slow.
Sex/Nudity: A few nude statues. Violence: 1 scene with shoving. Profanity: 3 mild profanities. Drugs: None.
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.