Movie Guide


City of Ghosts (R)

Director: Matt Dillon. With Dillon, Natascha McElhone, James Caan, Gérard Depardieu. (116 min.)

Sterritt ** Dillon makes his directorial debut with this thriller about a con artist dueling with his accomplice in Bangkok, which is photographed as a web of rich exoticism and decadent sleaze. He also plays the leading role. The film has plenty of shortcomings, but it's fun to see Caan back in action.

Confidence (R)

Director: James Foley. With Edward Burns, Rachel Weisz, Andy Garcia, Dustin Hoffman. (98 min.)

Sterritt * A con artist plans his last big scam, motivated by revenge and dogged by mobsters who feel he owes them. The film is as tricky and superficial as its low-life characters, using visual flimflam to mask its lack of substance. The confidence-game scenes work reasonably well, since they allow characters to interact with a little intensity; the rest is awful.

Cremaster Cycle (Not rated)

Director: Matthew Barney. With Matthew Barney, Ursula Andress, Richard Serra, Norman Mailer. (397 min.)

Sterritt *** A major figure in the New York art scene, Barney mixes ancient legends, contemporary myths, dreamlike visions, and his distinctive visual stylistics in this five-part series of plotless meditations on the human imagination. At its best it's evocative and riveting. Too bad its longest portion, the three-hour "Cremaster 3," is also the weakest.

House of Fools (R)

Director: Andrei Konchalovsky. With Julia Vysotsky, Bryan Adams, Sultan Islamov, Elena Fomina. (104 min.)

Sterritt ** The setting is an out-of-the-way mental hospital beset with even more chaos than usual by the violence of the Chechen war; the main character is a lovelorn woman who keeps despair at bay with daydreams of the pop icon she idolizes. Konchalovsky keeps the action reasonably quick, but sentimental storytelling eventually swamps the picture. In Chechen and Russian; English subtitles.

Identity (R)

Director: James Mangold. With John Cusack, Amanda Peet, Ray Liotta, Rebecca de Mornay. (90 min.)

Sterritt *** See full review, page 15.

Staff **1/2 Cliché, Cusack is watchable, mystery fans will enjoy.

Sex/Nudity: 1 scene of implied sex. Violence: 22 scenes, quite gory. Profanity: 23 profanities. Drugs: 3 smoking scenes; 2 with drinking.

It Runs in the Family (PG-13)

Director: Fred Schepisi. With Kirk Douglas, Michael Douglas, Rory Culkin, Bernadette Peters. (109 min.)

Sterritt ** See full review, page 15.

Manic (R)

Director: Jordan Malamed. With Don Cheadle, Zooey Deschanel. (100 min.)

Sterritt * Spoiled adolescents fill a mental institution with whining, pouting, and tantrums, and we're supposed to feel their pain. What really hurts is the movie's shallow screenwriting, self-indulgent acting, and woozy camerawork.

Marooned in Iraq (Not rated)

Director: Bahman Ghobadi. With Shahab Ebrahimi, Faegh Mohammadi. (97 min.)

Sterritt **** Surrounded by chaos in the violent aftermath of the Iran-Iraq War, a popular Kurdish musician and his sons hunt for his missing wife, keeping up their spirits with melodies and carousing. A mix of war film, road movie, and romantic comedy-drama, this peripatetic yarn is less resonant than Ghobadi's beautiful "A Time for Drunken Horses," but it has enough energy to keep your eyes popping and your toes tapping. In Kurdish with English subtitles.

People I Know (R)

Director: Don Algrant. With Al Pacino, Kim Basinger, Ryan O'Neal, Téa Leoni. (95 min.)

Sterritt *** See review, page 15.

The Real Cancún (R)

Director: Rick de Oliveira. With 16 American college students. (96 min.)

Staff ** Reality TV comes to the big screen. Concept: Recruit a few van loads of college men and women to spend their spring break in Cancún, roll film, and see what happens. Throughout the movie relationships form, break up, or fail to happen. But much is filler (wet T-shirt contests, nighty parties), and a lot seems contrived - the camera always happens to be there at key moments. By M.K. Terrell

Sex/Nudity: 27 scenes, including nudity, sex, wet T-shirt contest, and innuendo. Violence: 1 mild scene. Profanity: 156 profanities. Drugs: Smoking and extreme drinking throughout.

A Mighty Wind (PG-13)

Director: Christopher Guest. With Eugene Levy, Catherine O'Hara, Bob Balaban, Parker Posey. (87 min.)

Sterritt *** Guest follows his amusing "Waiting for Guffman" and "Best in Show" with yet another faux documentary, focusing on folkies from the '60s era of sentimental ballads and lusty protest songs. The parody would be more memorable if it satirized a broader section of the folk-music scene instead of limiting itself to commercialized acts of the Kingston Trio and Peter, Paul & Mary ilk. But it is as accurate as it is funny.

Staff *** Quirky, witty, well-acted.

Sex/Nudity: 7 scenes with innuendo. Violence: None. Profanity: None. Drugs: 2 drinking scenes.

Anger Management (PG-13)

Director: Peter Segal. With Jack Nicholson, Adam Sandler, Marisa Tomei, Heather Graham. (100 min.)

Sterritt *** A businessman (Sandler) with an anger problem gets sentenced to live-in therapy sessions with an eccentric shrink (Nicholson). The comedy is uneven and sometimes crude, but it's worth seeing for Sandler's minimalist acting and for a few very funny scenes. Nicholson also is fine when he isn't overplaying his character's shenanigans.

Staff **1/2 Promising start, too slapstick, predictable.

Sex/Nudity: Innuendo throughout; heavy kissing between women. Violence: 15 scenes of violence, mostly fights. Profanity: 23 harsh profanities. Drugs: 14 scenes with drinking and smoking.

Better Luck Tomorrow (R)

Director: Justin Lin. With Parry Shen, Sung Kang, Jason Tobin, Roger Fan. (99 min.)

Sterritt *** A small circle of Asian-American friends scramble for good grades, plan for college, and pull off petty crimes for fun. The filmmaking is gimmicky, aimed at young moviegoers with a taste for rowdy teen comedy and music-video aesthetics. What helps Lin's feature-directing debut is his insight into the dark side of living up to "model minority" stereotypes in a materialistic culture.

Staff *S/N: 9 scenes, including sex, nudity, innuendo. Violence: 9 scenes, including beatings and a dead body. Profanity: 110 profanities. Drugs: 23 scenes of drinking, smoking, and drug use.

Bulletproof Monk (PG-13)

Director: Paul Hunter. With Chow Yun-Fat, Seann William Scott, Jamie King. (103 min.)

Staff **1/2 In Tibet in 1943, the "Monk Without a Name" (Yun-Fat) becomes the protector of a sacred scroll that will make its reader ruler of the world. Naturally, the Nazis want it. Sixty years later the monk comes to the US - Nazis still in pursuit - to find a successor. What he finds is a kung-fu loving pickpocket (Scott) and a mysterious girl (King). The mix of martial arts, super-hero comic book, and Eastern philosophy doesn't really come together, but it moves quickly. By M.K. Terrell

Staff *1/2 Flat, corny, jumpy.

Sex/Nudity: 3 scenes of innuendo. Violence: 20 scenes, including kung-fu battles. Profanity: 11 profanities. Drugs: 3 scenes of drinking, smoking.

Chasing Papi (PG)

Director: Linda Mendoza. With Roselyn Sanchez, Sofia Vergara, Jaci Velasquez, Eduardo Verastegui. (80 min.)

Staff **1/2 Good-looking Papi (Verastegui) can't resist acquiring new girlfriends as business takes him around the US. Now he loves three women - each in a different city. When they all decide to visit him in L.A., everyone gets a big surprise. This romp has the innocence and pace of a '30s screwball comedy. And the fresh-faced cast is worth a look. By M.K. Terrell

Staff *** Spicy, sharp dialogue, innocent.

Sex/Nudity: 3 scenes of innuendo. Violence: 5 scenes, mostly women slapping men. Profanity: 6 profanities. Drugs: 6 scenes of drinking, smoking.

Holes (PG)

Director: Andrew Davis. With Sigourney Weaver, Jon Voight, Patricia Arquette, Shia LeBeouf. (111 min.)

Staff *** This honky-tonk tale hews closely to Louis Sachar's Newbery-winning children's book. LaBeouf plays Stanley Yelnats IV, a teen who's wrongly convicted of stealing a pair of sneakers. He's shipped off to Camp Green Lake, a detention center that, despite its name, lacks foliage and natural water of any sort. Stanley and the other boys are forced to shovel holes in the desert, ostensibly "to build character," says the warden, played chillingly by Weaver. Like most kids' films, everything wraps up predictably in the end. But overall, "Holes" digs deeper than other movies of its ilk, probing racism, children not fitting in, and the value of friendship. By Stephanie Cook Broadhurst

Staff *S/N: 1 scene with innuendo. Violence: 12 scenes, including shootings and fights. Profanity: 10 mild profanities. Drugs: None.

House of 1,000 Corpses (R)

Director: Rob Zombie. With Chris Hardwick, Karen Black, Jennifer Jostyn, Sid Haig. (88 min.)

Staff **1/2 Originally slated for release in 2000, this movie - written and directed by former White Zombie frontman and horror buff Rob Zombie - was unable to find a distributor because of its violence. The plot pays homage to 1970s horror flicks: Four friends are out driving on a rainy night. They become stranded and seek shelter in a sadistic family's farm house. While it delivers the goods to horror fans, it may prove too disturbing for the unsuspecting audience member. By Sasha Brown

Staff *1/2 Sadistic, creepy, depraved.

Sex/Nudity: 15 scenes, including innuendo, nudity. Violence: 26 grisly scenes. Profanity: 65 profanities. Drugs: Few scenes of drinking, smoking.

Malibu's Most Wanted (PG-13)

Director: John Whitesell. With Jamie Kennedy, Regina Hall, Taye Diggs, Ryan O'Neal. (85 min.)

Sterritt *** Kennedy plays a white teen who tries so hard to be black that his politically ambitious father (O'Neal) hires two African-American actors to pose as inner-city hoods and scare him back into white-bread behavior. The comedy is often crass, but it makes points about how much of "race" is more about words and gestures we use than the colors of our skins.

Staff *** Inspired silliness, lighthearted, fun.

Sex/Nudity: 9 instances of innuendo. Violence: 16 scenes, including shootouts, explosions. Profanity: 105 profanities. Drugs: 6 scenes of drinking.

Phone Booth (R)

Director: Joel Schumacher. With Colin Farrell, Katie Holmes, Kiefer Sutherland. (81 min.)

Sterritt *** A self-centered yuppie (Farrell) answers a pay phone in New York, and discovers he's talking with a psychopath (Sutherland) who threatens to shoot him if he dares to hang up. Farrell solidly holds the screen while allowing enough emotional space for other characters, and Schumacher has directed the high-voltage story without a wasted move.

Staff *** Riveting, fast-paced.

Sex/Nudity: Mild innuendo. Violence: 6 scenes; guns drawn throughout. Profanity: 97 profanities. Drugs: 4 smoking scenes.

Raising Victor Vargas (R)

Director: Peter Sollett. With Victor Rasuk, Judy Marte, Melonie Diaz, Altagracia Guzman. (87 min.)

Sterritt *** This is a likable comedy-drama about a Latino teenager in New York who romances a pretty girl who's both standoffish and insecure, like him, and faces domestic difficulties with a grandma who hasn't figured out the modern world her family lives in. Both sympathetic and unsentimental, this is a nice example of low-budget filmmaking on a human scale.

Staff *** Realistic, tender, well acted, witty.

Sex/Nudity: 3 scenes of innuendo. 1 with implied sex. Violence: None. Profanity: 61 profanities. Drugs: 3 scenes of smoking, drinking.

Stevie (Not rated)

Director: Steve James. With Stephen Fielding, Steve James, Verna Hagler, Tonya Gregory. (140 min.)

Sterritt **** This engrossing documentary began to develop when filmmaker James discovered that an Illinois youngster he'd mentored years earlier (Fielding) was entangled in family and legal problems. He decided to spend time with the young man by making a documentary about him. The project acquired new dimensions when Fielding was charged with a startling crime. In some ways, this is an intimate visit with a troubled individual. In other ways it's a sociological study of the uneducated working-class he hails from. Its fascination also comes from James's reflections on his responsibilities as a friend and a filmmaker.

Staff ***1/2 Delicate, enlightening, disturbing.

Sex/Nudity: Few instances of innuendo. Violence: Sexual abuse is a main theme. No violence, but there are graphic threats throughout. Profanity: 44 profanities. Drugs: 13 scenes of drinking, smoking.

What a Girl Wants (PG)

Director: Dennie Gordon. With Amanda Bynes, Colin Firth, Eileen Atkins. (103 min.)

Sterritt * Longing to meet her father, an English aristocrat who sired her in a romantic fling, a New York teen (Bynes) flies to London and barges into his life. Bynes buffs may never have a better chance to bask in her perky presence. Others may draw some entertainment value from the high-profile supporting cast, but that's all this warmed-over comic trifle has to offer.

Staff **1/2 Light, fun, goofy, standard fare.

Sex/Nudity: 2 scenes with innuendo. Violence: 3 scenes. Profanity: 8 profanities. Drugs: 5 drinking scenes.

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