Director: Nir Bergman. With Orli Zilbershatz-Banai, Maya Maron, Nitai Gvirtz, Daniel Magon. (86 min.)
Sterritt *** A teenage girl copes with her father's death, her mother's distraction from the family, and the needs of her younger siblings. Heartfelt acting and a sometimes tragic but ultimately life-affirming story make this an unusually touching Israeli production. In Hebrew with English subtitles.
Director: Nuri Bilge Ceylan. With Muzaffer Özdemir, Zuhal Gencer Erkaya, Emin Toprak, Nazan Kirilmis. (109 min.)
Sterritt **** Already burdened with problems of his own, a Turkish man acquires an unwanted roommate when his country-bred cousin shows up in Istanbul, ostensibly looking for work but not very eager to find it. Mood, atmosphere, and character are more important than story twists in this unassuming, acutely observant drama. In Turkish with English subtitles.
Director: David Koepp. With Johnny Depp, Maria Bello, Johm Turturro, Charles S. Dutton. (97 min.)
Sterritt *** Once again, a thriller based on a Stephen King story focuses on a writer whose work gives him big trouble - in this case, sinister visits from a stranger who accuses him of plagiarizing a hack horror story. Depp gives a smart, subtle performance, and Turturro is terrific as a foe who's both exactly what he seems and exactly the opposite. Koepp's makes his (literally) corny tricks seemfresh and surprising.
Director: David Mamet. With Val Kilmer, Derek Luke, Kristen Bell, William H. Macy. (104 min.)
Sterritt **** See review.
Director: Lone Scherfig. With Jamie Sives, Shirley Henderson, Adrian Rawlins, Lisa McKinlay. (111 min.)
Sterritt *** The world-weary title character is a young Scottish bookseller whose longsuffering brother falls in love with a customer at the shop they've inherited, bringing the woman and her young daughter into a complex new relationship with both of them. Directed and cowritten by a veteran of Denmark's no-frills "Dogma 95" movement, this is a quiet, no-frills drama with simple human values at its core.
Director: Sara Sugarman. With Lindsay Lohan, Adam Garcia, Megan Fox, Alison Pill. (86 min.)
Staff * Lola Cep (Lohan) is a desperately spoiled "New York City doll" forced to move to a sleepy New Jersey suburb in this unbelievable comedy. She thinks everyone stands between herself and stardom, but she refuses to stop dreaming and lands the lead role in her school play, as well as an invitation to her favorite rock star's afterparty. By Elizabeth Armstrong
Staff *1/2 No substance, Britney-esque.
Sex/Nudity: 1 instance of innuendo. Violence: 1 instance. Profanity: 1 mild expression. Drugs: 2 scenes with drinking.
Director: Guy Ferland. With Romola Garai, Diego Luna, Sela Ward, Patrick Swayze. (86 min.)
Sterritt * A rich American girl learns love and dancing from a Latino boy during a family sojourn in Cuba just before the Castro regime takes over. At least the original "Dirty Dancing" had Jennifer Grey for Swayze to swing around. This belated "reimagining" is as beguiling as a dried-out palm tree.
Staff ** Terrific music, poor editing
Sex/Nudity: 3 instances. Violence: 3 scenes. Profanity: 5 instances. Drugs: 6 scenes with drinking, 5 with smoking.
Director: Peter Segal. With Adam Sandler, Drew Barrymore, Sean Astin, Dan Aykroyd. (99 min.)
Sterritt * A womanizer (Sandler) falls for a woman (Barrymore) whose short-term memory has been destroyed by an injury, which means each time he woos her is the first time for her. Set in picturesque Hawaii, this could have been a tasty romantic comedy, but the filmmakers swamp the story with tasteless jokes, phony animal stunts, and bathroom humor.
Staff *** Lighthearted, fun, corny.
Sex/Nudity: 19 instances. Violence: 10 scenes. Profanity: 18 instances, mostly mild. Drugs: 10 instances.
Director: Joe Johnston. With Viggo Mortensen, Omar Sharif, Zuleikha Robinson, Louise Lombard. (136 min.)
Sterritt ** A rough-riding cowboy (Mortensen) leaves a Wild West show to enter himself and his mustang in a high-stakes race across the Middle Eastern sands, hindered and helped by a sheikh (Sharif) who has an interest in the outcome. The action is often gorgeous, but the screenplay is a collection of clichés, and Mortensen's performance hits one note at the beginning and stays with it for the whole movie. You might expect "Seabiscuit" meets "Lawrence of Arabia," but overall, it's a big, beautiful bore.
Director: Ra'anan Alexandrowicz. With Siyabonga Melongisi Shibe, Arie Elias, Sandra Schonwald. (87 min.)
Sterritt *** A young African makes a pilgrimage to Israel on behalf of the small, underdeveloped village he hails from, but lands in jail as a suspicious alien and falls into the clutches of a stranger who offers food and shelter in return for hard labor at menial jobs. Then he realizes he can play this game too, making money off unfortunate fellows like himself and running a risk of never reaching Jerusalem at all. The movie has multicultural insights and entertainment value to spare. In English, Hebrew, and Zulu with English subtitles.
Director: Peter Jackson. With Viggo Mortensen, Ian McKellan, Elijah Wood, Sean Astin, Liv Tyler. (181 min.)
Sterritt **The hugely popular series comes to a close as Frodo and Sam struggle toward Mount Doom to destroy the One Ring in the fires where it was forged, while unwittingly paving the way for humans to replace hobbits as Middle-earth's lasting survivors. This is one of the rare times when a trilogy's third chapter is the best of the bunch, thanks mostly to Gollum and the climactic battle scene.
Staff **** Incredible, stunning, built to last forever.
Sex/Nudity: None Violence: 97 scenes, including intense instances of battle gore. Profanity: None. Drugs: 2 scenes of drinking, 4 scenes with smoking.
Director: Gavin O'Connor. With Kurt Russell, Patrick O'Brien, Patricia Clarkson, Noah Emmerich. (136 min.)
Sterritt ** A hard-driving coach (Russell) trains his hockey team for a difficult match against the Soviet squad in the Winter Olympics of 1980. The climactic game packs an action-filled wallop impossible to resist. But the movie doesn't convincingly meet its goal of turning a sports event - even this tantalizing match between cold-war foes - into an all-embracing metaphor for the American way. Let's face it, a hockey game is, well, a hockey game.
Staff *** Gripping, inspiring, brings freshness to clichés.
Sex/Nudity: 1 innuendo Violence: 8 instances. Profanity: 13 mild expressions. Drugs: 2 scenes of drinking.
Director: Mel Gibson. With Jim Caviezel, Monica Bellucci, Sergio Rubini, Maia Morgenstern. (127 min.)
Sterritt ** An excruciatingly violent reenactment of Jesus' crucifixion. Gibson pays morbid attention to every gory detail, as if the suffering of the earthly Jesus were of central importance, rather than a precondition of his triumph over death. He also leaves the door open to anti-Semitic interpretations of the Jewish role in the death sentence, though Gibson has disavowed such interpretations. Technically, the picture is strong, thanks to Caleb Deschanel's camera work and Caviezel's relentlessly focused acting. In Aramaic, Hebrew, and Latin with English subtitles.
Staff **1/2 Brutal, excrutiatingly detailed violence.
Sex/Nudity: 1 instance of nudity. Violence: 24 scenes of intense violence that may be inappropriate for children. Profanity: No instances. Drugs: 4 scenes with drinking wine.
Director: Todd Phillips. With Ben Stiller, Owen Wilson, Snoop Dogg, Juliette Lewis. (99 min.)
Sterritt ** Stiller and Wilson play an odd couple of cops - one so conscientious he's more of a menace than the criminals he's chasing, the other believing that if you can't beat the crooks you might as well join 'em. The stars make the most of their comic characters, borrowed from the popular TV show of the '70s, learning to respect each other as they bumble their way to success with a tenacity that would impress Inspector Clouseau himself. Dogg is a riot as Huggy Bear, their streetwise informant, and '70s icon Fred Williamson plays their long-suffering commander perfectly.
Staff ** Fun but not funny, forgettable, Stiller excels.
Sex/Nudity: 25 instance of innuendo. Violence: 7 scenes of violence. Profanity: 24 instances, often strong. Drugs: 7 scenes with drinking or smoking, 2 with cocaine.
Director: Philip Kaufman. With Ashley Judd, Samuel L. Jackson, Andy Garcia, David Strathairn. (97 min.)
Sterritt * A policewoman (Judd) hunts for a serial killer whose victims are men she's slept with recently, and starts to fear she may be the villain, eliminating former lovers in an alcoholic daze. The screenplay is hackneyed, the acting half-hearted, and the surprise ending is no surprise if you've been paying attention.
Director: Donald Petrie. With Gene Hackman, Maura Tierney, Ray Romano, Marcia Gay Harden. (110 min.)
Sterritt * Hackman plays a former president of the United States who retires to a small town, falls for a local woman, and vies for her with a handyman (Romano) who runs against him in a mayoral election. The best parts invovle mass-media feeding frenzies, but these are closer to stark realism than sarcastic satire.
Staff ** Amiable, folksy, enjoyable cast.
Sex/Nudity: 8 instances Violence: 1 scene involving a punch. Profanity: 8 instances. Drugs: 7 instances of drinking.