Director: Zack Snyder. With Sarah Polley, Ving Rhames, Mekhi Phifer, Ty Burell. (100 min.)
Sterritt ** Remake of George Romero's sardonic 1978 horror movie about terrorized humans hiding in a shopping mall from swarming zombies. The updated version is somewhat lighter on social satire, but even heavier on blood and gore than the grisly original. Neither is as biting or original as "Night of the Living Dead," the Romero classic that spawned these spinoffs. Horror buffs will find plenty of split-second suspense and in-your-face carnage, while others will scramble for the exit as quickly as the characters race away from their apocalyptic foes.
Director: Pearl Gluck. With Pearl Gluck, Amichai Lau Lavie, Michelle Miller, Mark Joseph Altman. (77 min.)
Sterritt *** Gluck filmed this offbeat documentary during and after her quest for an old couch that great rabbis reputedly slept on when it graced her family's home in Hungary, before the Holocaust drove her Hasidic relatives to Brooklyn. The picture makes up in energy and high spirits what it lacks in structure and style. In English, Yiddish, and Hungarian with English subtitles.
Director: Michel Gondry. With Jim Carrey, Kate Winslet, Tom Wilkinson, Kirsten Dunst. (108 min.)
Sterritt **** See review.
Director: John Crowley. With Cillian Murphy, Colin Farrell, Colm Meaney, Shirley Henderson. (106 min.)
Sterritt ** Crime, romance, and uneasy friendship play roughly equal roles in this Irish comedy-drama about a long list of characters including an egotistical cop, a troubled bus driver, a May-December couple, and a gaggle of supermarket employees. It's surprising that so much material, so many moods, and such an interesting cast end up making such a small, unmemorable splash.
Director: Dagur Kari. With Tomas Lemarquis, Throster Anna Fridriksdóttir, Leo Gunnarsson. (88 min.)
Sterritt *** The title character is a very bright, very discombobulated teen who seems unable to get along with his family, his teachers, or anyone in his frosty Icelandic town except a pretty new girl whose father doesn't like him one bit. Quirky, heartfelt acting makes this a superior entry in the perennial teenage-misfit genre. In Icelandic with English subtitles.
Director: D.J. Caruso. With Angelina Jolie, Ethan Hawke, Gena Rowlands, Kiefer Sutherland. (101 min.)
Sterritt ** See review.
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. You might expect "Seabiscuit" meets "Lawrence of Arabia," but overall, it's a big, beautiful bore.
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.
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: 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 are inappropriate for children. Profanity: No instances. Drugs: 4 scenes with drinking wine.
Director: David Koepp. With Johnny Depp, Maria Bello, John 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.
Staff **1/2 Foreboding, unmoving, but splendidly cast.
Sex/Nudity: 2 instances of innuendo. Violence: 15 scenes of violence, some of it in detail. Profanity: 18 instances. Drugs: 5 scenes of smoking, 3 with drinking.
Director: David Mamet. With Val Kilmer, Derek Luke, Kristen Bell, William H. Macy. (104 min.)
Sterritt **** Kilmer does his best acting ever in this fast-moving suspense story about a Secret Service agent hunting for a powerful American politician's missing daughter, racing from New England to the Midwest, and ultimately the Middle East, on an endlessly twisting trail. Thrillers don't come more taut, tense, and terrific. Be warned that the story's violence is sometimes savage, though.
Staff *** Fast, provocative but flawed plot, involved.
Sex/Nudity: 1 instance of innuendo. Violence: 11 scenes, including murder. Profanity: 28 instances, often harsh. Drugs: 5 scenes with alcohol, 3 instances of smoking.
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 characters, borrowed from the '70s TV show, bumbling their way to success with a tenacity that would impress Inspector Clouseau. 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: Stephen Frears. With Audrey Tautou, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Sergi López, Sophie Okonedo. (107 min.)
Staff ***1/2 Directed by British filmmaker Stephen Frears, this is a gem of novelistic filmmaking. Understated and quirky, this story chronicles a sordid scheme to barter body parts for political freedom, taking a compassionate look at the hard choices faced daily by illegal immigrants in London. The bonus material is negligible - an audio commentary by Frears and a behind-the-scenes feature. Own this DVD to savor a film that deserves to live well beyond its brief theatrical release. By Gloria Goodale.
Director: Ron Howard. With Tom Hanks, Daryl Hannah, and John Candy. (109 min.)
Staff ***1/2 This film launched the careers of star Tom Hanks and director Ron Howard, and it holds up well on its 20th anniversary. The stars are charming, as is the story of a mermaid who comes to New York. The extras are pretty slim - after all, this was filmed long before DVD featurettes needed to be prepared. The audition tapes for Hanks and Daryl Hannah, available because an assistant saved them by chance, are an interesting bit of film history, as is the "making of" story from the producer, writers, and director. - G.G.