Director: Richard Linklater. With Ethan Hawke, Julie Delpy, Vernon Dobtcheff, Mariane Plasteig. (80 min.)
Sterritt **** See review.
Director: Pieter Jan Brugge. With Robert Redford, Helen Mirren, Willem Dafoe, Melissa Sagemiller. (94 min.)
Sterritt *** Redford gives one of his best performances ever in this taut, emotionally engrossing thriller about a wealthy businessman kidnapped by a small-time criminal (Dafoe) and held for ransom from his wife (Mirren) and family. Only a sentimental, strung-out ending mars the drama's momentum.
Director: Irwin Winkler. With Kevin Kline, Ashley Judd, Jonathan Pryce, Alanis Morissette. (125 min.)
Sterritt **** This music-filled biography portrays legendary songwriter Cole Porter, a bisexual scamp whose marriage to a patient, supportive woman became the most important anchor in his emotional life. The movie is remarkably touching and engrossing, with Kline's spot-on acting and realistically second-rate singing balancing Judd's one-note performance as his wife. It's too bad Jay Cocks's screenplay spends far too long winding Porter's story up, but overall the tuneful comedy-drama is every bit as de-lovely as its title promises.
Director: Sam Raimi. With Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst, Alfred Molina, Rosemary Harris. (127 min.)
Sterritt *** Our hero (Maguire) takes on Doctor Octopus, a once-benign scientist (Molina) who's lost control of the artificial tentacles he's invented; and in his secret identity as college nerd Peter Parker, he continues his fitful courtship of would-be girlfriend (Dunst) who doesn't think she can wait for him much longer. The sequel is more exciting and surprising than the 2002 original, thanks largely to Molina's excellent acting. Only the strenuously comic scenes fall as flat as one of Spidey's leftover webs.
Director: Frank Coraci. With Jackie Chan, Steve Coogan, Cécile de France, Jim Broadbent. (120 min.)
Sterritt ** Another adaptation of Jules Verne's novel about a 19th-century man circumnavigating the globe to win a wager and demonstrate the progress of modern science. While less ambitious than the 1956 release with David Niven, the film uses the same gimmick of famous faces in cameo roles. Coogan and Broadbent are agile and expressive, but too much time goes to Chan's stunts. A colorful disappointment.
Staff *** Lightweight, kung-fu overload, colorful.
Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: 18 scenes. Profanity: 8 mild expressions. Drugs: 3 instances of drinking.
Director: Rawson Marshall Thurber. With Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn, Christine Taylor, Rip Torn. (92 min.)
Sterritt *The owners of rival health clubs enter teams in a Las Vegas dodgeball tournament to win a cash prize. Stiller strives to be a wild and wacky villain, Vaughn endeavors to be a likable and average hero, and both fall flat on their faces, like everything else in this unspeakably stupid comedy.
Director: David Twohy. With Vin Diesel, Thandie Newton, Colm Feore, Judi Dench. (115 min.)
Sterritt *Riddick battles evil crusaders called Necromongers, helped by tips from a virtuous Elemental, and between them they save the galaxy and make Riddick supreme ruler of everything, which we're supposed to think is an excellent outcome. The special effects are extra special, but the screenplay is idiotic, and Diesel speaks his dialogue like a Sylvester Stallone clone who never finished third grade.
Sex/Nudity: 2 instances of innuendo. Violence:25 scenes Profanity: 16 expressions. Drugs: 3 counts of smoking, 1 of drinking.
Director: Ferzan Ozpetek. With Giovanna Mezzogiorno, Raoul Bova, Massimo Girotti, Filippo Nigro. (102 min.)
Sterritt *** A couple's chance encounter with a disoriented old man leads to changes in their lives, the uncovering of the stranger's past, and the woman's new relationship with an attractive neighbor she's been watching through an apartment window. Gentle and life-affirming, if too sentimental in the end. In Italian with subtitles.
Director: Michael Moore. With George W. Bush, Lila Lipscomb, Michael Moore. (117 min.)
Sterritt **** Moore's most deeply felt documentary takes on the Bush administration's past and present positions with regard to everything from terrorism to the president's character, using a wide array of cinematic and journalistic techniques. The results pack a political wallop whether you agree with Moore or not, and they'd be even stronger if his narration didn't have a cloying quality that aims to touch the heart more than the mind.
Staff **** Trenchant, caustic, revealing.
Sex/Nudity: None. Violence:14 scenes Profanity: 8 instances. Drugs: 1 instance of smoking.
Director: Pete Hewitt. With Breckin Meyer, Jennifer Love Hewitt, Stephen Tobolowsky, voice of Bill Murray. (80 min.)
Sterritt * The cat from Jim Davis's popular comic strip copes with a new dog in the household while his owner woos a pretty veterinarian. The blend of live action and animation is competently done, but the subtly mean-spirited screenplay has more sour meows than hearty laughs. Shown with a short cartoon called "Gone Nutty," which also isn't funny.
Director: Alfonso Cuarón. WIth Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson. (141 min.)
Sterritt *** The third installment of the series based on J.K. Rowling's novels is darker than its predecessors, with Harry stalked by a killer who's escaped from prison, and haunted by ghostly guardians called Dementors who may be more dangerous than the murderer. Add a werewolf, a magic map, and a hippogriff, and you have an imaginative horror movie for mature kids.
Staff *** Spellbinding, spooky, not for kids, best yet.
Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: 12 scenes. Profanity: 8 mild expressions. Drugs: 3 instances of drinking.
Director: Kristian Levring. With Janet McTeer, Olympia Dukakis, Tony Maudsley, Brenda Fricker. (109 min.)
Sterritt *** The time is 1924, the place is a faraway jungle settlement, and the main characters are employees of an English company driving one another slowly bonkers as their passions and tempers rise. Imagine a sexually charged "Heart of Darkness" by way of Denmark's bare-bones Dogme 95 and you'll have an idea of what this dark, moody melodrama is like.
Director: Chris Delaporte. With voices of Kirsten Dunst, the late Richard Harris, Anjelica Huston. (105 min.)
Sterritt ** France's first computer-animated feature follows the adventures of a young woman dwelling in a future world that may die if she doesn't learn to probe and understand its secrets. The story is a standard science-fantasy fable, but the visual effects are mighty impressive.
Director: Nick Cassavetes. With Gena Rowlands, James Garner, Rachel McAdams, Ryan Gosling. (115 min.)
Sterritt ** An aging man reads a lengthy love story to a debilitated old woman, and gradually we realize its profound relevance to their own former lives. Rowlands is superb, as usual, and Garner partners her with the grace of a dancer. Cassavetes's directing style is slow and stilted, indicating yet again that his notion of moviemaking is the opposite of everything his father, the great John Cassavetes, stood for.
Director: Abigail Honor. With Edward DeBonis, Vincent Maniscalco, the Rev. Raymond Lefebvre. (80 min.)
Sterritt *** Documentary about the efforts of a profoundly religious gay couple to get married in the Roman Catholic church. The movie is sociologically rich, if not very memorable in the personalities it depicts.
Directors: Andrew Adamson, Kelly Asbury, Conrad Vernon. With voices of Mike Myers, Cameron Diaz. (92 min.)
Sterritt *** The gentle ogre is dragged by his new spouse, Fiona, to meet her royal mom and dad, stirring up trouble with a fairy godmother who's furious with him for beating Prince Charming in the race for Fiona's hand. At its best, this "Shrek" sequel draws up a brilliant new blueprint for all-ages animation, blending fairy-tale whimsy with edgy social satire.
Staff *** Worthy sequel, playful, slam-dunk finish.
Sex/Nudity: 6 instances of innuendo. Violence: 12 scenes. Profanity: None. Drugs: 3 instances of drinking, 1 of drugs.
Director: Jean-François Pouliot. With Raymond Bouchard, David Boutin, Benoît Brière, Lucie Laurier. (110 min.)
Sterritt *** A tiny French-Canadian village desperately wants a factory to set up shop - but the factory won't cooperate unless a physician opens a practice in the community, so the townsfolk devise an elaborate set of ruses to lure a big-city plastic surgeon who'd much rather stay in Montreal with his girlfriend. The story isn't as funny as it tries to be, but it grows increasingly winning. Originally titled "La Grande Séduction." In French with subtitles.
Director: Steven Spielberg. With Tom Hanks, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Stanley Tucci, Kumar Pallana. (128 min.)
Sterritt * Hanks plays an eastern European man whose visit to the US turns sour when a coup topples his nation's government while he's in the air, making him a man without a country and forcing him to make his home in the New York airport he's forbidden by law to leave. Hanks's character is sentimentalized, and Tucci's lacks all plausibility, and Zeta-Jones's has little to do. A totally false picture of human nature and of what it's really like to be in a security-conscious airport. A Spielbergian bomb.
Director: Michael Haneke. With Isabelle Huppert, Olivier Gourmet, Patrice Chéreau, Béatrice Dalle. (114 min.)
Sterritt *** A family struggles to survive in a Europe decimated by catastrophe sometime in the not-so-distant future. This is one of Haneke's least powerful films, although the excellent cast is interesting to watch. In French with subtitles.
Director: Jean-Jacques Annaud. With Guy Pearce, Philippine Leroy-Beaulieu, Kumal, Sangha. (109 min.)
Sterritt *** The brothers are Cambodian tigers forced by humans to take on very different lives, one in a circus and the other in a dysfunctional royal family's private zoo. The animal action is often gripping and suspenseful. As a whole, a giant step beyond Annaud's earlier animal movie, "The Bear," a more gimmicky film of 1988.