Director: Mamoru Oshii. With voices of Akio Ôtsuka, Atsuko Tanaka, Koichi Yamadera, Yutaka Nakano. (99 min.)
Sterritt ** In the not-so-distant future, a cyborg - partly human, mostly machine - investigates bizarre events involving female robots manufactured for sexual purposes. Ingeniously crafted with flashes of intelligence, if not very memorable. In Japanese and Cantonese with subtitles.
Director: Tsai Ming-liang. With Shiang-chyi Chen, Tien Miao, Kang-Sheng Lee, Shih Chun. (81 min.)
Sterritt **** Customers and employees - and maybe a ghost or two - wander through a movie palace showing a huge historical epic to almost no audience. This is a funny, sad, stunningly smart movie about the end of movies, made in Tsai's inimitable, unblinking style. No movie lover should miss it. In Mandarin and Taiwanese with subtitles.
Director: Zak Penn. With Werner Herzog, Zak Penn, Kitana Baker, Michael Karnow. (94 min.)
Sterritt ** Herzog, the legendary German director, sets out to make a documentary about searching for the Loch Ness monster, with a second documentary crew shooting a "making of" movie at the same time. Or is everything a set-up meant to result in sheer confusion, which is exactly what happens? This exercise in Chinese-box filmmaking starts cleverly but becomes more preposterous as it goes along.
Director: Babette Mangolte. With Pierre Leymarie, Martin Lassalle, Marika Green, Babette Mangolte. (89 min.)
Sterritt **** Documentary by cinematographer Mangolte about her effort to track down and interview some of the chief actors in "Pickpocket," the 1959 masterpiece by Robert Bresson, who called his performers "models" because he didn't want regular acting to distract from the ideas and aesthetics of his films. Touching, wistful, and surprising. In French with subtitles.
Director: Charles Stone III. With Bernie Mac, Paul Sorvino, Angela Bassett, Chris Noth. (104 min.)
Staff *** Milwaukee slugger Stan Ross (Mac) retires from baseball midseason after reaching 3000 hits. Nine years later, statisticians discover that he only scored 2997 hits. To be eligible for The Hall of Fame, Stan must shape up, return to the lineup as a real team player, and get three more hits - at age 47. The subtlety of Mac's acting in this unusual, coming-of-age comedy may surprise some fans. By M.K. Terrell
Director: Jennifer Elster. With Jennifer Elster, Gale Harold, Larry Pine, Leslie Lyles. (101 min.)
Sterritt ** A young artist meets a troubled but attractive man, and it's clear they could change each other's lives if they could overcome the family baggage and psychological problems that weigh them down. This uneven drama might have been more effective if someone with more on-screen charisma than writer-director Elster had played the main character.
Director: John Sayles. With Chris Cooper, Daryl Hannah, Danny Huston, Maria Bello. (129 min.)
Sterritt **** The handlers of a dopey Colorado politician hire an investigator to find out whether political enemies are planning dirty campaign tricks against their candidate, and before long the private eye stumbles onto a secret that's bigger and more sinister than anything he expected. Leaving aside Huston's bland acting and a few other flaws, Sayles's politically charged drama raises a rousing number of issues and ideas, inviting us to ponder them and draw our own conclusions.
Director: Kerry Conran. With Gwyneth Paltrow, Jude Law, Angelina Jolie, Giovanni Ribisi. (107 min.)
Sterritt * See review at right.
Director: Ondrej Trojan. With Anna Geislerová, Gyorgy Cserhalmi, Jaroslava Adámova. (150 min.)
Sterritt *** After working as a spy against the Nazis, a woman hides in a tiny Czechoslovakian village and marries a sympathetic worker to maintain her cover. Well acted, handsomely photographed, a bit too long. In Czech with subtitles.
Director: Dwight H. Little. With Johnny Messner, KaDee Strickland. (93 min.)
Staff ** An orchid in the Borneo jungles is the only source of a potential "fountain of youth" drug, and an intrepid band of pseudoscientists must rush to harvest it. There's nothing to stop them but inexperience, a swarm of people-eating snakes, and greed. Attractive cast and scenery help make up for the mounting absurdity. By M.K. Terrell.
Sex/Nudity: 1 scene with innuendo. Violence: 17 instances. Profanity: 55 instances. Drugs: 9 scenes.
Director: David R. Ellis. With Kim Basinger, Chris Evans, William H. Macy. (94 min.)
Staff ** When Kim Basinger is kidnapped, she rigs a broken telephone - MacGyver style - so that she randomly dials a cellphone belonging to Ryan (Evans). Fortunately he heeds her call for help and uses his wits to thwart the villains - even as he struggles not to lose the faint cellphone signal. The high-concept story (think "Speed" meets "Phone Booth") may be hokum but it's undeniably fun. Too bad Basinger takes the plot more seriously than the rest of the cast. By Stephen Humphries.
Sex/Nudity: 2 instances of innuendo. Violence: 20 scenes. Profanity: 51 expressions. Drugs: 4 instances of drinking.
Director: Michael Mann. With Tom Cruise, Jamie Foxx, Jada Pinkett Smith, Mark Ruffalo. (120 min.)
Sterritt *** A hit man shanghais a cab driver to be his assistant for one long, bloody night. Stylishly made, if less intellectually resonant than first-rate Mann films like "Ali" and "The Insider."
Staff *** Thoughtful, classy, engaging.
Sex/Nudity: 2 scenes. Violence: 15 scenes. Profanity: 42 expressions. Drugs: 3 scenes.
Director: Gregory Jacobs. With John C. Reilly, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Diego Luna, Peter Mullan. (87 min.)
Sterritt ** A fledgling con artist apprentices himself to a seasoned veteran and, as usual in movies like this, little is what it seems to be. This remake of the Argentine hit is effective at times but the main impression is of first-rate performers doing second-rate work.
Director: Zhang Yimou. With Jet Li, Maggie Cheung Man-Yuk, Zhang Ziyi, Tony Leung, Chiu-Wai. (99 min.)
Sterritt **** In ancient times before China was a unified nation, a warrior visits an emperor to receive praise for killing the ruler's enemies, describes his exploits, then faces unexpected questions that cast a new Rashomon-like light on everything we've seen. Pure excitement, pure cinema. In Mandarin with subtitles.
Staff *** Rich, rewarding, intricately woven.
Sex/Nudity: 3. Violence: 15 scenes. Profanity: none. Drugs: 1 scene.
Director: Jared Hess. With Jon Heder, Tina Majorino, Efren Ramirez, Sandy Martin. (86 min.)
Sterritt *** Who would have guessed that a wildly refreshing take on the teenage-nerd genre would come from small-town Idaho, where the title character tangles with his weirded-out family and pushes for an equally uncharismatic friend to become president of their high-school student body? This minimalist comedy may not make you laugh out loud, but you'll be grinning at the quiet ingenuity of everyone concerned.
Director: Garry Marshall. With Anne Hathaway, Julie Andrews, John Rhys-Davies, Hector Elizondo. (120 min.)
Staff ** Princess Mia, the princess of Genovia, discovers that she must marry before she can inherit the throne. This lazily plotted "Bachelorette" ends with the least dramatic wedding ceremony ever. By Stephen Humphries.
Staff ** Fun, naive, unchallenging.
Sex/Nudity: 1 innuendo. Violence: 3 mild scenes. Profanity: none. Drugs: 2 scenes.
Director: Mira Nair. With Reese Witherspoon, Jim Broadbent, Eileen Atkins, Gabriel Byrne. (141 min.)
Sterritt ** Lavish adaptation of William Makepeace Thackeray's great novel, with a not-quite-convincing Witherspoon as social climber Becky Sharp plus a solid supporting cast. Nair calls attention to the social failings of 19th-century England but rarely explores them, choosing to stress nostalgic elements that fans of the "heritage" genre will enjoy.
Directors: William Arntz, Betsy Chasse, Mark Vicente. With Marlee Matlin, John Hagelin, Amit Goswami. (108 min.)
Sterritt ** The makers of this "hybrid documentary" interweave the story of a dissatisfied woman with monologues by scientists conveying their ideas about the nature of the cosmos and the meaning of life. There are many tantalizing bits, but the overall result is a simplistic story wrapped in barely explained quantum physics and new-age sound bites.
Director: James Toback. With Neve Campbell, Fred Weller, Karen Allen, Dominic Chianese. (83 min.)
Sterritt *** The first portion, with Toback as an eccentric professor talking to people in the street, is out of control even by this filmmaker's kooky standards. Then the movie morphs into a deconstructed remake of "Indecent Exposure" and it's downright riveting, with Campbell doing her best acting to date.
Director: George Lucas. With Robert Duvall, Donald Pleasance, Maggie McOmie. (95 min.)
Staff *** A long time ago, in a studio near San Francisco Bay, a young George Lucas adapted a short film he'd made at film school into a sci-fi feature. Just don't expect "Star Wars." In this dystopian tale, a collectivist state drugs its citizens to dull their sense of individuality. For the DVD, Lucas has gussied up the effects, provided a dour commentary, and included his original student film. Best of all is a documentary on how Lucas, Francis Ford Coppola, and others altered American filmmaking. By Stephen Humphries