Movie Guide


The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl in 3-D (PG)

Director: Robert Rodriguez. With Cayden Boyd, Kristen Davis, David Arquette, George Lopez. (94 min.)

Sterritt ** You'll know who the target audience is when you discover the story's setting is called Planet Drool, and the hero is an imaginative schoolboy who joins the title characters to fight the evil Mr. Electric and save the world. Only part of it is in 3-D, but youngsters should enjoy pulling their special specs on and off at appropriate moments.

5 x 2 (R)

Director: François Ozon, With Valeria Bruni-Tedeschi, Stéphane Freiss, Françoise Fabian, Michael Lonsdale. (87 min.)

Sterritt *** A romance in reverse, starting with a couple's divorce and ending with their first feelings of mutual attraction. Staking out a middle ground between Gaspar Noé's shocking "Irreversible" and Harold Pinter's moving "Betrayal," which have somewhat similar structures, Ozon's drama is compellingly acted and rich in visual ideas, but a bit thin in its psychological approach. Contains graphic sex. In French with subtitles.

High Tension (R)

Director: Alexandre Aja. With Cécile de France, Maïwenn, Philippe Nahon, Franck Khalfoun. (86 min.)

Sterritt * Serial killing and other insanity in the French countryside, with ineptly dubbed English dialogue. Aja's shocker is an inferior rip-off of "The Texas Chain Saw Massacre" even before the chainsaw starts whirring, which it inevitably does.

Howl's Moving Castle (PG)

Director: Hayao Miyazaki. With voices of Emily Mortimer, Christian Bale, Lauren Bacall, Billy Crystal. (119 min.)

Sterritt **** See review, at right.

McLibel (Not rated)

Director: Franny Armstrong. With Helen Steel, Dave Morris, various McDonalds executives. (85 min.)

Sterritt **** Riveting nonfiction account of a pair of young English folks who criticized the McDonald's chain for encouraging bad eating habits, then found themselves on the wrong side of England's libel laws, forced either to recant their position or defend themselves at tremendous trouble and expense. Riveting, suspenseful, and a perfect antidote to the too-tricky documentary "Super-Size Me."

Mr. & Mrs. Smith (PG-13)

Director: With Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie, Vince Vaughn, Kerry Washington. (120 min.)

Sterritt * Pitt and Jolie play secret agents who don't know each other's line of work when they get married, then become rivals and eventually partners in the licensed-to-kill game. The movie is a mish-mash of action-adventure clichés, book-ended with lame attempts at psychological interest. Written, directed, and acted with ham-fisted heaviness.

Paternal Instinct (Not rated)

Director: Murray Nossel, With Mark, Erik, Wen. (74 min.)

Sterritt ** A woman agrees to be a surrogate child-bearer for a gay couple. Nossel's documentary, produced by Cinemax for its "Reel Life" series, has touching and instructive moments.

Wild Side (Not rated)

Director: Sébastien Lifshitz, With Stéphanie Michelini, Eduard Nikitine, Yasmine Belmadi. (93 min.)

Sterritt ** France is the setting, city vs. country is the central theme, and an illegal Russian immigrant, a transsexual, and a French Arab are the main characters. Shot by the gifted Agnes Godard, the drama was apparently inspired by "Walk on the Wild Side," the Lou Reed rock hit. But the primary impression is lots of moping and mooning, plus a song at the beginning with some of the worst lyrics you've ever heard. In French with subtitles.

Après-Vous (R)

Director: Pierre Salvadori. With Daniel Auteuil, José Garcia, Sandrine Kiberlain, Michèle Moretti. (110 min.)

Sterritt *** After saving a stranger from hanging himself, a restaurateur gets involved with the unhappy guy's girlfriend. Maybe the movie does so much dawdling so we'll have more time to bask in their presence; in any case, the otherwise pleasant picture uses up its ideas long before it uses up its running time. In French with subtitles.

Cinderella Man (PG-13)

Director: Ron Howard. With Russell Crowe, Renée Zellweger, Paul Giamatti, Paddy Considine. (144 min.)

Sterritt **** Fact-based story of Jim Braddock, a 1930s prizefighter who suffered from Depression poverty as much as almost anyone, but captured the American imagination when he overcame injuries to take on Max Baer for the heavyweight title. The screenplay is a series of clichés, but Howard's rock-solid directing and superb acting by Crowe and Giamatti make this one of the all-time-great boxing films.

Sex/Nudity: 2 scenes with innuendos. Violence: 13 scenes, including fighting. Profanity: 71 strong profanities. Drugs: 9 scenes with drinking, 18 scenes with smoking.

Crash (R)

Director: Paul Haggis. With Sandra Bullock, Don Cheadle, Jennifer Esposito, Matt Dillon. (113 min.)

Sterritt *** Interlocking stories of diverse Los Angeles characters, from cops and crooks to folks caught in between. The writer of "Million Dollar Baby" makes his directing debut with a screenplay that often seems rigged and contrived, but comes to life via excellent acting and a philosophical argument that bigotry and benevolence are inextricably intertwined.

Kicking & Screaming (PG)

Director: Jesse Dylan. With Will Ferrell, Robert Duvall, Mike Ditka. (90 min.)

Sterritt *** Ferrell plays a soccer dad who coaches a preteen squad with his klutzy son as a member and his hotly competitive father (Duvall) determined to lead his own team to the championship. Some scenes are just silly, others are dead-on uproarious.

Sex/Nudity: 2 scenes with innuendos. Violence: 6 scenes, including fighting. Profanity: 12 mild profanities. Drugs: 4 scenes with drinking, 6 scenes with smoking, plus subplot about caffeine addiction.

Ladies in Lavender (PG-13)

Director: Charles Dance. With Judi Dench, Maggie Smith, Daniel Bruhl, Natasha McElhone. (103 min.)

Sterritt *** Two elderly women find a young musician stranded on shore after a shipwreck during the World War II era and decide, for differing reasons, to nurse him back to health. Dance's directorial debut isn't exciting, but it's deeply felt and engagingly acted.

Sex/Nudity: 2 instances of innuendo. Violence: 2 scenes. Profanity: 1 harsh profanity, 1 mild. Drugs: 5 scenes with drinking, 6 scenes with smoking.

A League of Ordinary Gentlemen (Not rated)

Director: Christopher Browne. With Pete Weber, Wayne Webb, Steve Miller, Walter Ray Williams Jr. (98 min.)

Sterritt *** Documentary about efforts to turn bowling into a big-time spectator sport. While the movie is strong on the history of its subject, it allows some yawns to enter its own account of a big, heavily hyped tournament. Still, it's very entertaining.

The Longest Yard (PG-13)

Director: Peter Segal. With Adam Sandler, Chris Rock, James Cromwell, Burt Reynolds. (114 min.)

Sterritt * The wicked warden of a Texas prison engineers a rigged football game between guards and inmates, with the convicts led by a former pro who's been jailedr. Lively but also rude, crude, and mean-spirited. A little relief comes from Reynolds, who starred in the 1974 movie on which this remake is based.

Sex/Nudity: 10 scenes of innuendo, 2 with minor nudity. Violence: 18 scenes, including fights and torture. Profanity: 130 harsh profanities. Drugs: 4 scenes with drinking, 7 scenes with drinking.

Mad Hot Ballroom (PG)

Director: Marilyn Agrelo. With New York City public school pupils. (110 min.)

Sterritt ** Documentary about preteens learning ballroom dancing (See story, page 12). Many moviegoers will swoon over the young folks' efforts to learn gracefulness. But at heart this is a cuteness exploitation flick.

Sex/Nudity: 3 instances of innuendo. Violence: None. Profanity: None. Drugs: None.

Madagascar (PG)

Directors: Eric Darnell, Tom McGrath. With voices of Chris Rock, Ben Stiller, Jada Pinkett Smith. (80 min.)

Sterritt * Bored with his life, a zoo animal takes himself and some friends on a quest for more agreeable climes. The animation is deft but the screenplay is stilted, the voice-performances are unimaginative, and the whole project is surprisingly clumsy in its efforts to please young and old alike. A major disappointment.

Sex/Nudity: 2 scenes of mild innuendo. Violence: 12 scenes, mostly for comic effect. Profanity: 2 mild expressions. Drugs: None.

Monster-in-Law (PG-13)

Director: Robert Luketic. With Jane Fonda, Jennifer Lopez, Michael Vartan, Adam Scott. (102 min.)

Sterritt * A bride to be dukes it out with her mother-in-law to be as the wedding day draws near. The comedy is shamelessly stupid and flagrantly vulgar by turns.

The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants (PG)

Director: Ken Kwapis. With Amber Tamblyn, America Ferrara, Alexis Bledel, Blake Lively. (110 min.)

Sterritt *** The adventures of four 16-year-old girls who part for different summer vacations and stay in touch by mailing each other a special pair of jeans that mysteriously fit them all and may have magical powers - or perhaps just enhance the self-esteem of maturing young women who'll soon leave adolescence behind. None of the interlocking stories is original or surprising, but the romantic comedy-drama dodges boredom (usually) by leaping among them at an energetic pace. Gorgeously filmed and nicely acted, by Ferrara especially.

Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith (PG-13)

Director: George Lucas. With Ewan McGregor, Natalie Portman, Ian McDiarmid, Hayden Christensen. (142 min.)

Sterritt *** Lucas wraps up his second "Star Wars" trilogy, centering on Anakin Skywalker's secret marriage to Padme, his friendship with Obi-Wan Kenobi, and his temptation to use the Dark Side of the Force for personal gain. As spectacle this stands with the best, although it falls flat when corny dialogue takes over.

Staff *** Fitting finale, poorly written, dark, violent.

Sex/Nudity: 2 instances of mild innuendo. Violence: 26 scenes, often grisly. Profanity: None. Drugs: None.

Unleashed (R)

Director: Louis Leterrier. With Jet Li, Morgan Freeman, Bob Hoskins, Kerry Condon. (103 min.)

Sterritt * Preposterously violent thriller about an Asian fighter who's treated like a dog by the Englishman who "owns" him until he's given refuge by a blind piano tuner. The screenplay is dumb, but has just enough weird touches to give occasional glimmers of interest.

Sex/Nudity: 3 scenes of innuendo, 1 scene of seminudity. Violence: 25 harsh scenes. Profanity: 48 harsh profanities. Drugs: 5 scenes with drinking, 1 scene with smoking.

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