Director: Nora Ephron. With Nicole Kidman, Will Ferrell, Shirley MacLaine, Michael Caine. (95 min.)
Sterritt ** See review, at right.
Director: Louis Malle. With Jeanne Moreau, Maurice Ronet, Yori Bertin, Charles Denner. (88 min.)
Sterritt **** A plan for a perfect murder goes wildly wrong in this 1958 melodrama by one of France's great filmmakers. Miles Davis and associates improvised the close-to-perfect jazz score. In French with freshly translated subtitles.
Director: Angela Robinson. With Lindsay Lohan, Matt Dillon, Cheryl Hines, Michael Keaton. (95 min.)
Sterritt ** A teen who yearns for car-racing glory (Lohan) outwits her worried dad (Keaton) and leaves a smirky rival (Dillon) in the dust with the help of Herbie, the Volkswagen with a mind of his own who became a movie star in "The Love Bug" in 1968. Utterly predictable, but pleasant enough for its young target audience.
Director: Ziad Doueiri. With Vahina Giocante, Mohammed Khouas, Edmonde Franchi, Karim Ben Haddou. (89 min.)
Sterritt *** A complicated, often inscrutable, flirtation builds between two young folks in a poor French neighborhood. Superbly acted, especially by Giocante as the teasing 16-year-old instigator. In French with subtitles.
Director: Luc Jacquet. With plenty of penguins, voice of Morgan Freeman. (80 min.)
Sterritt ** Documentary about the mating and chick-raising routines of Emperor Penguins, whose Antarctic habitat makes almost every activity hazardous to their health and even their lives (see story, page 13). As a zoological spectacle the movie is riveting. But the narration tries to make us think of these adorable animals as if they saw the world in human terms, which they obviously don't, and the images have been enhanced by digital effects, as if they wouldn't be impressive enough on their own.
Director: Bong Joon-ho. With Song Kang-ho, Kim Sang-kyung, Song Jae-ho, Kim Roe-ha. (130 min.)
Sterritt **** Korean cops try a variety of tactics in their desperate hunt for a serial killer. Suspenseful, surprising, and psychologically rich. In Korean with subtitles.
Waging a Living (Not rated)
Director: Roger Weisberg. With four members of the American working poor. (84 min.)
Sterritt **** It's a tragic fact that many Americans work incredibly hard without managing to cross the poverty line, and this documentary explores their lot in life. Should be required viewing for every concerned citizen.
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.
Director: Christopher Nolan. With Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Liam Neeson, Morgan Freeman. (141 min.)
Sterritt ** How a young man became the Caped Crusader instead of just Bruce Wayne, millionaire playboy. Neeson plays a ninja, which shows how desperately the story stretches for angles. But you finally get good answers to the Joker's excellent question: "Where does he get those wonderful toys?!!?"
Staff *** Well plotted, dizzying, uneven, comical.
Sex/Nudity: 1 instance of innuendo. Violence: 29 intense scenes. Profanity: 11 mild profanities. Drugs: 4 scenes with drinking, 1 scenes with drug dealing.
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. 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.
Director: Chris Terrio. With Glenn Close, Jesse Bradford, Elizabeth Banks, James Marsden. (93 min.)
Sterritt **** A young actor, a middle-aged actress, a snoopy journalist, a rising photographer, and her possibly gay fiancé are among the diverse characters of this psychological comedy-drama, which unfolds in New York in a 24-hour period. There's much subtle beauty in the last movie completed by Merchant Ivory Productions before Merchant's untimely death.
Howl's Moving Castle (PG)
Director: Hayao Miyazaki. With voices of Emily Mortimer, Christian Bale. (119 min.)
Sterritt **** Miyazaki outdoes his flamboyant "Spirited Away" with this fantasy about a vain prince, a fireplace with a talkative flame, and a girl trapped in an elderly body by a wicked witch. The story doesn't always make sense, but the visuals are dazzling. One version in English with subtitles, the other dubbed into English.
Staff ***1/2 Grand, fantastical, wryly funny.
Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: 12 action scenes. Profanity: None. Drugs: 1 instance of smoking.
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 jailed. Lively but also rude, crude, and mean-spirited.
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.
Director: Catherine Hardwicke. With Heath Ledger, Emile Hirsh, Rebecca De Mornay, William Mapother. (107 min.)
Staff **1/2 Three buddies in 1970s California revolutionize skateboarding when they put new polyurethane wheels on their boards and invade empty backyard swimming pools. Screenwriter Stacy Peralta, a member of this real-life trio, draws on material from his 2001 documentary "Dogtown and Z-Boys." Hardwicke's furiously paced directing doesn't measure up to the real thing in the earlier film. By M.K. Terrell
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.
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.
Staff ** Charmingly cast, surprisingly slow, poorly edited.
Sex/Nudity: 5 scenes with innuendos, 2 sex scenes. Violence: 16 scenes. Profanity: 29 strong profanities. Drugs: 12 scenes with drinking, 3 scenes with smoking.
Director: Mark Rosman. With Hilary Duff, Chris Noth, Heather Locklear, Carson Kressley. (96 min.)
Sterritt * A teenage girl tries to comfort her lonely single mom by cooking up a fictitious male admirer who sends flowers, e-mails, and the like. Repetitious teen-targeted fluff.
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. Gorgeously filmed and nicely acted.
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 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.
Director: Werner Herzog. With the Dalai Lama, Buddhist pilgrims in India and Austria. (80 min.)
Sterritt **** The legendary German filmmaker visits Buddhist initiation ceremonies in northern India and Graz, Austria, attempting to capture their inner spirituality through the outward signs his equipment can capture. Riveting and unique.
Director: Adam Shankman. With Vin Diesel, Lauren Graham, Faith Ford. (95 min.)
Staff ** In this variation on "Kindergarten Cop," a NAVY Seal is assigned to protect a family of kids from ruthless foreign agents. Cooped up in their Maryland home, the five children resent their strict babysitter/bodyguard and try to oust him, bringing a whole new meaning to the term "domestic terrorism." This formulaic blend of family bonding and Bond-lite action is as predictable as you'd expect, but it exudes a low-wattage charm. The bonus features - director commentary, blooper reel, deleted scenes - aren't worth sticking around for. By Stephen Humphries