Director: Doug Liman. With Matt Damon, Franka Potente, Chris Cooper, Brian Cox. (113 min.)
Sterritt ** See review, page 15.
Director: Peter Care. With Kieran Culkin, Emile Hirsch, Jena Malone, Jodie Foster, Vincent D'Onofrio. (110 min.)
Sterritt *** See review, page 15.
Director: Raja Gosnell. With Freddy Prinze Jr., Sarah Michelle Gellar, Matthew Lillard, Linda Cardellini.
Staff *** The wild and droll canine Scooby-Doo and his villain-chasing friends reunite for a spooky adventure in this first live-action adaptation of the animated TV series. A theme-park owner calls on the gang (Mystery Inc.) to uncover the reason all the visitors are leaving the park as monster-possessed zombies. Numerous clues and outlandish happenings lead them through fun-house twists and turns as they seek the desperado behind it all. The characters are well portrayed and the ending is unexpected, but some scenes are clichés and others grotesque. The qualities that enable this quintet to succeed include adaptability and an appreciation of good friends. The story offers enough incentive for adults to stay and kids to watch so give yourself a Scooby Snack! By Chase Clements (age 13)
Sex/Nudity: 2 instances of provocative behavior. Violence: 18 instances of cartoonish violence. Profanity: 3 instances of mild language. Drugs: None.
Director: Imogen Kimmel. With Charlotte Brittain, Lee Ross, Annette Badland, James Hooton. (89 min.)
Sterritt ** A working-class Englishwoman escapes the woes of her mediocre marriage by joining a New Age sumo-wrestling club that lets her celebrate her hefty body and freewheeling hopes. Energetic acting helps compensate for a contrived script and directing that's sometimes as heavy as its cheerfully rotund characters.
Director: John Woo. With Nicolas Cage, Adam Beach, Christian Slater, Roger Willie, Peter Stormare. (134 min.)
Sterritt * See review, page 15.
Director: Joel Schumacher. With Chris Rock, Anthony Hopkins, Garcelle Beauvais, Brooke Smith. (120 min.)
Sterritt ** A streetwise hustler is drafted by the CIA to replace his killed-in-action twin on a mission to seize a contraband nuclear device, helped by a CIA veteran and threatened by a terrorist team. Rock and Hopkins give performances so different you'd think they were spliced together from two separate movies. This is fun to watch for a while, but the picture runs much too long, and most of the comedy writing is lame.
Sex/Nudity: 2 mild scenes. Violence: 10 scenes, including shooting. Profanity: 26 harsh expressions. Drugs: 8 scenes of smoking and drinking.
Director: Henry Bean. With Ryan Gosling, Summer Phoenix, Billy Zane. (92 min.)
Sterritt **** Gosling plays a 20-something Jew with a deadly hatred of Jewish life, faith, and history whose friends range from rage-filled local thugs to a pair of intellectually sophisticated neofascists. Based on a real case history, Bean's screenplay paints an excruciatingly vivid portrait of the most dangerous person a tolerant society can have a zealot who's as mentally agile as he is morally misguided. The result is a stunningly smart, genuinely disturbing drama.
Sex/Nudity: 4 instances, including implied sex and nudity. Profanity: 74 harsh expressions.
Director: Peter Sheridan. With Shawn Wayne Hatosy, Danny Dyer, Michael York, Lee Ingleby. (93 min.)
Staff **1/2 In 1940, the British caught 16-year-old Brendan Behan (Hatosy) trying to smuggle a bomb into the country, and sent him to a "borstal" a prison for young offenders. In this probably sanitized account of a true story, a kindly warden (York) and his charming daughter (Birthistle) awaken Behan's writing talent and help him accept his bisexuality. The film makes little of the alcoholism plaguing him. The story breaks off at his return to Dublin without mentioning the cop shooting that soon put him back in prison. By M.K. Terrell
Sex/Nudity: 4 instances, including partial nudity. Violence: 6 scenes. Profanity: 8 strong expressions. Drugs: 9 scenes with drinking and smoking.
Director: Callie Khouri. With Ellen Burstyn, Ashley Judd, Sandra Bullock, Maggie Smith, Shirley Knight. (118 min.)
Sterritt * A mother flies into a Louisiana tizzy when her daughter criticizes her in a magazine interview, so her kooky old friends kidnap the erring offspring, convinced she'll change her ungrateful tune if they reveal how many challenges her mom faced during her own salad days. Flashbacks follow, depicting childish mischief and girlish romance along with alcoholism and mental illness. Full of cardboard characters and logic-defying leaps between farce and melodrama, the movie is rarely effective on its own sentimental terms.
Staff **1/2Tender, well-paced, an acting fest.
Sex/Nudity: 1 instance innuendo, no nudity. Violence: 1 scene with child beating. Profanity: 42 expressions. Drugs: 20 scenes with drinking and smoking.
Director: Michael Apted. With Jennifer Lopez, Bill Campbell, Juliette Lewis, Dan Futterman. (111 min.)
Staff *1/2 "Slim" (Lopez) is a hardworking waitress who marries a wealthy stranger she meets while serving burgers and coleslaw. Mitch whisks her away into an ostensibly picture-perfect life but when Slim discovers Mitch is a philanderer and confronts him, he starts beating her. With help, she musters the courage to escape from his possessive grip. This disturbing story highlights major flaws in the legal system and the dire struggles abuse victims face: from a lack of money and housing to a lost sense of security. It's exploitative at times, especially when the victim learns martial arts, then aggressively channels her newfound might against Mitch. The ending may seem justified, but unfortunately it teaches the only way to fight violence is with violence. By Stephanie Cook
Sex/Nudity: 7 scenes, mostly innuendo, 1 with nudity. Violence: 6 scenes. Profanity: 11 expressions. Drugs: 2 scenes with drinking.
Director: Zacharias Kunuk. With Natar Ungalaaq, Sylvia Ivalu, Peter-Henry Arnatsiaq. (172 min.)
Sterritt *** The adventures of an Inuit nomad over 20 years, starting with a mysterious event during his childhood and then detailing his feud with a rival over a woman they both love. There's as much unbridled passion and violent conflict as melodrama fans could ask for. You feel the power of the Arctic setting in every scene, from frantic chases to intimate conversations, and the story's refusal to draw solid lines between "good" and "evil" characters shows striking psychological sophistication.
Director: Oliver Parker. With Rupert Everett, Frances O'Connor, Reese Witherspoon. (94 min.)
Staff *** If a dreamy romp and Oscar Wilde don't seem as if they should go together, then British director Oliver Parker has a surprise for fans of one of Wilde's great comedies. This late Victorian-era farce, the first film rendition of this play in 50 years, is based on the slimmest of conceits: that only a man named Earnest is marriage material to two English lasses, played winningly by Witherspoon and O'Connor. On the heels of his successful "An Ideal Husband," this film is a nice addition to the updating of classic British theater works. By Gloria Goodale
Staff ***1/2 Freshly frivolous, witty, well-acted.
Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: None. Profanity: None. Drugs: 11 scenes with drinking and smoking.
Director: Christopher Nolan. With Al Pacino, Robin Williams, Hilary Swank, Maura Tierney. (118 min.)
Sterritt *** The aging detective played by Pacino believes a cop can't sleep if he's stuck on a case or bothered by his conscience. He has both problems as he hunts the killer of a teenage girl in a small Alaskan town . Good acting and slow but steady dramatic rhythms lend moody power to this well-written thriller, which becomes something of a horror movie as the lead character's mental disorientation transforms the plot from whodunit mystery to psychological nightmare.
Staff ***Smart, gripping, great cinematography
Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: 11, including beatings and shooting. Profanity: 30 harsh expressions.
Director: Dover Kosashvili. With Lior Ashkenazi, Ronit Elkabetz, Moni Moshonov. (100 min.)
Sterritt **** After an unpromising start, this unpredictable comedy-drama becomes a dazzlingly funny-sad account of a man's attempt to avoid an arranged marriage despite his family's insistence on keeping traditions alive in the Republic of Georgia. The acting is superb, the filmmaking is imaginative, and the story never goes where you expect. In Georgian, Hebrew with English subtitles.
Directors: Kelly Asbury, Lorna Cook. With voices of Matt Damon, James Cromwell, Daniel Studi. (84 min.)
Sterritt ** The adventures of a wild stallion who wants to stay wild, the young Indian who befriends him, and a mean-tempered cavalry captain who wants to break his will and hold him in captivity. The proudly traditional style of this kid-friendly animation seems rather tame in the age of "Shrek" and "Monsters, Inc.," but the action is mild enough for fairly young children, and grownups may enjoy its old-fashioned spirit.
Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: 11 scenes, none graphic. Profanity: None. Drugs: 1 instance cigar smoking.
Director: George Lucas. With Hayden Christensen, Natalie Portman Samuel L. Jackson. (136 min.)
Sterritt ** Anakin Skywalker is now a fledgling Jedi knight who helps Senator Padmé, his former Tatooine playmate, hide from assassins while Obi-Wan Kenobi probes a threat from Dark Side enemies. The film has a broader range of emotions and visual effects than any "Star Wars" installment since "The Empire Strikes Back," but the writing and acting are as stiff as R2-D2's metal torso. If clones are so scary, why does Lucas keep cloning pop-culture clichés he's latched onto from other films, including his own?
Staff **1/2 Cheezy dialogue, uninspired acting, technologically dazzling, Yoda is fantastic!
Sex/Nudity: Mild innuendo. Violence: 12 scenes, some long. Profanity: None. Drugs: 2 scenes with alcohol-like drinks.
Director: Phil Alden Robinson. With Ben Affleck, Morgan Freeman, James Cromwell, Liev Schreiber.
Staff **1/2 The fourth in Tom Clancy's Jack Ryan series to make it to the screen, this film imagines the US after a terrorist nuclear blast destroys Baltimore. The film arrived amid much speculation about America's readiness to see terrorism as entertainment, but the director chose to show little actual damage. More chilling may be the US President's calm willingness to deploy top government agents to assassinate the bad guys, rather than bring them to face the rule of law. By Gloria Goodale
Sex/Nudity: 2 mild scenes. Violence: 13 scenes, including a hanging. Profanity: At least 7 harsh expressions. Drugs: 8 scenes with drinking, smoking.
Director: Jill Sprecher. With Alan Arkin, Matthew McConaughey, Amy Irving, John Turturro. (94 min.)
Staff ***1/2 A series of interrelated vignettes in the lives of several New Yorkers begins with a successful prosecutor who is haunted by his own hidden crime. Arkin is especially poignant as an aging middle manager who finds his life crumbling around him. Some viewers may decide the film is about whether fortune or luck exists. Others may decide it shows that love and good deeds are the only things that give life meaning. The stories are both frustratingly and satisfyingly open-ended. By Gregory M. Lamb
Staff **1/2 Creative, maudlin dialogue, probing
Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: 5 instances. Profanity: 11 harsh expressions. Drugs: 3 scenes with drinking, 2 with smoking and 1 with illegal drugs.
Director: Malcolm Lee. With Eddie Griffin, Chris Kattan, Denise Richards. (88 min.)
Staff * "Undercover Brother" should have stayed undercover, brother. Imagine "Shaft" meets "Austin Powers," but not as cool or as funny. Our jive-talking hero (Griffin) is recruited by a group of vigilantes trying to bring down "the Man" after discovering that he is distributing mind-controlling drugs through a fried chicken fast-food chain. After infiltrating the "whitey" world, Brother is seduced by White She-Devil, played by Denise Richards, and forgets his mission. Thankfully, the vigilantes help him remember Roots both the TV series and his own. Unfortunately, you quickly realize you've heard all these jokes before. By Stuart S. Cox Jr.