Director: Shunji Iwai. With Hayato Ichihara, Shûgo Oshinari, Yû Aoi, Ayumi Ito. (146 min.)
Sterritt **** Lily Chou-Chou is a pop star we hardly see, and the main characters are Japanese adolescents who use idealized fantasies of her as respite from the meaningless routines and relentless power games that oppress them at school and play. Iwai's ambitious drama is strikingly shot, poignantly acted by a splendid young cast, and enriched by surprising use of Debussy classics on the soundtrack. It's remarkable for digital video and chat-room messages to look so richly cinematic on the screen. In Japanese with English subtitles.
Director: Ellory Elkayem. With David Arquette, Scarlett Johansson, Doug E. Doug, Kari Wuhrer. (98 min.)
Sterritt * Spiders get humongous after a toxic-waste debacle in a Southwestern town. You can guess the rest. Action freaks may enjoy the chasing and chomping, but there's no hint of human interest or moviemaking imagination. Stick with the 1955 classic "Tarantula," still the best of this creepy-crawly breed.
Director: Timothy Linh Bui. With Don Duong, Patrick Swayze, Forest Whitaker, Hiep Thi Le. (115 min.)
Sterritt ** As the Vietnam war winds to a close, Vietnamese immigrants start preparing for new American lives in a California refugee camp. The movie takes a humane look at an episode in recent history that's received little attention. Its pretty, sentimental style doesn't match the downbeat quality of some story elements, though. Duong makes a strong impression, Swayze shows new maturity, and Whitaker is at his likable best. In English and Vietnamese with English subtitles.
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