Directors: Carles Bosch, Josep M. Doménech. With Rafael Cano, Miriam Hernández, Guillermo Armas. (120 min.)
Sterritt *** Thoughtful, ambitious documentary that travels between Havana and American cities as it traces the lives of several underprivileged Cubans who emigrate to the United States and try to carve out new lives. Poignant, spirited, revealing.
Director: Melissa Martin. With Scott Baio, Kristin Minter, John Amplas, Rosemary Prinz. (105 min.)
Sterritt ** A feisty wheeler-dealer takes enough time off from his family's Pittsburgh bakery to return an estranged daughter to his elderly best friend, pretending he's going to marry the young woman to make the old lady happy. Do they eventually fall in love? Guess. Although this "Moonstruck" knockoff is diverting to watch, it's basically a low-budget loaf of Italian-American movie clichés.
Directors: Aaron Blaise, Robert Walker. With voices of Joaquin Phoenix, Joan Copeland, Michael Clarke Duncan, Rick Moranis. (85 min.)
Sterritt ** This old-fashioned animation tells the story of three native American brothers, one of whom is mysteriously turned into a bear as a path to redemption from his human faults. All the old Disney trademarks are here, except the wit and surprise that were once the studio's stock in trade. There's little appeal to grownups, but kids should enjoy it.
Director: Gus Van Sant. With Alex Frost, Eric Deulen, John Robinson, Carrie Finklea. (81 min.)
Sterritt **** See full review, page 15.
Director: Jane Campion. With Meg Ryan, Mark Ruffalo, Jennifer Jason Leigh,
Kevin Bacon. (113 min.)
Sterritt *** See full review, page 15.
Director: Mike Tollin. With Cuba Gooding, Jr., Ed Harris, Alfre Woodard, Debra Winger. (109 min.)
Sterritt * In a small Southern town, a mentally slow African-American man (Gooding) comes under the wing of a high-school football coach (Harris) who helps him achieve a happier and more trusting relationship with the everyday world. This fact-based drama is very well-meaning but also cloying, sentimental, and simplistic. Gooding's fake-toothed grin deserves an Oscar for best makeup, though.
Director: Keith Gordon. With Robert Downey Jr., Mel Gibson, Robin Wright Penn, Katie Holmes. (109 min.)
Sterritt ** See full review, page 15.
Director: David Zucker. With Anna Faris, Charlie Sheen, Denise Richards, Jeremy Piven, Queen Latifah. (90 min.)
Staff *** Acting? Minimal. Character development? Nil. Plot? Barely: A young anchorwoman has seven days to discover the source of a mysterious videotape before she is killed. Elsewhere, an Appalachian farmer wants to know who is planting crop circles in his fields that spell out "ATTACK HERE" even as his white brother competes in an inner-city rap contest. If any of this sounds familiar, it should; the franchise is a satire of urban culture and film genres. Thanks to director Zucker, this is by far the best installment yet - there's less bathroom humor and more "Airplane!"-type lunacy. By Alex Kaloostian
Director: Mark Decena. With John Livingston, Sabrina Lloyd, Bruno Campos, Reuben Grundy. (79 min.)
Staff **1/2 Sure, you and your date have "chemistry," but how many people who say that mean it literally? Rand (Livingston) does - the hopeless antiromantic spends his whole first date with the lovely Sarah (Lloyd) prattling about the power of pheromones. While his analysis of attraction carries the couple through a date or two, they start to feel something more like ... well, could it be love? A catatonic mother, an irascible playboy, and a cloying artificial bird fill out the relatively predictable plotline, but Livingston's character raises interesting questions, and his acting carries the day. By Mary Wiltenburg
Director: John Robert Hoffman. With Liam Aiken, Kevin Nealon, Molly Shannon. (89 min.)
Staff * Talking dogs were cute, once. It's a tad disconcerting, however, when a canine starts lip syncing to the voice of Carl Reiner so it can complain about flatulence. That's typical of the dialogue in this ho-hum story about a lonely boy (Aiken) who discovers a UFO with a dog who comes from a planet ruled by mutts. By Stephen Humphries
Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: 3 mild scenes. Profanity: 5 profanities. Drugs: None.
Director: Joel Coen. With George Clooney, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Billy Bob Thornton. (100 min.)
Sterritt *** A high-powered attorney (Clooney) falls for a gorgeous gold digger (Zeta-Jones) while representing her husband in their divorce proceedings, producing an elaborate web of comic situations sprinkled with one-liners and coincidences. There's enough dark, cynical, and eccentric moments to make this a true Coen brothers satire of modern life and love rather than a standard romantic comedy.
Staff **1/2 Screwball comedy, witty banter, overdone.
Sex/Nudity: At least 4 scenes of implied sex. Innuendo throughout. Violence: 8 scenes, including shooting, comic violence. Profanity: 45 mild profanities. Drugs: 10 scenes of drinking; 1 with smoking.
Director: Quentin Tarantino. With Uma Thurman, Vivica A. Fox, Sonny Chiba, Lucy Liu. (110 min.)
Sterritt *** Talk about pulp fiction. This extremely bloody martial-arts epic has the most straightforward story Tarantino has ever told, following a woman warrior (Thurman) as she takes gory revenge on many enemies. Once again, Tarantino's screenplay doesn't live up to his huge talent as a director. The filmmaking is lively, though, paying homage to the kung fu flicks he loves. Stay miles away if you have a single squeamish bone in your body.
Staff *** Gory, moody, stylish.
Violence: 97 scenes. Extreme violence throughout film, including rape, slaughters. Profanity: 28 profanities. Drugs: 5 scenes of drinking, smoking.
Director: Clint Eastwood. With Tim Robbins, Sean Penn, Kevin Bacon, Laura Linney. (137 min.)
Sterritt **** The lives of a cop (Bacon) and a shopkeeper (Penn) intersect for the first time since childhood when the merchant's daughter is murdered and it appears that another boyhood friend (Robbins) may have committed the crime. Robbins is brilliant as a secretly troubled man who was sexually abused as a child, and so is Linney as the shopkeeper's wife, a working-class woman with a streak of Lady Macbeth in her nature. Best of all is Eastwood's decision to probe serious themes through a leisurely style and a lingering sense of ambiguity.
Staff ***1/2 Engrossing, great acting, complex.
Sex/Nudity: 1 scene of implied sex. Violence: 11 scenes, including dead body, child abuse. Profanity: 30 profanities. Drugs: 15 scenes of drinking, smoking.
Director: Carl Franklin. With Denzel Washington, Eva Mendes, Sanaa Lathan, Dean Cain. (114 min.)
Sterritt ** The protagonist is the police chief of a tiny Florida town where a double homicide has occurred and various clues may finger him as the culprit if he can't solve the case in a hurry. Washington gives another fine performance but the thriller has too many contrived escapes and last-minute switcheroos.
Sex/Nudity: 8 scenes of sex, innuendo. Violence: 6 scenes, including shootings. Profanity: 4 profanities. Drugs: 8 scenes of smoking, drinking.
Director: Peter Hedges. With Katie Holmes, Oliver Platt, Patricia Clarkson. (80 min)
Sterritt *** A young woman has amusing mishaps while preparing a Thanksgiving meal for her estranged family, including her seriously ill mother. Hedges's directorial debut doesn't have many laughs despite its mostly comic tone, but the characters are so convincing and the mood so light and flaky that it's hard not to find it a delicious little hors d'oeuvre of a movie.
Director: Gary Fleder. With Gene Hackman, Dustin Hoffman, John Cusack, Rachel Weisz. (123 min.)
Sterritt ** A woman (Weisz) sues the gun manufacturer whose product killed her husband. She's represented by a folksy lawyer (Hoffman), and opposed by a mercenary jury-selection consultant (Hackman) who's willing to sway the verdict by illegal means - and may succeed because a juror (Cusack) has told both he'll manipulate the deliberations for money. The story raises ethical questions, but fails to treat them seriously, putting most of its considerable energy into gimmickry.
Staff **1/2 No objections, jury duty you'll enjoy, suspenseful.
Sex/Nudity: 1 mild sex scene. Violence: 8 scenes of violence, including a severe beating. Profanity: 12 mild profanities. Drugs: 6 scenes with alcohol, 1 scene with drugs.
Director: Richard Linklater. With Jack Black, Joan Cusack, Mike White, Sarah Silverman. (108 min.)
Sterritt **** Kicked out of his band and desperate for rent money, a washed-up rock singer takes a job as a substitute teacher in a snooty private school, and decides to turn his fourth-grade class into a jivin' pop group. Black gives the performance of his career as the hilarious hero. Best of all, the kids are marvelous. Viewers of all musical tastes will find crisp comic pleasures in this amiable tale.
Staff *** One-man show, family film, the next "Spinal Tap."
Sex/Nudity: 3 innuendoes. Violence: 1 minor scene. Profanity: 13 mild profanities. Drugs: 4 scenes of smoking and drinking.
Director: Thomas McCarthy. With Peter Dinklage, Patricia Clarkson, Bobby Cannavale, Paul Benjamin. (113 min.)
Staff *** In Hollywood, dwarves tend to play characters such as Mini-Me, R2D2, or a freak in a David Lynch movie. But in "The Station Agent" Peter Dinklage gets a rare opportunity to portray a dwarf as an ordinary person. Dinklage plays Fin, a solitary and taciturn outsider whose is passionate about trains. When Fin inherits an abandoned train station in New Jersey, he is gradually coaxed out of his self-imposed isolation by daily interactions with a Cuban hot-dog vendor and a broken-hearted painter. These three souls connect in a genuinely moving way in this gently humorous, subtle movie. By Stephen Humphries
Staff *** Profoundly touching, often hilarious, measured pace.
Sex/Nudity: 1 scene with partial nudity. 4 instances of innuendo. Violence: 2 scenes of violence. Profanity: 28 harsh profanities. Drugs: 19 scenes of cigarettes, 11 scenes with alcohol.
Director: Christine Jeffs. With Gwyneth Paltrow, Daniel Craig, Blythe Danner, Michael Gambon. (100 min.)
Sterritt *** Paltrow plays the great poet Sylvia Plath in this dramatized account of her meeting with future poet laureate Ted Hughes, their troubled marriage, and Plath's eventual suicide. Like most such movie biographies, this one shows artistic creation as a matter of strong feelings alone, not the intricate blend of emotion and intellect it actually is. Jeffs conjures up vivid moodsand atmospheres, though, and Paltrow is persuasive in her demanding role.
Director: Marcus Nispel. With Jessica Biel, Eric Balfour, Erica Leerhsen, R. Lee Ermey. (98 min.)
Sterritt ** Far from home, five clueless 20-somethings run into a demented girl, a sinister cop, a cannibal family, and ... the title tells the rest. A lot more violent and a tad less creepy than the 1974 original, the much-changed remake delivers enough gory mayhem to keep horror fans screaming.
Sex/Nudity: 2 instances of innuendo. Violence: 26 instances of beatings, shootings, and torture. Profanity: 46 strong expressions. Drugs: 1 scene with alcohol, 2 with drug use.
Director: Joel Schumacher. With Cate Blanchett, Gerard McSorley, Brenda Fricker. (92 min.)
Sterritt *** The fact-based story of a courageous Irish reporter (Blanchett) who puts her life on the line in a dangerous crusade against Dublin's ruthless drug traffickers. The movie is closer to an action-adventure thriller than a journalistic account, but energetic acting and vigorous directing make it work harrowingly well on its own terms.
Staff *** Frenetic, jolting, newsworthy.
Sex/Nudity: 5 scenes of sex and innuendo, but no nudity. Violence: 13 instances of beatings, shootings, and threats. Profanity: 31 instances. Drugs: 13 scenes of smoking, 10 with drinking, and 1 graphic scene with people shooting up.
Director: Steven Spielberg. With Harrison Ford, John Rhys-Davis. (5 hours 59 min.)
Staff **** Get out the popcorn, break out the candy bars - it's time for an Indiana Jones marathon now that the three films plus a reel of featurettes are out on DVD. It's not worth fighting over which of the three films is the best. Hey, it's numero uno, but that's not even the point. Have some friends over, watch all three plus a few of the extra DVD goodies, which explain how they used to do stunts for real without the fancy digital add-ons. A great Saturday night of old-fashioned movie fun. By Gloria Goodale