MOVIES: a reel of reviews

4 stars: Excellent; 3 stars: Good; 2 stars: Fair; 1 star: Poor

ALIENS OF THE DEEP 3 stars. James Cameron directed this mind-blowing look at the surprisingly rich variety of life that thrives at the bottom of the ocean. Imax and 3D - what a combo. G - David Hiltbrand
THE AMITYVILLE HORROR 2 stars. Ryan Reynolds and Melissa George make likable leads in this remake of the 1979 haunted house classic. More vivid and violent than the original, but not as spooky. R (sex, language, gore, drug use) - David Hiltbrand
THE BALLAD OF JACK AND ROSE 3 stars. A haunting performance by Daniel Day-Lewis anchors this Rebecca Miller film about a terminally ill father and his daughter living on an unraveled commune on an island off the East Coast. Day-Lewis’ attempt to provide an instant family for his child in his waning days drives this story about the varieties of loss. R (profanity, sexual situations) - Carrie Rickey
BE COOL 1 ( stars. John Travolta returns as Chili Palmer in this anything-but-cool sequel to 1995’s Get Shorty,'' with the music biz subbing for Hollywood, and lame in-jokes replacing the wit and swagger of its predecessor. With Uma Thurman, Harvey Keitel, Cedric the Entertainer, and cameos from music and nonmusic folks. PG-13 (profanity, inanity, violence) - Steven Rea BEAUTY SHOP 3 stars. Sisterhood, not hair care, is at the heart of this distaff spinoff of the Barbershop hits, with Queen Latifah starring as a single mom and stellar stylist. More cross-cultural, and less raucous, than its predominantly black, predominantly male forerunners, the likeable comedy celebrates outrageous women’’ doing their thing, and doing their ‘dos. PG-13 (profanity, adult themes) - Steven Rea
BORN INTO BROTHELS 3 ( stars. The Oscar-nominated documentary follows a Western photographer as she befriends a group of children living in Calcutta’s red-light district. This beautiful-looking film provides a glimpse into a taboo subculture, and shows how the energy and innocence of children can be found - and fostered - in even the bleakest spots on earth. 1 hr. 25 No MPAA rating (adult themes, profanity, poverty and squalor) - Steven Rea
BRIDE AND PREJUDICE 2 ( stars. Gurinder Chadha’s Spice-Girls-Go-Bollywood update of the similarly titled Jane Austen classic stars the beauteous Aishwarya Rai as a spirited Indian woman who catches the eye of American hotelier Martin Henderson. PG-13 (sexual candor) - Carrie Rickey
CONSTANTINE 2 ( stars. Keanu Reeves stars as an exorcist sleuth who has been to hell and back again in this entertaining adaptation of the comic book series Hellblazer. A great cast - led by Rachel Weisz and Tilda Swinton - and beautiful photography give this pulpy mix of hardboiled detective business and supernatural thrills a classy sheen. R (violence, language, demonic stuff) - Steven Rea
CRASH 3 ( stars. A raw, edgy study of intersecting lives in Los Angeles, and about the fear and paranoia on the underside of the American melting pot.'' Boasting coarse racial epithets and frank depictions of ethnic prejudices, this large ensemble drama will have people talking, and arguing, for a long time. R (violence, profanity, adult themes) - Steven Rea. DEATH OF A DYNASTY 1 ( stars. In this frisky but flaccid comedy from Damon Dash, a dopey white journalist (Ebon Moss-Bachrach) gets carried away with himself while covering black rap stars. R (profanity, sexual situations, drug use) - David Hiltbrand. DIARY OF A MAD BLACK WOMAN 3 stars. This let go, let God, and let 'er rip! film written by and featuring gospel playwright Tyler Perry stars Kimberly Elise as an abandoned wife who finds the balance between the salty humor of her grandmother and the sweet faith of her mother. PG-13 (brief drugs, sexual crudity) - Carrie Rickey DOWNFALL 2 ( stars. Bruno Ganz stars as Adolf Hitler in this fascinating but increasingly tedious reenactment of the final days, and paranoid rantings, of the Nazi leader. As Der Fuhrer's inner circle assembles in a Berlin bunker, the Red Army approaches, and accusations, cultlike sacrifice, and furtive looks for an exit ensue. A 2005 foreign-language Oscar nominee. R (violence, nudity, profanity, adult themes) - Steven Rea ENRON: THE SMARTEST GUYS IN THE ROOM 4 stars, Never mind The Amityville Horror’’ and House of Wax,'' the real horror movie out there is a documentary about the rise and fall of an American corporate giant. A scary portrait of men (and women) fueled by power, greed and the weird high of watching California go dark. No MPAA rating (profanity, adult themes) - Steven Rea. FEVER PITCH 3 stars. Jimmy Fallon and Drew Barrymore star in this sweet-natured Farrelly Brothers' romance about a 24/7 Boston Red Sox fanatic and the girl he falls for in the off-season, when he appears to be just about perfect. Come spring training, however, another side of his personality emerges. Adapted from a Nick Hornby memoir about soccer obsession, with surprising success. PG-13 (profanity, sex, adult themes, baseball stuff) - Steven Rea GUESS WHO 3 stars. Suggested by Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner,’’
but more like a cross between Father of the Bride'' and Meet the Fockers,’’ this romantic comedy is about a fiance (Ashton Kutcher), who is white, and his future father-in-law (Bernie Mac), who is black. Race divides them, love unites them. PG-13 (sexually themed humor) - Carrie Rickey
GUNNER PALACE 3 stars. A you-are-there documentary shot in Iraq in 2003 and early 2004, when the 2/3 Field Artillery - dubbed the Gunners'' - were based in the bombed-out mansion that belonged to Saddam Hussein's son. Neither pro’’ nor anti'' war, it's a clear-eyed portrait of young American soldiers carrying out their mission on the Baghdad streets, committed to being there - and hoping to get out alive. PG-13 (profanity, violence, adult themes) - Steven Rea HITCH 3 stars. Just what the date doctor ordered. This irresistible comedy stars Will Smith as the dating strategist in need of his own playbook when around the heart-stopping Eva Mendes. Hilarious Kevin James is Smith's star pupil, and supermodel Amber Valleta is the babe he loves. Directed by Andy Tennant. PG-13 (mild profanity, sexual references) - Carrie Rickey THE HITCHHIKER'S GUIDE TO THE GALAXY 2 ( stars. Faithful to Doug Adams' bestselling 1979 sci-fi parody tome, this long-anticipated adaptation doesn't feel terribly original, nor terribly funny, either. The humor ranges from trippy silliness to icky cleverness to comic conjecture about dolphins and a running joke regarding towels. PG (adult themes, gross space aliens) - Steven Rea. THE HOLY GIRL 3 stars. Feverishly compelling drama from Lucrecia Martel, the Jane Campion of Argentina, about two teenage girls trying to listen for the voice of God and find it hard to tune out their erotic yearnings. R (some sexual content, brief nudity) - Carrie Rickey. HOUSE OF D 2 stars. Making his directorial debut David Duchovny sentimentally embroiders this tale of coming of age in Greenwich Village during the '70s. PG-13 (sexual language, drugs) - Carrie Rickey. HOUSE OF WAX 2 ( stars. In this potent and gruesome slasher film, a group of kids, including Elisha Cuthbert, Chad Michael Murray and Paris Hilton, are menaced by a maniac who likes to laminate his victims in wax. R (gore, profanity, sexual situations) - David Hiltbrand. THE INTERPRETER 2 stars. A handsome-looking muddle of misdirection and murky intrigue from veteran filmmaker Sydney Pollack, about a U.N. translator (Nicole Kidman) who learns of an assassination plot and a Secret Service agent (Sean Penn) who doesn't know whether to believe her or not. Catherine Keener, miscast, co-stars. PG-13 (violence, profanity, adult themes) - Steven Rea KICKING & SCREAMING 2 ( stars. A movie about peewee-league sports and all those overbearing parents on the sidelines, Kicking & Screaming’’ is yet another low-budget, high-concept vehicle for Will Ferrell to say and do dumb stuff, throw hissy-fits, get punched in the face, and find redemption (as both a dad and a son). PG (thematic elements, language and some crude humor) - Steven Rea.
KINGDOM OF HEAVEN 2 ( stars. Cross and crescent clash when Christians and Muslims struggle for the soul of Jerusalem in Ridley Scott’s ambitious, anachronistic saga starring Orlando Bloom as an agnostic Crusader circa 1186. With Jeremy Irons, Liam Neeson and Eva Green. R (extreme battle violence) - Carrie Rickey.
KUNG FU HUSTLE 2 ( stars. Giddily grisly martial-arts comedy set in 1930s Shanghai, directed by and starring Stephen Chow (Shaolin Soccer). R (profanity, extreme stylized violence) - Carrie Rickey
LOOK AT ME 4 stars. Agnes Jaoui’s blistering profile of a Parisian literary lion and his loves is darkly comic in the manner of vintage Woody Allen and brilliantly observed in the way it shows how fame deforms the star, his family and his fans. With Jaoui, Jean-Pierre Bacri and Marilou Berry. In French with English subtitles. PG-13 (profanity, sexual reference) - Carrie Rickey.
MAD HOT BALLROOM 3 stars. A crowd-pleasing documentary about a New York City public-school dance program, in which a diverse gang of fifth-graders compete in the foxtrot, the tango and the merengue. An unabashed celebration of many of the things that make New York a great city, and of the pluck and smarts of some of its 11-year-old residents. PG (adult themes) - Stephen Rea.
MALEVOLENCE 1 star. A hapless band of bank robbers chooses the wrong hideout - the isolated lair of a stab-happy serial killer - in this cheap-looking, slow-moving horror travesty. R (violence, brutality, profanity, sexual references) - David Hiltbrand
MASCULINE FEMININE 3 stars. Paris, 1966: Earnest theorists in raincoats, ye-ye singers in go-go boots - characters director Jean-Luc Godard pungently describes as the children of Marx and Coca-Cola.'' With Jean-Pierre Leaud and Chantal Goya. No MPAA rating (sexual candor) - Carrie Rickey MELINDA AND MELINDA 3 ( stars. A handsome cast and a ravishing star (Radha Mitchell) make this overly theatrical investigation into the nature of comedy and tragedy (and the human condition) more than watchable, but less than satisfying. From writer-director Woody Allen, with all the issues (and one-liners) we've come to expect. PG-13 (profanity, adult themes) - Steven Rea MILLIONS 3 ( stars. A fantasy that owes a lot, visually, to the zooming cinematic style of Jean-Pierre Jeunet's Amelie,’’ Danny Boyle’s movie is about miracles and mayhem, about coping with grief and letting the pain turn into something positive. PG (mild profanity, adult themes) - Steven Rea
MINDHUNTERS 1 star. A stale and stupid thriller, shot three years ago and just now released, in which a group of FBI profiler trainees get dropped on an island for an exercise - and start dropping dead. Christian Slater, Kathryn Morris and LL Cool J lead the team - nowhere. R (violence, profanity) - Steven Rea.
MONSIEUR N. 3 stars. Although it begins like a Monty Python parody and ends in wild conjecture, this British-French co-production about Napoleon Bonaparte in exile, guarded by thousands of British troops on a South Atlantic island, offers an engaging Masterpiece Theater''-style mystery. An some heated romance, too. No MPAA rating (adult themes, profanity, violence, giggly strumpets) - Steven Rea. MONSTER-IN-LAW 1 ( stars. Jennifer Lopez and Jane Fonda star as Bridezilla meets Godzilla in a comedy so anemic that even Dracula wouldn't bite. With Michael Vartan. PG-13 (profanity, adult situations) - Carrie Rickey. MY MOTHER'S SMILE 3 stars. Marco Bellochio's quizzical parable stars Sergio Castellito as an atheist who thinks he's resistant to faith and who might be in the throes of a feverish conversion. In Italian with English subtitles. No MPAA rating (mature themes) - Carrie Rickey. OFF THE MAP 3 stars. Joan Allen, Sam Elliott and newcomer Valentina de Angelis star as a family living off the land, and off the map,’’ in the New Mexico desert of 1974. When a stranger comes a-callin’, everything changes in this small, graceful coming-of-age tale. PG-13 (nudity, language, adult themes) - Steven Rea
PALINDROMES 1 ( stars. A 13-year-old girl (played by a series of actresses) who dreams of having a baby runs away from home after her parents stop her from realizing her goal. Ellen Barkin, Jennifer Jason Leigh, and Richard Masure star. No MPAA rating (sexual candor, abortion candor) - Carrie Rickey.
THE RING TWO 3 stars. In this horror sequel, Naomi Watts is once again trying to protect her child from the evil spirit at the bottom of the well. Deft direction by Hideo Nakata who created the Japanese original. PG-13 (violence, disturbing images, scary themes, profanity) - David Hiltbrand
SAHARA 2 stars. Spectacularly silly action/adventure starring Matthew McConaughey, Steve Zahn and Penelope Cruz that plays like Raiders of the Lost Ishtar.'' Based on the Clive Cussler novel. PG-13 (violence, profanity) - Carrie Rickey SIN CITY 2 ( stars. Robert Rodriguez' adaptation of Frank Miller's grisly graphic novel is a visual dazzler. With a great looking cast of live actors that includes Jessica Alba, Clive Owen and Rosario Dawson shot in high contrast black-and-white then placed in computer generated backdrops, it really looks like a comic book. Too bad all that pizzazz adds up to an unenthralling, overlong bloodbath of a movie. R (violence, nudity, sexual situations, profanity) - Dan DeLuca STAR WARS: EPISODE III - REVENGE OF THE SITH 2 stars. The last of the three prequels explains how Anakin Skywalker becomes Darth Vader, but fails to explain how George Lucas gets away with the clunkiest dialogue in the universe. Hayden Christensen can't carry the weight of the Anakin role, Ewan McGregor tries to put some pep in Obi-Wan, Natalie Portman looks lovely and the galaxy of fiery planets, neo-Deco cityscapes and awesome flying ships is rendered with state-of-the-art precision. It's long, and then it's done. May divorce be with you. PG-13 (violence, darkness) - Steven Rea. STEAMBOY 3 stars. The long-borning followup from anime god and Akira’’ creator Katsuhiro Otomo is set in Victorian England, where a boy inventor’s revolutionary gizmo is sought after by opposing forces of techies and thugs. A rollicking action yarn with cinematic scope and a message of scientific responsibility. PG-13 (violence) - Steven Rea
3-IRON 3 stars. Korean filmmaker Kim Ki-duk’s deliciously ambiguous film about a free spirit who may, in fact, be a spirit, a zen tourist who breaks into apartments when the owners are away. R (violence, nudity) - Carrie Rickey.
UNLEASHED 2 stars. Martial arts star Jet Li functions as a vicious attack dog for crime boss Bob Hoskins. Until Morgan Freeman uses kindness to awaken his better nature. An action movie with heart? It’s an ungainly mixed breed. R (strong violent content, profanity, some sexuality and nudity) - David Hiltbrand.
UP AND DOWN 3 ( stars. Czech filmmaker Jan Hrebejk offers a bruising, dark comedy populated by pickpockets, smugglers, skinhead soccer hooligans and a misguided abductor of infants in this wry take on the social upheaval hitting Eastern Europe. No MPAA rating (profanity, violence, adult themes) - Steven Rea
THE UPSIDE OF ANGER 2 ( stars. Joan Allen and Kevin Costner are magnificent in this melodramatic comedy about a suburban mother whose husband has presumably walked out on her and her four daughters. Preposterous but riveting. R (profanity, sexual situations, drugs) - Carrie Rickey
THE VOYAGE HOME 2 ( stars. A picturesque 5th century odyssey about a Roman bureaucrat traveling home to try to restore law and order to the land. Beautiful Mediterranean coasts and limited action make this an oddly lulling adventure. No MPAA rating (violence, nudity, sex, adult themes) - Steven Rea.
WALK ON WATER 3 ( stars. A compelling thriller from Israel that manages to incorporate a seemingly impossible bundle of disparate elements, in a story about a macho Massad agent on the trail of a Nazi war criminal, befriending the old man’s liberal, likeable German grandchildren in an effort to hunt him down. No MPAA rating (violence, profanity, adult themes) - Steven Rea
THE WILD PARROTS OF TELEGRAPH HILL 2 ( stars. A loving, dopey documentary about the bird man of a place with a view of Alcatraz, a guy with no visible means of support who took it upon himself to nurture a pandemonium of squawking blue-and cherry-headed conures that he named Mingus, Picasso, Pushkin and the like. G (nothing offensive) - Steven Rea.
XXX: STATE OF THE UNION 1 star. Ice Cube stars as a deep-cover agent in this dumbfoundingly awful action sequel. A turkey this big usually comes with giblets. PG-13 (profanity, violence) - David Hiltbrand.