The Banger Sisters
"The Turning Point for groupies"

Writ. & dir. Bob Dolman; feat. Susan Sarandon, Goldie Hawn, Geoffrey Rush, Erika Christensen, Robin Thomas, Eva Amurri (R)

"Raises expectations for black comedies"

Dir. Tim Story; writ. Mark Brown; feat. Ice Cube, Cedric the Entertainer, Eve, Sean Patrick Thomas, Troy Garity (PG-13)
Unlike most black comedies, such as the recent blaxploitation homage Undercover Brother, this tale presents nuanced characters instead of stereotypes to be dissected, making the film — which depicts a day in the life of an inner-city Chicago barbershop — more like black dramas such as Soul Food or The Wood than the pot farce Friday or the slew of direct-to-video gangsta flicks.

City by the Sea
"The cop who cried"

Dir. Michael Caton-Jones; writ. Ken Hixon, based on an article by Mike McAlary; feat. Robert DeNiro, Frances McDormand (PG-13)

The Four Feathers
"Spectacular imperial epic"

Dir. Shekhar Kapur; writ. Michael Schiffer, Hassein Amini, based on a novel by A.E.W. Mason; feat. Heath Ledger, Wes Bentley, Kate Hudson, Djimon Hounsou (PG-13)
The screenplay celebrates the triumph of a sensitive new breed of man — one who admits his fears and overcomes them. Yet fears are not always failings, particularly when they put a brake on hasty acts of violence. Though the film suggests otherwise, aversion to war is not always a pathology.

Igby Goes Down
"Smart and satisfying "

Dir. & writ. Burr Steers; feat. Kieran Culkin, Susan Sarandon, Jeff Goldblum, Claire Danes, Ryan Phillippe, Bill Pullman, Amanda Peet (R)

Mostly Martha (Bella Martha) "Cinematic comfort food" Writ. & dir. Sandra Nettelbeck; feat. Martina Gedeck, Maxime Foerste, Sergio Castellito (PG)
This story of a woman who learns to step out of the kitchen, loosen up, and love, adds nothing to our knowledge of the culinary life not already examined in the larder of current foodie books and in such other cuisine art films as Big Night, Babette's Feast, Eat Drink Man Woman, and Like Water for Chocolate. It offers comfort food, with little left to chew on.

My Big Fat Greek Wedding
"Sweet Greek comedy, not Aristophanes"

Dir. Joel Zwick; writ. Nia Vardalos; feat. Vardalos, John Corbett, Michael Constantine, Lainie Kazan, Joey Fatone (PG)

One Hour Photo
"Snapshot of obsession"

Writ. & dir. Mark Romanek; feat. Robin Williams, Connie Nielsen, Michael Vartan, Gary Cole, Eriq La Salle (R)
Romanek's first feature, with its controlled sets, sights, and sounds, calls to mind Francis Ford Coppolla's The Conversation: The world Sy Parrish (Robin Williams) inhabits is made up of sharp-edged, humanless interiors, the cold aisles of Sav-Mart, and the tasteful-void of another family's modern home. It is precisely when these edges blur that the film draws the audience to the edge of their seats, squirming in anticipation of what will develop.

Secret Ballot (Raye makhfi)
"Enigmatic parable about participatory democracy"

Writ. & dir. Babak Payami; feat. Nassim Abdi, Cyrus Abidi, Youssef Habashi(G)

"Billy Graham meets E.T."

Dir. and writ. M. Night Shyamalan; feat. Mel Gibson, Joaquin Phoenix, Cherry Jones, Rory Culkin, Abigail Breslin (PG-13)
Makes drama out of xenophobia; it is a cinematic equivalent of the national trauma induced by the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. All signs induce mistrust of anyone outside the tribe, and we are expected to cheer when a character takes on the enemy with the most American of weapons: a baseball bat.

Spy Kids 2: The Island of Lost Dreams
"A likeable, if not enitrely satisfactory, reunion with the super spy Cortez family"

Dir. and writ.Robert Rodriguez; feat. Antonio Banderas, Carla Gugino, Alexa Vega, Daryl Sabara, Steve Buscemi (PG)

Sweet Home Alabama
"Romantic comedy goes South"

Dir. Andy Tennant; writ. Douglas J. Eboch, C. Jay Cox; feat. Reese Witherspoon, Josh Lucas, Patrick Dempsey, Fred Ward, Mary Kay Place, Jean Smart, Candace Bergen (PG-13)
Melanie is a Dixie chick who conquers New York by becoming a fabulously successful fashion designer. When the mayor's glamorous son proposes, though, she must get Jake, the redneck husband she has not seen in seven years, to sign their divorce papers. Sweet Home Alabama revels in stereotypes about Northern materialism and Southern comforts, and there's never much doubt, when North clashes with South, about which side will win. It's a women's movie with the insidious and ludicrous message that ambition is as unnatural an appendage to a woman as a penis.

The Tuxedo
"Worst-ever Jackie Chan film?"

Dir. Kevin Donovan; writ. Michael Wilson, Michael Leeson, et al; feat. Jackie Chan, Jennifer Love Hewitt, Jason Isaacs, Debi Mazar, Ritchie Coster, Peter Stormare (PG-13)
Astoundingly, this Jackie Chan film has not a single example of Chan's patented Buster Keaton-meets-Bruce Lee comedic action sequences — you know, the things that make his fans endure all the crappy filler that fleshes out most of his recent films. Surprisingly, the crappy filler in Tuxedo is crappier than ever, with Jennifer Love Hewitt adding nothing but a genuine source of annoyance and a plethora of boob jokes. Chan has already given interviews calling this his worst American film; take him at his word.

"Not as racy as the title, but action-packed"

Dir. Rob Cohen; writ. Rich Wilkes; feat. Vin Diesel, Samuel L. Jackson, Asia Argento, Marton Csokas (PG-13)

Films reviewed by:
John DeFore
JM: Jonathan Marcus
RO: Retha Oliver
SGK: Steven G. Kellman
SM: Shaka McGlotten
WK: Wendi Kimura



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