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RESPIRO (PG-13) Like something out of Tennessee Williams transferred to a remote Italian island, this steamy, creepy drama concerns the clammy, sexually intense, violence-laced way of life there. The darkness brewing beneath sun and sea is illustrated in how a mentally ill wife and mother, Grazia (Valeria Golino) is treated by her husband and the community. Only her fierce, macho little sons seem willing to rescue the ethereal, damaged Grazia from her husband's plans to send her packing to a hospital in Milan.--FF
SINBAD: LEGEND OF THE SEVEN SEAS (PG) Despite its frequent reliance on computer graphics, this hails from the "old school" of hand-drawn animation, and like most recent efforts in that vein (Spirited Away the obvious exception), it proves to be one dull affair. The limp storyline about a plucky bad-boy hero (voiced by Brad Pitt) who tirelessly banters with a spunky lady love (Catherine Zeta-Jones) while battling a wicked goddess (Michelle Pfeiffer) elicits only yawns. Nifty sequences pay tribute to such fantasists as Ray Harryhausen and Jules Verne, but for the most part, this is rough sailing, even without the obligatory Bryan Adams tune. -- MB
SPELLBOUND (G) Director Jeffrey Blitz and his team followed eight students as they crammed for competition in the National Spelling Bee in Washington D.C. What results is a curiously engaging and tension-filled peak into a rarely documented subculture. With a cast of oddball characters reminiscent of Best in Show or A Mighty Wind, the documentary manages to transform what should be a snooze-inducing subject matter into a fascinating fable of the American Dream.--TB
TERMINATOR 3: RISE OF THE MACHINES (R) By the standards of demolition derbies and Roadrunner cartoons, the third and dumbest film in the Terminator series makes a true spectacle of itself. U-571 director Jonathan Mostow has one or two fresh ideas, but can't replicate the efficiency, dread and B-movie grandeur James Cameron brought to the prior chapters about time-tripping androids. With Arnold Schwarzenegger's catch-phrase line-readings sounding more mechanical than ever, we're more intrigued by Kristanna Lokken's multifunctional Terminatrix, who comes across like a combination of a Swiss army knife and Isla, She-Wolf of the SS. --CH
THE TRIP (NR) A "radical homosexual" activist (Tommy Ballenger) and a supposedly straight Nixon Republican (Alan Oakley) meet in 1973 and fall into a love affair that spans two decades of the gay civil rights struggle. Featuring Alexis Arquette, Jill St. John and Julie Brown. At Lefont Plaza Theatre.
28 DAYS LATER (R) Trainspotting director Danny Boyle helms a stylish piece of schlock as a handful of normal humans contend with an epidemic that has turned England's populace into raging berserkers. The last act's detour into Lord of the Flies territory dilutes some of the film's finely-drawn tension, but it still proves a smart throwback to the end-of-the-world flicks of the 1970s.--CH
2 FAST 2 FURIOUS (PG-13) Never rising above the level of mediocrity, the 2001 sleeper smash The Fast and the Furious had two things going for it: the magnetic presence of Vin Diesel and plenty of spectacular car races, car chases and car crashes. But with Diesel committing himself to other projects, this sequel's appeal is immediately cut in half -- and it's reduced even more by the fact that the car sequences don't match the visceral impact of the first film's auto focus. Toss in a limp plot about money-laundering in Miami, the depressing presence of director John Singleton and dull performances by Paul Walker, Tyrese and Eva Mendes, and what's left is ready for the scrap heap. -- MB
THE WHALE RIDER (PG-13) A community of New Zealand's Maori Indians await the arrival of their next spiritual leader but are disappointed when a girl Pai (Keisha Castle-Hughes) is born instead. Niki Caro's film is a heartwarming family drama with profound things to say about the diminished importance of little girls in male-dominated societies. This moving film is led by an absolutely heartwrenching performance by Keisha Castle-Hughes as the defiant, soulful young girl determined to prove her mettle. At United Artists Tara Cinemas.--FF
WINGED MIGRATION In 1996, the French actor/producer/director Jacques Perrin made Microcosmos, a thrilling, humorous, bug's-eye view documentary about insects. Now he's turned his attention to birds. Five filmmaking teams, using gliders, hot air balloons, helicopters and remote-controlled cameras, spent three years following a variety of species on their migratory flights. This feature-length "moment of Zen" has sparse factual content but thrilling cinematography. At Lefont Garden Hills Cinema. --Suzanne Van Atten
X2: X-MEN UNITED (PG-13) The sequel marks a step forward in the evolution of a satisfying superhero franchise by being more x-pensive, x-pansive and x-citing than the first. It's a half hour longer than X-Men, and that half hour has saggy pace and false climax problems, but the film's rival super-powered "mutants" each, in effect, provide their own money shot, especially Hugh Jackman's blade-fisted Wolverine and Alan Cumming's teleporting Nightcrawler.--CH
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