Arnold, Gary, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)
* Along Came a Spider (2001) (R) - Morgan Freeman resumes the role of Washington, D.C. police detective and psychologist Alex Cross in a sequel to "Kiss the Girls." The character, created by novelist James Patterson, originated in the source material for this movie, which teams Monica Potter with Mr. Freeman in the hunt for a diabolical, fame-seeking predator and kidnapper played by Michael Wincott. The supporting cast includes Penelope Ann Miller and Michael Moriarty.
* BLOW (2001) (R: Frequent profanity and systematic depictions of drug use and drug trafficking; occasional graphic violence and sexual candor, including nudity and simulated intercourse) - (THREE STARS). A sordidly intriguing and perhaps topically useful case history that concentrates on an aspect of contemporary drug trafficking that eluded "Traffic." It's the rags-to-riches-to-jailbird chronicle of George Jung, impersonated over 30 hard-living years or so by Johnny Depp. Transplanted from New England to Southern California in the late 1960s, Jung graduated from a small-scale marijuana dealership to control of the burgeoning Hollywood cocaine franchise in the late 1970s and early 1980s, a "golden age" of blow that many people in the industry might long nostalgically to resurrect. Director Ted Demme and his collaborators take an avid but also sardonic view of Jung's boobytrapped success story, acknowledging the self-evident appeal of narcotic stimulation, wealth and criminality while sticking with this particular misspent life until it's desperately played out. With the ubiquitous Ray Liotta as the hero's hardworking dad , Rachel Griffiths as a shrewish caricature of a mother, Paul Reubens as Jung's first California connection and Penelope Cruz as a terrifying drug trophy wife from Colombia.
* The Day I Became a Woman (2000) (No MPAA Rating - adult subject matter) - An episodic Iranian film about three stages in the lives of women, directed by Marzieh Mashkini from a screenplay by her husband, the established filmmaker Mohsen Makhmalbaf. The episodes concern a little girl on her ninth birthday, puzzled at the announcement that she has become a woman; a young woman whose passion for bicycle racing alarms her family; and an elderly woman who plans to indulge a shopping spree. In Farsi with English subtitles. Exclusively at the Cineplex Odeon Foundry as part of the Shooting Gallery film series.
* The Dish (2001) (PG: Fleeting profanity and comic vulgarity) - (FOUR STARS). A playful social comedy about the impact of the Apollo 11 mission on several interested parties in Australia, notably a team of astronomers manning the giant radio telescope near the country town of Parkes in New South Wales. The first televised images of the moon excursion by astronauts Neil Armstrong and Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin were transmitted from Parkes, owing to schedule changes that made it a timelier link than NASA's primary site at Goldstone in California. Australian director Rob Sitch and his colleagues enhance this forgotten chapter of Australian pride and modern space lore with some agreeable comic fabrications, revolving around the anxious teamwork demanded of NASA representative Patrick Warburton and his Australian counterparts, played by Sam Neill, Kevin Harrington and Tom Long. Mr. Sitch's inserts of key highlights from Apollo 11 are admirably selected and sustained. The suspense and elation associated with the feat are beautifully evoked. Americans may feel especially touched by discovering how much the effort meant to Australians. Exclusively at the Cineplex Odeon Shirlington and the General Cinema Mazza Gallerie.
* Joe Dirt (2001) (PG-13) - A new farce showcasing David Spade as a social outcast from the hinterlands. Abandoned by trailer trash parents at the Grand Canyon in 1975, the indomitable orphan Joe reaches maturity as a janitor and begins a search for his long-lost folks. He encounters an American Gothic gallery that includes Christopher Walken, Rosanna Arquette, Adam Beach, Brittany Daniel, Dennis Miller, Jaime Pressly, Fred Ward, Caroline Aaron and Kid Rock. …