Facing the Music (Not rated)
Directors: Bob Connolly, Robin Anderson. With Anne Boyd and faculty and students at the Univ. of Sydney. (89 min.)
Sterritt *** This smart Australian documentary looks at shrinking education budgets - and their effects on teachers, students, and society at large - through a visit to a university music department run by a leading Australian composer who becomes increasingly politicized as her institution sinks into deeper and deeper deficits. Generous doses of bright-sounding music add to the movie's appeal.
Life or Something Like It (PG-13)
Director: Stephen Herek. With Angelina Jolie, Edward Burns, Stockard Channing, Tony Shalhoub. (103 min.)
Sterritt ** An ambitious TV newswoman takes a fresh look at life and love after a sidewalk psychic tells her she has a week to live. This slickly produced romantic comedy takes its creaky premise down the most predictable, sentimental pathways it can find. If the heroine really had seven days left, she wouldn't waste it watching stuff like this.
Rain (Not rated)
Director: Christine Jeffs. With Alicia Fulford-Wierzbicki, Marton Scokas, Sarah Peirse, Alistair Browning. (88 min.)
Sterritt *** The psychologically charged story of a 13-year-old girl whose adolescence is complicated by sexual tensions linked with her parents' troubled marriage. Jeffs is an unusually gifted director, but her screenplay (based on Kirsty Gunn's novel) never quite gets a firm grip or a fresh perspective on its coming-of-age subject matter.
Sade (Not rated)
Director: Benoit Jacquot. With Daniel Auteuil, Isild Le Besco, Gregoire Colin, Marianne Denicourt. (100 min.)
Sterritt ** Imprisoned in an asylum at the height of the French Revolution, the aging Marquis de Sade refines his subversive philosophy, plans his latest theatrical production, and works his seductive wiles on an aristocrat's daughter. Auteuil is a superb actor. Still, the real-life Sade would be dismayed to see himself portrayed more as an eccentric old codger than the world-changing firebrand he worked hard to be. In French with English subtitles.
The Salton Sea (R)
Director: D.J. Caruso. With Val Kilmer, Vincent D'Onofrio, Deborah Kara Unger, Anthony LaPaglia. (100 min.)
Sterritt ** See review, page 15.
Some Body (Not rated)
Director: Henry Barrial. With Stephanie Bennett. (77 min.)
Sterritt ** A young woman wanders through a series of sexual and romantic adventures, ultimately realizing there must be more to life than this. Based on Bennett's own experiences, the movie has no penetrating insights to offer, but it's acted and directed in an improvisational spirit well-suited to its ultra-low budget and digital-video technology.
CURRENTLY IN RELEASE
Changing Lanes (R)
Director: Roger Michell. With Samuel L. Jackson, Ben Affleck, Amanda Peet, Sidney Pollack. (96 min.)
Sterritt *** A corporate lawyer and an insurance salesman become adversaries after a highway fender-bender, sparking a day-long ordeal of threats and counter-threats. The filmmakers meant to whip up a high-tension thriller. What they ended up with is a psychological satire that's quite engrossing if you regard it as an absurdist morality tale rather than a straight-ahead suspense yarn. It loses its bite in a last-minute happy ending that's even less plausible than the rest of the picture, but much of the way it's a refreshingly novel ride.
Sex/Nudity: 3 instances innuendo. Violence: 5 scenes, including assault. Profanity: 13 strong expressions. Drugs: 3 instances drinking.
Death to Smoochy (R)
Director Danny DeVito. With Robin Williams, Edward Norton, DeVito. (100 min.)
Sterritt *** Producers replace a bribe-taking TV clown (Williams) with a straight-arrow entertainer who's shocked by the onslaughts of greed, corruption, and violence he gets from his agent and everyone in the kiddie-media world. …