Ashley Judd, Samuel L. Jackson, Andy Garcia, David Strathairn
THRILLER

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With age come wisdom and perspective—and the ability to pick out who's the killer within the first couple of minutes of a mediocre murder mystery like this one. Twisted, this year's entry in the now seemingly annual Judd woman-in-peril series (see Kiss the Girls, Double Jeopardy and High Crimes), features the actress playing Jessica Shepard, a tough but troubled San Francisco cop with a predilection for rough sex with strangers. When those strangers start turning up beaten to a dead pulp, Shepard finds herself investigating a case in which she is the obvious prime suspect. In trying to find out what's really going on, can she trust her cute, seemingly supportive new partner (Garcia)? Or her adoptive father (Jackson), the police commissioner who raised her from childhood after her own cop dad went on a killing spree? The movie gets sillier by the scene, leading to a dockside denouement (complete with barking seals) that is so hackneyed, everyone connected with it seems barely able to suppress a yawn. No reason to be as polite yourself.

Director Philip Kaufman (Quills) opens the film with beautifully moody shots of a fogbound San Francisco but makes no other discernible attempts to raise the bar. Judd, signaling that she's a tough cookie with her short hair, swagger and omnipresent leather jacket, tries hard but can't transcend the fundamentally nonsensical nature of her role. Jackson gives exactly as much effort as the material deserves, while Garcia tries to play subtext where there is none. (R)

Ray Romano, Gene Hackman, Maura Tierney, Marcia Gay Harden
COMEDY

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Pleasant without being noteworthy, this amiable comedy is like a TV movie blessed with superior casting. You won't mind having seen Welcome to Mooseport, but it will exit your mind as soon as you exit the theater.

Romano plays a plumber in tiny Mooseport, Maine, in this Capraesque (emphasis on the "-esque") comedy. He winds up running for mayor against a popular, just-retired U.S. President (Hackman) after the former prez puts the moves on his estranged girlfriend (Tierney), the local vet. There are a few sharp jokes here, but mostly it's modest stuff. Everyone Loves Raymond's Romano comes across pretty much as he does on TV: a bumbling nice guy. Hackman doesn't strain himself, Tierney is likably acerbic, and Harden and Christine Baranski have amusing turns as, respectively, the President's loyal aide and his malicious ex-wife. (PG-13)

Diego Luna, Romola Garai
ROMANCE

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What this Dirty Dancing shares with the 1987 hit screen musical of the same name is a love of the terpsichorean art and Patrick Swayze. Still light on his feet, the sinewy star of the original turns up for a couple of scenes here as a dance instructor at a swanky Havana hotel in 1958.

Neither straight-out sequel nor prequel, Havana Nights is a colorful, enjoyable film about two teenagers, one Cuban and poor (Luna), the other American and privileged (Garai), who get caught up in each other and the joy of swinging their hips in pre-Castro Cuba. Decently acted and danced, this Dancing will appeal mostly to teenage girls, which is probably as it should be. The rest of us still have our memories of the original, and this one can't put Baby in a corner. (PG-13)

For a review of The Passion of the Christ, see page 88.

Against the Ropes

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No one wins in a puny drama about the travails of a female boxing promoter (Meg Ryan). (PG-13)

Clifford's Really Big Movie

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The late John Ritter is the voice of the canine hero in a so-so animated tale. (G)

Club Dread

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From the funny folks behind 200l's Super Troopers, here's a slasher spoof set on an island resort. The laughs are cheap but plentiful. (R)

Good Bye, Lenin!

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A huge hit in Germany, this droll political comedy is set around the fall of the Berlin Wall and East Germany's Communist rulers. A devoted son tries to keep his mom—who has just emerged from a coma—from learning the news. (With subtitles) (R)

Eurotrip

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Raunchy sex comedy tracks U.S. teens touring Europe. (R)

  • Contributors:
  • Leah Rozen.