8 MILE (R, 118 minutes)
Eminem proves a point in this raw inner-city drama set against the world of hip-hop in Detroit -- that good rappers often cross over to become good actors. (The title is the name of a road that divides Detroit from its wealthier suburbs.) Certain elements of "8 Mile" approach cliche -- white folks acting out in trailer parks; young men, both white and African American, prone to violence and aimlessness. But director Curtis Hanson takes the pulpier elements of the script and imbues them with real grit and feeling, getting full-blooded work from Eminem and the fine cast around him. High-schoolers 16 and older will appreciate a film that makes the characters' lives as important as the hip-hop they love to create.
The R rating reflects three fairly explicit sexual situations, semi-nudity, strong profanity, racial slurs and verbal sexual innuendo -- both in rap lyrics and in dialogue, with homophobic jokes in the lyrics, too. There are a couple of fights and guns are waved around, though the only shooting is a non-lethal accident. Characters smoke marijuana and commit arson.
Eminem plays Jimmy, a gifted Detroit rapper with a hot temper, a dreary factory job, a dissolute mother (Kim Basinger) and an impressionable little sister (Chloe Greenfield). He wants to compete in the local weekly "battle" of amateur rappers, but he's uneasy, as a white guy, trying to rap for an African American audience. His pal, Future (Mekhi Phifer), who emcees the event, and his other black friends urge him to try. He chokes the first time out. Hostility between their crew and a rival hip-hop group escalates. From all this trouble, he finally gains the strength to stand up and say his piece.
FEMME FATALE (R, 114 minutes)
"Femme Fatale" has plenty of style, but so many improbable twists of plot and such hollow characterizations that it becomes unintentionally hilarious. High-schoolers 17 and older will likely lose patience with it, as older audiences will. Inappropriate for many teens under 17, the movie contains explicit sexual situations, considerable steamy sexual innuendo, semi-nudity, gun violence that includes a suicide, a bloody truck accident and profanity. Older teens will, one hopes, recognize the amorality of the lead characters.
Writer-director Brian De Palma opens his story with a complex jewel heist set against the glittery Cannes Film Festival. Laure (Rebecca Romijn-Stamos), the beautiful woman in the gang of thieves, seduces an actress wearing a top encrusted with diamonds. After she gets the stones, Laure double-crosses her cohorts and runs with the loot. She assumes the identity of a woman who's just committed suicide and escapes to the States. Seven years later, the statuesque psychopath turns up in Paris, now the camera-shy wife of the new U.S. ambassador (Peter Coyote). Nicolas (Antonio Banderas) is a paparazzo assigned to photograph her. The thieves are looking for her, so his photos set more mayhem in motion.