MY SISTER MARIA (Unrated, 90 minutes)
Maximilian Schell, the Austrian actor-turned-director has made a heartfelt but eccentric, pseudo-documentary tribute to his sister Maria. (The movie, very often, seems to be a tribute to himself for making the effort.) Maria Schell, an internationally acclaimed actress, won festival awards for her roles in the 1956 "Gervaise" and the 1957 "The Last Bridge," was a very likable and accomplished actress who worked with Marcello Mastroianni (in "The White Nights"), Gary Cooper (in "The Hanging Tree"), Yul Brynner (in "The Brothers Karamazov") and Glenn Ford (in "Cimarron"). But in recent years, she has lost certain elements of her mental faculty. One result of this is that she has squandered her wealth on impulsive purchases. Her brother documents his attempts to bail her out, by selling many possessions in auction, as well as their conversations about her memories. The movie's nicely put together when it crosscuts between Maria's movie past and direct dialogues between her and Maximilian. But the director has enlisted friends, associates and family (including his sister) to participate in strange reenactments of events in Maria's recent years. Are we supposed to believe these scenes are unfolding in reality? It's not clear. Maria cuts a tragic figure, seated under blankets and remembering highlights of her life. The best parts of the movie are when we have access to her and those poignant memories, without too much artistic intervention from her brother. Contains some emotionally intense moments. In German and English with subtitles. At Landmark's E Street Cinema.
-- Desson Thomson
TWO BROTHERS (PG, 120 minutes)
In French director Jean-Jacques Annaud's story, two real tigers (actually, played by more than two, since they are played as cubs and adults) are separated when young and taken into captivity, only to face each other years later as adult tigers who are goaded into fighting each other. Of course, they "recognize" each other. The movie is reminiscent of the director's 1988 "The Bear," in which a couple of real bears figure as the main characters. To accentuate the positive: Those tigers are adorable and fuzzy little critters, which should please animal lovers and children. The film's sentiments -- the immorality of stealing or hunting rare species, such as the tiger -- are obviously spot-on. And on occasion, Annaud creates cute comedy out of interaction between the animals. But the story, which features an apparently lobotomized Guy Pearce as an opportunistic explorer and hunter who learns the errors of his ways, is deeply dull. There's no pleasure in bashing one of the few movies around geared to a family audience. But I would have gladly volunteered to lead all the tigers participating in this movie directly into the wilds, just to stop them "acting" in this slow-moving, heavy-handed drama. The trouble is, they would be too tame to live in the wilds. And that's one of the movie's points. For fans of wild beauty only. Contains implied, off-screen violence. Area theaters.
-- Desson Thomson
WHITE CHICKS (PG-13, 105 minutes)
There is no end to the Wayans family, it seems, as well as their perpetual presence on the screen in bad comedies. In this banshee-howlingly awful caper, tiresomely drawn from a few dozen other bad cross-dressing films of the forgettable past, Marlon and Shawn Wayans (the untalented end of the family) are two disgraced FBI agents. Determined to show they have the right stuff, they volunteer to pose as doubles for two white, pampered heiresses, Brittany and Tiffany (Maitland Ward and Anne Dudek), who are in danger of being kidnapped. Cue the latex breasts, the blond wigs and both Wayans speaking in "knee-slapping" mall-princess falsetto. Laugh? I thought I'd never start. Contains crude and sexual humor, obscenity and drug use. Area theaters.
-- Desson Thomson