He soon becomes intrigued by a woman who is at least 25 years younger than he, the very interesting Scarlett Johansson. She’s an American, too, a recent college graduate who has no idea what to do with her philosophy degree. She’s in Japan with her photographer husband who takes pictures of rock stars and seems remotely interested in another Yankee, a sexy actress, but maybe he isn’t. When photo hubby goes off to a weeklong shoot, Ms. Johansson spends her lonely time thinking about things and drinking in the hotel lounge, where an American singer warbles jazzy tunes.

The thrust of the movie is the coming-together of Murray and Johansson. In their emptiness, they find a connection. Both are alone and compelled to stay in Tokyo, perhaps longer than they might want to. Their relationship is friendly, not sexual, but director Coppola, who also wrote the screenplay, hints that it could have been sexual. Coppola makes certain that moviegoers think things through and ponder the mixed signals that Murray and Johansson have missed. Lost In Translation is a cinematic novella, a quiet gentle movie that has at its core a truly great performance from Murray and a beguiling one from Johansson. Coppola superbly evokes the loneliness of the long-distance traveler. This is a wonderful movie.

School Of Rock showcases the manic talents of zany Jack Black who plays a rock and roll maven who’s seen better days. When his band dumps him, he ends up broke and out-of-sorts. He’s forced to take a job as a fourth grade substitute teacher at a severely serious private school where his love of rock and roll and his carefree attitude have his heretofore constricted students eating out of his hand. Soon Black and the kids, including a nine-year old guitar prodigy, are discovering the joys of rock, having formed their own high-energy group. Black is urged into a battle of the bands competition and the kids, needless to say, are alright. This is a terrifically entertaining movie that isn’t afraid to make fun of current musical tastes. It’s wonderfully pro rock and roll. Director Richard Linklater (Slacker, Dazed And Confused, Waking Life) and screenwriter Mike White (writer of, and actor in, Chuck And Buck – he was Buck) have crafted a fast-moving farce that doubles its pleasure because they keep everything light and loose and also because Black is such a whirlwind

Out Of Time follows in the tradition of so many other quirky, noirish movies in which grifters float in and out and doublecrosses are the lay of the land. Bad guys and even badder dames rule the roost. More often than not, the sun is hot and the temperature keeps rising. Usually these movies don’t perform well at the box office, but do develop a cult following. Think Heaven’s Prisoners, The Hot Spot, Against All Odds, Red Rock West, and After Dark, My Sweet among many, many others. Denzel Washington plays a respected chief of police in a small Florida town. He’s called upon to solve a nasty double homicide. Washington falls under suspicion, and the gist of the film is how he manages to outfox his own force and ferret out the truth as roadblocks and red herrings are tossed in his path. Adding insult to injury, he’s not the nicest guy to begin with, having created a cloud of suspicion about some insurance dirty dealing. Director Carl Franklin doesn’t quite cut the mustard with this one. The movie tosses too much into the pot, although there is a nifty sense of place. I liked the evocation of the Florida lifestyle, even as I wish Washington had tried a little harder with his role. Better is Dean Cain as a vindictive husband. The former Buffalo Bills football player and television Superman is aging nicely as an actor.

Under The Tuscan Sun is loosely based - very loosely based - on Frances Mayes’ bestselling memoir about buying a villa in Tuscany and having to fix it up. In the movie, Diane Lane is a writer of book reviews and other short pieces and discovers that her husband is cheating on her, thanks to a gossipy writer she dissed in one of her articles. In that old reliable movie time, a friend gives Lane a ticket to Italy, and she heads there and soon snaps up a villa, only to discover that it needs a lot of rehab. So does her life, and she enjoys flirting with the locals, including a hot Italian stallion. Under The Tuscan Sun has been turned into a pulp-like romantic comedy and it’s lighter than air. The sunny locale is a festive postcard, but the movie falters into the old reliable standbys that Hollywood does so well, but are, by now, nothing more than cliches: meet cutes, clogged pipes, quirky neighbors, and breathlessly coy flirting. Better to go to Italy yourself than believe that the real place is anything like this reel place. By Michael Calleri ALT Movie Editor

Lost In Translation was a popular success at the recent Toronto International Film Festival. Directed by Sofia Coppola (and co-executive produced by her father Francis Ford Coppola and his long-time partner Fred Roos), this is a lovely cinematic tone poem about loneliness and regret. Her first directorial feature, The Virgin Suicides, proved Sofia had talent behind the camera. This new movie confirms it. The apple really doesn’t fall far from the tree, does it? There’s a glorious performance from Bill Murray as a laconic American actor, a big deal in the States, who goes to gaudy, neon-drenched Tokyo to shoot a whiskey commercial for the Japanese marketplace. While there, Murray engages in long-distance phone calls with his wife who mostly has questions about the remodeling of a room in their house. He seems detached from not only her, but also from everything in his life.