Friday, March 16, 2007

Movies opening this week

The Dead Girl (Toni Collette, Brittany Murphy, Kerry Washington, Marcia Gay Harden, dir. Karen Moncrieff)
I saw this movie at least three months ago, on an awards screener (it's pretty obscure, but was actually nominated for a few Spirit Awards), and absolutely hated it, putting it on my list of the worst movies of 2006. It's yet another glum "intersecting stories show the interconnectedness of life" indie drama, pivoting on the titular corpse (Murphy) and how her death affects the lives of a large number of people. It could be an unconventional murder mystery, but instead it’s a pretentious and heavy-handed mess, with a talented cast trying way too hard to show off their serious acting chops, and a script that strains for grandiose meaning and ends up simply histrionic. Can't we just agree to retire this irritating and played-out genre? Opened limited Dec. 29; in Las Vegas this week

Dead Silence (Ryan Kwanten, Donnie Wahlberg, Amber Valletta, dir. James Wan)
One thing I will say about the second feature from Wan and his co-writer, Leigh Whannell, is that at least they try and do something different from their first movie, Saw. They've let other people take over that franchise and moved on to this movie, which is still horror but is much more old-fashioned, a ghost story with minimal gore that's more focused on suspense than gross-outs. But the truth is that Wan is not all that good at atmosphere or foreboding, and after its somewhat exciting opening the movie turns tedious and nonsensical. Also, the pure creep-out factor of ventriloquists' dummies is never used to its full potential, and Wahlberg seriously misses the mark on all the comic-relief bits. Really, this is just another mediocre-to-bad horror movie, which wouldn't be getting any notice at all if it weren't from the creators of Saw. Hardcore torture fans will be disappointed here, and so will anyone else. Wide release

I Think I Love My Wife (Chris Rock, Gina Torres, Kerry Washington, dir. Chris Rock)
I didn't see this movie, but it wasn't for lack of trying. The screening I was supposed to attend was cancelled because of technical difficulties, but in anticipation of writing a review of the film, I had the day before watched Eric Rohmer's 1972 movie Chloe in the Afternoon, of which this is a (presumably rather loose) remake. Chloe is the last in Rohmer's Six Moral Tales series, an alternately tense and playful story about a married man's temptations to cheat on his rather lovely, understanding and devoted wife with a volatile, sexually capricious woman from his past. Aside from its remarkable fixation on turtlenecks, the best thing about Rohmer's film is the character of Chloe, a sort of nihilistic free spirit who doesn't seem to believe in love or marriage or family or much of anything, but is incredibly alluring in her indifference to the world. From what I've read, Rock's version of Chloe (played by Kerry Washington) is not nearly as complex, and that's too bad. Wide release

Sweet Land (Elizabeth Reaser, Tim Guinee, Alan Cumming, John Heard, dir. Ali Selim)
My review in Las Vegas Weekly
This movie is actually not opening in Vegas this week, despite how it might appear. Scheduled to be part of the CineVegas Arthouse Series, it has been postponed as that series unexpectedly moves venues. The Tropicana Cinemas, which had been housing the series, has closed its doors, so CineVegas has moved to the the Galaxy Neonopolis, starting next week (details here). This means that the movies scheduled for this week will be pushed. Whenever Sweet Land does open, it's worth seeing for its great prairie vistas and a nice, understated story, although it's a little slow and not as affecting as I had hoped from reading some early reviews. Opened limited Dec. 1

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