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Film Openings

Week of March 2, 2006

Aquamarine. (PG) Mean Girls meets Splash in this tweener comedy about two 13-year-olds who befriend a runaway mermaid (Sara Paxton). She has three days to find true love on land before having to return to her oceanic home and marry her father's choice. The film's true focus is the friendship between the two girls (Emma Roberts and Lindsay Lohan look-alike Joanna "JoJo" Levesque), although this tends to get lost between Elizabeth Allen's jittery direction and the screenplay's contrivances. The girls seem too grounded to be the bubbleheaded consumers the film presents them as. And "Just be yourself — minus the tail," as Hailey puts it, is odd advice for Aquamarine's tween audience, whose own defining characteristics are so vulnerable to the pressures of conformity. This movie, in fact, is all about conformity. (Gregg Rickman) ARN, CGX, CC12, DP, EG, J14, KEN, MR, OF, RON, SP, STCH, STCL, WO

Dave Chappelle's Block Party. (R) Reviwed in this issue. Dave Chappelle's Block Party. (R) Reviwed in this issue. CGX, CC12, EQ, GL, J14, RON, SP, STCH, STCL, WO Deep Sea 3-D. (Not Rated) Nature documentaries usually divide organisms into two scientific categories: the cute and the ugly. Smashing the usual IMAX ratio of padding to spectacle, Howard Hall's dazzling deep-sea venture in shrewdly deployed 3-D is a respectful starring vehicle for the ocean floor's character actors — a troupe that includes such creatures as the wolf eel, a craggy brute that resembles an undersea Lawrence Tierney. "Clearly a face only a mother could love," sniffs narrator Kate Winslet, which typifies the screenplay's level of icthyographic insight. And yet Hall's minutely detailed camerawork grants each ocean dweller its own ornery, inscrutable splendor. Among the highlights are a California mantis shrimp eluding an undulating octopus, spider-legged feather stars scuttling away from a predator like runaway ferns, and the early trompe l'oeil shot of iridescent moon jellyfish slowly filling the theater. Science fiction looks paltry and imagination-starved by comparison. (Jim Ridley) RON

In Cold Blood. (R) What better sequel to the biopic Capote than a reunion with its chilling predecessor? In 1967, Elmer Gantry director Richard Brooks took on Truman Capote's groundbreaking "nonfiction novel," about the ruthless murders of a farming family in Kansas, with the bravado of a master: Ignoring studio bosses, he shot the film in harsh black and white; eschewing star power, he cast a glowering, pre-Baretta Robert Blake as the self-loathing little psychopath Perry Smith and unknown Scott Wilson as Dick Hickock, his indispensable partner in crime. Obsessed with authenticity, Brooks re-created the grisly murders in the Clutter family's own house, and he hired, as actors, six of the jurors who passed death sentences on Smith and Hickock — as well as their actual hangman. As irony would have it, Blake himself was, more than three decades later, acquitted of premeditated murder charges. As for the famously fey author, we have since learned, through Philip Seymour Hoffman's brilliant turn in Capote, just what a disastrous emotional toll making American literary history eventually took on him. (Bill Gallo) TV

Night Watch. (R) Reviewed in this issue. TV

16 Blocks. (PG-13) Saying 16 Blocks is Richard Donner's least flatulent, most efficient film is saying little, but in his dotage Donner has abandoned his Six Million Dollar Man-trained blunt-force trauma and bends with the flow of the DV-era river, keeping his new movie relatively small-boned, hand-held, on-location savvy, and free of in-jokes. In what is essentially a Manhattan remake of the sorry Clint Eastwood vehicle The Gauntlet, we have alcoholic cop Bruce Willis bucking his own corrupt force and escorting witness Mos Def to the courthouse under a hail of bullets. Wildly cynical about the NYPD, it's a small movie trying to seem epic, or a bloated monster trying to seem lean, and it could've been 20 minutes shorter still — whenever Def's wiseacre punk starts wistfully talking about his plans to open a birthday-cake bakery, the movie lifts its heavy foot off the pedal and drops into a narcoleptic nap. (Michael Atkinson) ARN, CGX, CW10, CC12, DP, EG, EQ, GL, J14, MR, OF, RON, SP, STCH, STCL, WO

Ultraviolet. There are some people in this world who are way smart, incredibly athletic and smokin' hot all at the same time. In Ultraviolet these genetic freaks are called Hemophages and clearly must be destroyed by the government. One such Hemophage is Violet (Milla Jovoich), and she's not taking this whole extermination-of-her-race thing lightly. Will she be stopped by the mediocre populace? Let's hope so, because this supermodel makes everyone else look like creatures from Middle Earth. Written and directed by Kurt Wimmer. (not reviewed) CGX, CW10, CC12, DP, EQ, J14, MR, OF, RON, SP, STCH, STCL, WO

 
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