Film Openings

Week of March 30, 2006

Slither. (R) Here's a true slugfest for you: The entire movie is crawling with space slugs — the kind that turn some people into people-eating slug men, others into acid-loogy-hawking zombies, and others still into giant globular slug-sows. Writer-director James Gunn honors his B-movie influences while managing to be truly original. Sci-fi star Nathan Fillion, who has the looks and sense of humor to be the next Bruce Campbell, plays a small-town police chief hunting for a man infected by a parasite from outer space. Once the chase begins, Slither starts running and never really stops. Character development is kept to a minimum, and the proceedings are too tongue-in-cheek to generate any actual shivers (just laughs and ewwws). But whether or not you'll like this movie comes down to taste: Either you've got worms in your heart or you don't. (Harper) ARN, CGX, DP, GL, J14, KEN, MR, OF, RON, STCH, STCL

Thank You for Smoking. (R) "You want an easy job, go join the Red Cross," someone says well into this gleeful farce about capitalist mendacity based on Christopher Buckley's 1994 bestseller. But what seems worthy of modern satire is often a hair's breadth from pillorying itself, and the gray zone between unamusingly tedious and roaringly redundant is ever shrinking; if only first-time director Jason Reitman (son of Ivan) had more muscle in his whip arm. Trying, and essentially failing, to plumb the rational depths of a tobacco lobbyist's moral vacuum, Reitman regales with the trials of Ned Naylor (Aaron Eckhart), who must negotiate the ethical morass between his job and his intentions as a father. Buckley is best at sharp-tongued one-liners, which constitute a lion's portion of the script. But instead of hitting the gas and allowing the scenario to rock and roll with g forces, Reitman keeps his movie small, unvaried, slack, and — deliberately and oddly — completely smoke-free. How deep can a satiric bite be when the object of outrage has been wrung out of the mix? (Michael Atkinson) PF

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