Film Openings

Week of October 12, 2006

Grudge 2. Just like the first one — but the case of the crazies is transferred from Karen Davis (Sarah Michelle Gellar) to her sister, Aubrey (Amber Tamblyn). (NR) ARN, CGX, DP, EG, GL, J14, KEN, MR, OF, RON, SP, STCH, STCL

A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints. (R) They say youse can never go home again, but Queens-bred big-timer Dito Montiel revisits his old Astoria stomping grounds in this Sundance-sanctioned testosterone indie, loosely based on the thirtysomething writer-director and occasional fashion model's neo-Beat semiautobiography of the same name. A slumming Robert Downey Jr. plays the movie's Dito, an L.A. hipster scribe called by Ma (Dianne Wiest) to come back to Astoria to see the old man (Chazz Palminteri) before he croaks; this triggers extended flashbacks to the moist summer of '86, when teen Dito (fresh-faced Shia LaBoeuf) came of age by stayin' alive Saturday Night Fever-style with his crew of fellow pubescent hotheads. Whatever the first-time filmmaker lacks in subtlety and finesse — not even the snow-white Sundance Screenwriters' Lab could bleach Montiel's script of its corner-deli grit — he recoups by hiring genius cinematographer Eric Gautier (Clean) and by other, more playfully attitudinal means. Indeed, beat for beat, the dialogue in A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints rivals classic rock for being familiarly catchy, skimping not at all on the bada-bing and yo yo yo en route to the relative gravitas of Downey's "Daddy, did you love me or not?" (Rob Nelson) TV

Infamous. (R) This year's retelling of how Truman Capote wound up in Kansas writing his non-fiction novel In Cold Blood never comes close to approaching the quiet, devastating brilliance of Capote, last year's retelling of how Truman Capote wound up in Kansas writing his non-fiction novel In Cold Blood. Which is not to say Infamous, written by actor Doug McGrath, is a far inferior version of Capote, which was written by actor Dan Futterman; it's just a lesser version, that's all, light in weight and absent the ache that permeated the movie. That said, had Infamous been the first version of the story to hit theaters, one might have regarded it as a very minor triumph — in no small part because of Toby Jones, who floats through the first half of McGrath's movie like a champagne bubble. But the second half of the movie just follows in its predecessor's footsteps, from the prison cell to the gallows to a career left in talk-show tatters. Sure, Infamous dares to say that Capote probably fucked killer Perry Smith (Daniel Craig in jet-black hair and clunky American accent) while he was in prison, but the change in tone's so jarring — from breezy sitcomedy to noir theatrics — you're less jolted by Smith and Capote's scenes together than you are the solemnity that crashed down on the proceedings and sucked the life out of the movie. Turns out, there was only so much blood left in the rehashing of In Cold Blood. The sucker's a stiff now; time to move along. (Robert Wilonsky) CPP, PF

The Last King of Scotland. (R) Reviewed in this issue. (Ella Taylor) HP, PF

Man of the Year. (PG-13) Reviewed in this issue. (Wilonsky) ARN, CPP, CGX, DP, GL, J14, KEN, MR, OF, RON, STCH

One Night With the King. This family film tells the story of the Bible's Esther. She totally earned being Persia's queen and Xerxes' main squeeze, by the way: She saved the country from a holy ass-kicking. Who knew? (NR) ARN, CGX, OF, RON, STCH

Renaissance. (R) In Paris in 2054, a cop named Karas (voiced by James Bond himself, Daniel Craig, who sounds so uninterested you worry his was a one-take taping) is investigating the disappearance of a woman named Ilona (Romola Garai), a scientist involved in genetic research at a pharmaceutical company called Avalon, which is run by the cacklingly sinister Dellenbach (Jonathan Pryce). Seems Ilona was working on a formula to cure the premature aging disorder known as progeria, and her sister, Bislane (Catherine McCormack), may likewise be involved. But of course, there's more to the story — something having to do with immortality, which comes in handy when you're watching a movie that seems to go on forever. You have never seen anything like Christian Volckman's film, which spent some six years cooking in the lab before being unleashed on European audiences earlier this year. Volckman, in his attempts to make a big-screen comic book sans recognizable faces, has stripped down and amped up the procedure: His set-in-the-future sci-fi police procedural is entirely monochromatic, all black and white, save for a brief burst of color that comes on like a Technicolor hurricane just when you need some relief from the bland pizzazz. It's film noir, with too much noir for its own good. (Wilonsky) TV

 
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