Film Openings

Week of March 15, 2007

 Dead Silence. A ventriloquist who was accused of murder and then killed, Mary Shaw was buried with her puppets -- which then get their revenge on the town of Ravens Fair. Killer puppets, baby! (not reviewed) ARN, CGX, DP, J14, KEN, MR, RON, SP, STCH, STCL

I Think I Love My Wife. (R) From the makers of Pootie Tang, one the greatest movies ever made, comes the most unlikely remake in the history of cinema. Director, co-writer, and star Chris Rock claims his comedy is an update of Chloe in the Afternoon, the concluding opus in Eric Rohmer's famous suite of "Moral Tales." None of the froggy nuance and mise-en-scène nonsense here; Rock appears to have been inspired by the opportunity Chloe affords for unloading bitter chauvinism and venting hostility. The moral of this tale is that when women aren't sexless, boring, and safe (i.e., wives), they're horny, fun, and frightening. Rock plays Richard, an über-buppie investment banker whose mellow Westchester domesticity is upended by the arrival of Nikki (Kerry Washington), a flirtatious fox from his past. Co-written by Pootie director Louis C.K., the plot wonders if Dick can resist while offering just a touch of that old crazed, incongruous, sah-dah-tay je ne sais quoi (notably in an elevator meltdown scene that rivals the bare-assed squirm from Borat). Rock capably directs a screenplay graced with one or two chuckles ("You stare at a soccer mom too long and they'll post your name on the internet") and soured by a whole lot of misogyny. (Nathan Lee) ARN, CGX, DP, J14, MR, RON, SP, STCH, STCL, TS12

The Italian. (PG-13) Somewhere between grim and Grimm, between Dickens and Disney, Russian director Andrei Kravchuck charts the plight of his country's army of orphans — hapless waifs deserted by drunken parents — and a post-Soviet government in disarray. Caught between the brutalities of orphanage life and the profiteers of illegal adoption, little Vanya Solntsev (Kolya Spiridonov) longs to reunite with his real mother, and sets out to learn to read in order to find her. Beautifully photographed by Alexander Burov, who also shot several films by the Russian master Alexander Sokurov, The Italian achingly evokes both the physical depredations of the orphanage (dank, stuffy interiors and slushy gray grounds) and the nexus of rough kindness and malign neglect in which a corrupt, ineffectual director vies for power with a nascent mafia of hardened teenaged inmates. A film more fully committed to its subject (and to the moody ecstasy of Russian fatalism) might have explored the shattered fantasies of reunification that are the fate of most kids dumped by an underclass itself broken by want and drink. Lured, perhaps, by the promise of international markets, Kravchuk instead opts for routine uplift, and once the heroic journey is set in motion, the rest is ballast. (Ella Taylor) PF

Premonition. (PG-13) Reviewed in this issue. (Lee) ARN, CPP, CGX, DP, EG, GL, J14, KEN, MR, OF, RON, SP, STCH, STCL, TS12

 
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