Film Openings

Week of November 30, 2006

Nov 29, 2006 at 4:00 am
Deliver Us From Evil. (Not Rated) Of all the hundreds of pedophile priests to be flushed out of the woodwork in recent Catholic Church history, Father Oliver O'Grady has to be one of the most harmless looking and the most sinister. Wispy, unremarkable, and accommodating, Father Ollie, as he was known to the California parishioners who for 20 years fed him, housed him, and invariably entrusted him with the spiritual care of their children, was also a predator who had sex with mothers if that got him close enough to fondle, rape, and sodomize their kids, from newborn babies to teenagers. Now, after serving half of a 14-year sentence in the U.S., he lives free as a bird in Ireland, billeted with a family that knows nothing of his past, and reporting to no one — save for the Catholic Church, which has dangled a retirement annuity in front of his nose in exchange for dropping off the planet. Except that Father O'Grady has been shafted by his protectors, and he's ready to sing like a canary. Amy Berg's Deliver Us From Evil, which begins as a portrait of a damaged monster and skillfully fans out to his many victims and enablers, lifts the subject clean out of private pathology into the realm where it belongs: the rampant and systematic abuse of theological and institutional power. (Ella Taylor) TV

Fuck. (Not Rated) Twelve-year-olds might get a charge out of this purportedly daring documentary celebration of the F-word's ample use in the U.S., although it never occurs to filmmaker Steve Anderson that it might be fun or even genuinely lewd to interview kids on the subject. Instead he grants screen time to a predictable roster of pro-obscenity celebs — Janeane Garofalo, Ice-T, Bill Maher, the late Hunter S. Thompson — as well as some senior admirers of the expletive such as (newsflash!) ABC's alarming Sam Donaldson. Seems old people can be scary: Anderson's idea of anti-free-speech menace is '50s crooner Pat Boone opining, "Censorship is a good word." Other talking heads (one or two of them with PhDs) bid to make the doc sociological, Scarface is quoted, Lenny Bruce gets his props, and Billy Plympton supplies the requisite dirty animation. Aside from the historically worthy identification of General George S. Patton as a pioneering potty-mouth, the film contains little or nothing in the way of surprise; no wonder it neglects to mention that the word is most egregiously overused by would-be shock artists who don't have the goods to transgress for real. (Rob Nelson) TV

Fur: An Imaginary Portrait of Diane Arbus. (R) Nicole Kidman acted around a prosthetic proboscis to win an Oscar for her impersonation of Virginia Woolf in The Hours; as celebrated photographer Diane Arbus, she's all eyes. Everybody that Arbus photographed became a freak — that was the source of her particular genius. But Fur has little interest in making the normal seem freakish; unlike Arbus, the movie benignly does the opposite. Physically, the fair-skinned and willowy Kidman is an unlikely choice to play the dark, diminutive Arbus. But the actress is far from the only curiosity in director Steven Shainberg's cabinet — a misguided tribute to the woman his film identifies among "the greatest artists of the 20th century." Hardly a straight biopic, Fur invents all manner of characters and situations to explicate the three-month period in 1958 when Arbus ceased to be her husband Allan's studio assistant and became a photographer in her own right. You won't learn much about Arbus here, aside from the correct pronunciation of her first name; you will get to see Kidman try (and fail) to find her inner freak. (J. Hoberman) PF

The Nativity Story. (PG) Reviewed in this issue. (Scott Foundas) ARN, CGX, DP, GL, J14, KEN, MR, OF, RON, SP, STCH, STCL, TS12

10 Items or Less. (R) The only person getting off on 10 Items or Less is director Brad Silberling, who wrote the script before heading into the hardcore Hollywood gangbang of Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events. Clocking in at a scant, interminable 82 minutes, 10 Items or Less tags along with an actor, named Actor and played by Morgan Freeman, as he slums his way through a working-class wonderland, prepping for his upcoming role. There he is instantly and improbably captivated by Scarlet (Paz Vega), the saucy Spanish checkout girl. Circumstances (aka screenplay schematics) leave him in the lurch and her in need of advice, so they clamber into a crappy hatchback and head off in the direction of Life Lessons. The film goes from oblivious to oblivion when it pulls into the perkiest car wash since Car Wash. Polishing rag in hand and Ritmo Latino bumping on the soundtrack, Freeman frolics in solidarity with a crew of blissed-out immigrants. Mucho gracias, kindly celebrity! Class-consciousness is hardly to be expected from the dude who brought Casper to the big screen, and if nothing else, 10 Items or Less is a case study in clueless. (Nathan Lee) PF

Turistas. (R) It doesn't come as much of a surprise when the hot babes and ripped studs of Turistas are strapped to a table and gutted like pigs. The trailer dropped more than a hint, and the movie itself begins with a montage of bound wrists, dilated pupils, and the molestation of various quivering innards. Let this serve as a warning to those who suppose the following hour of hot young white people frolicking on the beaches of Brazil will come at no cost. The tourists of Turistas (Josh Duhamel, Olivia Wilde, and Melissa George among other disposables) must pay for something, sexuality and stupidity being the typical downfalls of the horror-film hottie. As written by Michael Ross and directed by John Stockwell, they might just as well have been neutered philosophers, since the conspiracy to harvest their organs is masterminded by a demented surgeon (Miguel Lunardi) exacting payback on behalf of third-world misery. Given the dullness of the protagonists and the heavy dose of anesthetic administered during the operations, that's not an entirely unsympathetic cause, and though Turistas eventually bogs down in an underlit mess, it more or less scratches the neo-exploitation itch. Bonus point for best tagline of the year: "Go Home." (Lee) DP, GL, J14, KEN, MR, RON, SP, STCH, STCL