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Film Openings 

Week of April 12, 2007

Aqua Teen Hunger Force Colon Movie Film for Theaters. (R) Where most other Cartoon Network Adult Swim shows are nothing but snarked-up jalopies salvaged from the Hanna-Barbera junkyard, Matt Maiellaro and Dave Willis' ATHF exists in its own little messy world populated by Frylock (voiced by Carey Means), a blaxploitation box of fries; Master Shake (Dana Snyder), who is indeed no smarter than your average dairy product; and Meatwad (Willis), who, with his squeaky voice and ability to take the shape of myriad meat products, might reasonably be described as "cute" were he not also covered in stray hairs. The trio really are little more than standard sitcom characters; they might as well be Jerry, Elaine, and George yadda-yadda-yadda'ing about nada. Only difference is, here you have a Terminator-like exercise machine sent from the future (or past, it's so hard to tell) to destroy the planet, an origin story involving the Sphinx, Abraham Lincoln, and the FBI, and the revelation that one of the main characters is another one's father and/or mother. But that's all so beside the point in a movie created by two guys who gorge on pop culture's high-fat diet and regurgitate that shit into something approaching . . . uh . . . art? Close enough. (Robert Wilonsky) CPP, DP, J14, RON, STCH, STCL

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

Into Great Silence. (Not Rated) Silence has always functioned as a form of resistance, but perhaps never more so than it does today, when being "unreachable" is a cardinal sin. "The silent treatment" can be the most heinous of punishments because it feels almost inhuman, though for the subjects of Into Great Silence, Philip Gröning's painstaking meditation on the cloistered life, that's not a bad thing. "Behold, I have become human," is the lament of one of the many quoted religious passages ". . . join me in becoming God." Gröning became interested in making a film about the Carthusian monks at France's Grande Chartreuse monastery in 1984, and wrote them saying so; in 2000 he got the all-clear. Well, semi-clear: In the six months he spent at the 17th-century compound, Gröning could use only natural light, had to abide by monastery rules, and was allowed no crew. The result is less a documentary than a Dogme treatment of some hermits keeping it real in the French Alps. Gröning traces the passing of the seasons with outdoor beauty shots of God's creations, while life inside is constructed as a series of human set pieces: Monk mops the floor, monk gets a haircut, and — big finish — monk eats lunch. The simplicity can seduce, but the point is solidly made by the two-hour mark of this 162-minute film, when you may tire of exalting the supposedly pure existence of a bunch of men playing house on a hill, oblivious (and useless) to the world of need and suffering beneath them. (Michelle Orange) PF

Maxed Out. (Not Rated) Goddamn if we didn't have the bejesus freaked out of us after 9/11, but, hey, hallelujah! President Bush knew just what to say to reassure the citizenry: Travel, go shopping, take the kids to Disneyland. Our way of life may have been under attack, but our credit rating was strong, and we were called on to fight back not with guns but funds, brandishing our MasterCards in the face of the heathens. According to James Scurlock, it was this memorable moment of late-capitalist dementia that provoked him to film Maxed Out, a documentary concerned with predatory lending and the American debt crisis with a heavy human-interest angle, and to write a book of the same name. Surveying the culture of debt, Maxed Out the book skims over government deregulation of the banking industry, the proliferation of bottom-feeding debt collectors, and the real-estate industry, illustrating how the latter functions as a "debt-delivery mechanism." It's a wiser investment than a ticket bought to the documentary, a slapdash piece of work totally indebted to secondhand rhetorical strategies (the '50s educational film; glib Bush-bashing) and threadbare indignation. (Nathan Lee) PF

The Page Turner. (Not Rated) Sure, The Page Turner looks and sounds like an NPR junkie's idea of thrill-crazy hothouse fare, but the title of Denis Dercourt's cold-to-the-touch suspenser nods wittily to the potboiler material and motivations snaking around under its elegant furnishings. Melanie, the 10-year-old daughter of a poor butcher — a tip of the deerstalker, perhaps, to papa Chabrol, whose icy exercises in genre mechanics are the movie's clear antecedent — flubs her one chance at a scholarship when the concert-pianist judge (Catherine Frot as Ariane) disrupts her audition to sign an autograph. Several years later, Ariane, beset by stage fright after a mysterious accident, prepares for her comeback. All she needs is someone to turn her sheet music for the concert — and there, handily enough, is her husband's strangely watchful new teenage intern (Déborah François). Anyone who remembers The Hand That Rocks the Cradle will see the instruments of revenge laid out like cutlery in a slasher movie's kitchen, and Dercourt's overbright visual scheme aims for a Michael Haneke-esque bourgeois chill that comes off instead as curiously bloodless. But the well-chosen classical selections ratchet up the tension — Shostakovich makes a mean Bernard Herrmann — and François, so affecting as the teenage mother of the Dardenne brothers' L'Enfant, proves equally effective as an opaque dose of pretty poison. (Jim Ridley) TV

Perfect Stranger. (R) When the powers-that-be fuck her over on her exposé of an intern-fucking U.S. senator, star newspaper reporter Halle Berry says "fuck you" to the world of print journalism — until, that is, her old childhood friend (Nicki Aycox) washes up dead in the Hudson and Berry sets out to put the screws to the smarmy ad exec (Bruce Willis) who was fucking the dead woman behind his wife's back. Pulling her best Lois Lane, Berry goes undercover in Willis' glass-and-steel office and, with a little IT help from her own Jimmy Olsen (Giovanni Ribisi), starts giving the boss virtual cock teases under the IM handle "Rocketgirl." Directed with palpable fatigue by James Foley (who once made good movies — At Close Range), Perfect Stranger derives some novelty value from its colorblind casting and from being the most ludicrous Hollywood fuck-fest since the Willis-starring Color of Night (minus that movie's comic self-awareness). But as a thriller, it's so by-the-numbers that it's hardly worth keeping count. In the end, so much damning evidence has been amassed against nearly all the main characters that the final revelation feels like the one that merely tested the best. Perhaps, Clue-style, they should have included them all. It certainly would have lent new meaning to the expression "Colonel Mustard did it in the kitchen." (Scott Foundas) ARN, CGX, DP, GL, J14, KEN, MR, RON, SP, STCH, TS12

Redline. A testosterone-fest of chicks, cards, cars and crashes, this movie showcases some of producer Daniel Sadek's fleet of rare, expensive autos. Wyclef Jean makes a cameo; your Saturn does not. (NR) ARN, J14, MR, OF, STCH

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