Capsule reviews of recently released movies

New Releases

BALZAC AND THE LITTLE CHINESE SEAMSTRESS (NR) During the latter stages if China's "Cultural Revolution," two precocious teens are shipped off to a mountainous region for Maoist re-education, only to charm and entrance the villagers around them. While on a visit to a larger city, the pair meet and fall for the daughter of a renowned tailor. When the boys stumble upon a suitcase full of banned books, they spend hours reading them to the girl in a secret meeting place. Opens Oct. 14 at Burns Court Cinemas in Sarasota. Call to confirm. (Not Reviewed)

THE FOG (R) A remake of a lesser-known John Carpenter horror outing (about pirate ghosts a tad scarier than the ones found in old episodes of Scooby-Doo), the 2005 edition of The Fog was made unavailable to movie critics until it was too late to review the thing in time for opening day. The studio's lack of faith in the film might just tell you as much as an actual review would. Stars Tom Welling, Maggie Grace and Selma Blair. Opens Oct. 14 at local theaters. (Not Reviewed)

THE MEMORY OF A KILLER (R) This subtitled Dutch import about a hitman who breaks his contract (he refused to kill a child, of course) and turns on his client adds something we haven't seen before to this familiar storyline — the hitman himself has advanced symptoms of Alzheimer's. Opens Oct. 14 at Burns Court Cinemas in Sarasota. Call to confirm. (Not Reviewed)


2046 (R) The film is sort of a (very) loose sequel to Wong Kar-wai's masterful In the Mood for Love, with Tony Leung returning as Chow, whose unspoken and unconsummated, but no less grand, romance with a married woman was the bittersweet focus of that movie. The film takes place in the years following In the Mood for Love, with our once-wounded-in-love hero now an emotionally distant womanizer who we see crossing paths with a series of beautiful and mysterious women moving in and out of the hotel room across from his. We eventually come to see that the film's title refers not just to the room inhabited by Chow's various girlfriends, but also to the very curious sci-fi novel he's writing (and that we see visualized and paralleled throughout the film), which posits a place populated by androids with "delayed emotional reactions" and where all memories come to roost. Also stars Zhang Ziyi, Faye Wong, Gong Li and Maggie Cheung. HHHH

THE ARISTOCRATS (NR) The Aristocrats tells us one of the oldest and (prior to this documentary) most obscure jokes around, a monstrously filthy monologue that describes all manner of depraved sexual atrocities. The joke is told, retold, inverted, subverted and dissected by dozens of famous comedians, but although much of this material is outrageously funny, even insightful, the movie eventually begins repeating itself, finally verging on overkill. Then again, would you expect less from the a film that attempts to cast itself as the last word on a killing joke? Features Jason Alexander, Hank Azaria, Drew Carey, George Carlin, Gilbert Gottfried, Eric Idle, Paul Reiser, Chris Rock, Bob Saget, Robin Williams and Jon Stewart. HHH 1/2

ASYLUM (R) It's Wuthering Heights in a loony bin when the repressed young wife of an asylum administrator becomes obsessed with a hunky, brooding inmate. Director David Mackenzie is back on the passion-adultery-murder turf familiar from his dank and gritty Young Adam, although the treatment here becomes so broad and absurdly overheated that the movie sometimes feels like one of those Harlequin novels. The film transforms into something twistier and far more interesting in its last act, complete with a fabulously bizarre and complex finale that's well worth waiting for, but the bulk of Asylum isn't nearly as strange, erotic or as symbolically rich as it seems to want to be. Stars Natasha Richardson, Ian McKellen and Marton Csokas. HHH

THE BEAT MY HEART SKIPPED (NR) A curiously chilled-out but nonetheless satisfying remake of James Toback's Fingers, with Romain Duris (L'Auberge Espagnole) assuming the Harvey Keitel role as a gifted classical pianist living a life among the violent fringes of society. Director Jacques Audlied (Read My Lips) provides a moodier, less sensationalistic focus for Toback's visceral 1978 cult fave, while subtly closing the gap between the dueling sides of the main character's nature (he's more of a sleazy opportunist here than a sadistic, outright criminal, though not above occasionally solving problems with a baseball bat). The premise is still a bit far-fetched, but the elegantly understated direction and Duris' quietly intense performance make it work. Also stars Niels Arestrup, Jonathan Zaccai and Aure Atika. HHH 1/2

BROKEN FLOWERS (PG-13) Bill Murray plays an over-the-hill Don Juan named, appropriately enough, Don — who, despite his love of the ladies, seems so lethargic that he's on the verge on evaporating right into the ether. When a letter arrives one day from an anonymous ex informing him that he's the father of her 19-year-old son, Don dips his toes back in the world, setting out to revisit his former flames from two decades past in an effort to get to the bottom of the mystery. Also stars Jeffrey Wright, Sharon Stone, Jessica Lange, Frances Conroy, Julie Delpy and Tilda Swinton. HHH 1/2

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