Capsule reviews of recently released movies

New Releases

DOOM (R) It's a toss-up whether you'll destroy more brain cells playing the video game Doom or watching this big screen "adaptation" of the same. Either way, the odds are against you. Dwayne Johnson, The Artist Sometimes Known as The Rock, stars in a sci-fi adventure that will surprise a lot of people (including me) if it features much of anything beyond a major body count, noise and lots of stuff blowin' up real good. Also stars Karl Urban, Rosamund Pike and Ben Daniels. Opens Oct. 21 at local theaters. (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

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

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. (Not Reviewed)

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. 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

THE CONSTANT GARDENER (PG-13) Ralph Fiennes plays a mild-mannered diplomat whose wife gets herself murdered when she comes a little too close to a scheme by nefarious European drug companies using unsuspecting Africans as human guinea pigs. Director Fernando Meirelles makes the most of the material, letting it play out in scrambled time, often shooting from the hip in a slightly toned-down version of that visceral style he employed in City of God, and layering the film with a convincing atmosphere of escalating dread (punctuated by a few brief but intense action sequences). It's only toward the end that the film lets its political messages get the better of it, and the discerning viewer is advised to run for cover when The Constant Gardener chooses to unleash its inner Erin Brockovich. Also stars Rachel Weisz, Danny Huston, Bill Nighy and Pete Postlethwaite. HH 1/2

DOMINO (R) Tony Scott, a pioneer of ADD-filmmaking who was making movies that felt like feature-length music videos before almost anyone else, here unleashes his flashiest and most aggressively discombobulated movie. Domino is loosely based on the fascinating and very brief life of Domino Harvey — Hollywood royalty (daughter of movie star Lawrence Harvey) turned fashion model turned bounty hunter — but Scott manages to transform a potentially great story into a barrage of pointless, hyperbolic style. We learn virtually nothing about the characters or why they do the things they do, but the film is constantly, relentlessly in motion — from the cameras convulsing over, under and around the on-screen action, to the ever-changing film stocks and speeds, to the strident, headache-inducing shock-cut editing. It's all undeniably attention-grabbing, but none of it is particularly original (Scott borrows shamelessly from Oliver Stone's Natural Born Killers, as well as from Tarantino and Guy Ritchie), and the film eventually throws any semblance of plot out the window. Although style is clearly what passes for substance in Domino, the film eventually drifts into meta-territory when the heroine and her crew become media stars of a reality TV show — and though some of this is amusing enough, it's not anywhere near as "deep" as it wants us to believe. By the time the faux-cosmic finale rolls around and Tom Waits appears out in the desert babbling about destiny and what have you, it's hard to care. Stars Keira Knightley, Mickey Rourke, Edgar Ramirez, Christopher Walken and Lucy Liu. H 1/2

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