New Releases

BORN INTO BROTHELS (NR) Academy Award-winning documentary about the children of Calcutta prostitutes and the efforts of filmmaker Zana Briski to get the kids out of their Red Light Hell and into some better place. Briski, a photojournalist by trade, equips the children with simple point-and-shoot cameras, teaches them the basics of photography, and we watch as the budding young artists use their newfound ability to document their world as a means of rising above it. It's a fascinating process, all captured in this film, and even though it's a foregone conclusion that not all of the kids will be somehow magically empowered (their environment is simply too overwhelming and too awful for that to happen), there's a substantial amount of hopefulness to be found in Born Into Brothels. Briski is nothing if not a dedicated humanitarian, so much so that the film suffers a bit by having the filmmaker inject so much of herself into the proceedings (by necessity, some might argue), but there's no denying that this is finally the kids' show all the way. It's also, at root, a moving testimony to the transformative power of art. Co-directed by Ross Kauffman. Special screening, one night only, Oct. 28 at Eckerd College's Miller Auditorium, 4200 54th Ave. S., St. Petersburg. *** 1/2

SAW II (R) As with the original Saw, an appreciation of Saw II largely depends on one's appetite for seeing people getting sliced, diced, skewered and charred. The premise here once again involves characters trapped in a controlled environment and picked off by a deranged but brilliant sicko in ways that the filmmakers hope we'll find ingenious. The plot, such as it is, involves the characters trying to find some way to stay alive (unsurprisingly, most of them don't), and, as with the original, there are also a few twists at the end, although nothing to get too excited about. The real show here is the screaming and the splatter, a grand guignol that's no more than a calculated repackaging of early Argento, Wes Craven and Tobe Hooper, stripped of anything remotely resembling a frill (much less an emotion) and programmed with the unwavering forward motion of a video game. Stars Donnie Walhberg, Tobin Bell and Lyriq Bent. Opens Oct. 28 at local theaters. ** 1/2

SEPARATE LIES (R) A hit-and-run incident shakes up life and exposes tensions in a quiet, upper-class neighborhood in the English countryside in this study of murder and adultery among people who aren't supposed to go in for that sort of thing. Tom Wilkinson and Emily Watson deliver typically fine performances as the couple at the center of it all, and Rupert Everett steals the show as the pampered and vaguely unpleasant neighbor who becomes one more monkey wrench among many. The film drifts toward unbecoming soap opera before it exits, but the bulk of Separate Lies makes good use of a cool, almost Hitchcockian tone that allows the material to bubble up towards the surface and seethe. Opens Oct. 28 at local theaters. *** 1/2

THE WEATHER MAN (R) Apparently driven by an urge to demonstrate that he's an auteur, too, director Gore Verbinski follows up his buoyantly charming Pirates of the Caribbean with this sophisticated but unappealingly mopey character study of a minor-level celebrity trying to make sense of his life. Nicolas Cage stars, as a not particularly talented Chicago TV personality dealing with troubled teenage kids, an ex-wife who doesn't like him, a job that ultimately means nothing and a famous father who he'll never be as good as. The bleak wintery Chicago settings make for an overstated metaphor for the state of Cage's soul, and, with its abundant and vaguely absurd navel-gazing, the whole movie often seems to be positioning itself as a quirky new remake of Camu's The Stranger. So far, so existentially correct. But when Cage's character's life of quiet desperation deepens and lands on the verge of a nervous breakdown, the movie finds itself in a rut from which it never recovers, and its brand of one-note misery simply becomes a drag. Despite flashes of smart writing and periodic comic edges, The Weatherman is ultimately little more than a chronicle of a downward spiral as draining as it is relentless. Also stars Michael Caine and Hope Davis. Opens Oct. 28 at local theaters. ***


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. ****

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