Facing Windows Ferzan Ozpetek. (R) It's tough going finding a sympathetic character in this tepid Italian melodrama. The only candidate is the shell-shocked, wandering, hallucinating curmudgeon (Massimo Girotti) taken in by a struggling young father (Filippo Nigro) to the great dismay of his repulsively bitchy wife (Giovanna Mezzogiorno). Of course, her mind is occupied with spying on their creepy, Clark Kent-look-alike neighbor (Raoul Bova), with whom her extremely obnoxious busybody friend (Serra Yilmaz) encourages her to "have yourself a good fuck" the way most people would say, "Want a cupcake?" Speaking of which, the old man, a heartbroken Holocaust survivor with a mysterious past, happens to be a brilliant pastry chef, eventually boosting his hostess to her baking mostest. The flashbacks and culinary montages are functional, and there's the occasional inspired line (as when a brazen barmaid laments of her sexless marriage, "After fifteen years, it's incest now"), but there's way too much schmaltz in the mix. Even the musical score bombs: Throbbing, eerie techno simply does not suit a character trapped in the 1940s. Opens Friday, July 30, at the Plaza Frontenac. (Gregory Weinkauf)
The Manchurian Candidate Jonathan Demme. (R) Opens Friday, July 30, at multiple locations. Reviewed in this issue.
Seducing Dr. Lewis Jean-François Pouliot. (unrated) A gentle, somewhat "cutesy" comedy in the vein of Waking Ned Devine and Local Hero, this French-Canadian import concerns a tiny island off the coast of Quebec that lost its life's blood when the fishing industry died. Welfare checks keep the "retirees" going but have sapped them of all dignity and pride. Former fisherman Germain (a wonderful Raymond Bouchard) concocts a plan to lure a plastics-manufacturing factory to the island. But the factory won't come if the town doesn't find a full-time physician, so the villagers set out to seduce a young doctor who has come to the island for a month. The film's magical opening, a kind of prologue shot in colorful, dreamlike fashion, suggests a captivating fable is about to unfold. Disappointingly, the story proves more down-to-earth than fanciful. With an engaging first half but a second half that feels recycled, the film wears its quaintness and quirky charm a bit too obviously on its sleeve. In French with English subtitles. Opens Friday, July 30, at the Plaza Frontenac. (Jean Oppenheimer)
Thunderbirds Jonathan Frakes. (PG) This special-effects-crammed action blockbuster is not rocket science. It's more like rocket fun, thanks to five computer-generated "rescue vehicles" in five different shapes and painted five different candy colors. They're piloted by the intrepid Tracy family -- a.k.a. International Rescue -- who can blow out a raging Russian oil fire in 30 seconds and tame a volcanic eruption in Jakarta before your second handful of popcorn. The pivotal character is teenager Alan Tracy (Thirteen's Brady Corbet), who yearns to grow up and gets the chance when his billionaire ex-astronaut father (Bill Paxton) and four older brothers are attacked by a villain straight out of James Bond -- a mad schemer called The Hood (Ben Kingsley). Based on an animated 1960s British TV series that became a cult favorite, the live-action big-screen version depends on the new computer technologies that now make anything technically possible in a movie theater -- and on the fantasies of the average eleven-year-old. All in all, great fun. Opens Friday, July 30, at multiple locations. (Bill Gallo)
The Village M. Night Shyamalan. (PG-13) Joaquin Phoenix, Judy Greer, Adrien Brody and William Hurt round out the cast of M. Night Shyamalan's latest thriller. This time around, the creepiness takes place in a late-nineteenth-century Pennsylvania village. The villagers are completely confined to their wee burg because of the dangerous "mythical creatures" in the surrounding woods. There's defiance of authority and a little romance and, of course, a twist. Duh. Opens Friday, July 30, at multiple locations. NR