Murder by Numbers. Barbet Schroeder. Opens April 19 at multiple locations. Reviewed this issue.
The Scorpion King. Chuck Russell. Few movies have ever been as specifically tailored to an existing audience as The Scorpion King, in which Vince McMahon's prize WWF champion, the Rock, portrays the Rock wearing a loincloth and going by the name of Mathayus. McMahon executive produced, and you can tell: Essentially the movie is an episode of Smackdown set in ancient times. Substitute Michael Clarke Duncan for Hollywood Hulk Hogan as the hero-turned-villain redeemed by teaming with the Rock, newcomer Steven Brand for Vince as the power-mad king and former teen model Kelly Hu for Trish Stratus as the king's supervixen with a secret heart of gold, and you've got it. This is for those who enjoy the larger-than-life drama McMahon and the Rock provide every week. It's a flick filled with as much fighting, cleavage and near-nudity as a PG-13 allows and even has a pyro effect or two. Pleasingly, director Chuck Russell hasn't fallen prey to the desire to make everything a series of quick cuts and annoying effects. Thanks, perhaps, to having a star who knows how to fake a fight better than most stuntmen, he's able to set the camera back and let us watch the battles in a coherent fashion. Opens April 19 at multiple locations. (LYT)
What Time Is It There?. Tsai Ming-Liang. A young woman moves from Taiwan to Paris, only to find herself lonely and alienated. A young man who sells watches on the streets of Taipei has a brief encounter with her and soon finds himself obsessively watching The 400 Blows and changing every clock he sees to Paris time. His mother, recently widowed, waits anxiously for the ghost of her former husband to return to their apartment. Exploring the subtle connections among these three characters, Tsai Ming-Liang's film is both a haunting study of isolation and grief and a witty depiction of modern alienation subtle enough to deserve repeat viewings. Using a cinematic language inspired by the French New Wave (the iconic Jean-Pierre Leaud even makes a cameo appearance) Tsai's decidedly serious film has nonetheless been justly compared to the brilliant visual slapstick of Jacques Tati. But where Tati used comedy to keep his distance from an increasingly absurd modern world, Tsai's characters are trapped in the very thick of it with nowhere to turn. Brilliantly photographed and executed by the cast, the film is a quietly rewarding treasure of emotional honesty. Plays at 7 p.m. April 19-21 at Webster University. (RH)