Local & Repertory •  All Monsters Attack! The GI’s annual horror fest

  • Tuesday, October 21, 2014 2:38pm
  • Film

Local & Repertory


All Monsters Attack! The GI’s annual horror fest concludes with the excellent Swedish vampire movie Let the Right One In (through Thurs.), the Jack Nicholson-starring 1960 Little Shop of Horrors (7 p.m. Fri.), and the international horror anthology ABCs of Death 2 (11 p.m. Fri.-Sat.). See website for full schedule of terror! (NR)

Grand Illusion, 1403 N.E. 50th St., 523-3935, grand illusioncinema.org. $5–$8. Ends Oct. 31.

Bonebat’s Cinema Bloodbath! This traveling film festival promises an array of gore and/or Halloween humor. (NR) Central Cinema, 1411 21st Ave., 686-6684, central-cinema.com. $6-$8. 9:30 p.m. Fri.-Tues.

The Crow Brandon Lee’s short-lived film career ended with this 1994 comic-book adaptation, a Gothic revenge fantasy stylishly directed by Alex Proyas. (R)

Northwest Film Forum, 1515 12th Ave., 267-5380, nwfilmforum.org. $6-$12. 8 p.m. Wed.-Fri.


Ghostbusters Who you gonna call? I think we all know the answer: the top-grossing film of 1984! Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis, and Sigourney Weaver star in the paranormal smash comedy. The movie’s a total star turn for Murray (currently in St. Vincent), playing the loosest and least professional academic on campus. Using Aykroyd as his uptight foil, with well-timed sideline zingers from the wonky Ramis, he’s like Cary Grant on mescaline, utterly assured in everything he says, even when nothing he says makes the slightest bit of sense. (PG) BRIAN MILLER SIFF Cinema Uptown, 511 Queen Anne Ave. N., 324-9996, siff.net. $7-$12. Fri.-Sun.


Into the Black: Great Outer Space Films See siff.net for the schedule to this palette cleanser for the forthcoming Interstellar. The series includes top-drawer sci-fi flicks including Alien, Aliens, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and Andrei Tarkovsky’s Solaris. Extra bonus: Not one but two titles with Sam Rockwell: Moon and Galaxy Quest. (NR)

SIFF Cinema Egyptian, 801 E. Pine St., 324-9996. $7-$12. Fri.-Tues.

Last Call This recent doc by Enrico Cerasuolo and Massimo Arvat examines climate change and natural resources. Discussion follows. (NR)

Keystone Church, 5019 Keystone Pl. N., 632-6021, meaningfulmovies.org. 7 p.m. Fri.

Live by Night One of Quentin Tarantino’s B-movie icons, Lawrence Tierney plays a goon (what else?) in 1950’s Shakedown, about an ambitious newpaper photographer (Howard Duff) who runs afoul of San Francisco gangsters. (NR)

Seattle Art Museum, 1300 First Ave., 654-3121, seattleartmuseum.org. $63–$68 series. $8 individual. 7:30 p.m. Thursdays through Dec. 18.

Midnight Adrenaline Screening on Friday is The Rocky Horror Picture Show, enough said. Following on Saturday is Lucio Fulci’s ultra-gory 1979 Zombie. (R)

SIFF Cinema Egyptian, 801 E. Pine St., 324-9996, siff.net. $7–$12. 11:55 p.m. Fri. & Sat.

The Monster Squad Brave young teens battle a cadre of ghouls (Dracula and Frankenstein among them) in this matinee favorite from 1987. (PG-13)

Central Cinema, $6-$8. 7 p.m. Fri.-Wed. (plus 1 p.m. matinee on Sat.)

Mood Indigo Michel Gondry, the French director of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Be Kind Rewind is on some kind of perpetual adolescent overdrive, his brain inventing new bits of business as though nobody’d ever asked him to be normal. We meet a young man named Colin (Romain Duris) whose wealth allows him to fritter away the days with his multifaceted advisor/manservant Nicolas (Omar Sy, from The Intouchables) and a talking mouse. Colin invents things, such as a piano that mixes cocktails based on the melody being played. Colin falls for Chloe (Audrey Tautou, not so far from her old Amelie stomping grounds), but their bliss cannot last, and Chloe soon contracts an illness that involves a water lily growing inside her lung. Gondry is a kind of wizard. Nobody does a four-minute music video with as much magical inventiveness, but there’s a vast miscalculation here about how this amount of whimsy wears over time. A fun opening half-hour is followed by an increasingly tiresome hour of hyperactivity. Wes Anderson is positively grave by comparison. (NR) ROBERT HORTON SIFF Film Center (Seattle Center), 324-9996, siff.net. $7-$12. 7 p.m. Mon.


Thelma Schoonmaker The legendary editor, winner of three Oscars for her collaborations with Martin Scorsese, visits town to introduce two films. Tuesday is 1947’s Black Narcissus, in which sexual desire divides a convent, co-directed by her late husband Michael Powell. Wednesday is Raging Bull, no introduction needed. Also note that the ever-gracious Schoonmaker will appear at Scarecrow Video (2 p.m. Weds.), an excellent opportunity to ask her to sign one of your purchases from Seattle’s best video store, now operating as a nonprofit. (NR)

Seattle Art Museum, 1300 First Ave., 654-3121, seattleartmuseum.org. $10-$18. 7:30 p.m. Tues. & Weds.

Seattle South Asian Film Festival This year’s fest begins with a gala party, short films, and live music. Titles range from India to Nepal to Pakistan, with subjects including a champion deaf wrestler, bungling filmmakers, crime melodrama, romantic comedy, and caste-based discrimination. Two dozen features will be screened, along with panel discussions and related events, most of them concentrated south of Seattle. See tasveer.org for tickets, schedule, and information. (NR)

Renton Pavilion Event Center (233 Burnett Ave. S.) and other venues. 8 p.m. Fri., Oct. 31. Ends Sun., Nov. 9.


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The Best of Me Twenty-one years after they last saw each other, high-school sweethearts Amanda and Dawson meet again, and an old glow is rekindled. Perhaps because of the simplicity and universality of this situation, source novelist Nicholas Sparks has added a cornucopia of insane plot developments: an accidental death, an organ transplant, surprise instructions in a will, and a family of drug-baking hillbillies who make the Deliverance crew look unassuming. Amanda and Dawson spend part of the story as adults, the other part as teenagers, so the movie flips back and forth between two sets of actors: Michelle Monaghan and Liana Liberato split time as the high-bred Amanda; and James Marsden and Luke Bracey play dirt-poor Dawson. Amid the deep-fried melodrama, Monaghan and Marsden do seem like grown-ups at certain moments. Monaghan (lately seen in True Detective) has a strong instinct for truthfulness, which probably explains why Hollywood doesn’t know what to do with her. But all this effort is in service to a truly ludicrous scenario that gets more face-slappingly incredible as it goes on. (PG-13) ROBERT HORTON Pacific Place, Lincoln Square, Cinebarre, others


Birdman A movie star in a career skid since he stopped playing a masked superhero named Birdman back in the ’90s, Riggan Thomson (Michael Keaton) is preparing his big comeback in a Broadway adaptation of Raymond Carver stories, funded and directed by himself. Obstacles abound: Riggan’s co-star (Andrea Riseborough) announces she’s pregnant with his child; his grown daughter (Emma Stone) is his assistant, and not his biggest fan; a critic plans to destroy the play. And, in the movie’s funniest headache, Riggan must endure a popular but insufferable stage actor (Edward Norton, doing a wonderful self-parody) who’s involved with the play’s other actress (Naomi Watts). This is all going on while Riggan maintains a tenuous hold on his own sanity—he hears Birdman’s voice in his head, for one thing. To create Riggan’s world, director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu and Gravity cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki present the film as a continuous unbroken shot (disguised with artful digital seams). Birdman serves so many heady moments it qualifies as a bona fide happening. It has a few stumbles, but the result is truly fun to watch. And Keaton—the former Batman, of course—is a splendidly weathered, human presence. Ironically or not, he keeps the film grounded. (R) ROBERT HORTON Guild 45th, Pacific Place, Lincoln Square, Thornton Place, Southcenter, others


The Blue Room Though set in the present-day French countryside, this crime tale operates according to very traditional conventions. It’s based on a 1963 mystery by the prolific Georges Simenon, who got his start in crime fiction during the 1920s. We meet Julien (director Mathieu Amalric) during one of his regular hotel-room trysts with Esther (co-writer Stephanie Cleau), also married, a fierce biter in bed. Scenes of their affair and its aftermath alternate unsparingly with Julien’s testimony to police, prosecutors, and lawyers. The Blue Room is all about withholding: Not until midway through do we learn who—apart from Julien—is alive, dead, or on trial for what crime. At home Julien’s got a lovely wife (Lea Drucker) and daughter whom he dragged back to his old village, where Esther and the other locals have cause to know him as something more than a successful tractor salesman. But again, that information is concealed, and Amalric carefully controls the slow drip of damning detail. The Blue Room shares a certain kinship with Gone Girl. Unlike Ben Affleck’s befuddled adulterer Nick, Julien seems like too smart a guy to have ended up in such a mess. But he chose the wrong woman, Esther, and that stupidity may be the real crime here. (NR) BRIAN MILLER Meridian, Varsity


Dear White People Justin Simien’s smart new college satire forthrightly addresses race, and it feels like a follow-up—though not a rebuttal—to Spike Lee’s School Daze, made a generation ago. Like Lee, though with a lighter comic touch, Simien is interested in the stereotypes that black and mixed-race kids apply to themselves. The movie’s title comes from the provocative campus radio show hosted by Sam (Tessa Thompson), who calls out all races for their shallow assumptions. In her orbit are a seemingly perfect high achiever, a savvy, sexy social-media queen, and the nappy-haired freshman nerd Lionel (Tyler James Williams, from Everybody Hates Chris) who’s trying to navigate his way among cliques and not-so-coded expectations of What It Means to Be Black. Nobody is who they seem to be here; none of the labels fit. In his debut feature, Simien stuffs the plot with rather more stock elements than needed (a venal dean, racist frats, even a reality TV show come to mint/exploit new stars). But as with his characters, everything typical here gets comically upended. Dear White People reminds you how lazy most American comedies are. (R) BRIAN MILLER Sundance, Ark Lodge, TK

Fury In David Ayer’s proudly old-fashioned WWII drama, Sgt. Don Collier (Pitt) gives no indication of his life before the war. Nor is there any depth to his typical crew—Shia LaBeouf the pious Bible-thumper, Michael Pena the steadfast Mexican-American, Jon Bernthal the volatile hick—and their regional accents. Because every WWII movie demands one, the greenhorn here is Ellison (Logan Lerman), a typist recruited to man the machine gun where his predecessor perished in a bloody puddle. Fury covers 24 hours in April 1945, as Allied forces roll through Germany in the war’s endgame. Collier’s most lethal enemies are the few remaining Tiger tanks, much better armored than our flimsy Shermans. Though victory is, to us, preordained, the mood here is all mud and exhaustion. Collier and crew have been fighting for years, from North Africa to Europe, to the point where he says of his tank, “This is my home.” (German troops say the same thing during the finale—not that it saves them; Nazis die by the score.) Ayer creates a strange, overlong interlude at Fury’s midpoint, as two German women host Collier and Ellison, though this is hardly a date movie. In an otherwise predictable, patriotic flick, here Collier seems to yearn for a calm, cultured oasis amid the chaos of war. (R) BRIAN MILLER Sundance, Pacific Place, Cinebarre, Bainbridge, Thornton Place, Lincoln Square, Kirkland, Ark Lodge, others


Gone Girl What’s exceptional about Gillian Flynn’s adaptation of her 2012 novel, directed with acid fidelity by David Fincher, is that Gone Girl doesn’t like most of its characters. Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck) soon falls under suspicion of murdering his missing wife Amy (Rosamund Pike). The small-town Missouri police investigation (led by Kim Dickens) goes entirely against Nick for the first hour. He behaves like an oaf and does most everything to make himself the prime suspect, despite wise counsel from his sister (Carrie Coon) and lawyer (a surprisingly effective, enjoyable Tyler Perry). Second hour, still no body, but flashbacks turn us against the absent Amy. As we slowly investigate the Dunnes’ very flawed marriage, funny little kernels of bile begin to explode underfoot. How the hell did these two end up together? Flynn’s foundational joke answers that question with a satire of marriage. The movie poster and tabloid-TV plot suggest a standard I-didn’t-kill-my-wife tale, but matrimony is what’s being murdered here. Amid the media circus, Nick becomes the scorned sap because of his untruths; but what really damns him in the movie’s intricate plot is his credulity—he believed in Amy too much. Gone Girl is all about manipulation—Fincher’s stock in trade, really, which helps make the film such cynical, mean-spirited fun. (R) BRIAN MILLER SIFF Cinema Uptown, Sundance, Bainbridge, Ark Lodge, Kirkland, Cinebarre, Majestic Bay, others

John Wick Keanu Reeves plays the sort of cool, silent assassin who has only a few dozen lines. He’s a slick, lethal hit man; why should he talk much? The simple setup goes like this: Wick’s been out of the assassin game for five years, living a normal life for a while. His wife dies of illness, leaving behind a surprise puppy to console her husband. After the hothead son of a Russian gangster steals Wick’s car and kills the dog, merciless revenge is guaranteed. Wick is the Michael Jordan of hit men, and it’s really just a matter of time (and 50 or so bodies) before he removes the Russian mob from the picture. This is a cartoon in which the brotherhood of assassins doesn’t just have its unspoken code (although everybody keeps speaking it—see above), it also has its own Manhattan hotel, a discreet place where Wick is welcomed as an old pal. And if you wonder whether a dog killing is sufficient justification for John Wick’s huge body count, you obviously haven’t been with a movie audience lately. The dog is adorable. Let the bullets fly. (R) ROBERT HORTON Cinebarre, TK

The Judge Big-city defense attorney Hank Palmer (Robert Downey, Jr.) comes home to Indiana just in time to see his father (Robert Duvall), a respected judge, arrested for vehicular homicide. Father and son do not care for each other, but the dominoes are poised to let Hank stick around and mount a spirited defense. In the course of the trial, family dynamics are tested, Hank brushes up against an old girlfriend (Vera Farmiga), and zero coolness points are awarded to anyone involved in the movie. Our star doesn’t run roughshod over the script or his fellow actors, but he doesn’t phone it in, either. Without losing the conventional arc of the character, this is very much a Downey performance, full of quicksilver responses and sneaky humor. The Judge retains its court-appointed status as a middlebrow awards contender, but it points to a career Downey could maintain after Iron Man and Sherlock Holmes have run their course, when this eternally youthful actor ages into a different kind of role. (R) ROBERT HORTON Sundance, Kirkland, others

Laggies Lynn Shelton is still the city’s leading film director, a local talent we can proudly call our own. Shooting a very thin first-time script by Andrea Seigel, she infuses it with traces of Northwest color that may not register elsewhere. Her post-grad-school, marriage-averse slacker heroine (Keira Knightley, serviceable as ever) has belatedly woken up to the banality of her suburban upbringing and vapid friends (translation: Bellevue). Rebellion equals Seattle, where dissatisfied Megan flees fiance and family to hang with her new teenage BFF (Chloe Grace Moretz) and her single-parent dad (Sam Rockwell, always game). The set-up here isn’t the worst, and Shelton shows her usual affection toward a likeable cast (including Jeff Garlin as Megan’s dad and Kaitlyn Dever, from Men, Women & Children, as another new teen acquaintance). The problem to Laggies is Megan’s own problem: an unwillingness to commit fully to rebellion, to reject the comfortable old suburban shackles. Barely meriting an R-rating, this is a blandly cautious movie where, playing one of Megan’s old pals, Ellie Kemper reminds you how Bridesmaids was such a game-changer for distaff comedies. Laggies lags behind the curve in that regard. Truth be told, Shelton’s scripts for Humpday and Your Sister’s Sister weren’t masterpieces. And she’s lately directed for Mad Men and other television shows much better written than Laggies. Some poor scribbler in TV-land will soon slip her a superior screenplay to this. (R) BRIAN MILLER Pacific Place

Magic in the Moonlight Set during the interwar period in the South of France, Magic in the Moonlight isn’t Woody Allen’s worst picture (my vote: The Curse of the Jade Scorpion), but it’s close. Colin Firth plays a cynical magician, who keeps repeating Allen’s dull ideas over and over and fucking over again. Emma Stone, in her first career misstep (Allen’s fault, not hers), plays a shyster mentalist seeking to dupe a rich family out of its fortune (chiefly by marrying its gullible, ukulele-playing son, Hamish Linklater). The recreations of this posh ’20s milieu seem curiously literal, like magazine spreads, so soon after seeing Wes Anderson’s smartly inflected period detail in The Grand Budapest Hotel, which both revered and ridiculed the past. Magic feels like Allen’s re-rendering of a thin prewar British stage comedy he saw at a matinee during his youth, now peppered with references to Nietzsche and atheism. It’s dated, then updated, which only seems to date it the more. Period aside, no one wants to see Firth, 53, and Stone, 25, as a couple. The math doesn’t work. It’s icky. (PG-13) B.R.M. Crest

Men, Women & Children If you didn’t get the message in last year’s Disconnect, director Jason Reitman is here to remind you again that the Internet is A Very Bad Thing. If parents only knew what was on their teens’ phones and computers, they’d be shocked; and this is the kind of literal-minded movie, based on Chad Kultgen’s novel, that will inevitably bring them to that revelation. When Reitman films the high-school scenes, animated bubbles fill the cafeteria with emoticons, texts, IMs, and viral videos. No one looks up from their phones save for outcast Brandy (Kaitlyn Dever), whose nose is generally in a book (eew). Drawn to her is Tim (Ansel Elgort), now a pariah for quitting the football team. Among the large cast, there’s also a mean-girl cheerleader and her innocent protege, plus the porn-addict son of an apathetic couple (Adam Sandler and Rosemarie DeWitt) whose marriage is falling apart by mutual consent. The various suburban pathologies here also extend to teen pregnancy, parental adultery, and suicide attempts. Men, Women & Children keeps its thumb pressed to the remote, ever searching for the next shameful situation. All of which leads me to the last thing I ever thought I’d hear myself saying about a movie: More Adam Sandler, please. (R) BRIAN MILLER Sundance, Meridian, Thornton Place, others

My Old Lady Set mostly in a fabulous Paris apartment, tis film is based on a play by Israel Horovitz, and no wonder Horovitz (making his feature-film directing debut—at age 75) chose not to open up the stage work; that’s one great pad. A failed-at-everything 57-year-old blowhard named Mathias Gold (Kevin Kline) has arrived in Paris to claim the place, but there’s just one problem. It was purchased by his father, some 40 years earlier, in the French contract called viager, which means the seller gets to live in it until she dies, as the buyer pays a monthly stipend in the interim. And she—in this case 92-year-old Madame Girard (Maggie Smith)—is still very alertly alive. So is her daughter Chloe (Kristin Scott Thomas), and so are various ghosts from the past, many of which come staggering to life as Mathias moves into an empty room and schemes a way to undercut these entrenched ladies. The pace is rocky here, and everybody speaks as though they’re in a play. This is partially mitigated by the fact that if you’re going to have people running off at the mouth, you could do worse than this hyper-eloquent trio. (PG-13) ROBERT HORTON Lynwood (Bainbridge)

The November Man Sometimes a genre needs no excuses. This is not a great movie, nor perhaps even a particularly good one, it’s a straight-up spy picture with distinct attractions. One of those is Brosnan, who makes a much better James Bond now than he did when he actually carried the license to kill. He plays Peter Devereaux, a retired secret agent much surprised when his former apprentice (Luke Bracey) and old boss (bullet-headed Bill Smitrovich) get caught up in a botched rescue mission. It’s all connected to a corrupt Russian politician and Chechen rebels, tied together with an enjoyably wild conspiracy theory. The mystery woman, because there must be one, is a social worker (Olga Kurylenko, recently seen twirling in the nonsense of To the Wonder). The political intrigue distinguishes it from a Liam Neeson vehicle, even if the story line actually pulls a chapter from Taken in its late going. This film’s very lack of novelty is an attribute—it’s neither better nor worse than the average spy flick, and those terms are agreeable to this fan of the genre. (R) R.H. Crest


Pride In essence a Clifford Odets play with a Culture Club soundtrack, Pride is based on a true story in ’80s England: how a nascent gay-rights movement made common cause with an also-beleaguered group that might otherwise seem adversarial—men known for, in the words of one memorable Monty Python sketch, “their tough, rugged life hewing the black gold from the uncompromising hell of one mile under.” Of course not everyone in the Welsh village of Onyllwyn is thrilled to see a lorryful of London poofs drive up, no matter how much money they’re bringing. In depicting their thaw, director Matthew Warchus and screenwriter Stephen Beresford push buttons without shame; prepare yourself for grandmas saying startling things adorably, repressed bodies liberated by dance pop, darkest-before-dawn plot twists, and even a buck-up communal sing. (And yes, one Welsh character comes out; see if you can guess who it’ll be.) Still, you can hardly blame Warchus and Beresford if Pride’s most tearduct-activating moments actually did happen. (R) GAVIN BORCHERT Sundance, Harvard Exit

St. Vincent Bill Murray is pretty much the sole draw for the movie, and given his unique screen presence, it’s something. St. Vincent is all about the Murray persona: a deeply sarcastic man struggling to find his way to sincerity. That struggle is why Murray looks so melancholy in so much of his work. But it’s not a good movie. Murray’s slovenly Brooklyn misanthrope is Vincent, who reluctantly agrees to babysit the 12-year-old son (Jaeden Lieberher) of his new next-door neighbor (Melissa McCarthy). This will take time away from drinking, gambling at the racetrack, or visiting his Russian prostitute (Naomi Watts). We are also cued to the reasons Vincent is curmudgeonly, none of which will come as much of a surprise. Writer/director Theodore Melfi tries hard to convince us that Vincent is capable of great nastiness, but even these efforts seem rigged to ultimately show the soft, gooey center of both character and movie. As much pleasure as I took from watching Murray stretch out, I didn’t believe a minute of it. But do stick around for the end credits, when Murray sings along to Bob Dylan’s “Shelter From the Storm.” It’s the movie’s one great sequence. (PG-13) ROBERT HORTON Seven Gables, Meridian, Lincoln Square, Kirkland, Majestic Bay, Cinebarre, Bainbridge, others

The Skeleton Twins Maggie and Milo are fraternal twins who are estranged (for 10 years), living on opposite coasts, and seriously depressed for reasons that seem dissimilar but boil down to past family trauma. That Maggie and Milo are played by Kristen Wiig and Bill Hader will get this mediocre dramedy more attention than it deserves. That their performances are good oughtn’t be surprising (the two SNL pros have plenty of experience with the comedy of awkwardness). That their script is so tonally sad-happy yet familiar, one has to attribute to the inexperienced writers (Mark Heyman and Craig Johnson; the latter is a Bellingham native and UW grad who directed the film). Maggie and Milo are catty, sardonic misanthropes, angry at the world because they haven’t lived up to their youthful potential. A failed actor, Milo returns home to New Jersey, where Maggie’s a dental hygienist married to a doofus (Luke Wilson) whom she treats with gentle contempt. There’s also a sex scandal lurking in the past, but the snark bogs down in melodrama, and no amount of ’80s pop montages can really change the film’s predictable trajectory. (R) BRIAN MILLER Harvard Exit, Majestic Bay, Sundance, Kirkland

The Tale of the Princess Kaguya A staple of Japanese folklore for 10 centuries, Princess Kaguya is now an anime eight years in the making from Isao Takahata, the 78-year-old co-founder (with Hayao Miyazaki) of Studio Ghibli. So there’s a lot of national and industrial history built into this rather lumbering, reverent tale. Frame by frame, it’s never less than lovely to look at. However, whether considered as storybook pages or animation cels, you want this ossified undertaking to flip faster—which Takahata (My Neighbors the Yamadas), in likely his last movie, simply refuses to do. It takes its time, and then some. A poor bamboo cutter and his wife raise Kaguya, discovered inside a glowing bamboo stalk, who rapidly and unnaturally grows from doll-size to babbling cherub to teenage beauty in a few short seasons. From bobble-headed infant to woodland sprite, Kaguya and her village pals cavort through idyllic seasonal tableaux. The backgrounds are generally static, like delicate sumi drawings, while the actual animation is kept to a minimum. The kids move trough the groves, smudgy shadows pass overhead, and the boughs gently drop their blossoms. The court rituals of the city—made possible by the bamboo cutter’s continued magical bounty—are treated more for comedy. Yet if Kaguya has a hearty village swain who loves her most, and most intrepidly, this isn’t the sort of cartoon where a happy ending might be monetized into a Broadway musical. (NR) BRIAN MILLER Harvard Exit

The Two Faces of January Con artists always have something at stake—exposure, the possibility of their past transgressions catching up with them, and suspense about their next game. Three of them meet in the shadow of the Parthenon: Rydal (Oscar Isaac), an American tour guide knocking around Athens in the early 1960s, and Chester and Colette MacFarland (Viggo Mortensen and Kirsten Dunst), a stockbroker and his younger wife on extended vacation. Patricia Highsmith, the author of Strangers on a Train and The Talented Mr. Ripley, hatched this group of expat swindlers, so there’s likely to be at least as much psychological game-playing as conventional suspense. Yes, there’s a murder, but most of the movie is concerned with how Rydal projects guilty feelings about his own late father onto Chester; or how the discrepancy in age between the MacFarlands might create a seed of doubt between them; or whether Chester is more interested in Colette or Rydal. Director Hossein Amini adapted Highsmith’s novel, and while his movie does nicely with the concept of a sunlit noir, it doesn’t actually generate a lot of heat. For all that, I enjoyed the movie anyway, and the actors are very watchable. (PG-13) ROBERT HORTON Varsity

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