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Film Reviews: Bridge to Terabithia, Daddy’s Little Girls and more 

Wednesday, Feb 14 2007
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ANTIBODIES A vicious serial killer of children has been apprehended in Berlin, and at first that’s great news for Michael Martens (Wotan Wilke Möhring), a rural farmer and constable haunted by the unsolved murder of a local girl. Exultation turns to confusion, however, when the killer, Engel (André Hennicke), declares that he didn’t murder the girl but witnessed who did, thereby pulling Michael into a game of psychological cat-and-mouse. There are absurd but gripping plot twists aplenty in this German-language film from writer-director Christian Alvart, but its unexpected depth comes from Möhring’s moving portrait of a deeply religious, upright man — his troubled 13-year-old son might call him harsh and unloving — who’s both excited and dismayed by what he discovers about himself in the big city. There’s no question that Alvart’s story lifts from The Silence of the Lambs (as if in acknowledgment, Engel makes a Hannibal Lecter joke), and it’s true too that the filmmaker resorts to movie clichés when depicting Michael’s flirtation with his darker instincts. (Michael cheats on his wife with a Berlin woman and has anal sex with her — a sign of devilish depravity, apparently, for filmmakers worldwide.) The biblical quotes at the fade-out fall flat, and yet Antibodies is fairly riveting, thanks to Alvart’s command of craft and tone. He’s a director to watch. Cinephiles, take note: In the opening police raid, look for the face of the always-interesting American actor Norman Reedus, playing a cop who finds the final murdered child. Underused in Hollywood, Reedus is reportedly set to star in Alvart’s next film. (Beverly Center) (Chuck Wilson)

BLACK FRIDAY The underused Indian actor Kay Kay Menon is perfectly cast as a crisply correct detective keeping a tight lid on his seething anger in Black Friday, a rigorously naturalistic docudrama about a complex police investigation. The film is a methodical three-hour account of the mixture of luck, instinct and ruthlessness that allowed decorated investigator Rakesh Maria (Menon) and his crew to track down 168 conspirators in the 1993 Bombay bomb blasts in only a few weeks’ time. The 10 powerful explosions had targeted government and business landmarks and were acts of retaliation for a wave of anti-Muslim violence by Hindu nationalists a few months earlier. One edge the cops had was that the bombings had been arranged not by Muslim fundamentalists but by an outlaw faction they understood a bit better: Muslim gangsters. An established smuggler and money launderer with connections in Pakistan, the mobster Tiger Memon (Pavan Malhotra) was equipped to organize the attacks with professional efficiency. Writer-director Anurag Kashyap has made only one other movie, the critically admired crime drama Paanch (2003), but he has worked as a screenwriter for both Ram Gopal Varma (Satya) and Mani Ratnam (Yuva), and there is impressive craftsmanship in his set pieces, such as a foot chase through the Bombay slums that goes on and on until both the suspect and his pursuers are on the verge of collapse. But the movie would be all crisp surfaces without the internal combustion of Menon, as a man who bears down on familiar procedures in order to avoid being overwhelmed by his emotions. (Naz 8) (David Chute)

THE BOY WHO CRIED BITCH: THE ADOLESCENT YEARS The boy in question is 16-year-old Steve (Adam LaVorgna, who’s 25 and looks it), and he doesn’t so much cry “bitch” as scream it, over and over, at his mousy, beleaguered mother, Adelle (Ronnie Farer). The oldest of three emotionally neglected trust-fund kids, Steve is bitter and mean and always in trouble, but rich enough to land in psych hospitals and not in the state pen. In and out he comes, for more yelling and threats against his mother, a character so pathetic that even Karen Black wouldn’t have played her. Finally, in the third act, Steve goes after Adelle, in a scene that’s hilariously over-the-top, although it’s clear that screenwriter Catherine May Levin and first-time director Matthew Levin II (relations, presumably) mean it all to be terribly serious. This is a decidedly bizarre movie, nicely photographed and designed — someone spent some money — but built entirely around dialogue so stilted and unrevealing that it’s little wonder poor LaVorgna screams it. I must confess that I got up to leave before the end, but found myself hanging back by the door, not quite able to tear my eyes away, as one will do when coming upon highway carnage. (Sunset 5) (Chuck Wilson)

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BREACH See film feature (Showtimes)

  BRIDGE TO TERABITHIA Don’t be fooled by the CGI-laden, Narnia-lite trailers: Far from a computer-generated escapist fantasy, this film is an unpretentious and touching tale of preteen companionship and loss. Terabithia is the story of fifth-grade loner Jess Aarons (Josh Hutcherson), whose sensitive, artistic temperament isolates him from the towheaded bullies at school and his hardheaded father at home. Liberation from solitude comes in the form of sprightly Leslie (AnnaSophia Robb), whose flair for fiction and exaggerated anime cuteness bring Jess out of his shell. The pair form a bond based on a made-up world located in the woods behind their homes. Director Gabor Csupo, of Rugrats fame, brings out nuanced performances from both Hutcherson and Robb, whose characters steer clear of cutesy tween stereotypes. But it’s Jess’ relationship with his father, played by Robert Patrick, that elevates Terabithia from a good kids’ movie to a classic contender. (Citywide) (Jessica Grose)

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