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Movie Reviews: Bee Movie, Darfur Now, Primo Levi's Journey 

Also Joe Strummer: The Future is Unwritten

Wednesday, Oct 31 2007
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SAW IV In keeping with the series’ preference for the literal over the mythic, Saw IV offers no miraculous, Michael Myers–style resurrection for torture artiste John “Jigsaw” Kramer (Tobin Bell), who went out with a bang at the end of Saw III and makes his first appearance here as the toe-tagged specimen in an autopsy scene so gruesomely detailed it could be used as a med-school primer. But if Jigsaw is gone, he’s hardly forgotten: Soon, someone is up to Kramer’s old tricks, which this time means subjecting SWAT team commander Rigg (Lyriq Bent, a series regular since Saw II , which may make him the longest-surviving black character in horror-movie history) to the obligatory gauntlet of damned-if-you-do/don’t puzzle boxes and Old Testament moralizing. But like the movie’s mysterious Jigsaw doppelgänger, Saw IV is itself a poor substitute for the original (or even the first two sequels), from the ho-hum deathtraps that seem designed by Rube Goldberg’s less prodigal younger brother to the “twist” ending surprising only in its Agatha Christie obviousness. Much more gripping are the handful of flashback scenes that bring Kramer (and, in turn, the excellent Bell) back from the grave and offer new insight into the making of the movies’ most insidiously appealing quasi madman since Hannibal Lecter. May I propose a full-tilt prequel: Jigsaw Rising ? (Citywide) (Scott Foundas)

SHARKWATER As cinema progresses past some of the awareness-raising limitations of conventional journalism, we’re watching more docs on genocide, abortion, global warming, that whole pig-fuck of a war — and just when you thought it was safe to take what’s in the water for granted, illegal finning operations are wiping out the shark population. Toronto-based wildlife photographer and first-time filmmaker Rob Stewart spent five years on this ode to his lifelong aquatic obsession, which became a platform after Stewart fell in with Greenpeace co-founder Paul Watson and his merry crew of boat-ramming eco-pirates. Rather than paint a disembodied, March of the Penguins –style nature portrait, or what might have been fantastic in an unbiased director’s hands — a film about Watson’s fanatical crusade — Stewart is his own star, a would-be Speedo model and whoa-dude narrator whose droning reflections get in the way of his stunning cinematography. No matter how much Jaws -hugging zeal he brings to the deck, Stewart has made a vain polemic that never addresses the finning industry’s deep-seated cultural significance in Asia (where, rightly or wrongly, shark soup is a symbol of economic prestige), or elaborates on how the disrupted ecosystem affects us humans. (Beverly Center; Nu Wilshire) (Aaron Hillis)

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