BEAUTY IN TROUBLE At the center of Beauty in Trouble, Czech director Jan Hrebejk’s trying foray into soapy realism, is the kind of provincial, hard-luck lass who shows boob at a funeral and sweetens sauvignon blanc with a dousing of soda pop. Marcela (Ana Geislerová) has crazy sex — and that’s about it — with her mechanic husband; mired in a circumstantial shitstorm, they struggle to repair the damage that a 2002 flood did to their home. Marcela is forced to move her two children in with her mother and stepfather Risa (Jirí Schmitzer), whose unremitting awfulness overburdens what dramatic momentum there is in the film. With her husband eventually thrown in jail for a desperate act of car theft, Marcela and her kids are subjected to Risa’s endless harassment; lording over his grimy little fiefdom, he still turns on the obsequious sleaze whenever his wife is around. “We’re washed up, but they have a chance,” Risa opines when the wealthy man who falls for Marcela — despite the fact that her husband stole his car — offers to take her and the kids to his villa in Tuscany. The Velvet Revolution, it seems, left behind some serious chafing; a spiritual selfishness and scheming distrust permeate everyone but the kids and the expat. Unfortunately, Hrebejk settles for unsatisfying allusions to the Czech experience that never break through the melodrama to make his case with any conviction. (Music Hall; Playhouse 7; Town Center 5) (Michelle Orange)
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The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor
GO A JIHAD FOR LOVE Muslims, Jews and Christians may have their, oh, occasional differences, but as an Islamic scholar observes in Parvez Sharma’s documentary, there is one point on which the religions agree: Homosexuality is a crime. In his fine Trembling Before G_d, Sandi DuBowski tackled the conflict in the Orthodox Jewish community between religious stricture and sexual orientation; this DuBowski-produced doc addresses the same subject through the veil of Islam, following gay, lesbian and transvestite Muslims abroad, who hew to their faith in the face of hostile, even murderous dogma. Sharma’s subjects — an Egyptian man imprisoned and brutalized essentially for the crime of attending a disco; a gay imam whose attempts to find some lenience in the Quran are fiercely rebuffed — share a perhaps puzzling devotion to a religion that, under sharia interpretation, regards their expression of love as a death-penalty offense. And yet the movie leaves open a provocative question: If you pick and choose which tenets of a religion apply to you, is it still a religion? The conflict seems most deeply felt by Maryam, a Parisian lesbian who cherishes both women and Islam but confesses that she still considers her sexuality haraam — forbidden. The imam clarifies that his is a “jihad” for love in the sense of struggle, not holy war. Considering the hateful rhetoric he faces on a radio call-in show, however, he may be mistaken. (Sunset 5) (Jim Ridley)
MIDNIGHT MEAT TRAIN was not screened in advance of our publication deadline, but a review will appear here next week. (Citywide)
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THE MUMMY: TOMB OF THE DRAGON EMPEROR If Stephen Sommers’ 1999 remake of The Mummy didn’t achieve its obvious goal of topping Raiders of the Lost Ark, it was close enough for this then-13-year-old boy. Endless chases, funny quips, breathless pacing — good movie. One sequel and dismal spin-off later, Sommers has been replaced by Rob Cohen, he of Dragonheart directorial fame. A prologue introduces Emperor Han (Jet Li), who, having conquered everything else, wants to conquer death, and seeks out witch Zi Juan (Michelle Yeoh) to help him do so. Instead, Zi curses Han, whereupon he promptly melts into a chocolate-like substance. Cut to the present: 1946 this time, some 13 years after the last installment. Rick (Brendan Fraser) and Evelyn O’Connell (Maria Bello, subbing for a now-too-respectable Rachel Weisz) are suffocating in their adventureless Oxfordshire life. Meanwhile, son Alex (Luke Ford) has run off to China, where he discovers the, uh, tomb of the dragon emperor. When Rick and Evelyn show up in China on a mission, they find their estranged son and then save the world. Best not to inquire too deeply into this Mummy: Where Sommers chose cheerful extravagance, Cohen’s enterprise is joylessly efficient, pushing the family around from one locale to the next — inevitably too late to stop whatever it is they were there for in the first place — until the final confrontation. Strange how dreary it all is, and how tired Fraser seems. (Citywide) (Vadim Rizov)