CAPTIVITY Captivity's credits bill it as “a Russian-American coproduction” and it damn near warms the cockles of one's heart to see that the two countries that nearly brought us nuclear war can come together to make a movie about torturing a supermodel (Elisha Cuthbert). Ah, capitalism. Surprising it took Lionsgate this long to do a decent rip-off of their Saw cash cow, but at least they took the time to do it right. Grungy warehouse rigged with ridiculously elaborate electronics, cameras, and traps? Check. Grotesque torture devices and “challenges” right out of a very special snuff edition of Fear Factor? Definitely. Talented character actor (Pruitt Taylor Vince, in this case) cloaked in a black robe and a hidden agenda? You know it. Sure, there's no character development to speak of, and one or two plot points make no sense at all, but director Roland Joffé creates a visually interesting and aurally unsettling vibe, and the story from B-movie maestro Larry Cohen keeps it simple: Girl needs to escape, but bad shit won't stop happening. Screw the culture cops who freaked out over Captivity's graphic poster and always cry “torture porn” – this is a gleefully nasty piece of red meat for horror hounds that delivers as promised. (Citywide) (Luke Y. Thompson)

GO  DR. BRONNER’S MAGIC SOAPBOX For that segment of America
currently worshipping at the altar of quirkiness (high priest: Napoleon Dynamite),
Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soapbox is your documentary. It tells the tale of
sweet, mad Dr. Emanuel Bronner, a seventh-generation German-Jewish soap maker,
who, after escaping the Nazis as a young man (his father and mother would die
in Buchenwald), moved to America, where he started a soap-making factory, anointed
himself a “rabbi” and developed a personal philosophy based around
the motto “ALL-ONE-FAITH in ONE-GOD-STATE.” Eventually institutionalized
in what he referred to as a concentration camp (really an insane asylum in Illinois),
Bronner escaped once again and invented the “magic” product that
would change his family’s life: a gentle, peppermint-infused Castile soap.
Although the segments featuring Bronner’s son, Ralph, veer uncomfortably
toward hagiography, first-time director Sara Lamm balances out the love fest
by exploring the dark side of being a soap-hawking prophet and the toll that
ALL-ONE-FAITH took on Bronner’s family. (Music Hall) (Julia Wallace)

GHOSTS OF CITE SOLEIL Asger Leth’s documentary explores the Port-au-Prince
slum Cité Soleil, identified by a UN agency as the “most dangerous
place on earth.” It’s a prismatic, jagged, none too coherent travelogue
— a portrait of Haiti’s post-Aristide political chaos centered on
the rivalry between two gang leaders or “ghosts”: the charismatic
2pac (also a rap artist) and his aggrieved brother, Bily. The two supported
Aristide, but although both eventually turned against the beleaguered president,
they are equally threatened by the rival criminal gangs that deposed Aristide
in 2004. Leth allows the two men to speak directly to his camera, mainly in
English. Their threats and boasts are made against a roiling backdrop of street
demonstrations, power cuts and voodoo rituals. This choppy, often inexplicable,
series of incidents finally ignites, as Port-au-Prince becomes a total free-fire
zone. (Sunset 5) (J. Hoberman)

GO  INTERVIEW Adapted from a 2003 film by the slain Dutch provocateur
Theo van Gogh, Steve Buscemi’s second feature as both director and star
takes about 20 minutes to restrict the world to a single room, but once it arrives,
the action seems to be held there by the pull of a cold sun. Buscemi plays a
shabby ex–war correspondent demoted to doing a puff piece on a prime-time
soap starlet (Sienna Miller). He sizes her up as a vacant Hilton, she coolly
reads his career slide; obscenities are exchanged; interviewer and interviewee
part early and gladly — only to be reunited by a car crash when Katya’s
killer smile distracts Pierre’s cabby. They retreat to her loft, and a
scorched-earth game of drinking, seduction, “truth telling” and
score settling begins, with one winner standing at night’s end. Interview’s
aggressive theatricality makes its faults almost inseparable (or indistinguishable)
from its virtues: The blocky movements and arch dialogue shore up the artifice
of two practiced liars gunning for supremacy. But Buscemi and Miller rip into
each other with vigor, and the movie winds toward a closing nut-shot of Mametesque
nastiness. (The Landmark; Sunset 5; Playhouse 7) (Jim Ridley)

GO LADY CHATTERLEY See film feature

LIGHTS IN THE DUSK Lights in the Dusk derives scant excitement from its melodramatic
plot, which satisfies a dismal, ineluctable formula with stultifying efficiency.
Nor is it enlivened by the airless performances, which have been shorn of gesture,
deprived of expressive language and flattened against an overall flatness of
affect. No, this stunted little parable generates a glimmer of interest, in
its oppressive way, from the tragicomic struggle of any expressive impulse to
assert itself against the tyrannical mannerisms of Aki Kaurismäki. In other
words, Finland’s reigning poet of deadpan minimalism has found no reason
to alter the style of laconic, low-rent, beatnik miserabilism he perfected in
the 1990s. Completing a trilogy on “loneliness” that includes Drifting
Clouds (1996) and The Man Without a Past (2002), Lights maneuvers a taciturn
security guard (Janne Hyytiäinen) into a cruel geometry of betrayal arranged
by a Russian moll (Maria Järvenhelmi). Sadder yet, Kaurismäki has
invited all of his pets (vintage cars, thrift-store production design, retro
rock bands, glum proletariat eateries), all of which ought to be put down. (Nuart)
(Nathan Lee)

GO  MY BEST FRIEND Light, airy and sweet, Patrice Leconte’s
latest comedy swings his favorite premise — fruitful encounters between
opposites — away from romance and into the wistful hunger for friendship
in a careerist world. Daniel Auteuil slyly tweaks his easy geniality into a
subtle form of heedlessness as François, an ambiguously successful antiques
dealer who treats everyone around him with the same chilly dispassion he brings
to his pursuit of beautiful objets d’art. When his business partner (Julie
Gayet) challenges him to a pricey bet that he can’t come up with a true
friend in 10 days, he finds himself stumped for buddies until he meets his opposite,
Bruno (the adorable Dany Boon), a sociable cabdriver and collector of Panini
stickers who gives François free tuition in how to be loyal and sympathique.
The lesson backfires, and their rocky friendship is tested in an uproarious
and tender climax on the set of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?, where Bruno
captures France’s heart just by being a nervous wreck. Leconte embraces
sentimentality with the wisdom of a seasoned man and the goofy, light heart
of a teenager, but he’s never glib or condescending, and his mastery of
tone makes this delightful farce a nutty feel-gooder about the difference between
a friend and a contact. (The Landmark) (Ella Taylor)

TALK TO ME See film feature

TEKKONKINKREET The word “tekkonkinkreet” is a punning mishmash of
the Japanese terms for “iron,” “concrete” and “muscles,”
which goes a long way toward explaining what’s wrong with the anime feature
Tekkonkinkreet: It’s both too cute and too rambling. Director Michael
Arias manages to translate the visual quirks of Taiyo Matsumoto’s serial
manga to the screen but he just can’t seem to stop himself from cramming
episode after episode into a non-episodic medium. We get endless scenes of death
and regeneration, mostly centering around Black and White, two street urchins
who either are or act like brothers. Black is a teenager with visions of grandeur
while White still looks like a boy and seems even younger. These vigilantes-in-training
are waging war against mobsters who want to build an amusement park in the ancient
heart of their beloved city. This metropolis is the film’s saving grace:
Like many classic superhero cycles, Tekkonkinkreet harnesses the dramatic power
of the decaying city to spectacular effect. (The Landmark) (Julia Wallace)

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