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New reviews, small screens, and special screenings

New reviews

Red Lights (Feux Rouges)
Dir. Cédric Kahn; writ. Kahn, Laurence Barbosa; feat. Jean-Pierre Darroussin, Carole Bouquet, Vincent Deniard (NR)

As Red Lights opens, Antoine (Darroussin) emails his wife, reminding her to meet him at the bar and proclaiming the giddy love of a first date as they approach vacation and a short road trip to fetch their children from summer camp. Several drinks later, the wife is late and Antoine is a bitter mess. When Helene (Bouquet) does arrive, it is difficult to reconcile his simpering Wallace Shawn looks with her easy grace and classic beauty.

And perhaps that's the issue. Finally in the car, Antoine baits Helene into bickering æ "You don't treat me like a man," he slurs æ and soon the two are not speaking. As traffic backs up, turns are missed, and visions of neon bar signs dance before Antoine's hallucinating eyes, a Hitchcockian soundtrack builds with the sense of dread. Stopping roadside for yet another drink, Antoine returns to a note that says Helene is taking the train.

Like Antoine, we somehow know she didn't make the train, and the realization that his wife is out, somewhere, in the night is stunning. Unfortunately, that suspense is hijacked by interminable driving scenes and Antoine, who is completely unsympathetic as a drunk whiner. Still, the trip almost seems worthwhile when the plot resurfaces and circles back to the redemptive power of love. Susan Pagani

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Cary Elwes of Princess Bride fame, resurfaces as Dr. Lawrence Gorden, in Saw.
Saw
Dir. James Wan; writ. Wan, Leigh Whannel; feat. Whannel, Cary Elwes, Danny Glover, Ken Leung (R)

Not unlike the antagonist in Se7en, the serial killer in Saw is a moralist: Each of his victims has somehow fallen into depravity or, worse, apathy. Jigsaw, as the police nickname him, doesn't kill them, he traps them in a grisly puzzle: solving it means choosing life, but that survival instinct may drive them to inadvertently kill themselves or, in some cases, someone else.

Adam (Leigh Whannel) and Lawrence (Cary Elwes) wake up chained to pipes in opposite corners of a dank, deserted bathroom. Between them lies a corpse with a gun in one hand, a tape recorder in the other. Each man has a tape in his pocket with a message from Jigsaw, the gist of which is that Lawrence must kill Adam: "If you don't, Alison and Diana will die, and I'll leave you in this room to rot." Their only hope is a couple of hacksaws and a trail weary cop (Danny Glover) whose obsession with Jigsaw has taken him to a muttering early retirement.

Saw is an unusual horror film in that it excites more curiosity than heart-pounding screams and, thankfully, most of the gore takes place off screen. Which is not to say audiences will be disappointed; this is a suspenseful, well paced psychological thriller, as twisty as it is twisted. Susan Pagani


Small screens

Right here, right now

'They Made America' is relevant and inspiring history

By Elaine Wolff

When the elegant, slightly stooped Sir Harold Evans rose to make his remarks at KLRN's screening of the new documentary series based on his book, They Made America, he expressed a little consternation that the producers had elected to start with the present rather than proceed chronologically as he had. But I doubt there were any skeptics in the room after the 56-minute preview. "Rebels," one installation of the four-part series, explores the influence of CNN founder Ted Turner and hip-hop promoter Russell Simmons, and like its subjects, the show is dynamic and contagious; no Ken Burns fiddle music and folksy narrator here.

A good deal of the energy emanates directly from a young Turner - the brash, blunt, brilliant impresario George W. Bush probably imagines himself to be. If you have an innovative idea and 80 percent of the people aren't against it, it's probably not that innovative, he animatedly drawls, recalling the early days of CNN, when rival networks snidely predicted the demise of "Chicken Network News." Turner, who as a matter of course bet the house everytime he achieved some measure of success, was driven to succeed in the media business by his father's suicide under financial pressure, and a friend recalls that when CNN succeeded, Turner looked up at the heavens and asked, "Are you happy now, dad?"

They Made America

Rebels
9pm Mon, Nov 8
Revolutionaries
10pm Mon, Nov 8
Newcomers
9pm Mon, Nov 15
Gamblers
9pm Mon, Nov 22
Channel 9, Cable Channel 10
The Turner segment captures a nearly universal trait of innovators - that they seldom rest on their laurels - as well as some of Turner's peccadillos. Russell Simmons' profile isn't as revealing and although we gain some insight (Donald Trump is a close friend and mentor), other important aspects of his life remain a mystery. Why did he let Def Jam idle long enough to almost lose it? What drives Simmons? Since he's less of a talker than the charming braggart Turner, the filmmakers need to do more of the work.

The remaining three segments are organized around eras in America's growth. "Revolutionaries" reminds us that the Siege of Yorktown tells only half the story of the colonies' explosive split from Europe. It includes the firearm legend Samuel Colt and steamboat entrepreneur Robert Fulton, who each contributed to the commerce and force of westward expansion. It also reintroduces us to Lewis Tappan, an anti-slavery evangelist who invented the modern idea of credit rating (so now you know whom to light a candle to or burn in effigy, as the case may be, when you're applying for a mortgage). "Newcomers" profiles three immigrants, including Thomas Edison's apprentice Samuel Insull who invented a means to bring cheap electricity to the masses, who each contributed to our greater financial and physical autonomy. In "Gamblers," Evans and PBS examine the lives of individuals who revolutionized commerce and the market by undertaking risky enterprises.

"Gamblers" springs a surprise about Ruth Handler, the daughter of Russian Jewish immigrants who invented that fashion juggernaut Barbie: Barbie's much-despised perky 36-inch bustline isn't the only contribution Handler made to the female profile. Later in life she developed breast cancer and, appalled at the schlumpy state of breast prosthetics, developed and produced an attractive substitute. In our "third wave of feminism" era - characterized by anesthesia - it's good to be reminded that Handler's doll was the first mass-market toy for girls that encouraged them to grow up to be something besides a caretaker of men and children.

Out of necessity, the television series profiles only a dozen of the more than 50 individuals included in the book, but it is a fascinating introduction to Evans' history of the U.S.: a history that he sees as driven and shaped by innovation - which he defines as "inventiveness put to use" - more than any other factor. Evans is a publishing eminence gris, founding editor of Condé Nast Traveler, 14-year Editor of the Sunday Times of London, voted Britain's greatest all-time British newspaper editor in 2002 by his peers. "The innovators in my analytical biographies are players on the stage of a perpetual revolution," writes Evans, who like many immigrants values the idea that "Democracy in the form of equal opportunity works," more than the natives. "Where it may go next is the subject of speculation about nanotechnology, biotech, artificial intelligence and cheap renewable energy, all of which sounds exciting, but if the history of innovation teaches us anything it is that the greatest innovations are unpredicted."


Special screens

Plan 9 From Outer Space
Dir. & writ. Ed Wood; feat. Bela Lugosi, Tor Johnson, Vampira, Amazing Criswell (NR)

Three cheers for Plan 9, Ed Wood's most infamous film in an infamous career. With the worst low-tech special effects this side of home movies and a dream high-camp cast, Plan 9 is the acme of "bad." You'll be doing yourself a disservice if you don't load up the blankets and head on out to the Slab for a communal experience of hope gone awry.

Plan 9 From Outer Space screens at dusk Thursday, October 28 as part of the series "In the Public Domain" on the Slab across

from La Tuna Icehouse, Probandt and Cevallos. Admission is free.

Halloween SA Film Slam

The National Association of Latino Independent Producers - San Antonio presents a dark film slam. Bring your VHS or DVD on down to Urban-15, 2500 S. Presa on Saturday, October 30, or attend to view the work of area auteurs. The goal of NALIP-SA's film slams is to provide Texan filmmakers a venue and audience feedback. The entry fee is $5 un-costumed / $3 costumed, and there will be a prize for the scariest entry. The event will run from 8pm-midnight. For more info, or to RSVP your film, e-mail safilmslam@yahoo.com, or call 694-4677.

New reviews

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