The Constant Gardener

This adaptation of the John Le Carre best seller by Jeffrey Caine plays like Graham Greene redux. Ralph Fiennes stars as a mild-mannered member of the British High Commission in Kenya whose radical activist wife (Rachel Weisz) is brutally slain; investigating her murder, he gradually pieces together a tale of corruption involving the pharmaceutical industry that’s every bit as horrific as (and much more timely than) Harry Lime’s killing of babies with diluted penicillin in The Third Man. Fernando Meirelles, codirector of City of God, stresses old-fashioned storytelling and takes full advantage of his cast, including Danny Huston. R, 129 min. (JR)

Published on 26 Aug 2005 in Featured Texts, by admin

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9 Songs

Working without a script, the edgy British independent Michael Winterbottom (24-Hour Party People) shoots a young couple (played by Kieran O’Brien and American nonprofessional Margo Stilley) having real sex and alternates these scenes with numbers from nine London concerts (mostly rock) that their characters attend over a few months. Beautifully shot on DV by Marcel Zyskind, with minimal dialogue but voice-over narration from O’Brien, this 2004 feature is short on story and character yet usually holds its own as spectacle. The music and the body types may be familiar to a fault, but the performances are expressive. 69 min. (JR)

Published on 26 Aug 2005 in Featured Texts, by admin

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The 40-year-old Virgin

Steve Carell plays the title role in this sloppy sitcom-in-the-making, the feature directorial debut of TV veteran Judd Apatow. The hero works at an electronics superstore, and various wacky coworkers serve as running gags, helping him along as he tries to lose his cherry. Catherine Keener shines the most in this prefab atmosphere, as the kooky middle-aged love interest. Carell and Apatow collaborated on the script; it does manage a few laughs, but the characters seldom progress beyond the two-dimensional. R, 116 min. (JR)

Published on 19 Aug 2005 in Featured Texts, by admin

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Pretty Persuasion

This first feature by TV veteran Marcos Siega, with an ambitious script by another newcomer, Skander Halim, tries to be an audacious, irreverent satire about youth culture like Lord Love a Duck, but most of the laughs get strangled at birth by the uncertainty of Siega’s tone. A conniving 15-year-old (Evan Rachel Wood) concocts a sexual harassment charge against her drama teacher (Ron Livingston) and gets two of her female classmates to back her up. What initially seems like a social critique skewering everyone from lesbians to anti-Semites winds up scattered and confused, with strident performances and unconvincing characters. With James Woods, Jane Krakowski, and Selma Blair. 104 min. (JR)

Published on 19 Aug 2005 in Featured Texts, by admin

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