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Blood and Chocolate; Catch and Release; Epic Movie; Funny Money; G.I. Jesus; Salaam-e-Ishq; Seraphim Falls

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In a farce, the comic action typically occurs in a house with an enormous living room and lots of side doors, through which assorted characters, in a manic flurry of confusion and mistaken identities, can be abruptly flung. In Funny Money, an American adaptation of Englishman Ray Cooney's hit play, that's the fate awaiting two detectives (Armand Assante and Kevin Sussman) who arrive, separately, at the Hoboken home of Henry Perkins (Chevy Chase), a wax-fruit-factory foreman with plans to upend his humdrum life by absconding with a briefcase full of Mob money that's inadvertently come his way. Henry's plan sends his wife Carol (Penelope Ann Miller) straight to the whiskey bottle, and if one's interest in this never-hilarious but often-quite-amusing film fades in the home stretch it may be because director Leslie Greif and co-writer Harry Basil make the mistake of sending Carol upstairs to pass out, thereby losing out on more of Miller's revelatory comic timing. She's terrific, as is Chase, who is more relaxed and generous than he's ever been, as if having taken seven years off to stay home with his daughters has reminded this perennial scene gobbler that there are pleasures to be found in letting the other guy score the laugh. (Chuck Wilson) (Edwards Westpark, Irvine)

Brosnon on the run.
Brosnon on the run.

A young Marine named Jesus (Joe Arquette) survives honorable service in Iraq, but the year away has left a scar on his marriage to Claudia (PatrŪcia Mota): The passionate spark is still there, but another man is circling, and there are hints Claudia leads two lives. His little daughter Marina (Telana Lynum) loves him—but a ghostly stranger named Mohammed (Maurizio Farhad) now frequently appears (only Jesus can see him) to quietly scorch his conscience over a father and daughter Jesus killed by chance and without malice in a Fallujah-like firefight. As a Mexican who enlisted to secure U.S. citizenship, Jesus suffers further when he's ordered back to Iraq. He will absolutely lose his family if he leaves them for another year. As these pressures become murderous, writer-director Carl Colpaert never loses his balance, despite the David Lynchian leap of faith he asks us to make midway, in a twist so bold as to be a backflip. If anything, this extra layer in the story effectively illuminates the moral choices Jesus must navigate. In 2006, I was on the jury at CineVegas, which gave top prize to G.I. Jesus, because Colpaert has so vividly seized the contemporary moment, and explored it with his own eyes and conscience. He has also brought together a flawless cast: Arquette, Mota, Lynum and Farhad are phenomenally gifted, each an exciting new discovery. And he's brought it all off on a shoestring budget. In the time since, Colpaert (best known as the producer of Gas, Food Lodging, Mi Vida Loca and The Whole Wide World) has painstakingly reworked the film technically (which he shot on HDDV) to eliminate the once-flaring reds that distorted the action. The imagery is now crisp and feels "filmic." Whenever there's a bit of video-esque texture, it seems freely chosen, thematically appropriate to a war we know mostly through video, and—more importantly—innate to a story that asks us to sort out just what is real in war, and in having a conscience. (F.X. Feeney) (AMC at the Block, Orange; AMC Fullerton)  


Writer-director Nikhil Advani (Kal Ho Naa Ho) cuts with crisp elegance between six passionate love stories in this master-class, South Asian Extreme version of a tear-streaked Bollywood music drama. The nominal leads, Priyanka Chopra and Salman Khan, are as sleek and sexy as they've ever been (which is saying a lot) in the screwball comedy anchor plot about a spoiled Mumbai movie star and the mysterious stranger who is pursuing her. The playfulness of that storyline frees the movie to track some much darker emotions in the various subplots, the most engaging of which feature the deep-welled '80s leading man Anil Kapoor (1942: A Love Story) as a catatonically depressed London TV producer contemplating an affair; heartthrob John Abraham (Water) as a devastated husband nursing his wife after an accident; and comedy star Govinda (Coolie No. 1) as a motor-mouth Delhi tax driver whose faith in romance is rewarded by the seemingly magical appearance of the leggy blonde foreign woman of his dreams. With so many chances to burrow under our defenses, Salaam-e-Ishq should be a delirious wallow, but it isn't quite, although the musical sequences in particular evoke an impressive variety of moods. The celebratory air of a mid-film production number in which the protagonists of all six stories, in as many different locations, sing and dance to the soaring title tune, contrasts sharply with a later interlude in which the affairs all hit a bad patch and the music becomes a wailed prayer: "Oh God, is this love or punishment?" In a Bollywood movie, scenes like these aren't one-off stunts, as they can be in American movies such as Magnolia. Here they express a deep-rooted sense that all these lovers, and many more besides, are all dancing to the same cosmic tune. (David Chute) (Countywide) 

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