Personal Velocity
dir. Rebecca Miller

The three short films that compose Personal Velocity are each devoted to catching women at crucial points of surrender that follow triumphant moments of success. Delia (Kyra Sedgwick), the first one we meet, is the wife of an abusive redneck sumbitch. She up and leaves, taking the kids with her, after a particularly gruesome beating. At the women's shelter, we learn of her past as a high school slut, and then see her revert to the only behavior she's ever been able to rely on for comfort. Next, we meet Greta (Parker Posey), a junior editor at a fancy publishing house who scores a choice assignment by virtue of her reputation as an airless bitch with "an eye for the inessentials." The plum assignment lands her in the good graces of her powerful estranged father, but jeopardizes her marriage to the bland, boring WASP who adores her. Paula (Fairuza Balk), a young punker on the run from herself, comes last. After a brush with death, she picks up a teenage hitchhiker in the hopes of saving him, only to discover that he's beyond help. Aside from the truly stellar acting and maddeningly perceptive writing, what distinguishes this picture is the filmmaker's refusal to connect the stories with any but the slimmest of narrative threads. As a result, each woman comes off as individually necessary--the one quality each one secretly desires above all else. SEAN NELSON


dir. Kurt WimmerOkay, you'll want to begin with a Fahrenheit 451 stock, so take that book (not the Truffaut film; we are not in France) and boil it long and hard, until the meat of its anti-censorship screed is good and blanched, but still basically recognizable. Next, you'll be wanting to season, and though some say less is more, the makers of Equilibrium clearly disagree--so empty your spice racks of all visual and literary elements that may apply (The Matrix, Triumph of the Will, Minority Report, Ridley Scott's TV commercials, Orwell's 1984, Huxley's Brave New World--don't worry about mixing metaphors by combining these last two, the point is to touch all bases--et al.). Now add some attractive actors (Christian Bale, Emily Watson, Sean Bean, Taye Diggs), an ominous cinematographic monochrome, some portentous dialogue, and simmer until the audience is either giggling or snoring.

Fans of pulp sci-fi exploitation cinema (the kind Dimension Films has semi-resurrected in recent years) will want to like this story of a postapocalyptic fascist state--in which emotions are neutralized by mandatory doses of a drug called "Prozium," and missing a dose is punishable by death (it's the only way to end human hatred, you know), and where the laws are enforced by trenchcoated martial art/gun wielding "clerics," and where the main cleric accidentally misses his injection one day, feels a feeling, and comes to the world's emotional rescue, liberating the forces of... tee hee hee. Zzzzzzzz. SEAN NELSON

The Films of Arturo Ripstein

Various dates, theaters.This week is your chance to catch up on legendary Mexican director Arturo Ripstein. Commenting on his amazingly long and rich career through lackluster decades in Mexican cinema, Ripstein purrs, "I'd rather be annoying than not make movies." You may already have missed Deep Crimson, Ripstein's black-comedy remake of The Honeymoon Killers (Wednesday Dec 4 at the Seattle Art Museum). The University of Washington will host two free DVD screenings: La Perdición de los Hombres (baseball, bloodletting, no subtitles, Friday Dec 6 at UW, Kane Hall) and Nobody Writes to the Colonel (from the Gabriel García Márquez novella about a retired revolutionary waiting for his pension, said to be slow going, Sat Dec 7 at UW, Kane Hall). On Thursday only, the U.S. premiere of The Virgin of Lust will be at the Grand Illusion: In Spain in the 1940s, a waiter falls in love with a prostitute whose only desire is to assassinate the dictator Francisco Franco. As one who attended American Catholic schools during the 1940s and was almost expelled for refusing to make holy-card books for Franco, I can hardly wait. Ripstein and his scriptwriter Paz Alicia Garcíadiego will attend all these showings and be available to chat with the audience about cross-dressing, criminality, corruption, and how hard it is to make good movies. BARLEY BLAIR


dir. Franc ReyesIf you want a half-baked melodrama that limps to the finish line like a jogger who's been stabbed in both knees, spend an afternoon watching the USA Network. At least some of their movies have plots that deserve your divided attention. In Empire, a long-winded suspense-film setup gets neatly tied up in 20 minutes of a "we waited so long for this?" ending. What the preview promised: tough Latino drug dealer from the South Bronx, Victor Rosa (John Leguizamo), gets fucked over by white Wall Street boy Jack (Peter Sarsgaard) when Vic tries to go legit. What the movie delivers: trite drug-dealer shootouts and karaoke-video-quality shots of romance and heartache.

The wind-up isn't so bad; you wonder how long it will take before Victor finds out Jack isn't as earnest as he appears, while Denise Richards acts the role of Jack's Rich Dumb Bitch as only the star of Wild Things can. But the problem is, you wait and wait and wait for shit to go down. And then you wait more. And when Victor finally realizes he's been fucked, it happens so quickly and so close to the end and Jack is such a goddamn pussy and the whole movie unravels into a complete waste of time. JENNIFER MAERZ

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