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REVIEW: Seed of Chucky

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Countless filmmakers have attempted to refresh, revise and reinterpret the slasher flick, making tonal shifts from earnest to self-aware to spoof to earnest again. This makes the successful Seed of Chucky seem even more impressive. Simultaneously retro and innovative, it’s destined to become a camp horror classic.

    The plot is simple: In Glastonbury, England, an ugly animated doll named Shitface is living in servitude to a heavy-metal ventriloquist. Watching an Access Hollywood promo for a new Jennifer Tilly movie, he sees infamous killer dolls Chucky and Tiffany and sets out to find them in Hollywood. Meanwhile, Tilly, playing herself, is hoping to revive her career as a serious actress by winning the role of the Virgin Mary in rapper Redman’s directorial debut, a re-telling of the birth of Jesus. Shitface locates his parents on the film set, is renamed Glen (or Glenda, for he is gender-neutral and conflicted, which becomes important later), and the dysfunctional family goes on a killing spree, hoping to impregnate Tilly and inhabit her body.

    Awash in references to nearly every significant horror movie from Psycho to It’s Alive, the film is a both an admiring tribute to its predecessors and a return to what made those films great: plot and character. As loopy as the story seems, the film adheres to its own inner logic. Jennifer Tilly’s humorously self-aware autoportrait drives the plot forward as it becomes more fanciful and absurd. Yet the true stars of the movie are the dolls. Like Team America: World Police, Seed of Chucky is a landmark in the annals of puppet acting. Chucky, Tiffany, and Glen/Glenda are some of the most expressive actors in Hollywood, despite being made of plastic. — Andy Horwitz

REVIEW: Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason
The first Bridget Jones movie was a trilling comic misadventure whose strengths far outweighed its weaknesses. All the actors have returned for this sequel, so why is it so lame? First, let’s not go overboard: Edge is engaging and sweet, as funny as any good sitcom. Yet it comes off as a dim carbon copy of the original, without nearly enough wit, originality or Hugh Grant. Perhaps the problem lies in the source material: hoping to one-up the original, author Helen Fielding sent Bridget on all manner of wacky adventures (Thai prison, anyone?). But what’s funny in a comic novel seems absurd onscreen, and director Beeban Kidron paints with far too broad a stroke, repeating gags like he’s helming a Mike Myers film. By the time the whole sideshow rattles off the rails, the characters lose credibility and, with it, poignancy. Colin Firth is fine as the straight-laced Darcy, but it’s hard not to miss the crackle of Hugh Grant’s swaggering Daniel, who appears in the film too late to make much impact. Even Renée Zellweger, so brilliant in the original, becomes almost a caricature, a woman with all of Bridget’s doofiness and none of her, well, edge. — Sarah Hepola
Date DVD #6: Zatoichi: The Blind Swordsman
The obvious date rental this week is Richard Linklater’s motormouth romance Before Sunset, a smarty-pants sequel to Before Sunrise, the 1995 film that cast Ethan Hawke as an American who meets Julie Delpy on a train somewhere in the middle of Europe. It’s brilliantly edited, well-acted and heartbreaking if you buy into it (I did), but irritating and preening if you don’t. In any case, the self-admiring, two-film love affair is as likely to turn off as many dates as it turns on.

    Yes, picking the right highbrow date DVD is difficult. You don’t want to dumb yourself down and pick up that reissue of Bridget Jones, but you don’t want to rent the five-disc Fritz Lang Epic Collection either. Brilliant as Lang’s Metropolis may be, it doesn’t exactly inspire human connection. Our suggestion: ease into subtitle territory with Zatoichi: The Blind Swordsman.

    A blind samurai who travels the countryside working as a masseuse and a kind of vengeance killer, Zatoichi is a kind of folk hero in Japan, a Godzilla who doesn’t have to be called on through those tiny fairies. In this new film, Takeshi Kitano reinvents the franchise as a kind of brash catch-all. He directs the film with a little something for everyone — slashing, lightning-quick fights, sly humor, wild costumes, slapstick, even a little middle-age heartbreak — and, most importantly, a pulsing energy that climaxes with one of the most ridiculously upbeat song-and-dance scenes I’ve ever seen. So tell your skeptical date that yes, this is an arty Japanese samurai film, but it’s also a circus, an absurd comedy, a big, big show. The moral here: the right pretentious highbrow DVD has to slum it a little. — Logan Hill



 
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