If, like me, you love actress Patricia Clarkson, and have ever said, "I could just watch her walk around Cairo in pretty sundresses," you're in luck. On its surface this gentle romance from writer-director Ruba Nadda isn't much more than that. Juliet (Clarkson) arrives in Cairo to visit her husband, who ends up being detained at his work in nearby Gaza. Finding navigating the wondrous old city as a single woman awkward, she accepts the sight-seeing services of Tariq (Alexander Siddig), a former colleague of her husband's. Together, they take strolls through markets, cruise the Nile at sunset, share coffees and courteously banter about their cultural differences.
Cairo Time doesn't present your typical scenario of mid-life dalliances -- Juliet is happily married, and Tariq is a perfect gentleman -- but somewhere in this almost enchanted place of lively exoticism, the two succumb to the fantasies that nibble around the edge of their contented lives. Though the 90 minutes are a delightful travelogue of Cairo, this is a film for the patient, with not much plot or drama. Nonetheless, the payoff just might be worth it. Manor (Al Hoff) [2.5 out of 4 stars]
This may have been one of the more bizarre films I've seen this year. In Zack Snyder's digitally animated family film, adapted from Kathryn Lasky's books, talking owls engage in a colossal owl-on-owl battle for the very future of owldom. Leading the "good" owls is a young owlet named Sorin, who is captured by "bad" owls (who refer to themselves as "Pure Ones," so that's confusing). The bad owls, who have also enslaved (non-talking) bats, are looking to take over the owl world, which includes some valuable real estate beyond the horizon known as Ga'hoole. Sorin, who escapes from the bad owls, along with a girl (I think) owlet, winds up in Ga'hoole, where he is schooled in hyper-flying -- and learning to "trust his gizzard" -- by a beat-up old owl warrior.
In time, the Ga'hoolites and the owlets head back to the cave lair of the Pure Ones, where some really freaky stuff involving blue light extracted from undigested mice is going on. Owls good and bad don metal helmets and talons (the owls put fake talons on real talons) -- and the battle rages. The climactic confrontation is a confusing mess -- I had trouble keep track of which owl was which even during peacetime. And the spectacle of strapped owls trying to kill one another looked like -- well, a very expensively produced 3-D cockfight. Overall, the movie was on the dull side and salvaged only by it sheer loopiness: Imagine your favorite young-hero epic adventure, say Star Wars, Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings, but starring a bunch of owls -- owls who hug, have snake nannies and wear a lot of fetish gear. It's a hoot, of a sort. Screening in 3-D in select theaters. (AH) [2 out of 4 stars]
Matt Reeves' remake of the Swedish kiddie-vampire flick Let the Right One In is faithful enough that those who scoped the 2008 original can save their pennies. Reeves re-sets the story in 1983 New Mexico, where 12-year-old Owen (Kodi Smit-McPhee, of The Road) lives a miserable life, shuttling between school bullies and his depressed single mom. But one night, a girl named Abby (Chloe Moretz, of Kick-Ass) turns up at his apartment complex, and reluctantly becomes his friend. Her reasons for not pursuing the friendship are obvious to us -- and likely related to nasty bit of horror that opens the film -- but Owen is thrilled to have a friend, even a weird one. (Abby's warning that she is "not a girl" sails right over sad, sweet, lonely Owen's head.)
The film has some bloody sequences, but nothing on the scale of a contemporary gore-fest. Reeves is aiming for unease and a certain melancholy, whether it's in the life of a tiny but brutal vampire or a defenseless little boy. I'm pleased that Reeves kept the original's broody, slower vibe, and didn't feel the need to overly explain the story, which more often shows than tells. He also lucks out with two young actors, who ably carry the film. (The great Richard Jenkins has a small role.)
One of the strengths of the Swedish film was the effective use of that country's harsh winter landscape. Unfortunately here, Reeves simply buries Los Alamos under loads of artificial snow, rather than exploit the Southwest's own stark terrain.
I'd give the edge to the Swedish film, simply for being first (and for using real snow) and for better artistry all 'round. Reeves also dials back the sexuality that gave the original some extra frisson. Besides the trucked-in winter, I found some of the explicit attack scenes to be rather clunky; the violence works much better when it's slightly off-screen and not forefronted. But overall Reeves' film is a respectful remake that should win some new fans of thoughtful horror, a genre I'd prefer to see more of stateside. Starts Fri., Oct. 1. (AH) [3 out of 4 stars]