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Weekend!Movies: Saints, a young queen, dueling magicians and embraces
by: COURTESY OF SONY PICTURES CLASSICS, “Marie Antoinette”

'A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints' (R)

Back in 1973, a young director named Martin Scorsese made a scorching, brutal film about tough-talking young men trapped in a world of violence and regret.

'Mean Streets' was multilayered, with the seemingly improvised dialogue so natural that you felt you were eavesdropping on private conversations, making the tragic consequences of their actions all the more viscerally disturbing.

Since that film, there have been countless imitators, almost all of who lack Scorsese's gift for writing characters and dialogue.

'A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints' is one of those movies. It would have you believe that naturalistic acting involves nothing more than repeating yourself several times and liberally dropping the F-bomb in every other sentence.

The autobiographical film wastes a fine cast, including Dianne Wiest and Chazz Palminteri as writer-director Dito Montiel's parents (the picture is based on his memoir), with only the scenes featuring Robert Downey Jr. as the adult Montiel having any real spark. Skip it.

- Dawn Taylor

Fox Tower

'Marie Antoinette' (R)

Director Sofia Coppola ('The Virgin Suicides,' 'Lost in Translation') draws an interesting comparison between teen-queen Marie's life and that of decadent modern-day celebutantes like Paris Hilton, and it's an idea that almost works … but not quite.

Kirsten Dunst is fine as Marie, married at 15 to the teenage dauphin (Jason Schwartzman) destined to become Louis XVI. Much is made of his inability to perform on the couple's wedding night, and for several years after, during which time Marie chafes under the strict expectations of court etiquette.

Meanwhile, the soundtrack blasts songs by Aphex Twin, Bow Wow Wow and the Strokes, which is perhaps meant to be clever but is merely irritating.

Cinematographer Lance Acord does a bang-up job of shooting Versailles and the Petit Trianon, and Coppola gets a crowd of familiar faces like Judy Davis, Rip Torn and Marianne Faithfull to sashay through in costume, but it's a big, pretty, empty box of a movie.

- DT

Cinetopia, Pioneer Place, Lloyd Center

'The Prestige' (PG-13)

Named after the climax of a magic trick, this is a tricky and entertaining thriller about two rival magicians (Christian Bale and Hugh Jackman) in London at the turn of the 20th century whose feud becomes increasingly dangerous.

Prestigious director Christopher Nolan ('Memento,' 'Batman Begins') guides his nicely matched stars through the intricate narrative with the necessary flair as well as a sense of the growing cost of their deceptions.

The period is depicted in a brisk, nonlingering fashion that lends a proper modern feeling to an age in which science is becoming the new magic - and the magicians' duel is set against a background conflict between rival scientific wizards Edison and Tesla (the latter briefly but neatly played by David Bowie). This provides a sense of weight needed to spring the trap on a final creepy drop into the supernatural.

- Pat Holmes

Pioneer Place, Lloyd Center, Hilltop, Evergreen Parkway, Movies on TV, Division Street, Stark Street

'Shortbus' (NR)

Assorted sexually active but spiritually dislocated New Yorkers thrust, grope and twist their way toward a greater sense of connection and fulfillment in the latest film from John Cameron Mitchell.

But unlike his engagingly trippy 'Hedwig and the Angry Inch,' this is a shakier ride that weaves inconsistently between sexual intersections and among the comic and dramatic lanes.

The graphic sex is neither disturbing nor exciting, and there's a kind of performance anxiety that plagues the varyingly talented cast. An undeniable and embracing sincerity helps matters slightly, but what seems intended as an exhilarating liberation plays more like a cheery group hug.

- PH

Cinema 21

Also new this week

Shock and rock dudes! Amazing mountain bike stunts set to seriously jammin' rock tunes are featured in 'Flying High Again' playing at 7 and 9 tonight at the Clinton Street Theater. In the German film 'Our Daily Bread,' mechanized farming and high-tech agriculture are explored through powerful images without narration. (Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium). And here's another comedy about high school boys looking to lose their virginity. The twist? They're looking for other young men to lose it with in 'Another Gay Movie' (Hollywood Theatre).

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