Featured Stories

BARAKA (NR)

When 'Baraka' premiered in 1992, its spectacular and surreal panoramas of burning Kuwait oil fields were a creepy memory of recent history. Now, those images become an equally creepy portent. Funny world, huh? The world of director, photographer and co-editor Ron Fricke's poetic collage also may be darker than you remember, with its glimpses of Auschwitz and funeral pyres on the Ganges. But the total effect is genuinely uplifting, as Fricke takes a spiritual and physical spin around the globe, similar to that of Godfrey Reggio's 'Koyaanisqatsi.' This is the kind of thrill that must be experienced on the big screen. (Pat Holmes)

Cinema 21, through Thursday, Jan. 23

NICHOLAS NICKLEBY (PG)

Writer-director Douglas McGrath pares away about three-quarters of Charles Dickens' whopping novel, but the result still feels satisfyingly complete at just over two hours. The tale of a young man's difficult road to happiness while suffering from his rich uncle's cruelty springs to life with real vitality, allowing no 'Masterpiece Theater' dust to settle anywhere. Though the budget was low, you'd never know it from the handsome production. The ensemble cast is so memorable that Charlie Hunnam, quite fine as Nicholas, almost becomes a supporting player in his own movie. It's impossible to pick standouts, but it's just as impossible not to mention the brilliant malevolence of Christopher Plummer as Uncle Ralph. (PH)

Fox Tower

SCARLET DIVA (NR)

Not much chance you'll mistake this for Josef von Sternberg and Marlene Dietrich's 'The Scarlet Empress,' but a scarlet letter might be in order for this dizzily inept confessional from Asia Argento (daughter of Italian horror maestro Dario Argento). In her directorial debut, Argento plays an actress Ñ judging from her work here, it's not typecasting Ñ whose sexual, pharmacological and assorted other misadventures lead to what appears to be a religious vision during a miscarriage on a stairway. It's a raggedy trip to the intersection of self-obsession, self-parody and self-abuse. The trouble is, the better you describe it, the more some people are going to want to see it. At least your dollars may provide the auteur with some much-needed dental work. (PH)

Clinton Street Theater, through Jan. 23