Weekend!Movies: Doom, forgery and silence

Edited by Anne Marie DiStefano

'The Hoax' (R)

Author Clifford Irving's nearly successful attempt to sell a bogus Howard Hughes 'autobiography' in the early '70s is the Howard Hughes movie Martin Scorsese should have made instead of 'The Aviator.'

Or at least it seems that way during this light, mildly engaging version of the real-life scandal,directed by the ill-suited Lasse Hallstrom ( 'Chocolat').

Irving is neatly played by the recently loosened-up Richard Gere, whose song-and-dance routine in 'Chicago' seems to have shaken off the routine, mannered song and dance of his previous work.

Gere's juicy turn, along with the nervously moist perfection of Alfred Molina as his friend and accomplice, makes you wish the movie itself had the same zing.

Unfortunately,Hallstrom's sentimentalist tendencies simply tickle the story along, when the brazen nature of Irving's machinations - including some hallucinatory interludes, and a Nixon-Watergate connection - call for someone with more satirical bite and stylistic zest.

Still, the performances and the outrageous story's surprising timeliness might be enough to keep you from feeling conned - especially if you pay the matinee price.

- Pat Holmes

Fox Tower

'First Snow' (R)

Guy Pearce is best known for his starring role in the terrific thriller 'Memento,' in which the story became more gripping as it worked backward from the end to the beginning.

Unlike that film, this thriller begins intriguingly and becomes less interesting as it proceeds. Pearce stars as a salesman who visits a fortuneteller while waiting to have his car repaired at a New Mexico desert crossroads.

He receives a reading - he will only live until the first snow - that he scoffs at, until strange things begin happening and his life begins a descent into desperation.

Events in his past begin to tell on his future, but this is just a memento, if you will, of that previous and much tighter noirish tale. In spite of a sweatily intense performance by Pearce and the fresh New Mexico locations, the film grows more leaden with each portentious plot complication and stylistic bit of business.

The supporting cast(including the usually blustery J.K. Simmons in a quiet turn as the psychic)does its best to buoy the sinking ship, but the 'Twilight Zone' ending seals a predictable fate.

- PH

Fox Tower

'Into Great Silence' (NR)

The idea of taking a vow of silence and living in a monastery is unthinkable for most people, and the idea of watching a two-hour-and-42-minute documentary about silent monks even more so.

Indeed, for the first half-hour of this quiet, observational film, it's difficult to accept that the entire exercise will involve nothing more than watching Carthusian monks read, garden, chop wood and perform their other daily chores with no snappy dialogue, soundtrack music or plot to make the picture more entertaining.

But that's the point. Being silent isn't easy and, as the seasons change, the small sounds of life away from city noise and constant chatter become all the more beautiful - the sounds of wind blowing, snow falling, water dripping.

The fact that most of us can't quiet our lives for even one moment of the contemplation that these fellows devote their lives to - well, that's significant.

'Silence' is long, often tedious, but ultimately mesmerizing, offering an unusual glimpse into a world of profound devotion, if you can hush up long enough to sit through it.

- Dawn Taylor

Cinema 21

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