April 18, 2014 in Features

Horror, humor, drama offerings

Mcclatchy-Tribune
 

‘Under the Skin’

• • •

Credits: Directed by Jonathan Glazer, starring Scarlett Johansson

Running time/ rating: 1:47; R for graphic nudity, sexual content, some violence and language

Quiet, cryptic and never less than creepy, “Under the Skin” is sci-fi that doesn’t do the work for you.

There are no names. Nobody talks for the first 14 minutes, and there’s not much that would pass for conversation. Just Scarlett Johansson, driving a utility van around Edinburgh and other points Scottish, stopping and asking directions from the indecipherable locals.

She’s hunting for strays. And since she’s Scarlett Johansson and they’re not, sooner or later they get into the van, follow her “home,” strip in a dark black room with a shiny, reflective floor and as they reach for her loveliness, they sink into the pool of whatever that floor really is, another victim of aliens up to no good.

“Under the Skin” isn’t particularly conventional or satisfying in a sci-fi aliens-are-hunting-us sense. But it manages something far more sinister and fascinating: It gets under your skin and imprints on your memory with its tone, its silences and a cruelty you can’t scrub off.

‘A Haunted House 2’

• 1/2

Credits: Directed by Michael Tiddes, starring Marlon Wayans, Jaime Pressly, Cedric the Entertainer

Running time/ rating: 1:27, R for crude and sexual content, nudity, pervasive language, drug use and some violent images.

Imagine a Venn diagram charting three qualities: Silly, gross and dumb. At the point where they overlap you will find the fright film spoof “A Haunted House 2,” a scattershot, anything-goes affair that’s unapologetically stupid.

The film is writer/star Marlon Wayans’ take on suburban ghost stories. Putting himself at the center of that usually lily-white genre gives him a target-rich environment for broad, politically incorrect satire. In the second entry in the series, Wayans’ character is taking another shot at suburban life with his new girlfriend (Jaime Pressly) and her two teenagers.

To the limited degree that the film works, it’s thanks to the all-in commitment of the cast. In a Santeria blood- sacrifice ritual, Wayans has to catch, pummel and slaughter a chicken. The scene is a master class in physically punishing, over-the-top slapstick. Pressly is winning as Wayans’ oblivious, cougarish new squeeze. Gabriel Iglesias provides good-humored ethnic awkwardness as Wayans’ Hispanic neighbor, and Cedric the Entertainer returns as a serenely sinful exorcist.

‘The Lunchbox’

• • • 1/2

Credits: Written and directed by Ritesh Batra, starring Irrfan Khan, Nimrat Kaur, Nawazuddin Siddiqui

Running time/ rating: 1:44, PG for thematic material and smoking

The better the obstacles to love and happiness, the more bittersweet the romance. That’s a reminder from “The Lunchbox,” an Indian film (in English and Hindi) that remembers it’s not sizzling sex scenes that make movie love stories work, it’s the longing.

First-time writer-director Ritesh Batra builds a sad-eyed romance around that rare mistake in Mumbai’s famous lunch delivery system – in which wives cook meals that are then picked up by bicycle delivery men to transport to their office worker husbands in buildings all over the city – a blunder that hurls two lonely people together.

Ila (Nimrat Kaur of “One Night with the King”), seeing the licked-clean pots and questioning the husband who ignores her, realizes her lunches are going to the wrong person – Saajan (Irrfan Khan of “Life of Pi”), a grim-faced accountant on the verge of retirement. She writes him a note.

Kaur is a vital, expressive actress who gives a compassionate performance here, and Khan tells us far more about what he is thinking or feeling with his face than with his character’s few words.

“Lunchbox” serves up a multi-course meal of life, love and the sort of coincidences that drive the best love stories.


Thoughts and opinions on this story? Click here to comment >>

Get stories like this in a free daily email