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Wednesday, May 28, 2008 03:41 pm

Same ol’ Sex, but longer

Carrie & Crew overstay their welcome

Sex and the City Running time 2:28 Rated R ShowPlace West, ShowPlace East
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Sex and the City Running time 2:28 Rated R ShowPlace West, ShowPlace East

Fans of television’s Sex and the City will be pleasantly surprised by the big-screen continuation of the hit HBO series. Writer/director Michael Patrick King delivers on the show’s brand of humor, heartache, and haranguing, albeit in a much bigger and longer fashion. More than three years have passed since the end of the show. The film picks up accordingly, and the members of the high-maintenance quartet have seen some big changes in their lives. Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker) has finally settled into a steady relationship with Mr. Big (Chris Noth); Miranda (Cynthia Nixon) harps about the suffocating nature of her marriage to Steve (David Eigenberg) and motherhood. Charlotte (Kristin Davis) finally seems happy with Harry (Evan Handler) and her adopted daughter. Samantha (Kim Cattrall) is in California, managing and bedding her young hunk (Jason Lewis), but this monogamous situation has her on edge, what with all the California hunks on constant display. Fans of the series would burn me in effigy if I were to reveal any of the film’s surprises, but suffice it to say that much of the drama that emerges revolves around the same themes that made the series at once refreshing and, ultimately, tedious. Infidelity, dissatisfaction, doubt, and the struggle to maintain some independence within a relationship all rear their ugly heads. For me, the series was a hit-or-miss affair; I found some episodes engaging and others trite. The film runs nearly two-and-a-half hours, and I experienced both feelings, meaning that Carrie and crew overstayed their welcome by nearly 45 minutes. Still, fans will likely lap this film up and still be craving more, a sentiment I can understand. The show was a pop-culture milestone, and those who followed it religiously will always wonder what Carrie, Miranda, Charlotte, and Samantha are up to. One look back to that fantasy world of upper-crust Manhattan is more than enough for me, though. Among other new releases this week: The Strangers — Reminiscent of Michael Haneke’s Funny Games and John Carpenter’s Halloween, Bryan Bertino’s The Strangers straddles the line between exploitation fare and classic movie horror throughout its taut 90 minutes. The setup is familiar, though supposedly based on a true story: A young couple (Liv Tyler and Scott Speedman) find themselves terrorized by three masked strangers in a remote home in the dead of night. Inexplicable violence is part and parcel of the genre. What makes the film bearable is the skill with which it’s executed. Bertino’s use of light and dark, sound and silence steadily increases the tension, as does the work by Tyler and Speedman. Effectively atmospheric and genuinely frightening at times, the film only truly stumbles at the end as Bertino forgets that less is always more in horror films.
The Visitor — Walter Vale (Richard Jenkins) is just going through the motions. The widower’s lost his passion for teaching and is comfortable living his lonely life, content to shelter himself from any further harm. However, when he finds squatters in his oft-empty Manhattan apartment, something stirs in Walter that’s been dormant far too long.
The couple he finds — Tarek and Zainab (Haaz Sleiman and Danai Gurira) — are illegal aliens, and the inevitable trouble they face because of their status allows writer/director Thomas McCarthy to shed a harsh and powerful light on the immigrant paranoia that’s swept the nation since 9/11. A great many things connect Walter and his new friends, chief among them music, but it’s their desire to be able to live free and be that binds them. The Visitor is a moving testament to a friendship that knows no borders.
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