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Continued: Movie reviews: 'Repo! The Genetic Opera' 'A Thousand Years of Good Prayers'

  • Article by: COLIN COVERT , Star Tribune
  • Last update: November 7, 2008 - 4:50 PM
★★ out of four stars

Rated R for strong bloody violence and gore, language, drug and sexual content.

Theater: Lagoon.

You thought "Sweeney Todd" was bloody? It's a skinned knee compared with "Repo! The Genetic Opera." This goth rock opera features buckets of gore, a campy score and melodrama galore in a calculated effort to become a 21st-century "Rocky Horror Picture Show." Its creative juices, however, are strictly anemic.

The postapocalyptic world has been decimated by mass organ failures. But one man's crisis is another's opportunity, and spleen merchant GeneCo rises to the occasion. It offers life-saving transplants at exorbitant prices. You'd better stay current with your payments, though. A cadre of masked slashers reclaim GeneCo's property when customers fall behind.

Paul Sorvino is corpulent villainy incarnate as Rotti Largo, the biotech's tyrannical CEO; a certain hotel chain heiress vamps cluelessly as his plastic surgery-addicted daughter. Their rough relationship is mirrored by the conflict between sickly Shilo (Alexa Vega) and her overprotective scientist father, Nathan (Anthony Head of TV's "Buffy.") He keeps her locked in the family mansion to shield her from infection, to keep away suitors and to conceal a Terrible Secret she must not know. The two clans move through the story on a collision course. In true operatic style, it ends in tears, tragedy (or at least crimson Karo syrup) and song.

The film aims for instant midnight movie cult status, but its coolness credentials are wobbly. The sight of crooning cadavers has its appeal, but the film's strenuous efforts to dazzle are wearying. Darren Lynn Bousman, the hackmaster behind "Saw II," "III" and "IV," edits the film as if he ran over the footage with a Snapper lawn mower. The singers are strong enough (opera buff Sorvino is especially impressive), but the strident score is torture porn for the ears. The costumes make every female look like a Victorian streetwalker and each man look like Jack the Ripper. Unless you already own a collection of black lipsticks, bondage bridlery and Dracula capes, move along, there's nothing to see here.


A THOUSAND YEARS OF GOOD PRAYERS

★★★ out of four stars

Unrated by the MPAA; adult themes. In English and subtitled Mandarin and Farsi.

Theater: Lagoon.

Stillness is not always the same as lack of vitality. Wayne Wang's modest chamber piece moves slowly, like leaves on water, then expands in the memory. Henry O plays Mr. Shi, a retired Chinese rocket scientist, visiting his adult, single daughter in Washington state, where she has learned a new language and a new culture, becoming a new person in the process. In fact, when Yilan (Faye Yu) picks him up at the terminal, a friendly American woman who flew in with him is more interested in him than his child is.

They are intimately close in her home, but not cozy. The film tracks a week they spend together as he gazes at her with unspoken disappointment, shovels Chinese home cooking onto her plate and badgers her about grandchildren. Yilan is too Chinese to be openly disrespectful and too American to successfully hide her impatience. Not much happens on the surface of this two-handed character study, but you feel as if you've learned a lot about love and misunderstanding.

Mr. Shi and Yilan might as well be on opposite sides of the Great Wall of China. She lives alone in an apartment complex, divorced and content enough with her law library job and married lover. She doesn't own a wok, practice feng shui or yearn for children. He worries about his nontraditional daughter whose life seems so alien. As she busies herself with personal responsibilities, he spies on her for clues about her jealously guarded privacy. In a nearby park he meets a woman of his own generation, an Iranian emigrant who he addresses as Madam (Vida Ghahremani.) Although they communicate through a formidable language barrier, their struggles to understand their Americanized children give them a common bond. As they grow closer, Yilan distances herself further.

Wang's approach is measured and restrained, his shots simple and immaculate, the emotional stakes deepening scene by scene. It's a miniature gem.

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