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Off to the movies

Wren Wertin

Whether it’s the off season, shoulder season or mud season, there’s no denying there’s less public hoopla around town. 8150 is closing its doors for a few weeks, Half Moon Saloon is scaling back to one show a week, and the myriad of apres entertainers are packing up shop.

“Murder by Numbers” is the latest cinematic adventure for multilingual director Barbet Schroeder. Schroeder was formerly a film critic in France, a jazz-concert organizer throughout Europe and a photojournalist in India. Directing is simply his next step, though he’s called American cinema his earliest cultural food.

Reviews for pre-release screenings of “Murder by Numbers” call it a thoughtful psychological thriller that deals in layers of subtext. Headliner Sandra Bullock leaves the girl-next-door behind. As Cassie Mayweather, she’s a tough-as-nails forensics homicide specialist with sexually aggressive tendencies and problems of her own.

Cassie is hot on the trail of two teenaged murderers who have planned the perfect murder. Reveling in their prime-suspects status, the two teens enjoy their game immensely. This is no whodunnit – Schroeder shares all with the audience in his Hitchcockian quest for tension.

“Murder by Numbers” is rated R for violence, language, a sex scene and brief drug use.

At the other end of the spectrum is Chuck Russell’s “The Scorpion King.” This prequel to “The Mummy” has no delusions of grandeur; to sum up leading man Dwayne Johnson’s own words, the film’s sole purpose is to provide entertainment.

Johnson, better known as The Rock, makes his top-billing debut in a non-WWF movie as he reprises his Scorpion King role. The comic book, B-movie tone of the previous films is resurrected and exaggerated from the get go: the pre-credits sequence features copious amounts of busting-out desert babes, death and destruction. Apparently, it doesn’t let up.

“The Scorpion King” details the story of Mathayus (Johnson), a master assassin on a mission to wipe out the evil warlord Memnon, who relies heavily on the power of Hu, an exotic sorceress. Utilizing the sort of unbelievable plot twists and turns that “The Mummy” did, the film is geared toward anyone with a 13-year-old mentality lurking inside them.

Receiving raves for both the cinematography and musical score, “The Scorpion King” is essentially eye candy. It is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of action violence and some sensuality.

On Friday afternoon, “The Scorpion King” opens at Riverwalk Theater and “Murder by Numbers” opens at Cascade Village Theater. Call 476-5661 for showtimes.

Wren Wertin can be reached via e-mail at wrenw@vaildaily.com or phone at 949-0555 ext. 618.


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