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Black Book, The Ex, Delta Force and others

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Black Book

 Tragic love story set in wartime Holland as a young Resistance fighter uses her intelligence and sexuality to seduce a local SS commander whom she soon falls in love with.  Paul Verhoeven (“Robocop” and “Showgirls”) directs. (R) – Bill White

Delta Farce

Larry the Cable Guy and two of his buddies are mistaken for reservist, shipped off to Iraq, accidentally dumped in Mexico and mistake it for the middle east. (PG-13) – BW

Into Great Silence

German filmmaker Philip Groning spent six months living with the monks of the eremitical Carthusian order in the French Alps, bringing with him only a camera and basic sound equipment — no crew, no lights — to capture the daily lives, prayers and routines of this most ascetic of Catholic orders.  Devoid of narration, musical score or much at all in the way of dialogue, the film entices the viewer to assemble his or her own experience of it by asking questions and making discoveries as it unreels.  Not rated HHH1/2 – Jim Emerson


A warrior saves and then raises a young boy who is prophesized to unite warring tribes in 18th-century Kazakhstan. (R) – BW

The Ex

“Fish-out-of-water” stories provide good fodder for comedy, and that is the underlying premise for director Jesse Peretz’s often humorous — and at times hilarious — film about a basically good guy who just can’t seem to catch a break. 

Zach Braff brings his inescapable charm to “The Ex,” paired with Amanda Peet as his very pregnant wife, living fairly close to the edge of financial doom in New York.  Zach’s Tom Reilly character has flitted from job to job, never quite able to hang on to anything for more than a few weeks or months.  The couple’s means of survival has been provided by his wife, Sofia (Peet), and her modest income (by New York City standards) derived from her career as an attorney working for a small firm.

With the pending arrival of their baby, and Sofia’s decision to become a stay-at-home, full-time mom, Tom’s expected promotion to head lunch chef at a chic restaurant in Manhattan’s financial district is necessary for him finally to become the little family’s sole breadwinner. 

In one of the film’s funnier sequences, Tom gets caught up in a kitchen battle between his impossible boss and a co-worker — leading to both men being fired, just as Sofia goes into labor and delivers their son, Oliver. 

Out of desperation, Tom is forced to accept a standing offer from Bob Kowalski, his father-in-law (Charles Grodin, in his first film performance in a dozen years), to return to Sofia’s Ohio hometown and go to work as the “assistant associate creative director” for his advertising agency.  Things really get interesting when Tom realizes his immediate supervisor is Chip, a wheelchair-bound ad boy wonder, played with perfectly understated viciousness by Jason Bateman. 

An added twist?  Chip has been obsessed with Sofia since they were both cheerleaders in high school.  Chip’s former relationship with Sofia explains the film’s title, but could also be a sly reference to Tom’s career path as an ex-magazine writer or ex-chef or ex-employee at a host of many other jobs. 

Speaking of Chip, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to quickly figure out how the paraplegic fellow feels about being forced to train the husband of the woman for whom he still desperately yearns.  Adding even more salt to the wound: Tom is a guy who got his job simply through family connections. 

Chip is amazed that Sofia would give a loser slacker like Tom the time of day, let alone marry him.  It’s a sentiment clearly shared — though much more politely — by Sofia’s parents.  Even Tom himself makes clear how aware he is that he’s married way out of his league, having landed a beautiful, sexy, Phi Beta Kappa brain of a lawyer as his bride. 

One of my favorite things about “The Ex” is the way Peretz and screenwriters David Guion and Michael Handelman have crafted this story.  While at times we witness over-the-top, totally broad comedy, the essence of the picture’s humor evolves from the subtle way that Chip’s true mission unfolds on the screen.  

With Chip cleverly undermining Tom, it soon becomes evident that this latest job likely won’t work out either, despite the fact that Tom suddenly realizes he does have a flare for the creative side of advertising.  On the family front, Sofia finds the absence of her career makes her feel unworthy and frustrated, despite her obvious affection for her son and her happiness at again being near parents to whom she is clearly devoted. 

The supporting cast is first rate. Grodin and Mia Farrow are perfect as the lovable loopy in-laws.  “Saturday Night Live” mainstay Amy Poehler clicks perfectly as a manic fellow agency worker.  Though we don’t see him until fairly late in the film, Donal Logue gives a performance as the new-age, Eastern mystic-inspired owner of the ad agency that’s wonderfully bizarre. 

But “The Ex” is really about the relationship between Tom and Chip, and Braff and Bateman engage in a beautiful, comedic, verbal ballet that made me laugh much more than I thought I would, given what I knew about the story before watching the film.  Both actors display on-target timing — essential to making this whole thing work.

Rated PG-13 for sexual content, brief language, and a drug reference. HHH – Bill Zwecker

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