Directed by Steve Beck (Warner Bros.)
In a cut-and-paste job more transparent than ectoplasm, Ghost Ship screenwriters Mark Hanlon and John Pogue plunder every notable horror movie from the last 30 years. The setup is '80s slasher flick by way of Alien and The Shining: A salvage crew of surly misfits (including Julianna Margulies, Isaiah Washington, and Gabriel Byrne) happens upon a derelict luxury liner loaded with gold, ghosts, and at least one plot twist too many. They're picked off by the vessel's vengeful ghouls, but despite a couple of inventive CGI effects (one involving mass evisceration), the results are more predictable and less frightening than a Con Ed bill in mid August. Mark Holcomb
Directed by Hilary Birmingham (Telltale, opens November 1)
The title character of this muted Midwestern gothic endures a painful coming-of-age when a festering family secret catches up with him. As their ranch faces foreclosure, farmland lothario Tully (Anson Mount) learns that his standoffish dad (Bob Burrus) and sensitive younger brother (Glenn Fitzgerald) know more than he does about their late glamour-queen mother. Set under limpid, endless skies (DP John Foster does sterling work), Hilary Birmingham's debut manages the occasional lyrical flourish, but the torpid tempo only compounds the self-conscious coyness; it doesn't help that the screenplay stages virtually every scene as a ponderous heart-to-heart. The flashes of emotional eloquence from the actors (especially Fitzgerald and Julianne Nicholson, as the radiant vet student who befriends both boys) are muffled by the ultimately asphyxiating preciousness. Dennis Lim
Directed by Holly Angel Hardman (Artistic License, opens November 1, at Village East)
This magic-realist indie set in a Cape Cod fishing village concerns an oft inebriated flaneur, Shep (Jim Chiros), who, in his attempt to woo the lovely lobster-boat captain Vicky (Sarah Gibney), enlists the aid of a handy local sorceress (director Hardman) to see off his competition, the captain's Harvard undergrad first mate (the aptly piscine Liam Waite). Hardman intersperses the principal narrative with shots of herself moving figures around a chessboard playing God and confronting Chiros (a heavy-handed homage to Day for Night). Although the existentialist conclusion highlights the stochastic nature of everyday life, this story of unrequited love doesn't sustain interest beyond the first half-hour. Rob Sharp
Love in the Time of Money
Directed by Peter Mattei (THINKFilm, opens November 1)
An idea-free debut filmmaker can do worse than a modernized La Ronde/Madame de . . . daisy chain, à la Eclipse, Chain of Desire, Twenty Bucks, and now Love in the Time of Money. The mini-genre requires no substance, intelligence, or development, and yet comes with a pedigree. Supposedly adapting Arthur Schnitzler's Reigen, first-timer Peter Mattei bounces from one caricature to another: Jill Hennessy's neurotic aristo-wife, Adrian Grenier's slacker dude, Carol Kane's lonely phone psychic, et al. Of course, Schnitzler and Ophüls were being farcical, whereas Mattei is tiresomely grave and long-winded, as if circularity itself indicated profundity. There are kernels of potentialnamely, Steve Buscemi's guileless artist, who makes deliberately bad abstract paintings, and Michael Imperioli as a suicidal embezzler who engages Vera Farmigia's hooker to do him in for a wad of cash. Each could've scored had they not been hammered into quaint, charm-bracelet vignettes. Michael Atkinson
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