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'El Tinte de la Fama'

Also: 'Cold Souls,' 'Somers Town,' 'Tapped' and '12 in a Box'

August 07, 2009|Kevin Thomas; Gary Goldstein; Robert Abele;

"Cold Souls." MPAA rating: PG-13 for nudity and brief strong language. Running time: 1 hour, 41 minutes. In selected theaters.

Hitting the bottle is a huge problem

There's a not-so-new boogeyman in town and it's the bottled water business, whose troubling tentacles are persuasively exposed by director Stephanie Soechtig in her compact, clear-headed documentary "Tapped."

Given the startling statistic that Americans consume 80 million single-serving bottles of water per day, it's no surprise to learn the product is plagued by a firestorm of corporate, health-related and sociopolitical issues. More shocking is that, while municipal water supplies are highly regulated, bottled water (40% of which, the film states, is simply purified tap product) is subject to little or no oversight, helping give such deep-pocketed bottlers as Nestle, Coca-Cola and Pepsi further license to run roughshod over community, medical and environmental concerns. And, "Tapped" contends, there is much to be concerned about, from the toxins that can exist in pre-packaged water to the dangers lurking within the crude oil-derived plastic bottling itself.

Soechtig's cautionary tale is well supported by interviews with a variety of activists, environmentalists, community leaders and, especially, several small-town residents whose health and welfare have been compromised by the encroachment of the bottled water industry. If their stories don't persuade you to ditch the Dasani, vivid shots of how water bottle refuse is turning our oceans into "plastic soup" should do the trick.

-- Gary Goldstein

"Tapped." MPAA rating: Unrated. Running time: 1 hour, 15 minutes. At the Arclight Cinemas, Hollywood.

A funny four days around the manor

Writer-director John McKenzie admittedly fashioned the dark British farce "12 in a Box" after the understated old Ealing Studios comedies ("Kind Hearts and Coronets," "The Ladykillers") rather than take the more typically wacky -- and often tedious -- "slamming doors" approach.

The somewhat familiar premise finds a dozen folks showing up at an opulent (and, yes, boxy-looking) country manor expecting to attend a school reunion, only to discover, via a videotaped message, that they've been randomly chosen by the mansion's dying, heirless owner -- one of the school's elder alumni -- to receive a million pounds apiece, provided they don't leave the grounds for 96 hours. That last bit is, of course, easier said than done as a host of unexpected hurdles -- heart failure, sexual indiscretion, marital discord, an ill-timed robbery and more -- conspire to keep this suddenly greedy bunch from their payday.

McKenzie's smart, if riskier approach forced the filmmaker to concoct spontaneous, character-driven complications to pay off the movie's loaded setup rather than jerry-rigging the plot with some pre-ordained maze of obstacles. The result is a nicely calibrated romp peppered with more than a few genuinely funny moments.

The large cast performs with comic aplomb as McKenzie slowly ratchets up the stakes before going for broke in the final reel. It's jolly good fun.

-- Gary Goldstein

"12 in a Box." MPAA rating: Unrated. Running time: 1 hour, 33 minutes. At Laemmle's Music Hall, Beverly Hills.

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