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What To Watch

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MONDAY July 31

ULTRAVIOLET
A strong cast and an occasionally compelling script aren’t enough to save this British miniseries about a clandestine vampire killing government agency. Writer/director Joe Ahearne curiously chooses to examine the motivations of the hunters and ignore the time proven appeal of their prey. Without charm, menace, and a good Prada suit, these vampires have no bite. C
Wook Kim

TUESDAY August 1

DRINKING APART: FAMILIES UNDER THE INFLUENCE
We’ve all heard of alcoholism tearing families apart, but what about when the bottle acts as the only common denominator in a relationship? That’s the dilemma facing two couples as they struggle to remain sober and in love. (”Who is this guy?” one addict asks of her husband of five years.) By filming users’ actual counseling sessions, this HBO docu manages to be powerful without being preachy. B+

WEDNESDAY August 2

SOLITARY CONFINEMENT
This ”Investigative Reports” glimpse into solitary confinement programs at two supermaximum security prisons aims to question the efficacy of the psychologically torturous punishment. While many opponents of the system get their say, the prosolitary wardens go unchallenged in their PR-ish spin on the high tech holes (more square feet of visible sunlight than your average clink!). It’s perversely appropriate, then, that these segments feel like they were filmed in a vacuum. C+
— Josh Wolk

THURSDAY August 3

WITHOUT LYING DOWN: FRANCES MARION AND THE POWER OF WOMEN IN HOLLYWOOD
For more than two decades, she was the highest paid screenwriter in the world. Frances Marion was Mary Pickford’s muse and the winner of two Oscars. Narrated by Uma Thurman and Kathy Bates, this biography weaves the story of an influential, individual artist — scripter of The Champ and Dinner at Eight — with a retrospective on the forgotten female pioneers who helped form Hollywood. The result is a clear eyed, affirmative look at women in filmmaking. A-
— Gillian Flynn

FRIDAY August 4

HOLLYWOOD & CRIME
The stories of criminal turned celebrity Merle Haggard (he used to steal cars before taking up guitar) and celebrity turned criminal Christian Slater (he punched his girlfriend and bit a man in the stomach) are recounted in this latest police blotter of the stars. Supported mostly by secondary interviews and oft repeated vault clips, H&C doesn’t really offer any juicy new tidbits, but watching big names get in big trouble is still fun no matter how many ways you slice it. Also profiled: Burt Reynolds, whose bankruptcy filing lands him here, even if his only apparent ”crime” was donning a never-ending parade of cheesy bolo ties. B-

SATURDAY August 5

QUARANTINE
In this by the numbers disaster flick, Harry Hamlin plays a wussed-out U.S. President who allows himself to be quarantined on a remote island (sans Jeff Probst) while a deadly virus rips through the rest of the world’s population. But he’s not just Commander in Chief, he’s a dad, too, dammit, and his beloved daughter is among the citizens at risk. Meanwhile, Nastassja Kinski gives a thoroughly unconvincing performance as the scientist struggling to find an antidote, finally concocting a plan that’s ”just so simple it might work.” Just so stupid, too. C-

SUNDAY August 6

ONE KILL
Before she became one half of America’s favorite celebrity lesbian couple, Anne Heche was simply a terrific actress in such films as Donnie Brasco and The Juror. She proves her mettle yet again with a top-rank performance as a Marine Corps captain on trial for the murder of her superior officer/lover (an aptly craggy Sam Shepard). Eric Stoltz earns a demerit for his wimpy work as Heche’s defense lawyer, but otherwise, this feminist spin on A Few Good Men — crisply directed by Prime Suspect‘s Christopher Menaul — commands attention as a cracking good military courtroom drama. A-
— Bruce Fretts

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