Once upon a time, Roman Polanski was considered the most promising director of his time. Though Rosemary’s Baby, Chinatown and Repulsion are true cinematic classics, 1962’s Knife in the Water first landed the Polish filmmaker in the spotlight. An economically crafted and remarkably unnerving psychodrama, Polanski masterfully wrung suspense from a tale confined to three characters on a boat. One has only to look at Phillip Noyce’s Dead Calm or Anthony Minghella’s The Talented Mr. Ripley to see the long reach of Polanki’s influence. Husband and wife Andrzej and Krystyna impulsively pick up an attractive 19-year-old hitchhiker and invite him to spend the weekend with them on their lake boat. Slowly, sexual tension leads to a subtle game of one-upmanship between Andrzej and the blond beefcake hitcher as they each vie for Krystyna’s attention. It goes horribly wrong, of course, and the day ends in a horrible burst of violence.
Lust, not love, saves the day in Venus. The lust of a very old, very washed-up actor named Maurice for a very young woman. The geezer is played by Peter O’Toole, who, at 75, still emits a singularly beguiling brand of iconic leer. Maurice (O’Toole) in his youth was an also-ran in the early-1960s British thespian renaissance. Today he spends his days at the pub with friend Ian (Leslie Phillips) and other journeyman actors recalling past glories. In pops Ian’s 19-year-old grandniece Jessie (Jodie Whittaker). She’s got a figure on her, and Maurice cannot help but be stirred by her in a way that if performed by any actor not named O’Toole would completely gross us out. Plus, there’s the safety net of knowing his staff of desire is long past its expiration date.
Manic-depressives need romantic comedies too, and for them there’s Catch and Release, one of the weirdest, mopiest date movies to come down the pike in a long time. Set against postcard-perfect views of Boulder, Colo., the film chronicles the stop-and-start grieving process of Gray (Jennifer Garner), a young woman whose imminent wedding is preempted by the news that her fiancé has died in a boating accident. Stuck with a house she can’t afford and a truckload of wedding gifts to remind her of what could’ve been, Gray moves in with her fiancée’s slacker buddies and navigates a tenuous friendship with in-town-for-the-funeral playboy Fritz (Timothy Olyphant). Of course, they’re all secretly pining for the once-spunky Gray, a romantic tension that flips on and off like a light switch whenever the movie seems to be losing its way (which is often).
The coolest thing about werewolf movies, and the secret to horror lover’s decades-long infatuation with them, is the transformation scene; that absolutely essential cinematic money shot when man becomes beast. However, in this willfully dull snooze-fest, man becomes lame lycanthrope by imitating Baryshnikov — pirouetting through the air, morphing into flashes of light and hitting ground as a wolf. But these wolves aren’t the snarling, menacing creatures common to nightmares, they’re more like cuddly house pets. Forget silver bullets; these pups could be dispatched with a rolled up magazine or a scratch behind the ears. Hugh Dancy plays Aidan, a factory-issue American hipster tourist, visiting Romania to research a graphic novel he’s drawing about mysterious were-creatures called loup garoux. Luckily enough he stumbles into — and falls head-over-paws for — Vivian (Agnes Bruckner), a lovely but sulky candy maker with a hidden love of body hair and moonlit forest strolls. Soon she digs him too, but of course her supernatural family disapproves, especially moody uncle Gabriel (Oliver Martinez), the domineering pack leader. Predictable human-nonhuman tension ensues, sending the star-crossed lovers running in search of quality silverware to deflect frequent lupine attacks.
Offering classic Italian fare in elegant surroundings, Mezzaluna is blessed with highly professional, liveried servers who lend an unintimidating air of continental sophistication rarely found in restaurants in such an accessible price niche. While examining the four-page menu, one can nibble on warm, cheese-infused focaccia and crusty Italian farm bread. The mains on the menu include fresh pastas such as baci pappalina, several gnocchis and penne dolce vita that does resemble a traditional tutto mare. Most of the seafood is flown in from Boston’s fabled Foley’s, and top-round, milk-fed veal is another specialty. The wine sauces more than complement the meat, fish or fowl. To top things off, desserts might include an admirable, unusually tall house-made cheesecake ($8) or a dreamy light tiramisu ($7.50).