Capsule reviews by Desson Howe unless noted.
FOOLS OF FORTUNE (PG-13) -- One thing is ringingly clear in this tragic Irish drama: Willie Quinton (edgy Iain Glen) has had a very tough life. As a child, he witnesses the torching of his Kilneagh family home and the killing of his Irish father (Michael Kitchen) and two sisters -- at the hands of the dreaded terror squad, the Black and Tans. He's been living a tormented existence ever since. You can tell, because he rants, raves and tends to clutch his head a lot. Now alone with his English mother (a rather disappointing Julie Christie), who's also losing her emotional grip, he must deal with a debilitating psychological torment. Director Pat O'Connor has mounted an impressively handsome production but he and scriptwriter Michael Hirst (adapting William Trevor's novel) never quite delve into Glen's emotional workings. As with the heroes of David Lean's far better "Ryan's Daughter" or O'Connor's comparably flawed "A Month in the Country," he's just another in a series of mental wrecks raging against the bucolic Irish landscape. The years jump with fractious lack of warning, as Christie deteriorates; Glen falls in love with his British childhood companion (the American Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio), encounters his father's killer, and takes refuge on a barren island; his young daughter shows the emotional strain of the family curse. But the epic sweep accumulates little; at best the movie ekes from you a rather distant pity. Key.
GRAVEYARD SHIFT (R) -- Reporting in for the Halloween season is this Paramount adaptation of the Stephen King novel (the 16th King story to be filmed), in which workers reopen an old textile mill in Maine to find lurking horrors underneath. It features Brad Dourif as a rodent-obsessed exterminator. Directed by Ralph Singleton. Area theaters.
TO SLEEP WITH ANGER (PG) -- There's nothing particularly wrong with writer/director Charles Burnett's black-roots fable, yet little about it to recommend either. Danny Glover plays the pivotal role, a shady drifter big on folkloric sayings and superstition who causes gradually increasing havoc within the family he stays with. As soon as old friend Paul Gutler invites Glover in, the rogue surrounds himself with his card-playing, liquor-drinking cronies from the bad ol' days. Gutler gets a heart attack; irresponsible brother Richard Brooks -- influenced by Glover -- ignores his wife and child and even his rapidly ailing father. There's also strong evidence that Harry's been involved in murder. It reaches a peak -- one dark and stormy night, of course -- when Brooks and his older brother (Carl Lumbly) have a knife fight and the old man hovers on the edge of death. It's up to the family to find new faith to defeat this evil. Glover takes his part about as far as it can go but, though Burnett uncovers some fascinating aspects of rural folklore, the story's a longwinded affair full of conventional plot turns. West End 1-4.
WAIT FOR ME IN HEAVEN (Unrated) -- Using the haunting political spirit of Franco as impetus, this Spanish satire starts off with great promise but ultimately fails to rise to the occasion. Paulino (Pepe Soriano) is a regular old Mediterranean, who has a beloved wife (Chus Lampreave) and a favorite whore, and who likes to rag on the old generali'simo with his buddies. But lately, a sinister man has been hanging around Paulino's prosthetics store. Paulino, having a good time at a bordello one night, is apprehended at gunpoint by this suspicious character, blindfolded and led into an underground cell where he's forced to study and imitate videotapes and recordings of His Excellency himself. Paulino realizes he is to play the Spanish leader's double for life and that, officially listed as dead, he can never see his wife again. Director Antonio Mercero has a certain gift for assembling images, but the satire quotient is closer to eye-rolling, pantomimic farce than dry wit. It becomes an over-the-years love story between Paulino and his wife, rather than the biting satire you've been initially set up for. The face to face meetings between Paulino and the real McFranco (Soriano plays both parts) are surprisingly disappointing. However, Soriano, a leading comedian from Argentina, has a funny, hangdog time of this; he's very watchable. In Spanish with subtitles. Biograph.