Film Openings

Week of April 9, 2003

Anger Management. Peter Segal. Adam Sandler's Dave Buznik, a designer of catalogs for overweight-cat clothing, isn't really angry at all; he's just a self-loathing, introverted mess. When Dave does lose his temper, it's always with good cause; he could use a little therapy or just a hug, but then the makers of this movie would have no reason to pair Adam Sandler with Jack Nicholson, the shark's-tooth grin who swallows the kid whole. This is the inverted Punch-Drunk Love, Paul Thomas Anderson's intimate film of last year about a man whose quiet exterior barely conceals the time bomb within. But Anderson had compassion for Punch-Drunk's Barry Egan; the makers of this movie don't even seem to like Dave. Worse, it's as though all those impulses Nicholson smothered in About Schmidt -- eyebrows cocked like revolvers and that echo-chamber laugh -- have been unleashed a thousandfold; his is less a performance than a pastiche of maniacs he's known and loved. Opens Friday, April 11, at multiple locations. (Robert Wilonsky)

Blind Spot: Hitler's Secretary. André Heller, Othmar Schmiderer. Opens Friday, April 11, at the Tivoli for a one-week engagement. Reviewed this issue.

Ghosts of the Abyss. James Cameron. Cameron goes back to that sunken cash cow Titanic with a few high-definition 3D cameras -- the "Reality Camera System," which is awfully surreal -- to get deep inside the bowels of the ship, interiors of which haven't been seen in 90 years. (It's like a high-tech colostomy.) The gimmick's a good one and saves your eyelids from sinking; cover one eye or remove the nifty specs, and you'll swear you saw this on the Discovery Channel (and fell asleep during it). The 3D, effective but not yet totally awesome, masks a world of sins: Ghosts can be an awfully tedious voyage-to-the-bottom-of-the-sea with Cameron oohing and aahing out the window of a tiny sub and Titanic co-star Bill Paxton providing some overwrought narration about ocean-floor tombstones and our responsibility to the past and blah-blah-blah. (As a colleague notes, it's just a damned ship, not a metaphor.) Make sure your theater's screening the IMAX version; steer clear of the 2D iceberg floating around, in other words. Up next: Titanic on Ice? Opens Friday, April 11, at the Ronnies 20 and St. Charles 18. (Robert Wilonsky)

House of 1000 Corpses. Rob Zombie. When their car breaks down in the middle of nowhere, a group of kids find refuge in an old, abandoned house. It turns out to be a bad idea. Opens Friday, April 11, at the West Olive 16. NR

Laurel Canyon. Lisa Cholodenko. Opens Friday, April 11, at the Plaza Frontenac. Reviewed this issue.

Stevie. Steve James. In the wake of his success with Hoop Dreams, Chicago-based documentarian Steve James travels downstate to catch up with a boy he mentored back in the early 1980s as a Big Brother, then abandoned. At 31, Stevie Fielding is an angry, deeply disturbed outcast whose personal problems and rap sheet have been steadily growing since his preteen years. At first glance, Stevie looks like a hillbilly caricature, complete with scraggly beard, greasy Harley-Davidson cap and go-to-hell attitude. But James has a gift for seeing people whole, and he draws a relentlessly messy (but complete) picture of family dysfunction, official neglect and personal tragedy while attempting to find atonement for his own past failures. The film is well meant and vivid, but often trying. Opens Friday, April 11, at the Plaza Frontenac. (Bill Gallo)

 
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