Film Openings

Week of October 26, 2005

Three . . . Extremes. (Not Rated) Devotees of Asian cinema -- especially those with a thirst for blood -- will probably delight in this horror sampler featuring three short films by Hong Kong's Fruit Chan, South Korea's Park Chan-wook, and Japan's Takashi Miike. Fruit's Dumplings (this is the abridged, 35-minute version) is an unsettling variation on the old fountain-of-youth theme, and it wouldn't do to reveal the crucial ingredient in the crunchy pot-stickers consumed here by an aging TV actress (Miriam Yeung) who's made a bad bargain with vanity. In Chan-wook's Cut, a resentful movie extra takes a famous director and his pianist wife hostage, and the bloody Grand Guignol effects are soon set loose. Miike's Box is a surreal visit to the vivid mindscape of a beautiful novelist (Kyoko Hasegawa) who's haunted by the fiery death, in childhood, of her twin sister. Horror connoisseurs are bound to play favorites here, but all three films feature the brilliantly versatile work of cinematographer Christopher Doyle (2046). (Gallo) TV

The Weather Man. (R) Paramount is selling The Weather Man as light, wacky, and uplifting, when in truth it's brooding, dark, and contemplative -- a reluctant comedy about failure and fear, about living up to expectations and letting down loved ones. There is redemption somewhere in here, even the suggestion that success will not completely elude weatherman Dave Spritz (Nicolas Cage), but writer Steve Conrad and director Gore Verbinski are less interested in peeks of sunshine than in downpours. Dave's a regret in the lives of those who know and have tried to love him, from his father (Michael Caine), to his wife (Hope Davis), to his son (Nicholas Hoult) and daughter (Gemmenne de la Peña). Cage rolls into the type of role he's played in such films as Leaving Las Vegas, The Family Man, and Adaptation, and finds the perfect balance -- between hope and give-up, between believing it will all work out and knowing it won't, and accepting it nonetheless. Dave is the smallest role Cage has ever played: the below-average man. (Wilonsky) ARN, CPP, CGX, CW10, CC12, DP, J14, MR, OF, RON, SP, STCH, WO

Where the Truth Lies. (Not Rated) It's 1972, and Karen O'Connor (Alison Lohman) is a young journalist hired to write a celebrity profile for a major magazine. The magazine has promised onetime comedy great Vince Collins (Colin Firth) a million dollars for his story, and O'Connor intends to make him work for it. In particular, she wants to uncover the events of one pivotal night 15 years before, when a young woman was found drowned in the bathtub of Collins' hotel room. Collins shared that room with Lanny Morris (Kevin Bacon), his comedy partner; the men were preparing for a 39-hour telethon to raise money to fight polio. When watching this highly derivative film noir by the admittedly hit-or-miss director Atom Egoyan, a single question arises again and again: Why? Why have the immense talents of Bacon and Firth, both of whom are excellent in this movie, been squandered on such a lackluster script? Why was Egoyan attracted to such a hackneyed and familiar story? And why did he cast the jejune Lohman as the female lead? (Melissa Levine) TV

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