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Week of June 14, 2006

District B13. (R) For the twin offenses of being French and not starring Tom Cruise, District B13 — a fanboy mash-up of John Carpenter's greatest hits — is getting exiled to the art-house ghetto. Spread the word: This delirious import is the most (maybe the only) fun action movie of the summer — swift, funny, filled with actual stunts instead of digitized mayhem, and primed at a moment's notice for megaton ass-kicking. Set in 2010 Paris, it fuses Escape From New York's futuristic city-as-prison concept with Assault on Precinct 13's bristling political subtext, as an undercover cop (Cyril Raffaelli) and a vigilante (David Belle) battle their way through a walled-in underclass neighborhood searching for a massive "clean bomb." The plot is mostly straight-to-video silliness, except for a final kicker that feeds off the real-life unrest seething in Paris's strife-torn suburbs. But Belle — a master of parkour, the French extreme sport/ martial art devoted to the casual hurdling of physical obstacles — brings an exhilarating athleticism to the many chases and fights. (Jim Ridley) TV

Drawing Restraint 9. (Not Rated) Reviewed in this issue. (Luke Y. Thompson) TV

The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift. (PG-13) Remember when Lost in Translation got all that critical acclaim, but there were still naysayers who pointed out that nothing much actually happens in it? If it had had more fast cars and no capable acting whatsoever, it would be this movie. Juvenile-delinquent Sean (played by the obviously twentysomething Lucas Black) flees America to move in with his father in Tokyo under the strict conditions that he must come straight home from school and never get in a car. Fortunately, Dad's a moron who notices nothing. Sean immediately gets hooked in an underworld of "drift" racing, which involves lots of high-speed braking and turning. He's terrible at it, and to make matters worse, he instantly hits it off with the girlfriend of a yakuza boss' nephew (Brian Tee). Tokyo Drift feels like one of those lousy direct-to-video sequels that hopes to trick you out of your rental money and deliver none of the elements you liked about the previous movies. Never will Paul Walker be more missed. (Thompson) ARN, CGX, DP, EG, GL, J14, MR, OF, RON, SP, STCH, STCL

Garfield: A Tail of Two Kitties. (PG) Not since Dean Martin has an actor worked harder to sustain the illusion of couldn't-give-a-crap insolence than Bill Murray — and for the voice of cinema's reigning computer-generated feline glutton, it may not be an illusion. Whatever the case, Murray's gift for imperious indifference is the only reason to sit through a second for-kids-only movie about Garfield the lasagna-loving cat, here transported to England for a lame species-transplant version of The Prince and the Pauper. The voices are uncommonly well cast, from Tim Curry as Garfield's upper-crust doppelgänger to Bob Hoskins as a bulldog (it took this long?) and X-Men juggernaut Vinnie Jones as a trouser-mangling Rottweiler. But they only underscore how misconceived the movie is on every other level. Why is Garfield an ugly, garish CGI blob in a world of real animals? Why can every other dog talk except Garfield's detested sidekick Odie? Why do human leads Breckin Meyer and Jennifer Love Hewitt act like they're the ones who've been neutered? At least Murray gets a well-deserved holiday from the midlife-crisis monotony of Broken Flowers — a movie that could have used an animated cat. (Ridley) ARN, CGX, DP, EG, GL, J14, MR, OF, RON, SP, STCH, STCL

The Lake House. (PG) Forget what a fun couple Sandra Bullock and Keanu Reeves were in Speed. In this slow and heavy kickoff to the summer romance season, they play the mopiest lovers to hit the big screen since Tony and Maria channeled Romeo and Juliet on the fire escapes of New York City. Bullock is rather good as a lonely Chicago physician, Reeves his vaporous self as an unfulfilled architect with oedipal issues. The pair share a lovely modernist lakeside house and a perfect storm of love letters, except that he's in 2004 and she's in 2006 — a predicament that creates all manner of difficulties, not the least of which is the groan and creak of surplus contrivance as the plot strains to bring an epistolary love affair from the twilight zone into the corporeal realm. Based on the 2000 South Korean sci-fi romance Il Mare and flimsily directed by Argentinean filmmaker Alejandro Agresti, The Lake House may be the most convoluted film ever made about people in glass houses. (Ella Taylor) ARN, CPP, CGX, DP, J14, KEN, MR, OF, RON, SP, STCH, STCL

Nacho Libre. (PG) Reviewed in this issue (Robert Wilonsky) ARN, CGX, DP, EG, GL, J14, KEN, MR, MOO, OF, RON, SP, STCH, STCL

Sketches of Frank Gehry. (PG-13) This enjoyably breezy portrait of genius architect Frank Gehry is drawn doodle-style by first-time documentarian Sydney Pollack, a Hollywood player with ready access to impartial testimony from patron-saint moguls (Barry Diller, Michael Eisner) and a close friend of Gehry's for 30 years. Narrating in the first person, Pollack claims identification not only with the architect's artistic anxiety ("avoidance, delay, denial"), but with his challenge to achieve personal expression despite commercial restraints (i.e., the monumental Guggenheim in Bilbao is Gehry's The Way We Were, the Santa Monica Place Mall his Havana, Sabrina, Random Hearts, et al.). The friends tread lightly on one another's soft spots, and the admiration becomes infectious in the visual exploration of Gehry's perverse body of work, whose curves and crevices Pollack's camera caresses like a lover. Even the talking heads begin to appear sculpted, while both men change shape to suit their moods: Gehry as the Cubist hockey fan, alternately arrogant and shy, bossy and passive; Pollack as equally privileged and ordinary, neurotic and gregarious. (Rob Nelson) PF

 
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