Film Openings

Week of May 4, 2005

Crash. (R) Much of this LA-stories portmanteau about the suffocating embrace of racism is hard to watch, harder still to listen to. Its characters -- the creations of director/co-writer Paul Haggis but also of people who live next door and perhaps even inside of you -- say and do things they shouldn't. Theirs are internal monologues shouted over bullhorns -- lines peppered with epithets and soaked in the greasy sweat of hatred for anyone who gets in the way. No one is safe, and no one is too innocent or too guilty -- not the cops (Don Cheadle, Jennifer Esposito, Matt Dillon, Ryan Phillippe), the Middle Eastern shopkeeper (Shaun Toub), the Hispanic locksmith (Michael Pena), the black carjackers (Chris "Ludacris" Bridges and Larenz Tate), the middle-class couple (Terrence Howard and Thandie Newton), or anyone with whom they cross paths. In this remarkable and important film, tragedy befalls those nearing redemption while it gently passes over those who have gone out of their way to meet a bad end. It allows for people to evolve, to learn from their mistakes, and does so without proselytizing. (Robert Wilonsky) ARN, CGX, CW10, DP, EQ, J14, MR, NW, OF, PF, RON, SP, STCH, STCL

House of Wax. (R) A remake, pretty much in name only, of the 1953 Vincent Price film (which was also a remake), this House of Wax manages to be gruesome and grisly, but not particularly creepy or frightening. Six twentysomething friends (including Elisha Cuthbert, Chad Michael Murray and Paris Hilton) camp out in the woods one night and soon find themselves pursued by a psychopath who wants to turn them all into uncannily lifelike sculptures for his wax museum. The film offers a few generic scary bits, but nothing out of the ordinary. While the backstory -- glimpsed in a highly disturbing epilogue in which the camera reveals only the characters' torsos -- plants a seed of psychological terror, the rest of the film fails to expand on it. Perhaps the biggest surprise here is that Hilton isn't atrocious. Not that she's good, but she's certainly no worse than anybody else. (Jean Oppenheimer) ARN, CGX, CW10, DP, EG, EQ, J14, MR, NW, OF, RON, SP, STCH, STCL

Kingdom of Heaven. (R) Reviewed in this issue. ARN, CGX, CW10, DP, EQ, J14, MR, NW, RON, SP, STCH, STCL

Look at Me. (PG) Reviewed in this issue. TV

Paper Clips. (G) The rural community of Whitwell, Tennessee -- two traffic lights and population 1,600, nearly all of them white and Baptist -- seems an unlikely setting for a Holocaust memorial. But thanks to the efforts of middle-school principal Linda Hooper, two teachers, and a group of dedicated students, this little white-bread community has become a worldwide beacon for the teaching of tolerance. Eighth-graders studying the Holocaust had trouble grasping the magnitude of six million murdered Jews, so they decided to collect six million paper clips. After two German reporters heard about the project and wrote an article -- followed by accounts in The Washington Post and on NBC News -- paper clips started arriving in droves. Along with them came letters from Holocaust survivors, movie stars, and ordinary people who were moved by what the kids were doing. Documentary filmmakers Joe Fab and Elliot Berlin caught it all on film. Touching, inspirational, and great for school kids and adults alike. (Oppenheimer) PF

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