Film Openings

Week of April 20, 2005

Dot the I. (R) If accomplished mind-gamers like Charlie Kaufman and Todd Solondz feel like fooling with our perceptual apparatus and shuffling multiple decks of reality, let them have at it. Their fetching cinematic puzzles are worth the trouble. British newcomer Matthew Parkhill's tricked-up mental exercise is not: By the time he transforms a familiar love triangle (temperamental Spanish beauty, reserved British rich boy, edgy Brazilian actor) into a self-absorbed, self-important essay on Art, Filmmaking, and Reality, you might want to send him to his room without dinner, there to absorb Aristotle's Poetics or, at the least, the Big Golden Book of Screenwriting. How Motorcycle Diaries star Gael García Bernal got involved with this pretentious, gimmick-laden crap is anybody's guess: It must have looked better on the page than it does on the screen. For impressionable film students only. (Bill Gallo) TV

Dust to Glory. (PG) Dana Brown (the son of pioneer surfing documentarian Bruce Brown) is not a filmmaker so much as a booster-club president with a camera. In his latest exercise in hero worship, Brown the Younger is completely and hopelessly enamored of the outlaw masochists of motorsport, the off-road desert racers who contest the harrowing Baja 1000 every November in Mexico. For Brown, who narrates these 94 minutes in overheated-sophomore style, the film "isn't about a race . . . it's about the human race." Any driver who isn't "legendary" or "mythical" is "a force of nature." Meanwhile, it hasn't occurred to Brown that a parade of 400 or so vehicles, each jolting past the camera in its own cloud of dirt, can get a bit repetitious. The Baja, former Indy 500 champ Parnelli Jones tells us, is "a 24-hour plane crash." Unless you're among the fuel-injected faithful, this starstruck doc may give you the feeling you've sat through all 24. Featuring Jimmy Vasser, Mario Andretti, and Robby Gordon. (Gallo) PF

The Game of Their Lives. (PG) Reviewed in this issue.(Luke Y. Thompson) RON

The Interpreter. (PG-13) The first film in six years from director Sydney Pollack would be nothing without that polish -- a shrug of a thriller, a tangle of inexplicable conspiracies upon which you could hang yourself out of sheer boredom. It's about an assassination plot told almost entirely in flashback; everything that happens in the present -- which isn't much -- has to be explained again and again with old tales about past lives, not to explicate the onion-peeling layers of deceit common to political thrillers, but merely to reiterate the numbingly obvious. Ask the simplest questions, and the whole movie falls apart. Only Nicole Kidman, as the United Nations translator who overhears plans to kill a beloved African liberator turned murderous dictator, and Sean Penn, as the skeptical Secret Service agent sent to investigate her claim, keep us interested, emotionally attached to something so facile and hunh?-inducing, you'll wonder only much later how you got suckered into believing two plus two equals six. (Robert Wilonsky) ARN, CGX, DP, EG, EQ, GL, J14, KEN, MR, MOO, NW, RON, SP, STCH, STCL

Kung Fu Hustle. (R) Reviewed in this issue. (Thompson) ARN, CGX, DP, J14, MR, NW, RON, STCH, STCL, TV

A Lot Like Love. (PG-13) Amanda Peet. Ashton Kutcher. Romantic comedy. Who'd have thought it could work? And yet, A Lot Like Love is an entertainment success, a triple threat of fresh writing, inspired directing and, yes, good acting. Emily (Peet) and Oliver (Kutcher) begin in an airplane bathroom having anonymous sex, after the rapacious alternachick jumps Oliver's lanky, befuddled bones. At the baggage claim, he wants to talk, and they spend half a romantic day together in New York. Then, nothing for three years. Cut to New Year's Eve in LA. She calls, and they midnight-kiss, but tomorrow he moves to San Francisco to launch a dot-com. That's the way it goes until they can manage to be single and local at the same time. Fortified with a healthy dose of intelligence, A Lot Like Love leaps an entire field of pitfalls, including the no-longer-quite-as-glaring staleness of its genre. In fact, the thing grips like a Rottweiler: It takes you by the neck and, nearly two hours later, remembers to let you go. (Melissa Levine) ARN, CGX, DP, EG, GL, J14, MR, RON, SP, STCH, STCL

Madison. (PG) "Passionate Christ" James Caviezel plays a character conveniently named Jim, who was once a top hydroplane racer (think NASCAR on water) until a traumatic accident caused him to walk away from competition. Need it be said that he will eventually have a slo-mo flashback to that day and ultimately face his demons to race again? Nah, thought not. Based on the true story of the Gold Cup Regatta held in Madison, Indiana, in 1971, the movie fictionalizes quite a bit to up the odds, yet still manages to be dull and dispassionate. Not to pick on the filmmakers too much: They don't blatantly suck. But unless your specific field of interest happens to be hydroplane boats in small towns, it's unlikely you'll be excited by Madison. There's very little dramatic conflict, and when it comes, it's usually resolved not through anybody's initiative, but by the aggrieved party simply and spontaneously deciding to no longer be mad. Perhaps a documentary would have been the best way to tell the tale. (Thompson) CGX, DP, MR, RON, STCH, STCL

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