Film Openings

Week of July 14, 2004

Jul 14, 2004 at 4:00 am
A Cinderella Story Mark Rosman. (PG) Opens Friday, July 16, at multiple locations. Reviewed in this issue.

De-Lovely Irwin Winkler. (PG-13) "Is this one of those avant-garde things?" an aged Cole Porter (Kevin Kline) warily asks Gabe (Jonathan Pryce), the Ghost of Musicals Past who shepherds the composer through the this-was-your-life montage that makes up Irvin Winkler's biopic. "It's a musical -- it should be entertaining," insists Porter, and some of the movie is, despite its clunky flashback framing. It's as old-fashioned as movie musicals come, except it doesn't shy away from Porter's homosexuality; if Night and Day stayed outside the bedroom door, this one climbs into bed with Porter and the men about whom he penned his coded lyrics and immortal melodies. Ashley Judd is exceptional as his wife Linda, who was actually much, much older than Porter and, depending upon which history you choose to believe, more caretaker than lover, despite Winkler's vision of doomed romance. The score's filled with all-stars (Elvis Costello, Diana Krall, Alanis Morissette) belting Porter's standards, and that's what ultimately sells it and the soundtrack, which will last longer than this ambitious but ultimately middlebrow movie. Opens Friday, July 16, at the Plaza Frontenac. (Robert Wilonsky)

The Door in the Floor Tod Williams. (R) Writer Ted Cole (Jeff Bridges) lives with his wife (Kim Basinger) and their young daughter (Elle Fanning) in East Hampton, New York. In this beautiful place, the couple attempt, unsuccessfully, to rebuild their lives after the death of their teenaged sons. Then a hopeful student arrives to serve as Mr. Cole's assistant for the summer. Eddie (Jon Foster) has long been a devoted fan of his employer and, within moments of seeing her, is equally smitten with his employer's wife. The Door in the Floor, adapted by writer/director Tod Williams from the first part of John Irving's novel A Widow for One Year, has the icy chill of Ang Lee's The Ice Storm and the haunted, atmospheric grief of Todd Field's In the Bedroom. Ultimately, it's a surprisingly good film, not quite original but smart, careful and steadfast in its dedication to its characters. It compassionately explores the lives of people who are sorely wrecked, and through the eyes of its young interloper, it reminds us what it's like to grow up. Opens Wednesday, July 14, at multiple locations. (Melissa Levine)

I, Robot Alex Proyas. (PG-13) I, Robot's setup, at least initially, is unpleasantly reminiscent of Minority Report and Paycheck, with a cop (Will Smith) in a dystopian near-future falling afoul of a corporate bigwig (Bruce Greenwood) and making decisions that cause most everyone to question his sanity. A top scientist (James Cromwell) has been found dead of an apparent suicide, yet Smith's Detective Spooner remains convinced that a robot was the culprit. This hypothesis presents a problem, however, in that such a murder would violate Isaac Asimov's three laws of robotics, which preclude the harming of humans. Very little of the actual book I, Robot remains -- the script, originally titled Hardwired, is merely "suggested by" Asimov. It does retain the source material's premise, that under certain circumstances the three laws may result in unforeseen paradoxes, but it also has big action setpieces, even when such conflicts with the relatively less important laws of screenplay logic. Slow going at first, but a lot of fun, and Alan Tudyk's Gollum-like performance as a CG robot is mighty impressive. Opens Friday, July 16, at multiple locations. (Luke Y. Thompson)

Napoleon Dynamite Jared Hess. (PG) Opens Friday, July 16, at multiple locations. Reviewed in this issue.

The Story of the Weeping Camel Byambasuren Davaa and Luigi Falorni. (PG) A pair of former Munich Film School classmates, Byambasuren Davaa (from Mongolia) and Luigi Falorni (an Italian), spent several months filming a multigenerational herding family in the harsh Gobi Desert of southern Mongolia, and the result is a vivid anthropological document suffused with plenty of emotion and a touch of ancient magic. The pivotal event here is a dramatically useful accident. A mother camel rejects her newborn white calf, so the family, adhering to tribal legend, calls in a musician to perform a ritual that will unite them. That serves to dramatize the dynamics of the family, their traditional beliefs and their crucial relationships with the animals that sustain them. The filmmakers say they were inspired by pioneer documentarian Robert Flaherty, who tracked Nanook of the North from igloo to ice floe back in 1922; Camel also reminds us of 2002's one-of-a-kind Inuit survival film, The Fast Runner. Opens Friday, July 16, at the Tivoli. (Bill Gallo)