Film Openings

Week of February 19, 2003

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Dark Blue. Ron Shelton. Says in the credits this is based on a James Ellroy story and a David Ayer screenplay. Yeah -- L.A. Confidential and Training Day, respectively. Instead of Denzel as bad cop you get Kurt Russell, and in the Ethan Hawke role of bruised young partner is Scott Speedman, which leaves Ving Rhames to play Guy Pearce, more or less, as the career cop who'll bring down the bad men for a good job. Ron Shelton's latest nonsports movie, set during the hours before the Simi Valley jury turns in its verdict in the Rodney King beating trial in the spring of 1992, plays like a mishmash of its antecedents -- a remix, with a city that's being burned and looted providing the variant beat. If it has a point, it's a simple and obvious one: The more things change, the more they stay the goddamned same. No, really? Opens Friday, February 21, at multiple locations. (Robert Wilonsky)

Gods and Generals. Ronald F. Maxwell. A prequel to 1993's Gettysburg, this latest Civil War drama from writer/director Robert Maxwell and executive producer Ted Turner covers three major military campaigns won by the Confederacy under General Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson (Stephen Lang) before the tide turned. Jackson was a devoutly religious man, so much so that he seems almost deranged, surely not the impression the filmmakers intended to present. In fact, so many of the characters have a religious bent that the film seems more like a recruitment tool for Soldiers for Christ than a look at the bloody four-year conflict that tore this nation apart. Predictable visuals -- a lot of tracking shots of marching soldiers -- give a generic feel to the story, although a couple of the battle scenes are impressively staged. Mira Sorvino, as a Yankee wife, is the only one of the actors who seems at ease with the cadence and speech patterns of the day. Jeff Daniels and Robert Duvall also star. Be forewarned: The film runs three hours and 42 minutes. Opens Friday, February 21, at multiple locations. (Jean Oppenheimer)

The Life of David Gale. Alan Parker. Opens Friday, February 21, at multiple locations. Reviewed this issue.

Lost in La Mancha. Keith Fulton and Louis Pepe. In Fulton and Pepe's fascinating but often indulgent documentary we behold the surreal spectacle of writer/director Terry Gilliam (Brazil, 12 Monkeys) trying, in the summer and fall of 2000, to satisfy his longstanding obsession with Don Quixote. From the start, Gilliam's bizarre cinematic take on Cervantes seems doomed. U.S. fighter jets scream through the Spanish skies, ruining his sound recording. Rainstorms and mudslides trash his shooting schedule. Investors balk, and insurers refuse to pay. The leading man, French icon Jean Rochefort, comes down with a prostate infection, then a pair of herniated discs. In the end Gilliam, like Quixote himself, becomes the centerpiece in a tragicomedy about a failed idealist. "I've made the film in my head many times," the bowed but unbroken director tells us. Unfortunately, that's probably the only theater it will ever play. Opens Friday, February 21, at the Tivoli. (Bill Gallo)

Old School. Todd Phillips. Opens Friday, February 21, at multiple locations. Reviewed this issue.

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