Film Openings

Week of November 27, 2002

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Cirque du Soleil: Journey of Man. Keith Melton. The joining of outr circus troupe Cirque du Soleil and the large-format IMAX camera, it turns out, is a marriage of convenience at best. Some of the Cirque magic comes through: When two acrobats, painted like statues, perform Pilobolus-style feats of balance, their muscle control is astounding, and sensuality steams into the audience. Similarly, the Banquine tumblers create four-person-high formations that would be impressive whether the movie screen was flat or concave. Alas, the other scenes feature circus performers in costumes and makeup so fruity and freaky they would make Dennis Rodman blush. The synchronized swimmers in fuchsia leotards are like some kind of underwater Starlight Express. That fey French-Canadian cuteness is galling: Two garishly painted clowns that reappear throughout the film talk baby-talk, coo and mince around in a performance so cloying it could inspire anti-clown violence. The theme that ties all this together some mumbo-jumbo about the human journey, dreams, faith and love is a crock of merde. Through January 30 at the Omnimax. (Byron Kerman)

Eight Crazy Nights. Seth Kearsley. Adam Sandler plays Davey Stone, a party animal who finds himself in trouble with the law and is sentenced to service as an assistant referee for a youth-basketball league. Davey thinks he got off easy. He's wrong. Opens November 27 at multiple locations. NR

Extreme Ops. Christian Duguay. A film crew travels to the Alps near the former Yugoslav border to film three extreme-sports enthusiasts being chased by an avalanche for a commercial. Instead, the crew accidentally films a Serbian war criminal's hideout, and he's scarier than an avalanche. Opens November 27 at multiple locations. NR

The Man From Elysian Fields. George Hickenlooper. There's easy drama in grisly ends, but not commonly do moviemakers successfully deliver symbolic death. Happily, director George Hickenlooper (a St. Louisan who directed The Big Brass Ring) and screenwriter Philip Jayson Lasker (a regular for Barney Miller) lead us through a few such passages in this sharp, smart and robustly engaging film about a man at the end of his rope and his struggle to avoid hanging himself with it. Producer Andy Garcia stars as an effusively un-Byronic hack who accepts sly Mick Jagger's offer of employment as a male escort in order to support his blithely loving wife (Julianna Margulies) and young son. He ends up servicing the neurotic young wife (Olivia Williams) of a crusty three-time Pulitzer winner (the late James Coburn), and his psyche gradually frays. Garcia tackles the role with aplomb, and his trepidation about becoming a gigolo is palpable even when he starts enjoying the challenge. When he asks Jagger whether his business makes him feel ashamed, the fey Brit -- who steals the show -- replies, "No, poverty does that." Opens November 27 at the Tivoli. (GW)

Real Women Have Curves. Patricia Cardoso. Opens November 27 at the Hi-Pointe. Reviewed this issue.

Roger Dodger. Dylan Kidd. Part salesman, part caveman, the repellent Manhattan Casanova Campbell Scott portrays in writer/director Dylan Kidd's first feature has an instinct for looking up skirts and down cleavages but no capacity for looking in the mirror. In one harrowing and bitterly funny night on the town, ad man Roger Swanson gives a crash course in seduction techniques to his sixteen-year-old nephew Nick (the extraordinary Jesse Eisenberg), but by the end we know who's got the most growing up to do. This bleak portrait of misogynist self-delusion can be cartoonish and schematic, but Eisenberg is terrific, and the gifted supporting cast includes Isabella Rossellini, Elizabeth Berkley and Jennifer Beals. All in all, a promising debut. Opens November 27 at the Tivoli. (BG)

Solaris. Steve Soderbergh. Opens November 27 at multiple locations. Reviewed this issue.

Standing in the Shadows of Motown. Paul Justman. Their names never vanished from the history books, only because they weren't there to begin with. These musicians, these Funk Brothers, who played on every Motown release of the '60s, weren't merely Standing in the Shadows; they were swallowed whole. Were it not for Alan Slutsky, whose 1989 book and accompanying CDs provide the title for director Paul Justman's documentary, they might have slipped through the cracks and into their graves. Blessedly, these pioneers have been rescued from the dustbin of myth and history and given their own film, in which they play starring roles twice over -- when recounting their tales for the camera and when the band gets back together to recapitulate history using new voices to show off old songs. Justman, wisely, points the camera at the Brothers and a handful of acolytes and lets them talk with each other, to us, for their departed comrades. Justman doesn't trust his narrators enough; too often he'll stage a re-enactment while someone's talking, as if he's afraid the mere tales themselves won't hold our interest. But they do. Opens November 27 at the Tivoli. (RW) Reviewed this issue.

Wes Craven Presents: They. Wes Craven. A graduate student in psychology witnesses a horrific event and gradually comes to the realization that the things that scared her as a child could be real and coming after her. Opens November 27 at multiple locations. NR

Treasure Planet. Ron Clements and John Musker. Opens November 27 at multiple locations. Reviewed this issue.

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