Film Openings

Week of March 29, 2007

Mar 28, 2007 at 4:00 am

Blades of Glory. Will Ferrell, having moved on from the anchor desk and NASCAR, at long last ridicules a hallowed profession. I refer, of course, to men's figure skating. Who until now has dared to mock the sequined costumes, the fondness for power ballads, the Spandex pants? Luckily, Our Man Ferrell is up to the challenge, along with a troupe of the usual suspects (Luke Wilson, Amy Poehler). In Blades of Glory, he gives us the story of two male skaters (Ferrell and Jon Heder) who decide to become a pair due to a chain of events too ludicrous to mention here. Even as it points its finger and laughs at every easy target in sight, the film is also bizarrely earnest: Don't worry, it tells you, figure skating with another man doesn't make you gay, not even when your partner lifts you so high your crotch is in his face. It almost goes without saying that this undercurrent of homoeroticism is not handled deftly. Blades does capture the obvious eccentricities of the skating world, and is funny up to a point, but by now Ferrell & Co. have the formula for a mild comedy down pat. What they need is a little soul. (Julia Wallace) ARN, CGX, DP, EG, GL, J14, MR, MOO, OF, RON, SP, STCH, STCL, TS12

Inland Empire. (R) A movie about David Lynch's obsessions, Inland Empire includes familiar tropes like a movie within the movie and the notion of Hollywood as haunted house. But nothing in Lynch's work is truly familiar. Reality is first breached when a ditsy Polish gypsy traipses into the disconcertingly empty Hollywood mansion that belongs to actress Nikki Grace (Laura Dern). Spooking the star with her wolfsbane accent and aggressive prophesies, she casts a spell of weirdness that lasts throughout the movie. Suddenly it's tomorrow and Nikki has the role she covets, working with an over-eager director (Jeremy Irons) and acting opposite young rapscallion Devon (Justin Theroux), who's been touted by a nasty TV gossip as the biggest womanizer in Hollywood. An adulterous affair seems overdetermined, particularly as that's the premise of On High in Blue Tomorrows, the unlikely title of the movie that Nikki and Devon are making. Script inevitably merges with life. Something or someone is lurking in the recesses of the set — and, as Nikki's character fissures, it turns out to be her. Given its nonexistent narrative rhythms, Inland Empire is an experience. Either you give yourself over to it or you don't. And, if you do, don't miss the end credits. (J. Hoberman) TV

The Lookout. (R) Reviewed in this issue. CPP, CGX, DP, RON, STCH, STCL

Meet the Robinsons. Sharply adapted from the William Joyce book A Day with Wilbur Robinson, this speedy animated film features Lewis (voiced by Daniel Hansen and Jordan Fry), a bespectacled science geek and orphan who, though well cared for by a loving foster mom (velvety-voiced Angela Bassett), is too weird to get himself adopted and so goes forth in search of his birth mother. Catapulted into a future (long story) with an uncanny resemblance to a Disney theme park, Lewis falls in with a similarly gifted family who must defend him (or vice versa) from a yellow-toothed villain and his sinister bowler hat (both voiced by director Stephen Anderson), and point him toward a better life. Juiced by 3-D glasses that had my daughter and her pal grabbing at the air in order to trap the movie's fickle weather, Meet the Robinsons is so cleverly executed that one forgives — just — the frenetic pace and absence of down time (save for a couple of sweet numbers sung by Rufus Wainwright) that have become standard in G-rated studio pictures aimed at kiddies who are surely too young to have their developing attention spans smashed to smithereens. (Ella Taylor) ARN, CGX, DP, EG, GL, J14, MR, OF, RON, SP, STCL

Nomad: The Warrior. (R) Centuries before Sacha Baron Cohen elevated Kazakhstan to a destination on the Great Silk Road, the Eurasian territory was inhabited by nomadic tribes whose refusal to band together left them vulnerable to marauding invaders. In the early 1700s, the biggest and baddest of the plundering hordes were the Jungars. This sweeping historical drama follows the rough outlines of Kazakh history in presenting the tale of Ablai Khan, who unified the feuding societies just in time to beat back the Jungars. Widescreen cinematography captures the austere beauty of the semi-arid, windswept steppes, the costumes and horseback riding are impressively authentic looking, and the cast of B-picture, handsome Western actors — Mexico's Kuno Becker and Americans Jay Hernandez and Jason Scott Lee — convey appropriate stoicism, though not much real emotion. With a commendable sincerity but also an unfortunate Hollywood veneer, Nomad is a poor man's Gladiator. (Jean Oppenheimer) ARN, J14, KEN, RON, STCH

Peaceful Warrior. (PG-13) Gymnast Dan Millman (Scott Mechlowicz) is one of the best at what he does, and he has it all: perfect abs, a big bulge in his crotch, beautiful girlfriends, and the ability to balance full beer glasses on his feet. There's just one small problem . . . he has bad dreams. Taking a night walk to clear his head of the nocturnal visions, he comes upon a grizzled gas station attendant (Nick Nolte) who mysteriously disappears and reappears, offering some new-agey philosophy once he has the kid's attention. Dan sarcastically dubs the guy "Socrates," and since a real name is never offered or revealed, the philosopher moniker sticks. Under the old man's tutelage, Dan learns to live for the moment, a skill that apparently gives him super reflexes and the ability to see things in bullet time. It's based on a work of fiction and autobiography from the '80s titled Way of the Peaceful Warrior: A Book That Changes Lives, and it mostly plays like utter nonsense onscreen, but it's never exactly boring. (Luke Y. Thompson) CGX, KEN, RON, STCH

Tears of the Black Tiger. (Not Rated) Nothing is too crazed, corny, or freakishly florid for writer-director Wisit Sasanatieng's debut. Together with cinematographer Nattawut Kittikhun, Sasanatieng dyed his images through digital post-production, pushing colors to impossible hues of eccentric radiance. Electrifying from frame one, the story opens with a blast of nuclear fuchsia in the shape of Rumpoey (Stella Malucchi), a well-to-do belle who awaits her bad-boy lover (Chartchai Ngamsan as Seua Dum) on a pagoda swamped in turquoise lily pads — a Monet by Warhol. Staged against garishly artificial backdrops and expressionistic weather, full of silly talk and sillier mustaches, the film diagrams the tragic love triangle between Rumpoey, unhappily betrothed to a police captain (Arawat Ruangvuth), and Dum, her girlhood crush. The trajectory of these ill-starred lovers is narrated in flashback, as is the backstory of how Dum became the bandit "Black Tiger," complete with slo-mo Peckinpah massacres and symphonic Morriconean freakouts. One wit has dubbed the movie a "pad thai western." Obsolete by design, this singular stunt and shock to the cinematic system is of and beyond its own time. (Nathan Lee) TV