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Film Openings 

Week of June 7, 2006

Cars. (G) The latest vehicle to roll off a Pixar assembly line that has thus far kicked out nothing but spit-shined classics answers that age-old question: What would Doc Hollywood have been like had it been populated entirely by, ya know, cars? If the promise of that premise — in which a hotshot (in this case, a hot rod) gets stranded in a small town on his way to Los Angeles and finds love among the ruins of what used to be paradise — doesn't exactly rev your engine, fret not. Cars takes a little longer than most Pixar pics to get from zero to 60, but it eventually gets you where you want to go — the promised land of impulse-purchase trinkets and happy endings. What ultimately redeems it from turning out a total lemon is its soul. Director John Lasseter loves these animated inanimate objects as though they were kin, and it shows in every beautifully rendered frame. Featuring the voices of Owen Wilson, Bonnie Hunt, and Paul Newman. (Robert Wilonsky) ARN, CPP, CGX, GL, J14, MR, OF, RON, SP, STCH, STCL

Mountain Patrol: Kekelixi. (Not Rated) By their nature, conservationist melodramas are tough to put over: Unless you torture science Roland Emmerich-style, the concrete concerns are long-term (save the water, the whales, or the woods), and the principles, vacuum-packed by narrative pressure, can easily veer off into sanctimonious terrain. This 2004 Chinese adventure saga, which takes on the poaching of the endangered Tibetan antelope — and the volunteer force that struggled to stop it — is a film of startling textural power. Nothing in the last decade — not even Terrence Malick's The New World — has displayed such a ferocious intimacy with extreme landscape. But for all of its well-schooled orthodoxy and visual splendor, Lu Chuan's epic remains somewhat off-kilter: The passionate wartime camaraderie and doomed sense of martyrdom seem misplaced, and the real villains — the government that provides the west-China populace few other options for sustenance, and the international consumers who pony up for pelts — are left unaddressed. (Michael Atkinson) TV

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