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Film Openings 

Week of November 30, 2005

Aeon Flux. In 400 years -- after most of the world has succumbed to, we guess, bird flu -- there remains only one city that was smart enough to wall itself up and be governed by a bunch of smarty-pants scientists. Naturally, their top operative is the vowel-happy and smokin'-hot protagonist, Aeon Flux (Charlize Theron). Ms. Flux endeavors to assassinate her nemesis and erstwhile lover, Trevor Goodchild, the leader of neighboring Bregna. Truly, we've all been there. (not reviewed) ARN, CGX, CC12, GL, J14, KEN, MR, OF, RON, STCH, WO

The Dying Gaul. (R) Reviewed in this issue. TV

First Descent: The Story of the Snowboarding Revolution. (PG-13) Five snowboarders — the best in their field, we're told — are dropped off via helicopter atop an Alaskan mountain. All they have are their boards. Can they possibly make it down? Unfortunately, if you want to find out — and rest assured, the answer is extraordinarily anticlimactic — you have to sit through an hour and a half of uninspiring documentary about the history of snowboarding and boring flashbacks to what each of the five was doing one month prior. The setup sounds like an MTV series: Five snowboarders come together to live in a cabin in Alaska and try out some freestyles in the wild, on mountains no one has ever tried (the term "first descent" means being the first person to board down a mountain). If the goal was to do the Dogtown and Z-Boys of snowboarding, the movie needed to be centered on some of the pioneers, or at least on some of those who brought the sport mainstream. (Luke Y. Thompson) RON, WO

The Passenger. (PG-13) Rumor has it this 1975 collaboration between writer-director Michelangelo Antonioni and star Jack Nicholson is a masterpiece of 1970s filmmaking. Problem is, it's better heard about than seen. Nicholson plays a journalist lost in Africa who assumes the identity of the dead man in the hotel room next door; next thing he knows, he's a gun-runner meeting all the wrong people in all the right places, which might be funny were this intended to be a comedy . . . or thriller . . . or something else besides an exercise in existential inertia. Its re-release couldn't be better timed: It reminds one of The Constant Gardener, another globetrotting thriller bereft of thrills that looks more important in retrospect than on the screen. Certainly, one man's trash is another man's masterpiece, and more power to the viewer who can stick with this deadpan travelogue and make it to the ending that actually satisfies. But despite the rare opportunity to see Nicholson low-key it through an entire picture, The Passenger can hitch a ride elsewhere. (Robert Wilonsky) TV

Sarah Silverman: Jesus Is Magic. (Not Rated) Reviewed in this issue. TV

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