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Film Openings 

Week of November 2, 2006

American Hardcore. (R) The story of American punk rock (1980-1986) isn't a lot easier to summarize than that of any other major war, but it's quite a bit funnier, as this belated documentary overview — based on Steven Blush's like-titled tome — proves in each of its 90 exuberantly irritable minutes. "Normal people did not listen to hardcore, and we liked it that way!" exclaims Articles of Faith's Vic Bondi, one of the movie's many hilarious punk raconteurs. Like the three-chords-fast tunes themselves, director Paul Rachman's montage is a frenzied, propulsive pull from here and there — including not just an astonishing array of milky VHS concert footage (Black Flag in 1981!), but both Ronald Reagan inaugurations, the second of which seems to foretell the end of a movement that Blush and Rachman define as radical. Alas, this is yet another rock doc that keeps critics off-screen at the expense of greater context. But not even Blush could hope to research away the vast sociopolitical mystery by which hardcore, succumbing to some mix of audience agitation, police crackdowns, and the anti-careerist musicians' own exhausted self-sabotage (Bad Brains playing reggae?), takes its final stage dive. (Rob Nelson) TV

Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan. (R) Reviewed in this issue. (J. Hoberman) ARN, CPP, CGX, OF, RON, SP, STCH

Flushed Away. (PG) The third collaboration between Britain's Aardman studio and DreamWorks animation, this puckish charmer about a posh Kensington mouse flushed down the loo into London sewer country is to action-adventure what Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit was to Hammer Horror. Aardman's first foray into CGI may spell woe to loyal fans of the plasticine monobrow, but this watery Technicolor universe, fully furnished with shopping malls and populated with a cast of thousands, could never have been brought off with stop-motion. Pampered house mouse Roddy St. James (voiced by Hugh Jackman) also sings, as who wouldn't after being rescued by can-do sewer rat Rita (Kate Winslet)? Abetted by other critters with names like Millicent Bystander, the two rodents face off against the dastardly Toad (Ian McKellen) and his less than competent goons (Andy Serkis and the adorably adenoidal Bill Nighy). Beyond the obligatory Hollywood moralizing about community and cooperation, there's a heartfelt upstairs-downstairs tale of urban loneliness redeemed by love and family. And what's not to love about a movie in which thousands of rodents stand together against a Big Wave generated by TV-watching soccer fans flushing their toilets at halftime? (Ella Taylor) ARN, CGX, DP, EG, GL, J14, MR, OF, RON, STCH, STCL, TS12

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