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Film Clips

CL's capsule reviews are rated on a four-star rating system.

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THE FAST RUNNER To state that The Fast Runner (a.k.a. Atanarjuat) is primarily notable as the first major release to be shot in the Inuktitut language is to pay disservice to its staggering visuals, among the most breathtaking to be seen on the big screen in a while. And yet to state that The Fast Runner is primarily notable for its postcard-pretty visuals is to similarly pay disservice to its storyline, which is based on an ancient tale that's been circulating among the Inuit people for countless centuries. Set in the upper reaches of Canada's frozen turf, the story centers on Atanarjuat (Natar Ungalaaq) and Amaqjuaq (Pakkak Innukshuk), two brothers who are constantly in opposition with a surly tribe member named Oki (Peter-Henry Arnatsiaq). Oki and Atanarjuat are both in love with Atuat (Sylvia Ivalu); that dispute is eventually settled with Atanarjuat emerging the victor, but when he also becomes involved with Oki's Lady Macbeth-like sister Puja (Lucy Tulugarjuk), tensions escalate and betrayal, rape and murder all rest on the horizon. Like many great films, The Fast Runner is able to wholly immerse us in a completely alien culture, yet one of its strengths is that it doesn't treat its characters with kid gloves. On the contrary, the messy emotions raging throughout this three-hour effort are instantly recognizable, allowing the film to paradoxically feel familiar and foreign at the same time. ***1/2

MOONLIGHT MILE It's hard to imagine anyone managing to steal a movie not only from charismatic rising star Jake Gyllenhaal (The Good Girl, Donnie Darko) but also from accomplished Oscar winners Susan Sarandon, Dustin Hoffman and Holly Hunter, yet newcomer Ellen Pompeo pulls off the feat with aplomb. She's one of the main reasons to see Moonlight Mile, a highly likable if somewhat calculated melodrama partly inspired by an incident in writer-director Brad Silberling's life. Silberling, who was dating actress Rebecca Schaeffer (TV's My Sister Sam) when she was murdered back in 1989, has taken that tragedy as the basis for this film about a young man (Gyllenhaal) who, after the senseless slaying of his fiancee, moves into the home of her parents (Sarandon and Hoffman) so they can retain a connection with their daughter. Hiding his own secret regarding his relationship with the bride-to-be, he finds his emotions becoming even more tangled once he falls for a local bar owner (Pompeo) working through her own personal pain. A few plot developments seem extraneous and certain conclusions feel too glib, but overall, this is a moving and occasionally insightful study of how individuals learn to cope with loss and grief in their own idiosyncratic manner. Hunter has little to do as a prosecuting attorney, but Sarandon and Hoffman haven't been this interesting to watch in years, while Gyllenhaal gets to show more emotion here than in his previous roles. Still, the big story here is Pompeo, a striking newcomer who will get to build on this early promise with upcoming roles in Daredevil and Spielberg's Catch Me If You Can. ***

THE RULES OF ATTRACTION In one sense, this adaptation of Bret Easton Ellis' novel might be one of the best "youth" movies ever made, but we'll never know because its salient points are simultaneously buried, drowned and smothered in the excesses of writer-director Roger Avary (not having read the book, I don't know how much of the blame falls on Ellis himself). Equally as heavy-handed as the screen versions of the author's American Psycho and Less Than Zero, this college-set satire nevertheless serves as a much-needed affront to the numerous teen comedies that view those coming-of-age years as a time of great joy tempered with just a smidgen of awkwardness and insecurity. Rules mercilessly explores the dark side of this period in one's life, centering on some of the troubled students attending a New England college: Sean Bateman (James Van Der Beek), who uses and abuses people (especially women) as he sees fit; Paul Denton (Ian Somerhalder), a bisexual infatuated with Sean; and Lauren Hynde (Shannyn Sossamon), a virgin whose basic decency stands no chance of survival amid all the casual cruelty surrounding her. The Rules of Attraction dares to bring up issues that other movies of this nature wouldn't even consider touching, but Avary scarcely gives them their due because he's too busy trying to gross out audiences at every turn (nose picking, ass wiping, puking on one's partner during sex -- Avary films it all in living color) while also using numerous cinematic techniques to further distance viewers from the action -- aside from an expertly edited sequence detailing one student's European vacation, the show-off stylistics prove about as pointless as anything else in this thoroughly obnoxious endeavor. *

CURRENT RELEASESTHE FOUR FEATHERS A.E.W. Mason's century-old novel has never been too far removed from the minds of moviemakers, as witnessed by the fact that it's been filmed on seven separate occasions. This 21st century model is a satisfactory (if shaky) heir to the throne, a visually robust retelling that reinstates a dash of the epic to the big screen. Unfolding during the late 19th century, the film stars Heath Ledger as Harry Feversham, a promising British soldier who's surrounded by adoring buddies, including his best friend Jack Durrance (Wes Bentley), and who's set to marry the charming Ethne (Kate Hudson). But when his regiment is suddenly called for active duty in the Sudan, Harry decides to resign rather than go fight on foreign soil. Because of his action, he's sent four feathers (marks of cowardice) from some of those closet to him; tortured by this turn of events, he musters up all his courage and sets out determined to redeem himself in the eyes of his friends. Mason's novel and the earlier screen versions were largely celebrations of honor and heroism, of that stiff British upper lip turning into a sneer at those who would trifle with the almighty Empire. But director Shekhar Kapur (Elizabeth) isn't having any of that: He clearly respects his young soldiers even if he doesn't support their cause, and it's not difficult to see that his contempt for British colonialism can easily be applied to our own nation's global strutting under the dictatorship of George W. Bush. Kapur's political agenda might seem to be at odds with the basic foundation of the tale, and yet, as with most war movies that are careful to separate the soldier from the situation, it's a dichotomy that thankfully never distracts. Ledger and Bentley make dashing heroes, but Hudson is woefully miscast, appearing about as luminous as a 20-watt bulb after 999 hours of service. ***

THE TUXEDO The best special effect in a Jackie Chan movie is always Chan himself, which makes the affable performer's latest American vehicle an especially ill-fitting and ill-conceived affair. Chan stars as Jimmy Tong, a bumbling, insecure chauffeur who works for a James Bond-like secret agent named Clark Devlin (Jason Isaacs). After getting seriously injured, Devlin insists Tong don the spiffy tuxedo hanging in his closet; upon doing so, the lowly driver discovers that the suit is top-of-the-line government issue, with the ability to tailor itself to its wearer's needs and allow him to do everything from fighting martial arts-style to climbing the walls in the best Spider-Man manner to even executing some smooth moves on the dance floor. Now dressed to thrill, Tong soon finds himself teaming up with a rookie partner (Jennifer Love Hewitt, enjoyably awful) to stop a bottled-water magnate (Ritchie Coster) plotting to contaminate the world's drinking supply so that his own line will be the only safe one in the world (even the occasionally flailing 007 series never stooped to a level this inane). It's always a rush to witness Chan in his purest form kick and chop his way across the screen, but The Tuxedo miscalculates badly by forcing the star to play second fiddle to the dull effects that allow the suit to come to life. Still, this is hardly the picture's only problem, not when the villain (British, brooding, and boring) is the standard one employed by lazy screenwriters everywhere, nor when Chan and Hewitt demonstrate so little chemistry that they might as well be acting in two separate movies. *1/2

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