Lakview Terrace and other new movies

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click to enlarge Lakeview Terrace - Screen Gems
Screen Gems
Lakeview Terrace

OPENING THIS WEEK

LAKEVIEW TERRACE (R) Lake View Terrace, you may recall, is the Los Angeles suburb where in 1991 four LAPD officers beat Rodney King for more than a minute while a bystander caught the incident on video. In this incendiary social thriller by Neil LaBute (In the Company of Men), it's also the home of a black cop (Samuel L. Jackson) who takes it upon himself to get rid of the interracial couple who've moved in next door (Patrick Wilson and Kerry Washington). By scrambling the typical power relationship between black and white, LaBute focuses our attention on power itself, and by plunging into the still-taboo subject of black bigotry, he gets closer to the truth of bigotry in all its forms than does the pious white atonement of most racial dramas. This is being marketed as a slam-bang entertainment, but it's also one of the toughest and most relevant movies of the year. —J.R. Jones

RECENT RELEASES

AMERICAN TEEN (PG-13) Nanette Burstein's American Teen, ostensibly a documentary, goes down so smooth that a prime time broadcast on MTV wouldn't be at all out of the question. Burstein takes her camera into a typical high school in a typical, mostly white, mostly middle-class town, where she focuses on a group of seniors who seem to fit into easily recognizable molds, at least at first. We meet Colin the Jock, Jake the Nerd, Hannah the Rebel and Megan the Popular One (who leads a clique of hotties straight out of Heathers or Mean Girls), and watch their lives unfold as lines blur, identities are questioned, alliances fracture and form, and the kids deal with the various pitfalls of growing up. It's surprisingly gripping stuff, but the film's supposedly spontaneous emotional explosions don't always ring completely true. At worst, they feel a bit like dramatic recreations, almost as if the kids were milking the moment for the camera — but perhaps this is just the natural byproduct of what happens when you attempt to document members of a generation raised on Survivor, for whom the lines between reality and reality programming no longer matter. Credibility issues aside, though, it's almost insidious how easy it is to by seduced by the film as it roots around in the sometimes cruel but usually fascinating social dynamics of young adults trapped in a too-small space. Whether what American Teen shows us is strictly true or not is another matter, but, as we're constantly learning, the truth can be as fluid as we need it to be. Stars Hannah Bailey, Colin Clemens, Megan Krizmanich, Jake Tusing, Mitch Reinholt and Geoff Haase. 3.5 stars

BABYLON A.D. (PG-13) The new film from director Mathieu Kassovitz (La Haine, Gothika) is a sci-fi-ish thriller with Vin Diesel guarding a woman hosting a virus that could destroy the world. There's also a cult lurking on the sidelines seeking to create some sort of a genetically altered Messiah. Also stars Meanie Thierry, Michelle Yeoh, Lambert Wilson and Charlotte Rampling. (Not Reviewed)

BANGKOK DANGEROUS (R) Nicolas Cage stars as a well-paid assassin who travels to Thailand to kill four people in this loose remake by the Pang brothers of their 1999 film. While Cage is appropriately laconic and surly as a loner whose only ties are to the people who hire him, his performance is unusually flaccid. The story includes several overused plot devices, including the clichéd final job with a big payoff that will allow Cage's character to retire permanently, but when he allows a Thai gofer into his locked-down world and decides to train him, things go predictably awry. While the film includes several exciting, creatively shot action scenes, the drama is otherwise so shopworn that the violent climax is a relief. With Shahkrit Yamnarm and Pamward Hemmanee. —Joshua Katzman

BOTTLE SHOCK (PG-13) Another movie that begins by telling us it's "based on a true story," Bottle Shock doesn't play as fast and loose with facts as some, but it doesn't hesitate to throw in a made-up romance or two and some trusty father-son tensions to embellish its essentially accurate account of the landmark event that finally gave American wines the respect they deserved. That event — a blind tasting held in Paris during American's bicentennial year, and judged by France's most esteemed oenophiles — resulted in a couple of rag tag California wineries shocking the world by, for the first time ever, stomping all over their French counterparts. The movie spends a little too much time watching its characters chase their tails, but Bill Pullman and Chris Pine are solid as the father and son proprietors of a struggling Napa Valley winery, and Alan Rickman is a lot of fun as the British wine snob who discovers the joys of California while putting the tasting event in motion. Like Sideways, Bottle Shock uses humans and wine as interchangeable metaphors for each other (adversity makes them both stronger), and it all takes place in a weirdly magical California where even the most rough and tumble bikers know the difference between a Merlot and a Zinfandel. The film splits its time between Paris and the rolling halls of Napa, the music an appropriate mix of Maria Callas and the Doobie Brothers, with scenery so voluptuous and sun-drenched you have to restrain yourself from sticking your face in the screen to lap it all up. Also stars Rachael Taylor Freddy Rodriguez, Dennis Farina and Eliza Dushku. 3.5 stars

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