Speeding cars, time travel and human rights in Cameroon
'The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift' (PG-13)
It's another day at a tough high school, and student Sean Boswell has the air of someone who's seen it all before - but that's partially because he's played by the 24-year-old actor Lucas Black.
It doesn't take Sean long to get into trouble, and the rest of his story unfolds like an after-school special gone horribly awry. His poor judgment and bad attitude are rewarded every step of the way. Instead of being sent to reform school, he's shipped off to the capital of teen cool, Tokyo.
He learns some valuable life lessons: If you borrow a gangster's car and then totally wreck it, he'll admire your guts and become your best friend. If you disobey your parents blatantly enough, they'll come to respect you as an individual. And most important, dude, Japanese girls wear even shorter miniskirts than American girls.
But all of this is just spackle holding the car races together, and they're fast, fun and frequent enough to keep your adrenaline pumping through to the completely unedifying end.
- Anne Marie DiStefano
Century Eastport, Broadway, Lloyd Center, Lloyd Mall, Hilltop, Evergreen Parkway, Movies on TV, Division Street, Stark Street
'The Lake House' (PG)
Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock are two lonely professional types who rent the same fabulous waterside home, exchange letters and fall in love. The catch? They're living two years apart and have a magical mailbox that instantly delivers their messages.
Despite the questionable skills of the two stars and the film's silly premise, this is actually a charming little film. Argentine director Alejandro Agresti ('Valentín') attacks the material with a refreshing lack of sloppy sentimentality, deftly managing the none-too-easy task of creating romantic tension between lovers who've yet to meet in the flesh.
The score by Rachel Portman, however, is awful - a distracting, overblown mess that seeks to manipulate rather than underscore. That and Reeves' inability to effectively read voice-over dialogue are the film's only real flaws.
Well, and an ending that crumbles entirely when logic is applied to it. But as a romance - particularly one starring the often robotic Reeves - it's surprisingly effective.
- Dawn Taylor
Cinetopia, Century Eastport, Pioneer Place, Lloyd Center, Hilltop, Evergreen Parkway, Movies on TV, Division Street, Stark Street
'Sisters in Law' (NR)
In this instance, the title refers not to familial relations but legal matters.
This inspiring documentary examines the work being done by female lawyers and judges in Cameroon, West Africa, where ancient laws and long-standing traditions are coming into conflict with the growing power (or, to some, the threat) of education and progress.
Without any talking-head interviews to explain or comment on the proceedings, the camera observes three cases - a battered wife seeking a divorce, a child brutally 'disciplined' by her aunt (who says 'I only beat her when I was angry') and a young girl who has been raped - and reveals the conditions against which the Women Lawyers Association must struggle every day.
There's no preaching or finger-pointing or editorializing - just a straightforward presentation that proves surprisingly upbeat as it shows a new spirit growing in difficult soil.
- Pat Holmes
7 p.m. Friday, June 16, and 9 p.m. Saturday, June 17, Whitsell Auditorium
'Twelve and Holding' (R)
Yet another dreary entry in the never-ending indie parade of domestic dysfunction dramas.
Taking a tainted page from the Todd Solondz catalog, but without Solondz's polish or conviction (nor his seeming contempt), director Michael Cuesta examines the lives of three 12-year-olds in trouble.
A boy with a disfiguring birthmark loses his brother in an accident and develops a morbid fascination with the bully who caused the death. Another boy is plagued by obesity and the enabling ways of his horrific family of fatties. And a girl falls in love with the construction-worker client of her psychiatrist mother.
The three stories encompass a variety of problems that feel as if they were checked off a list of social ills and potential shock points rather than assembled into a coherent vision. Though the young performers do their best, they can't make it all hang together credibly or relieve a slight whiff of exploitation that results from Cuesta's messily grotesque, obsessive and artificial treatment.
Also new this week: The title pretty much tells you all you need to know about 'Psychopathia Sexualis,' which is loosely based on a medical text from the 19th century (Clinton Street Theater). The Oregon-produced 'Say Uncle' is a humorous take on conflicting family values (Hollywood). The short films that are nominated for Academy Awards aren't usually seen by large audiences, but it's not too late to see this year's batch (9:15 p.m. Friday, June 16, and 7 p.m. Saturday, June 17, Whitsell Auditorium). 'Following Sean' offers an update on the life of a flower child (Hollywood), and the cynical orange cat returns in 'Garfield: A Tale of Two Kitties.'