Tired, But Wired
In the land of the Midnight Sun.
By Lois Wadsworth

INSOMINIA: Directed by Christopher Nolan. Written by Hillary Seitz. Based on the film Insomnia, directed by Erik Skjoldbjaerg; written by Nikolaj Frobenius, Erik Skjoldbjaerg. Produced by Paul Junger Witt, Edward L. McDonnell, Broderick Johnson. Andrew A. Kosove. Executive producers George Clooney, Steven Soderbergh, Tony Thomas, Kim Roth and Charles J.D. Schlissel. Cinematography, Wally Pfister. Production design, Nathan Crowley. Editor, Dody Dorn. Music, David Julyan. Starring Al Pacino, Robin Williams and Hilary Swank, with Maura Tierney, Martin Donovan, Jonathan Jackson, Nicky Katt and Paul Dooley. Warner Bros., 2002. R. 118 minutes.

Will Dormer (Al Pacino), at the site where it all went wrong.

Even the opening credits grab you, posing the question: What am seeing here? One recurring set of images is taken from just above the tops of jagged, glaciated mountains, while the second shows microscopic fibers soaking up a reddish brown liquid. These images are intercut to suggest they're connected, a riddling that posits the vast impersonal range of nature with an individual's life fluid. Think of them as abstract shots that establish that we're here in a remote, terrifying place, far from culture and human populations, and someone has just died a bloody, involuntary death.

Director Christopher Nolan (Memento) has chosen another off-beat mystery for this picture, and it's easy to see that he's no one-trick pony. He's smart, great with actors and deftly able to build and keep the suspense and action at a fast pace throughout. His special gift is mood. He gets right that weird, otherworldly view of the ordinary that happens to the seriously sleep-deprived. He doesn't use smoke and mirrors, simply music, fast cuts to horrific images and the increasingly weary movements of detective Will Dormer (Al Pacino) as he becomes desperate for sleep. And Nolan ably directs a chase scene across a log-jammed, fast-running, frigid river.

Police detective Dormer and his associate Hap Eckhart (Martin Donovan) fly into Nightmute, Alaska, in a puddle jumper that skims in to the bay on pontoons. They've been sent up from L.A. to help a former buddy, Chief Nyback (Paul Dooley), with a murder investigation. The town's detective, Ellie Burr (Hilary Swank) meets them at the dock and takes them to the morgue to view the body of the victim, a young woman in her teens.

This sequence illustrates Dormer's abilities, as he discloses that the killer washed the victim's hair and clipped her nails after he beat her to death. Burr is enthralled with Dormer's analysis and takes the opportunity of working with him to learn about her craft from one of the best in the business. This bond will have repercussions for both of them before the case is solved.

Eckhart isn't exactly in awe of his partner; in fact he tells Dormer that he is going to make a deal with the internal affairs investigators who are looking at LAPD detectives to find dirty cops. Dormer knows that Eckhart won't change his mind. Dormer can't sleep, because he knows exactly what corners he has cut over the years and how that will sound if his partner talks. His inner demons and the demands of the case conspire to make Dormer vulnerable, even to the killer himself.

Rachel (Maura Tierney) plays the hotel clerk and waitress; Walter Finch (Robin Williams), is a local mystery writer who knew the dead girl; Jonathan Jackson plays the dead girl's smartass boyfriend; and Nicky Katt ("Boston Public") plays one of the officers in the Nightmute police department.

But it's Pacino's picture. His restrained performance is one of his best. And Swank (Boys Don't Cry) makes good in a second banana role. Williams holds back on the corn that comes too easily for him. I wouldn't say he was good, just that I didn't think once of "Mork and Mindy" when he opened his mouth. That's good.

Now playing at Cinemark and Cinema World. Very highly recommended thriller.   

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Pop Culture Heros
Style is everything.
By Lois Wadsworth

DOGTOWN AND Z-BOYS: Documentary. Directed by Stacy Peralta. Written by Stacy Peralta, Craig Stecyk. Narrated by Sean Penn. Produced by Agi Orsi. Executive producer, Jay Wilson. Editor, Paul Crowder. Cinematography, Peter Pilafian. Production design, Craig Stecyk. Original music, Terry Wilson, Paul Crowder. Starring Jay Adams, Tony Alva, Bob Biniak, Paul Constantineau, Shogo Kubo, Jim Muir, Peggy Oki, Stacy Peralta, Nathan Pratt, Wentzle Ruml and Allen Sarlo. With Skip Englbom, Glen E. Friedman, Jeff Ho, Henry Rollins, Craig Stecyk. Sony Pictures Classics Release, 2002. PG-13. 90 minutes.

I hate to tell you how much I like this indecently late homage to a scruffy, scrappy band of California street kids who took their surfing chops to the sidewalks, asphalt and empty swimming pools of Santa Monica and Venice in the drought years of the 1970s. Under the tutelage of Jeff Ho, Skip Engblom and Craig Stecyk, who owned a surf shop patronized by the famous and infamous outlaw surfers of the era, the Z-boys found their way. Engblom and Ho trained them, while Stecyk took pictures. And oh, boy, what great pictures they are.

Jay Adams (top) and Tony Alva (bottom).

Dogtown was the name residents gave to the rundown urban beach neighborhood where they lived. The shop was their clubhouse, where they watched surfer films. They were particularly enamored of Hawaiian surfing superstar Larry Bertelman's style. The kids tried it out first in the water and then on land. The Z-Boys, as the skateboarding team was called, adopted a low-slung style that was totally different from the tentative upright form popular in the 1960s. These kids were cool. They knew that looking good while you're skating is what separates dedicated, gifted skateboarders from the merely technically proficient.

Photojournalists Stecyk and Glen E. Friedman took miles of footage of these skaters' early careers, which is still thrilling today. Of equal importance, Stecyk wrote about the Z-Boys of Dogtown and published pictures of them in SkateBoarder Magazine, which lit a fire for thousands of eager young skaters across the country, who'd never seen anything like this.

Neither had the kids who were inventing it. Streets and sidewalks had potholes and cracks that made boards with clay wheels vulnerable to the least bump. But when acrylic wheels came in that hugged the surface, the possibilities of where to surf opened up. Lots of private swimming pools were drained during Southern California's drought years, and these guys drove down alleys in the posher parts of Santa Monica looking for them. A pool might be available only for a few hours before the cops came.

The curved lines of the pool made interesting maneuvers possible, and the boys who later became superstars such as Jay Adams, Tony Alva and the film's director, Stacy Peralta, pushed the envelope. The competition between the skaters was intense but friendly, and every day someone discovered a new move, which they all copied. And by the time the Z-Boys (and Peggy Oki, the only girl member) participated in the Del Mar National skateboarding competition in 1975, they blew out the competition and made skating history.

This film deserves the attention it's getting. Some of the kids here started skating at age 5, like Jay Adams, who had a supportive stepfather. Adams' performance at Del Mar will still knock your socks off. He is graceful, daring, totally at ease, yet trying new moves even in competition. It's a bittersweet privilege to see Adam's work, because he is the most obvious casualty of early fame among them.

Tony Alva turned his fame into creating a trend-setting skateboard company. Bob Biniak became a golfer in college and also started a company. Jim Muir learned to make boards for the team and still runs the company. Peggy Oki is an established painter and operates her own greeting card business.

You don't have to love skateboarding to love this sweet little film. It's just a joy to watch these daredevil kids and remember the long summers of your own youth when trying some new athletic feat brought you the greatest pleasure. Opens at the Bijou Friday, May 31. Highest recommendations. 

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Films open the Friday following date of EW publication unless otherwise noted.

All About the Benjamins: Miami bounty hunter Ice Cube and bail jumper Mike Epps team up to take advantage of some hot diamonds in Kevin Bray's comic action drama. R. Movies 12.

Dogtown and Z-Boys: Stacy Peralta's great documentary on the scrappy street kids who invented vertical skateboarding as we know it. Includes early shots of the antics of skating superstars Jay Adams, Tony Alva and others who learned the tricks of great surfers and adapted them to the sport. Highest recommendations. PG-13. Bijou. See review this issue.

Ice Age: Chris Wedge directs the voices of Ray Romano, John Leguizamo, Denis Leary, and Goran Vizjnic in this digitally animated story of prehistoric creatures trying to save a human child. G. Movies 12.

Psycho (1960): Classic Hitchcock stars Anthony Perkins, Janet Leigh, Vera Miles, John Gavin. On the lawn in front of the Knight Library at dusk (or in case of rain, 180 PLC) 6/7. Free.

Reds (1981): Warren Beatty's acclaimed revisioning of the life and times of John Reed and Louise Bryant is set during the time of the Russian Revolution and includes interviews with aged members of the American Communist Party. Stars Beatty, Diane Keaton, Jack Nicholson, Maureen Stapleton and many others. Great picture! PG. At 7 pm on 6/6 in 180 PLC.

Sum of All Fears: Ben Affleck and Morgan Freeman are Central Intelligence agents trying to prevent terrorists from getting weapons of mass destruction. Also stars James Crowmell, Liev Schreiber, Alan Bates and Philip Baker Hall. Based on Tom Clancy's bestseller. PG-13. Cinemark. Cinema World.

Undercover Brother: Action comedy directed by Malcolm D. Lee and written by John Ridley stars Eddie Griffin, who adopts the garb of blaxploitation era private detectives to go undercover. PG-13. Cinema World. Cinemark.

About a Boy: Nick Hornby's popular British novel about a rich London rake (Hugh Grant) who invents an imaginary son to meet women who are single parents. But instead he finds a troubled boy (Nicholas Hoult), who teaches him to grow up. Directed by Chris and Paul Weltz, it also stars Toni Collette, Rachel Weisz. Highest recommendations. PG-13. Cinemark. Online archives.

Beautiful Mind, A: Inspired by the true story of a mathematical genius who battles mental illness, Ron Howard's film stars Russell Crowe, Ed Harris and Jennifer Connelly. Academy Awards for supporting actress, directing, best picture, and writing. Highly recommended. PG-13. Movies 12. Online archives.

Big Fat Liar: Frankie Muniz ("Malcolm in the Middle") tries to prove sleazy Hollywood producer (Paul Giamatti) turned his class paper into a hit movie. Directed by Shawn Levy. PG. Movies 12.

Blade 2: Directed by Guillermo del Toro, who also directed Devil's Backbone. But there the resemblance ends. Wesley Snipes stars in this vampire horror flick. R. Movies 12.

Changing Lanes: Starring Ben Affleck and Samuel L. Jackson as, two men who meet in a minor car accident and set out to destroy each other's lives. Directed by Roger Mitchell and produced by Scott Rudin. R. Cinema World.

Enough: Jennifer Lopez tries to get away from her abusive husband, played by Billy Campbell ("Once and Again"), in Michael Apted's drama, written by Nicholas Kazan (Reversal of Fortune). Also, Juliette Lewis, Noah Wyle. PG-13. Cinema World. Cinemark.

Forty Days and 40 Nights: Josh Hartnett plays a high school heartthrob who gives up all sex for 40 days and nights. Then the girl of his dreams, played by Shannyn Sossaman, walks into his life. R. Movies 12.

High Crimes: Ashley Judd plays a woman who finds out her husband is not who he claimed to be. She and Morgan Freedman must defend him from being framed by the military. PG 13. Movies 12.

I Am Sam: Sean Penn plays a mentally-challenged single parent raising his daughter. Michelle Pfeiffer plays an attorney who takes his case when the girl is put in foster care by social services. Extraordinary performance by Penn, who received an Academy nod. PG-13. Movies 12. Online archives.

Insomnia: Christopher Nolan (Memento) explores sleep deprivation in this remake of a 1998 thriller from Norway. Set in Alaska, it stars Al Pacino and Robin Williams, Hilary Swank, Martin Donovan, Maura Tierney, Nicky Katt and Paul Dooley. Highly recommended thriller. R. Cinemark. Cinema World. See review this issue.

Italian for Beginners: A Dogma '95 film, this light, romantic comedy written and directed by Lone Scherfig interweaves the stories of six insecure Copenhagen singles. R. Bijou.

Lord of the Rings, The: The Fellowship of the Ring: The first book in J. R. R. Tolkien's literary trilogy, directed by Peter Jackson stars Elijah Wood, Ian McKellen, Cate Blanchett, Liv Tyler, Sean Astin, Christopher Lee. Academy Award winner for cinematography, makeup, and visual effects. Highest recommendations. PG-13. Movies 12. Online archives.

Monsters Inc.: From Pixar, the creators of Toy Story, comes a new computer-animated feature about a scare factory, Monsters Inc., and its top monster, Sulley (voice of John Goodman). Also voices of Billy Crystal, James Coburn, Jennifer Tilly, Steve Buscemi and Mary Gibbs. G. Movies. 12.

New Guy, The: DJ Qualls plays high school senior who has a chance to wipe the slate clean and reinvent himself. Comedy directed by Ed Decter also stars Eliza Dushku, Zooey Deschanel, Lyle Lovett and Eddie Griffin. PG-13. Cinemark.

Resident Evil: Milla Jovovich and Michelle Rodriguez play commando leaders trying to save the world in this action thriller based on the video game. R. Movies 12.

Spider Man: Tobey Maguire stars in Sam Raimi's film about one of the most popular comic book superheroes to come to the screen. Also stars Willem Dafoe as the Green Goblin, Kirsten Dunst, James Franco, Cliff Robertson, Rosemary Harris and J.K. Simmons. PG-13. Cinemark. Cinema World. Online archives.

Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron: Animated Western adventure with the voices of Matt Damon, James Cromwell and Daniel Studi is an action picture, not a comedy. Co-directed by Kelly Asbury and Lorna Cook. G. Cinema World. Cinemark.

Star Wars: Attack of the Clones: George Lucas' second of three Star Wars' prequels comes to the screen with Hayden Christensen, Natalie Portman, Ewan McGregor, Ian McDiarmid and Samuel Jackson doing all the heavy lifting. PG. Cinema World. Cinemark.

Unfaithful: From director Adrian Lyne (Fatal Attraction) comes a film that plays on the fears of married people. Diane Lane plays a married woman who has an affair (Oliver Martinez) that leads her husband (Richard Gere) to become suspicious. Violence lurks. R. Cinema World. Cinemark.

Van Wilder: In the classic tradition of National Lampoon movies, Walt Becker directs this comedy about graduation. Staring Ryan Reynolds and Tara Reid. R. Movies 12.

We Were Soldiers: Mel Gibson stars as Lt. Col Hal Moore who led his men in the brutal battle for La Drang Valley in the Viet Nam war. Based on Moore's memoir. Directed by Randall Wallace, also stars Madeleine Stowe, Greg Kinnear, Sam Elliot, Chris Klein, Keri Russell and Barry Pepper. The first half is a WWII movie, while the last half is surprising and moving. R. Movies 12. Online archives.

Y Tu Mamá También: Two teens and an unhappily married woman in a sexy Mexican road movie that also has a political subtext. Director Alfonso Cuarón, writer Carlos Cuarón and cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki create a fabulous movie for stars Maribel Verdu, Diego Luna and Gael Garcia Bernal. Highest recommendations. NR Bijou. Online archives.

Use the links provided below for specific show times.

Bijou Art Cinemas
Bijou Theater 686-2458 | 492 E. 13th

Regal Cinemas
Cinema World 342-6536 | Valley River Center
Springfield Quad 726-9073 |

Cinemark Theaters
Movies 12 741-1231 | Gateway Mall
Movies before 12:30 are Sat. Sun. only. $1.50 all shows all days.
Cinemark 17 741-1231 | Gateway Mall

Releases subject to change. Available the Tuesday following date of EW publication, sometimes sooner:

Blue Velvet Special Edition: David Lynch's 1986 film starring Isabella Rossellini, Kyle MacLachlan, Laura Dern, Dennis Hopper, Hope Lange and Dean Stockwell becomes available on DVD special, complete with interviews and more. R.

Hustler Special Edition: DVD release of Robert Rossen's 1961 classic starring Paul Newman, Jackie Gleason, Piper Laurie and George C. Scott includes commentary by film editor Dede Allen, film critic Richard Schickel and more.

Mothman Prophecies: Richard Gere, Debra Messing, Laura Linney, Will Patton and Alan Bates star in this tale of the supernatural based on events chronicled in John A. Keel's book. PG-13.

Shallow Hal and Shallow Hal: Jack Black plays a neurotic womanizer who gets hypnotized into seeing right through Gwyneth Paltrow's fat suit. Word is the Farrellys are uncharacteristically good humored. Hmmm. PG-13.

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