MARCH 2008

PARANOID PARK: Gabe Nevins, Jake Miller, Taylor Momsen, Lauren McKinney, Daniel Lui (Written and directed by Gus Van Sant) More than any other contemporary filmmaker, Gus Van Sant seems obsessed with telling tales of men, for the most part very young men, who are saddled with mind-blowing stress. Sometimes they are innocent victims of an unjust society; sometimes they are total weirdos waiting for the right moment to pounce; and sometimes they are a blend of the two. To see what we mean, think about the troubled males at the center of Van Sant’s “Drugstore Cowboy,” “My Own Private Idaho,” “To Die For,” “Good Will Hunting,” “Gerry,” “Elephant” and even the remake of Hitchcock’s “Psycho.” Soon you will be able to think about still another Van Sant study of a boy in bad shape. This time it’s Alex (Gabe Nevins), a restless, 16-year-old skateboarder who, without bothering to buy a ticket, hops aboard a train headed for Paranoid Park, a Portland hangout for alienated street kids. Somewhere in transit, Alex is spotted and pursued by a billy-club-wielding security cop. Without thinking, Alex swiftly turns his skateboard into a lethal weapon, thereby dumping his stalker on the fast track to eternity. The rest of Van Sant’s story, based on the novel by Blake Nelson, may best be described as a quirky, child-friendly American spin on Dostoevsky’s “Crime and Punishment.” Now Playing

DRILLBIT TAYLOR: Owen Wilson, Nate Hartley, Troy Gentile, David Dorfman, Leslie Mann (Directed by Steven Brill; Written by Seth Rogen and Kristofor Brown; Paramount) There seems to be at least one sadistic brute running riot in every American school yard, and the bully in this rowdy romp is so overbearing that two of his prime victims pool their allowances and hire a struggling bodyguard for protection. Happily, their tilted hero-for-hire is played by Owen Wilson, currently winning raves for his performance in "The Darjeeling Limited." The film, co-written by Seth Rogen and Kristofor Brown, is being produced by Judd Apatow, the same wiz who directed supporting actor Rogen in “The 40-Year-Old Virgin” and turned him into a star in “Knocked Up.” Special bonus: Owen Wilson’s love interest is played by Leslie Mann, the sharp blonde scene-stealer from those two comedies--and the woman who, in real life, answers to the name of Mrs. Judd Apatow. Now Playing

FLAWLESS: Demi Moore, Michael Caine, Joss Ackland, Lambert Wilson (Directed by Michael Radford; Written by Edward Anderson; Magnolia Films) In “Blame It on Rio,” Stanley Donen’s dismal 1984 comedy, starlet Demi Moore played a teen who’s irked to discover her father is having a hot affair with her bosom buddy (Michelle Johnson). So who played Demi’s dirty rotten scoundrel of a dad? The always professional but not always sufficiently cautious Michael Caine. We wish them better luck this time around. A thriller, set in the swinging London of the 60s and based on real-life events, Caine plays a loyal janitor whose employers at a London diamond company reject an insurance claim for his seriously ailing wife, and Moore plays an American executive whose male-chauvinist-pig bosses at the same firm fail to pay her the proper respect, not to mention the proper salary. So, naturally, the abused underlings come up with a masterful plan to relieve the good old diamond boys of a few of their shiniest baubles. Before you step up to the ticket window, perhaps you should bear in mind that director Michael Radford is the chap responsible for 1994’s “Il Postino” and the 2004 film of “The Merchant of Venice,” with Al Pacino as Shylock. Now Playing

STOP-LOSS: Ryan Phillippe, Channing Tatum, Timothy Olyphant, Abbie Cornish, Mamie Gummer, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Rob Brown, Jay Hernandez (Directed by Kimberly Peirce; Written by Kimberly Peirce and Mark Richard; Paramount/Universal) After seeing combat in Iraq, the Army sergeant played by Ryan Phillippe returns to his home in Texas and decides to stay put, even though the Bush administration has very different plans for his future. Coming, as it does, from writer-director Kimberly Peirce, who last stunned us with “Boys Don’t Cry,” this politically hot film promises intellectual substance and emotional fire-power. Now Playing