Film

Washington HeightsDirected by Alfredo de Villa (MAC, opens May 9) One-upping Latino immigrant movies like Luminarias and Tortilla Soup, Washington Heights zeroes in on go-getters (mostly of Dominican lineage) whose ambitions are transformed by familial demands. The film's weight lies in the tenuous anger between comic artist Carlos (Manny Perez) and his rakish father, Eddie (Tomas Milian), who doesn't believe in his son's career. Vivid neighborhood details—dominoes, stickball, an impatient mami in a club peeing in the bathroom sink, the ebb and flow of emotions in a bodega—are ratcheted up by the itchy supporting cast. Bobby Cannavale's paroled-brother routine has a filthy, funny, James Caan-ish mold growing around it and hapless mook Danny Hoch makes Richard Edson look like Cary Grant. The DV tics (vertiginous pull-zooms, smeary focus) can't bury the movie's immense heart. —Edward Crouse


The Lizzie McGuire MovieDirected by Jim Fall (Disney, in release) Didn't Philip Larkin write, "When I see a couple of kids/And guess he's a crafty Italian teen idol and she's/both Olsen twins crammed into a Britney Aguilera jumpsuit,/I know this is paradise/Everyone old has dreamed of all their lives . . . "? Maybe not. Regardless, Disney's big-screen expansion of their hit TV show is nirvana for the pubescent crowd, a travelogue set to polymerized pop and replete with chaste swooning that would do Uncle Walt proud. Summering in Rome, junior high grad Lizzie (Hilary Duff) falls for a scheming crooner and achieves divahood before a pal pulls her baby fat out of the fire. As Lizzie's punk kid brother puts it, "Some say juvenile, I say genius!" I think he was quoting Larkin. —Mark Holcomb


KalpanaDirected by Uday Shankar (May 10 through 12, at the Walter Reade) A remarkable accomplishment in any era, this 154-minute film must have staggered viewers when it appeared in 1948. It fuses the mad-genius biography with travelogue, surrealist dance film, political tract, and soap opera, and was a major inspiration to Satyajit Ray. Shankar (1900-1977), older brother to Ravi, stars, and much of the material represents his hallucinations on his path from diplomat's son to premier dance innovator of his time and place. Influenced by Western styles, he returned to Almora after years touring in Europe and founded a cultural center, displayed in the film as the site of wild intrigue between his jealous wife and his beloved dance partner. —Elizabeth Zimmer


The TripWritten and directed by Miles Swain (TLA, opens May 9, at the Quad) Swain's debut steals every trick in the gaysploitation book down to the Alexis Arquette glorified cameo, but the end result—compulsively horrible and full of unintentional poignant hilarity—is its own mutant creature. In 1973, while researching a book on "homosexual behavior," repressed young Republican Alan (Larry Sullivan) goes from Santorumish ignoramus to Log Cabin poster boy with one bat of an eyelash from swoony gay activist Tommy (Steve Braun). Years later, thanks to a Machiavellian sugar daddy's intervention, Alan's long lost homophobic tract resurfaces as a bestseller (The Straight Truth) in time to fuel the Anita Bryant fire. Set in AIDS-ravaged 1984, the reconciliatory road trip splits the difference between Longtime Companion and The Living End, pausing for a striptease to Van Halen's "Jump" along a Mexican highway. —Dennis Lim


Man on the TrainDirected by Patrice Leconte (Paramount Classics, opens May 9, at the Landmark and Cinemas 1, 2, 3) Here's the rare buddy movie with no action and little culture clash, though grizzled thief Milan (French rock icon Johnny Hallyday) does seem annoyed and adrift in the provincial burg where his train pulls up. In town on business—he plans to rob a local bank—Milan ends up crashing with garrulous old gentleman Manesquier (Jean Rochefort, hale and hearty after his travails as Don Quixote). Loners both, each man sees the other as a window on the road his life might have taken. Leconte's first hour adheres to the loping rhythms of Manesquier's erudite ramblings, but the film collapses in a heap of affirmational outbursts and metaphysical goop. The fond chemistry between the leads deserves a better movie: If Johnny Depp is unavailable when Terry Gilliam gives Cervantes another stab, he should cast Hallyday as Sancho Panza, and let the man sing. —Jessica Winter

 
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