NASCAR 3D: THE IMAX EXPERIENCE
Directed by Simon Wincer
Warner Bros., opens March 12, Loews Lincoln Square
Boasting more real-life proletarian extras than most Eisenstein epics, this 46-minute advertainment for the National Association of Stock Car Auto Racing is not just for the fans but also about them. The front-seat p.o.v. shots prove less remarkable than the stadium crowd scenes: Deep seas of ball-capped, XXL-T-shirted masses take on a Duane Hanson-esque unreality in isometric 3-D. Perhaps aimed at NASCAR dads, lingering gear-porn visits to lab-like garages peep inside lusciously chuffing $150,000 engines. But with more logos per second than Josie and the Pussycats, this down-home love letter posits its working-class supporters not as protagonists but consumers, cheering on their just-folks race-car heroes for proxy fantasies of high-speed escape and high-tech goodies. The film's flashy you-are-there qualities only underscore the bittersweet gulf between NASCAR's seemingly self-actualized, life-risking gladiators and their softly padded, toddler-toting, ticket-buying fans. ED HALTER
GAMES PEOPLE PLAY: NEW YORK
Written and directed by James Ronald Whitney
FabiLuce, opens March 12, Clearview Chelsea
Director James Ronald Whitney has managed to offer the only thing the world needs less than another reality TV show: one that runs over an hour and a half, teems with pretense, and can't be terminated with the click of a remote. Wondering "how far will people go for fame?" Whitney sets out to shoot a pilot for "the world's most uninhibited reality show" (see: "maximize t&a, how to"). In 72 hours, six hard-bodied aspiring actorsthree men and three womencompete for a $10,000 grand prize by luring NYC citizens into compromising situations and conniving to rid them of their dignity. Just when Whitney's strip-happy players predictably start sobbing through feel-for-me interviews, the man with a hidden movie camera tries to get profound. Think Fear Factor: Soft Porn anchored by a third-act twist that results in confused meta-mayhem. MATTHEW PLOUFFE
Written and directed by Josell Ramos
Opens March 12, Quad
Maestro, Josell Ramos's talking-head history of the formative days of New York's underground club scene, would be all but unbearable without the excited testimony of the young men and women of color who'd spent their happiest nights at the Loft or the Gallery or Paradise Garage. When they talk about these now legendary discos as places of refuge and escape, "places where you could be yourself and you could be fabulous," you understand that dancing was only one of the crucial outlets available there. Unfortunately, few of the DJs Ramos rounded up, including Nicky Siano, David Mancuso, Frankie Knuckles, and (just before his death) Francis Grasso, are as engaging or enlightening. It's hardly their fault; most of them appear to have been shot with a concealed camera and from the most unflattering angle possible, so it's difficult to watch, much less listen to, them. You expect technical flaws from the rare archival footageLarry Levan at the Garage turntables, Keith Haring on the dancefloorbut when the new material is much worse, something's seriously wrong. Ramos says he was after a raw, underground ambience, but the result is less authentic than amateurish. VINCE ALETTI
Directed by Philip Kaufman
Paramount, in release
Starting a new job can be so stressful. Good thing newly appointed homicide inspector Ashley Judd knows all the useful coping techniques: drinking, flipping through her backstory-filled memento box, drinking some more, sleeping with strangers/co-workers/defense attorneys, and passing out. She picks up, so to speak, her first case, a string of murders. Problem is, she's slept with all the victims, and their deaths coincide with her blackouts. Obviously, Judd's the primary suspect (for starters, she can't even play drunk convincingly), but she's aided and abetted by an avuncular commish (Samuel L. Jackson, on an off-day) and a smarmy partner (Andy Garcia, his range reduced to two volume settings: smooth-daddy soft and rage-filled scream). Still, others should at least be brought downtown for questioning, like director Kaufman and newbie screenwriter Sarah Thorp, for colluding in a suspense thriller without thrills or suspense. Mitigating circumstance Camryn Manheim's wry forensics expert has watched too much CSI and Law & Order. No mystery here: Twisted is D.O.A. JORGE MORALES
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