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Movie Column

Robots, Cinderella and Joseph Stalin

Sitting in the dark theatre last week, watching Dodgeball and listening to a kid named Cole yap and babble continuously, I kept thinking of Joseph Stalin. You know that merciless Soviet dictator who took power in 1929 and made life in the USSR a bit tricky if you didn’t agree with his way of doing things. Known for arresting and executing millions of Soviets for being "enemies of the people," Stalin could also be heard laying down such quoteable gems as, "One death is a tragedy, a million deaths is a statistic." He wasn’t a very compassionate guy, by any means.

But he loved movies, American movies especially. A big fan of Charlie Chaplin, Stalin had his own movie theatre built in the Kremlin – a theatre with a private projectionist and only one single seat (he didn’t date much, I guess). If the projectionist loaded the film reels wrong and the movie stopped or froze Stalin would have him executed and send the KGB out to find someone who could do the job right. Mean eh? Imagine what he would have done to someone talking during the movie?

Say what you want about one of history’s most murderous dictators, Joseph Stalin had his shit together when it came to watching a movie. I wished he were there with me last week, strangling this obnoxiously loud Cole kid and restoring the theatre to its proper state of peaceful silence. Be quiet in the movie theatre people, or Stalin will get you.

For more on Stalin and the Soviet Union in the ’30s check out Andrei Konchalovsky’s 1992 film The Inner Circle on DVD. It’s about a happy projectionist who suddenly finds himself working for Stalin, and nervous work it is.

This week at the theatres, however, has less to do with Russian history and more to do with humanity’s future as the sci-fi action shoot-em-up I, Robot opens Friday at the Village 8. Based on a collection of short stories by sci-fi master Isaac Asimov, I, Robot stars Will Smith as a paranoid detective in the year 2035 who’s convinced a robot has killed a man. Robots are apparently quite commonplace in 2035 and people trust them the same way you’d trust a toaster or a blender – they’re machines with a certain purpose and job to do and they do it, end of story.

But Smith’s spider-sense starts tingling when the head scientist of US Robotics is found dead. Was it a suicide, as everyone believes, or did a robot named Sonny figure out how to think for itself and commit the crime?

Sure Smith’s character of the renegade cop with a hunch that no one believes has been done before and the PG-13 script could be a bit darker, more grim and thought-provoking, but director Alex Proyas ( The Crow, Dark City) uses superb camera work, well choreographed action sequences and his signature moody style to make I, Robot a decent, if forgettable, summer blockbuster action movie. Yeah Will Smith makes bad one-liners while saving the world again, but it’s not that bad – better than Bad Boys 2 in any case. This movie cost over a hundred million bucks to make and to ensure they make it back, the producers include a shot of Smith’s bare ass. Hey, it worked in Troy

Speaking of ass; as in, "this movie sucks ass" A Cinderella Story starring teen sensation Hilary Duff opens Friday as well. Since any literate person knows the story and everyone else has seen the cartoon there’s no need to go over the plot except to say that it’s poorly updated to fit the present times, i.e. a cellphone instead of glass slipper, a cute loft instead of an attic, so on and so forth. The cartoon characters of Cinderella’s wicked stepmother and sisters aren’t filled out enough in this movie to resemble real people, they’re still cartoons.

Hillary Duff, popular as a pop singer and crappy direct-to-video star, is competing with Lindsay Lohan to be the next Teen Queen – they even shared a boyfriend at one point and apparently hate each other (how very). But the problem is while Lohan’s movies rule ( Mean Girls especially) Duff’s are flat, and poorly thought out. Perhaps little girls might be conned into seeing this but me and Joseph Stalin are sitting it out.

For the last time people, PLEASE don’t talk during the movie.

At Village 8 July 16-22: I, Robot; Cinderella Story; Anchorman; Spiderman 2; Fahrenheit 911; King Arthur; Terminal; Supersize Me; Shrek 2; Dodgeball.

At Rainbow Theatre July 16-22: