STEAMBOY

A passionate poem to invention that also preys on our fears of science run amok, this extraordinary new animated picture from Katsuhiro Otomo (Akira) features Anna Paquin as the voice of Ray Steam, an intrepid Victorian lad from a family of inventors, who finds himself at the center of a crucible of murky vested interests when he is sent a monstrous new source of steam power that does unspeakable things to London's tourist attractions. Released in both dubbed and subtitled form, Steamboy is exquisitely animated with a blend of hand-drawn and state-of-the-art digital technology that suggests an old world being bullied into a new one. (ET) (EdwardsBreaStadiumEast;EdwardsUniversity,Irvine;UAMarketplace,LongBeach)

Obscurity becomes Kevin Costner. As Denny, a run-to-seed baseball star and cut-rate radio talk-show host who keeps showing up uninvited to booze with his suburban neighbor Terry (Joan Allen), whose husband has mysteriously disappeared, Costner all but steals the show out from under his co-star—which is no easy task. One senses that this uneven, erratic comedy-drama is an intensely personal project for director Mike Binder, who is not as forgiving as he might be toward Terry. Still, the film is carried by Costner and Allen, who project a chemistry so incrementally built on reluctant camaraderie they almost seem like siblings. (ET) (Countywide)

Glossily commercial and intellectually ambitious, this gripping drama from Eytan Fox (Yossi & Jagger) takes on the hardened heart of Israel at home and abroad. Lior Ashkenazi (Late Marriage) is terrific as an unraveling Mossad assassin who poses as a tour guide to two young visiting Germans (Knut Berger and Caroline Peters) in the hope that they will lead him to their grandfather, an elderly Nazi war criminal. For all its perfunctory heterosexual love story, Walk on Water is a barely closeted gay movie, and a conciliatory meditation on the endless tussle between vengeance and forgiveness that is Israel's legacy. (ET) (EdwardsSouthCoastVillage,SantaAna)

In this poignant, funny, uncloyingly sentimental exercise in alternative bird watching, Judy Irving trains her increasingly engaged camera on homeless musician and de facto ornithologist Mark Bittner, whose care, protection and close observation of a flock of cherry-headed conures (Mingus, Picasso, Sophie, et al.) unexpectedly assume the dimensions of a vocation, and whose identification with a curmudgeonly blue-headed interloper (Connor) leads to an unexpected turn in his own, already eccentric life's journey. Wild Parrots is also about how the city of San Francisco still does, here and there and especially around North Beach, live up to its reputation as a haven for birds of a different feather. Following an arc from whimsical detachment to profound engagement, this is a remarkable document from a filmmaker who enters—deeply, personally and, above all, tactfully—into the lives of all her subjects. (RS) (EdwardsSouthCoastVillage,SantaAna)

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