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Southland Tales 

Donnie Darko director Richard Kelly offers a California dystopia ... and confusion

An Iraq war vet; an action-film hero with amnesia; a porn star; and a cop with a twin brother -- all caught up in a heady, dystopic epic/satire about nuclear war, homeland security, neo-Marxist revolutionaries, the 2008 election, the breaching of the space-time continuum and a drug that may make users break out into musical-comedy numbers. Now picture such dramatic lightweights as Justin Timberlake, Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, Sarah Michelle Gellar and Seann William Scott, respectively, in those aforementioned roles. Yup, director-writer Richard Kelly's follow-up to his critical cult hit Donnie Darko is a head-scratcher from start to finish. It's lousy with ambition and verve, but tough to follow, shy of unifying tone, and ultimately unsatisfying. Fans of similar but better works, such as Brazil, may enjoy it intellectually as a study in missing the mark, as well as for its novelty -- The Rock co-starring with Miranda Richardson? -- and its huge cast of comic actors. Starts Fri., Feb. 8, through Sun., Feb. 10. Melwood (AH) [capsule review]

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