ORWELL ROLLS IN HIS GRAVE (Unrated, 95 minutes)
Robert Kane Pappas's movie preaches to the choirs already stuffed with, but presumably not sated by, the nefarious doings of Republicans, corporations and their powerful, deregulating ilk. The wordy, talking-head-dominated movie feels like a do-over of the views and arguments found in such Republican-bashing documentaries as "Fahrenheit 9/11," "The Corporation" and "Outfoxed." The focus, this time, is on the monolithic media, chiefly television, that dutifully report on news that the (Republican, primarily) government decides is fit for the public. That's the Orwellian aspect of Pappas's take on the media, or in the words of interviewee and media watchdog Danny Schechter, the "mediacracy." But even though "Orwell" makes telling points through its interviewees (including historians, legal experts, media observers and, of course, Michael Moore), the argument feels occasionally over-the-top. That tone isn't helped by the almost comically ominous music on the soundtrack. It doesn't help matters, either, that Pappas chooses to interview people in the dullest of settings, at their desks, in front of book shelves, that sort of thing. Your eyes are not rewarded for sitting through this. In the end, the movie comes across as a political science course videotape rather than a movie to fully engage a general audience. Contains nothing objectionable. At the American Film Institute's Silver Theatre.
A THOUSAND CLOUDS OF PEACE (Unrated, 83 minutes)
Julian Hernandez's mournful dirge for a young gay man stuck on an unrequited love in the Mexican slums is a beautifully photographed banality. It's a movie that pretends to be about something but, in the end, is merely about cinematographer Diego Arizmendi's images and camera gyrations and some homoerotic notion in Hernandez's head that doesn't convey much more than one-note loneliness. Gerardo (an almost catatonic Juan Carlos Ortuno) is heartbroken over a man who loved and left him. He spends his time, and frankly ours, hanging around in lonely places where other men meet for passionate transactions and in the pool hall where he works (but doesn't seem to do a whole lot for his money). Bruno's heel-cooling is interspersed with flashbacks and voice-over readings of a letter that was left for him (presumably by Bruno, the man who dumped him). There is a sniff of Robert Bresson's old black-and-white movies of religious suffering. But "Clouds" lacks Bresson's exquisite and torturous depth. It's as pretentious and wispy as its title. Contains nudity, sexual scenes, some violence and obscenity. In Spanish with subtitles. At Landmark's E Street Cinema.
THUNDERBIRDS (PG, 87 minutes)
This abomination of a movie (imagine a bad "Spy Kids" episode full of master-race dudes in silly space uniforms, all high-fiving each other) is a woeful attempt to introduce American audiences to a classic TV show that everyone in England grew up with in the 1960s and 1970s. The original show was "Thunderbirds," a charming (and in later years, we grew up to realize, wonderfully campy) series that featured puppets. It was about a family called the Tracys who lived on a remote fortress island in the Pacific that hid launching stations for five super, jet-fired vessels. The family was the International Rescue team, and the supercrafts were outfitted for various types of emergencies in different terrains, from outer space to underwater. Headed by family leader Jeff Tracy, the team consisted of Tracy sons Scott, John, Virgil, Gordon and Alan. Also in the puppet cast was the fabulous Lady Penelope, an aristocratic ally of the Tracys' who was driven around in her Jaguar by her trusty driver, Parker, who replied to every question with a "Yes m'lady." Audiences soon learned the show's buzz phrases. "F.A.B." was the Tracys' way of saying "I read you." And old man Jeff always said, at least once a show: "Thunderbirds are go!" The filmmakers of this American version (which features American actors in the British roles) could have redone this show with cool computer-generated animation and a perfectly well-known collection of British actors to voice the parts. Of course, a cool script would have been needed, too. Instead, this movie uses a cringe-worthy story about a new, younger Tracy, who goes to school in the United States, and dreams of joining his cool brothers on their F.A.B. missions. He gets his wish when the Hood (Ben Kingsley) decides to take over the island. But enough: This movie is horrible to sit through, let alone talk about. Let this be an opportunity, however, for you to check out the original "Thunderbirds" (Thunderbirdsonline.com) on the Internet and rent some of those original shows, now on DVD. Contains nothing objectionable apart from the whole movie. Area theaters.
TWIST (Unrated, 94 minutes)
An intriguing idea for about two seconds, this updating of the Charles Dickens story into a contemporary Toronto where the pickpockets of Dickens's London become smack-shooting gay hustlers is a bum trip. In writer-director Jacob Tierney's scheme, the Artful Dodger of Dickens's novel is Dodge (Nick Stahl), a street hustler with a junk habit who sells himself to passing drivers. He's part of a Gus Van Santish "family" of other hustlers. They're supervised by Fagin (Gary Farmer), a portly father figure; and the whole organization is run by the unseen Bill. Also in there is Nancy (Michele-Barbara Pelletier), Bill's wife, who supplies the nighttime boys with coffee and heroin. Into this world comes Oliver (Joshua Close), whose innocence becomes a sort of catnip for everyone. Dodge, Fagin, everyone, even a certain cruising senator, are drawn to him. But it's hard to follow the rush to Oliver, who spends the movie looking down at his feet, or even care about the outcome. The movie's far too stagy and pretentious. There's little to redeem it except Stahl's credibly freaked-out performance as Dodge. Contains drug use, sexual situations, violence and obscenity. At Landmark's E Street Cinema.