"High Fidelity," "Mr. Death, The Rise and Fall of Fred A. Leuchter Jr.," "The Skulls" and "The Road to El Dorado" 

Quick Flicks

!B! "High Fidelity"
!B! "Mr. Death, The Rise and Fall of Fred A. Leuchter Jr."
!B! "The Skulls"
!B! "The Road to El Dorado"

"High Fidelity" — John Cusack puts a humorous edge on heartbreak in this Stephen Frears-directed adaptation of the popular Nick Hornby novel of the same name. As Rob Gordon, Cusack is the thirtysomething owner of "Championship Vinyl," a record store for true music fans. Along with his two employees — played wonderfully by Jack Black and Todd Luiso — Rob spends his days talking music and compiling endless Top 5 lists. When his latest live-in love moves out, Rob compiles a personal Top-5 break-up list. Cue the flashbacks.

While this latest romantic setback serves as the impetus for Cusack's overdue self-examination, it's the movie's weakest plotline. The best parts involve the banter between Cusack, Black and Luiso as well as Cusack's straightforward soliloquies to the camera. See this one for the acting, whip-smart dialogue and soundtrack. Forget the romance.

"Mr. Death, The Rise and Fall of Fred A. Leuchter Jr." — For his latest subject, documentarist Errol Morris introduces us to Fred Leuchter, a Boston native who has become something of an expert in execution devices and processes. On camera most of the movie's 90-plus minutes, Morris documents the life and times of Leuchter, which are deeply discomforting and cumulatively creepy.

Although one's beliefs on capital punishment will affect Leuchter's impact, the movie becomes truly freaky when he's hired to prove that the Holocaust was a lie. After nearly 30 minutes of watching Leuchter describe how happenstance led him to being perceived as an expert among state prisons, we watch as he undertakes a clandestine, laughably "scientific" examination of Auschwitz. Hired by a Canadian revisionist historian legal team, guess what he finds? That amazingly, 50 years after the fact, the lab could find no evidence of a gaseous substance which leaves little evidence on stone, brick or mortar in the first place. To this day, Leuchter remains dismayed and even hurt that his Auschwitz examination was not his crowning achievement.

"The Skulls" — Claiming to rip the lid off of a secret college society named the Skulls, this silly exercise in WB-star crossover promotion ends up being so bad it's actually funny. Obviously inspired by Yale's not-so-secret "Skull and Bones" campus society, any semblance of reality ends there.

"Dawson's Creek" star Joshua Jackson is a college kid from the wrong side of the bank ledger who somehow gets tapped for The Skulls. He's in love with former St. Gertrude's gal Leslie Bibb (star of WB's "Popular"), but he can't tell her 'cuz "her parents own a private jet and I've never been in a jet." When another friend meets an untimely end, Jackson and Bibb set out to solve the mystery. Jackson and Bibb do fine with what they're given, they just ain't given much.

"The Road to El Dorado" — This new animated adventure from DreamWorks suffers from the same malaise as "The Skulls," an uninspired script. As the voices of two 16th-century con men, Kevin Kline (Tulio) and Kenneth Branagh (Miguel) try their vociferous best to enliven the story. Even music by Elton John and lyrics by Tim Rice — "The Lion King" scorers — add little to this spectacle.

As mindless entertainment with some spectacular animation and a funny, hip riff on those old Bing Crosby/Bob Hope road movies, "The Road to El Dorado" succeeds. Just don't look for any clear-cut moral message or an inspiring adventure.


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