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Acid re 'Flux'

When movies go under the radar

By Todd Leopold
CNN

Flux
Charlize Theron, looking deadly as "Aeon Flux."

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Eye on Entertainment
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(CNN) -- You've probably seen the commercials for "Aeon Flux": Charlize Theron, decked out in tight clothes and black hair, flipping and flying all over the future.

But you may not see many reviews this Friday. That's because the film isn't being screened for critics until the last minute.

And that's usually not a good sign.

Movie studios, and movie audiences, have a love-hate relationship with movie critics, the people who generally offer the first widely seen assessment of new films.

On the one hand, for a studio, any publicity is good publicity. On the other hand, few people believe "Freddy Got Fingered" earned so much as an extra dollar at the box office because it got so much attention. (Too bad for the studio that almost allexternal link of it was bad.)

For audiences, reviewers offer an opinion on the quality of a film. Some moviegoers take these reviews very seriously -- to the point that, if a reviewer disagrees with an audience member's belief, the critic gets bombarded with hate mail. (You should have seen some of the missives CNN.com received after Paul Clinton's lukewarm review of "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.") But most people realize a review is one person's opinion -- part of a guide to decide if you want to spend your money to see the film.

Even so, you're a studio who wants to pull an end-around the critics, you open the movie cold. The hardcore fans -- and "Aeon Flux" has many -- will be in line anyway.

The odd situation with "Flux" is that it's being released in December -- a huge month for Hollywood -- and it stars Charlize Theron, who's become an A-list actress. If you really want to avoid notice, you dump the movie in January. Or August. Pretty much any time but now.

"Aeon Flux" may have had a few early screenings, and it may be an inventive sci-fi flick that does honor to its animated roots. But who's to know?

Eye on Entertainment offers an outline.

Eye-opener

"Aeon Flux" has its origins in an early-'90s animated TV series created by Peter Chung that aired on MTV. The show consisted of a handful of short and full-length episodes, some of which ended with Aeon's death.

The movie, which some fans of the animated series have already criticized as being less than faithful to the original, takes place 400 years in the future. Disease has wiped out most of the human population; what's left lives in a walled city called Bregna, an allegedly perfect place.

Aeon Flux (Theron) is an agent for the opposition, the Monicans. Her goal is to assassinate the leader of the government. Frances McDormand plays her boss, the "Handler."

(Somehow, I'm reminded of a cross between "Logan's Run" and "The Prisoner.")

The film promises the usual sci-fi stew of special effects, acrobatics (Aeon is a very athletic assassin) and brooding landscapes. Whether it has a story or script is something else entirely. Karyn Kusama, of the highly rated "Girlfight," directed; Phil Hay and Matt Manfredi ("crazy/beautiful" and "The Tuxedo") wrote the screenplay.

"Aeon Flux" opens Friday. For pretty much everybody.

On screen

  • As far as new releases go, "Aeon Flux" pretty much has the weekend all to itself. A handful of other movies -- notably "Transamerica," which is attracting attention for Felicity Huffman's performance as a transsexual -- premiere in limited release. So this may be the weekend to catch up with "Harry Potter," "Walk the Line," "Pride and Prejudice" or "Good Night, and Good Luck," if you haven't seen them yet.
  • On the tube

  • It's dueling popes! ABC's two-hour "Have No Fear: The Life of Pope John Paul II" airs at 8 p.m. ET Thursday; CBS's two-part "Pope John Paul II" airs at 9 p.m. Sunday and the following Wednesday at 8. The former stars Thomas Kretschmann as the former Karol Wojtyla; the latter, Jon Voight (with Cary Elwes as the man before he was pontiff).
  • Sound waves

  • Foxy Brown's new CD, "Black Roses" (Def Jam), comes out Tuesday.
  • A collection of New Order's "Singles" (Rhino) hits record stores Tuesday.
  • Paging readers

  • "Memories of John Lennon" (HarperCollins), edited by Yoko Ono, offers essays by more than 70 contributors, including Bruce Morrow, James Brown, Jello Biafra, Alicia Keys and Annie Leibovitz. It comes out officially this month, days before the 25th anniversary of Lennon's death December 8.
  • Video center

  • The fourth season of "24" comes out Tuesday.
  • "Cinderella Man," which had a surprising fizzle in theaters, comes out on DVD Tuesday.
  • Francois Truffaut's classic "Shoot the Piano Player" gets the Criterion Collection treatment and is out on DVD Tuesday.
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