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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Film Pair Snaps, Crackles and Pops

Long before Americans began their obsession with being skinny, eating right and living longer, there was Dr. John Harvey Kellogg, best known for the line of breakfast cereals bearing his name.


"The Road to Wellville," which opened Sunday at the Americom House of Cinema, is the story of Kellogg's sanitarium in Battle Creek, Michigan, and the wealthy, often neurotic people who went there around the turn of the century to take the cure.


As brilliantly played by Anthony Hopkins, Kellogg is a forceful, bucktoothed man who spreads his philosophy of vegetarianism, celibacy and a healthy alimentary canal with the zeal of an evangelist. At Kellogg's sanitarium, "the bowels are born again," the nurses are "nuns at the temple of health," and "an erection is a flagpole on your grave."


All this, of course, makes for great comedy, and that's the route director Alan Parker chose to take with a screenplay based on T. Coraghesan Boyle's book. For a while it works: There is something comical about prim Victorians receiving enemas, talking about their stools and struggling to come to terms with sexual desires forbidden them by Dr. Kellogg.


Some of the movie's most beautiful scenes are of rows of pink men and women, mostly chubby, chanting Kellogg's vegetarian mantras and being treated by his sometimes dangerous machines.


The plot centers on a couple from Westchester, New York, Will Lightbody (Matthew Broderick) and his wife, Eleanor (Bridget Fonda), who have come to the sanitarium to salvage their marriage. Neither Broderick nor Fonda are comedic actors, yet Parker effectively milks the comic situations for all their worth and thus carries most of the film.


Still, somewhere along the way "The Road to Wellville" gets lost in its own subplots and in lurching from comedy to drama and back again.


With the exception of Fonda -- who seems too late-20th-century to be credible -- the acting is superb. The only comedian in the cast, Dana Carvey, is surprisingly the one source of pathos, as Kellogg's troubled, alcoholic son, George.


For the Moscow audience, "The Road to Wellville" is worth seeing, if only because films like this don't often make their way here.


But when it comes to pure, unenlightening entertainment, "Terminal Velocity," the second selection at the Americom, is perhaps more successful.


Starring Charlie Sheen and Nastassja Kinski, "Terminal Velocity" is an unpretentious action film that is hokey but hair-raising. For local audiences, there is also a KGB angle, some Russian dialogue and a couple of scenes at the end filmed in Moscow.


The premise is fairly simple: Kinski is a good KGB agent battling a group of Russian mobsters and laid-off bad KGB agents in the Arizona desert. Sheen -- who has swollen up to look like a midcareer Elvis Presley, sideburns and all -- is a reckless skydiver who unwittingly joins Kinski in her quest to save Russia from a return to totalitarianism.


Kinski's acting is no great shakes, but that's the beauty of action films -- it doesn't matter much. Sheen's performance, however, does much to keep the film light and avoid turning "Terminal Velocity" into the kind of the over-serious, moralistic fare that makes the genre so popular with teeny boppers.


Director Deran Serafian makes use of skydiving as a dramatic device, and it adds some suspense -- after all, when a character leaps from an airplane, there is only so much time before he or she must open the parachute or die.





"The Road to Wellville" and "Terminal Velocity" play through Sunday at the Americom House of Cinema, in the Radisson-Slavjanskaya Hotel. "Terminal Velocity" shows daily at 9 p.m., with additional showings at 4:30 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. "The Road to Wellville" plays nightly at 6:45 p.m. Tickets are the ruble equivalent of $7.50 or $8 by credit card. Tel. 941-8747. Nearest metro: Kievskaya.