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Ballad of Narayama

"The Ballad of Narayama" is a Japanese film of great beauty and elegant artifice, telling a story of startling cruelty. What a space it opens…

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Fans set to pay for peek at new 'Star Wars'

The way it usually works, you pay for the movie, and the coming attractions are free. But fans are planning to pay admission today just to be among the first to get a 130-second preview of the next "Star Wars" movie.

A coming attractions trailer for "Star Wars -- Episode I: The Phantom Menace" will play today at four Chicago area theaters and at other selected sites around the nation. On Friday, the trailer will go into release on thousands of screens.

But Friday is too long to wait for some fans, who are calling theater box offices for the trailer's play times, according to the movie's Chicago rep, Nancy Meyer of 20th Century Fox. News of the advance previews was posted over the weekend on the studio's official "Star Wars" Web site.

The original "Star Wars" trilogy is a landmark in movie history. But its story began with "Episode IV," and now "Star Wars" creator George Lucas is turning back the clock to make three films covering the events before the original trilogy begins.

"Every generation has a legend," announces the new trailer, which I was able to see on Monday. "Every saga has a beginning." The trailer uses brief shots from the new film to show a world that visually resembles the "Star Wars" images we already know: weird aliens, laser beams, spaceships. There's a brief point-of-view sequence of a breakneck chase through rock formations on another planet that reflects the series' earlier scenes of spaceships rocketing through the iron canyons of one of Vader's ships and of troopers racing through a redwood forest on airborne scooters. The music for the trailer is from John Williams' original score.

The only familiar face is Yoda, which makes sense. Other characters would be too young for viewers to recognize, or not yet born. New faces include Samuel L. Jackson as Mace Windu, said to be chief of the Jedi Council. The logo photo and posters for the film show young actor Jake Lloyd as Anakin Skywalker; his shadow on a desert planet outlines the silhouette of Darth Vader.

The trailer will play today before and after screenings of "The Waterboy" and "Meet Joe Black" at the 600 N. Michigan theaters, the AMC South Barrington theaters, the GCC Yorktown 18 in Lombard and the AMC Cantera 30 in Warrenville. If you can restrain yourself, it will be playing in theaters virtually everywhere starting Friday.

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