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A Ring-a-Ding King 

Plus: Did I ever tell you how much I hated The Hangover? No?

Previews

NO STRINGS ATTACHED. Rom-com from veteran director Ivan Reitman (Ghostbusters, Legal Eagles, Dave) stars Natalie Portman and Ashton Kutcher as old friends who vow to have a strictly sexual relationship, no strings attached. Not hard to guess where things go. 110m. Rated R for sexual content, language and some drug material. Starts Friday at the Broadway, Mill Creek and the Fortuna.

COUNTRY STRONG. Gwyneth Paltrow stars as Kelly Canter, a troubled country music star fresh out of rehab, back on the road with her manager husband (real country star Tim McGraw), a young songwriter (Garrett Hedlund) and a cute would-be star (Leighton Meester). 112m. Rated PG-13 or thematic elements involving alcohol abuse and some sexual content. Starts Friday at the Broadway and Mill Creek.

Friday at the Arcata Theatre Lounge, it's the first half of Quentin Tarantino's stylized kung fu-ish actioner Kill Bill Vol. 1, with Uma Thurman as The Bride, an expert assassin betrayed by her boss (David Carradine) and out for blood.

On Saturday the ATL has director Wes Anderson's dysfunctional family tale, The Royal Tenenbaums. Gene Hackman is Royal Tenenbaum, patriarch of a family of former child prodigies including master investor Chas (Ben Stiller) tennis star Richie (Luke Wilson) and their adopted sister Margot (Gwyneth Paltrow), a playwright. Anjelica Huston plays the mom; Anderson stalwarts Bill Murray and Owen Wilson show up too. (Owen Wilson co-wrote the screenplay.)

On Saturday Temple Beth El presents a screening of Off and Running, a documentary about an adopted black teenager raised in Brooklyn by white Jewish lesbians who goes through changes as she decides to reconnect with her birth mother and rediscover her roots. The film kicks off an ongoing film/discussion series about identity, diversity and inclusion.

The Humboldt County Library Eureka branch series **Take it From the Top: Classic Movie Musicals comes to a close Tuesday with a screening of Cabaret, director Bob Fosse's 1972 musical starring Liza Minnelli as Sally Bowles, a singer/dancer at the Kit Kat Klub in Berlin during the rise of the Nazis. It's based on the 1966 Broadway musical, which is in turn based on Christopher Isherwood's The Berlin Stories and the play I Am a Camera. Your host is the Journal's own Charlie Myers.

Next Wednesday's ATL Sci-Fi Pint and Pizza Night features alien invaders and robots with a triple bill. Based on its poster, Star Odyssey, an Italian film from 1979, looks like an attempt to cash in on Star Wars. (It has aliens and suicidal robots.) Alien Species, from prolific B-movie director Peter Maris, has space creatures attacking Earth while a scientist and some cops fight back. Third (but not necessarily last) is a low-budget flick made at College of the Redwoods in 2008. Killer Robot Productions is "an action/love story of two Astrobots (alien robots) -- FU90210 (Leo Howell) and JK95501 (Ben Sewell) -- sent to Earth by their Overlord to study the human art of filmmaking and use the medium in the coming invasion of the planet." As usual in the movies, things do not go as planned.

-- Bob Doran

Reviews

THE KING'S SPEECH. I found it difficult not to bring a certain amount of baggage to my viewing of The King's Speech. For one thing, there are all those glowing reviews in major newspapers, the awards nominations and those tony British actors staring out at me from the film's ads. A friend even sent me some positive reviews via e-mail in case I wasn't sufficiently prepared for a quality experience.

I began to become anxious that I wouldn't be able to rise to the occasion, that perhaps I would react the way I did to those Merchant/Ivory literary adaptations of yore so beloved by my Arcata-type friends but which I found rather lifeless. Nobody, I know, can be as vicious as a film snob whose taste is questioned. Plus, such people actually read reviews.

My fears seemed confirmed by the film's stilted opening scene, which sets the stage for the main narrative line. Happily, though, shortly into the film a scene between Elizabeth, Duchess of York (a wonderful Helena Bonham Carter, who is equally at ease in costume dramas and twisted contemporary pieces) and speech therapist Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush), an Australian transplant, instantly livens up the film while changing its entire complexion.

The story about how Elizabeth's husband, Albert (Colin Firth) became George VI is well known, but I was unaware of his serious stammer. His speech problems provide the film's primary action, but this is mainly a hook on which to hang a moving story of an unlikely friendship.

The action takes place from the mid-1930s to Britain's declaration of war against Germany in 1939. As it turns out, George V -- Albert's father -- was the first British king to use the radio to address the nation and, as he tells his son, radio is a game-changer: Now, a king must also be an actor.

The declaration of war, of course, provides the film's tense and triumphant climax. George has but 40 minutes to prepare a three-page speech to the nation with the help of Logue. The outcome is not in doubt, but director Tom Hooper does a fine job of filming the scene. The King's Speech wouldn't be a Best Picture nominee for me, but the acting is top-notch and the original screenplay by David Seidler just deservedly won a Critics Choice award. Rated R for some language. 118m. At the Broadway.

THE DILEMMA. The ads and trailers for The Dilemma prominently feature the two male stars, Vince Vaughn and Kevin James. But any viewer who approaches this film with the expectation of seeing another Hangover is going to be disappointed. To be sure, there are the requisite arrested development guy scenes, but surprisingly, such by-play does not dominate the film, which is more of a downer than the typical guy film.

Actually, the film makes a nice stab at exploring the nature of male friendship, with a romantic comedy attached to the main plot. Vaughn is Ronny Valentine, whose best friend since college is Nick Brannen (James). Ronny lives with Beth (Jennifer Connelly), with whom he hasn't been able to take the final step, while Nick is married to Geneva (Winona Ryder). When Ronny spots Geneva at a botanical garden kissing another man (an over-the-top Channing Tatum who provides a sort of breakup-sex by proxy), he needs to decide if and when to tell his buddy.

But this is just the obvious dilemma the film deals with. There is, additionally, the dilemma Ronny has with his own relationship and the overarching dilemma of the boundaries of male friendship, which is complicated by a working relationship.

Vaughn can create verbal chaos from the simplest speech and to the film's credit, the screenplay (by TV writer Allan Loeb) gives him several opportunities to do so. Ryder continues her recent film comeback as the wandering wife, while Connelly is rock-steady as a woman willing to give her man space while still demanding honesty. The Dilemma was a much better film than I had expected. Hangover fans should rent that DVD instead, or just wait for Hangover Part II to be released on May 26. Rated PG-13. 112m. Broadway, Mill Creek and Fortuna.

THE GREEN HORNET. I was curious what the result would be when you mix together French director Michel Gondry, who gave us one of the more interesting films of the past decade in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, popular comedic actor Seth Rogen (also one of the writers) and a radio series first aired in the 1930s and subsequently adapted to death in comics, movies and on TV.

As it turns out, perhaps fans of The Hangover won't have to wait until May. The Green Hornet is as mindless and unfunny as any fan of guy films could wish for, lacking only an R rating that would have added the necessary crudity. It is surely the worst superhero movie ever. Perhaps I missed the satire.

As Britt Reid/The Green Hornet, Seth Rogen brings only the same shtick he brings to every role I've seen him in, so I suppose if you find him funny you may laugh here. I can't even begin to guess what John Cho is trying to achieve as Kato, and Christoph Waltz, who was so wonderful in Inglourious Basterds, can manage nothing more than an absurd villain.

After all the changes in directors, cast and writers since 1992, The Green Hornet turns out to be just another Rogen vehicle/buddy movie that seemed to run for 10 tedious hours, about 9 hours 59 minutes too long. Rated PG-13. 119m. At the Broadway, Fortuna (3-D), Mill Creek and the Minor (2-D).

Continuing

BLACK SWAN. Darren Aronofsky's latest features Natalie Portman and Mila Kunis competing for the top spot in the New York City ballet's production of Swan Lake. Sounds innocent enough, right? Rated R. 109m. At the Broadway, Mill Creek and the Minor.

THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA: THE VOYAGE OF THE DAWN TREADER. Prince Caspian, the Prevensies and the rest must save Narnia from unfathomable doom. Three down. Four to go. Rated PG. 115m. At Garberville.

THE FIGHTER. Marky Mark and Batman put aside sibling rivalry so they can train for an historic title bout. Rated R. 116m. At the Broadway and Mill Creek.

GULLIVER'S TRAVELS. A re-imagining of a classic tale. Jack Black finds himself as a giant among men in a foreign land in this giant flop. Rated PG. 87m. At Mill Creek.

HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HOLLOWS PART I. The final chapter begins! If you can't wait for Part II, the script is available in book stores everywhere! Rated PG-13. At the Broadway.

LITTLE FOCKERS. You met the parents. You met the Fockers. If you're still paying attention, here's some cute kids and more hijinks! Rated PG. 98m. At the Broadway and Fortuna.

SEASON OF THE WITCH. Medieval knights, witches, special effects, etc. But most important, Nicolas Cage keeps his crap streak alive! Rated PG-13. 98m. At the Broadway and Mill Creek.

THE SOCIAL NETWORK. The dramatic story of the birth of Facebook will make you want to click "Like." Rated PG-13. 121m. At Fortuna.

TANGLED. Disney checks the Rapunzel box off its "fairy tales to animate" list with its latest kid-seducing 3D computer generated release. Rated PG for brief, mild violence. 100m. At Broadway.

TRON: LEGACY. If you see one movie starring Jeff Bridges this holiday season... uh... see below. Rated PG. 125m. At the Broadway.

TRUE GRIT. The Dude conjures The Duke in the Coen Brother's latest outing. You decide who's Grittiest. Rated PG-13. 110m. At the Broadway, Fortuna, the Minor and Mill Creek.

YOGI BEAR. Mr. Ranger is not going to like this. And neither will you. Rated PG. 83m. At the Broadway.

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Charlie Myers

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