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Bangkok Ridiculous 

Plus: Hunter S. Thompson given his due in fine documentary

Previews

Opening Friday, Sept. 12, Pacino and De Niro are police detectives looking for a serial killer who may also be a cop in Righteous Kill. Worse, there seems to be a connection to a case they had previously "solved." Directed by Jon Avnet (88 Minutes). Rated R for violence, pervasive language, some sexuality and brief drug use. 100m. At the Broadway, Mill Creek, Fortuna and Minor.

The Women is a remake of the classic 1939 George Cukor film, now featuring Meg Ryan, Annette Bening, Eva Mendes, Debra Messing, Jada Pinkett Smith, Bette Midler, Candace Bergen, Carrie Fisher and Cloris Leachman in an updated setting. Rated PG-13 for sex-related material, language, some drug use and brief smoking. 114m. At the Broadway, Fortuna and Mill Creek.

Brad Pitt and George Clooney are two gym employees who find a memoir written by a fired C.I.A. employee in Burn After Reading, a comedy by the Coen Brothers. Also starring Frances McDormand, John Malkovich and Tilda Swinton. I'm there. Rated R for pervasive language, some sexual content and violence. 96m. At the Broadway and Mill Creek.

Winner of the audience and jury prizes at Sundance, Man on Wire is a documentary about Frenchman Philippe Petit, who pulled off the stunt of walking on a wire between the Trade Center towers on Aug. 7, 1974. Rated PG-13 for some sexuality and nudity, and drug references. 94m. At the Minor.

The Family That Preys is the latest from Tyler Perry, with Kathy Bates and Alfre Woodard as two women from different classes whose friendship is threatened by their children's bad behavior. Rated PG-13 for thematic material, sexual references and brief violence. 111m. At the Broadway.

Featuring Matthew McConaughey in shorts or less, Surfer Dude is a comedy about how surfers just can't go home again. I can't get past the title. Rated R for pervasive drug use, language and nudity. 88m. At the Broadway.

Reviews

BANGKOK DANGEROUS: There are probably a number of reasons that lead to films not being screened for critics, the effect of which is to delay reviews until at least a day after the film has opened. Perhaps the production company just doesn't like reviewers, an understandable attitude given that we are a cranky, negative subset of the general population. Most likely, though, the publicity people expect negative reviews and they hope word of mouth from the opening day will outweigh the critics' surly comments. On the other hand, most of the films that avoid advance screenings are genre films with built-in audiences that could care less about the reviews and probably don't read them anyway.

The fact that Bangkok Dangerous was not pre-screened is particularly puzzling because besides being a remake of the well-known Pang Brothers 1999 debut directed by the Danny and Oxide themselves, the film has a major star in Nicolas Cage, whose production company bought the remake rights to the Thai thriller. I suppose the fact that film was savaged in the Sept. 6 edition of the New York Times does indicate the accuracy of Saturn Films' feel for critical reaction.

But Bangkok Dangerous is certainly far from the worst film I've seen of late; it's just predictable, dreary and plodding. In fact, for all those rabid fans out there, I can even say it has the virtue of making Mamma Mia! seem tolerable. At least Amanda Seyfried had a nice fresh energy, two adjectives that certainly do not apply to Cage, who simply reprises his worn out action shtick.

The story features professional assassin Joe (Cage), who is thinking of completing just one more big job before retiring (heard that one before?), and the opportunity arrives when he accepts four assignments from the same client in Bangkok. Early on, in what proves to be an incessant voice-over from Joe, the viewer learns that Joe was taught four rules to be a successful assassin. Thus, even the minimally alert viewer also immediately knows that Joe will break all four and pay the consequences, as the protagonist always does in the Last Job.

First, he takes petty criminal (with a good heart, of course) Kong (Shahkrit Yamnarm) under his wing. Then, in possibly the most ridiculous and insipid aspect of the film, Joe falls for deaf-mute pharmacy clerk Fon (Charlie Yeung, credited as Young) who constantly gazes up at him with adoring eyes as though she can't believe someone as cool as Cage would give her a tumble. Or maybe she just likes his absurd hairdo.

The whole mess comes to a fairly gory end, and as he watched the dailies, I hope Cage had at least a passing thought about his future as an actor. Oh wait, I came to praise Bangkok Dangerous; hope I didn't screw up. Rated R for violence, language and some sexuality. 100m. At the Broadway and Mill Creek.

GONZO: THE LIFE AND WORK OF DR. HUNTER S. THOMPSON: Alex Gibney's (No End In Sight; Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room) documentary -- using archival footage, interviews with those who were close to Thompson in some way, and narration by Johnny Depp -- is a thoroughly enjoyable, constantly entertaining and balanced look at journalist Hunter S. Thompson, a person whose impact on American politics, journalism and culture may not be evident today. If nothing else, then, this film serves as a reminder of Thompson's place in American letters to those of us who lived through the 1960s and ’70s, and perhaps an introduction to those who were born after Thompson's heyday.

Thompson first became known when he was "embedded" for a period in 1965 with the Hell's Angels, an experience that resulted in an article in The Nation. The embedded part didn't work out too well; Thompson was stomped by the Angels for refusing to share writing profits with the group, and the brief appearance in the film by Sonny Barger indicates they never kissed and made up.

However, the Hell's Angels piece made Thompson into a media star, which, the film eventually suggests, may be the very thing that led to his decline as a writer. Initially, though, Thompson became sought out by other publications, including The Rolling Stone, and in due course led to the birth of "Gonzo Journalism," a term that represents, among other things, the subjective insertion of the reporter into his own story, alcohol, drugs and all.

With the publication of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas in 1972, Thompson probably reached the high point of his writing fame. It seems certainly true, as several people in the film assert, that no one covered a subject as penetratingly as Thompson when he was at the top of his game.

The film covers his major stories and his personal life as well. He loathed Nixon, had a grudging admiration for George McGovern and experienced local politics for himself when he ran for sheriff of Aspen, Colo. His loss was detailed in his Rolling Stones article "The Battle of Aspen."

Of the people interviewed in the film, the most illuminating were his first wife Sondi Wright, conservative commentator Pat Buchanan and writer Tom Wolfe. Gibney's camera work occasionally tries to capture the feel of Thompson's drug and alcohol altered brain, but mostly this film is a straight-ahead documentary that, nicely, neither makes Thompson into a saint nor a devil, and the viewer's attitude about the film's subject will most likely reflect his/her own biases.

The film's primary focus is on Thompson's most productive years, although it does touch on his divorce from Sandy in 1980, his second wife Anita and his suicide in 2005 in Woody Creek, Colo., during a visit by his son Juan and his family.

Thompson remained political until the end. He indicated the year before his death that although he despised Nixon and his policies, he'd "happily vote for him" ("Fear and Loathing, Campaign 2004," Rolling Stone) were he running against the "evil Bush/Cheney gang." Personally, I'd hate to have that no-win choice. At one point in the film, Thompson says, "how low do you have to get to become President?" We may find out. Rated R for drug and sexual content, language and some nudity. 118m. At the Minor.

Continuing

BABYLON A.D. The future is home to a war-torn world and sexy mercenaries that save the day. Rated PG-13. 90 m. At the Broadway, Mill Creek and Fortuna.

DARK KNIGHT. Batman walks the line between hero and vigilante when he faces the Joker to save Gotham once again. Rated PG-13. 152 m. At the Broadway.

DEATH RACE. Global TV audience gets pumped up on adrenalized prisoners driving weapon-loaded monster cars. Rated R. 105 m. At The Movies.

DISASTER MOVIE. Ridiculously attractive 20-somethings encounter every catastrophe known to man. Rated PG-13. 90 m. At The Movies.

FLY ME TO THE MOON. First ever 3-D animated film follows houseflies that stow away on the Apollo 11 flight to the moon. Rated G. 125 m. At Fortuna.

HANCOCK. Hard-living superhero who has fallen from grace gets help from a public relations pro. Rated PG-13. 93 m. At The Movies.

HOUSE BUNNY. Playboy Bunny teaches an awkward sorority about the opposite sex. Rated PG-13. 97 m. At the Broadway, Mill Creek and Fortuna.

JOURNEY TO THE CENTER OF THE EARTH. Adaptation of Jules Verne's classic novel packs in comedy, fantasy, action and adventure. Rated PG. 93 m. At The Movies.

MAMMA MIA! Film adaptation of musical uses the jams of '70s supergroup ABBA to tell the story of a bride-to-be searching for her real father. Rated PG-13. 109 m. At the Broadway.

MUMMY: TOMB OF THE DRAGON EMPEROR. Family battles against China's ruthless tyrant Dragon Emperor. Rated PG-13. 113 m. At The Movies.

PINEAPPLE EXPRESS. Two dudes in the pot business get wrapped up in some bad juju. Rated R. 112 m. At The Movies.

STAR WARS: THE CLONE WARS. Yet another epic Star Wars movie, but this time it's animated. Rated PG. 133 m. At The Movies.

TRAITOR. Espionage tale follows feds' pursuit of shady U.S. Special Ops officer. Rated PG-13. 114 m. At the Broadway and Mill Creek.

TROPIC THUNDER. Self-absorbed actors working on epic war film find themselves caught up in real life combat. Rated R. 108 m. At the Broadway, Mill Creek and Fortuna.

WALL-E.Robot love/adventure story from the director of Finding Nemo. Rated G. 98 m. At The Movies.

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