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Beowulf – Medieval Bores 

Plus: With Bardem, 'Cholera' proves non-lethal

Previews

Okay, it's the holiday season so sugar is the order of the day, and none will probably be more sickly sweet than Robin Williams in August Rush. Freddie Highmore plays the title character, who grows into a musical prodigy under the tutelage of Williams' wizard character and then uses his musical gifts to locate his birth parents. Rated PG for some thematic elements, mild violence and language. 110 m. At the Broadway.

Perhaps more palatable is the modern fairy tale from Disney, Enchanted, if for no other reason than Susan Sarandon plays an evil queen who banishes the princess from the past (Amy Adams from Talladega Nightsand Tenacious D) to modern day hell, a.k.a. Times Square, whereupon the animated princess becomes flesh and blood. Can she find romance without the pixels? Rated PG for some scary images and mild innuendo. 117 m. At the Broadway, Fortuna and Mill Creek.

Hitman is a based-on-the-video-game film about rogue Agent 47 (Timothy Olyphant) on the run in Europe from Interpol and Russian intelligence agents. Rated R for language, some sexuality/nudity, and strong bloody violence. 110 m. At the Broadway, Fortuna and Mill Creek.

Director Frank Darabont previously directed Stephen King's The Green Mile and he returns to King territory with The Mist. Here, a mist rolls in after a freak storm in Maine and what emerges is not pretty for the citizens of the small town. Rated R for violence, terror and gore, and language. 137 m. At the Broadway and Mill Creek.

Cutting right to the holiday chase, This Christmas, directed and written by Preston A. Whitmore II, is a recreation of a Whitmore family Christmas starring Delroy Lindo (TV series Kidnapped), Loretta Devine (Dreamgirls) and Idris Elba (American Gangster). Rating pending. 127 m. At the Broadway.

The indie film Lars and the Real Girl may add a little acid to the sugar. The film tells the story of a guy (Ryan Gosling) who strikes up a romantic relationship with Bianca, who appears to be the woman of his dreams. Unfortunately, she's only a mail-order life-size doll. Love life's a bitch. Also starring Emily Mortimer. Rated PG-13 for some sex-related content. 116 m. At the Minor.

Reviews

BEOWULF: So I take the trouble to go all the way back to the 5th century and all I get is this lousy film. It's not that I was expecting some CliffNotes version of the epic poem I'm too lazy to reread, but I was hoping to be entertained; instead, I spent much of the time looking at my watch hoping to move on to the next boring phase of my life.

The film begins with a tedious mead hall scene full of the usual loud burping, overeating and drinking and clenching of well-endowed wenches, all overseen by the current king, Hrothgar (a happily slumming Anthony Hopkins), and his comely queen, Wealthow (Robin Penn Wright). This idyllic moment is rudely interrupted by Grendel (a heavily altered Crispin Glover) who, along with me and the queen, is highly offended by the merrymaking and crashes through the door to slay a few drunken would-be warriors. Ah, I thought to myself, here is a society that not only needs better manners but a hero as well. As though he read my thought, Beowulf (Ray Winstone) appears by ship, eyes the comely queen, takes an instant dislike to Unferth (John Malkovich), and pledges to rid the kingdom of Grendel, a task he neatly performs in a naked wrestling match that ends when he tears off one of Grendel's arms.

Only then do they tell him that Grendel has a very nasty mother (Angelina Jolie, the best thing in the film), a character that I somehow don't remember from the poem but who would have certainly enlivened it. When Beowulf confronts the naked, gold-coated mom, who rises Rambo-like out of the water in the cave, he gets a reward that Grendel could not offer, and I don't mean what you're thinking, although that too. In short order he becomes king, gets to bed the queen and a lot of young wenches, and grows older, whereupon he eventually has a climactic battle with the fruits of his meeting with the mom that he claimed to have slain. In short, Beowulf is just one of your average lying, sleep-around heroes who tends to brag a lot and is easily seduced by gold breasts.

Much has been made of the technique of "performance capture," which I first saw in The Polar Express. I didn't care for it there and it added nothing to my viewing experience in this film. Many of the reviews of this film in major papers have been from critics who got to see the 3D version of Beowulf where, presumably, the sword and other thrusts would come directly at the viewer, along with the spurts of blood. I doubt that would alter my opinion but, come to think of it, Jolie in 3-D might not be so bad. I should add that I ran into a couple half my age (or less) at the Farmers' Market in Arcata, both of whom enjoyed the film, so maybe there's a generational gap here. Or is it a chasm? Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence including disturbing images, some sexual material and nudity. 125 m. At the Broadway, Mill Creek and Fortuna.

LOVE IN THE TIME OF CHOLERA: As I've not read the 1985 novel by Nobel Prize recipient Gabriel García Márquez, I happily need not discuss how well the film adapts the novel. Almost always in the case of a film adaptation of a famous and well-loved work, the film never seems to live up to readers' expectations, just as productions of Shakespeare's plays never match the bardolator's ideal mental production. In any case, I enjoyed Love in the Time of Cholera more than most other critics seem to have. Much of my enjoyment had to do with the performances by the two leads, Javier Bardem (who also stars in No Country for Old Men, which I hope we get locally soon) and the fine Italian actress Giovanna Mezzogiorno, who was so good in Don't Tell. As most of the target audience probably knows, the story takes place in Columbia in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

While the story deals with serious themes, it does so with a nice sense of irony as well. As a teen, Florentino (Bardem, but played by Unax Ugalde when young) falls instantly and deeply in love with the lovely young Fermina (Mezzogiorno). Her father, who hopes for much better than a telegraph clerk, whisks her away and when Florentino next sees her, she says their love was just an illusion. Eventually, she marries a medical doctor, Juvenal Urbino (Benjamin Bratt), has a child and, in general, enjoys a reasonably happy lengthy marriage. Florentino, however, never loses his initial ardor, although he tries to drown it by sleeping with 600-plus women during the 50 years or so he waits for consummation with Fermina. Although the film begins when Florentino happily realizes Juvenal has finally died (while Florentino is in bed with a very young female student), the story flashes back to the beginning and is told in straight chronological fashion, leading back Florentino's declaration of undying love for Fermina at her husband's funeral (shades of Richard III) that we see at the beginning.

I heard Márquez say in an interview that he dislikes the term "magic realism" and, indeed, this is a love story about a martyr for love who carries his passion to Quixotic lengths, and the style is firmly realistic. Director Mike Newell (Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire) is not particularly adventurous here and the film is more decent than good, but these days I'll take that. Plus, everyone knows I'm a fool for good film acting and, sometimes, a pretty face. Rated R for sexual content/nudity and brief language. 148 m. At the Broadway.

Continuing

3:10 TO YUMA: Remake of the 1957 Western that made "yuma" universal Cuban slang for "America." Stars R. Crowe, C. Bale. Rated R. 117 m. At The Movies.

ACROSS THE UNIVERSE.Love story set in the 1960s amid war protests, mind exploration and rock 'n' roll.Rated PG-13. 134 m. At The Movies.

AMERICAN GANGSTER.True, juggernaut success story of cult crime hero from the streets of 1970s Harlem. Rated R. 157 m. At the Broadway, Mill Creek, the Minor and Fortuna.

BEE MOVIE.A bee, disillusioned with the prospect of never-ending honey collection, breaks bee rules and talks to a human. Rated PG. 91 m. At the Broadway, Fortuna and Mill Creek.

DAN IN REAL LIFE.Advice columnist is expert on relationships, but struggles to succeed as brother, son and single parent. RatedPG-13. 98 m. At The Movies, Fortuna and Mill Creek.

DARJEELING LIMITED.Three brothers, bonding on a train trip across India, become stranded in the middle of the desert. Rated R. 91 m. At the Broadway and the Minor.

FRED CLAUS.Saint Nick's rabble-rousing big brother Fred jeopardizes the jolliest holiday of the year, Christmas. Rated PG. 116 m. At Fortuna, the Broadway and Mill Creek.

GAME PLAN. Superstar quarterback (T. Rock) discovers he has a daughter. Rated PG. 110 m. At The Movies.

INTO THE WILD. College grad abandons his material possessions then hitchhikes to Alaska to live in the wild. Rated R. 149 m. At the Minor.

LIONS FOR LAMBS.The stories of four Americans during wartime intersect as arguments, memories and bullets fly. Rated R. 92 m. At the Broadway and Mill Creek.

MR. MAGORIUM'S WONDER EMPORIUM. Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium is a strange, fantastic and magical toy store where everything comes to life. Rated G. 94 m. At the Broadway, Mill Creek and Fortuna.

P2.A security guard who has been stalking a young, female executive, makes his move on Christmas Eve. Rated R. 98 m. At The Movies.

SAW IV.A SWAT commander has 90 minutes to overcome demented traps and save an old friend or face the deadly consequences. Rated R. 95 m. At The Movies.

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