RESIDENT EVIL: AFTERLIFE. Milla Jovovich is back, along with writer/director Paul W. S. Anderson, for the fourth installment in the franchise based on the relentless video game. This time Alice (Milla) battles Undead while scouring L.A. helping T-virus survivors -- all in 3-D. 100m. Rated R for sequences of strong violence and language. Opening at the Broadway, Mill Creek and Fortuna.
FLIPPED. A kids romantic comedy written and directed by Rob Reiner based on a he-said/she-said young adult novel by Wendelin Van Draanen. The story concerns young Bryce (Callan McAuliffe) and Juli (Madeline Carroll) and the course of their "relationship" as they make their way from 2nd grade to junior high. 90m. Rated PG for language and some thematic material. Starts Friday at the Minor.
Humboldt Pride weekend kicks off Thursday at the Arcata Theater Lounge with Queer Film Night, a special screening of the comedy But I'm a Cheerleader, starring Natasha Leonne as a teen sent by her parents to a camp where therapists try to cure her presumed lesbian tendencies. (Spoiler alert: The therapy fails.)
On Friday, ATL has a benefit screening of the surf flick Scratching The Surface, with ace surf dude Julian Wilson and friends jetting from one continent to another, catching waves along beautiful beaches. (Does it just seem like all surf movies are variations on The Endless Summer?) Proceeds go to Surfrider Foundation Humboldt Chapter and Arcata Skate Park Phase II.
Meanwhile, on Friday at HSU's Founders Hall, those who'd like to see some sort of single-payer universal health care in California present Health, Money and Fear, in which Dr. Paul Hochfeld and others get into why medical care costs so much and what can be done about it. (Hint, they like SB 810.) Then, on Saturday at HSU's Van Duzer Theatre, catch a sneak preview of the student film produced by HSU film prof Ann Alter: Arcata: From Dawn Till Dusk. (See calendar section for more details.)
Sunday back at the Arcata Theatre Lounge, George Clooney plays escaped con Everett Ulysses McGill (a role quite different from The American) in O Brother, Where Art Thou?, the Coen brothers Depression-era comedy that got everyone excited about old time music.
-- Bob Doran
THE AMERICAN. It takes about two minutes of screen time in The American to establish that Jack -- sometimes called "Edward" or "Mr. Butterfly," and played with restrained grace by George Clooney -- is not a nice person. In about the same amount of time, the film also establishes that you don't want to be his friend. Based on a 1990 novel by the late British writer Martin Booth, this is an elegant film about an iconic American character, the strong, silent man. Although primarily set in rural Italy, Clooney's character follows in the wake of Steve McQueen in Bullitt, Clint Eastwood in the Spaghetti Westerns or Gary Cooper in High Noon.
The film opens with a brief segment set in Sweden that establishes Jack's character. It then moves to Italy, where Jack is tasked with customizing a rifle for a mysterious woman named Mathilde (Dutch actress Thekla Reuten). We never learn what she intends to use the rifle for, which, since this is the primary plot line, is an indication of the film's general propensity to withhold information, including any inner life for Jack.
In fact, much of the screen time is comprised of Jack driving to a phone booth, driving to meet his client, working on the rifle or talking to the philosophical Father Benedetto (Paolo Bonacelli). He forms a relationship with Clara (Violante Placido), a beautiful prostitute who becomes more than hired sex in the film's most important subplot.
Jack's cover story is that he is a photographer working on illustrations for a book about Italian architecture. To Clara, he is "Mr. Butterfly" because of his tattoo (in the novel, he poses as a photographer of butterflies). Dutch director Anton Corbijn, himself a photographer, focuses on the minutia of Jack's existence and, admirably, lets the viewer decide what exactly is going on. All the acting is uniformly fine, but this is Clooney's film and his beautifully controlled performance worked perfectly for me. Summer must be over. Rated R for violence, sexual content and nudity. 103m. At the Broadway, Mill Creek, Fortuna and the Minor.
THE GIRL WHO PLAYED WITH FIRE. To be totally upfront, I am a complete fan of the Stieg Larsson Millenium trilogy, to the point where I was depressed when I finished the third novel. Among the good things about the excellent Swedish film adaptations (based on seeing the first two) is the fact that they transport me back, if only briefly, to the fascinating universe that Larsson created.
The Girl Who Played with Fire, based on the lengthy middle book of the trilogy, is directed by Daniel Alfredson. Of necessity, he concentrates on the novel's major narrative line, leaving readers, who are legion, to fill in the rich detail the film doesn't have time for. If anything, this adaptation is even better than Dragon Tattoo.
The primary story centers, of course, on Lisbeth Salander (Noomi Rapace, in the most perfect casting imaginable), who finds herself accused of three murders. Defending her is the ever-resourceful investigative journalist Mikael Blomkvist (a very good Michael Nyqvist), even though Lisbeth has refused all contact with him for over a year. I'm guessing that most viewers will have read the novel (I've yet to encounter one who hasn't), so they will know that this part of the story ends with the confrontation between Lisbeth and her father that has been building since the first book.
Alfredson keeps the story moving at a lively pace, concentrating on Lisbeth's search for who is really behind the murders she is accused of, along with Blomkvist's investigation, which is tied to an expose of johns, some quite prominent, involved in human trafficking in Sweden.
Lisbeth is the most fascinating character I have ever encountered in crime fiction and she is fully embodied by the hard-edged Rapace. Someone in the course of the film comments that Lisbeth is indestructible; Rapace makes that believable. Hopefully I will get to enjoy Hornet's Nest before I get really depressed by the upcoming American version of Dragon Tattoo. I only had one small disappointment: At the end of the novel, when Lisbeth realizes Blomkvist has found her, she whispers, "Kalle Fucking Blomkvist." Unfortunately, not in the film. Rated R for brutal violence including a rape, some strong sexual content, nudity and language. 129m. At the Minor.
GOING THE DISTANCE. Clearly, two of the more popular movie genres these days are the guy film and the romantic comedy. So it had to happen sooner or later: a marriage of the dick flick and the romance. Going the Distance represents this hybrid genre, although the bromance films certainly hinted at it. Now, guys -- along with the many women who also love the genre -- can wallow in bathroom humor, juvenile sex references and brain-dead jokes while women can happily enjoy the romance without feeling guilty that the film is boring their dates.
I usually enjoy Drew Barrymore's performances, but there was only so much she could do to make this film tolerable. As directed by Nanette Burstein (The Kid Stays in the Picture), the film is populated by uniformly stupid-acting guys and a few witty women. The exception to this gender-typing is Justin Long as the male protagonist, Garrett.
In fact, the main storyline, which involves the long-distance romance between Erin (Barrymore) and Garrett, is both interesting and socially timely. Their story is one of limited romantic expectations and even more limited career opportunities. Garrett is stuck in New York in a job he doesn't enjoy, while Erin eventually finds employment in San Francisco. Neither is fulfilled by their intermittent visits. The resolution to the unsatisfactory romantic situation is satisfying.
Christina Applegate shines as Erin's sister, Corrine. Can I get a remake without the guys? Rated R for sexual content including dialogue, language throughout, some drug use and brief nudity. 109m. At the Broadway, Mill Creek and Fortuna.
-- Charlie Myers
EAT PRAY LOVE. Julia Roberts gives it all up so she can discover herself. Go, girl. Rated PG-13. 133m. At the Broadway, Fortuna, Garberville and Mill Creek.
THE EXPENDABLES. Jean-Claude Van Damme turned down this film for artistic reasons. There you have it. Rated R. 103m. At the Broadway, Fortuna and Mill Creek.
INCEPTION. Still not sure what happens when you die in the fourth level and your top stops spinning, but Leonardo is a total dream-boat. Geddit?!? See it a dozen more times. Rated PG-13. 148m. At the Broadway and Mill Creek.
THE LAST EXORCISM. There is no such thing as a routine exorcism. Rated PG-13. 107m. At the Broadway.
MACHETE. Danny Trejo stars as a renegade federale. Directed by Robert Rodriguez. Rated R. 102m. At the Broadway and Mill Creek.
NANNY MCPHEE RETURNS. Emma Thompson reprises her role as the magical children's disciplinarian. Rated PG. 109m. At the Broadway, Mill Creek and Fortuna.
THE OTHER GUYS. Mark Wahlberg and Will Ferrell star as a cop odd couple. PG-13. 108m. At Broadway, Fortuna and Mill Creek.
SALT. Angelina plays the hottest CIA agent ever. Rated PG-13. 100m. At Garberville.
TAKERS. A group of bank robbers take on one job too many. Rated PG-13. 107m. At the Broadway.