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Douglas Does Doom 

Solitary Man better than Serious Man, but not as good as Single Man or Simple Plan

Previews

Opening Friday, July 16, is The Dark Knight-director Christopher Nolan's Inception, which has to be my pick for most intriguing trailer of the summer, at least. If you haven't seen it, imagine a city folding in on itself. Pretty eye-popping stuff. Nolan has been coy with plot details, but as Inception's release date approaches more information has come to light. The film stars Leonardo DiCaprio as Dom Cobb, who has a knack for stealing secrets from people's subconscious while they sleep. As one could imagine, his unique skill is very sought after in the world of corporate espionage. But, kinda like Batman, there are psychological drawbacks to wielding such power. There's always a catch. Rated PG-13 for sequences of violence and action throughout. 148m. At the Broadway, Fortuna, the Minor and Mill Creek.

While it is a Disney film, don't expect to see Mickey Mouse chopping up brooms in producer Jerry Bruckheimer's version of The Sorcerer's Apprentice. (Opens Wednesday, July 14). Seventy years after the symphonic short appeared in Fantasia, Jay Bauchel -- who was most recently in She's Out of My League -- slips his hands into Mickey's gloves to take on the title role. Nicolas Cage plays the Sorcerer who shows him the ropes, all while continuing a 1,500-year battle with his arch-nemesis in the streets of Manhattan. No pressure, kid. The film is directed by Jon Turteltaub, who worked with Cage on the National Treasure franchise. If you liked those movies ... Rated PG for fantasy action violence, some mild rude humor and brief language. 109m. At the Broadway, Mill Creek and Fortuna.

This weeks Minor indie addition is Winter's Bone. The film got a warm reception at Sundance and the Journal's Charlie Myers commented to me about the excellence of the performance turned in by its 19-year-old lead Jennifer Lawrence. Lawrence's character Ree sets out to track down her father, who put the family home up for his bail bond. Now with the family in danger of being evicted Ree will risk her life to find the truth. Rated R for language and violent content. 100m. At the Minor.

Sneaking into theaters with little fanfare is the teen film Standing Ovation. Five junior high school-aged kids form a singing group and over come their limited resources to enter a national music video contest with a cash prize of $1 million. But look out! Their competition are five over-parented rich kids who will stop at nothing to win. This film wasn't screened for critics. Rated PG for kid rudeness. At the Broadway.

You talkin' to me? You talkin' to me? Well, I don't know of any other local establishment playing Paul Schrader's Taxi Driver on Saturday, July 17, so you must be talkin' about the Arcata Theater Lounge. If you're intrigued by witnessing Robert DeNiro's only mohawk on record, you best be there. The ATL also has had a gopher problem lately, but I'm sure it will remedy itself by Sunday, July 18, when Caddyshack plays there. Kaboom.

-- Andrew Goff

Reviews

SOLITARY MAN. Despite some technical difficulties with the sound (since corrected), I thoroughly enjoyed this small-scale drama. Although the supporting cast, which includes Susan Sarandon and Mary-Louise Parker, is very good, this is Michael Douglas' film. Beginning briefly with a scene set some six years before the main action, the story is about a man already at a low point in his life who just spirals downward from that sorry state.

During a routine checkup, Ben Kalmen (Douglas), who owns a very successful car dealership and contributes money to his alma mater, discovers he has a heart anomaly. The doctor recommends further tests with more sophisticated machines.

Leaping ahead about six years, we quickly discover that Ben is now divorced (from Nancy, played by Sarandon) and regularly misses his adoring grandson's activities. Although in an apparent serious relationship with Jordan Karsch (Parker), he tries to get his daughter Susan (Jenna Fischer) to stop calling him Dad in presence of young women.

As it turns out, Ben never got those recommended heart tests but his behavior changed radically. He became a compulsive womanizer (thus the divorce) and he perpetrated a fraud through his dealership that cost him a large fine and his career. He is also a complete cynic and a jerk who is unapologetic about his bad behavior.

The event that precipitates the major crisis in the story happens when he takes Jordan's very sexy and very dangerous daughter, Allyson (Imogen Poots), to his alma mater for a college entrance interview. Predictably, he seduces Allyson, but their one-night stand has serious consequences as she gets a sort of revenge on her mother by revealing the fling. Unlike ex-wife Nancy, Jordan is not a let-bygones-be-bygones sort of woman.

Thanks to Douglas' completely committed performance, though, this viewer couldn't help feel a twinge of pity in the midst of disbelief that a person would deliberately sabotage his own life with such despicable behavior. He does eventually reveal his rationalization for his choices, and his reasoning seems to be the typical reaction many individuals have to the aging process.

It seems that when Ben was young, dashing and successful, he would cause a stir when he walked into a room. Eventually, though, only a few people reacted and he started to feel invisible. He also engages in some convoluted reasoning -- even though Nancy surely knew from the beginning of his infidelities, she didn't say anything, nor did anyone call him when he first cheated a car customer. These may not be convincing justifications for his behavior, but they do delineate character.

Following his forced split from the vengeful Jordan, Ben ends up in his old college town, working in the diner now owned by former college classmate and friend Jimmy (Danny DeVito) and "mentoring" a college student, Daniel (Jesse Eisenberg). In the end, though, Ben is deserted by everyone except Nancy and, to some degree, Susan. In many ways, this is a story we've seen before. But what sets this treatment apart is the fine performance by Douglas and the supporting cast. In fact, there was not one weak performance in the film.

Rated R for language and some sexual content. 90m. At the Minor.

PREDATORS. Vaguely following in the footsteps of Predator (1987) and Predator 2 (1990), Predators moves the action from the original Central America and the Los Angeles of the second film to the predators' home planet, and you know that can't be good for the group of gun-toting men and one woman who find themselves parachuting to the ground of the alien planet within a few minutes of each other.

As none of them know how they got there, nor where they are, the story gets off to a slow start as they orient themselves and form a group under the leadership of Royce (Adrien Brody, who with this film and Splice seems to be reinventing himself as a scifi/horror actor). The group includes a Russian soldier (Oleg Taktarov) and a sniper (Alice Braga), along with other toughs and an unarmed doctor (Topher Grace).

If any of them wonder why They're heavily armed, an explanation appears in the form of vicious dog-like animals that attack them. Before long, though, they discover that attack was just to flush them out for the predators. It turns out the planet is a game preserve, and they are the game.

There follows the expected scenes of gory action as the original group of eight is whittled down to an eventual two survivors (which I won't reveal, but check the cast list). As a bonus, viewers are treated to insights: The humans are as predatory as the aliens ("On our world, we are the predators."). Worst of all, Predators is neither scary nor surprising, but designating a film as "sci-fi/horror" guarantees an audience. Rated R for non-stop profanity and gory violence. 106m. At the Broadway and Mill Creek.

Continuing

A-TEAM. I pity the foo' that doesn't see this updated version of the ’80s action TV show. Rated PG-13. 117m. At Garberville.

DESPICABLE ME. Steve Carell lends his voice to the latest CGI kiddie delight and receives a fat paycheck. Is this why he's leaving The Office? Rated PG. 95m. At the Broadway, Fortuna and Mill Creek.

GROWN UPS. Adam Sandler reunites with childhood friends to celebrate maturity ... not! Rated PG-13. 113m. At the Broadway, Mill Creek and Fortuna.

KARATE KID. Witness the benefits of being Will Smith's son in this martial arts remake. Rated PG. 140m. At the Broadway.

KNIGHT AND DAY. Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz try to decide if they'd like to be in an action movie or a a romantic comedy. Rated PG-13. 110m. At the Broadway.

THE LAST AIRBENDER. Air, Water, Earth and Fire can't stop M. Night from Shyamalaning all over this film. Rated PG. 108m. At the Broadway, Fortuna and Mill Creek.

TOY STORY 3. Woody and Buzz toy around for the first time in over a decade. But what happens when their kid prepares for college? Rated G. At the Broadway and Mill Creek.

TWILIGHT SAGA: ECLIPSE. Team Edward! No, Team Jacob! What's a girl to do? Rated PG-13. At the Broadway, Fortuna, the Minor and Mill Creek.

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