MORNING GLORY. Cutesy chick flick comedy stars Rachel McAdams as Becky Fuller, a news show producer who signs on to run a last-place network morning show hosted by Colleen Peck (Diane Keaton). Becky hires retired newsman Mike Pomeroy (Harrison Ford) who doesn't do happy talk and doesn't like Peck. Directed by Roger Michell (Notting Hill) and written by Aline Brosh McKenna (27 Dresses, The Devil Wears Prada). 102m. Rated PG-13 for some sexual content including dialogue, language and brief drug references. Opening Wednesday, Nov. 10, at the Broadway, Mill Creek and the Minor.
UNSTOPPABLE. Denzel Washington and Chris Pine star in an actioner directed by Tony Scott (Top Gun, Man on Fire, etc.) based on a true story about a railroad crew trying to stop a runaway train hauling toxic chemicals. Rated PG-13 for sequences of action and peril, and some language. Opening Friday at the Broadway, Mill Creek, and the Fortuna.
SKYLINE. Aliens invade L.A. in a sci-fi thriller directed by Greg and Colin Strause, aka Brothers Strause, dudes who did FX for "The X-Files" on TV, Titanic (the iceberg collision) and the climate change disasters in The Day After Tomorrow. Story has SoCal party people trying to avoid close encounters of the worst kind (deadly). 100m. Rated PG-13 for sequences of intense sci-fi action and violence, some language, and brief sexual content. Opening Friday at the Broadway, Mill Creek, and the Fortuna.
STONE. Tense prison tale by indie director John Curran (The Painted Veil) from a screenplay by Angus MacLachlan (Junebug). Edward Norton stars as "Stone" Creeson, an arsonist up for parole, Robert De Niro as soon-to-retire corrections officer Jack Mabrey. Stone enlists his stone fox wife Lucetta (Milla Jovovich) in a scheme to make sure he gets out. 105m. Rated R for strong sexuality and violence, and pervasive language. Opening Friday at the Minor.
The Arcata Theatre Lounge is short on movies this week due to music shows, but they do have another YouTube Tons of Fries Night on Thursday where they promise "viral videos, old PSAs, bloopers, locally made movies and probably a couple cat videos." Aww. It's all ages, but PG suggested "for adult situations, language, cartoon violence and 1950s public service announcements." And the fries are not bad.
DUE DATE. This is director Todd Phillips' follow-up to his wildly successful The Hangover, although fans need not be anxious because The Hangover Part II is currently filming. Unlike The Hangover, Due Date is basically a two-hander road/buddy film. However, like the previous film it depicts a guy world. There are two fine actresses in the film (Michelle Monaghan and Juliette Lewis), but for all the function they have in the story they might as well be mannequins.
The putative reason for the road trip is that Peter Highman (Robert Downey Jr.) needs to get from Atlanta to Los Angeles in time for the birth of his son with spouse Sarah (Monaghan). Since flying to L.A. would be the obvious way to go, the film's opening scene sets up the reason why Peter ends up on the no-fly list and without his wallet, thus unable to rent a car on his own. Fortuitously, Ethan Tremblay (Zach Galifianakis), who was instrumental in causing the fly problems for them both, is able to rent a car, so off the mismatched couple goes.
Clearly, the film's humor is derived from the irritating behavior on the part of Ethan with Downey's Peter primarily playing the straight man. Unlike The Hangover, which established its comic premise then pushed it to the limit and beyond, the comedy in Due Date is interrupted periodically by "serious" scenes. For Galifianakis, unfortunately, this means veering toward sentimentality, faked or otherwise.
As some of you may remember, I didn't crack a smile while watching The Hangover, and this film did not work for me either. I did get a few chuckles, mostly due to Downey, but they didn't compensate for the general limpness of the exercise. No doubt others will find the film hilarious as they did The Hangover. As for me, I probably should have gone to Megamind instead. Just another bad decision in a series, I guess. Rated R for language, drug use and sexual content. 100m. At the Broadway, the Minor, Fortuna and Mill Creek.
FOR COLORED GIRLS. Film adaptations of plays are often difficult. For some reason, conventions that seem natural in a stage production don't translate readily into film conventions. Some plays offer more of a challenge than others. Albee's Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf, for example, takes place in a single room in real time from 2 to 5 a.m. The film version had the action move outside occasionally, as the one room seemed claustrophobic in film terms.
Ntozake Shange's play For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When the Rainbow Is Enuf, which she called a "choreopoem," offers a particularly tough challenge as the action consists of 20 poems performed by a cast of seven women who are known by a color (Lady in Purple, etc.). When it was first produced in the mid-'70s, the play made a major splash in the theatre world and was ultimately nominated for a Tony in its Broadway incarnation.
When you add Tyler Perry to the mix, a director who has produced a series of films that are wildly popular with audiences but scorned by mainstream critics, it would seem to be a recipe for disaster. Without trying to make a judgment, it is certainly true that his films are anything but subtle, and his film style does not seem a match for Shange's material.
It is gratifying to report that for the most part Perry has met the challenge of translating Shange's play effectively. He made a good decision to give the women names and ground their environment in a physical reality. He also fills out Shange's world with other characters who interact with the women without taking focus from them. Of course, the physical reality of the world makes reciting poetry all the more difficult. People suffering abuse, rape and child murder don't normally express themselves in poetry in the "real world."
But the actresses pull it off, making their lines sound like conversation without losing the poetic quality. It all makes for a strangely effective film about very grim subjects. In addition to the rape, abuse and murder, the characters suffer through abortion, lousy male relationships and general isolation. The fine cast consists of both well-known names, presumably to help the box office, and lesser-known actresses who are equally good. Of the former, Janet Jackson plays icy magazine editor Jo, who treats her employees poorly and won't give money to local community groups, while Whoopie Goldberg and Thandie Newton are a mother and daughter at each other's throats. But the most affecting performance is that by Kimberly Elise as Crystal, Jo's assistant who can't break out of a seriously abusive relationship.
Some very nice choreography supports the poetic language throughout. The material here is very dark, and Perry does not shy away from it. The rape scene where we see the victim watching a clock while being assaulted is both effective and difficult to watch. In the end, these women find a measure of solace in each other while finding their own voice. Kudos to Tyler Perry for respecting Shange's play and finding a way to maintain its power on film. Rated R for some disturbing violence including a rape, sexual content and language. 134m. At the Broadway.
HEREAFTER. Three people dealing with death become involved in each other's lives. Rated PG-13. 129m. At the Broadway and Mill Creek.
JACKASS 3. Ouch, my balls. Rated R. 95m. At the Broadway.
MEGAMIND. The world's most brilliant supervillain is also its least successful. More CGI for the kids. Rated PG. 96m. At the Broadway, Fortuna and Mill Creek.
PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 2. Does a larger budget mean scarier? You decide. At the Broadway, Fortuna, the Minor and Mill Creek.
RED. Being privy to CIA secrets is all well and good when you're a part of the agency. But when you try and leave, watch yourself. Rated PG-13. 111m. At the Broadway, Fortuna and Mill Creek.
SECRETARIAT. This is a different movie than Seabiscuit. Barely. Rated PG. 123m. At the Broadway and Mill Creek.
YOU AGAIN. Not even wedding joy can stop Jamie Lee Curtis and Sigourney Weaver from getting all up in each other's grills. Rated PG. At Garberville.