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And if that doesn't lift you up, Burlesque's Christina Aguilera surely will

click to enlarge Love and Other Drugs
  • Love and Other Drugs

OPENING

THE WARRIOR'S WAY. The debut of Korean writer/director Sngmoo Lee looks like a stylized Asian samurai movie crossed with a spaghetti western. South Korean superstar Jang Dong-gun stars as Yang, a master swordsman who refuses a crucial order to kill a baby who is the last survivor of a rival clan. Yang flees to a small American town where he's befriended by former circus knife-thrower Lynne (Kate Bosworth) and the local drunkard (Geoffrey Rush) as he prepares to do battle with an army of ninjas sent after him. 100 m. Rated R for strong bloody violence. Opening Friday at the Broadway.

127 HOURS. This based-on-a-true-story drama, directed by Danny Boyle (Trainspotting, Slumdog Millionaire), stars James Franco as Aron Ralston, a mountain climber who was stuck in a remote canyon in Utah for five days, his arm trapped by a boulder. 93 m. Rated R for language and some disturbing violent content/bloody images. Opening Friday at the Broadway.

WAITING FOR SUPERMAN. Controversial documentary about the American education system by director Davis Guggenheim (An Inconvenient Truth). Using inner-city schools as examples, Guggenheim suggests that "good teachers," privately managed charter schools and standardized testing are antidotes for failing public schools. His critics charge him with oversimplification and union busting. 102 m. Rated PG for some thematic material, mild language and incidental smoking. Opens Friday at the Broadway. 

The Morris Graves Museum's First Thursday Film Night has The Calling, a PBS documentary about seven young Americans -- Protestant, Catholic, Jewish and Muslim -- on the path to becoming pastors, priests, rabbis or imams.

The monthly Surfrider/Baykeeper/Ocean Conservancy Ocean Night, Thursdays at the Arcata Theatre Lounge, is a bit different this time out. It includes a book release talk by author Marc Shargel on his latest, Wonders of the Sea Volume Three: Hidden Treasures of California's Far North Coast, a coffee table book with photos of all manner of local sea creatures. Also on the bill: New Emissions of Light and Sound, a trippy surf flick with abstract vids of waves, water and famous surfers set to an ambient soundtrack by DJ Sasha. Last but not least is Tar Creek, a scary eco-doc about the Tar Creek Superfund site in northeastern Oklahoma, a hell-hole left behind by lead-mining companies, and the battle of the local community to get the government to clean up the mess.

Christmas comes to the ATL Friday with Gremlins, Joe Dante's comedy/horror tale from 1984 about cute little critters that overrun a small town.

Speaking of cute critters in small towns, Saturday at noon Fortuna businesses say thanks to parents doing holiday shopping with a screening at the Fortuna of the 2009 hit CGI kid-flick Alvin & The Chipmunks: The Squeakquel, with the cute rodents on the loose in Paris. Free for preteens (12 and under).

Sunday the ATL presents The Royal Tenenbaums, a sardonic, stylized family dramedy directed by Wes Anderson and co-written by Owen Wilson. Wilson plays Eli, family friend of the eccentric Tenenbaum clan headed by Royal (Gene Hackman), an attorney trying to reunite with his abandoned wife, Etheline (Anjelica Huston), and their precocious kids, Chas (Ben Stiller), Richie (Luke Wilson) and Margot (Gwyneth Paltrow). Great soundtrack music too. 

-- Bob Doran

REVIEWS

BURLESQUE. Sometimes a movie is just so entertaining that you don't care about the predictability of the plot. Burlesque is such a film. And, at any rate, do people flock to musicals because of their innovative plots? Probably about as much as they go to a burlesque show for high culture and subtlety.

This film had me from the first note sung by Christina Aguilera. But equally remarkable was how effective Aguilera is as an actor in her first role. If you didn't know that she was a pop star, I think her singing would be a major surprise, a quality that works very well for her role as Iowa "hick" Ali who escapes the cornfields and a small town café for the glamour of Los Angeles.

The plot elements are musical standards. Ali arrives in L.A. with high hopes. With surprising chutzpah, she gets a job as a waitress at The Burlesque Lounge co-owned and managed by Tess (Cher). She is befriended by hunky bartender Jack (Cam Gigandet), makes an enemy of burlesque star Nikki (Kristen Bell), dreams of being a performer, sees that the performers lip sync the songs, and discovers that the club is in big financial trouble.

Yeah, it all works out too easily but who cares? The moment when Ali starts to sing from the stage after Nikki unplugs the amp to sabotage Ali's performance is magical. The songs, choreography and cast are all fine here, but Aguilera, with her big voice, dominates the film and she proves to be a very likable actor. Cher is moving in her rendition of "You Haven't Seen the Last of Me." If you're looking for an uncomplicated good time at the movies and enjoy pop music, look no further. Rated PG-13. 119m. At the Broadway, Fortuna, the Minor and Mill Creek.

LOVE & OTHER DRUGS. This strange hybrid of a film is billed as a romantic comedy/drama and, indeed, there is romance and comedy, some of the latter decidedly unfunny, and there is a bit of drama in the genre sense as well. It's based on, or inspired by, the non-fiction Hard Sell: The Evolution of a Viagra Salesman by Jamie Reidy, a book I somehow overlooked. The source material does explain the specificity of the year the story opens --1996, established by an early title -- and Viagra does play a small part in the story while also providing some of its more obvious humor.

These opening remarks sound as though I have some serious reservations about the film (I do), but, frankly, any of my reservations are easily overridden by the wonderful performance delivered by Anne Hathaway, who seems incapable of a bad or even a mediocre performance at this stage of her career. Happily, co-star Jake Gyllenhaal is about as good.

As the film opens, the narrative centers on Jamie Randall (Gyllenhaal), a charmer as adept at seducing customers into buying electronic devices as he is at seducing women into bed. Unfortunately, he gets caught banging his boss' girlfriend in the back room and is fired. But for Jamie, everything has an upside -- he scores a job as a drug salesman for the giant company Pfizer, a career move that eventually leads to his becoming a Viagra pusher and one of the company's rising stars.

This part of the film serves two purposes: It establishes Jamie's character and offers a light critique of the drug and medical industries. More crucially, though, Jamie's new job also leads to his meeting Maggie Murdock (Hathaway) at a hospital where she is being treated for early onset Parkinson's disease. They seem two of a kind: Neither trusts relationships, neither wants commitment, and so they have frequent hot sex and no one stays overnight.

But this is a romantic comedy, so the viewer knows where this relationship is destined to go. Hathaway is utterly convincing as Maggie -- I could barely see the actor behind the performance -- and Gyllenhaal is equally convincing as a likable rogue on the fast track. These performances are all the more remarkable given the unimaginative script, the indifferent direction by Edward Zwick (About Last Night; Blood Diamond), and the presence of two characters, Jamie's brother Josh (Josh Gad) and his Phizer trainer, Bruce (Oliver Platt), who seem to have wandered out of The Hangover.

It seems to me there are enough dick flicks out there without having to add juvenile, coarse humor to a promising film with two actors more than capable of carrying it. The presence of Gad and Platt certainly diminished my enjoyment of the film, but at least there was Hathaway and Gyllenhaal. Maybe there will be a DVD release edited for people who don't find the same old immature sexual jokes and bathroom humor funny. As if. Rated R for strong sexual content, nudity, pervasive language and some drug material. 113m. At the Broadway, Minor and Mill Creek. 

FASTER. Former pro wrestler Dwayne Johnson began his film career in The Mummy Returns as "The Rock." Then when he found his family-friendly inner child in films such as Tooth Fairy, he became Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson. In Faster, he's just Dwayne Johnson, with no sign of the inner child, in the role of Driver, who having served 10 years in prison shoots his way through the guys who killed his brother while being pursued by Killer (Oliver Jackson-Cohen) and Cop (Billy Bob Thornton). Actually, the editing is fairly effective and the supporting cast, including Carla Gugino (TV's Karen Sisco) and Jennifer Carpenter (Dexter), is pretty good. Luckily, they do all the acting. Family friendly or violence prone, though, this former Rock is not for me. Rated R for violence and drug use. 98m. At the Broadway.

-- Charlie Myers 

CONTINUING

DUE DATE. Good rule: If your wife is expecting, don't go on a cross country road trip with Zach Galifianakis. Rated R. 95m. At the Broadway and Mill Creek.

HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HOLLOWS PART I. The final chapter begins! If you can't wait for Part II, the script is available in book stores everywhere! Rated PG-13. At the Broadway, Fortuna, the Minor and Mill Creek.

MEGAMIND. The world's most brilliant supervillain is also its least successful. More CGI for the kids. Rated PG. 96m. At the Broadway, Fortuna, Garberville and Mill Creek.

MORNING GLORY. Rachel McAdams defines the word "effervescent" with her performance as a producer in this film about a last-place television morning show. Rated PG-13. 107m. At the Broadway and Mill Creek.

NEXT THREE DAYS. If your wife was wrongfully accused of murder, what lengths would you go to to get her out? Rated PG-13. 137m. At the Broadway 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.

TANGLED. Disney checks the Rapunzel box off its "fairy tales to animate" list with its latest kid-seducing 3D computer-generated release. Rated PG for brief, mild violence. 100m. At the Broadway, Fortuna (in 3D) and Mill Creek (in 2D).

UNSTOPPABLE. Tony Scott's latest stars Denzel Washington, who must stop a runaway train carrying combustible liquids and flammable gas before it, like, totally blows up a city. Rated PG-13. 98m. At the Broadway, Mill Creek and Fortuna.

 

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