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Eh, Brah! 

Russell Crowe says Aussie surf thugs just want to be understood

Previews

Opening on Thursday, May 22, with special midnight showings at the Broadway, Minor and Mill Creek theatres, is Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, surely a contender for the top-grossing film of 2008. The venerable Harrison Ford, who seems to get better with age, returns as the archaeologist who just wants to find trouble, now in the guise of Russians who seem to have replaced the Nazis as the bad guy foils. The plot has something to do with mysterious crystal skulls, but who cares? The film's likely tone is encapsulated in this Indiana line from the trailers: "It used to be easier." According to reports, Sean Connery turned down a cameo, but Steven Spielberg directs and Ford is joined by Cate Blanchett, Shia LaBeouf, Ray Winstone, John Hurt and Karen Allen, who reprises her role from Raiders of the Lost Ark. What's not to like? Rated PG-13 for adventure violence and scary images. 124 m. At the Broadway, Fortuna, Minor and Mill Creek.

Opening on Friday is Young@Heart*,*a documentary about a group of elderly singers (from the trailers, their average age appears to exceed my own advanced state) who clearly don't want to go out quietly. The film follows the current Young at Heart singers from Northampton, Mass., as they rehearse for an upcoming concert, including "Should I Stay or Should I Go" by the Clash, The Ramones' "I Wanna Be Sedated," The Pointer Sisters' "Yes We Can Can" and songs by Sonic Youth and Coldplay. If only I could carry a tune. Or maybe that's not a problem. Rated PG for some mild language and thematic elements. 107 m. At the Broadway.

Reviews

BRA BOYS: Bra Boys, the surfer tribe that inhabits a slum near Sydney, Australia, just wants to have fun ... and maybe surf a bit, party, bemoan their lot in society and brawl when the mood strikes, which is not infrequently.

This film, directed by Sunny Abberton and Macario De Souza, is a traditional documentary that makes no pretenses to be objective about its subjects. This may be due to the fact that co-director and co-writer Abberton is himself a member of the Bra Boys.

The tribe, billed in the film as the most notorious surf tribe in the world, is situated in the Sydney suburb of Maroubra from whence, I assume, comes the group's name. The film's sociological intent is clear from the outset as the viewer gets a quick Australian-history-for-dummies version of the country and the specific area where the film is centered. The documentary then alternates between talking head interviews, beach party and fight scenes, some surfing footage and voice-over commentary (provided by Russell Crowe).

Interestingly, unlike other films dealing with surfing that I've seen, this is a complete male world; there are almost no women seen, even as girlfriends or hangers-on. The one exception, and a major one, is the Abberton brothers' grandmother, a big-hearted woman who helps a number of the young surfers. Her death during the course of the film's story is one of the major emotional centers in the film's depiction of this beach world.

The narrative seems to have two major concerns. The first is a spirited defense of the tribe itself, both against accusations that it is simply a violent gang and against all the other elements of society that have historically sought to suppress the Bra Boys, and continue to do so, particularly the police authorities whom the Bra Boys engage in a huge rumble when the two groups have parties on different floors of the same building. This aspect of the documentary often has a "Gee, Officer Krupke" feel without the sarcasm. Viewers stand in for Krupke. These guys are just really misunderstood and they're fond of flashing their middle fingers at the camera.

The other major storyline, which comprises much of the second half of the film, has to do with the arrest, trial and subsequent acquittal of Sunny's brother Jai for the murder of Tony Hines. It also documents the legal troubles of the third brother, Koby, accused of "perverting the course of justice," as well as his surfing exploits as the hometown boy who defeats the world's best.

The problems facing the Bra Boys are not dissimilar from those experienced by many low-income groups anywhere. However, they have a beach and surfing to bring them together into a fiercely loyal group instead of some other activity. What individual viewers may feel about the Bra Boys probably depends on which side of the line drawn in the sand they stand. Rated R for language, violent content and reckless behavior. 90 m. At the Broadway.

THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA: PRINCE CASPIAN: Director Andrew Adamson reprises his role in this second installment of C.S. Lewis' seven-part fantasy series, and he is producing the third in the series, The Voyage of the Dawn Trader, scheduled for release in 2010.

Published between 1950 and 1956, the novels were my daughter's Harry Potter books back in the late '70s. There seems to be another possible parallel to the Harry Potter books as well. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe was primarily a whimsical tale about the adventures of siblings Lucy (Georgie Henley), Edmund (Skandar Keynes), Peter (William Mosely) and Susan Pevensie (Anna Popplewell) in the magical land of Narnia, accessed through a wardrobe, where all the animals talked, the trees danced and the children performed feats of derring-do well beyond what might be expected from their earthly chronological ages.

But as in the Potter series, children get older, different hormones emerge and the world becomes a bit more complicated. The Narnia that the Pevensie tribe returns to in Prince Caspian is decidedly darker. Some of the animals no longer speak — "you treat an animal like a beast and it becomes one" — the trees are still and, as Trumpkin (Peter Dinklage) notes, "You may find Narnia a more savage place than you remember." Of course, the Pevensie children are only a year older than they were the first time around, while Narnia has progressed, or regressed, more than 1,000 years.

This time, the Strand tube stop serves as the wormhole into Narnia, and the four young royalty enter into a world that is still beautiful but also marked by ruins and, as they soon discover, inequity and unrest.

The story centers on the attempt by the evil Miraz (Italian actor Sergio Castellitto) to usurp the throne from its rightful heir, his nephew Prince Caspian (Ben Barnes). The narrative setup is accomplished by a nicely edited, exciting opening sequence, and while the film's pace becomes somewhat erratic subsequently, this sequel is a reasonable follow-up to its predecessor. Most of the familiar Narnia inhabitants from the previous film return, including the ever-popular sword-wielding mice.

The film feels a little like a Shakespeare history play — without Shakespeare's language, but with a touch of the political chicanery. My problem with this Narnia is that unlike the majority of the target audience, I find the battle scenes the least interesting aspect of the film. I want fantasy magic; what I get is a war film with computer graphics, although there was one very brief cameo that took me back to one of the high points of Wardrobe.

Of course, one can also read Narnia with an ideological lens. For example, at one point early in the film, Miraz forces his head general to make up casualties as a justification for attacking Narnia's inhabitants. Fortunately, we don't have any leaders who would be so perfidious. Oh, wait ... Rated PG for epic battle action and violence. 140 m. At the Broadway, Mill Creek, Minor and Fortuna.

Continuing

BABY MAMA.Infertile business woman hires working-class woman as unlikely surrogate. Rated PG-13. 99 m. At the Broadway and Mill Creek.

FORBIDDEN KINGDOM.American teen is transported back in kung fu time when he finds weapon of ancient warrior in pawn shop. Rated PG-13. 113 m. At The Movies.

FORGETTING SARAH MARSHALL.Loser musician goes on vacation to escape his TV star ex only to find her and her new rocker beau staying in the same hotel. Rated R. 111 m. At The Movies.

HAROLD AND KUMAR ESCAPE FROM GUANTANAMO BAY.Harold and Kumar are mistaken for terrorists and have to run from the law. Rated R. 102 m. At The Movies.

HORTON HEARS A WHO.Mocked do-gooding elephant attempts to rescue a microscopic civilization. Rated G. 87 m. At The Movies.

IRON MAN.Action/adventure flick based on Marvel's iconic, comic book super hero. Rated PG-13. 126 m. At the Broadway, Mill Creek, the Minor and Fortuna.

LEATHERHEADS.A ragtag team in early (1920s) professional football league is saved by golden-boy war hero. Rated PG-13. 114 m. At The Movies.

MADE OF HONOR.Man realizes his love for his best friend when she becomes engaged to another. Rated PG-13. 101 m. At the Broadway and Mill Creek.

NIM'S ISLAND.Author's literary creation inspires young girl's fantasy island; author and girl unite to conquer Nim's Island. Rated PG. 94 m. At The Movies.

PROM NIGHT.Tragedy revisits Donna when prom night turns deadly, and she knows the one man to blame. Rated PG-13. At The Movies.

SPEED RACER.Full-length live action film adaptation of classic Japanese anime series. Rated PG. 135 m. At the Broadway and Mill Creek.

WHAT HAPPENS IN VEGAS.Two strangers wake up married after a night of debauchery in Sin City; comic chaos ensues. Rated PG-13. 99 m. At the Broadway, Mill Creek and Fortuna.

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Charlie Myers

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