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Faith and Religulous 

Plus: Marky Mark and Edward Norton star in cheap throwaway nonsense

click to enlarge Max Payne
  • Max Payne

Previews

Opening on Halloween is The Changeling, a thriller set in the late 1920s based on a true story about a woman who claims that the child returned to her following a kidnapping is not her son. Directed by Clint Eastwood, Angelina Jolie stars as the mother, with support from John Malkovich and Amy Ryan. Seems promising. Rated R for some violent and disturbing content, and language. 140m. At the Broadway.

From the offbeat writer/director Kevin Smith, Zack and Miri Make a Porno involves two platonic friends (Seth Rogen and Elizabeth Banks) who decide to make a porno flick to raise needed money. But when the clothes come off, will Plato go the way of all flesh? I'm crossing my fingers (or something). Rated R for strong crude sexual content including dialogue, graphic nudity and pervasive language. 101m. At the Broadway, Mill Creek, Fortuna and Minor.

In The Haunting of Molly Hartley, Molly's (Haley Bennett, Music and Lyrics) 18th birthday present is the discovery of an awful truth about what her parents did in the past, and a new high school isn't a solution. Co-starring Chace Crawford from Gossip Girl. Ah, Halloween. Rated PG-13 for strong thematic material, violence and terror, brief strong language and some teen drinking. 86m. At the Broadway, Fortuna and Mill Creek.

Reviews

PRIDE AND GLORY: I have just returned from 10 days in Portland, so it's possible that I'm still experiencing some sort of time shift or cultural dislocation. But I could swear I've seen this film before with different titles and casts.

Pride and Glory falls all too easily into the crooked cops subgenre of the police film, which typically pits the more-or-less good cop against his corrupt brethren while throwing in complications involving family and/or long-time partners. Earlier this year, Pacino and De Niro danced to this tune in Righteous Kill while last year Mark Wahlberg gave us a preview of his current character in We Own the Night, which co-starred Robert Duvall and Eva Mendes.

The narrative has not improved with repetition. Here, Jon Voight is NYPD chief Francis Tierney, who has two sons and a son-in-law in the force: elder son Frannie (Noah Emmerich) who is a precinct commander, his younger brother Ray (Edward Norton) and Jimmy Egan, a cop in Frannie's precinct married to Ray's sister Megan (Lake Bell). It's relatively clear early on who are the good guys and bad guys, so the main interest in the film has to do with character interactions in relationship to family, professional loyalty and ethics.

Typical of the genre, the female roles are worthless throwaways with the partial exception of Frannie's wife, Abbie (Jennifer Ehle), who is dying of cancer. The viewer is left with the male stuff and, frankly, it's not very interesting. The acting is at best workmanlike. The best scenes in the film involve Abbie's interactions with the other characters, and Norton is not shown at his best. His climactic showdown with Jimmy should have been a highlight; instead it devolves into a barroom brawl. Pride and Glory is a disappointment. Rated R for strong violence, pervasive language and brief drug content. 125m. At the Broadway, Mill Creek and Fortuna.

RELIGULOUS: Since Religulous is a film about religions, I need to reveal my own biases about the subject. Baptized Roman Catholic, briefly a Methodist, and confirmed in the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod, I was, if not devout, closely connected with Christian churches through my teen years. Of the various affiliations, Lutheran was my choice and I nearly went to a seminary rather than college. I don't think the religious world lost anything by my ultimate opt-out.

Unlike Bill Maher, I was never antagonistic to religion, even when my pew time went to zero. I kept trying various denominations into grad school. But in 2000, all that changed and during the first Bush campaign I grew to be actively antagonistic to the self-righteous, arrogant, hate-filled, evangelical so-called Christians who bragged that they put one of their own in the White House.

As you might guess, then, I loved this film, the title of which combines "religion" and "ridiculous." As with Borat (directed by Larry Charles, as is this film), the satire is very broad, but there is real anger barely beneath the surface, and real substance.

Maher, host of HBO's Real Time with Bill Maher and previously host of Politically Incorrect on Comedy Central and ABC, strikes out at fundamentalist Christians, Muslims, Jews, Jews for Jesus, Mormons, Roman Catholics and Scientology (Cruise is seen briefly) through a series of interviews here and around the world with representatives of various religious points-of-view.

Not surprisingly, Maher is better prepared for the interviews, and the subjects almost universally appear, well, ridiculous. Coming off best is humorous Roman Catholic priest Father Reginald Foster who, in an interview in front of the Vatican, amiably agrees with Maher that the literal teachings of the church are nonsense (does he still have a job?).

The film got applause (and no walkouts or boos) at the crowded screening I attended, so I assume there were only the fellow damned in attendance. After eight disastrous years under a self-described faith-based president, I'd like to have my country back. Come to think of it, I'd like to have my religion back too. Rated R for some language and sexual material. 101m. At the Broadway.

MAX PAYNE: I am beginning to suspect that I'm a closet masochist because I keep going back to films based on video games. Unfortunately, in the case of Max Payne, I can't even say "It hurts so good."

As with any number of VG film adaptations, Max Payne is mostly style with little substance and, in this case, only a semi-coherent plot. The film is an uneasy mix of urban noir and a perverted Norse mythology. The normally reliable Mark Wahlberg is title character Max Payne, a cop who has switched to the cold case unit following the very bloody unsolved murders of his wife and baby daughter (seen dimly in flashbacks).

His misery continues early on when he picks up the skimpily clad Natasha (upcoming Bond girl Olga Kurylenko) who is promptly murdered by giant birds that are apparently supposed to be valkyries. When the police find Payne's wallet on her, he's the main suspect. Payne's chief support comes from Natasha's prickly sister Mona (Mila Kunis, Forgetting Sarah Marshall), who believes that Payne is not her killer. Naturally, the two narrative threads are actually connected.

Throw in Ludacris as an IA officer, Chris O'Donnell as an executive with the Aesir Pharmaceuticals Corporation, Beau Bridges as a former cop and mentor to Payne, Amaury Nolasco (Prison Break) as a Valkyr military guinea pig and a lot of CGI, stir vigorously, and you have what passes for a film. Wahlberg is good at brooding but little else is required of him.

I did get a bonus. I was the only viewer who stuck around to see the post-end credits sequence that is meant to set up a sequel. I take my meager bonuses wherever I can. Rated PG-13 for violence including intense shooting sequences, drug content, some sexuality and brief strong language. 100m. At the Broadway and Mill Creek.

Continuing

APPALOOSA. Two men save lawless town from terror inflicted by renegade rancher. Rated R. 116m. At the Broadway and Mill Creek.

BEVERLY HILLS CHIHUAHUA. Pampered dog winds up on the mean streets of Mexico. Rated PG. 91m. At the Broadway and Mill Creek.

BODY OF LIES. CIA man on the ground's trusted source of intel, a voice on secure phone line, may not be so safe. Rated R. 128 m. At The Movies.

THE DUCHESS. Duchess of Devonshire, glam girl and forward thinker, can't even seduce her own husband. Rated PG-13. 109m. At the Minor.

EAGLE EYE. People forced into dangerous situations while tracked and threatened by mysterious woman. Rated PG-13. 118m. At The Movies.

HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL 3: SENIOR YEAR. Teen couple lives up their senior year lest they end their romance for college dreams. Rated G. 112m. At the Broadway, Mill Creek and Fortuna.

HUMBOLDT COUNTY. Straight-laced city guy gets caught up in The Lost Coast's counterculture. Rated R. 97m. At The Movies.

IGOR. Lowly hunchback lab assistant dreams of becoming bonafide scientist. Rated PG. 86m. At The Movies.

NICK AND NORA'S INFINITE PLAYLIST. All-night quest in NYC to find secret show turns romantic. Rated PG-13. 90m. At The Movies.

THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS. Relive the king of Halloween Town's adventures in Christmas Town in 3-D. Rated PG. 76m. At Fortuna.

QUARANTINE. Reporter and cameraman trapped in horrifying CDC quarantine. Rated R. 89m. At The Movies.

SAW V. Last person alive to carry Jigsaw legacy takes extreme measures to defend his secret. Rated R. 95m. At the Broadway, Mill Creek, the Minor and Fortuna.

SECRET LIFE OF BEES. On hunt to discover late mother's secrets, teen girl finds solace in beekeeping. Rated PG-13. 110m. At the Broadway.

SEX DRIVE. Teens roll with their virgin friend cross country to get him laid by chick off the net. Rated R. 109m. At The Movies.

W. Oliver Stone on George W. Bush. Rated PG-13. 129m. At the Broadway.

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