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Jah, Whatever 

Yawning over fawning Bob Marley doc, a spark-less Nicholas Sparks romance and a limp chimp

click to enlarge Bob Marley
  • Bob Marley

Reviews

MARLEY. Once, in college, a professor took our class outside on a particularly sunny day and broke us up into small groups. We were loosely assembled on the central grassy expanse of the campus. In a telling, embarrassingly typical snapshot: Frisbees flew around us, and someone had tipped speakers out of a dorm-room window, from which Bob Marley's Legend was blaring. The too-cool bohemian art chicks in my group shared a laugh about the irony of Bob's music providing the soundtrack for a bunch of privileged white kids playing Hacky Sack. In a not-unusual fit of pique, I chimed in that "Bob" was a rock star from day one, not the mystic and cultural revolutionary that the more irie privileged white kids like to think he was. If memory serves, this ill-advised discourse was met with the usual blank stares and dismissal. I didn't have any status to lose, but I certainly didn't gain any.

Now, all these years on, we have a comprehensive Marley documentary that does little more than vindicate my stance. The movie is enormous, nearly 2½ hours long, and filled to bursting with archival footage, interviews and music. But it doesn't say much about the man or his contribution to culture. Rather than providing any insight or narrative position, the movie is just a toothless survey of Marley's life. I'll acknowledge that the filmmakers were thorough in compiling the raw materials, but in cutting them together they evidently got lost in misguided hero worship and failed to articulate an opinion about their subject.

I respect Marley's music, but I've never been a fan. I tend to withdraw from pop culture that's too popular. Everybody in the world owns Legend, at least, and it's always seemed like a lazy shortcut to me. It's the placeholder in the record collection that signifies hipness via casual acknowledgement of reggae, while also symbolizing ignorance of all the other really good -- albeit more challenging -- Jamaican music out there. So I'll admit I brought a bias to my viewing of Marley, but because I've been willfully ignorant for so long, I was ready to learn.

I did learn something, but it left me wanting more. Director Kevin MacDonald (who apparently took over after both Martin Scorsese and Jonathan Demme jumped ship) spools out volumes of information, most of it from primary sources, and then just lets it lie there on the screen. The viewer is left to his own devices to formulate an opinion. In my case, that opinion is more or less the one with which I walked into the theater: Bob Marley was a gifted songwriter, a womanizer and an egomaniac -- a rock star, in other words. PG13. 144m.

THE LUCKY ONE. Zac Efron might not seem like the most appropriate actor to play a shell-shocked three-tour Marine. And beyond his thicked-up arms and thousand-yard stare, he doesn't bring a whole lot to the role of Sergeant Logan Thibault. Yet he is by far the most convincing, likeable thing about this movie.

In a weird twist of fate, Thibault's life is saved when he finds a photograph of a pretty blond girl in front of a lighthouse. After another near-death experience -- which is muddled by unfocused slow-motion shots and abstruse editing -- he makes his way back to the States. Unable to adjust to normal life with his sister's family, Thibault walks from Colorado to Louisiana to find the girl in the photograph and right some wrongs. He gets a job at her dog-boarding kennel, starts parenting her son, and eventually makes sweet sweet love to her. Her ex gets in the way, and the whole predictable business drags on way too long.

Some of Efron's scenes with co-star/love interest Taylor Schilling are almost sexy, but her portrayal of a single mom mourning the loss of her brother (also a Marine) shifts into craziness too drastically to be plausible. The rest of the cast does what it can with a thin, underdeveloped script, but no one stands out.

Slightly below average in planning and execution, The Lucky One isn't offensively bad, just painfully bland and drawn out. Predictable doesn't really start to describe it. PG13. 101m.

CHIMPANZEE. I had to fight to stay awake all the way through Chimpanzee. And I saw it at 4 in the afternoon. I don't think I've ever felt so unmoved by a nature documentary. This is all the more disappointing for it's being a Disney Nature production.

The "plot" is mainly about an orphaned chimp and his tribe, which is constantly under threat of attack from another group of apes. But because the movie is rated G, any real sense of danger or loss would have to be conveyed through creative editing, writing and music. None of those elements is in place. Instead, Tim Allen (really?) reads narration that wouldn't seem out of place in a YouTube honey badger clip, and what could have been fascinating is boring and overlong at 78 minutes. As you might expect, some of the photography is gorgeous, but the impact gets lost amid hackneyed time-lapse sequences and jokes dredged up from Home Improvement. G. 78m.

Previews

THE RAVEN. Edgar Allen Poe (as played by, ahem, John Cusack) joins the search for a killer who's reenacting murders from the famous author's fiction. I bet Poe's like, "Nevermore, dude!" R. 103m.

THE FIVE-YEAR ENGAGEMENT. Writer/star Jason Segel reunites with director Nicholas Stoller (Forgetting Sarah Marshall) for a romantic comedy about a long and winding walk down the aisle. R. 124m.

THE PIRATES! BAND OF MISFITS. Aardman (the British crew behind Wallace and Gromit) returns to stop-motion animation for some droll swashbuckling on the high seas, with voice talent from Hugh Grant, Salma Hayek and Jeremy Piven. PG. 88m.

SAFE. It's a Jason Statham movie, so you know what to expect: punching, guns, car chases and stone-cold, British-inflected one-liners. R. 94m.

Tired of playing second fiddle to a massive mutant lizard, Mothra (1961) comes fluttering into the Arcata Theatre Lounge Thursday to attend Sci-Fi Pint and Pizza Night. And she's bringing Gappa (1967), a cute, if lesser-known, relative of beaked mega-beast Rodan. The destruction begins at 6 p.m. Monsters of a different sort show up Saturday with Zombieland (2009), a gory-hilarious vision of the zombie apocalypse starring Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg and Emma Stone. R. 88m. 8 p.m. Next night, the slightly cuter-than-a-zombie Stuart Little (1999) scampers in. PG. 84m. And then Wednesday it's time for Sci-Fi Pint and Pizza Night again! Star Wars Uncut is a shot-for-shot remake of the original movie, with each scene recreated by fans who submitted homemade clips via the Interwebs. That will be followed by First Spaceship on Venus (1960), an East German/Polish film about a multi-ethnic crew embarking on space travels in the year 1985. Both films are unrated. 6 p.m.

Next week, Emmy-winning nature cinematographer Rick Rosenthal (Deep Blue) returns to his alma mater (HSU) to premier his latest documentary, Hot Tuna. No, not the Jefferson Airplane spinoff band; it's about the Atlantic Bluefin, an 800-pound fish so fast it's been dubbed "the athlete of the ocean." The one-hour film, plus a Q-and-A session, is free (tickets first come, first served) and will show Monday at 7 p.m. in the Van Duzer Theatre and Tuesday at 6 in the Kate Buchanan Room.

Continuing

21 JUMP STREET. Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum star as cops who go undercover, inside the plot of a 1980s sitcom starring Johnny Depp. R. 109m.

AMERICAN REUNION. The actors from American Pie gather to collect money and reminisce about the pinnacle of their careers. R. 113m.

THE CABIN IN THE WOODS. When five young friends head into a creepy, remote wilderness you may think you've got the story pegged. Think again, sucka. R. 95m.

THE HUNGER GAMES. In a dystopian future state, teenagers get conscripted into a televised death match. Based on Suzanne Collins' bestseller. PG. 142m.

LOCKOUT. In the near-future, a falsely convicted former government agent must rescue the president's daughter from space prison. PG13. 95m.

MIRROR MIRROR. Beautiful sets, visual panache and Julia Roberts can't save this flat and underwritten Snow White update. PG. 106m.

SALMON FISHING IN THE YEMEN. Ewan McGregor lures a river-full of salmon from England to the Arabian Peninsula with the power of his raw charisma. PG13. 112m.

THE THREE STOOGES. Larry, Curly and Moe find themselves in the 21st century. Frightened, they resort to slapstick violence. PG. 92m.

WRATH OF THE TITANS. Perseus, a yoked demigod, stabs 3D computer images with his trident in order to save his "holier than thou" dad, Zeus. 99m. PG13.

 

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John J. Bennett

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