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Mumblecore Rules! 

Plus: August is ... a dreary Jennifer Aniston romcom

Previews

TAKERS. A successful gang of bank robbers -- Idris Elba (The Wire), Paul Walker, T.I. (the rapper), etc. -- plans one more big heist. Will a hardboiled cop (Matt Dillon) get in the way? 107m. Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, a sexual situation/partial nudity and some language. At the Broadway.

THE LAST EXORCISM. Faux documentary horror flick, a la Blair Witch Project, about an evangelical minister out to validate exorcism by taking a film crew along when he drives the demon from a farmer's daughter. 100m. Rated PG-13 for disturbing violent content and terror, some sexual references and thematic material. At the Broadway and Mill Creek.

I AM LOVE. Tilda Swinton co-produced this arty Italian melodrama about love and food written and directed by Luca Guadagnino. She stars as the Russian wife of the head of a rich Italian family in contemporary Milan. 120m. Rated R for sexuality and nudity. At the Minor.

Late night Friday, the Arcata Theatre Lounge screens Desperado, the sequel to director Robert Rodriguez' tortilla western El Mariachi. Once again, the mariachi turned gunman (played by Antonio Banderas) goes after a brutal border town drug lord (Joaquim DeAlmeida). On Sunday, who you gonna call? Ghostbusters! ATL presents the classic ’80s comedy with Bill Murray, Dan Akroyd and Harold Ramis battling specters in NYC. A special ATL Sci-Fi Pint ’n' Pizza night next Wednesday is hosted by Missing Link Records and Steven Streufert of Bigfoot Books with a pair of Sasquatchy films: The Legend of Boggy Creek, a docudrama about a Bigfootesque creature sighted in Arkansas, and The Snow Creature, a tale about a cave-dwelling Yeti found during a Himalayan expedition and brought back to the U.S. Guess what happens then.

-- Bob Doran

Reviews

CYRUS. Cyrus is a delightfully offbeat comedy/drama featuring a trio of very good actors in lead roles: John C. Reilly, Jonah Hill and Marisa Tomei. Directed by indie brothers Mark and Jay Duplass, the film focuses on the performers and their interactions as characters. This emphasis is not surprising, as the Duplass brothers made their 2005 debut The Puffy Chair, featuring a cast of family friends, for about $15,000.

The brothers are part of a movement known as "mumblecore," which utilizes improvisation and "minimalist" acting, much like the Danish Dogme 95 approach to filmmaking. While scorned by some critics, the film plays into what I value most about movies: solid, convincing acting.

The narrative involves the difficult relationship between three people. John (Reilly) has been divorced for seven years from Jamie (an effective Catherine Keener), but when she tells him she is about to remarry he is totally thrown off his game, which is tenuous to begin with. Getting drunk at a party, John attracts the interest of Molly (Tomei), a seemingly free spirit who goes home with him.

When John subsequently follows Molly home, he meets her son, Cyrus (Hill). To say that the relationship between Cyrus and Molly is odd is an understatement. One thing is sure, though: Cyrus intends to drive John away from his mother. Hill is marvelous at suggesting weird depths in Cyrus with very subtle clues, while Tomei, who has become a very versatile performer, is excellent as the co-dependent mother.

I don't know if any of the scenes were actually improvised, but the film has that feel, particularly in the scenes between Reilly and Hill. What a breath of fresh air. Rated R for language and some sexual material. 91m. At the Minor.

THE SWITCH. Another summer, another mediocre romantic comedy starring Jennifer Aniston. Actually, I had hopes for this film during its opening sequences. For one thing, the male romantic lead, Wally (Jason Bateman), doesn't fit the usual mode. He's acerbic, neurotic and keeps his feelings under wraps. He and Kassie (Aniston) have fallen into the "friends" black hole and Wally just isn't assertive enough to voice his romantic interest in her.

Meanwhile, Kassie feels the old biological clock ticking away and decides to artificially inseminate. On the Internet, she comes across Roland (Patrick Wilson), a professor of feminist studies who seems to fit the bill. At an insemination party, a blotto Wally sees the waiting swimmers from Roland in a container and substitutes his own instead.

At this point, the plot takes a bizarre turn: Kassie decides to raise her child in Minnesota (don't ask) and when she comes back to Manhattan seven years later, the film devolves into the usual formulaic story involving the question of how Kassie will end up with her proper mate. Wally becomes more serious and less sarcastic. Kassie makes the obligatory wrong choice. It's all worked out, as usual, too easily. But I liked the original Wally: sarcastic, neurotic and interior. Sounds like someone I'd like to date. Rated PG-13 for mature thematic content, sexual material including dialogue, some nudity, drug use and language. 101m. At the Broadway.

JOAN RIVERS: A PIECE OF WORKI have never been a Joan Rivers fan. For one thing, I do not watch late-night talk shows so I never saw her work on Johnny Carson, where she first made her mark. And in general I don't appreciate most stand-up comedy, even though I think it may be the most challenging form of performance. Nonetheless, I found this documentary to be thoroughly entertaining. As it turns out, I may need to reassess my opinion of Rivers as I thought she was very funny in this film.

The film's directors are Ricki Stern and Anne Sundberg, who are known for their political documentaries about things such as the atrocities in Darfur. Being entertainment outsiders, they give Rivers' story an interesting perspective, neither hostile nor supportive. This would seem to fit the driven Rivers, whose stock in trade is making fun of herself and other celebrities and who seems to have few boundaries. She turns down virtually no potential gigs and seems to believe that any face time is a positive. In fact, death for her is a blank appointment page signifying no upcoming jobs.

The pace she maintains when busy would exhaust people half her age (she's 75 in the documentary). The film shows her in all her complexity, biases and all. Particularly interesting are her interactions with her daughter, Melissa, who sometimes performs with her.

The film begins in 2008 -- a low point in Rivers' career -- and ends shortly after she wins the Celebrity Apprentice show in 2009, a triumph that revives her career. At one point in the film, Melissa compares Rivers' career to having a sibling, and it would appear from the film's point of view that not performing is not an option for Rivers -- there is, literally, nothing else. It is painful to watch Rivers' much-lifted face, which resembles a death mask, but still possible to admire her drive and humor. Rated R for language and sexual humor. 84m.

NANNY MCPHEE RETURNSThose who saw the 2005 film Nanny McPhee will find themselves in totally familiar territory here. Emma Thompson once again wrote the screenplay, from Chrisianna Brand's books, and stars as the snaggletoothed McPhee, who needs to teach her five lessons to a family of unruly children. In this case, the family belongs to Isabel Green (Maggie Gyllenhaal, a welcome bonus for this non-target audience member), who is raising her children while her husband is off at war. The film is warm in tone, the adults and children acquit themselves appropriately, and evil is banished while nice people are rewarded. It's all good fun and I enjoyed the film even if the constant references to dung didn't quite tickle my funny bone. Rated PG for rude humor, some language and mild thematic elements. 109m. At the Broadway, Mill Creek and Fortuna.

-- Charlie Myers

Continuing

DESPICABLE ME. Can cute kids turn an evil madman (voiced by Steve Carell) into a good guy? Rated PG. 95m. At the Broadway.

DINNER FOR SCHMUCKS. Your mission: Find the biggest idiot you can and bring him to dinner. Rated PG-13. At the Broadway.

EAT PRAY LOVE. Julia Roberts gives it all up so she can discover herself. Go, girl. Rated PG-13. 133m. At the Broadway, the Minor, Fortuna and Mill Creek.

THE EXPENDABLES. Jean-Claude Van Damme turned down this film for artistic reasons. There you have it. Rated R. 103m. At the Broadway, Fortuna and Mill Creek.

INCEPTION. Still not sure what happens when you die in the fourth level and your top stops spinning, but Leonardo is a total dream-boat. Geddit?!? See it a dozen more times. Rated PG-13. 148m. At the Broadway and Mill Creek.

THE LAST AIRBENDER. Air, Water, Earth and Fire can't stop M. Night from Shyamalaning all over this film. Rated PG. 108m. At Garberville.

THE OTHER GUYS. Mark Wahlberg and Will Ferrell star as a cop odd couple. PG-13. 108m. At Broadway, Fortuna and Mill Creek.

PIRANHA 3D. An added dimension makes fish scarier. Rated R. 89m. At the Broadway, Fortuna and Mill Creek.

SALT. Angelina plays the hottest CIA agent ever. Rated PG-13. 100m. At the Broadway.

SCOTT PILGRAM VS. THE WORLD. When selecting girls to date, make sure they don't have seven evil ex-bfs that might want to kill you. Rated PG-13. 108m. At the Broadway and Mill Creek.

VAMPIRES SUCK. What do you think this movie might have in common with vampires? PG-13. 85m. At the Broadway, Fortuna and Mill Creek.

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Charlie Myers

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