HANNA. Consummately played by Saoirse Ronan, Hanna is being homeschooled with a vengeance; perhaps for vengeance would be more accurate. In a finely shot opening sequence, we watch Hanna stalk a deer in the snow with a bow and arrow. She shoots the deer but not immediately fatally and must run after it. As the deer lies dying, Hanna observes that she missed its heart. The ensuing gunshot sets the plot in motion.
Hanna is being raised in a remote area of Finland by her father, ex-C.I.A. agent Erik (Eric Bana), who is teaching her how to fight effectively hand-to-hand, with a bow, with a gun and, perhaps most of all, with her wits. He doesn't neglect other aspects of her education: He reads to her constantly from reference books. But while she learns a lot of facts about the world, she has no context for them and cannot fathom what music is.
The task for which Hanna is being prepared is to kill high-level C.I.A. operative Marissa Wiegler (Cate Blanchett, effective as always) who, for reasons not immediately clear, killed Hanna's mother when Hanna was very young. The task is set in motion when Hanna flips a switch, turning on a signal that leads the C.I.A. to her location. In another effective, and somehow amusing, scene, the remote cabin is surrounded by heavily armed special forces who storm the place only to find a ghostly Hanna calmly sitting inside waiting.
Although Hanna is in many ways a typical vengeance film, it is altogether much stranger than most. This is largely because of the presence of Ronan (who just turned 17), who demonstrated her prodigious talent in The Lovely Bones and Atonement, receiving a Best Supporting Actress nomination for the latter. Her Hanna is like an alien just discovering an unknown culture; Ronan beautifully signals this quality with her physical choices as an actor.
Of course, the story is much more complicated and personal than a simple revenge plot. And, the climactic scene demonstrates that the pre-credit sequence was not just gratuitous. Hanna is an excellent entertainment. Rated PG-13. 111m. At the Broadway, Mill Creek, Fortuna and Minor.
-- Charlie Myers
YOUR HIGHNESS. If director David Gordon Green and company had really nailed it, Your Highness might be remembered as a funny, witty, adult update of the brooding medieval quest dramas of the 1980s, which is a clever, timely notion. The result is instead a raunchy, gory Disney afternoon.
Co-writers Ben Best and Danny McBride (who also stars) go way back with Green: Their early collaboration yielded thoughtful, lugubrious indies such as All The Real Girls. Then Hollywood came calling, and we were rewarded with the hilarious, mightily off-color HBO series Eastbound and Down and Pineapple Express, which, with its fine little details, smart script and bang-on performances, brought back and subverted the big '80s buddy comedy. With Your Highness the filmmakers have gone back to the well one too many times, I'm afraid.
As an actor, McBride can consistently steal scenes with his timing and rolled eyes and foulmouthed mutterings. But when he's called upon to steal every scene in a movie with the same skillset, there had better be a damned good story for him to work from. I wish I could say his own script gave him that springboard here. Your Highness stretches itself thin from the get-go, shoehorning in elements of so many costume dramas from decades past that the paltry, well-worn maiden-in-distress plot becomes obscured and inconsequential.
There are moments when James Franco and McBride conjure up some of the magic that made their scenes in Pineapple Express breathlessly funny, but overall the movie relies too heavily on dick jokes and strangely tame gore for those moments to sustain it. A second viewing might reveal more to like about this movie, but I'll probably just skip it. 102m. Rated R for strong crude and sexual content, pervasive language, nudity, violence and some drug use. At the Broadway, Mill Creek, the Minor and the Fortuna.
-- John J. Bennett
ARTHUR. Witness Russell Brand, ascendant: He's all over the place these days, what with his bawdy stand-up and recovery from a vast rainbow of addictions and recent marriage to Katy Perry. I tend to like the guy; I just wish he could get himself cast in better movies.
On the whole, Arthur isn't bad, exactly. It just isn't much, period. Brand plays the beyond-rich, mollycoddled, titular man-child who, after being raised by his nanny (Helen Mirren), now faces an arranged marriage to fire-breathing social climber Susan Johnson (Jennifer Garner). Arthur's outlandish behavior is jeopardizing the family business' reputation, and his ice-dragon mother hopes to salvage it with the forced nuptials. He's not interested; he'd rather get to know charming, low-income tour guide Naomi (Greta Gerwig). But he's an inveterate alcoholic who can't, through no fault of his own, imagine life without lots and lots of expendable income. Quite an impasse.
A note on the alcoholism: Arthur plays like a long-form commercial for my beloved Maker's Mark, so that's in the plus column. But the darkness and distancing effect of the disease are only touched on briefly. Brand could play drunk in his sleep, I suspect, and undoubtedly knows a thing or two about awful mornings after. Here, though, it all comes off a trifle light and unrealistic.
All of the leads turn in convincing, well-crafted performances that can't turn around this slight, unnecessary remake. Brand makes an especially valiant effort, and almost succeeds, but still can't rescue the whole movie from feeling redundant and conventional. And it's not until late in the second act that we get any scenes that speak to the complex, deeply emotional relationship a weird, foppish, 30-year-old party boy must have with the seemingly implacable woman who raised him. Those few moments are powerful and resonant, and I hope we'll see more of them in future Brand vehicles. 110m. Rated PG-13 for alcohol use throughout, sexual content, language and some drug references. At the Broadway, Mill Creek and the Fortuna.
-- John J. Bennett
SCRE4M. Wes Craven's Scream slasher franchise part four has Sidney (Neve Campbell) returning to Woodsboro as a self-help writer, then reuniting with Sheriff Riley (David Arquette) and TV-journalist Gale (Courtney Cox) as Ghostface resumes his murder spree slashing friends of Sidney's teen cousin Jill (Emma Roberts). Expect horror flick references and gore galore. 103m. Rated R for strong bloody violence, language and some teen drinking. Opening at the Broadway, Mill Creek, the Minor and the Fortuna.
RIO. CGI comedy from the Ice Age folks, this time with a tropical setting and in 3-D (where available). Blu (voiced by Jesse Eisenberg) is a rare macaw taken from Brazil to the USA, who is brought back home to Rio to be paired with a female (Anne Hathaway) in an effort to save his species. Comic trouble involving bird smugglers ensues in a colorful Carnival setting (with samba). 96m. Rated G. Opening at the Broadway and the Fortuna (in 3-D) and Mill Creek (2-D).
Catch a screening of RACE TO NOWHERE this Thursday at Fortuna High. The documentary by first-time filmmaker Vicki Abeles examines modern public school policies in connection with one-size-fits-all "Race to the Top" test-based curriculum. The filmmakers see it as "a call to mobilize families, educators and policy makers to challenge current assumptions on how to best prepare the youth of America to become healthy, bright, contributing and leading citizens."
Friday, the Arcata Theatre Lounge has ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND, a surreal romance directed by Michel Gondry and written by Charlie Kaufman with Jim Carrey as Joel, who learns that his ex-girlfriend Clementine (Kate Winslet) has had an experimental procedure to have their relationship erased from her memory. Assorted, increasingly strange mind trips follow.
The Godwit Days wrap-up party Sunday at the ATL includes a screening of French director Luc Jacquet's super-successful bird doc MARCH OF THE PENGUINS, about the mating rituals of oh-so-cute emperor penguins of Antarctica.
THE BANFF MOUNTAIN FILM FESTIVAL WORLD TOUR comes to the Arcata Theater Lounge Monday and Tuesday with short films on extreme outdoor sports including mountain climbing, skiing and rafting, with titles like Deeper, Feel the Hill, Last Paradise, Life Cycles, Miracle in the Storm and WildWater. You get the idea.
The tale of the infamous Gunfight at the OK Corral is retold by director John Ford in his classic Western MY DARLING CLEMENTINE, showing Tuesday at the Eureka branch of the Humboldt County Library for April's Based on the Book series. Henry Fonda stars as Wyatt Earp, who becomes marshal of Tombstone to avenge his dead brother. Victor Mature plays Doc Holliday, Walter Brennan is head of the Clanton clan. While it's based on Stuart Lake's "nonfiction" book, Wyatt Earp: Frontier Marshal, neither Lake nor Ford let the true story get in the way of a good yarn. Host for the screening is Bob Doran. Yep, that's me.
-- Bob Doran
HOP. The Easter Bunny's son travels to Hollywood in hopes of becoming a famous drummer. No, really. Rated PG. 95m. At the Broadway, Fortuna and Mill Creek.
INSIDIOUS. Is the house haunted or is it the son? Dun, Dun, Duuun! Rated PG-13. 103m. At the Broadway and Mill Creek.
LIMITLESS. If you take revolutionary pharmaceuticals to combat your writer's block, beware the consquences. Rated PG-13. 106m. At the Broadway, Garberville and Mill Creek.
THE LINCOLN LAWYER. Matthew McConaughey plays a lawyer. He drives a Lincoln. There you go. Rated 119m. At the Broadway.
PAUL. Two sci-fi geeks meet a smart-ass alien. Together they hilariously alter the universe forever. Rated R. 116m. At the Broadway.
RANGO. What chameleon doesn’t dream of becoming a swashbuckling hero? Rated PG. 107m. At the Broadway and Garberville.
SOUL SURFER. True story of teen surfer Bethany Hamilton who lost her arm to a shark. Rated PG. 106m. At the Broadway.
SOURCE CODE. A soldier wakes up in the body of an unknown man and discovers he's on a mission to find the bomber of a Chicago commuter train. Rated PG-13. 94m. At the Broadway and Mill Creek.