THE AMERICAN. George Clooney stars as an American assassin in Italy in this thriller from Dutch director Anton Corbijn, whose background is in music videos (U2, Depeche Mode, etc.). Rated R for violence, sexual content and nudity. Opens Wednesday at the Broadway, Mill Creek and the Minor.
GOING THE DISTANCE. Romantic comedy about a couple, Erin (Drew Barrymore) and Garrett (Justin Long), who have a summer fling in New York City then try to maintain a long-distance relationship. The first non-documentary for director Nanette Burstein (On the Ropes). 97m. Rated R for sexual content including dialogue, language throughout, some drug use and brief nudity. Opens Friday at the Broadway, Mill Creek and the Fortuna.
MACHETE. Danny Trejo stars as the renegade federale Machete in a bloody action film from Robert Rodriguez and Ethan Maniquis, expanded from a faux trailer in Quentin Tarantino's Grindhouse. 102m. Rated R for strong bloody violence throughout, language, some sexual content and nudity. Opens Friday at the Broadway and Mill Creek.
THE GIRL WHO PLAYED WITH FIRE. Part two in the Swedish film adaptation of Stieg Larsson's Millennium Trilogy, this time with hacker Lisbeth Salander (Noomi Rapace) accused of murder, again helped by journalist Mikael Blomkvist (Michael Nyqvist). 127m. Rated R for brutal violence including a rape, some strong sexual content, nudity and language. Opens Friday at the Minor.
Morris Graves Museum hosts another First Thursday film screening Sept. 2, this time featuring the local doc One More Line, chronicling the art and life of Jack Mays, a Ferndale artist who captures the essence of his picturesque Victorian village.
Thursday is also another Ocean Night at Arcata Theatre Lounge, sponsored by Ocean Conservancy, Humboldt Baykeeper and the Northcoast Environmental Center. This week it's the surf flick The September Sessions, with surfer Kelly Slater and musician Jack Johnson in Sumatra; A Sheltered Sea: The Journey of The Marine Life Protection Act explaining why the MLPA is good for you; and A Seagull's Dream, a documentary about an art/recycling project at Arcata Elementary teaching kids about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.
Saturday ATL gets in the back-to-school mood with National Lampoon's Animal House, the frat comedy directed by John Landis with John Belushi as Bluto. Wear your toga. Sunday it's Legend, a Ridley Scott fantasy with Tom Cruise battling the forces of Darkness (Tim Curry) to save a princess (Mia Sara) and the world.
-- Bob Doran
I AM LOVE. Happily, there have been a series of interesting and worthwhile film openings at the Minor recently, a string that has included The Kids Are All Right, Cyrus and now I Am Love. I must say, though, that I wasn't ready to put this Italian film, featuring Tilda Swinton in a central role, in the plus column for the first half-hour or so of its two-hour running time. The story centers on a wealthy Milanese textile family, whose fortunes weren't particularly interesting to me, and the film moves at a glacial pace.
As the film opens, Emma (Swinton) is overseeing a birthday celebration for the family patriarch, Edoardo Recchi Sr. (Gabriele Ferzetti). During the dinner, Edoardo announces that he is retiring from the business and turning it over to his son, Tancredi (Pippo Delbono), as expected, but adds a kicker: He is also elevating his grandson, Edoardo Jr. (Flavio Parenti), as co-inheritor. All this part of the story is shown in minute and seemingly mundane detail, and the conversations are not particularly sparkling.
The division of authority over the business sets the main plot in motion, and I should have realized that a divided succession often means trouble, as King Lear demonstrates. At that point, intertwining narrative lines come to life, and I eventually understood that director Luca Guadagnino, who developed the film with Swinton, was laying a careful and subtle groundwork for a story about a family on the verge of disintegration.
Emma, a Russian immigrant who married Tancredi, is not a happy person, even though she carries out her duties faithfully. Edoardo Jr. becomes unhappy with the direction his father Tancredi is taking the company, but is excited about opening a restaurant when he becomes friends with Antonio (Edoardo Gabbriellini), a chef who bests him in a race. Meanwhile, Emma discovers that her daughter, Elisabetta (Alba Rohrwacher), is a lesbian, but conceals this fact from the family. When Emma and Antonio discover a mutual attraction, the viewer knows that the story is destined for a grim conclusion.
The film features a wonderful soundtrack taken from American composer John Adams, the first time he has allowed his music to be used in a film (according to Wikipedia). The story may be melodrama and the soundtrack occasionally operatic, but melodrama has served many an opera and film well.
Then there is Swinton, whose acting is beautifully subtle and whose face is endlessly fascinating. Swinton has the ability to reveal her character in small stages, never giving away too much too early, a style that perfectly fits this film. The movie may require patience initially, but the reward is worth the effort. Rated R for sexuality and nudity. 120m.
TAKERS. Takers is basically a heist film and for the most part it follows the conventions of the genre. Those looking for macho posturing and high testosterone levels will get their fix. The tone is set from the beginning, as we watch a band of daring thieves pull off a bloodless bank robbery with panache, much to the frustration of Detective Jack Welles (a nicely weathered Matt Dillon) and his partner, Eddie Hatcher (Jay Hernandez).
If only the film had ended there. The thieves, played by Chris Brown, Michael Ealy, Hayden Christensen, Idris Elba and Paul Walker, all dress like models in a men's fashion magazine, which is perhaps a sartorial reason for the relative lack of expletives.
Unfortunately, the film takes a turn down the path of mayhem and car chases when Ghost (rapper T.I., looking incredibly cool) is released from prison and talks the gang into the famous "one last job." Oh yeah, Ghost has taken the fall for the group from a previous caper gone bad, and while he served his time his girlfriend took up with another member of the dapper gang of thieves. They trust him, but that's just a minor improbability in this film. The cast members are way better than their material. In particular, T.I. dominates all of his scenes as the smooth-talking and very dangerous Ghost.
There were mostly couples of varying ages at the sparsely populated screening I attended. Maybe this is actually a date film. Who knew? Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, a sexual situation/partial nudity and some language. 107m. At the Broadway.
THE LAST EXORCISM. Seeing the trailer for The Last Exorcism, I'd dismissed it as just another exploitation genre film. Happily, the trailer proved misleading. This is a creepy, effectively made little low-budget film. It's represented as apparently found footage from a documentary about a Baton Rouge minister who has lost his faith and wishes to expose the sham of religious exorcism.
The minister is Cotton Marcus (Patrick Fabian), who began as a child preacher under the tutelage of his minister father and no longer believes in what he is doing. To expose religious fakery, he contacts a filmmaker and takes her and her cameraman along to an exorcism in a rural area of Louisiana. The subject of the exorcism is 16-year-old Nell Sweetzer (Ashley Bell), whose widower father and older brother are quietly weird. Marcus performs the "exorcism," exposing his tricks to the filmmaker. Of course, nothing is as it seems and the situation quickly spirals out of control.
Using an effectively wielded hand-held camera with eerie POV shots, The Last Exorcism is much more scary than most big-budget scary films. It isn't a masterpiece, but it is a very good minor example of its genre. Rated PG-13 for disturbing violent content and terror, some sexual references and thematic material. 87m. At the Broadway and Mill Creek.
-- Charlie Myers
DESPICABLE ME. Can cute kids turn an evil madman (voiced by Steve Carell) into a good guy? Rated PG. 95m. At the Broadway (in 3D).
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, Garberville and Mill Creek.
NANNY MCPHEE RETURNS. Emma Thompson reprises her role as the magical children's disciplinarian. Rated PG. 109m. At the Broadway, Mill Creek and Fortuna.
THE OTHER GUYS. Mark Wahlberg and Will Ferrell star as a cop odd couple. PG-13. 108m. At Broadway, Fortuna and Mill Creek.
TOY STORY 3. Woody and Buzz toy around for the first time in over a decade. But what happens when their kid prepares for college? Rated G. 105m. At the Broadway (in 3D).
VAMPIRES SUCK. What do you think this movie might have in common with vampires? PG-13. 85m. At Fortuna and Mill Creek.