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From biopic to comedy to thriller, you can't go wrong with last week's openings

Previews

Opening Friday, Aug. 14, is the allegorical scifi film District 9, in which extraterrestrials in South Africa are forced to work for low wages and live in substandard conditions by a multinational corporation. Rated R for bloody violence and pervasive language. 112m. At the Broadway, Minor, Mill Creek and Fortuna.

The Time Traveler's Wife stars Eric Bana as a time-traveling librarian and Rachel McAdams as the woman who tries to keep the home fires burning. Rated PG-13 for thematic elements, brief disturbing images, nudity and sexuality. 107m. At the Broadway, Mill Creek and Fortuna.

The narrator of the romantic comedy (500) Days of Summer assures us that the film is not a romantic comedy. Okay. With Zooey Deschanel as the dumper and Joseph Gordon-Levitt as the dumpee. Rated PG-13 for sexual material and language. 95m. At the Broadway.

More than one critic has called Kathryn Bigelow's The Hurt Locker the best fiction film about Iraq so far. A Charlie pick of the week. Rated R for war violence and language. 131m. At the Minor.

Bandslam is a musical romantic comedy wherein a teen singer (Alyson Michalka) goes up against her ex-boyfriend (Scott Porter) at a battle of the bands. Rated PG for some thematic elements and mild language. 111m. At the Broadway.

In The Goods: Live Hard, Sell Hard, a squad of salesmen attempt to save a car dealership from bankruptcy. Rated R for sexual content, nudity, pervasive language and some drug material. 90m. At the Broadway and Mill Creek.

Reviews

JULIE & JULIA. In 1948, Julia Child moved to Paris with her husband, who worked for the U.S. State Department. Finding French food to be a revelation, she managed to enroll at Le Cordon Bleu and the rest is well-known history, thanks to Childs' memoir My Life in France.

In August 2002, Julie Powell, a would-be writer unable to complete anything, found herself answering phones from a cubicle for the Lower Manhattan Development Project while her closest women companions all had high-paying jobs. Despite a good relationship with her husband, Julie was unhappy with her life and hit upon the idea of cooking all 524 recipes in Mastering the Art of French Cooking in one year. She also began a blog, subsequently a book, documenting her experience.

Happily, director Nora Ephron conceived the idea of making a film based on the "Julie/Julia Project," and the result is the totally captivating Julie & Julia. Neither woman had an easy time of it, and the film alternates between Julia Child (Meryl Streep, marvelous as almost always) in Paris and Julie (a sparkling Amy Adams) in Queens as she slogs through the recipes, almost destroying her marriage in the process.

Julia is the flashier role, and Streep completely sinks her teeth into the larger-than-life character who let nothing stand in her way. But although Streep has gotten most of the critical accolades, including Oscar buzz, Adams is the glue that holds this film together for me. Her portrayal of Julie is a great example of effective, subtle acting. Her understated humor makes the sometimes self-absorbed Julie into a completely intriguing person.

Clearly, both women were ultimately transformed by their pursuits. Child's career as author and TV chef is well known, but thanks to her blog, Julie managed to complete a project and become an author. As Julia's husband, Paul, Stanley Tucci is note-perfect as a completely supportive partner and so is Chris Messina (Away We Go) as Julie's saintly spouse, Eric.

I attended the first screening of the film on Friday and was happy to see a very large crowd there, primarily women (although none I know; possibly they were watching G.I. Joe). The film received a hearty round of applause at the end. It deserved it. Rated PG-13 for brief strong language and some sensuality. 123m. At the Broadway.

THE GIRL FROM MONACO*. The Girl from Monaco* is a pleasant French comedy/thriller. The film centers on a strange sort of erotic triangle involving Paris lawyer Bertrand Beauvois (Fabrice Luchini, Intimate Strangers), who has come to Monaco to defend a woman accused of murder; his bodyguard, Christophe Abadi (Roschdy Zem); and a young local weatherwoman/partier Audrey Varella (a stunningly attractive Louise Bourgoin).

Initially, the humor in the film is built around the contrast between the seemingly single-minded, serious Christophe, the very reserved Bertrand and the nicely enacted over-the-top energy of the scantily clad Audrey. Both Luchini and Zem develop their characters with a wonderful set of subtle facial expressions while Bourgoin leads, appropriately for her character, with her body.

Initially, the story seems to be about whether the normally staid Bertrand will be undone by the sexually forthcoming Audrey and whether the eminently sensible Christophe will be able to protect Bertrand from Audrey's predations. But when we discover that Christophe and Audrey themselves had had a fling, the situation becomes more complex and as the trial winds down to the closing arguments, the film becomes an out-and-out thriller, albeit in the French style.

Does Audrey actually have feelings for Bertrand, or is he a means to an end? What is the source of Christophe's more than professional loyalty to Bertrand? This being a French film, don't expect definitive answers. The ending, of course, has a nice ironic twist; nothing less is expected of the French. The film is entertaining enough, but not in a league with two other recent ones: Tell No One and I've Loved You So Long. In French with English subtitles. Rated R for some sexual content and language. 95m. At the Minor. ENDS THURSDAY, AUG. 13.

A PERFECT GETAWAY. As horror/thrillers go, writer/director David Twohy's A Perfect Getaway is a serviceable film. Certainly it is far better than the recent Saw wannabe The Collector. In somewhat of departure for the genre, the film takes place primarily in broad daylight, a fact that does nothing to lessen the tension. Twohy (Pitch Black) also takes his time developing the story.

While the uncertainty is planted from the beginning, the film takes its time reaching the payoff. The ironic title refers to couples either honeymooning or vacationing in Hawaii. Viewers discover early on, though, that one couple on their honeymoon have been murdered, and by a couple. As most of the film takes place on an 11-mile trail to an isolated beach where several couples are hiking, suspicion falls on everyone.

The film centers primarily on Cliff (Steve Zahn in a departure) and Cydney (Milla Jovovich as the perfect, dippy new wife), and on another couple -- Nick (Timothy Olyphant), who calls himself an "American Jedi" and carries a variety of scary weapons, and his Georgia girlfriend Gina (TV actress Kiele Sanchez).

Much of the film focuses on the tension built by each couple's suspicion of the other until it reaches its somewhat bloody climactic scenes. Zahn and Jovovich may seem like an odd pairing based on their previous films. Jovovich achieved film fame for her role in the Resident Evil series and Zahn for his goofy characters in a series of comedies, but the casting works perfectly here.

It's nice to see a horror thriller that doesn't depend on scenes of explicit torture and/or cheap thrill shots. This is a modest film with solid acting and a genuinely satisfying twist. Jovovich has my favorite line in the film: "that guy." Of course, you need a context and you won't get it here. Rated R for graphic violence, language including sexual references and some drug use. 97m. At the Broadway and Mill Creek.

Continuing

ALIENS IN THE ATTIC. This family fantasy film finds a group of kids trying to fight off alien invaders out to destroy the Earth. Rated PG. 86m. At The Movies.

FUNNY PEOPLE. The Apatow factory's intergenerational, poignancy-ridden take on professional comedians. Send in the clowns! Rated R. 146m. At the Broadway, Mill Creek and Fortuna.

G-FORCE. Government-trained guinea pigs out to save the world. With the voices of Nicolas Cage and Penelope Cruz. At the Broadway and Fortuna.

G.I. JOE. Elite military squad kicks ass all over the world, with the aid of their super-suits. Rated PG-13. 120m. At the Broadway, Mill Creek, Minor and Fortuna.

THE HANGOVER. Getting severely trashed with your bros at a Vegas-based bachelor party can have serious consequences, especially when no one remembers what happened. Rated R. 100m. At The Movies.

HARRY POTTER AND THE HALF BLOOD PRINCE. The Hogwarts boy wizard saga continues. Don't mess with Voldemort. Rated PG. 153m. At Broadway, Mill Creek and Fortuna.

ICE AGE: DAWN OF THE DINOSAURS. The gang makes a rescue mission for Sid that takes them into a mysterious underground world where they have close encounters with dinos and generally run amuck. Rated PG. At The Movies.

THE PROPOSAL. When a high-powered book editor faces deportation to her native Canada, she declares she's actually engaged to her assistant, whom she's tormented for years. Rated PG-13. 108m. At The Movies.

PUBLIC ENEMIES. A Depp-alicious true crime drama set during the dawn of the FBI. Rated R. 140m. At the Movies.

TRANSFORMERS: REVENGE OF THE FALLEN. Once again, Sam Witwicky finds himself in the middle of the war between the Autobots and the Decipticons with the fate of the universe at stake. Rated PG-13. 151m. At The Movies.

THE UGLY TRUTH. A romantically challenged morning show producer is reluctantly embroiled in a series of outrageous tests by her chauvinistic correspondent to prove his theories on relationships and help her find love. Rated R. 97m. At the Broadway and Mill Creek.

UP. In Pixar's latest, an elderly gentleman sets out to fulfill lifelong dream despite annoying Boy Scout tagalong. Rated PG. 101m. At The Movies.

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Charlie Myers

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